Horror should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
Perhaps you’d reply “But fear isn’t comfortable!” No, it isn’t. But it is inevitable. We all live with fear, to one degree or another. It’s a key motivation to keep on living. But society tells us to bottle it. To put on a brave face for the sake of others, or to hide our own problems because they’re not really important.
Horror lets us take that back. It comforts us by telling us that our fears are valid, that the objects of our terror aren’t fabrications of our cowardice or oversensitivity. It lets us explore the things we’re frightened by in a fantasy context, to experiment with responses to them.
That makes horror a very powerful medium. And if we as artists wield that power, we must do so responsibly. It’s fairly obvious that we shouldn’t use horror to whip people up to hatred, but the responsibility goes further than that.
Using horror to inflict fear on people because we don’t respect them or because it makes us feel daring is as wrong as inflicting fear on them in any other way. It’s an abuse of our power and skill as artists, a quick path to becoming the oppressors we resent.
That means not simply conjuring the most gruesome demons we can. It means we must create with a purpose. As artists, our own catharsis can be valuable… but hurting others with that catharsis smacks of hubris and contempt.
Horror lets us reclaim the parts of our psyches that have been colonized by those who abuse, oppress, or exploit us. Horror lets us showcase our darkest struggles and tell our audiences “you are not alone.” Horror is a weapon of resistance against a world that can isolate and terrorize us.
So scare. But care.