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Reading Classic Horror > How Do You Define Classic Horror?

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 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 1343 comments Mod
What makes a book/story a classic horror novel to you?

What about gothic horror?


message 2: by Mohammed (new)

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 122 comments To me it has to be an influential story that is remembered today well or great story older than 50 years. Doesnt have to be 100 years old.

Gothic novels is what started the whole horror thing of course they are imporant. Actually getting Oxford World Lit edition of 4 Great Gothic Novels.


message 3: by Phil (new)

Phil (philhappy) | 19 comments Mohammed wrote: "To me it has to be an influential story that is remembered today well or great story older than 50 years. Doesnt have to be 100 years old.

Gothic novels is what started the whole horror thing of c..."


What are the four novels?


message 4: by Mohammed (last edited Sep 02, 2010 12:51PM) (new)

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 122 comments Phil wrote: "Mohammed wrote: "To me it has to be an influential story that is remembered today well or great story older than 50 years. Doesnt have to be 100 years old.

Gothic novels is what started the whole ..."


Four Gothic Novels: The Castle of Otranto; Vathek; The Monk; Frankenstein
by Horace Walpole, William Beckford, Matthew Lewis, Mary Shelley

Sure Frankenstein is Science fiction first but still.

Only stories with gothic feel i have read are some Poe,Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Will be very exciting to read those books and Ann Radcliffe who is an early important Gothic writer too.


message 5: by Phil (new)

Phil (philhappy) | 19 comments I have The Castle of Otranto and Vathek, I just need to get to them. The Monk is amazing. I haven't read it in years and it's on my list for a re-read, but I actually think it's a good starting point for reading gothic novels.

Classics have a tendancy to go off on long tangents that tell unrelated stories; The Monk does this but each story is pretty interesting in itself. Plus the book has a great Grand Guignol ending that's gonna surprise in how graphic it is.

A lot of people say Frankenstein is more science fiction than horror, but I don't know. There's a science fiction element in the creation of life but after that, not so much. It's certainly a gothic novel in it's depiction of man's cruelty to fellow man (apologies to the femenists :P )

I'll also note here that there's two versions of Frankenstein, the original 1818 text and the more common 'toned down' 1831 version.

Anyway, enjoy the reads Mohammed!


message 6: by Simon (new)

Simon (friedegg) | 133 comments I wouldn't classify Frankenstein as being either SF or horror. There's very little of either elements in that story. Certainly, it is not on those aspects that most emphasis is placed.


message 7: by Martha (last edited Sep 14, 2010 06:51PM) (new)

Martha (hellocthulhu) | 325 comments Mod
I LOVE The Monk. I thought it was so graphic and shocking for a gothic book!

I think classic horror is a style that relies on atmosphere and suspense to build the story. Archaic language abounds, the focus is not on gore, and rarely is crude language used. Although I would like to note that not every classic horror fits this mold, The Monk being one of them. It may all boil down to what Mohammed said about a story being influential and/or well remembered. Generally I think of classic horror as being older than 50 or so years, as it has stood the test of time by that point.

Forgot to mention, Danielle asked about gothic horror. I consider gothic horror to fall under the "classic horror" category. I am somewhat new to the gothic style, but I have The Castle of Otranto to read, and I have read LeFanu, Poe, and Jekyll and Hyde, so I'm off to a good start I think!


message 8: by Mohammed (new)

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 122 comments Simon wrote: "I wouldn't classify Frankenstein as being either SF or horror. There's very little of either elements in that story. Certainly, it is not on those aspects that most emphasis is placed."

Its not about emphasis but what elements the story has. Often those pioneer stories,stories before there were established genres. Often they are vague.


message 9: by Simon (last edited Sep 15, 2010 03:23AM) (new)

Simon (friedegg) | 133 comments Mohammed wrote: "Its not about emphasis but what elements the story has. Often those pioneer stories,stories before there were established genres. Often they are vague. "

Well, if the genres are to encompass books that may only briefly feature elements that define those genres, then one could almost say that most books are in most genres, which is to broad a definition to be very useful in my opinion.

Anyway, judge for yourself when you've read it.


message 10: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Jamesian Enthusiast (last edited Sep 15, 2010 06:50AM) (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 1343 comments Mod
Well, I don't like to be too dogmatic. I think we should make up our own definitions when it comes to genres, but I like to look up stuff on Wikipedia.

Here are a few good articles you might find interesting:

Gothic Fiction/Horror: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_h...

Horror Fiction:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horror_f...

Weird Fiction:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weird_fi...

Dark Fantasy:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_fan...

When I really got into the classic horror, I used these articles, and a couple of other sources to make lists of authors/books/stories I wanted to read. I've also found anthologies very helpful in discovering some of these lost gems.


message 11: by Shawn (last edited Sep 19, 2010 02:40PM) (new)

Shawn | 333 comments I reviewed OTRANTO and VATHEK on Goodreads here. They both have their plusses but THE MONK is probably the most entertaining of the Gothics - it's so lurid and willing to shock.

I wouldn't be willing to hazard a personal definition of classic horror at this point


Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 212 comments Just because a story is science fiction it doesn't mean it can't also be horror. Both are (I know some will take issue with this, so I'll say here "in my opinion") sub-genres of imaginative fiction. Look at I Am Legend it's a vampire tale wrapped in an at least semi-science fiction story. The Body Snatchers by Jack Finny is a favorite of mine. It's an alien invasion story, but what could be more horrific than it's story line, that you dare not fall asleep lest something else wake up in a copy of your body having stolen your life...but it's not "YOU".

Having thought about this question I suppose I'd have to say, I don't suppose I do define what I'd mean by classic horror, but like others I can give examples. Another would be "Day of the Triffids" again, horror in science fiction form. Dracula is one I wholeheartedly agree with. There are a lot of ghost story collections I've loved over the years, and some I've tried to find since and can't. I suppose I'd say about it as some do art...I can't explain it, but I know it when I see it. Or maybe, I may not know if it fits the definition, but I know what I like. :)


message 13: by Steve (new)

Steve | 31 comments I look for development of atmosphere (particularly a growing dread). The book can be old or new, it's atmosphere that counts. And that's where the craftsmanship comes in. There can be gore, but it's not the primary thing. And if there's too much, it just becomes a distraction.


message 14: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Jamesian Enthusiast (last edited Dec 01, 2010 06:59PM) (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 1343 comments Mod
I definitely agree, Steve. Atmosphere is absolutely crucial.


message 15: by David (new)

David Classic horror never left us. It's the full moon, the hero, the villains of the piece, the quest, the passion and ideals, the yearning and the love. Fighting and destroying the monsters of fear is what it's all about.

Jonathan Harker goes through hell to be reunited with Lucy. The classic horror stories are as perenniel as the classic fairy stories because they express the subliminal realities of our condition. We all instinctively grasp what's going on in this game but can't quite put our finger on it.

And they all crucially bring death into the equation, which modern society in particular considers taboo but is at the same time obsessed by on a subconscious level, hence all the stories that speak to us of struggle and loss.

I would say for example that 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Dracula' are essentially the same story. And as Bela Lugosi said after a performance in England late in his life when he was heckled in the theatre and was deeply upset in the dressing room afterwards, 'Dracula, for me, is Hamlet'.


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 1343 comments Mod
Well-said, David.


Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 212 comments Uhhh.... if Jonathan was trying to get reunited with Lucy, wouldn't his wife Mina be upset?

:) just wondering.... LOL


message 18: by David (new)

David Deliberate mistake!


Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 212 comments Ahh, yes....of course. Got ya.


message 20: by N.R. (new)

N.R. Grabe (nrgrabe) | 3 comments A book where the zombies come from voodoo, not disease.


message 21: by Ann (new)

Ann Schwader (annkschwader) | 14 comments Scott wrote: "Mike (the Paladin) wrote: "Just because a story is science fiction it doesn't mean it can't also be horror. Both are (I know some will take issue with this, so I'll say here "in my opinion") sub-ge..."

Many of Lovecraft's tales could be classified as both SF & horror, and I would definitely call his work classic horror.


message 22: by Ann (new)

Ann Schwader (annkschwader) | 14 comments N.R. wrote: "A book where the zombies come from voodoo, not disease."

Pretty please? I miss "real" zombies.


message 23: by Eric (new)

Eric Orchard (ericorchard) | 4 comments Maybe atmosphere and writing with a strong awareness of the tradition of gothic horror? I can't think of an applicable writer who wasn't writing in a self aware way that they were a part of a tradition.


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 1343 comments Mod
It's a good point, Eric. I definitely believe you can't define Classic Horror outside of looking back to when it was written, putting it into the context of that period in contrast with the modern horror themes and style.

I do feel that the styles were influenced by what was going on in society during that period, and the literary movements of the time.


message 25: by Olivia (new)

Olivia | 2 comments Classic horror are ghosts, spectres and things that go bump in the night. A floor board creaking, a door slamming, the wind whistling. It's haunted mansions, a candle flickering and wolves howling at the Moon. It's the echo of footsteps, the drip drip drip from a tap, a child crying. Classic horror are leather bound books, ink pots and quills and the blank stare through the glass eyes of a China doll.


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 1343 comments Mod
Very well said, Olivia.


message 27: by Olivia (new)

Olivia | 2 comments Lady Danielle aka The Book Huntress wrote: "Very well said, Olivia."


Off the top of my head :-)


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 1343 comments Mod
That's a really good point, Alex. Thanks for sharing!


message 29: by [deleted user] (last edited Oct 31, 2015 10:42PM) (new)

Being too late in the game to comment on the subject, I think there should always be some element of insanity associated with the encounter with the supernatural. some fracturing or breaking of the psyche trying to comprehend and survive the events.
H.P. had it right with minds melting confronting multi-dimensional beings from other realities. Human perception only goes so far. What happens beyond that point? and where does it go from there? Important questions often not asked or explored. Granted, my reading is somewhat lessened of late. Harumph!


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 1343 comments Mod
I do appreciate that about Lovecraft is the exploration of the psychological consequences of encountering something completely beyond your comprehension.


message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) wrote: "I do appreciate that about Lovecraft is the exploration of the psychological consequences of encountering something completely beyond your comprehension."

It's a big universe, plenty out there...and sometimes here...to challenge perception. Wish I could tap into that guy's thought process just for an hour. Probably would blow my mind!


message 32: by Justin (new)

Justin (justinbienvenue) | 80 comments To me, Classic Horror is any work of Horror that dates back at least 50 Years. I'd say from the beginning of the 60's, 1960-1965 and below. In the 30's and 40's we were introduced to the classic Universal monster films which have stood the test of time so they must be considered classics. I would also consider vintage classic horror as any horror that dates back before the 1900's. Not only is that classic but that is the type of horror that is timeless and original.


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 1343 comments Mod
Justin wrote: "To me, Classic Horror is any work of Horror that dates back at least 50 Years. I'd say from the beginning of the 60's, 1960-1965 and below. In the 30's and 40's we were introduced to the classic Un..."

That's a very workable definition, Justin. I think the time does influence the sensibilities based on what was going on in the world at that time.


message 34: by Alan (new)

Alan Toner | 20 comments Classic horror, to me, is a good, gripping story, with plenty of interesting characters, and a spooky atmosphere. Both Frankenstein and Dracula had all these qualities in bucketloads, that is why they are timeless. Much better than all the nicey-nicey, misunderstood teen-pinup horror (horror? Hah, that's a laugh!) of today.


message 35: by Lamprini (new)

Lamprini | 39 comments Alan wrote: "Classic horror, to me, is a good, gripping story, with plenty of interesting characters, and a spooky atmosphere. Both Frankenstein and Dracula had all these qualities in bucketloads, that is why t..."

AMEN!!!!!


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