There is something about the ‘found’ sort of story that has always drawn me. It’s the reason I love campfire storytelling so much. The immediacy of finding someone in the middle of a horror they hadn’t seen coming is powerful and went done well can leave a chill that isn’t easily shaken. The ‘found’ story saw a resurgence with horror films, sure, but they have existed as sort of sub-genre for as long as people have told stories.
The ‘found’ aspect of the stories come from the notion that someone experienced this and passed it down but didn’t necessarily live to pass it themselves. These are cautionary tales of going to far, delving too deep, and asking too much.
Sure, there are stories told in the first person where the narrator lived to truly tell the tale but it’s in the horrific nature of discovering someone’s tale knowing or suspecting what they are about to discover about horror and its true face. There is a film that beautifully illustrates this called CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, which is considered by many to be one of the very first ‘found footage’ films ever released. It’s infamous for its gore and brutality but the crux of the story is about a group of Americans that go too far, too deep, and push too far and disappear, leaving behind the footage of what became of them. Push past the gore and atrocity and it’s a chilling film about the naivete of Americans stepping into the dark world of the unknown believing their candles can illuminate it.
The movie, as outrageous as it is, is haunting in how it plays out, the missing Americans being sought and their story playing out through footage they had filmed being found and revealed.
Now, the film is certainly not for everyone but it’s more the way the story plays out and what it says that I wanted to point out and not so much its infamous nature. It is the inevitability of what befalls the protagonists that becomes so haunting.
Of late I find myself drawn more and more to story podcasts, where someone is telling a story or reading a story and many of those are told in the ‘Creepypasta’ variety, which tend to be first person accounts of horror.
I love that.
I love that type of fiction.
Well, most of it.
There’s some really bad stuff out there but with that some great stuff also.
And the thing too is that, for someone like me, there’s a lot to learn from fiction that we don’t like or think works. It reminds us what not to do and can even jar side ideas as you are already in a state where you are thinking of stories.
Man though, there are some really bad ones.
What drives me batty are the ones that break the simple rules of found fiction.
Like…a person cannot relay a story to the reader/listener if they didn’t survive. They just…can’t.
And that bothers me that the writer/creator breaks that simple tenant.
Or there’s the suspension of disbelief and how far it is pushed.
In stories, all stories, we are asked to step outside of the real world and to believe in the tale we are being told. Even if it is a realistic fiction it is still fiction and thus requires our belief in the piece to work. If you push things too far past the point of believability then the reader/listener/watcher will just give up on the piece. Part of this is wrapped into the logic of it all also. Like, what would the average person reasonably do and how far would they reasonably go?
The further you push things the less likely people are to join you on your journey.
See, there’s an art to all of it, that’s what so many don’t get. It’s seen as sort of an easy/lazy formula that you can just plug things into but the fact is that there is a lot of subtlety to it. The art is in the details. The art is in leading you by the hand down the path with the person/people who are facing the darkness. If you don’t care about them, even if just to want them to have something awful potentially happen, then it’s a wasted effort.
The beauty of the ‘found’ story is that you can make it as simple or grand as you like and as long as you make the narrator interesting then you are willing to go into that darkness with them, curious to see what lies ahead.
There is something alluring about going hand in hand into the unknown. The magic of ‘found’ fiction of any kind is that we get to inch out on the ice further and further onto thin ice as it cracks beneath us. Done well, these stories leave you with a dread that doesn’t pass quickly after you have experienced it.
It is the What If nature of the ‘found’ fictions that give them the power because it is within those two words that horror lies, waiting for us.
Because ‘What If?’