Writing Non-Fiction posted July 21, 2014

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An essay on one of my favorite things.

Horror. A New Genre? Hardly...

by Dean Kuch

Horror — A New Genre? Hardly...

By Dean Kuch


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If you would, indulge me for a moment and scroll down. Look very closely at the family photo below.

Pay close attention to the littlest girl in the center dressed in red. Do you see it? Lean in just a little bit closer, it's there, I promise you...

Ghoul girls, 1966 photo tumblr_mtk22jd96T1s83ffjo1_5001.gif


Were you surprised? Did you find yourself jumping back, the adrenaline coursing through your veins, just a little? That feeling, dear friends, is what horror does to our senses. Many, like myself, live for that heart pounding, brain numbing terror a good horror novel or movie can evoke in us.


Horror isn't about entrails falling out of a filleted body with its gut opened wide, or blood gushing all over the walls and floors. Nor does there have to be  a crumbling, crust-covered corpse crawling from its tomb. Okay, maybe the corpse, but you can have the slasher stuff — it just ain't for me.

No, the way true terror really works — that all encompassing, gut-wrenching feeling that causes you to turn on every light in your home after you've experienced it — is really very simple. It is taking the everyday norm, the mundane, or the commonplace — like a simple family photograph — and twisting or contorting it into something that makes your skin crawl, gives you goose bumps the size of acorns. It has been around for centuries, and much to the chagrin of many of you here, within this fine community of talented writers, I'm afraid it's here to stay.


It’s been said that horror is a relatively new genre. In fact, some academics (they have those for horror... huh — who knew?) trace the beginnings of horror as a genre to the 1970’s.

Well, maybe if you’re talking about the movies, because movies themselves are still a new medium, comparatively speaking.


However, true horror goes all the way back to the beginning of time.


~The Little Mermaid

You probably know the Hans Christian Anderson version.

However, his version was a modified story about the legend of Undine, a very ancient legend that is traced back to antiquity.

Undine is a mermaid who gives up her tail to marry her true love.

However, she does not give up her mermaid powers.

This drives a wedge between her and her husband until he cheats on her.

Upon discovering his betrayal, Undine kills him then returns to the sea.


~The Story Of Tantalus

Taken from a Greek myth, Tantalus was a very disturbed man.

So disturbed, that at a feast for the gods, he kills his own son, roasts him, and serves him for dinner.

Seriously, what could be more horrifying than a parent doing this?

Fortunately for the son, this story has a happy ending.

The gods restore him to life and condemn Tantalus to eternal torment.

But still, yikes, right? Ugh!



There are many versions of Cinderella.

One of the earliest was from the 1600’s, written by Giambattista Basile.

In it, Cinderella (who then went by a different name) already had a stepmother she despised at the story’s opening.

She also had a governess whom she adored.

So when the governess asked the girl to help her kill the stepmother so she was free to marry the father, Cinderella complied.

After the plan was carried out, the new stepmother realized she could never again trust Cinderella.

After all, the girl just helped commit a cold blooded murder!

That’s why the stepmother treated her so badly and missed no opportunity to make sure she remained scared and obedient.

Cinderella’s shoddy treatment all makes sense now…

When you look at fairy tales, you can see that horror has truly been with us longer than almost any other genre.

We love the feeling — that rush! — true horror and suspense gives us.

We always have, and we always will.

Horror... it does a body good!




Non-Fiction Writing Contest contest entry


It is one of the oldest tricks in the book to watch a scary movie when you want to hold a certain someone tightly. There's a scientific reason why it works.

When we're scared, our brains pump out the feel-good chemical dopamine, the same chemical we release when we're infatuated with someone. Your heart races and you can become addicted to that feeling - as the euphoric serotonin hormone also shoots up dramatically.

These chemicals, dopamine and serotonin, are also activated when we fall for someone. They give us that euphoric feeling, and are the reason we crave less food and sleep when we're crazy in love.

Being frightened creates the same sort of exhilarating feeling. Researchers have been able to boost dopamine release in mice by scaring them. So, what's that mean for you when date night rolls around? When you're tempted to see the latest romantic comedy, go outside of your comfort zone with a thriller. If you do some scary activities the main thing it's going to do is increase your overall arousal level. You are much more likely to be more passionate about anything when your arousal is high than when it's low. That pretty much goes without saying, but I said it anyway.

So if your relationship is lacking that who needs food when I have love feeling (which is really perfectly normal in long-term relationships), getting scared with an intense horror film (heck, even a super-intense drama) can boost dopamine, to give you that infatuated feeling again. The arousal from being frightened becomes mixed up with the arousal of sexual attraction. The proof's in the science.

Thanks for reading, and as always...

Pleasant Screams! heh-heh...
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