I have always loved the dark. From the literal obliterating of light with blackout curtains and blindfolds to the shadow side of life. From an early age, I loved fairy stories like 'The Red Shoes' and 'The Little Mermaid' - happy endings didn't do it for me, they seemed unlikely. I was a quiet, anxious child who trusted clowns in make-up more than adults who smiled with their mouths but not their eyes.
A babysitter introduced me to Hammer Horror and the Amicus Poe films and I saw various verboten horror films from the top of the stairs. 'The Elephant Man', I can report, is even more horrifying to a seven year old when obscured by banisters and a partially open lounge door. I turned to Stoker and Poe and Lovecraft, then ghost story anthologies and apocalyptic novels like 'Brother in the Land' that I borrowed again and again from the school library. The more desolate and depressing the more they cheered me up.
And that's just it - horror is a great comfort to me. The everyday creeping unease in life is mirrored in quieter, ghostly horror like Aickman, MR James and Shirley Jackson and alleviated by the (brief) vanquishing of overt monsters. There is nothing more soothing on a leaf-littered autumn day than a rum-topped-up hot chocolate while reading ghost stories or watching horror. I can't wait for my annual John Carpenter-a-thon in the last week of October. I always start with 'Halloween'. As soon the theme, with its unnerving time signature and octave jumps, starts and the pumpkin appears, I relax. 'Halloween' shows up the sinister in the every day - the killer by the laundry line, a William Shatner-masked murderer who can strike in daylight. Deborah Hill and Carpenter wrote a film that peels the smiling face off society and looked at what lay, bleeding, beneath. It's the time of the year when we can look at ourselves in the mirror and see a different painted face, but it's the one that's been there all along.
Grab a petrifying paperback or an eerie ebook....
All things horror
25th - 31st October
A week-long celebration of horror fiction. All online, all free, all scary as hell.