Sunday, 23 October 2011

13 Days of Halloween: The Uncanny

The Uncanny
by Hollidae Muhammad

So it’s Halloween which means it’s the time of year where people are getting their costume’s together, celebrating everything spooky, and whether you celebrate it or not, getting ready for the Halloween and horror movie marathon that’s going to be running on about five digital channels and at least one regular cable channel. But as a writer, who observes trends quite regularly for the sake of writing, I found myself this year asking why the fascination with Halloween? What is it about this holiday that we find ourselves so fascinated with? The answer, or at least part of it, came from the Gothic and Sublime class I’m taking for the semester in school. One of the fascinating aspects of Halloween is the uncanny.

What is the uncanny? It’s something we might say when we meet a person that looks just like our dead relative, that the resemblance or familiarity is uncanny, and that’s just what the word means. Something that is uncanny is something that’s extremely familiar, that resembles something we already know, but is just different enough, just off enough to freak us out a little or makes us wary. That’s why that girl we might meet in class and looks like a dead relative makes the person uncomfortable. It’s the uncanny element of it. It’s the same principle in Halloween.

Vampires, werewolves, zombies, Frankenstein’s Creature, Jason, you name them, the thing that makes them truly horrifying (particularly in their original incarnations) is that they look similar to a normal human, but there’s something just enough wrong with them to freak us out, and it’s that fact that they almost look normal that’s the scary part. Jason on first glance is just a tall guy in a mask with a saw and how many of those do we know anyway? The thing that makes this uncanny is that he’s a dead tall guy in a mask with a saw whether he’s coming for you or not, and I think I’d run to the live one before I run to the dead one. Frankenstein’s monster, The Creature, was created to be a beautiful, strong, human being who defies the very principles of life and death. There’s only one problem… His body was created of dead body parts which aren’t so great after they’ve been sitting in a morgue with no life for a few days. Zombies are people who walk out of the grave, and I don’t think I need to explain that one. Tell you what. Go dig up a random dead relative and see if you want what’s left to get up and come knocking at your door.

Then there’s vampire and werewolves. In modern times and incarnations, they’re no less scary than they were when they were first told about in legends and with Dracula, but it seems they’ve become a bit more endearing… And while I’ll be first to admit I might be one of the ones who willing goes off with a vampire to become his bride, let’s put vampire and werewolves into perspective for a moment. We’re talking about people, who look like regular men and women during the day for the most part, who may can be the model, upstanding citizen, work and interact normally in society, and except for the fact that they may be a little scraggy looking or look like they need a good tan on a sunny beach somewhere, appear pretty normal. That is until you see the same person in the middle of the night sucking some poor soul dry of blood or peak into the backyard to see the person transforming into a wolf under the light of the full moon. It’s something like finding out the ‘nice’ man or woman next door is a registered sex offender if we want to compare the feeling.

And the thing about modern day versions of the werewolf and the vampire is that if these things were actually real, we can’t attribute anything strange to them. People go missing every day, regular men and woman do horrible and inhumane acts (Sweeny Todd anyone?), and people come in and out of cities all the time so we can’t blame it on the new guy. There are medical conditions for people who have sharp looking teeth and a little on the hairy side. If we really think about how the werewolf and the vampire can look and act so normal, they’re even more terrifying than a zombie. At least it’s obvious what you’re dealing with when it comes to zombies, but werewolves and vampire are the most uncanny of all because they’re able to blend in with regular human society and that’s a terrifying thought.

So I came to the conclusion that at least part of the reason people, myself included, enjoy Halloween and anything spooky so much is because spooky things are so much like us yet so different, its mind boggling and intriguing when we see it. Without the uncanny element of Halloween, I don’t think the holiday would be halfway as fascinating or even spooky. I mean, what’s scarier than something that used to be human, still looks human, but isn’t human?

About the Author:

Hollidae Muhammad is an aspiring writer who goes under the pen name Lady Dae on most sites and runs a blog with daily writing tips that focuses on everything  She learned about writing over the years from formatting, to creative devices, plot an conflict, the biggest cliches etc. so that writers can learn from her own trial and error.

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