Today I wanna talk a little bit about the things that we are afraid of. I talked a lot in the past weeks about information and expositions, about plots (twice) and about isolation. What I didn't talk about, though, was about what we're afraid of. I've touched it a little bit when I talked about how to create the monster in the story, but that's about it. So, without any more introductions thingy, let's get our hands dirty...
We can create about 5 groups of things that we're afraid of. Almost any horror story/ movie or the like falls at least in one of those groups. They are, of course, not frightening to the same degree, and a more frightening level is usually harder to truly achieve. Yet, it can be achieved, and it usually deserves this amount of energy.
1) Evil Threatening Us
This is the least frightening level. In this level, the horror that we're dealing with, stalks us. The killer tries to kill us is the easiest example. Most of the Slasher Movies fall into this category. Look for example on Halloween. Michael stalks Laurie, trying to kill her. Even when he kills other persons, it's only after we grew a little bit of sympathy for them. He's not hurting anyone to make Laurie on her toes, but just to kill them. It can be seen in Psycho too, when Bates kills his victims only after we saw a little bit of them. We get to like Marion; we get to like the inspector...
2) Evil Threatening Others
A little bit more interesting level is the one where the horror stalks the one we're closed to, but we can't do anything to prevent it. Buffy's episode Passion is a great example of this: Angelus teases Buffy, but he kills Jenny in order to drive Giles mad, he kills Willow's fish to get her out of her comfort zone, he stalks Buffy's mother in order to drive Buffy out of her nerves, and all of this combination of things drives Buffy into making a few mistakes along the way (and almost costs with Giles life).
It can be seen in The Exorcist too, where we see how our protagonists tries to save her daughter, calling for psychiatric help and later to the exorcists.
3) Creating Evil Ourselves
Now we're starting to get our hands really dirty. The horror doesn't come from the outside world, but out of our creations. Look at Frankenstein, for example, where we can see the Frank's creation is the one that destroys his life, or at Rosemary's baby, where Rosemary's afraid of the possibility that the child that she's carrying is a monster.
One of the reasons that this is the level where we get really dirty is that in this level, the horror isn't only from the other side, from the outside world, but it also comes from within, "it was my creation that did this..."
4) Being Evil Ourselves
Advancement in the curve, the horror is really us. We are the evil thing; we are the monster that everyone is afraid of... Vamp stories are the clearest example of this: "I get to live forever, but at what price?" Werewolf stories address this level also, as we lose control of ourselves and become the monsters. We see the horror as it happens, remembering every little bit of it, but without the ability to do something.
It can also be seen in such stories as The black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe, in which our protagonists is going mad and kills his beloved cat, resulting in a series of crimes to prevent the discovery of this thing. It ends really badly for out protagonist.
5) Living in an Evil World
This is the highest level of horror. Lovecraft used this level a lot in his cosmic horror stories, as this is where they come from. Most of the stories and films that happen in a dream world drive their power from this fear, as does some that are not horror (The Matrix is a great example of this). Living in an Evil World can also mean living in world with no good within it, or discovering that everything we thought we knew about this world is wrong.
And that's it for today. How do you use these fears in your games? To what levels do you strive when GMing horror?