Thursday, June 29, 2017

Tales from the Darkside: Horror as Comfort Food

I invite you, dear reader, to have a look at this brief video, the opening sequence of the Tales from the Darkside TV horror anthology from the nineteen-eighties. I've been recording episodes off the television. The show itself is no great shakes, but I like the opening sequence.

Over a montage of ordinary, pastoral imagery, a gravelly voice intones these words:
Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But, there is, unseen by most, an underworld —a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit...a Darkside!

It's hard to describe how much comfort I take from a sequence such as this. It's like eating chocolate in a jacuzzi, for me.

First of all, I love the imagery that is chosen. As I have said, it's rather pastoral, but ordinary. Even "pastoral" might be putting it too strongly. It's the kind of landscape I like the most-- green, (but not "scenic"), and lived-in.

Secondly, I love the words "what he believes to be reality". I've always loved anything that calls into question the world around us-- its reality, its solidity, its very nature. This is why Prospero's "we are such things as dreams are made on" speech is possibly my favourite passage from Shakespeare. Indeed, I love anything that makes us look at the ordinary sights around us with a fresh eye-- it gives them a new dignity. I love books where the cover image has no obvious relevance to the subject-- for instance, my English-Irish dictionary, which shows the image of a rocky beach, through a purple filter.

Watching this montage makes me think of the importance of horror in my life. I've mentioned my horror club several times before. At our last meeting, we discussed how each of us became fans of the horror genre. In my case, I can't remember! I can't remember a time when I didn't love horror, when I didn't feel deliciously at home while watching horror movies, luxuriating in all the imagery and atmosphere of the genre. It feels like home. It feels mine.

I love darkness....and melancholy...and remoteness...and strangeness....and the uncanny...and mists....and shadows...and the whole atmosphere we associate with "horror". It does spook me, sometimes, but even the spookiness is comforting, reassuring.

I loved horror before I was a Catholic, before I was a conservative, before I fell in love with poetry, before I was an Irish nationalist, before pretty much anything else. Indeed, I could write a long post on how my love of horror contributed to all those other beliefs. To me, there is something primordial about lonely moors and ghostly figures and white mist and ominous pub names. It's home. It's in the blood.


  1. "a long post on how my love of horror contributed to all those other beliefs" would be much appreciated some day!