I’m not entirely sure I “get” the purpose of a pure horror story. I usually feel like my enjoyment of it is one level removed. Oh, sure, there are some great horror stories I really like — a handful of Lovecraft’s, and maybe a dozen by other writers (like Bierce’s “The Damned Thing”), but I always feel like I’m not quite the target audience.
The odd thing is that I love some horrifying monsters and dreadful, dire spells and have them in the tales I write. They frequently turn up in the stories I most enjoy. But in sword-and-sorcery and heroic fiction the characters can fight back, or, at the least, flee.
I mention all this because I’ve been watching Hill House with my daughter. We just finished watching the 6th episode last night. Let me share some spoiler-free observations.
The writing so far is very strong. The acting is so brilliant that I’m completely sold that these people are experiencing these terrible events. So much so that it’s like watching a bunch of people I quite like get tortured and traumatized, and I don’t find that fun. I turned to my daughter last night and told her that it just seems like the haunted house was screwing with this really nice family, and I hope that by the end those who are still alive get to kick its ass. I was angry upon their behalf and ready to take action, and I guess maybe that’s not where I’m supposed to be while watching.
While I was away at World Fantasy Con last year my daughter watched Hill House with my wife. Keeping in mind that my wife has a pretty traumatic job, she stays away from shows with a whole lot of violence or disturbing images, because she hears enough about that at work. She watched Hill House with my daughter anyway, and it really left her unsettled. She informs me that it does NOT end with the character’s solving the mystery and beating the house. I’m going to watch to the end, but from what she says I think I’m going to be left feeling unsettled and dis-satisfied.
Maybe I don’t have the right genes to be enjoying pure horror? I dunno. Can any of you tell me what I’m not getting? How am I out of sync with the intended audience?