Horror Genre

“The heart of horror is unknowability…because we don’t know what it is because we can’t experience it until it is too late”

Explore different approaches to the horror genre. We take a look at the different styles between Japanese horror stories/movies and Western.

Japanese vs. Western Horror 

  • Western story: plot is moved forward by the character’s goals
    • Episodes are steered by subgoals that the protagonist needs to accomplish in order to conquer his/her main goal and the successes or failures of that character in meeting those goals determine the outcome
  • Japanese story: guided by a series of actions and reactions that lead a character to a thematically significant resolution.
    • Causality rather than conflict
    • Stories moved based on character actions (or actions outside of the control of the characters) and the motivations are often irrelevant or not elaborated upon
    • 2 types of paths:
      • Action and reaction structure
        • Character’s own actions and the universe’s reactions to them drive the story to a conclusion that may or may not have anything to do with character goals
        • Creates a sense of helplessness in being subjected to an uncaring reality
      • Complex action and reaction structure
        • Where character goals come into play; usually the antagonist’s goals that drive the story
          • a bad character has a goal path that comes into direct conflict with the protagonist, setting events into motion that lead to an ending
        • The conclusion:
          • Japanese story ends with “events and/or emphasis”
            • Can conclude with plot events or end with “emphasis” (it just ends)
              • Emphasis of the virtues or ideas displayed in the story
            • Western model ends with a resolution
              • Ends with pronounced belief-based morals
            • The viewers must sympathize and be able to imagine themselves in the plight of that character
              • A series of actions and reactions begins to unfold around them that puts these characters in peril
            • Initial action starts the character’s journey
              • Something they do themselves or an action by someone (or something) else that directly affects them
            • Structure of Story: kishotenketsu
              • 4 act structure that contains:
                • Introduction: of topic, setting, characters, etc.
                • Development: elaboration
                • Twist: changes way all the info is perceived
                • Resolution: answers the questions raised by the twist in a way that situates the story’s plot
              • The twist changes the paradigm and makes the prior events scary when before they were innocuous

Kishotenketsu examples:

The Licked Hand

Intro (起): A young girl is home alone with only her pet dog for comfort.

Development (承): She hears on the news of an escaped convict and becomes frightened. She is too scared to go to sleep without letting the dog lick her hand from beneath her bed.

Twist (転): When she awakes she discovers that her dog is dead and has been the entire night.

Conclusion (結): She finds the words “HUMANS CAN LICK TOO” written in blood.

Resource: http://www.tofugu.com/2014/10/30/the-skeletal-structure-of-japanese-horror-fiction/

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