Villains are People, Too

  Quick, name your favorite horror villain. The haunted house in Amityville Horror? The zombies in World War Z? The shark in Jaws? That might be a tough question because, often, the villain in horror is a mindless force of nature or so abstract as to be faceless. Sometimes that works well because mystery is a big part of horror and showing too much about the villain can diminish the dread. If there’s an unusually great premise or protagonist to carry the weight of the story and provide interesting developments throughout, an archetypical or simplified villain may be all that’s needed. When the villain is a real, identifiable individual, however, horror stories often stoop to tired motivations, resulting in a one-dimensional villain who lacks any real motivation and is just evil for evil’s sake. Whether it’s a cackling, mustachioed baddie bent on world domination or just an evil capitalist happy to pave over gentle nature as part of a real estate project, thinly-written villains make for a dull story. In contrast, who’s the most famous of all horror villains? Dracula would certainly be a strong contender . . .  as would Hannibal Lecter, his modern-day counterpart (who prefers food he can…

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A walk deep into the woods

By Harmony Kent Have you ever walked deep into the woods while the ground mist swirled around your ankles and hid your feet? Or had the snapping of a twig raise the hairs on the back of your neck, as you realize you’re not quite as alone as you thought? All of these evoke the nostalgia of childhood Halloweens, where a chill of fear would run up my spine on a cold winter eve until I reached the warmth and sanctuary of the next brightly lit house. Trees have always held a special place for me. Mostly, they feel benign. Indeed, I remember with fondness one particular Willow that used to offer me shelter and a place to hide. I could spend hours beneath those floor-hanging bows. Some trees, however, have an altogether ‘other’ feel about them. On many an occasion, while out walking alone, I’ve stumbled across a deep, dark part of the woods that feels nothing other than menacing. An old gnarled Oak, in the right conditions, can take on the appearance of some ancient predator. One Halloween, as a young and impressionable child, I saw a horror movie—Watcher in the Woods, starring Bette Davis—that scared me silly…

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