By Nick “Novel” Gabanski
I don’t know about you guys, but I avoid clichés like the plague. As well as I can, anyway. All the genres of storytelling are affected by this proverbial disease, and some are even really cool and worth using, like a character screaming “No!” in futile denial as someone dies. Or the hero’s tragic backstory. And, of course, the always fun “hero fights through a plethora of bad guys before getting to the ‘boss’”. However, we’re not going to focus on that. I’d like to discuss a particular genre, one that is so overly infested with clichés that the two have become inseparable and virtually synonymous: the horror genre.
Cue the Twilight Zone theme and prepare to axe your way through a door just so you can scream, “Here’s Johnny!”, because the horror section is rife with terror and unimaginable nightmares. The sad thing is, because of the overabundance of clichés, this has made horror stories incredibly predictable and, to be frank, not scary. Fear comes from the unknown. And if you know what’s going to happen, then there’s nothing to be scared of. I could give a laundry list of clichés in horror stories, such as The Immortal Slasher Villain, The Black Guy Always Dies First, It’s a Demon, Zombies, There’s Something in the Dark/Woods/Attic/Basement/Cabin, The Dumb Teens Who Do Everything Possible to Shorten Their Lives, and Overly Gory Demises. That’s just scraping the surface of what occurs in horror stories. So why, of all genres, does horror get affected more than the others? Why has it become so predictable and boring?
Is it because the content matter is limited and been thoroughly exhausted at this point? It could be, but that doesn’t make much sense if you think of horror as a type of fantasy genre; anything could potentially happen. Granted, not every story of horror does that. Many of them take place in our reality, which is good and all; it makes the terror all the more real. More often than not, though, these days horror is based on the paranormal (demons, zombies, vampires, ghosts, etc.) and let’s be honest, that has gotten very boring very fast. I think the reason why horror stories are so hard to do these days is because the formulas are very simple and very repetitive. The same set of stories has been done to death, then reanimated like a boring zombie TV show, and then done to death again. Because of this, writers have to get more and more creative if they truly wish to scare their audiences.
Something I’ve found is that the stories concerning actual people suffering from mental disorders, thus making it psychological horror, is what is scary. Nobody could have predicted the twist in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho or the ending of Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island (to name a couple examples). It’s time for horror writers to go back to the olden day classics. No more paranormal creatures. Just some good old-fashioned human vileness and villainy. We’re more than capable of committing horrid acts against each other. There’s nothing more unpredictable than the human mind. And that is truly terrifying.
Edited by Tara Dugan