Every year around this time The old and new installments of horror movies with the usual characters return to the cinema and television screens: witches, zombies, vampires, aliens, headless horsemen, Freddy scissorhands…, with whom we had a terrifying time.
But before the cinema, It was literature that attracted a legion of select readers (without fear of dying of fear) to read horror stories. Mary Shelley began with her tuned monster ‘Frankenstein’ (1818). A name that, although it has gained eternal fame, was not invented by the author, but corresponded to that of a city (today called Zabkowice Slaskie) in Poland; She was followed by the Irishman Bram Stoker, with the insatiable – always eager for one more ‘bloody mary’ – ‘Dracula’ (1897). Here again the myth originates in a real place (Transylvania, Romania’s Carpathian region) and derives from a real figure from the 15th century: Prince Vlad Tepes, who, although he was nicknamed ‘the impaler’ for his cruelty., has in Romania the recognition of national hero, in consideration of his military exploits against the Ottoman occupiers. The film ‘Dracula, the Untold Legend’ (2014) by director Gary Shore narrates the fanciful dichotomy (between the heroic and the monstrous) that hangs over the grotesque character.
‘Heart of Darkness’
“The horror!”, the exclamation of Kurtz, protagonist of ‘Heart of Darkness’ (1899) by Josep Conrad, was also the feeling that inspired the American Philips Lovecraft (considered the most influential writer of horror works of the century XX) at the time of writing his novel ‘The Horror of Dunwich’ (1928), Dunwich being, like Frankenstein, the name of a city, this time English, which came to have –a Guinness record– 52 churches. This story by Lovecraft is part of his literary cycle Cthulhu Mythos, made up of a fantastic world inhabited by a pantheon of powerful and terrifying beings that, depending on the story, can be presented as demons, gods, or even aliens.
Another outstanding work of horror by Lovecraft is ‘The Necronomicon’ (1921), conceived as a grimoire (magic book that was used as a form of sorcery to invoke the dead and spirits). To cover this chilling story with credibility, its author pointed out that the original version had been written by the Syrian Abdul Alhazred (fictional character) in the 8th century. On this occasion, Lovecraft could have been inspired by the resource already used by the Polish Jan Potocki (1761-1815) when he wrote ‘Manuscript found in Zaragoza’. A story that, according to its creator, was based on the manuscript that a Napoleonic officer had found inside an abandoned house, during one of the sieges of the Aragonese capital. Not in vain, in the opinion of the French sociologist Roger Callois (1913-1978) Potocki’s literature expresses a new sensitivity to the macabre and the fantastic that draws from occult literary traditions coming from the cabal and sorcery, thus anticipating the horror literature of Romanticism.
From ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’
“Affraid to die!”. Numb with cold and under a storm of steel, sheltered in his trench, a young English soldier saw how the stealthy shadow of death stared into his eyes for a few moments, until finally he resumed his painful march and passed by. That 24-year-old was John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, who during the First World War fought in the Battle of the Somme (1916), the deadliest of that irrational conflict. However, those terrible events Years later, Tolkien would stimulate an unlimited imagination that would lead him to devise an imaginary Middle-earth in which his stories of ‘The Hobbit’ (1937) and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (1954) take place, which have marked a milestone in world literature.
“Aliens!” The word alien, which we use as a synonym for extraterrestrial, comes from the Latin ‘alius’ (other). It was the British writer HG Wells who in 1898 published a spectacularly futuristic novel: ‘The War of the Worlds’. A young Orson Welles (23) would later make the radio adaptation of him and thus, on the night before Halloween 1938, live and through the waves of the American radio network CBS, the future director of ‘Citizen Kane’ (1941) announced – anguishedly altered – to millions of radio listeners that the Martians had invaded New Jersey and were heading towards New York. Welles had spread terror in the United States. And to such an extent that the air space was closed, while people took to the streets in terror, horrified, believing in the veracity of the false news. The tragic result was that hundreds of people were injured by the collapse that occurred in many cities, but especially in New York. Many citizens suffered bone fractures after falling while running scared and there were countless collisions between vehicles, as well as numerous run overs. They were the innocent victims of Orson Welles’ ‘phony war’.
Ridley Scott and his innovation in 1979
Already in 1979, the director Ridley Scott would start with ‘Alien, the eighth passenger’, the successful series of films that affect the thesis of the devastating clash that would occur between earthlings and aliens if there were to be an encounter in the future. It could be the end of peace on Earth, which is the last thing we want. In fact, not having peace is the meaning of fear in English: ‘afraid’, which comes from the vulgar Latin ‘exfridare’, to take away peace.
Hence, wishing for peace is the great greeting of friendship of the three great monotheistic religions: The Christian (Peace), the Jewish (‘Shalom’) and the Muslim (‘Salam’). In this way, while fear alienates us (it prevents us from developing according to our values and our ideas), peace fills us with confidence, renews our spirits and unites us with those who are different from us. For this reason, the fact that we live with peace and in peace, is the wish that all the saints and our dear deceased relatives want for us, and even more so on the special days (November 1 and 2) in which we remember them.