Morbidly Beautiful

Your Home for Horror


Just beyond what we know or think we know lies another world that’s not meant for us — a world of unknown horror inhospitable to humans.

Nature is terrifying. When bad enough, nothing we build can keep nature fully separate from ourselves at its extremes; we have to wait it out until nature stabilizes once again. It is a force beyond our comprehension but is also completely neutral. It can’t truly be characterized as evil, even when it’s killing people.

Then we have the supernatural, which also terrifies us for similar reasons. It cannot be fully understood or controlled.

In this article, when I use the word “supernatural,” I mean both the definition of being beyond the laws of nature as we understand them and, at other times, a synonym for the paranormal. The supernatural spatial territory is often accidentally crossed by unsuspecting unwelcome visitors in horror, often with irreversible repercussions.

The Unknown Horror of the Forest

One place that’s ripe for supernatural spatial territory is forests.

In horror films like The Hallow (2015), The Ritual (2017), The VVitch (2015), Leprechaun: Origins (2014), The Blair Witch Project (1999), and Mama (2013), there is a forest with supernatural elements and creatures. Sometimes, there is a warning levied and ignored; at other times, there is no discernible warning for strangers to heed in a usually foreign country.

The forest symbolizes the wild of the satyr god, Pan. It also represents our own animalistic natures, our fears of its natural depths, and the old ways clashing with modern life. 

We don’t know what lurks in the dark, overgrown places of the world. In these movies, people fuck around and find out real quick that those “stories” or “superstitions” they ignored are real. I call this Caucasian Disbelief, where the warnings (if there were any) are shaken off as a silly superstition. To white, secular society, the idea that something might not be friendly to us stomping all over its territory is preposterous.

These movies tell us that it’s not only possible but inevitable that if you wander far enough, you’ll encounter the creatures dismissed as local folklore.

The Unknown Horror of the Depths

If you go deep enough beneath our feet, you’ll find something you didn’t anticipate because we don’t know what’s down there.

In The Descent (2005), a group of women explores a previously unexplored cave system across the U.S., finding blind, human-like evolutionary monsters with them. If monsters of the deep aren’t waiting for you, then there is the real fear of being lost or injured and unable to find your way out. A million things could go wrong.

As Above, So Below (2014) is about an adventure in the winding catacombs to find a fabled object. What they find, instead, is Hell. This horror film shows us that catacombs can be very dangerous. Supposedly, people live down there who take maps and flashlights away and then let you die in the dark. This could be a new urban legend, but it mirrors the themes in The Descent: if there are people down there, they’ve adapted to the dark lack of oxygen and the endless underground maze. They could even be violent or dangerous in the way they will not help you.

Underwater (2020) gives us another fear dimension of beneath us, of the oceans’ vast depth and how we’re surrounded by a substance we don’t breathe. In this movie, underwater drilling woke up a Lovecraftian creature whose form is a gigantic squid-like beast with children roaming the ocean floor and dangerous to humans. After an accident at a deep drilling base that killed almost everyone, a small group of survivors have to walk across the ocean floor to save themselves. We aren’t meant to exist in these depths, so naturally, anything that could go wrong in an adventure or exploration mission is guaranteed.

The Unknown Horror of Space

“Two possibilities exist: either we are completely alone in the Universe, or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”- Carl Sagan

In Alien (1979), future humans were resource mining in deep space when we discovered something sinister and unfriendly to humans. In Event Horizon (1997), humanity attempted to go beyond the understood boundaries of travel to get to light speed and reach the nearest star in record time. Instead, they ripped a hole in time and space that led them to Hell with disastrous and deadly consequences.

Space is too vast for us to be truly alone, but the ability to explore it is still beyond us. Even if we did, would we be in danger from what we find? Space, like the ocean, is also completely inhospitable because it doesn’t have the air we breathe; we are also surrounded by it, unable to escape. If something else is out there with us in this universe, it’s probably not friendly.

Supernatural Spatial Territory

When it comes to supernatural spatial territory, there are simply some places you do not go. This is not your place; it belongs to those who claimed it long before we were born.

This message is given through folklore and film. Folklore tells us that some creatures or entities are dangerous, so you should not wander off into their territory because you could pay for it, sometimes with your life. Horror films often use this type of folklore to establish a backstory or to introduce the audience to the threat that the protagonists either overcome or run from until the folkloric creature cannot find them.

In The VVitch (2015), the family encroaches on territory claimed by witches, claims it as their own, and faces backlash because of this decision to move near the woods that these witches inhabit. First, the baby disappears, and his fat is likely used in a potion to allow the woman to fly. Then, each subsequent person in Thomasin’s family dies, and she joins the witches who killed her family and lured her in.

The question can be addressed to Thomasin’s father: why did you think this land was for you? Did you really think you could tame something that doesn’t belong to you? The witches’ hold was clearly stronger than a proud man’s spoken assumption claim on this land, and the price paid was his entire family’s life.

Thomasin, the young woman, is now ensnared in their clutches as well, unable or perhaps, at this point, unwilling to escape, but she is indentured to a man as she chooses the witch’s path: in this case, Satan himself.

Underneath these movies is the understanding that we fear our own earth and even what’s beyond it because we do not understand it; there are things older than our existence, older than bone, older than life itself, and far from where our eyes can see. In our explorations of land, sea, and space, we could accidentally find them, or they find us. Horror is an imaginative landscape for our fears to proliferate; if it can happen in horror, it absolutely will; if we fear it, it’ll come true. We haven’t scratched the surface of what’s truly out there, paranormal or even natural. We have no idea how deep some things go because we aren’t meant to be there.

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