Monday, September 7, 2020

Finding the Modern Cabin in the Woods

P.T. Phronk
A post by P.T. Phronk,
of Forest City Pulp fame

I'm currently on vacation in a cabin in the woods. The other night, the power went out for a few hours, and there's no cell service here, so I was literally in the setup for a horror movie. There was no light except flashlights, no Wi-Fi, no calling for help—if a tall, silent dude with a blade was running after me, I couldn't even Google the best way to get rid of him.

It got me thinking about how the horror genre is heavily reliant on lack of technology. For me the other night, it was slightly scary to suddenly not have instant communication with any person in the world, or at least access to the entirety of human knowledge.

Cabin in the woods
Cozy getaway or the place you will most certainly die?

Twenty five years ago, that would be a normal day. Merely walking out of the house was the setup for a modern horror movie. No need to cut the phone lines or slash the tires or summon a storm to block out the LTE; in the 80s and 90s, if I wandered a few blocks from home, I might as well have been in a cabin the woods. Yet, I didn't feel unsafe. 

The feeling of safety changes from decade to decade. That makes horror as dependent on technology and culture as genres that more explicitly need to keep up with modern times, such as science fiction. More and more, horror set in the present day requires tearing down the layers of safety we've built up with technology before any character can be in danger. That can be done in various ways: isolation, sabotage, the technology itself turning insidious, or threats so powerful—or so subtle—that not even Google can save us.

What will happen when technology is even more advanced, and thus even more capable of keeping us safe in any location at any time? The electricity can only go out so many times. We horror authors will have to get more and more creative to set up an atmosphere of danger. We'll have to do our research to keep up with science and technology, and find clever ways of scaring people who may have grown up in a world where it's just not realistic to be scared of anything, because anything scary is taken care of by some android or nanobot or brain upload or whatever.

Alternatively, we can just set every horror story in the 80s. That would work too.


Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

I often think the mystery genre is hobbled by technology, but then again we have all these apps for spying now.

Glad no one killed you. ;)

Phronk said...

Thanks Kimberly! Haha I'm happy to not be killed.

Mystery must be tough too. I guess the advancement of technology really affects all genres in different ways.

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