Great horror for me, whether in books or movies, almost always involves great characters. When writers, actors, and/or directors make me believe in and, better yet, care about a character they are going to put in some kind of danger, they have won half the battle. Stephen King, I think, does this very well in some of his books–-I really like some of the people he creates; King’s written more than one Yankee monster-killer I would like to invite over for dinner.
The second half of the battle, I suppose, is making the danger in which the main characters eventually find themselves both frightening and believable. In horror, there’s not much point in making me fall in love with a character if you’re going to pit him or her against something my grandma could defeat. I think a good example of a believable monster is Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. Watching Silence of the Lambs for the first time, I believed that Hannibal Lecter was a real threat to Clarice Starling–-her soul, if not her body, seemed to be on the menu. As much as I liked Lecter (I know, I’m a sicko), I was worried about what he might do to Starling. When the cast and crew of Silence of the Lambs persuaded me to believe in Lecter and Starling for a couple hours and convinced me that the one posed a threat to the other, they not only created good suspense but the setup for some really good horror. Sadly, the good doctor ceased to be believable as a monster, at least for me, in Hannibal–-I don’t know if Grandma could take out an old English actor doing a serial killer parody, but I think I could (as could your average FBI agent, Italian thug, or herd of pissed-off and hungry swine).
To horrify me, I must believe in the monster (due to good acting, good writing, good special effects, and myriad other things I can’t do) and it should pose a threat to somebody I can (or could) care about. If well done, a demon against a little girl or a savage alien against a small crew of people trapped on a small ship in outer space are both great recipes to put me on the edge of my seat.
Anyway, those are some of my thoughts on the subject.
Have a great day everybody. After all, it’s your last . . .