I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Not actually scary–like public speaking or death or heights or what not. But fictional scary. Silence of the Lambs, ghost stories around the camp fire.
Scary to me? That part of Signs with Mel Gibson when the alien’s fingers curl up from under the pantry door. The piece of The Haunting of Hill House when the noise is banging up and down the walls in the night time, and they can’t find the source. The skittering in the dark. And when my damn dogs bark at the front door, but there’s no one on the other side.
That’s creepy as shi#.
My sister’s dog once barked at the closet door. Often. When there was nothing on the other side. Think twice about renting a duplex in Gresham is all I’m saying. If she hadn’t moved fairly soon, I’m pretty sure we would have found her flayed.
So, a friend of mine recommended to me on a piece of fiction I’d been playing with, that what is uncertain is what is scary. The scratching of long nails at the 2nd story window? Creepy, McCreepy Pants.
Not that he relates, but Varney the Vampyre was much creepier when the Bannerworths were thinking, “He’s a vampyre! No…. Maybe? Are we insane?” But when Varney was all admitty and was telling “Flora, baby, I’m a vampyre. Do what I say or I’ll eat you.” Less alarming. If I were Flora, I’d have been thinking–this is something I need to resolve. Varney became a sort of “to-do.” I mean, note to self, pick up the milk, stake the vampyre, burn his body, change the laundry.
When Varney is hauling Flora, half-asleep across the bed in the middle of the night and chowing on her neck.
Though that piece, I think was more alarming because he’s hauling her across the bed by her hair. Because he scratched the window with his too long nails. So, I think when your character/ bad guy/ villain etc is acting outside of acceptable behavior, that’s scarier.
Now what I mean by that is that there are all sorts of villains. People fight or kill in the passion of the moment all the time. That’s sort of life-esque. Though not in a positive way. Killing people = bad.
But the sort of, killing that happens outside of the normal. Attacks that are outside of the normal.
A punch is less terrifying than grabbing someone by their hair. Why? I think it’s because one is an act of anger and the other is an act of dominance.
Killing someone cause you’re super pissed. Bad. Killing someone and eating their flesh. Terrifying.
So, maybe the villain you can’t see. The stalking. The whisper in the dark. The call from inside the supposedly empty house. Those are acts that are scary, because the villain is playing with you like a cat plays with a mouse.
And now, you’re dehumanized. You’re no longer the hero of your own story. You’re the mouse in another’s.