Media Ecology of Horror

In our previous post about the film It we stated our argument that this was a unique new juxtaposition of more than a few film genres. Perhaps the most important genre it occupies is in that overall area of “message films” disguised as something else. In It, the real message of the film is about teenage abuse. Physical abuse, mental abuse and sexual abuse. All three abused groups perhaps compose a large group of movie attendees for It?

It seems logical to assume this subtextual message of abuse has brought many attendees to the film. Of course the film is made from one of King’s most popular books and has already a huge audience for the film. Yet, something else seems at work in the dynamics of this film that goes far beyond the boundaries of the current horror genres, a boundary that continues to expand every day.

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One interesting idea from all of this is that horror is not always contained in the body of one thing. And contained in some dark home at night or the basement of the home. Like Poltergeist suggested, it might even haunt suburban America in broad daylight.

A new theory, expressed in It is that horror is no longer a message in a medium but rather a medium holding messages. No longer a thing within the world. But rather, the world.

In It, the horror of growing up a particular type of teenager today is matched against the horror of Pennywise the evil clown.

The horror genre might become more pervasive, such an (invisible) part of growing up in a particular time and place in culture,in history. This horror takes on what might be defined as a media ecology rather than just the message of another film genre within a grand medium pretty much invisible to most storytellers. It is the media ecology of many young people in our culture. In abusive relationships at school and home.

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Here, the answer for the group of fifteen-year-old teens is a form of modern Lord of the Flies. They form a close-knit group and isolates itself from others their age. This is not difficult since the group is already called “losers” by their schoolmates. Their individual experiences with the clown Pennywise are something only the others in their group can see or understand. The bond is thus made stronger and stronger in the gang.

Like many great youth stories, summer is a time of exploration, mystery and change. The three are served up to the group of teenagers in the story.

Does It represent a new turn to focus on domestic America and the horrors for teenagers in their everyday settings? Is there some unstated idea that horror is in the world rather than contained in the form of a monster.

The horror genre has always had a close relationship with teen markets. Will It bring more life and reality into this market? Delivering something to the market is greatly needed. Might the horror genre create a new relationship with its teenage market? Might it become more relevant to stories of modern teenagers? Might it continue to express, like It (2017) expressed so beautifully, the horrors are not all out there, in all the monsters that Hollywood can conjure up. Rather, the horrors are around us. (A longtime belief of King.)

These horrors are not the evil monsters that come and go at suspenseful intervals in the horror film. Rather, they are the horrors of the environment that surrounds us all the time. Something no one can never escape from. In so many ways, It attempts to create this surrounding environment, this media ecology, for the leading characters in the story. Surrounding them like an atmosphere. All the time.  Beverly can spend time fighting off the evil Pennywise clown. Yet, she has to return to the greater horrors of her home and her abusive father in the end.

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This is the real horror.

Not the made-up images that flicker before young people in dark movie houses for a few hours. The images are little more than an escape from the real horror back in the real world. The horrors in the theater are escapes from the horrors outside the theater. The fading horrors of the theater become the real horrors of life.

A turn towards this reality in the horror genre?

A destruction of the old genre?

Emergence of something new?

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