Sunday, March 3, 2013

Guest Post: Playing Tricks

By Greg Mitchell

If you’ll allow me to be sentimental for a moment.

As I am primarily a horror writer, I deal with the macabre on a daily basis. So much so, in fact, that it sometimes becomes mundane. During the editing process, I get so bogged down in sentence structure and “show don’t tell” and all of that nonsense that I often lose the wonder of horror. I forget the magic. I  sometimes forget what drew me here in the first place.

Having children is a tremendous blessing. I’ve never entirely left my childhood behind, but having kids is like a portal through time. It’s been fun to see what kinds of cartoons and toys my young children enjoy, and it is an even greater thrill to introduce them to the things of my own childhood. Seeing my oldest daughter Jo Beth (age 6) playing an old Super NES Mario game—AND seeing her enjoy it in a world where every other kid her age has a Blackberry already—is dang near tearjerking. Of course, being a horror guy, my wife and I have always made it a point to start our kids young on monsters. They are always free to take it at their own pace, but I hope to give them some good monster memories that they can look back on, much like I had.

Case in point, my youngest daughter Dani (age 2). One night a few months back, while they were showing a Jack Arnold marathon on Turner Classic Movies, Dani and I spent the evening together, snuggled up on the couch, covered in a big blanket, watching Creature from the Black Lagoon. Dani was really into it, especially since this is one of the few Universal Monster movies that actually shows the monster quite frequently. And, of course, me being a spooky story spinner, I couldn’t resist but make ominous noises and reach around the back of the couch to grab her with a menacing claw. She’d squeal and laugh and squirm and, before I knew it, she wanted me to do that for the entire movie.

Fast forward a few weeks later and we’re watching another black and white monster classic from yesteryear and Dani starts exclaiming “Let’s play tricks!” It took me a while before I realized what she was talking about, but she took me by the hand and led me to the couch. Once I was in place, she scurried to the tub o’quilts we keep in the corner and heaved one free. With all her might, she drug it to me, her eyes alight with excitement. “Let’s play tricks!” So, once again, we snuggled under the blankets and made spooky noises and I grabbed for her. She’d squeal and laugh and squirm, then insist that it was my turn. She prodded me to hide underneath the quilt and she proceeded to make her tiny wolf cub howls, her small delicate hands clutching like the blood-stained claws of a ferocious monster. Naturally I squealed and laughed and squirmed.

Now, Dani will hardly let me watch a monster movie without exclaiming “Let’s play tricks!” She’s already got a quilt that proves the best for giving each other the willies, and hurries to get it.

That’s what horror is, folks. At its best. Yeah, there’s a lot of drek out there. Gore and vulgarities and terrible things I’d never show a child. But, somewhere buried underneath, there’s a magic there. A wonder that I can’t escape, no matter how much some might not understand my fascination with the genre. It’s a release, a chance to escape to a magical land of monsters and heroes. It’s an opportunity to be scared, if only for a little while, but emerge from beneath the blanket unscathed. That’s why I do it. That’s why I write in this genre, why I share it with my girls. With all the darkness in the real world, can’t we laugh at ourselves and snuggle close, reminding ourselves that we can laugh in spite of the fears we feel? We squeal, we laugh, we squirm.

It’s all just “playing tricks”. And I love it.

Greg Mitchell is the author of the "Coming Evil" Trilogy. Find out more about Greg in today's Small Bites column!

1 comment:

  1. Very well said. That's what "good" horror is all about, especially when "emerging from the blanket unscathed" also includes good triumphing over evil (something else that's lacking in a lot of today's horror!). And I commend you on your good taste..."Creature from the Black Lagoon" is one of the best ever.--SMS