Splatter and Gore vs. Psychological Horror
by A. F. Stewart
In my mind, there are two major camps in horror: gory blood fests where the bodies (and body parts) drop frequently and the creepy psychological horror where the terror happens in the mind, and through evocative events. One is a “run for your life” situation, the other, a “is this really happening,” circumstance. Of course, there is overlap and a melding of the two, but quite often you’ll find a writer favours either the blood and gore, or the psychological. Each angle has its highlights, and although I personally prefer the psychological, I have on occasion dabbled in the gruesome and gory. So, I thought I’d give some of my insight on what appeals about writing both approaches to horror.
Splatter and Gore:
I think this perspective is interesting because of its straightforward, shocking nature. It has a built in horror signature, with blood and guts, maiming and dead bodies as splatter staples. It’s bold and brash and—in my opinion—this type of horror tends, by its nature, to be more action oriented and visceral.
But it also affords the writer a chance to let loose, to rummage deep into the bowels of evil using very primeval and disturbing techniques. Using gory violence to illustrate horror can lift certain constraints from a writer (and you can always dial some of that graphic carnage back in editing if needed). I know from experience that writing the explicit horror scenes (people being eaten alive) in my book, Ruined City, felt quite liberating. There’s a certain gratification in using the spatter and gore approach to horror, akin to a kid smashing a sandcastle on the beach.
This approach is generally my favourite; I find it a more subtle, subliminal method of demonstrating terror and dread. It often allows me to focus on a character driven plot; an unravelling of minds if you will. My stories of psychological horror may often rely heavily on atmosphere and mood to create tension and shivers, and utilize the lurking, unseen horror to great effect. I also love this approach when using a historic setting.
One favourite of my stories that uses the psychological approach is called Dear Mom, where a child is writing to his mother about evil toys out to get him (I know, it sounds weird). Up until the last letter, I tried to convey the “what’s happening” sense to the reader: is the kid crazy or is it real? Then in the last letter you see the mom’s reply, and the big reveal about the truth of what occurred. This story is entirely character driven and works well, I think, to create an ambience of dread.
So that’s my take on these approaches to horror. I hope you enjoyed my wicked thoughts, and check out my latest foray into horror, Killers and Demons II: They Return.
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Evil is back, with a greater appetite for death.
They lurk forever in the shadows, smile at you in the morning, and haunt your dreams at night. You can’t hide, you can’t run, and there’s no escape. You can only scream when they come for you.
Killers and Demons II: They Return is a collection of thirteen tales, blending short stories and flash fiction, tales where the blood lingers on your tongue or spurts quickly from the swift cut.
The Villainous Roster:
Wade, every parent’s nightmare
Hannah and Mr. Greeley. Who is the victim and who is the villain?
Simon and Zoe, a married couple who are dying to be single again.
Norman and his "cookie" of a wife, Mabel.
Millicent and Jane, a delightful duo you shouldn’t invite to your Regency tea party
Amanda, who literally has a skeleton in her closet
Balthazar, the demon bounty hunter on the hunt once more.
Sarah, a young woman going through some changes and craving new tastes
Emmeline, burned as a witch, now back from the dead for revenge
Gabrielle, a woman haunted by shadows
The Dollmaker, she showers death, and an umbrella won’t help
Nightmare Demons, bent on driving a town insane
And then there’s Alice, a little girl locked in the basement by her Daddy…
Together they form a spine-chilling cadre of predators.
Killers and Demons II is also available from:
Barnes &Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/killers-and-demons-ii-a-f-stewart/1120170387
About the Author:
Ms. Stewart is an indie author with several published novellas and story collections in the dark fantasy or horror genres, with a few side trips into poetry and non-fiction. She has a great interest in history and mythology, often working those themes into her books and stories.
Smashwords Link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/466078
Teaser Trailer Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eW4wd5pFINw