It’ll soon be Halloween. There’s not much Halloween left in the world, in a certain sense–the traditional, All Hallows Eve feeling of it, the true Sleepy Hollow atmosphere, the harvest moon, the conciliation of coming winter, mellow fruition and gathering mists, awareness of lengthening nights and cowed, bowed-down days …usually lacking in what people do now, because we so rarely gather for Halloween parties, and it’s down to buying a surprisingly elaborate mechanically wriggly special effect of a Halloween decoration, that stalks up and down the lawn declaring in the recorded voice of some underpaid non-SAG actor that it’s going to “drag you into the grave”…and you bought it at Target…But some people clearly love the whole idea of modern Halloween and the chance to put up elaborate displays on their lawn and roof; and there’s charm in that, seeing some guy who never misses church, who totally disapproves of goths when he sees them in July, chuckling with saturnine gleefulness as he sets up big plastic inflatable ghosts toting signs that say “See you at Midnight!” and “Boo!”
If you google ‘why do people like horror’, you’ll see a long list of people puzzling over the question, finally offering the same old explanations: enjoying adrenaline rushes, exorcising one’s inner psychological ghosts and demons–fears, fury, fantasies–an unconscious shield against death, a ritual expiation to quiet troubled spirits but carried out unconsciously in horror stories and Halloween…And it’s pointed out that there are horrific scenes in Homer and Shakespeare, that Goya and Munch were great artists who found dark feelings, fear and madness, creatively significant…
And then there’s the true shudder, like the news from Syria. Horror is a safe way to explore the dark places of life, and to acknowledge death from a careful distance. Zombies, the living dead, the Walking Dead…all about walking dead people which really means, Death Itself Walking. Death stalking inexorably toward you; for though you’re young you’ve been told you’re mortal. And the Walking Dead embody your fear of mortality coming slowly, unstoppably, to…drag you into the grave.