The Lighter Side of Horror
Jessica B. Bell
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – two cannibals are having dinner, and the one cannibal says to the other “You know, I really can’t stand my mother-in-law,” and the other one answers “So try the salad.”
I have always been a fan of grim, groaning humour – the kind you’d find in a Tales From the Crypt story or perhaps the ridiculous puns of Freddy Krueger in the later Nightmare on Elm Street movies. And of course, the slapstick hijinks of Ash in Army of Darkness are always highly entertaining. Sometimes you need a little laughter to keep the ghouls at bay.
When I was really young, I remember reading a book called The Celery Stalks at Midnight, and its sequel, Bunnicula – yes, about a vampire bunny. Even at an early age, I was drawn to the so-called “dark side” of things. Monsters are so much a part of pop culture and our collective consciousness that there are even cute, cuddly, friendly versions of them. The monsters of Monster High are by no means dangerous, and this may date me, but there was even a time when everyone wanted their own My Pet Monster.
There’s a great Canadian show called Ruby Gloom which promises to show you “the bright side of the dark side” and features talking skeletons, a Raven named Poe, and a two-headed guitarist named Frank and Len, who frequently make musical references that truly, only the parents watching will understand. If Robert Smith from The Cure made cartoons instead of music, this cartoon would be it (actually, it’s made by the same people that made the Beetlejuice cartoon from the late ‘80s). Further back than that, there was Casper the friendly ghost, and nobody was afraid of him. But even children are fascinated with ghosts and monsters – because we all enjoy being scared – it gives us a thrill, it gets our adrenaline pumping, and it makes us feel alive. But lets not go to far – I’m not saying show slasher films to children – I’m saying that by normalizing monsters, it can teach children how to deal with their fear; let them no that there are no real vampires. After all, no one’s afraid of the Count from Sesame Street sneaking into Big Bird’s house and sucking his blood while the giant yellow bird sleeps, tucking his beak under one wing and dreaming of snuffing out Snuffaluffagus. (But wouldn’t that make for a great episode?)
Someone challenged me to make a child-friendly horror story, and so, I tried to put myself back in the head of a little girl, and how she would see the world, with her limited knowledge and vocabulary. I don’t know if I succeeded completely, but Hannah Marie’s Theory on Vampires, Cereal Killers and Scary Mummies is a look into the scary world of a six-year-old in the cereal aisle of her local supermarket. Read it, and other stories (none of which are suitable for a six-year-old, I promise you) in Viscera, a collection of strange tales published by Sirens Call Publications and available now.
Jessica B. Bell is a Canadian writer of strange fiction. It is rumoured that she lives in a damp, dark basement, writing her twisted tales in her own blood on faded yellow parchment. Her stories have been published in various anthologies, the most recent of which is Voices. She also writes under the name Helena Hann-Basquiat, and has published two novels on the metafictional topic of Jessica B. Bell, titled Jessica and Singularity. A third and final novel is planned for 2017.
Find more of Jessica’s (and Helena’s) writing at whoisjessica.com