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18 June 2014
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Think of the children!

On scaring the kids at Halloween

BBCi: 'Think of the children!' is the usual criticism. To what extent do you feel dramas that deal with fear of the supernatural are valuable or detrimental to younger viewers?

Stephen Volk: This is a gigantic question and I can’t possibly do it justice here, but I’ll have a stab (I did a three-day seminar in German talking about ‘horror’ and that wasn’t long enough either)!

My feeling is that supernatural stories are essential to myth and have always been around. They help us symbolically understand the world, and science is even grappling with whether these things are true – but essentially they reflect our inner nature.

I think in a ghost story, for it to be dramatizable, the ghost has to represent something, possibly the loss or flaw in the main character. In ghost and horror stories we can vent our emotional spleen in ways that other genres don’t allow.

That doesn’t mean that an interest in these things is sadistic, in fact the opposite: I believe that horror writers aren’t essentially sadistic, they’re essentially neurotic. They aren’t more nasty than everybody else, they’re more scared than everybody else. That’s why there’s a compulsion to write these things, to exercise (rather than exorcise) these emotions, so after it you feel safer, or at least understand fear a little more.

There’s no easy answer, but I think it’s bad to deny or censor dark impulses or continually force feed this idea that the world is a good and caring place. It ain’t.

I certainly do not feel that "horror films" make kids violent per se. To take just one example; me. I have been besotted by the genre from the age of about seven and I have never raised my hand in anger against anybody in my life. I would run a mile from your average axe wielding maniac, honest.

You know, Beowulf, Frankenstein, Dracula, Macbeth, Ghostwatch, whatever – don’t ban them. If you want to ban something that kills people and makes them violent, ban alcohol. What can I say?

Read our review of Ghostwatch >>

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