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  • Writer's pictureT.R. Slauf

Extreme Horror - What is it & Why I dabble in it

When picking up a horror story there are certain things to be expected. For instance, you wouldn't be suppressed if a monster ate someone, zombies limped down the sidewalk, a ghost jumped out of the corner, or there was a human killer on the loose. These types of things are par-for-the-course in most horror. Once more, the themes can get very dark, and heavy, while also highlighting resilience and survival of the characters.

If all of this is true for horror, then what pray-tell is extreme horror?

The most comprehensive literary definition I found was on Cuebon:

" Extreme (splatterpunk, grindhouse or visceral)

This subgenre is as raw as fiction or film can be. The explicit violence and bloody gore are heaped on, often from start to finish.

Splatterpunk is a term coined in imitation of cyberpunk, and favored by certain younger authors. Often these stories incorporate technology.

Visceral is in between these two subgenres, and its stories aim for an "in your face" gross-out. "

Other sites and authors add explicit sexual violence to this list. This is due to the fact that many people break out violence and sexual violence into two different categories while others consider sexual violence included in the general tag of 'violence'. I count myself in the latter group.

You may be thinking, why on earth would anyone want to read or write such things? What is the point?

Well dear reader, many lovers of the horror genre will reader horror because of the pay off. The characters have every obstacle thrown at them and instead of giving up to defeat, they fight tooth and nail to survive. That's not to say every MC (main character) in a horror story will live to walk away, but that's not always the point. The point is the fight, that they try no matter what monster (real-life or supernatural) they are up against. They fight for themselves, their families, their lovers. When the violence they face is extreme, it makes the pay off, the instinct to survive, that much stronger.

"Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable" - Cesar Cruz

Another point is, it makes it more real. When details of anything are glossed over in a book, it's easier to disassociate yourself from what's happening on the page. These extreme horror novels do not shy away from details, thus making the experience, the emotions, more raw and more real to the reader. This not only provides a rush of adrenaline as the reader experiences the life-or death situation alongside the characters, but it pushes the readers (and the writers) comfort zones. In short, there are no boundaries. The invisible line that often encompasses other genres is non-existent.

Pushing comfort zones is why some people like to read.

Challenging oneself is why some people like to write.

I personally love to write horror because it allows me to suspend disbelief just enough while also confronting real-life issues. Some issues I've experienced firsthand, some I have not. But, would I classify my works as 'extreme horror'? No, not really. I don't shy away from details, but I do not showcase the pain and suffering in the same way that extreme horror authors, such as Clive Barker, often do.

I showcase very real and disturbing topics such as child abuse. Some readers would call this extreme (I've been called a pervert and accused of writing porn because of a short story in The Rabbit Man depicting such abuse) but trust me when I say, I did not delve into the sticky details as plainly as I could have.

I write this not because I find it interesting, but because it is a very real topic, because it is disgusting and stomach churning. Because not talking about it and sweeping it under the rug allows it to mold and spread uncheck and unchallenged. Sometimes you need to get disturbed and uncomfortable if anything is to change. And that type of child abuse is something that needs to be eradicated. We've all read the news stories about religious leaders, politicians, and various celebrities. We've seen the articles about foster children and human trafficking. This is a very real topic that showcases the dregs of society in every class.

While aspects and snippets of my work could be classified as extreme, I am only testing the waters. For instance, in The Devil Within I give detailed description of mental asylum treatments and then a pile of bodies having been ripped apart by a demon. Unpleasant - yes. Detailed - yes. On the same level as true extreme horror - not really.

I say this because one main characteristic of extreme horror is that it oftentimes showcases gore, torture, terror, and brutalization from page 1 and does not let up until the sweet release of the bitter ending. That's why I say I dabble in extremes. I showcase them, I talk about them, but I don't do it for hundreds of pages without letting up.

I want to hear what you think. Do you read extreme horror? Does this sub-genre intrigue or repulse you?

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