July 12, 2007

It's not the architecture of horror

Via InstaPundit comes this wonderful observation from James Lileks:

Apparently the default style for a haunted house is still the Victorian model, with high-backed chairs, rotted filigrees, oval portraits of sour men with dead eyes and string ties, and the general sense of emotional suffocation we associate, however inaccurately, with the Victorian house. But thatís old. Very old. If the Victorian house was scary in a 40s film, itís because it was from the Grandma era, half a century ago. The modern equivalent would be a style from the 50s no one builds any more Ė say, a classic one-story rambler.

I rather like horror films, but I have to say that they suffer from our increasing incredulity regarding the supernatural. In my experience, the devout are far more frightened by Darwin than Dracula. Meanwhile, Hollywood assumes that those of us with open minds are willing to fret over the proper verse of poetry to be recited, or the proper artifact or icon or talisman employed to kill some horror, when we can see perfectly well that a bazooka would be far more efficacious...

I suspect that the most compelling themes in horror are to be found in science rather than superstition. H.P. Lovecraft developed a sort of Darwinian horror -- odd species of quasi humans intermingling genetically with humans--or hunting them; discoveries of vast civilizations dating back to the paleozoic era; cults devoted to the worship of primordial life forms that once ruled the planet...

There are of course other possibilites, ranging from the implications of the nonexistence of time to the physiology of the brain (what if climate triggered an evolutionary regression to the bicameral mind, so that the new generation was guided by voices?). And, of course, a perennial favorite will always be the one Lileks mocks (perhaps appropriately, owing to its execution) -- the horror that man can inflict on his fellow men...

Posted by Ideofact at July 12, 2007 11:57 PM
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