When Horror Was King

I was going to base this blog on the dwindling horror genre, but because my horror book knowledge is fairly limited, I had to do a little more research before I started talking about it. I knew horror had branched out into sub-genres, but what direction was I supposed to head? If horror literature is almost extinct, how could I possibly write about it? But little did I know, I had just answer my own question.

For research, I went to Dymocks book store in Brisbane city. I had been up there a few times before but couldn’t remember what their horror section looked like. Coming up the escalator I imagined isles of horror. As I rounded the boxes upon boxes of Hunger Games books and wondered through the sci-fi section, which was a full isle, I got to the horror section and couldn’t quite believe what I saw. It was maybe one metre long,  with only four shelves. I thought, ‘no, this can’t be all of it,’ so I walked around the isle to the other side into the fantasy section. That one, small, section was all the horror they had. What happened to the horror section? I went back around and stared at the books, just to see what they had. One and a half shelves were Stephen King, no surprise. Then it went to Dean Koontz, for one whole shelf. More than half their allocated horror space was dedicated to just two authors! The next half was Lovecraft anthologies and short stores. So that left one shelf, one meter long, for all other horror books. I couldn’t believe my eyeballs. I was sure the horror section was bigger when I was a kid and the sci-fi section was smaller. I kneeled down to look at what this last shelf had to offer, as it was the bottom shelf and if you were standing close to the books, you wouldn’t be able to see it at all. They had a few zombie books, one Walking Dead book and a few other horror titles that looked and sounded awful. Is this what horror had become?

Even the second hand book store I used to go to had a small horror section way at the back near the birdcage. This was where the owner used to sit and have his soup for lunch. Even then, that section was dominated by King and Koontz. Way at the front of the store was an equal sized section dedicated to twilight. I was mortified and disgusted, but also motivated.  I went home with the thought, ‘that’s it! I’m bringing horror back!’ For a few years now I’ve wanted to write a strict, down the line, horror book. A book that can’t be confused with paranormal, thriller or fantasy. Back to the root of all evil. I don’t have the time right now to complete a horror book, but I started it anyway, trying to make myself feel better. It’s called Sore Bones and I had made a mental list of all the things I wanted to have in it – a haunted house, a haunted lake with a dark past, creepy locals and the main characters should, at least once, run for their lives with an ending so horrific that it would make you wonder why you stuck with it all the way to the end when you should have slammed it shut and hid it in the bottom of your clothes hamper.

A couple of nights later I happened to be walking past a Blockbuster video and peered in. Their horror section is massive, almost equal to, if not a bit bigger, than comedy. They had all the titles there, all the classics, the sequels and prequels and remakes. The romance section, on the other hand, was small. So, I thought, nodding my head, horror hasn’t gone away, it’s just transferred to movies. Look at Saw, or Scream for example, these might make alright books, but they’re not going to win any awards or stand out as best sellers. But as movies, they clean up. Scream cost 15 million to make and grossed over 161 million. It did have several sequels to follow, which were below average, but they still made a ton of money. Back in 1996 when Scream was made, the only popular romantic movie out were Jane Eyre, and that grossed 5 million. You also had Tin Cup and Bed of Roses, which don’t score very high on IMDB and didn’t make that much money. There really wasn’t much competition and there certainly wasn’t any supernatural fantasy heart throbs yet.

Horror movies, I believe, will be forever strong in the cinema. But the more sequels they make, and the dumber and more embarrassing it gets, the worse it gets for the horror book reputation. People may assume that if you’re a horror movie fan, your only watching it for the blood and guts. I admit, if there is a scene that is practically well done that involves something horrific happening, then I do appreciate good amounts of blood and guts, but books have a different appeal. It’s much harder to make a reader jump when they’re reading a book. You can’t simply film a scare scene where something jumps out, the writer has a lot more ground work to cover.

It’s been a few weeks now since I had that burst of motivation to write Sore Bones and nothing more has been written. What I have found out, or concluded, is that horror is hiding in other genres. A lot of kids books now days are horror, just toned down for their age group. Clive Barker, who wasn’t even in the horror section, but in fantasy, is mostly horror. Harry Potter and Hunger Games have hints of horror. So maybe it isn’t disappearing, but has broken up and merged with other genres. I still pray to the writing gods that horror will come back and be massive again because once King and Koontz are gone, we’ll have a legacy, but nothing new.

Mitchell Tierney

Book vs. Movie: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I actually saw the movie on opening week but I thought I’d give everyone a chance to see it before I wrote this blog. Firstly, this is your warning: here thar be spoilers, so if you haven’t seen or read The Hunger Games, you might want to stop reading now (although I will try and keep them to a minimum). Granted most people seem to have the gist of the story any way so make your decision.

Firstly I would like to address an issue I have come across. This series seems to be a love it or hate it book series. The movie seems to be much the same. I am a fan, albeit only a new one to the series so that’s the angle I’m coming from. If you hate the books you will probably hate the movie, for good reason, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

For those who are yet to hear anything about the Hunger Games, here’s a brief run down. The region of Panem is led by The Capitol. The Capitol is in charge of the 12 downtrodden and pretty much slum-like districts. In punishment for past defiance, the Capitol makes each district chose two children (one boy and one girl) each year to be entered into the Hunger Games; a to the death battle royale, put on purely for the entertainment of the Capitol and to watch the districts squirm in subordination. From the coal district (District 12) come our heroine Katniss Everdeen and her team mate Peeta. The rest I will leave for you to watch/read.

I had read the books first, having practically inhaled them the weeks previous. I had approached the books with curiosity but no expectations, expecting another monstrosity like Twilight. Instead I found a story that was actually well written, had strong characters, interesting (although sightly rehashed) plot points and a well flowing backstory. As I read though I was wondering how it would translate to film.

This is probably one of the better movie adaptations I have ever seen done by Hollywood. What does make it into the movie from the book is 95% accurate to source material. This I believe is for one reason alone: the screenplay was mostly written by the author of the books.

I’m a fan of movies being as ‘canon’ as possible. Sure there are some things that couldn’t be done on screen without killing the pace of the story, or just couldn’t have been done successfully (for the fans of the books, the mutts resemblance to former contestants doesn’t make it in, but the mutts do), and then there is the removal of characters (the mayors daughter which sort of removed some of the backstory of the mockingjay pin, that could have been done but wasn’t) which I felt lessened the strength of the film. I must say though, characters appeared on screen as I imagined them, the costumes as well. Scenes seemed to have been taken word for word from the books. It was a novel experience seeing it so faithfully reproduced in parts.
However, as usual the movie is the weaker of the two. There was too much added and unnecessary Capitol related scenes on how the Games were being run, in favour of the back story between Katniss and Gale, reducing him to such an unimportant character that I fear his role in the future movies will not be as strong or as conflicted as it needs to be. The movie is slow in parts where it doesn’t need to be and rushes through large parts of the Games footage that could have been extended. But all in all, I was happy with the film.

My recommendation is see the film first, and let the book fill in whatever gaps the movie missed. However if you have read the books, you should still go see the film (as I’m sure most fans already have) as it has many of the moments from the book as you would imagine it.

The book I rate a 4/5 and the movie a close 3.5/5, both on my must do list. Now to see what they do with book two.

~Sabrina RG Raven