Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Top Ten Internet Horror DOs (Part 1)

**Note: Clicking on the links throughout this article will take you to horror of varying types and degrees, from mildly unnerving to gory to existentially terrifying. If that kind of thing wigs you out too much, or that's just not what you're looking for, this is your warning. I also take no responsibility for any curses, brainwashing, sudden deaths, or other similarly odd events potentially connected to these links. And, like Arthur Weasley said, don't trust anything intelligent if you can't see where it keeps its brain. Oh, and spoilers are going to exist in this article.**

So, this is going to be different. And long. On a random fluke, I wrote up a two day blog post a while back. I didn't expect that, but I went with it. This time I'm expecting it. I'm expecting twice as long, actually. This is probably going to spread across 4 blog posts, so I hope you're in for the long haul.

So, Top Ten Do's to Take from Internet Horror. Two posts. Top Ten Don'ts to Take from Internet Horror. Two posts. But what the hell am I talking about when I say internet horror? What makes it special or unique? I'm a reader/horror fan/random passerby, why do I care about any of this? I'm not a writer!

What I'm talking about/What makes it special: Horror is an old, old genre, and it's gone through countless permutations. Gothic horror, with vampires and werewolves. The existential dread of H.P. Lovecraft and his contemporaries. 80's slasher flicks. The 90's brought splatterpunk. And in modern times, there's what I consider a new genre of internet horror. It's… hard to define. It encompasses creepypasta and the ARG phenomenon. We'll learn more detail about it as the list goes on.

Why you should care: admittedly, I'm putting these articles together with an eye to helping writers… myself included. But, at the very least, you may find some new things to read/watch/listen to. At the most, you could find it interesting to peek behind the curtain and see Professor Marvel pulling at the levers.

Okay, this intro is already getting too long for my tastes – let's get going.

10: DO Experiment
Now, this isn't exactly unique advice to be gleaned from internet horror, but I feel what people are doing with their online spooks drives it home very well. Traditional horror is just that: traditional. It follows a narrative structure, and it's told the normal way a story is. And that's great.

But internet horror doesn't need that to function. In fact, the lack of traditional narrative structure can be used to make it better, if handled correctly. One of my personal favorites is Candle Cove. It's just a basic, epistolary short story, told via forum posts, but it wouldn't be the same if told simply from beginning to end. Or, perhaps a bit more famously, you have the SCP Foundation. It's easily got to be the largest collaboratively written spec fic online… maybe ever. The community behind it creates everything. While there are narrative pieces involved, you don't need it. It's not the core of the work. Instead, everything comes from "internal files" written as a record of contained phenomena, detailing effects, encounters, and security measures. And believe you me, that shit is scary. Which, speaking of that…

9: DO Scare the Audience

I honestly can't believe I have to put this in when talking about horror, but here we are. I recently read one of the recent editions of Year's Best Horror. I put it off, because I read at night… and fuck that noise. But when I eventually started in on it… there was not a lot of terror there. The first story was, at best, funny. At worst, it was dumb and disjointed. But it was not God damn scary, and even if I was a little cautious about reading it, I wanted scary from my horror. Go figure.

Scary is not hard. If you try, you can sit there for a few minutes and come up with a list of shit that's scary. Big things, small things. It doesn't matter, something should be there that actually qualifies your work as horror. Even if it's just creepy.

Internet horror turned a husky into one of the most prevalent horror creations in decades: Smile Dog. Huskies are fucking cute, and if they can be scary? You can do something with it, trust me (Sorry, that was angrier than I intended it to be.).

8: DO Devote Yourself
Any modern indie creator will tell you that it's not easy. We're all struggling in one way or another. You can't start in as a creator of any sort if you're not ready to accept that, and lots of people quit when it doesn't work out how they want.

But let me tell you a story. It's a very short story about determination. In fact, it's seven words that speak to my point: EverymanHYBRID has been going for five years. Here's another one: Marble Hornets lasted for five years. Or how about this one: the SCP Foundation began in 2008.

Internet horror thrives on a devoted base of creators. These are people who do it for the love of what they're making, and that love drives them through the process of creation, come hell or high water.

7: DO Respect Your Audience's Intelligence
While it can be tempting to spell everything out, people are smarter than a lot of content creators seem to give them credit for. They can pick up on context clues. They can piece things together, and that’s especially important and useful when you're working with horror.


Now, this can be in a narrative sense. Take Candle Cove again. The ending could have been spelled out very clearly, thus robbing it of any value and ruining one of the best new horror stories in quite a long time (Okay, my opinion. But still. It's damn good). Instead, the author leaves it with the revelation that, as a child, he would watch static for half an hour when he said he was watching Candle Cove. That's creepy as shit, guys.

But there are broader strokes to it, too, and sometimes cleverer. SCP-231 has hidden text that can only be revealed if you mess with the scripts on the page. Marble Hornets and other similar projects hid actual ciphers and codes to be resolved in their work. Hell, NOC +10 may as well just be called "See if you can crack this code." Or heck, try pulling up all the information about "This HouseHas People in It." And good luck.

The modern horror audience doesn’t want to be spoonfed every scare. They want to have the realization that they should be terrified, and it's the creators job to just stay out of the way.

6: DO Embrace Subtlety
To go along with the intelligent audience, it's worth it to use subtlety to your advantage. I'm going to chime in with Marble Hornets stuff again because it's very popular and, of the three big-time Slenderverse Series, it's the one that I think is creepiest. And a lot of that is down to subtlety.

At first, you don’t see the monster. Not really. Anything you get from him is fleeting. A quick turn of the head, him standing in the background, the camera just quickly panning past him. That changes as the series goes, sure, but it's subtle to begin with. The Operator in Marble Hornets is… there. And that's the real terror. It could be there at any point. It probably is. It's probably around the corner. It makes every single episode tense, because you're watching and waiting for the Operator to show up, just like the characters.

In fact, the very original Slenderman "story" is all on its own very subtle. It was literally just two photos with the Slenderman in the background, and some implications of missing or dead children. That was it. And that was all it needed to be.

And with that, I'm going to put this aside for the day. I'll be back tomorrow with entries 5-10, and I hope you'll be back, too.

And… umm… here's some kittens to make you feel better, in case you actually went to any of those links. I did warn you.


Voss

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