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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Stephen King, General Fiction Writer

What I am about to say probably isn't all that controversial.

As I've been reading Stephen King over these past few months, I've come to a realization about him. It's one that I think has occurred to a number of other Constant Readers over the years.

Stephen King, the man often referred to as "the Master of Horror"...isn't a horror writer. Or at least, he isn't exclusively.

I don't think this is something that can be argued, as much of King's literature that has become popular out in the general public can't be called horror by any stretch; movies like Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption, Dolores Claiborne and The Green Mile as prime examples. But then, it's kinda funny how these are among his most beloved film adaptations and yet there are still people who have no idea that they're based on his works, and in many cases won't believe you if you tell them. After all, Stephen King writes horror, and these aren't horror.

But does he? To answer this, we have to first define what "horror" is, in reference to it as a literary genre. This is hard, because the word can be pretty subjective. What might be a horror to you might mean nothing to me, and vice versa, not to mention how often the word is misapplied.

"Did you see how the Red Sox were playing last night? That was horrific."

But, if we're to define the term, shouldn't we start with the dictionary? Webster defines horror three ways:
  1. painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay
  2. intense aversion or repugnance
  3. a state of extreme depression or apprehension
Now, most literary genres are pretty easy to define. Crime fiction is about, well, crime, mystery is about mystery, romance is about love, science fiction is about real science used or applied in fictional ways, fantasy is about the fantastical or mythical, historical fiction tells a fictional story in a real historical setting, etc.

So what about horror? What, as a genre, is it about? Certainly it's not just about ghosts, vampires and other things that go bump in the night, as much of what is labeled "horror" doesn't feature anything remotely supernatural. And much of what does really shouldn't be thought of as horror.

Let's pose a question. What genre does the movie The Sixth Sense fall into? Horror, right? I mean, of course it does. It's about ghosts!

Okay, so I suppose Shakespeare's Hamlet and Macbeth are horror as well, right? Now you're scratching your head, because you likely studied one or the other of those, or both, in school, and surely school wouldn't be teaching horror as part of its curriculum.

But Hamlet features a ghost come back to convince his son to murder his uncle, there's a good deal of suspense, violence and darkness, and it ends with all the main characters dead. Macbeth features not just ghosts, but witches, and it features a once noble character going mad with the idea of gaining more power, murdering people he once called friends and allies, being visited by their ghosts, and it ends with his head on a spike.

Sounds pretty horrific, right?

Of course, neither play is thought of as horror, because ultimately, both offer much for the viewer or reader to think about, reflect on, etc., and while both may come to sad endings (they are tragedies, remember), neither one inspires feelings of painful and intense fear, dread or dismay, intense aversion or repugnance, nor do I think, as sad as these stories are, that anyone has finished them and felt extreme apprehension or depression.

So, if they're not horror, despite featuring ghosts and witches, why is The Sixth Sense considered so? After all, while the main plot does concern a child who can see ghosts, and there are a few creepy scenes, did you walk out of the theater feeling painful and intense fear, aversion, repugnance, apprehension or depression? Not only do I strongly doubt that you did, I also do not feel that the movie intended you to feel any of that. When people bring it up today, no one talks about how scared they were by it. Mostly they mention one of two things; the tour-de-force performance of 11-year-old Haley Joel Osment, or, say it with me, the twist ending.

It was labeled horror due almost strictly to marketing.

Let's compare it to another movie that was released the same year. The Blair Witch Project was, at the time, a relatively inventive movie that told the story of three young film school students trying to film a documentary about a local legend in a small town. The three students disappear, but now their footage has been found.

That's the setup, anyway, and the movie does all it can to be as authentic as possible. The actors' names are the same as the characters. The cast really did spend days in the wilderness, camping and making their own food, wearing the same clothes day in and day out, and filming themselves with two hand-held cameras. They were not given a script, and the only direction they received was notes they found each morning upon waking up as to where they were supposed to go and what they were supposed to do. One of them going missing, the flight through the woods in the dark, the creepy sounds around their camp at night, none of the actors were told about this.

The result is a palpable feeling of dread that you feel because it's so obvious the characters feel it. Heck, the marketing campaign didn't even make it clear that this was fictional; some thought it really was recovered footage (this was before the "found footage film" became its own genre). The whole point was to make you, the viewer, terrified. To inspire in you painful and intense feelings of fear, aversion, etc., etc.

My point is this; while it's possible to be made afraid by stories that are not horror, I don't think we can or should label something as "horror" unless there is a clear attempt to make you feel that painful and intense fear, dread, apprehension, etc. In short, to be horror, it has to want to scare you. And I don't mean make you afraid for the characters.

I hear this all the time: "That book scared me so much. I was sure (character) was going to die!" But let's be honest; that kind of thing doesn't scare you. There's no painful, intense fear that lasts once you've closed the book. You were afraid for the character, not for yourself. That kind of story plays up suspense and character empathy, but not true fear. Your spine stopped tingling when the book was over. Once you put down to do other things throughout your day, the feeling of fear did not follow you. You wanted to get back to it to find out if the character lives to the end, but you didn't spend the day worrying about yourself and wondering if you're going to meet the same fate the character. You aren't afraid the the villain is going to come for you.

And that's what I mean by horror. An author isn't writing horror if they're not playing with your own personal feelings of dread, fear, revulsion, apprehension and depression. Maybe they're not very good at it, or the methods they use, which might work on some, don't work on you. But all the same, you can probably still sense the attempt to play on those feelings; to make you scared, and keep you scared once the book is closed.

I'll use an example from the book I'm reading right now. The last time I read Pet Sematary, I felt many things, including overwhelming depression (and now, re-reading it, I'm starting to feel it even before getting to the depressing parts) and a creeping fear about whatever was going on in that burying ground. I remember reading one scene, near the end, late at night when my house was quiet, then putting the book down to go to bed. Almost as soon as I turned the light off I wanted to turn it back on, and every little noise made my eyes pop back open. I even imagined I heard a child's laughter in the hallway outside my door.

Pet Sematary is horror. It's one of the few straight examples of horror that King has ever written.

See, nine times out of ten, I don't think King is trying to stir up those feelings of painful and intense fear, dread, apprehension, etc. Even when he introduces the monsters and creeps, it seems like he's more focused on the characters, making their struggles real to you, making you care about them, which often has the side-effect of making their fates all that much more affecting. While one could suggest that's a horrific thing to have to feel, again, I can't define fear or sadness for the characters as the same sort of emotion as fear and sadness for yourself.

How many of the novels and short stories that I've read so far truly were meant to inspire fear in the reader? Honestly, not as many as you'd think. Probably less than half.

Of King's novels thus far, I would only use the term "horror" to describe 'Salem's Lot, The Shining, Christine and Pet Sematary. Oddly enough, I might also include Apt Pupil from Different Seasons, despite the entire point of that collection being that King can write more than horror. It doesn't quite fit, but I can tell you that the depression it inspired was absolutely still felt after the story was over.

Several of the short stories King wrote can be considered horror, no question, but each collection so far has included a healthy mix of genres.

But let's look at the others. Carrie might have been marketed as horror, but why? Carrie herself was a very sympathetic character, and even when she snaps and starts murdering people with her powers, we still are more or less on her side. Margaret White can be considered a scary person, but again, only due to the threat she poses to Carrie's physical and mental well-being. I strongly doubt anyone reading Carrie became afraid that Margaret would come for them.

The Stand is pure post-apocalyptic fantasy, and while it's an amazing book, one that I literally cannot praise enough, the enjoyment I derived from it came from the characters and their situations. I enjoyed the main plot on the same level that I enjoyed the plot of, say, The Lord of the Rings or a number of other fantasies.

The Dead Zone was a deeply emotional, and strangely political yet apolitical, thriller. Not one iota of horror to this one, and I don't think anyone would argue with me. Some might argue The Stand or Carrie, but I have yet to come across anyone who considers this a horror story.

Firestarter; another thriller. There's a bit of science fiction involved, but mostly it's about a man and his daughter fleeing from a government organization.
Cujo certainly had its intense moments, and the movie scared plenty of people, but the novel mainly made me afraid for the characters, Cujo included.
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger is fantasy from the word go.
I've already talked about how Different Seasons was supposed to prove Stephen King didn't just write horror, but the funny thing is how little horror he'd actually written thus far. 

None of Richard Bachman's initial novels are horror. Dark, yes, but nothing close to horror. I shouldn't count those, however, as people still didn't know Bachman was King.
I haven't ready everything past this point, but I've read a lot, and read about the stuff I haven't read. About half of it could be called horror. The other half is a mix of almost everything.

In fact, I wonder how often King really set out to write something that would scare his readers. Even his overt horror novels focus more on character development and interaction than scares. That doesn't mean the scares aren't there, though, nor does it mean their impact is blunted. If anything, the fact that the characters become so real to us just hones the edge of the fear. But can you really suggest that King's main goal, ever, is to scare us? He's always got a bigger story to tell, and the scares just come naturally as part of the story, when they come at all.

Of all the horror writers out there, Stephen King seems to remain the ur-example, the go-to name when people try to think of horror story tellers. Even Lovecraft is a distant second these days. He's one of the more venerable names on the market; one of the only names that nearly everyone knows. Think of other authors who've managed that. How many of them were considered horror writers? Don't talk to me about Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley; its their big works people remember. Mostly, neither one wrote horror.

Here's where a King critic might resort to an argument I've heard countless times; that he's a flash in the pan. Fleetingly popular, and will be forgotten in ten years time. The problem is, people have been saying that about him since the mid 70's. If it was gonna happen, wouldn't it have happened by now? And then there's the argument that he's lost whatever he once had and isn't even trying anymore. I somehow doubt that most of those who think so have even read much King to begin with. Some of my favorite King novels came in the late 90's, early 00's. If I can believe reviews, both from professional and non-professional sources, he's produced some great stuff in the last decade as well.

This is because King isn't a horror writer. Oh, yes, much of what he writes has elements of horror. Some of it is overtly horror. Much of it isn't. All of it is so much more. He doesn't write to scare. He writes human stories that speak to all of us, that we relate to on some level or another.

He's one of the great American authors. It's almost a shame that history will likely remember him as "that great master of horror." He's that great master of the written word.


  1. I love conversations like this.

    I think King is a horror writer simply because people think of him that way. Because they think of him that way, they often -- me included -- bring a certain amount of fearfulness to the table when reading the books. When I first got into reading King as a teenager, I approached all of his work as if it would scare me. I was a very fearful person, so this was not unexpected from my point of view: tell me a thing is going to be scary, and I was apt to find it scary simply because I was suddenly on my guard. Therefore, it WAS scary, at least to me.

    Behold the hand of effective marketing at work. Or, put another way, behold the power of suggestion on a willing mind.

    That said, you are absolutely correct: much of King's writing -- maybe even a majority of it -- could very easily be classified as something else altogether.

    For example, he's written a large amount of work that could theoretically be classified as science fiction. Among his novels, you can go back as far as 1974's Carrie for sci-fi, and among more recent works you can look to 2014's Revival. Between those two, there are a minimum of 26 novels you could -- COULD, mind you -- label as sci-fi.

    This pales in comparison to his status as a fantasy writer. If you count Carrie and Revival (which you can), his fantasy novels number at least 40.

    I guess it all comes down to marketing in the end, though. And I have to confess, I still think of some of the titles you mention -- Cujo, Firestarter, and (yes) The Dead Zone -- as horror novels. I know they're not, not really; but in my head they are, so to some extent, I guess that makes it so.

  2. "When I first got into reading King as a teenager, I approached all of his work as if it would scare me."

    And this is probably true of a lot of people. This is both why I hear people describe certain King novels as "scary", when I don't even think King was attempting to be scary with it (such as The Dead Zone), and it also probably explains why so many people complain that King ISN'T scary.

    They approach his work, any work, expecting to be scared by it. This includes stuff that could only be considered horror due to King's name on the cover. But their experience is different. They are not made afraid by virtue of being told they should be. Instead, they're disappointed because the novel didn't scare them, missing the point that it really wasn't supposed to.

    But in the end, you're right; perception is what makes the novel to the reader. If something you read scared you, you're going to think of it as horror even if there was no intent to scare.

  3. I've always wondered where the powers that be draw their line between horror and suspense/thriller/science fiction/whatever. I've heard Silence of the Lambs described as the only horror movie to ever win Best Picture, despite not having any supernatural elements, which I've personally always thought of as essential to horror. Alien would be another one that doesn't fit neatly into any one compartment.

    My own theory is that, more than any other factor, Stephen King's reputation is tied to the fact that his journey to glory coincided with the heyday of the slasher movies in the late seventies and early eighties. Many King adaptations were marketed as such, despite the fact that as much as I love schlock like the old Friday the 13th movies, King's novels have a lot more depth to them than "seemingly immortal killer with hockey mask slices and dices promiscuous teenagers in the woods". Pet Sematary goes places that cheesy slasher movies haven't even conceived of, but what's on the movie poster? A guy with a bloody head over a shot of a super-creepy cemetery. The Shining, Cujo, Children of the Corn, and even Carrie don't give any indication that there's any kind of deep characterization going on. Because of that era, I think people, from the suits at major studios on down to many consumers, don't take horror movies seriously, or equate it with schlock. Of course, we know better, as does anyone who's read King (aside from the few that actually are mostly just grotesque... Graveyard Shift, The Mangler, and Survivor Type come to mind).

    Anyway, at some point King got his just desserts and widespread respect, but he almost did it despite people's perceptions of his chosen genre. And of course, as you've said, the general public has also overlooked that the man has proven he can write almost any kind of fiction, and that he has numerous best-sellers that have no supernatural events going on at all (my favorites being Roadwork, The Running Man, and Shawshank), and others where the weird stuff is important to the plot, but rather minimal in its portrayal on page and screen (The Green Mile, Dolores Claiborne, Joyland).

    Anyway, I wouldn't be too concerned about his legacy. King himself seems more frustrated with being able to write what he wants than of ego, and at this point, no one's going to tell him what to do, since he has $400 million of his own and could probably self-publish a Nazi cookbook if he wanted to. And time is on his side; often people are remembered more accurately. I think there's a very good chance that in fifty years, people think of him primarily as author of The Stand or The Dark Tower. Anyway, I'll be interested to read what you think of my theory.

    1. I don't think horror MUST include the supernatural, as I mentioned. Psycho, for example, is undeniably a horror movie but also undeniably has not a trace of the supernatural.

      Silence of the Lambs straddles a line between thriller and horror; it seems like it's equal measures of both. The novel and film both spend a lot of time focusing on the procedural nature of the FBI's work in tracking serial killers, but it also contains one of the creepiest male leads ever, and the scenes with Jame Gumb are quite frightening and disturbing. I don't doubt at all that plenty of people came away from this film (or book, depending on how they first encountered it) feeling that since of painful and intense fear, revulsion, apprehension and even possibly depression. Where the confusion comes in is whether or not the intent of this story is to make you feel these feelings. Thomas Harris is a rather dry, methodical writer. He discusses even the most gruesome scenes in a rather clinical, detached way, almost like early Richard Bachman.

      Speaking of Psycho, did you know that Halloween, the film that started the slasher genre, was initially compared to Psycho? As in, favorably? And for the first couple of films, Michael Meyers really wasn't supernatural. That came later when the series had to compete with the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street series.

      And that leads pretty well into addressing your theory. There is little doubt that the mid to late 70's was the heyday of horror but oddly enough, I would suggest that King's work was probably thought of as closer in tone to the horrors of works like The Exorcist, Don't Look Now or (a bit later) The Tenant, Suspiria or The Omen, rather than slasher flicks. I certainly see a stronger connection there. Undoubtedly the popularity of the slasher genre caused people to lump his works in with those and, as Bryant said is true of him, thought of them as horror because that's what they were told they were. The fact that, as you point out, some of King's shorter works have been just that (slashers), it only helped the perception.

      As for King's legacy, it does bug me when I run into people (my father chief among them) who seem more than ready to write King off as some lightweight not worth their time merely because he's perceived as a horror writer.

      Just the other day I was talking to my dad, who LOVES Dean Koontz, and I suggested that Koontz has always struck me as the poor man's Stephen King. Dad fervently disagreed, suggesting that King was the low-rent version of Koontz. I think this is for two reasons; first, my father (and particularly my mother) don't think of Koontz as a horror writer, but as a thriller writer (mainly because they, at least Mom, tend to avoid his more overt horror stories) and second, because Koontz is a right-leaning Christian (as are they, as am I) and thus, they attribute higher quality to his work due to them sharing his religious and political outlook.

      Me, I care about quality of the writing first. Most of my favorite writers are far-left non-christians, like George RR Martin, Matthew Woodring Stover, Joe Abercrombie and King himself, while some of the more right-leaning religious writers, like Orson Scott Card, I just can't get into (and about him let's say no more).

    2. The original Halloween was well-received by some, but it definitely had its detractors, which is hilarious to me given how well it still holds up after almost 40 years. And I have to disagree about Michael Myers being a mortal human being at first. I've only seen the first two (plus Season of the Witch), but at the end, Loomis shoots him six times and he falls off a balcony and disappears, and Loomis tells Laurie that yes, it was the boogeyman. Supernatural might not be the right word, but the oft-used unkillable trope that Jason Voorhees ended up putting his kids through college on was definitely there in the original Halloween.

      It may be true that King's fiction at least got more respect than your B-movie slashers, but as I said, look at the marketing materials. Once America had been introduced to Freddy and Jason, and those movies all made gobs of money, that was how everything was marketed, and I bet you'd also find that there are not a lot of truly quality horror movies from the eighties. There may be a few exceptions, but I can't think of many. And it's a shame, because The Exorcist got a Best Picture nomination, for goodness' sake, and for my money, it holds up as well as you could possibly expect from that era. It may not be the only factor, but the fact that King's rise coincided with that timeframe has to be considered as a contributing factor to the preconceived notions people have about him, movies sadly being twenty times more embedded in pop culture than books.

      I agree with you about writing quality. I've never read Koontz, and had no idea he was a conservative or a Christian. I always had the idea that George R.R. Martin was more of a libertarian, which is how I identify, but it's definitely a slap in the face to King for your dad to call him a low-rent anything. I don't believe any serious critic would agree with that. Koontz may sell a lot of books, but he's certainly had nowhere near the influence that King has.

      One last thought: I can't speak for anybody else, but I enjoy the endorphins that come from good suspense, but have no desire to have any more full-on depression than I already get from everyday life. Occasionally King's stuff has brought me closer to that, but I wouldn't call it a selling point. Are there those who do? That's one thing I can say for some of the 80's schlock. I love the Friday the 13th series, because it's fun and even a little frothy. Sure, the silly writing, subpar acting and shallow characterizations make it possible, but I'm really interested in knowing: do people seek to become depressed through the higher-quality stuff? I enjoy a bit of melancholy (Hearts in Atlantis gave me a melancholy I seriously loved), but I guess the thought of seeking out extreme sadness is foreign to me.

    3. I think I didn't really take the time to examine the issue. See, to me, King is more literate horror (when he's horror at all) and rarely goes for the "slasher", but you're definitely right. Slashers made tons of money and became what people think of when someone said "horror movie", so people likely heard "Stephen King is a horror writer" and assumed his books belonged in the same company as Meyers, Voorhees and Kruger.

      As for Michael Meyer and the supernatural, I guess I interpreted the ending of the first film as a final scare but still not a hint that he's supernatural. I dunno, I guess it depends on how you look at it.

      I used to read George RR Martin's "not a blog" and the guy is about as left-wing as it gets. He makes Stephen King look like Ted Cruz. I haven't read much Koontz, but apparently in his later novels he gets so preachy with his right-wing messages that even my father has noticed and agrees he trowels it on a bit thick. Personally I don't like it when authors get preachy. That's not to say they can't air their views through their fiction, but why do it in a way that alienates half your audience?

      I also would not call depression a selling point. It's one aspect of horror, but not the defining aspect. However, when a book wants me to feel overwhelming sorry, and I DO, that's a sign of a great writer. Speaking of, you might want to skip Pet Sematary.

      But no, I don't know of too many who seek to be depressed by what they read or watch. But think; people love films that make them very sad. Schindler's List is well beloved despite being brutally horrifying.

    4. What "Schindler's List" has going for it is a profound sense of catharsis. A lot of the best horror -- "Pet Sematary" included -- shares that trait, although it gets to that point in a different way.

  4. I was probably talking out of my ass about Martin. I haven't followed him at all, and have only seen clips of Game of Thrones (although I've read quite a bit on it due to the abundance of articles in any entertainment-related website or magazine. I may have subconsciously conflated him with Alan Moore, due to both of them being graphic novelists with rather unkempt facial hair. What I've read about him has usually been very nice, and I may have imagined him having similar viewpoints to myself.

    The Schindler's List example is very interesting. I'm sure part of the draw there is the historical aspect, and our fascination with the Holocaust and the movement most people would probably consider the ultimate evil in the world. My mother, who is not particularly morbid or into dark and twisted entertainment, seems to always be reading a book about the Holocaust.

    I may actually read Pet Sematary at some point, but if I do, it will likely be after I've read most of the rest of King's bibliography. I don't know exactly where my line is, but I know that I have no interest in most of what's labeled as torture porn (Hostel, House of 1000 Corpses, most of the Saw sequels), but somehow I can really enjoy and even admire 28 Days Later, which is definitely borderline depressing. It's fascinating to think about how people make their choices in entertainment. Some gorehounds are incredibly nice and seemingly normal and well-adjusted people. Rob Zombie seems like the world's nicest guy in interviews. I guess it's probably one of those things in the human psyche we'll never be able to plumb the depths of.

    1. Pet Sematary isn't torture porn at all, so you might be okay with it. But seriously, this book makes me cry like a baby every time I read it. I doubt I will ever read it again. 2.35 times is enough.

      I also can't say I considered House of 1000 Corpses to be torture porn. To me it felt like classic horror with real teeth. Too many modern horror movies are rated PG-13 and are far too tame.

      Martin's politics and his writing are at strange odds. As a conservative, I see a lot of conservative messages in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but then, I'm sure that's unintentional. One quote from Tyrion is just awesome: "When you cut out a man's tongue, you aren't proving him a liar. You are only proving that you fear what he might say." I hesitate to say why, as a conservative, I love that quote, because politics are not the point of this blog.

    2. I know Pet Sematary isn't torture porn. That sentence was just unfortunately placed close to my segue into torture porn. As we've discussed before, it's more that I'm sensitive to dead or suffering children, similar to you.

      Rob Zombie uses some interesting filming techniques that make it obvious he's not a hack, but a pretty skilled director. House of 1000 Corpses is probably meant to evoke the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but that movie had very little graphic violence. When you have people tied up and being tortured and scalped, and the targeted audience is cheering it on, for me personally, that puts you in the same category as Hostel.

      I actually don't mind people expressing themselves politically. You're correct, politics isn't the point of the blog, but King brings politics into his stories fairly frequently, which I assume would conflict with your own more often than not. I don't think I'd label the quote from Tyrion (and it is a great one) as liberal or conservative, but more anti-tyrant. I see very few leaders who really walk the walk on issues of liberty and government power. That quote is probably closer to libertarian than anything, but of course, that's how I self-identify, so I could be projecting.

    3. I don't think "Hostel" is mere torture porn. I wasn't cheering for any of those people to get killed; I felt really bad for all of them, and was horrified by considering myself in the same situation. I took it as (among other things) a sort of cautionary tale about stupid Americans traveling overseas and assuming that the entire world works the same way their own country works. I don't think that is an empty movie at all.

    4. Bryant, I've been thinking about that Hostel comment for a couple of days. It's certainly subjective, but I think I understand what you're saying. I also know there is a not-insubstantial group of gorehounds who get off on stuff like that. Of course, their existence doesn't nullify any political or social commentary a film has, and using a label like "torture porn" elicits a lot of reactions. I would just make the point that any movie filled with the most vile and extreme content you could come up with - Cannibal Holocaust, Salo, The Human Centipede, and numerous others - has its fans claiming that anyone who reacts with disdain just doesn't understand it. As I've mentioned before, I have a friend who thinks I'm a degenerate for liking Tarantino. And truth be told, he's got a valid point. They're largely empty, trashy calories, and you have to get pretty creative to come up with any socially redeeming messages in some of his movies, but they're certainly funny, expertly crafted, and never boring. I'm sure this conversation has been had thousands of times. In my opinion, Eli Roth is incredibly disingenuous when he talks up the morals of his movies. He knows exactly what he's doing, and who his audience is. I've seen my share of graphic violence, but prefer a little more subtlety and suspense building without relying too heavily on shock, which I suppose puts me well on the road to my future as a curmudgeon. Damn kids.

    5. I'll be honest: I've never seen Hostel. This is for several reasons, one being that I thought it was torture porn myself, and I'm not into that, either, and two being that I knew no one I know would want to watch with me.

      To me, gore and blood are elements of a good horror story. They are not THE point of a horror story. If you're going to try to scare me, gallons of gore just ain't the way to do it. Mood and atmosphere are what get my spine tingling, especially if you manage to play on a fear I actually have.

      House of 1000 Corpses didn't really make me think Zombie was asking me to cheer on the torture and death, and I wasn't cheering it at all. I thought the Firefly family made for some great shocking villains, and while they drew me in, I never "liked" them or rooted for them.

      The Human Centipede is one I've purposefully skipped. I see no reason to watch a movie about people being forced to eat another person's shit.