Certain horror films comfort us by their cyclical structure, according to a recent article by Chuck Palahniuk
It's a strange argument. On the face of it, the idea makes sense, given the comforting nature of many other formulaic or tightly-genre-based works. Repetition rewards our attention, confirming an older pleasure, extending it mostly in time, with a minimum of variation. Moreover, we win a sense of superiority, by seeing past the protagonist's perspective, all the way to their gory end - this connects with the moral layer applied to much of horror
Yet Palahniuk overstates the cyclical nature of some of those stories. For instance, The Wicker Man (1973) is about an exceptional sacrifice, not a regular one. The story is about the cycle having been broken, then restored into a shape other than that we've just experienced. The restoration occurs (or is supposed to) beyond our ken, since we're stuck with the embarrassed, outraged, and terminal perspective of the cop.
Steven Kaye offers a different argument against the comfort-in-cycles thesis, noting that some horror stories punish characters who haven't really made mistakes. The teens in Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) may be annoying, for example, but don't commit any crime, merely stopping their van in the wrong town. Palahniuk also links this comforting feeling to news stories about disasters, which surely implies a bizarrely judgemental reading of atrocity!
Moreover, "the cycle speaks only to a certain kind of horror," Steven tells me, after a pleasant half-hour of wood-chopping, "slasher horror, drawing on Italian giallo." There's other horror. S. T. Joshi's study of the weird tale emphasizes unpredictability in such stories, rather than repetition. It's the moment of opening into possibility, the vertigo of surrealism, that powers such Gothic tales.
I'm reminded as well of a different plot arc. Borrowing a bit from Chuck P's framing device of a terminally ill friend, some horror is about evil out of bounds, metasticizing evil, horror erupting out of bounds. Some vampire stories are all about repetition (Anne Rice's, for example), but the most influential of all, Stoker's Dracula (1897), concerns breaking that cycle. The Count will escape his castle, and broaden his parasitical web into a self-reproducing, widening, viral pattern, potentially overwhelming (transforming) humanity at large. Consider as well Dracula's contemporary, The War of The Worlds, which is about the fall of humanity, rather than, say, a regular raiding party. (If you don't think this is horror, reread this chapter)