Horror is subjective. Great works tell a story and sometimes those stories require a suspension of disbelief. The scariest horror movie to one may be boring and unrealistic to another. I can name several books and movies that I found more horrible than horrific that friends loved and the reverse as well. With the look at fear the universals apply. There will always be fears that mankind shares regardless of technological or social advancement. Consider a work like Silence of the Lambs. It has been called horror; but I would not consider it part of the genre. That does not diminish it in any way and it does fall into one of the traditional fears of man. Let’s take a look at some of the top fears that we enjoy tormenting ourselves with through page or screen.
- The Dark – Man’s fear of the dark is biological. We have not always had street lights. Old cities had walls for reasons other than defense against man. The dark is where the wild things are and they are hungry. Animals, superstitions, and evil men wait for us in the dark hoping we glide gently into its ebon embrace.
- The Unknown – Lovecraft mastered the fear of the unknown. But the nature of the unknown has evolved over the years. The mystery lurking in the dark has now become the unknown of the powers that be or the strange sickness that waits for us in a wave of microscopic invasions.
- Cannibalism – Here is where the aforementioned work comes in. Decent society has for millennia cringed at the notion of becoming another human’s dinner.
- Loss – The idea that we could lose the things we love most will always be terrifying to us. Nothing could be worse than the loss of a child. The ancients saw lineage as the key to familial success. The success of the bloodline. It is no wonder that so many works have been devoted to the subject.
- The ‘Devil’ – Whatever the culture calls it, there is always a premium evil that torments and tempts us into eternal damnation. Religion becomes irrelevant to the fear as money and betrayal could replace it in a heartbeat.
So the question is what do you fear?