Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Art of Slow Motion Horror

"My heart races as I make my way up the driveway. The wind picks up, rustles through the branches like the sound of cars speeding by on the highway, as pine needles rain down like matchsticks. A chill runs through me at the thought of peeking in the window and finding rotting corpses with the flesh chewed down to the bone.

I take a deep breath and count to three."  page 106 Zombie Blondes.

There's basically two approaches to horror, be it movies or books. The first is the fast-paced, thrill-a-minute approach favored in most slasher flicks. The other is to create a place that slowly grows more and more strange until the reader/viewer feels uncomfortable in the world that's presented to them. 

The best examples of this type of horror can be found in the Japanese horror films and novels of the last decade. Take the movie Dark Water. The Japanese version is a brilliant movie. It relays heavily on long still shots of hallways or rooftops to create an eerie feeling. There's very little in the movie that you can point out as traditional horror. The horror isn't American gore and violence...it's the unsettled feeling that penetrates as you watch it. In contrast, the Hollywood remake infuses the first approach into the film. The Dark Water remake is ripe with fast-cuts and "creepy" music as tricks to give it an adreline feel that, in my opinion, takes away everything that was clever about the movie. 

I find the fast-past approach to typically end in cheap scares while the careful unsettling approach produces a real sense of discomfort. It's the approach I took when constructing Zombie Blondes. I took great care to make Hannah's world and her issues very realistic. The idea is to lull the reader into the story, make them feel comfortable, so that when Hannah encounters moments of creepiness, the reader will feel them too. I think it's because I took this approach that many people have complained that "nothing happens" in the book. I disagree. 

I've never read a book that took the first approach and succeeded in making any sort of lasting impression. Films can use it and still be effective. The shock value of pulling aside the shower curtain in Physco is a perfect example. But that's a visual impact. In my experience, when that approach is taken in writing, it inevitably comes out weak. No amount of exclamation points can make you feel shocked. 

Zombie Blondes's slower pace is what gives its impact. As a reader, you get to know Hannah. You care about her. It's what makes her different from the endless parade of victims in a slaughter flick. But I understand the frustration of those who pick up the book wanting a zombie rampage. They're looking for the Dark Water remake instead of the original. It's probably why Hollywood redid it the way they did. It's in our culture to want things fast. It's a matter of taste, but personally, I prefer the art of slow motion horror.

I didn't set out to write a book that terrifies. I wanted to write a book that first and foremost stayed with the reader. It was more about a person in a situation than it was about that situation itself. The fear in Zombie Blondes is for someone and not of something. Anyone who has yet to read the book, I ask that you keep that in mind. I promise, it will enhance your enjoyment of it.

1 comment:

  1. First off, I don't mean to spam up your blog. Since I recently stumbled upon (quite literally) this book, I've become rather obsessed with it.

    As to this blog post: AMEN. Horror is one of my favorite genres and it saddens me to see it so often cheapened as a hodgepodge of bare breasts and mindless gore.

    Absent from horror these days is character and story. Instead, it's formulaic...and poorly executed. I love a well-paced, dread-filled story about people I've become attached to.

    Again, "Zombie Blondes" does this so well.