Thursday, June 29, 2017

Top Ten Internet Horror DOs (Part 2)

**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.**

Welcome back to hell. Or… my blog. Whatever. Yesterday, I did entries 10-6 on this series, and you can read that by clicking on the big happy face.



Remember the happy face. You might need it as we go through the last five. I will… of course, I don't handle this kind of horror particularly well either. But it's there if you do need it.

5: DO Focus on Your Concept
I teach a short story class with another author, and one of the things we both try to drive home is the importance of your idea. Especially in speculative fiction (Including horror), the idea needs to be solid. You need to know what your idea is, and you need to know it well.

Again, internet horror comes in to drive home a point that I would make anyway. It is a singular concept that sells most written internet horror. Jeff the Killer, for its many flaws, hinges on a well-traveled concept: the consequences of your actions may be larger than they appear. Smile Dog: misery loves company. Candle Cove: perception may lie. One concept, and everything builds around it.

4: DO Have Passion
No one has perfect execution on every part of a creative project. It's fucking impossible, in fact. Even if someone actually produced exactly what they had in mind, someone else could hate it. Look at Van Gogh's Starry Night. It's a master piece… but some people think his paint was laid on too thick. Because of that, they not only dislike Starry Night, but everything Van Gogh painted.

You know what people respect, though? Whether or not they like something, they want to see you go balls deep into it. Even if they don’t like what you've produced, they can then see that you, as a creator, were passionate about it. And if they do like it, then that will help them love it.

I'm not going to run through specific examples of this one. Internet horror is full of missteps, things that could have been done better or had more time given to them. But you know what? The genre is still successful, and the people doing it are still passionate. And that is a testament to the creators, in my opinion.

3: DO Shirk off the Genre Shackles
… or at least wiggle around in them a little bit. Horror is a breeding ground for monsters and aliens and magic. I love all those things. I love them done and I love them redone. But I also love it when some creator throws caution to the wind and goes outside of their purview. Or, at the very least, takes the access road running next to what's "normal."

The best example I have of this is a fairly popular series on Youtube called alantutorial. It's not supernatural. It's not particularly scary, in the traditional sense. But it is one of the most unnerving experiences I've had with fictional media to date. To sum it up, alantutorial is the web series of a man with unspecified developmental issues. He makes tutorials on ridiculous things no one would need a tutorial for (Such as crushing a can with wood.), or just makes incorrect tutorials. But he loves it. It's his passion, and damn it, he's going to do them.

As the series progresses, he seems to love the tutorials less and less. He has some traumatic experiences. He becomes destructive, and eventually, his caretaker (We assume his brother from context clues) locks him out of the house and bars his windows shut. This is a man who really can't take care of himself. And the ensuing abuse that follows Alan is not any easier to play witness to.

The series isn't scary because there's a monster after you, ooga-booga. It's scary because there's a… depravity to the kind of person who would do that. It's scary because we know this isn't all that fictional – this sort of thing happens all the time when someone with one of any number of mental disorders, learning disabilities, et cetera becomes "too much" for their caretaker. It's especially scary if you know someone who is reliant on another person for so much of their wellbeing.

Alantutorial is entirely fictional, thankfully (As a side note, Alan Resnick, who was behind it, is brilliant. Check him out.), but it feels a little bit too real. Even when it's clearly going over the top, you can't help but feel dread for Alan in that situation.

Now, it's not the only piece that does that. A lot of horror feels maybe just a bit too real in certain places. Sections of a lot of these indie horror shows online have a lot of realism to them. I can't make too many recommendations because the more realistic they get, the harder it is for me to watch them. As the whippersnappers say: it's too spoopy for me.

2: DO Embrace the Unknown
Not knowing is the basis of all fear. What's in the dark that I can't see? What are the motives of this thing? Why is this guy avoiding the moonlight? What's going on in my dreams?

But often, those questions are answered. That's totally valid, don't get me wrong. But I tend to lean with H.P. Lovecraft on this one: the not knowing is worse than the knowing. Or, as I've heard it many times: the audience's imagination will come up with something ten times worse than you ever would have created. Something unknown and not seen can't be ruined by substandard description or bad effects or a lack of budget or any other problems. In the mind of the reader, that terrifying fill-in-the-blank can be the scariest thing in the world.

Again, it's not the only way, but it is a way, and it's one that the internet horror crowd has taken to heart. I'm going to point you back at the SCP Foundation. Redaction, Expungement, and Black Boxes are key components in many of their pieces. SCP-087 does something awful if you send more than one person. SCP-447 does something with dead bodies that's too horrible to detail out. And then you have SCP-231, which is one of the most heavily redacted entries in the project. And Procedure 110 Montauk to control SCP-231, which is so horrid you need special clearance to learn about it. That is the power of the unknown. A few clues, some information skirted around… and the audience's imagination, now their own worst enemy.

1: DO Twist the Unoriginal
Internet horror, as I kind of hope I've shown, is… vast. There's a lot of it, and a lot of it interconnects somehow or another. But more than that, a lot of it comes from seeing it, hearing it, reading it. When Marble Hornets hit the scene, suddenly another half-dozen indie horror shows in a similar vein started… and flopped.

Because we've all seen Marble Hornets, too. You can't just remake it with your characters. You have to do something that's actually original with the idea.

I love riffing on ideas. I love squishing two or three disparate things together. It's actually one of my favorite ways to create new fiction. But when I do it, my first question to myself is: what's the angle? Where and how am I approaching this to bring something fresh to it? That's unfortunately harder to find in the wild. What comes immediately to mind is the channel StanFrederick. After you've watched some of the other similar shows online, find that one and you'll see what I mean.

But by now, I've started you down the rabbit hole, or you've already been there. So what did I miss that twists the norms around? Let me know so I can tap into the new veins of horror even deeper. And stay tuned for the top 10 DON'TS we can learn from internet horror, too.


Voss

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