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Saturday, 7 January 2017


Patrick Slattery |JANUARY 5, 2017
Safety and Validation: The Bane of Story and Horror
Patrick Slattery | January 2017
Safety lends to feeling protected and validation creates a sense of completion. Undeniably, emotions drive us to express ourselves and like many of you I turn to story for expression. Fight or flight, ego, fear; emotions that are so powerful they create the most imaginative stories. Ironically, I am observing the same emotions hindering expression in story. Emotions so powerful, they can cripple our ability to express our affinity for testing the limits of expression, especially under the umbrella of the Horror Genre.
Why Do We Tell Stories?
A seemingly simplistic question studied and analyzed with intense scrutiny, but do we truly do the same with film?
Story exists within all of us and to say the only purposes are literal, figurative, explanatory, or conveyance specific may only serve to stifle creativity.
I do not believe this is inherently necessary to entertain. This is problematic with the expectations primarily focusing on structure and formula. It inhibits from exploration of ideas, essentially trapping us in a restrictive world of the tried and true ‘philosophy’.
Why do we tell stories?
Self-satisfaction I suppose is the answer. To entertain, contentment, adventure, a plethora of reasons. Story inspires, from Love to Fear, (The entire spectrum, right Donnie?). {1} The ‘Why’ aspect of questioning motive for story telling puzzles me. I think it is simply exploration, with the teller drawing the map without control over the destination for the audience, we like adventure.
Historically, telling story helped explain the environment as it pertains to us. Existence and the mysterious world around us are all common themes in story. Rest assured exaggerated even with information exchange, we can’t help it can we? Accuracy aside, wanting” to explore intriguing and fearful thoughts appear universal to me.
Exclude Film from the angle of approach to all this. Television, books, politics, magazines; anything you engage in is essentially a story, including the life you lead now.
Fight or Flight
The majority of early humans migrating would typically settle near water. That makes sense in terms of resources and the evidence seems to verify this pattern. Consider the surroundings of those early humans for a moment. The mysterious waters, stories from long migrations passed down, the
blackness of night with the wonderment of dark thick forests. What dangers would loom in the minds of that time I wonder? Imagination is a powerful way of expressing emotion, even if expressed without extensive language.
The fi g h t o r fl i g h t ’ response is primal and powerful, at the core of our survival instincts. What an asset this can be to evoke story in our brain.
Films tend to focus on loss of love, being accepted, death etc. Fear is the root emotion being exploited. A pathway is presented with a choice or dilemma and with that, we once again step in to the realm of ‘fight or flight’. Acceptance and survival play into what we feel everyday, always corresponding to, ‘Fight or Flight’.
Humans have harnessed the confusion of the abstract and injected it into our stories. Everyone is the sum of a multitude of stories, or events if that is more properly suited. So much to work with, why play it safe for the ‘Box Office’? Before I speak on this, one caveat.
I want to make it clear that I am not requesting companies to abandon what audiences relate to in terms of structure entirely. I think an onslaught of diversity may be confusing and damaging to many stories. My suggestion is that playing it safe is to protect profit. I suppose I find a sense of irony there; the most powerful emotion that provides such great story contributes to the fear of losing profit by taking a chance in to the unknown. Make no mistake, sticking to what you know best is a very comforting position to stay in, it feels safe.
Only producing what we know best concerns me. A failing to endeavor in uncharted territory sustains my hope, human beings are curious. Sticking with similar stories, script structure and methods we use to tell story contemporarily are becoming stale. In some way changing in a form that 3D glasses won’t be able to assist.
Repetitive structure’s, commercialization of story, fear to take that leap robs us of expanding our imagination; these issues I hear are discussed and wrestled with, but why? These structure’s work, although formula for sales and formula to bring your mind to an adventurous journey is a relationship I fail to view as exclusively attached.
To point to something contemporary, consider ~“Slenderman”. “I feel concern ...Those that remain caught securing validation in
cemented cliques and structure...”
One should thank the work of many nameless writers and the contributions to this characters lore. That Fictional Character being placed in the same old rigid structure came from a completely unstructured source. ‘Slenderman’ came from a multitude of curious everyday
people. A worldwide webbing of campfire stories that continuously deepens. People are inherently responsive to that which touches on our primal instincts. In that framing, are we not all experts?
I feel concern for writers that admire the exceptional in film. Those that remain caught securing validation in cemented cliques and structure. They remain chained to those that cloak
their true focus of ladder climbing behind an obfuscation tool of structural and sales friendly strategy. This narrows possibility and growth is inhibited.
The result is the limitation of access to reach larger audiences with challenging concepts of possibility of presentation in telling story. Open the doors and unlock some of the vault, take a chance on something you consider risky from a structured perspective, it is certainly affordable for a large company.
Audiences, if attracted to the genre, will adapt and enjoy the exploration. Don’t discount the audience’s ability to engage and dissect. Audiences are made up of people and know when something is being spoon fed to them to ‘help them along’; how agitating an experience it is!
Sudden interest for ‘Slenderman’ to relate to a contemporary audience is not risky business, although it shows that the opportunity to be heard is limited for most.
Attempting to insert a new fuel into an antiquated engine may not help assist the ignition of anything more than what you already have, an engine of money. Let’s not enter a dark age of story telling by subjugating more abstract origins into a rigid formula for profit. Do you tell great stories that profit or profit from story? There is a distinction.
Some Final Words On The Matter
The next pioneers of story telling need to break structural norms to reinvigorate the Horror genre. All ego and audience expectations must be denied any relevance, which is the core of revitalization and enlightenment of the ‘how’ in story telling.
The first people to eliminate the focus on traditional structure will eliminate the comforting dimensions story is typically conveyed will achieve this new frontier. Time and human communication will be radically changing forcing new interaction, not simply the viewing experience.
They must eliminate structure, not by destroying it but by transcending its limitations.
Patrick Slattery

~Just run in a straight line anywhere when facing Jason. Stop thinking where to run in the forest. Just pick a direction and scoot! ~
~ F13 Advice ~
Horror Movie Review Guy