Are You Ready To Make Halloween Even Creepier?
Halloween is about to be here. A glorious time for celebrating spooky and horrifying things. And, if you’re not usually a horror fan but want to get into it this year, I have recommendations.
But before we begin, I need to clarify that it’s OK if you don’t like horror. There are other ways to celebrate Halloween. Don’t make yourself like horror. It’s a genre that’s kind of specific. Fantasy, sci-fi, that stuff has vast appeal. Horror is usually supposed to scare you, and some people don’t like being scared. So never feel pressured to get into horror, even if it is Halloween. I’m offering this advice to those who genuinely think it would be fun but don’t know how to begin or have had trouble.
The first thing to discuss is that horror is not homogeneous. The genre has a lot of parts to it and a lot of levels. People not used to a certain level might get blown out by it. This is a potential reason you might have had trouble with horror in the past. The most common way to experience horror is through movies. Horror movies are the strongest form of horror I’m aware of. Many people even have traumatic childhood memories of when they came across one. The audio-visual component heightens everything, and it’s a terrible time for people who can’t handle jump scares or blood. I’m not affected heavily by horror anymore, but certain movies still make me jolt. The bread slicer scene from Fear Street 1994 is a vivid memory. If you wanna get into horror, I recommend you start elsewhere.
Long-Form Horror Gives Audiences Longer Breaks
You could start with horror television (like the excellent The Midnight Club) if you still want visuals because the pacing tends to be more doled out. You don’t get scared at the same frequency, and you often get more plot and more characters you can grow comfortable with. But where you should probably start is podcasts or books. I’m on record for how much I like The Magnus Archives, but that’s one of the scariest podcasts I’ve ever come across, so don’t start there. Podcasts like Pseudopod, however, give a huge variety of options, letting you pick what seems your speed. It also—I’m sure—has at least a few Halloween episodes. Podcasts are audio-only and often don’t have sudden noises. You’re just told a spooky story.
And then there are books. Books are how I got into horror: specifically, Goosebumps. Books typically have no visuals (except cover art) or audio to worry about and usually bury their spooks in more moment-to-moment plotting. Horror books for teenagers are especially good for budding horror fans. Check out my review of Horrid or Rules for Vanishing for examples. They have spooky moments. They have gore. So, they’re scary sometimes, but they’re not going to emotionally scar most people.
However, when picking from any of these, be careful. Horror has things that can be very upsetting. Sexual assault, animal death, and suicide are more common topics. If there’s stuff you’d rather not encounter, sort horror media appropriately. Do a little research, even if you risk spoilers. Know what you can’t handle before you go exploring.
Do Not Ruin Your Halloween By Upsetting Yourself
Also, know that when you’re trying to figure out your horror comfort zone, you won’t always feel the horror in its full potency immediately. Sure, you might jolt or jump or scream in the moment, but some horror will get to you about an hour or two after you’ve watched it, and it can mess you up. If you miss sleep or jump at shadows for days, you’ve gone too intense and should probably dial it back. It’s supposed to be fun. Halloween is supposed to be fun. That said, some horror fans enjoy that feeling and seek it out. So, if you’re that person, I’ve heard from various places that Hereditary and It Follows are brutal. If you discover you’re a disturbing media person, just don’t spring it on other people without amble warnings.
Finally, regardless of what terror level you can handle, I recommend finding a horror group online. There are plenty of social media spaces where fans hang out. These groups are excellent because they’ll (usually) enthusiastically give you good recommendations based on what you’ve liked before and can help you screen for things you can’t handle. A good horror group will be respectful about upsetting topics and non-judgmental if you like the warped stuff.
They can also help you not waste time. Horror is a broad genre, and it’s got real stinkers. Especially movies. In the film industry, horror is a mercenary genre because the movies require little budget, can be made quickly, and apparently get good returns. A group can help find the diamonds and sort out coal for you. Lousy horror is worse than other poorly made genre films. But good horror can be a revelation. It can become part of you. From ParaNorman to The Nothing That Is, it can inform your taste in art.
If you like the macabre even a little, there’s something here that might be your new favorite. So, pick your Halloween treats and give this genre a try.
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