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Horror as a Comfort Blanket

Updated: Feb 21, 2019

Horror is supposed to make you uncomfortable. Claiming the genre as a comfort blanket is counter-intuitive, is it not?

We are pummelled daily by the sounds of suffering. None of us is isolated. Together, we await the wrath of hurricanes on the other side of the world. Our stomachs cramp as we witness starvation. Photographs of bruised and beaten victims of violence haunt us. A car slams into a crowd and we shudder at the hatred that drives it.

Unless we are wilfully blind we must watch these horrors with a certain level of culpability. The lifestyle of the West that we enjoy is sustained through exploitation, and we feel both guilty and powerless.

Horror reveals to us the depth and the root of this evil.

The sinister, the terrible never deceive: the state in which they leave us is always one of enlightenment. And only this condition of vicious insight allows us a full grasp of the world, all things considered, just as a frigid melancholy grants us full possession of ourselves. We may hide from horror only in the heart of horror.” Thomas Ligotti.

Yet, in horror we can hide.

Horror fiction doesn’t point at us, accusingly. It soothes us. In the words of Clive Barker, “[Horror fiction] shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion.”

Horror fiction shows us that we survive against the odds and there is honour in that, not guilt.

Horror teaches us survival techniques. Don’t run up the stairs; don’t answer the door; don’t read from that book. It assuages the guilt of our inaction, and reminds us we are only responsible for our own conduct. What we choose to do is then left up to us. Do we leap towards danger and fight dragons or demons, or do we keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and insulated – wrapped in a blanket?

Horror as a genre is built around one truth: that the world is full of fearful things. But the best horror tells us more. It tells us how to live with being afraid. It tells us how to distinguish real evil from harmless shadows. It tells us how to fight back.” Ruthanna Emrys.

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