Highbrow Horror

Jan 19, 2019

I’m remembering a videogame called "The Last of Us." On the surface, it's a game about a man and a child traveling across the country after something like a zombie-outbreak destroys conventional society. The story had the twists and turns of any good narrative where the flawed heroic characters began an emotional journey in one place and ended in another. It was a fictional work featuring an ever-present threat of undead, but the game was at its scariest when the characters had to interact with each other – the often flawed humans whose moral integrity was absent in a disorganized world. The threat of Ellie getting kidnapped and raped by gangs of bandits pervaded every step into uncharted territory. And that’s what it felt like to be a part of the world presented in “The Last of Us” – endangered and vulnerable. The truth in that work of fiction plays in our world so well because the scariest component of the game – predatory humans – was also the most unnecessary and preventable part of that world. More so, it was the part of that world that most mirrors our own. Zombies aside, how long would it take for a society to unravel if its people were to lose their faith in the system that binds them? Our history books might offer some answers.

Some people struggle with fiction as a genre. I think their concern is that if the content they are reading or watching (or otherwise) is not based on something real, then what’s the point? If the emotions they feel as an audience member are not in response to something historical or factual, then does it make their experience inauthentic? But our textbooks, with their nuanced terms and dry descriptions, fail to convey any felt sense of the chaos and horror of the world they seek to record. In contrast, good art – in any form – touches upon and reveals to us the truths of our subjective human experience. You see, we can find our reflections in all things in this world, but sometimes it takes something otherworldly to most confront us with ourselves.

Keep it spooky,

-HvW