Design Culture Aug 18, 2023. 3 Min Read
What scares you more? Seeing ghosts or seeing horror being used for subliminal messaging on screen?
As I pondered these questions, a chill ran down my spine. The dimly lit room suddenly seemed to grow colder and quieter. I looked around, but there was no one there. I tried to shake off the feeling of unease, but it lingered like a dark cloud hanging over me.
That's when I heard a faint whisper, barely audible at first, but growing louder with each passing moment. It was a voice I didn't recognize, low and guttural, like it came from the depths of hell itself.
"You think you know horror?" the voice hissed. "You think you've seen it all? You have no idea what true horror is."
I tried to run, but my feet were rooted to the spot. The voice continued, its words ringing in my head like the bells of a ravaged ship
"You think AI can replicate the terror of a human mind? It can never understand the depths of fear that human beings are capable of experiencing.
The voice grew louder, more insistent until it felt like it was coming from inside my head. I screamed, but no sound escaped my lips.
And then, just as suddenly as it had started, it was over. The room was bright and warm, and the voice was gone. But the memory of that moment stayed with me, haunting me like a ghost. I knew then that I would never underestimate the power of human storytelling, and the terror it can inspire.
See what I did there? I wrote a horror story to establish horror in a piece that talks about human stories of horror. Crazy isn’t it? What I have found out from AI-churned storylines is that it doesn’t create as much as it replicates. So, AI-written stories are going to be a wild concoction of ideas gathered from different existing stories.
In 2017 I watched a film called Get Out, directed by Jordan Peele. The story follows the life of a man of color called Chris who gets invited to his girlfriend’s house in the suburbs during the weekend. The only catch is- the family is a white family. His stay is a journey from the hospitality of the family to their hostility towards him.
It is a story of racism woven in the narrative texture of horror- a fitting representation of the life of minority communities of the world. A story like this might become difficult for AI to generate since it is very deeply embedded in human experiences.
AI refuses to generate stories to comply with community guidelines
In 2018, I watched another film called Hereditary. Ari Aster’s film depicts a family dealing with the loss of their matriarch. Every time they encounter a new trauma, they behave rudely with each other reducing the family life to a superficial institution. It makes us question if language is the only thing that separates family from the enemy.
The narrative is contrasted with images of violence and bloodshed then it occurred to me, “I am more scared of human beings being cruel to their selves than they being murderous”.
AI-generated stories would be far less meaningful in defining this existential plight because human experiences are far too personal for AI to replicate.
AI-generated story with the same logline is superficial and lacks layers
AI would not be able to subtly direct and redirect our attention to stereotypical elements of horror and human emotions and let us decide for ourselves, which is scarier.
Stree is our go-to horror comedy movie. The humor is established through the ludicrous and exaggerated character quirks but what makes it a successful horror story?
The horror of men walking around at night is something that is reiterated and since in Indian society it is the women who are recipients of such warnings, the subversion plays out well. The female ghost understands consent and is literate. The film shows that even in their death women are far more evolved than men.
Would AI be able to create a world like this where women have the upper hand and it still feels like local folklore? The problem with AI in such stories is the lack of documentation. The town of Chanderi is famous for silk and that is well documented, it becomes progressively difficult for AI to track down local legends and subvert them to satirize the functioning of society.
With the progress of AI, these genres might find a new life in artificial intelligence and we might finally be able to churn out horror stories that are layered, satirical, and yet scares you to your core. Till then let’s appreciate writers who consistently redefine genres and break the boundaries of storytelling with their imagination. There’s a promise of a future where gifted writers and AI collaborate for some of the best stories that we are yet to see.
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