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15 Oct 2012

Writing Horror: We Need a Bit of Stupid

We all do it when we watch a horror film or read a horror book.  When a character goes to explore a strange noise or decides to read the strange ancient language we, the audience, start yelling.  We hiss, we spit, and we make our throats sore screaming 'DON'T DO IT'.  But the character never listens and we continue to watch or read in frustration, mumbling to ourselves how stupid they are and if we were in a horror film we'd be smart and do the complete opposite.

But let's give the writers a break.  Overall, horror punishes.  The villains we're introduced to all have the urge to punish whether it's because of their own belief or revenge for being wronged in the past.  And for these teenagers who go wandering into the dark house because they hear a strange noise or see a strange shadow they're paying the price for simple curiosity.  The genre is brutal like that.  In reality a person could get arrested for trespassing into the abandoned asylum.  Horror takes that one step further and decides that a fatal consequence is more fitting.  So take out the arrest and throw in a guy with a chainsaw or the ghost of a murdered person. 

While it gets on our nerves or makes us cringe and rant, we need some stupid in horror.  We need curiosity.  There will be consequences, don't worry.  You may hate their actions but that villain is ready to punish those silly teens for you.  That slasher/ghost/demon is ready to teach them a lesson about invading privacy and making silly decisions. 

So sit back, enjoy, and learn some good lessons.


  1. Great post, and so true. No one would want to read a horror book where the kids hear all rustling in the basement but decide to stay put in the living room anyway.

  2. Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor, has commented that most of the problems the Doctor encounters could be avoided if he just got back in the TARDIS and left. But where's the fun in that? :) Likewise, we know rushing down to the basement in your PJs with only a baseball bat for protection is probably not the best course of action when you hear strange noises coming from below. Yes, you should probably call the police, or at least be better armed. But the horror genre depends on rash and foolhardy actions, and many horror writers have done very well by them. :) Good article, Robin!

  3. Haha bet Peter Davison really can't stand Matt Smith's Doctor! He's always getting himself into trouble. ^^