Horror of the eyes or Horror of the mind?

:: Movie & Book Spoiler Alert ::

Horror movies today are becoming more visually grotesque than their counter parts of the black and white film days. In order to entice our growing appetite for more blood and guts mixed with heart stopping terrors, the Horror film industry today has taken on the attitude of “seeing is believing”.   So, if we do not witness the horror first hand with our eyes, does it really exist?

A little over a week ago, I saw Woman in Black starring Daniel Radcliffe (I will try to stay away from the details of the movie so not to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen it).  In my opinion, it was an okay Horror movie.  Daniel Radcliffe did a great job of acting scared, I was convinced, but I couldn’t help to get annoyed at the whole “horror” of the movie.  There was very little suspense, and it absolutely left nothing up to the imagination.  Every little bump or squeak that was sounded was quickly accompanied by the image of what was making that sound.  And to top it all off, it was very loosely based on Susan Hill’s novel.  This production pulled all the flashy imagery that made her book scary, and threw it up on the screen.  The plot barely reflected the original text.

So I went home, and had a peaceful night’s sleep.

A few years ago on one sunny day, the tome The Woman in Black by Hill happened to fall into my hands.  That night after a long day of Literature classes, I curled up in bed under the roof of my tiny house off the Appalachian Trail and fell into a nightmare of pure terror.  Hill’s words delicately conjured the horrific images of Arthur Kipp’s journey to Eel Marsh House in my mind that I don’t think I will ever forget my first read of this tale.  I honestly could not put the text down, even into the wee hours of the following morning.  To be honest, I don’t know whether that was from fear or intrigue, but I continued reading until the end.  Typically I read at a rather fast pace, but the terror that Hill spewed made my eyes crawl across each word, letter by letter.  She devoured my imagination with her sound devices and imagery that danced like gossamer on the periphery of the eyes.  She played with my mind.  Her way of telling this tale was to give a little tidbit of the unknown and then allow your mind to form the rest.  How long did I wonder, page after page, what was the “Bump bump” noise that our dear protagonist heard coming from behind that locked door without the keyhole.  My stomach knotted in anticipation as the sound would start and stop.  As I read Arthur’s mind reeling of what the sound could possibly be, my mind was screaming at him “Get Out! Get Out!”.  When at last, the sound is finally revealed… my heart skipped a beat.  I had stop reading for a moment because I thought I was hearing the same sounds in my tiny home.  Quickly, I ran to my living room to check on my own rocking chair.

So I finished the book, and I didn’t sleep for four nights.

Now, in no way do I want this to come across that I am bashing this movie.  If you want a quick fright and have never read the book, then this is a film for you.  Yet, those few, fast pace seconds in the film where Arthur first hears the “rocking” noise then soon finds the nursery room door open with a rocking chair violently rocking inside does not compare of the several pages of terror of trying to figure out what in the hades is creating that creepy “Bump bump. Pause. Bump bump. Pause” noise.   Modern day movies have lost the fear factor that brews within our imaginations.  It is all about show the ghost, show the creepy little kid with the big black eyes, show the abdominal evisceration, but where is the lasting fear in that.  Sure we may get squeamish over the thought of Jeff Goldblum being turned into a slimy, bumpy fly-human morph in The Fly or that idiot lawyer getting “cross sectioned” in Thir13een Ghosts.  But it is only a temporary terror fix.  I have found that the Horror entombed in the written word has a lasting impression on the mind.  The imagery that forms in our imagination from when we read these tales of terror burns a living picture in our minds.  That is the ultimate Horror movie.

©2012, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivative – visit  Amanda Headlee — It is Always Darkest Before the Dawn for the original source of this content.

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