Guest Post: “Seed” Author Ania Ahlborn on Horror Movies That Inspire
“Muses come in different shapes and sizes, mine just happens to look
like a blood-drenched Sissy Spacek.”
— Ania Ahlborn, author of the chilling new horror novel, Seed
Classic horror: there’s something magical about it; something raw and unforgiving that taps into our deepest, most primal fears. As an author, people ask me what inspires me. I’m expected to throw out complicated answers: Shakespeare’s soliloquies; Hemingway’s drunken banter; unpublished Russian manuscripts — the more underground the better. When I reply with “movies,” eyebrows arch above surprised expressions. But it’s undeniable — I have a love affair with moving pictures, especially the ones that make my skin crawl.
As a lover of horror, I can appreciate almost any attempt at the genre. Granted, I don’t have much of a stomach for stuff like Saw and Hostel, but I understand why it makes the audience react the way it does. And yet, after a barrage of found footage flicks, I find myself pining for the days of old.
I spent my youth watching horror movies when the adults weren’t around, terrorizing myself with classic B-grades like Troll and Dolls—the latter of which gave me a childhood phobia of sleeping in rooms with those creepy, glass-eyed, porcelain faces. But the movie I remember watching most vividly is The Exorcist; sitting on the couch in a pitch black room, clinging a decorative pillow to my chest, my eyes wide as saucers while Reagan MacNeil thrashed in her bed. I was horrified, but it was the type of terror that refused to let me look away. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I didn’t get a proper night’s sleep for at least six months after that viewing. The horror of that movie dug deep into my soul. It infected me like a disease. No movie has affected me like that since.
That isn’t to say I’ll let a television sit on snow in a dark room for longer than a second. No way. There are people in the TV, Poltergeist told me so; just like The Omen taught me that being born bad can really happen and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre convinced me that the worst people live in the most remote places. And then there was The Shining, offering up the terrifying notion that a trusted family member can turn into a monster. These are the concepts that seeped into my subconscious, the very things that turned my thoughts weird and dark. Reagan MacNeil and Damien Thorn were the wicked little muses that scratched the inside of my skull for years, insisting that I had a tiny monster of my own to unleash upon the world. Jack Torrance assured me that there’s a switch in us all, and once it’s flipped, even a family man can turn into an axe murderer. Leatherface sparked my adoration for towns so rural they make the blood run cold.
Readers flatter me. They’ve compared Seed to the likes of classic Stephen King. Whether that’s accurate or not isn’t my call, but the comparison definitely gives me a thrill; and it’s not because my name and King’s are being brought up in the same sentence (though let me tell you, that blows my mind every time), but because my writing is being compared to the horror of old, the horror that was genuinely scary. That’s the horror I grew up on. It’s the stuff that twisted my mind and made my poor mother wonder how she’d raised such an odd, dark-minded girl. Muses come in different shapes and sizes, mine just happens to look like a blood-drenched Sissy Spacek.
When people ask me where I got my inspiration for Seed, I tell them that I’ve always been haunted by the concept of demonic possession. But my thanks will forever rest with the directors, actors, and cinematographers of classic horror fare. Because those are the people who put darkness in my head, those are the people who filled my brain with terrible concepts yet simultaneously entertained me. That’s why, when I see a preview for a movie that looks genuinely scary, I cover my mouth and laugh… because it’s like seeing an old friend. That’s why, when I write a book, I try to write it the way a movie would play out on screen. It’s what I love. It’s what twists me into a monster when presented with a blank page.
And I am a monster. We all are. It just takes a flip of a switch. A series of scenes. Or the flip of the page.
— Ania Ahlborn