Mini Episode: Realism and Surrealism in Horror (October Special #1)

So, there’s a bit of a divide in horror between stories with more realism where the horror is how close to life they feel, and stories that completely depart from realism and derive their horror from how bizarre things can get. Most horror stories in textual form fall into the former category, for obvious reasons, because surrealism is difficult in text at the best of times, let alone surrealism so vivid it becomes scary. The origins of the literary horror genre, from Poe to Lovecraft, are largely built on injecting slight amounts of surrealism into otherwise realistic settings. The Raven is so unsettling because it’s believable, the only thing that happens is a man being taunted by hearing one single word over and over again, projecting his own grief and instability onto a bird. Lovecraft has a reputation as a purveyor of the bizarre, but the actual structure of his stories is that of occurrences that largely follow understandable logic and the bizarreness of his storylines is mostly in the forms of weird things existing in that world, rather than the actual story itself being bizarre. Someone like Junji Itou follows this general format, albeit with a very different and more surrealist style. Itou’s stories are almost entirely about ordinary people stuck in the middle of bizarre things happening, perhaps most distinctly Gyo, which takes place in a real location (Okinawa), but focuses on incredibly strange events (namely, an invasion of fish with metal legs), and follows a pretty conventional story from there on. Probably the biggest departure from this is Uzumaki, a series of vignettes that each show off the bizarre theming of spirals in a mysterious town and how all of this affects the life of the main character, who’s always around when weird stuff happens. This contrasts heavily with a very similar manga author, Shintaro Kago, whose storylines are much much more… well, surreal. A lot less makes sense about them, but a lot of that is where the horror comes from. What makes Kago a great horror artist on par with Itou is that his stories are as bizarre as his artwork, and while that makes them less creepily relatable, it makes them scary in a new way due to their strangeness.


Author: WhenSomethingCriesAgain

Several years ago, I found myself positively brimming with opinions and insight, with no way to express them, so I began writing, and found that I liked it. I decided to start a page to keep records of my writing, and hopefully convince a few people to agree with my ideas.

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