This is totally my thing. Thanks to J. for the link.
I’m actually in the (never-ending) process of putting together an edited volume looking at a specific facet of the relationship between folklore and popular culture. My contribution to the book is an analysis of the role of folklore in horror video games. This Slender Man game is a crazy, meta sendup of the stuff I’m most interested in: an internet-based legend moving into another digital medium where you get to ostensively live out the legend which has no existence outside of the digital realm. In light of folklorists’ interest in ostension, this is really interesting stuff.
The only thing that gets me is how cliche it is to say that “the unknown” is a major factor in the success of horror. My old standby, Fatal Frame, is a case in point: you figure out very quickly what’s going on. The whole game, in fact, is piecing together the mystery; the truly killer part, though, is that once you know, it in no way lessens the fear. If anything, uncovering the reason that so-and-so became an angry ghost greatly enhances the fear, because it humanizes the previously-unknowable entity that wants to kill you.
I do agree with Hadley on the the issue of “startling” versus “scaring.” The former can be effective if used sparingly, but when it’s the backbone of horror, it ceases to evoke fear, and just gets me all stressed out and pissy.