Halli Lilburn, author and editor, speaks about what makes horror addictive.
Halli on Horror
Horror has its perks. A rush of hormones and adrenaline is addictive. The fight or flight mechanism in our brain is activated without ever being in danger. A good jump-scare is equal to extreme sports. But if you analyze the underlying conflicts behind monster versus man, the message can continue to disturb you for months and even years.
My parents wouldn’t allow me to go to a friend’s and watch Poltergeist, so I snuck out. I was thirteen. Curiosity and rebellion were my motivators. Mostly curiosity. I wanted to know what happened to human beings when their souls became corrupted and what kind of damage could they do to the living. I learned that it didn’t take much for a soul to cross the line from human to monster. It was the first time a show gave me nightmares. The morbidity rate on and off screen proved the truth of the rumors that demons had cursed the set. One actress was strangled to death by an ex-boyfriend, and the main character also died of mysterious health complications. I will never watch those movies again. The idea of retribution from beyond the grave will never not be scary. Thirteen is a very vulnerable time for a developing brain.
I am a vivid dreamer. Could be inherited from my dad or could be the anti-depressants I’m taking. Probably both. When people ask me where I get my bizarre ideas the answer is usually a nightmare. And the more outlandish the better. In horror, a writer can get away with anything. In my story Hidden Twin I found a way to make one body rip apart to find another body inside it like Donna in Poltergeist III (spoilers).
Still, there are areas in the genre that I avoid: (living) serial killers and body mashing are not my cup of tea. The thrill of witnessing a murder is petrifying but once you are dead, it’s over. The stories that get to me are the hauntings; images that churn in your mind over and over for years, being trapped inside your mind, not knowing what is real, losing control of your sanity. Ghosts are especially convincing when they reach out to their families for help, but their method of communication so cryptic it fails. When the dead stick around the living are bound to get hurt. Some examples include The Others, Sixth Sense, Delirium, and Haunting of Hill House. Like I said, if it gives me nightmares, it is well written.
A skull is what I see through
Through my hollow eyes
A skull is what I speak through
With chattering teeth
With no lips it’s impossible not to
A ribcage is what I love through
It is cold here in your heart
Can you find a way to love me?
The skeleton sits on my shelf
A corpse of me
Sporting a felt hat and smiling
Showing teeth in a carefree, neurotic way
“You are obsessed with me” it laughs
I tap its tiny noggin
I let you take up precious space on my shelf
Precious space meant for books.
It replied, “Ah, but the stories I could tell.”
Halli Lilburn writes speculative, sci-fi and poetry, but she always tries to spice it up with something horrific. Her most recent releases include stories in anthologies: We Shall be Monsters by Renaissance Press, Tesseracts 22: Alchemy and Artifacts by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy. She is a freelance editor with essentialedits.ca and you can read more at her blog.