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  • Writer's pictureCurious Spirit Pictures

Tapping into Fear - Retrospective Influence of Horror

I love 'Doctor Who' and one of my earliest memories was arriving late to my Great Aunt's house in South Wales, for my dad to rush me upstairs to catch on a small 14inch TV, the iconic moment of Sylvester McCoy's doctor darting up the stairs, just to have the Dalek levitate and follow. Amazing! And up to that point, Daleks had never flown before, something that they do all the time now!

My childhood was full of scary things that I adored for entertainment, such as Ghostbusters, (a weekly renewal from the mobile video man), Doctor Who, Trap Door, Dark Crystal, Killer Klowns from Outer Space (caught it as a late-night TV showing once) and not to forget the gruesome and brilliant books of Roald Dahl. I didn't think of any of these as being scary, although I knew that they were for others, but instead I saw these as exciting and fun.

This love for horror of course continued into my teens as I binged on so-bad-they're-good horror B-Movies and consumed the classics (Night of the Living Dead, the Universal Horror collection, Halloween, Psycho, Friday, Silence of the Lambs, Nightmare, etc etc) as part of regular sleepovers, weekend "gatherings" and rainy Sunday afternoons. When I went to university, my first film social outing was to see the brilliant '28 Days Later', and I even explored the history of horror films as part of my 3rd year dissertation.

However, in more recent years, my love for horror films has kind of fizzled out. I still watch the odd horror film that grabs my attention, or a horror-based TV series, such as The Haunting of Hill House or the American Horror series, but I’ve got to be in the right mood to press play. Have I fallen out of love with horror?

When I was at high school, I wanted to make a school-based horror movie. Idea was simple, a masked killer stalking round an empty school after class, taking out students in gruesome attacks that would make us cringe and whoop at the same time. The one sequence that stands out for me still was that of a student whose head gets forced upon a belt sander in a resistant materials classroom - "He wasn't THAT resistant!"

This character would be discovered with the front of his head sanded away to reveal the frontal-lobe of the brain, which would crudely fall out and splatter on the floor when the police detective moved him. Yet, luckily, or unluckily, depending on your tastes, this film was never made, and weirdly throughout my college and university work, I never considered doing a horror film.

However, more recently I’ve looked back at the creative projects and ideas that I have been working on in the last 6 years and noticed, like the dumb teenager saying ‘Hello? Anyone there", horror has been hiding behind me ready to pounce.

For example, I get the chance to create a children’s book for young children and yet I based it around fears and shadow monsters. A dark calling clearly to my childhood influences, as original discussions of the design of the dark forest was to feel more like the demon scene from Ghost (another favourite from my childhood - Thanks Mum), before Ian had the sensibility to approach it in a more friendly manner (the right choice I will admit) than those illustrated by Ian (rightly so) in the final book.

‘The Last Graveyard Slot’ a feature film that we are looking to move into production in the next year, is a drama with creatures. This time, the theme of fear plays out, not by the creatures themselves, but instead the fears of all the characters within the film. Again, an example of horror hiding in wait, as the original draft dealt with a love triangle Trapped by monsters, now after many drafts, the film is about real-life fears. The fear of taking a risk, getting emotionally hurt and losing it all. The fear of change. The fear of what others think. The fear of failing.

The thing is, good horror storytelling taps in to the mundane, everyday fears but is dressed up to divert its obvious meaning. The monster of developing science, the foreign vampire, the body snatching civilisation, the kooky guy next door, and others are rooted in societies fears over the last century and more and have been dressed up to feel different, but to still niggle at our subconscious fears.

Recently I completed a one-shot comic story for a new anthology book called ‘Tales from the Shadows’. My brief was a classic monster story in the style of black mirror. This resulted in Mortal Lines, a story that plays on the mythology of a specific monster but is ultimately about fears of Corruption and personal safety.

Now, granted these projects lend themselves to horror as they are all close to the genre, but when you look to other non-horror projects, that the theme continues.

Sci-Fi Noir comic series ‘Pieces’ deals with body horror at the core of its concept. Nuclear Enforcement, which when produced as a short back in 2005 was about family and rebellion, now in the pilot TV script it has evolved to be about the fear of losing everything and the fear of trusting others. Even a biography feature script that I was brought in to rewrite and develop, was brought back with a newly added ghost that tormented the central character, as well as developing his fear of his work being used for the wrong reasons.

A recent pitch for another short film script written also dealt with family skeletons and touches on the horrors of those closest to you.

Am I obsessed with fear and horror? Probably. Is my focus on fears really an outcome of developing richer, my rounded characters? However, I also think what horror is has changed for me. I’ve matured, become more socially aware of the real-life horrors in the world, Because, Yeah, A brain plopping out due to an unfortunate band sander incident is gross, but is it really scary? Horror should be about the fears that you can identify with, can relate to, can hold yourself, because although we watch for entertainment, the nightmare is really sneaking up behind you and get you when you least expect it.

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