Archive for June, 2014

Horror Threshold

Posted: June 24, 2014 in horror
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My horror threshold. I never actually gave it much thought. I have been infatuated with the horror genre since my teens, and I have seen (and sought out) some truly depraved media. The most disturbing movie I have ever seen (The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things) is not even what I would consider horror.

Yet an online associate told me about a movie (A Serbian Film) that I had never seen or heard of that got me thinking about what my horror threshold might be–where I would draw the line between horror as disturbing entertainment and legitimate, unappealing depravity.

This associate told me the movie included someone having sex with a newborn baby. Instantly, there was my threshold! For all the obscure, graphic, and mentally traumatizing horror I have sought out, I had absolutely no desire to see this movie. I did not even really want to think about the fact that it existed.

Children. Children are my personal horror threshold.

If there is a freaky possessed child or a stoic kid on a murderous rampage, I’m fine; I’m good with it; please continue… However, if the horror is directed at the child, particularly a baby, I’m out. I might be able to tolerate some light suggestion with no visual, but largely, I want no part of it.

Horror involving children is a biological aversion for me, even more so after I became a mother. I imagine it is for many people.

So that is my line. Horror threshold here!

I am also not exceptionally fond of rape horror. The inclusion in a plot or the suggestion of it does not necessarily bother me, even a brief scene. However, when the scene is gratuitously graphic or lengthy, I feel my threshold approaching.

When I foolishly watched the remake of Last House on the Left while I was in Iraq (worst venue choice on my part), the rape scene seemed neverending. Yet when I watched it later, it is not horrifically long or graphic for the genre. It stabbed at my legitimate fear of getting raped in theater.

Like children, graphic rape horror is biologically upsetting to me. I can tolerate rape horror to a higher degree because it involves adults, not children. In either case, not my first choice for trauma and fear. Give me a deeply psychological serial killer any day.

Everyone is different, so everyone’s horror thresholds are distinct, even for the most versed aficionados in the genre. I have written torture pieces that have upset my dearest friends; I have written pieces my own husband refuses to read.

So what is your horror threshold?

I remember when zombies were Romero. I remember when vampires were Anne Rice. I remember when werewolves were barely on the radar. Nothing sparkled in the sun; no tweens lusted over the dark creatures. I remember when being a horror lover made you a goth in high school or a gore whore as an adult.

This is no longer exactly true.

Pure and raw horror will never really be mainstream; that is part of what defines it as a genre. Deeply disturbing will never been normal because then, by definition, it cannot be disturbing. However, this diluted, stylized horror has seemed to take over recently.


The Walking Dead has turned zombies into an utter phenomena. Twilight has brought the screaming teenage masses to vampires and werewolves (if you can even call them that). Hannibal, and TV shows of the like, have brought gore to network television. Serial killers and supernatural creatures and blood are no longer in the shadows. It seems like they are everywhere now.

As long-standing horror lovers, this cultural development is a double-edged sword. On one side, what we love is saturating the market now, easily accessed and pursued. We can see new (and rather well done) stories of Hannibal Lecter or Norman Bates in shows airing weekly. We can find zombie clothes, backpacks, whatever in the mall rather than some obscure, overpriced store online. There are more horroresque movies than we have time to attend.

Yet, on the other side, the genre can seem tainted. A key component of horror is being outside the status quo, ripping out of the box to be upsetting or traumatizing. For horror to fit inside the mainstream, the mainstream has become more tolerant of violence and gore, more amiable to fear; however, horror has become more pretty and appealing in turn. To a degree, it has been neutered.

Personally, I love the cultural shift. And I hate it. I enjoy the influx of media in my particular twisted flavor while I lament the perversion of the perverted to something placid for the masses.

Love it and/or hate it, it is what it is. There will always be a place for pure horror on the outskirts of our culture; there will always be a line that the mainstream will be too scared to cross. Even if the majority has adopted the idea behind the genre, purists will be out there keeping the darkness black and frightful.