Tuesday, May 01, 2007

LDS Horror

By Darvell Hunt

I’ve debated about what to say on the topic of LDS horror, or whether I should say anything at all. I mean, after all, is there such a thing?

I say, yes, there is. The follow up question then becomes: is this something anybody wants to see?

Again, I find myself saying, yes.

By now, nobody who reads LDS writing blogs can say that they don’t know about the LDStorymakers Conference that was held a number of weeks ago. Popular romance writer Rachel Nunes gave a presentation on the current market of LDS genres. She brought up the LDS horror genre and stated that there is currently nothing really available in this market and that if somebody were to do it well and stay within LDS boundaries, one might be able to really exploit this untapped market.

I’ve been sitting on an LDS horror novel of mine for about four years, wondering what to do with it. I think the time may be right to get it out there for people to see. But how?

There has also recently been a lot of discussion of Richard Dutcher, who pioneered LDS cinema. What many people do not realize is that he also was a pioneer in LDS horror, specifically with his film Brigham City.

Richard Dutcher was able to pull off LDS horror by giving it redeeming value. Anyone who has watched the last scene in Brigham City must surely know what I mean. I think what he did was key to making LDS horror work.

But why would we do this?

I am one of many closet-readers of mainstream horror, but I, like many LDS readers, am tired of the language and content so popular in mainstream novels, and not just horror. The reason many LDS readers buy LDS books is to get away from objectionable content that exists in the mainstream market. Presently, however, there is nothing available for LDS horror fans.

I would like to change that.

I recently talked to the editor of one of the “big LDS publishers” about the prospect of publishing LDS horror. While this editor seemed very reserved about the idea, this person left the idea open to the possibility. So, as of this moment, this LDS publisher is considering my submission of an LDS horror novel.

How cool—and how weird—is that?

Will anything come of it? I don’t know, honestly, but I hope so. I would love to give LDS readers of Stephen King and Dean Koontz something to read that they wouldn’t mind recommending to their LDS friends.


Tristi Pinkston said...

You know, I wouldn't necessarily call "Brigham City" horror. I would call it a suspense, but that's just me.

I think the main reason that horror has not been explored in the LDS market is that a lot of it, in the past, has had a lot of dealing with the occult and that's something we'll never find in the LDS market. I'm interested to see a horror novel that doesn't play into the occult in some way -- what will it do to transcend the line between suspense and horror?

Darvell Hunt said...

I was surprised when I walked into a local video rental store in Las Vegas and saw Richard Dutcher's Brigham City in the horror film section with a mainstream horror cover. I hadn't considered it horror, either.

Because of my curiosity about this film being marketed as horror, I ended up getting into an interesting discussion with a person who worked at Excell at the time. He told me they were trying to market Dutcher's film into the mainstream market as horror. Again, I was surprised. It was a bold move--one that I don't think worked. Why? Because LDS horror is not mainstream horror.

I've been since trying to get a copy of Brigham City with the mainstream horror cover, instead of the one we see in Utah. I haven't been able to find one. Nobody seems to have a copy--I can guess what that probably means.

LDS horror WILL be different from mainstream horror. It may not even be readily recognized by the LDS market as such. Maybe that's good.

I want to make it clear, however, that when I say I want to do LDS horror, I'm not talking about the occult, or gore horror, or anything like that. It is CERTAINLY NOT a BYU co-ed slasher movie. But murder and mayhem in a small Mormon Utah town committed by one of the community's own trusted citizens? Sure.

The line between psychological horror and suspense may be a fine one and certainly the two overlap.

So, what is LDS horror? I'm still not sure I know yet. I am, however, interested in exploring the possibility more fully.


C. L. Beck said...

Explore the possiblities as soon as you can. I'm interested in seeing the results.

Thom said...

I am also a fan of horror but I am not certain such a genre in the LDS market can exist, at least as I define horror in the general market. It would have to be something different, for this reason: LDS doctrine allows for the existence of spirits, demons, etc. We believe in witchcraft, at least that it has existed. We believe that Satan can overtake spirits, etc. What is horror, I ask you, about stuff that we already believe exists? And let's take that other horror standby: zombies. Mormon doctrine allows no place in its theology for the undead. If you're dead, your spirit is one of two places and can't come back into your body except for Jesus's raising of Lazarus.

Having said this, I chose to see these limits as challenging rather than offputting. I'm still working on and LDS horror novel, trying to find a way to squeeze into generally accepted LDS doctrine.

Darvell Hunt said...

I mostly agree, Thom. I think the term "LDS Horror" would mean something different than "mainstream horror."

I don't foresee any coed dorm slaser movies filmed at BYU. I don't like gore horror. That's not quite what I'm talking about.

I find the task of trying to help define what "LDS Horror" means intriguing. I mean, take for example the romance market. Does "LDS romance" mean the same as "mainstream romance?" I say, NO. "LDS romance" might be defined as "mainstream romance with LDS elements and little or no sexual references."

Similiary, "LDS Horror" could mean "mainstream horror with LDS elements and..."

And... what? That's what we are trying to determine.