"You disappoint me, Corinthian. You were my masterpiece, or so I thought. A nightmare created to be the darkness and the fear of darkness in every human heart. A dark mirror, made to reflect everything about itself that humanity will not confront.
"But look at you. Twenty years walking the earth, and what have you given them? Nothing. You've told them there are bad people out there. And they've known that all along."
I was reading through a Facebook thread on the subject of horror stories, and the use of fantastical elements as a way of expressing psychological horrors, and it got me to thinking:
My favorite horror involves... I guess I'd call it a "sense of discovery", or maybe a "sense of exploration". Slasher films do nothing for me; yes, you can build some tension and some sense of being hunted, but in the end the characters are still just up against a guy with a knife. Monster movies can be just as bad, if they're handled like slasher films. But a really good horror film, for me, will have the character struggling to figure out what's going on and how to deal with. (Alien, for example. Or even the original Predator, cheesy as it was in places.) Heck, one of the best horror movies I've seen isn't technically a horror movie; it's a science fiction piece called Screamers. (Just, whatever you do, DO NOT watch the sequel.)
Horror as allegory is fine, but -- as with any sort of allegory -- it has to be handled carefully. Since I'm apparently stuck thinking in movie examples, let me offer Monsters: it works perfectly well simply as a monster movie... but man, I got to the end, and I was like, "They aren't actually winding this into the comparison I think they are, are they? They can't *possibly* be doing that." They were.
You know, actually, I think that was a lot of what appealed to me about Dr. Who, too -- very frequently, most of the struggle focused on just figuring out what was going on. (I came in during the Tom Baker/Fourth Doctor years.)
So as far as I'm concerned, my ideal horror story can basically be summed up as, "There's something going on and we don't know what it is, but we're pretty sure it's dangerous. Now what?"
What about the rest of you? What are your favorite horror movies? Why do you like them?