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On Horror and Halloween

John Carpenter directed one of my favorite films. Starman with Jeff Bridges as an alien visitor to earth.

He also directed the first three Halloween films and the 2018 reboot with encore performances from Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle–stars of the original film. I haven’t seen any of them.

Carpenter is known as a top-tier director of horror films. He’s done it all. Vampires, terrors coming out of the fog, insane asylums, aliens, demon children. His work spans the gamut from sci-fi to adventure, to thriller, to psych-horror, to slasher.

He says of horror:

“There are two different stories in horror: internal and external. In external horror films, the evil comes from the outside, the other tribe, this thing in the darkness that we don’t understand. Internal is the human heart.”

In the Western world, horror is synonymous with Halloween, a holiday celebrated on the last day of October that blends religious tradition and kitschy horror motifs. We see vestiges of the Celtic Samhain festival, Catholic Day of the Dead celebrations, harvest feasts, and the penchant for Americans to commercialize pretty much anything that can generate a fortune for someone. Ah, the American dream!

Halloween is skeletons and ghosts, jack o’ lanterns and vampire bats, werewolves and hairy spiders, witches and mummies. It’s about scariness and tingles up the spine and being creeped out.

We love it! According to Mathias Clasen, a Dutch horror scholar and literature professor, we love horror because it allows us to experience fear and other negative emotions within the context of a safe environment, be it in a theater watching “The Shining,” or in a spook house in which all the terrors are mechanized or actors covered with red makeup. He talks about the universally-known child’s game of hide-and-seek. That feeling of anticipation, suspense, the fear of being found that stills the heart and leaves us breathless as we struggle to be silent, or as our heart races while we clap our hands over our mouths to suppress a gleeful giggle. All the same time, we’re psychologically practicing how NOT to become prey.

You know that horror movie cliche. The girl comes to a door in that dark and deserted house, and you’re sitting in your seat screaming at her (silently, I hope), “Don’t open that door!!” But, of course, she does, and, of course, it doesn’t work out very well for her.

H.P. Lovecraft, one of the fathers of modern horror, once said, “The process of delving into the black abyss is to me the keenest form of fascination.”

How very true.

This month, because we love horror and because it’s the month of Halloween, we’ve saved up three of the creepiest stories of the year, just for you, plus a story we love about a mom with a teenage demi-god for a daughter.

We hope we can make your spine tingle just a little, and that your Halloween will be safe and scary.


Suzanne Vincent

Suzanne Vincent is the editor-in-chief of Flash Fiction Online. That’s what people think anyway. Actually, she’s really a pretty ordinary middle-aged woman packing a few extra pounds and a few more gray hairs than she’s comfortable with. As a writer, she leans toward the fantasy spectrum, though much of what she writes is difficult to classify. Slipstream? Isn’t that where we stick stories when we just can’t figure out where else they go? Suzanne’s first professional publication was right here at FFO, published before she joined the staff: “I Speak the Master’s Will,” — a story she’s still very proud of. While she doesn’t actually have time to blog anymore, she once did. You can still read her ancient posts on writing at The Slushpile Avalanche. Suzanne keeps a house full of kids (3), a husband (1), and pets (too many to number) in Utah, USA. Yes, she’s a Mormon. No, there isn’t another wife. Mormons haven’t actually practiced polygamy since the 1890s. Too bad. She’d love to have another woman around to wash dishes and do laundry.


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