Horror & Dark Fantasy



The H Word


The H Word: The Search for Romanian Horror

Much like The Last Unicorn in her woods, I one day set off to find my own kind. And by “kind,” I mean a community of Romanian Horror writers; something I thought I’d surely find within minutes. After all, what other country could be a better petri dish for all sorts of dark fiction? It’s hard to imagine a place more represented in Horror than Romania, except maybe suburban Maine. 


The H Word: Pacing in Horror

Somewhere along the way we have lost our patience for the slow, unfurling depth of horror. And I think that’s a problem. I’m a member of several film groups on social media, and I constantly see complaints about the slow pace of The Green Knight, or the arthouse vibe and weirdness of Under the Skin, or frustration and boredom at the pie-eating scene in A Ghost Story. No, my friend, no. I disagree. We need to let these stories unfold, we need to sit in the space of that telling.


The H Word: “What . . . is this place?”

When I’m watching a horror film, I always know something good is coming when we step off the beaten path. We might be campers who trudge through the snow to a nearby cabin, going to push the door only to find that it creaks open of its own accord, revealing bad taxidermy and dangling fetishes which look disturbingly like they’ve been made from human teeth. We might be a team called in to investigate signs of distress at a remote outpost.


The H Word: Resuscitating the Heart of Horror

In 1996 Wes Craven saved horror. That’s the abiding narrative anyway: that Scream revived a genre otherwise coding on the table. It’s hard to disagree, and I’m no depreciator of Craven’s vision. Scream was, indeed, an adrenaline shot for a horror corpus bloated by excess and exhausted by endless pacing in the same, diminishing circles.1


The H Word: Horror in a Country that Is Not Afraid of Death

Years ago, during a holiday trip to the cerrado, my wife—a horror writer—and I—a horror reader—discussed and listed what we personally perceived as Brazilian fears. Our curiosity stemmed from the fact that our country doesn’t have a huge tradition in horror, at least not with the intent of producing a unique set of the genre. It exists, sure, but almost always in a strange limbo between creepy folk tales and Anglo pastiche.


The H Word: Ambiguity—What Does It Mean?

The first time I considered the effect of ambiguity in horror fiction was while reading Simon Maginn’s excellent 1994 novel Sheep. It tells the story of James and Adele, a young couple who have moved to a small farmhouse in Ty-Gwyneth, Wales, with their young son in order to restart their lives after the accidental drowning death of their infant daughter. The scene that caught my attention opens with the broken family seated around the dinner table.


The H Word: Visionary Monstrosity and the Epistemological Borders of Human Identity

Horror fiction explores human identity by utilizing monstrosity to envision disconcerting, resilient, and metamorphic aspects of human potential within an unknown universe. Knowledge in horror sometimes focuses on practical and apotropaic matters of survival and defense. Stay out of the fruit cellar. Keep holy water and a wooden stake handy. Don’t pick up cursed dolls.


The H-Word: When the Final Girl Grows Up

Picture a teenage film student in 1978 (me), who loves horror movies but has grown up wishing that occasionally, just every once in a while, the women would be the ones to defeat the evil and save the day. Alien’s Ripley and Dawn of the Dead’s Fran are still a year in the future; the big fright flicks of the previous ten years have featured women in the traditional roles of passive or victimized wives or mothers, while the men have served as the heroic exorcists, Antichrist investigators, shark hunters, and the ones who nailed the boards up over the windows.


The H Word: The Missing and the Murdered—True Crime as Content

Death is a business. Some of the highest grossing podcasts are dedicated to covering true crime, and those podcasts are downloaded millions of times each month, and often rank in best of year lists. There are even true crime specific podcast categories that make it easy to select from which hosts, topic, and murder you would like to listen to during your morning’s commute, or as you prepare dinner for your children.


The H Word: Post-Human Horror

The urgency that pushed many of us into quarantine last March has dissipated considerably. Still, it’s not hard to recall the surge of panic we felt at the unprecedented panic buying and orders to shelter in place. “It’s like the plot of Contagion,” our friends on social media exclaimed. And indeed, despite the spring of 2020 unfolding like nothing any of us had ever experienced, there was something about the start of the pandemic that felt eerily familiar.