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Journey Unknown
by James Shafie

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What have we come to? It's so much worse than I thought.

"What have we come to? It's so much worse than I thought."
Have you ever been thrown into complete darkness? It's quite disorientating, isn't it? To not be able to see what is in front of you, or anywhere else. Your mind starts racing with what could be near. A serial killer to your left, a hideous monster to your right. All these thoughts are absurd, but the darkness grants them terrors life. The unknown is the breeding ground of all fear.

And fear, boys and girls, is exactly what horror movies should be out to achieve. They want you to be scared, terrified if possible. So why not be thrust into the unknown? It offers endless possibilities. When the audience has no idea what could happen, or where they are, the "scare" is that much more intense.

Sadly many films abuse this. They have shots of darkness and then do "jump scares" where something pops out at you. Sure, you might jump out of your seat or squeal a bit, but that's not fear. That's being shocked, which really isn't that scary at all. You catch your breath, and all is well again. But the unknown doesn't even have to be dark, it can be well-lit!

Take the movie CUBE for instance. A few people wake up in strange, cube-shaped, booby-trapped rooms, with no idea how or why they got there. This is fantastic! Not only is it an original idea, it's not cheesy and doesn't rely on clichés.
Go read this book, it is truly unique.

Go read this book, it is truly unique.
They are just normal people put in an extremely abnormal situation.

The concept of the unknown also allows certain objects, places or what have you that are usually tame, become frightening. This book I am reading at the moment, House of Leaves, uses this method. The story is centered on this house that grows. Rooms get bigger, doors lead to endless corridors, and hallways appear out of nowhere. To be honest, this book scares the crap out of me. The idea of an inanimate object that is seemingly living is so alien to my mind fear overtakes me.

When a movie deals with the unknown, it also lets the audience think of what "it" is. Easy answers aren't always available in horror. There isn't always a mad scientist or an alien race meddling in human affairs. Sometimes from nothing, comes something. So the audience tries to reason why whatever situation the movie has brought forth is occurring. And hopefully at the end of the film, they are wrong.

The unknown is something that will always make us scared. It doesn't go away with age, or can be lessened with self-help books. It will always make us afraid, because it is everything and nothing. How can you not be afraid of it? There is no way to protect yourself, no way to prepare. You can only hope that if death comes, it will be quick.

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The Lair of the Mad
Every other Tuesday

'The Lair' discusses the many aspects and qualities of the horror genre. From actors, to make-up, to music, James Shafie explores everything the "cult" genre spews up.

Other Columns
Other columns by James Shafie:

Speaking Out

Yearn For Change

Queen of Night

Too Close Enough To Touch

The Time of the Beasts

All Columns

James Shafie
James Shafie is an avid watcher of movies of all sorts, but the horror genre is closest to his heart. He loves to read and is addicted to music, mostly metal and it’s thousands of sub-genres. He was once fired by Blockbuster, which we see as a strong character trait.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to James Shafie by clicking here.

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