Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Tarot of Terror - Danse Macabre

I recently finished Stephen King's book about horror in film, television and novels; Danse Macabre. it was a great read and filled with some interesting perspectives from a man who's changed the world of horror fiction (it's hard to deny his influence even if you don't enjoy his stories).

One of the points that King brings up in the book is that there are essentially four types of horror stories or combinations of those types. They are: the unknown thing, the vampire, the changeling and the ghost story. His examples of these stories (in novel form) are as follows - The unknown thing: Frankenstein, The Vampire: Dracula, The changeling: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the ghost story: The Turn of the Screw. He then goes on to show how many horror films, television series and novels fit into these types. Now the book is a bit dated - the version I have shows a copy write date of 1983.

So I went ahead and put some of my favorite horror stories into these types...
Pickman's Model - The unknown thing
The Blair Witch Project - The Unknown Thing/The Ghost story
Perfect Blue - The Changeling
Audition - The Changeling
Cabal - The Changeling/The unknown thing
Salem's Lot - The Vampire
Lost Highway - The Changeling

Three of my favorite TV series incorporated all of these stories into their mix: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-files, Boogiepop Phantom.

I began to wonder if horror stories could be so easily confined so easily to these types. Did Mr. King hit the nail on the head, or did he miss something? In a way its interesting to be able to categorize the stories, but at the same time it seems confining. One of the things I love about all types of fantasy fiction is the ability to unleash the imagination. Any type of categories seems to be constrictive. At the same time King has not let these ideas hold him back. His "Dark Tower" has plenty of great fantastic moments.

What do you think? Are there any horror stories that don't fit these categories? Do they constrict horror writers?

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