Tropes. Tropes everywhere, in every genre, in every medium. That isn’t to say that tropes are all bad and have absolutely no place in entertainment or art. They should just, you know, be used sparingly.
Horror has its own roster of tropes that, when done right, don’t come off stale. Like, “The Creepy Kid” trope. When done right, it really makes an impact. It’s chilling to see an innocent-looking kid cause all kinds of violence and madness.
But among horror tropes there is one, especially in literature, that really just…it’s like nails on a chalkboard, as it were. Though, scraping against ice is far more grating than nails on a chalkboard. Back on topic…
My #1 least favorite horror trope is….. “Humans are the REAL monsters!” *Cue the intense music…domdomdom*
And this isn’t to invalidate this particular trope; I get it: people can be and are often horrible creatures.
I recently completed reading Jonathan Maberry’s GHOST ROAD BLUES. It had accrued some glowing reviews. Maberry had appearances on several lists of horror authors to check out. Not sure why all the praise.
Maybe GHOST ROAD BLUES was the wrong book with which to start. The characters were “meh”, the plot is a fragment of a whole (to obtain a sense of closure, readers will need to invest in about two or three books, because this one ends right when the action starts to pick up), and the folksy voice telling the tale is just ugh…enough about the night birds! Aside from all those shortcomings, the supernatural element, often a key element to tales of horror, is pushed aside to focus on how miserably humans treat one another. WE GET IT, people are awful! I didn’t buy this book to be reminded about that; that’s what Twitter is for.
Where are the stories that let the macabre and unknown forces? THAT is the kind of horror that is captivating, that take readers away from reality. Not to say that the dark side of humanity should be off-limits, but if a story purports to be about unearthly entities, of supernatural forces that terrorize, then hopefully that element is kept in the spotlight.
Take Clive Barker’s BOOKS of BLOOD. I recently discovered this gem of horror. Most of the short stories in this volume beautifully walk the line between humanity’s disgusting treatment of one another and the supernatural. In (my personal favorite)”Pig Blood Blues”, Barker touches on shows boys who bully, the ineptitude of human institutions to help troubled youth, but possessed pig who feeds on human flesh is the star of the story. The ending is just…Wow. This is why I have an aversion to pigs. They are not cute!
I’m hoping that this “Humans are the REAL monsters” trope is one from which authors will easy away.