They say that to write a truly scary story, there has to be something in it that the author him/herself fears. Cosmic horror is fear of the unknown and unknowable, and that the unknown is somehow out to get you, like Lovecraft. Domestic horror is about things that should be familiar and comforting, but are instead threatening and scary, like for instance your father trying to kill you like in The Shining. I’m curious, though, as an autistic guy who’s afraid of social interaction, are there any stories out there that could be called “social horror”? Where they take the fear of meeting new people, or being afraid or unable to communicate, and write a story about it?
Trying to think if any Stephen King stories fall under this classification…
Well that’s a pretty neat concept and to be honest I would like to investigate if there is something like that out there, as a writer it does sound like a very good place to play around with social anxiety and the fear of others and the lack of understanding of the self and the interactions within society.
I think a lot of horror stories, as well as other types of stories touch on this, but I have not seen it explored in depth in a horror specific setting as the main focus. Unless you count horror stories involving stranger danger such as kidnappings or assault, because they take the social aspect and turn it into a fear of being physically and/or psychologically harmed by these people. Then again, it doesn’t have to be strangers either. I’ve seen this done before, and honestly, that’s probably the closest you are going to get because it’s difficult to portray those fears in a solid and less abstract way, especially when in order to make it successfully horror, it has to take those fears and make them extreme in some way so it is life or death and truly holds the audience in suspense and captures their imagination.
Alice isn’t Dead has a main protagonist with severe anxiety and it is fantastic! There’s both the podcast and a novel now.
I was also listening to the American Hysteria podcast about clowns. They were saying that part of the reason people might be so afraid of other people is that (being social animals) you are more likely to survive and thrive if people like you.
So with that being said some good things that tie into that theme could be Witch Child by Celia Rees, which is about a girl trying to escape a witch hunt. The Hated in the Nation episode of black mirror also explores those themes in a super cool way. I will say while those are both scary, I don’t know if most would call them horror. Just for full disclosure, they have horror elements though.
I agree with Xelyn, that it would be super challenging to make like a solid horror antagonist to represent that kind of a fear.
As far as movies go, there are sections of “Last House On The Left” that I would absolutely call social horror. I would put “Killing of a Sacred Lamb” in that category as well. I can’t think of many books that pull it off well, other than maybe “American Psycho” or “The End Of Alice” but both of those books also rely heavily on gross-out squick.
These movies usually fall under the psychological thrillers.
I think the movie Deep Dark (2015) is something for consideration.
I think the one horror movie that is close to your definition of a “social horror” is Roman Polanski’s 1965 Repulsion. As the title suggests the female protagonist is repulsed by human intimacy (of a sexual kind) and is socially inept due to a past trauma that is only suggested in the film.