Does Good Horror Have To Be Depressing?

So part of my duties lately as a member of the Horror Writers Association has been as a member of the long fiction jury for the Bram Stoker Awards. I’ve read tons of great submissions this year, but I’ve noticed a trend. The ones that I have judged most highly, the ones that have seemed the most literary and the most deserving of the award, have also tended to be incredibly depressing. Rip your heart out, make you wonder about the world, depressing. I just finished one of the best I’ve read–When We Join Jesus in Hell. When I opened it up, I expected some cliched trope about religion. I was wrong. Very wrong.

How would I describe the story? Dark. Chilling. Disturbing. Heartbreaking. A trip through grief and torment and vengeance. And I would call it great. And like all great works, it left me thinking.

Does good horror have to be depressing? It’s an important question for me. I am a horror writer. Like everyone else who ever put pen to paper, I want to produce great stuff. But I am also a believer in the idea that good triumphs over evil. Doesn’t mean everything I write has a happy ending (see my contribution to 90 Minutes to Live), but most of it does. And so I return to that basic question.

I don’t have an answer. Common sense tells me that it can’t be the case. And yet…

So what do you think? Can horror have a happy ending? Or if something is to be truly horrifying, if it is going to take us into the abyss, can there be any light that shines through? Or does hope destroy horror?

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2 Comments

Filed under Literary Musings, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Does Good Horror Have To Be Depressing?

  1. I think good horror can go either way, although horror without a happy ending tends to be much more chilling. Because good does not triumph, it tends to stick in my head longer, the fear hasn’t been “taken care of”. When good does triumph, it’s a relief, and when there’s a relief the chills don’t tend to linger as long. Although I can dig horror either way, it seems most of the ones I’d deem “the best” tend to end unhappily.

  2. Thank you for mentioning my novella, Brett! I’m very proud of that story. I actually teared up a little writing it at times.

    As to the question of your post, I don’t know either. But… if we die for who and what we love, does horror really win? Is it a stalemate? It’s an interesting question. I think life can be pretty boring and at times very bleak. We’re human and we’re bound to fuck things up (mostly ourselves and those close to us) but if we are willing to sacrifice time or money or blood for someone else only because as a person we think they’re worth it, then no, I don’t think good horror has to be depressing. I think there can be room for both death and life in the same story. Or maybe death and rebirth. Yeah, probably death and emotional/intellectual/spiritual rebirth.

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