I was feeling in a strange mood, helped by a pulsing headache and blurry eyes, a dark day and a badly-lit room, all conspiring to put me in an eerie self-made world of dark figures and otherworldly sensations, a nervous feeling of oddities in the shadows and an awareness of the peculiarities of my own mind.
I was watching a documentary on the evolution of American horror and found myself asking why I like these dark themes so much. I don’t care for slasher pics and gore for the sake of gore, but intelligent thrillers, psychological and folklore mythology are deep-set in my imagination and it needs a deep search into the fathoms of memory to learn why.
We all start with fairy tales, but then I moved on to mythology, picking up a random book from my primary school library (I still have it… oops.) and falling in love with the strange tales of Hercules’ Labours, Theseus and the Minotaur, Jason and the Argo and all the other legends of ancient Greece. There was darkness in these, but the book I read was for children and it presented them in a simplistic way, a light overview of the horror I would read further in to as an adult.
I was never allowed to watch horror as a child or teenager so I only saw snippets of television, sneaking views of Buffy or late night films until I got my own TV, and what control can a parent have after that? Before the days of channel blocking, watching TV on old boxy sets, as long as I kept the volume down I could watch what I pleased and chronic insomnia during college saw to it that I watched plenty of all the kinds of film and programming my parents would never have allowed. This, I suppose, was the initiation into the world of darkness. My mind grew to accept certain truths of the world (bear in mind, I was quite a sheltered child) and while I always hated the murderer for the evil he was, it never stopped me from wanting to watch them in their element.
And thus was adulthood’s strange mentality forged. But what was the beginning of it, the first instance of horror that crept into my brain and settled in a hidden place, waiting for it’s time to emerge? Nothing easier to name. It was something I was never allowed to watch, a part of a film that was always fast-forwarded over, straight to the finale.
FANTASIA: 1940. ‘Night on Bald Mountain’, where the demon, Chernabog, raises ghosts and devils to dance in the night, terrifying the villagers below. I have a vague memory of watching it once, my dad being horrified about it and fast-forwarding every time we watched it thereafter.
Then I learned to use the VCR, and that was the end of his ‘remote control’.
Bad joke. Apologies.
The terrifying images of demons, wraiths of the grave in a swirl of terrifying music hypnotised a child kept away from darkness.Vivid colours of flame and shadows black as oblivion… never terrified me. They held me in a strange kind of confused fear, but they never made me reject the horror, run away from it, avoid it at all costs.
I relishedthe fantastical nature of the piece, even if the darkness came with it.