quarta-feira, 29 de fevereiro de 2012

Of Terror and Horror - Part 1

Hi! Ulisses da Motta Costa here again. During the preparations for the filming of Kassandra, I wrote this text for cast and crew about the horror genre. I decided to share it with you. The text has two parts:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,
the first horror movie

In Portuguese, we usually do not differentiate the meaning of the terms "terror" and "horror". Roughly speaking, they are considered as synonyms. We use "terror" to define when a person has an uncontrollable behavior ("this guy is a terror"), and "horror" to say that a situation was catastrophic ("the accident was a horror"). But when applied to a narrative genre, whatever: they mean the same thing.

Not so in english speaker cultures. Terror and Horror have different meanings when applied to movies, books, comic books and so on. In narrative terms and without much theoretical checks, Terror is the feeling that precedes a frightening experience; Horror is the feeling one gets after such experience. That is, the first is connected to fear and the second is connected to shock.

H.P. Lovecraft
Terror is considered the most "noble" because it relies on a gradual development of anxiety and discomfort. There is a need to establish firmly the feeling of fear. On the other hand, when this construction reaches its climax and we witness the dread promised along the narrative, we feel shocked. So, a good scary story, we can tell, invests on the Terror during its course and leave the Horror to the viewer how when the story ends.

Why Terror and Horror works as a narrative, for more disgusting that sounds? According to HP Lovecraft, american writer noted for his short scary stories, "man’s oldest and strongest emotion is fear, and the oldest and strongest fear is the fear of the unknown". When one enjoys a story that creates fear, one notes this feeling. And the "role" of the arts is to remember that we have certain feelings - that is, that we are truly alive.


by Gustave Doré
No wonder that the scary elements permeate our culture: the mythologies of ancient civilizations are full of nasty creatures and situations; fairy tales are bloody and cruel. In the Odyssey, fear is the feeling that prevails in the cave of the Cyclops. In Macbeth, the terror of the Three Witches is established already in the prologue. That’s why perhaps that Orson Welles, in his version of the play, gave the movie a gothic clothing more likened to a horror movie than to an epic.

Thus, Terror and Horror have an ancestral origin, although it’s specificity as a genre. For all intents and purposes, they are both tragedies that go deep into the dark side of anti-heroes. Within the field tragic, we can say that there are three themes dear to Terror, which we will call here: Beauty against the Beast, The Monster in Us All and The Man vs. Evil. A bit about them:

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