Continuing last week's theme, I've turned to a fellow horror buff and asked them a few questions about what work in the genre has stayed with them, for better or worse, and how their feelings toward it has changed over the years or due to events in their life. This time around, my close friend Xander Harrington stepped up to the plate.
Alexander D. Harrington
The work of horror that impacted me the most was Stephen King's Pet Sematary. The novel is so doom laden, so bleak and hopeless and nihilistic it's nuts. And that reaction came before I was a father. Its effect has amplified since then, since it represents everything I fear. And, really, the things we all fear: loss of a loved one, our own mortality, the unknown. Like a lot of King's work, there are some great Lovecraftian overtones; namely the notion of something nameless and OTHER corrupting those in the story, in this case those unfortunate enough to be buried in the Mi'kmaq grounds.
It was, also, the first work of fiction for me which forced me to come to terms with death. A school friend's father had died shortly before I read the novel and I couldn't wrap my head around it. He was so young and full of life that I really started to question the rationality of a divine plan. In Sematary death is the unpredictable, the chaotic, the indifferent figure looming over the story! King subverts your emotional expectations beautifully by presenting a nightmare scenario in which death may be the better option, which is very disquieting. For me it's the man's seminal horror novel.
I can't think of a particular work for me that my opinion of has changed over the years, but I will say my horror tastes run more towards the psychological. I'm interested in horror that deals more in elements of surrealism and the abstract. I know David Lynch would never admit to making a horror film, but to me all his great films are horror films. Certainly when you think of things like Lost Highway or Inland Empire.
For me one of the best horror films of the last twenty years is Kill List, the Ben Wheatley flick. It has such an oppressive atmosphere of dread that I was nearly tempted to turn it off and walk away. And it's wonderfully ambiguous and mercurial, shifting tone and almost genre from time to time. His recent A Field in England has a similar effect, though I'm not too sure he would classify it as a genre film as such. As a teenager, Friday the 13th wowed me. Now I'm wowed by Suspiria or Don't Look Now or more recently Antichrist. The surrealistic and the dream like is where my enthusiasm for the genre lies now.
Xander has haunted the woods of Brant County for three score years. His sighs are the wind through the tree canopy.