I have once seen a vision of a woman stripped of her hopes and dreams, left with nothing but the purist of suffering and endless weeks of solitude. They marked her with the holly of hopelessness and tattooed her with the symbols of shame. When she was at that abyss’ edge between wishing for death and longing for peace, they took her from her wooden cage. Singing songs of prayer, they nailed her hands upon the floor. There, she dreams, dreams forever more.
But the dreaming has ended and the nightmares have begun, for the Sleeping Priestess will not lie in peace.
If you don’t know this scene, than you haven’t played Fatal Frame 3, one of my favorite video games of all time. You may not know this about me, but I am an avid fan of horror video games (not survival horror, but psychological horror). Silly, I know, considering I tend to draw such pristine and shiny things as angels. It’s around this time of year that I whip out my collection of Silent Hill and Fatal Frame games and let the shimmering worlds of nightmares, dripping walls, and deep, disturbing folklore soak into my bones.
I wonder sometimes why we are drawn to such images of the grotesque? Why on earth would I enjoy a game where the walls crawl with something that looks disturbingly like entrails or the ghost of a poor woman who was once sacrificed lurches inexorably towards me with an accursed touch? There is an inescapable artistry to it that disturbs and fascinates me. Enthralling are these games like Silent Hill that can tell the story of ones dreams and nightmares affecting the real world for one like myself who has had plenty of dreams and nightmares plaguing them in the wee hours.
I don’t think it’s too much of a leap to ask ourselves the same question about macabre art and literature. From the works of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman to some of the more grotesque perversions of Dali and the Surrealists, how can we look at things which are not considered ‘beautiful’ and find them fascinating? It seems against common sense, but I could stare at Dali’s work for hours pondering what tormented dreams he must have had, or curl up with Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and delight in all the images of masks and swirling dancers falling to the floor that Masque of the Red Death conjures for me.
The macabre is not for everyone, but there is certainly an audience for it, including myself. I find I am particularly fascinated by those stories that speak of the human spirit’s endearing ability to affect the living, even after death, or that terrifying potential of the mind to create illogical nightmares that feel so real while we’re having them. Much of the artwork and writing I have done which is not so well known are those which depict lucid dreams and nightmares, which somehow easily bridge into horror more than anything else. It’s a fascination with dreams and the mood of dreaming that really attract me to certain types of horror. I’m also a sucker for a good mystery, which horror stories of the psychological nature generally center around.
That’s my theory, anyways. I’m curious to know what yours are? Do you have a penchant for the macabre? Or are you left wondering why on earth anyone would enjoy such a thing?
Share with me your dark little secrets and remember to have a safe and spooky Halloween!
Image by Tecmo Ltd.