Friday, May 27, 2011

Horror Genres: Supernatural

To be fair, almost every horror film has a little bit of the supernatural in them. It feeds our desire to explain the unexplainable, or at least observe it. Hence, the inherent trickiness of this post. If most horror films have a bit of the supernatural in them then how do you write about them? Well, there are a lot of ways... Ok, I'm stalling.

I LOVE supernatural horror. (but really who doesn't? seriously, if you don't let me know...) They were always the ones that scared me the most. But is not A Nightmare On Elm Street supernatural? Well, yes. But it's more slasher. As are Halloween and Friday the 13th seeing as the killer comes back again and again and again with little to no explanation. Ok, when Jason's corpse gets a metal rod stuck in him and comes back to life AFTER the rod is struck by lighting... well, that's just science. I think.



Ok, enough stalling. Let's start with the actual definition of "supernatural":
1. of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena; abnormal.
2.of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or attributed to god or a deity.
3.of a superlative degree; preternatural: a missile of supernatural speed.
So, basically anything that is unexplained. It's the noise that you hear late at night that you've never heard before. It's the thing you see out of the corner of your eye that you can't explain. Or it's the little girl on the bed having waaaaay too good a time with that crucifix. 
 
Even though my goal with these posts is to explore the essence of different sub-genres of horror, some of the sub-genres have sub-sub-genres. How meta is that??? (answer: no idea, Scream 4 only confused me more about the use of the word "meta". Don't worry, I don't think most of the population knows how to use the word "meta")

So here's my proposed sub-genre breakdown. Bare in mind what I've already covered in terms of genre (Slashers, Literary Monsters, Creature Features and there's still more to come... see the original post here!) So I'm going to try and deal with the purely supernatural, which in my mind means: 

-Ghosts
-Posession
-Demonic 
-Witches

Ghosts... oh, those wacky, wacky ghosts. Ghosts are responsible for more shenanigans in movies than you can shake a stick at. Remember when they did the live action version of Caspar the Friendly Ghost and the CGI Caspar turned into Devon Sawa? Yeah, not those kind of ghosts. I'm talking about the less than friendly ghosts that can hurt you. And sometimes even possess you. 

Let's take a look at The Shining (1980) as an example of two sub-sub genres rolled into one. If you're a regular reader of this blog you'll know about my hard-on for the The Shining. It simply can't be beat in my mind. Not only is it a beautifully crafted movie but the artistic merit is better than most mainstream films. Like all great stories it's a simple one. Family goes to hotel to look after it in the off-season. Hotel is filled with ghosts. Ghost possess father. Chaos ensues. 
 
 

The Shining is an encyclopaedia of the supernatural. Little is explained except for a mention of a favourite trope of Stephen King's, building something on an Indian Burial ground, but within the Overlook Hotel there are few limitations for these ghosts. They can be everywhere and nowhere and appear in different forms, like your already emotionally unstable father. 

Another purer ghost story is something like The Ring (which I like better than Ringu and it's my blog so there). The confines for this story is once you watch a creepy art school video you have seven terrifying days to live before the spirit of an evil little girl comes after you through your TV screen. The Ring is a creepy fucking movie that traumatized most people I know. 
 
 

As for Possession/Demonic, well I'd have to say Paranormal Activity does it best for me. It also, in my mind stays out of the Satanic genre because the characters don't call in a priest, they call in a psychic. Paranormal Activity deals in the loss of control and with the supposed reality of the situation rather than an emphasis on the faith of the characters. 
 
 

Now, to witches. For me, witches didn't really fall into any other category. They exist in literature but their stories almost always take on a power and control bent rather than a time specific story which is a must for literary horror. (Dracula 2000 being the exception) Take for instance Suspiria (1977) it's about a dance school run by witches. And boy oh boy do these witches like to terrorize their students. Not for any particular reasons (other than bitches be crazy) but y'know, just cause.
 
 

Now if you're sensing a pattern, you're not imagining it. The creepiness of the supernatural comes from an almost complete lack of rhyme or reason. It doesn't matter if you're good or bad, if you fall under the supernatural's awareness it will come after you. Unrelentingly. Because, let's face it, it's not like ghosts/demons/witches have to do their taxes or go to work. Haunting is their 24 hour a day job. And business is booming.

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