Which raises one of the most interesting things about horror – it’s in the eye of the beholder. My favorite horror novel is Rosemary Baby by Ira Levin. The story follows Rosemary, who is married to charismatic and struggling actor, Guy Woodhouse. Guy needs one big break to catapult his career from earning a living to being a star. He makes a deal with his elderly and seemingly pleasant neighbors to literally deliver Rosemary to Satan to be impregnated. The book, even setting aside the knock-offs, practically launched a cottage industry. The famous director Roman Polanski made the 1967 novel into a movie in 1968 starring Mia Farrow. 1976 brought a movie sequel Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby starring Patty Duke. In 1997, Ira Levin’s novel sequel Son of Rosemary was released. In 2014, Rosemary's Baby became a TV
miniseries. The original still runs in movie theaters, often in October. As I write this, it’s showing at Chicago’s Logan Theater. Another of Ira Levin's horror classics, The Stepford Wives, not only spawned two movie versions, it's become a phrase in the language. The Urban Dictionary defines a "Stepford Wife" as “a servile, compliant, submissive, spineless wife who” serves her husband's every whim.
Whether either book would be considered horror if released today is far from certain. As the Horror Writers Association notes on its page What Is Horror Fiction, “the popularity of the modern horror film, with its endless scenes of blood and gore, has eclipsed the reality of horror fiction.” Both Rosemary's Baby and Stepford Wives rely on suspense and dramatic tension more than gore or violence (though Rosemary does at one point eat a raw chicken heart). Goodreads lists the former as Fantasy, Paranormal, and the latter as Science Fiction, Dystopian. Most of the terrible things that happen occur off screen. To me, that makes them all the more frightening, but not everyone agrees.
Personally, I love the quote from Douglas Winter included on the HWA’s page: "Horror is that which cannot be made safe -- evolving, ever-changing -- because it is about our relentless need to confront the unknown, the unknowable, and the emotion we experience when in its thrall." What draws me to the works of Ira Levin, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Carrie Green, who so kindly allowed me to commandeer her blog for a day, is just that. All explore the ultimate unknown and unknowable: what lies in the hearts of those around us, particularly those who claim to love us, and what lies in the deepest depths of our own. With or without violence and gore, that is the most horrifying territory in which to tread.
Visit Lisa M. Lilly’s Amazon Author page or her website to learn more.