A Few Thoughts on Horror, Adolescence, and How High To Aim

1.

What really interests me about horror is taking a basically adolescent genre and trying to use it to make something for and about adults — because adolescent emotions continue into adulthood but are both dulled and called into question (at least that’s been my experience so far). Adolescence, especially the years 17-19, was the most intense period of my life so far, but was a period where I couldn’t create anything that had a coherent structure or form because I was too deeply in the midst of life to step outside enough to work on it.

Now, as an adult, I feel those same adolescent emotions but dulled by boredom, anxiety, and an increasing sense of living within reality rather than fully within my own dreamworld … I want to make horror films that speak to this, the lingering effects of the fears and temptations associated with the discovery of sex and violence, but mediated through an adult lens of weariness, reduced self-confidence, and the brewing reality of a simple, sad death replacing the brutal pyrotechnics and glamor of death from a teenage point of view.

A few films that do this for me:

Blue Velvet

Dead Ringers

Don’t Look Now

The Tenant

Body Double

Vertigo

Persona

The Skin I Live In

2.

If I indulge in unbridled megalomania about my creative prospects — “I could be the next David Lynch” — I fall into crushing despair at the same time — “I’ll end up teaching high school (or wishing I were teaching high school) for the rest of my life.”

It’s only when I allow myself to believe in the possibility of falling somewhere in between these two poles that the possibility for moving forward in a coherent and confident way emerges.

3.

Vision vs. Craft: Until this point in my life, I’ve thought very little about craft. I’ve moved forward on pure vision, thinking very little about the form I was working in, only trying to get out my ideas and images as fast as I could, without a lot of respect for how. Now I’m at a point where I feel I have to take a step back and reflect more consciously and deliberately on what I’m doing and how I’m doing it, and on how to make it accessible to enough people to let it (and me) live in the world.

4.

For a lot of my writing life, I’ve tried to recreate the way The Wind-up Bird Chronicle made me feel when I read it at 19: that sense of total disorientation, of descending into a waking nightmare that opened organically out of the real world, the sense of erotic charge that arises from daily life and leads into a kind of fantasy-state that’s as real as any other, and potentially inescapable ..

But maybe a writer can’t approach Murakami from a reader’s perspective — if I want people to engage with my work, I can’t also use it as a vessel for plunging all the way into the unknown: I have to know more than my reader does, I can’t keep writing stories that plunge into voids where nothing at all is knowable.

I have to figure more out about the worlds in my stories, then be selective about how much I reveal. This isn’t the same as simulating my experience of reading Murakami while writing, much as I want that experience to go on and on.

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