Horror & Dark Fantasy

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The H Word

Nonfiction

The H Word: Sole Survivor

“Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.” These are Detective Lieutenant William Somerset’s final words in the psychological horror film SE7EN. To the unblemished mind, they may ring hollow—a bleak consolation in light of the events that have transpired. Having just watched an unrepentant psychopath methodically murder five innocent people, we follow as our heroes—the jaded William Somerset and his idealistic partner David Mills—are lured out into an open field.

Nonfiction

The H Word: Embracing the Wolf Within

A man returns to his ancestral home to bury his recently deceased brother. There, his estranged father welcomes him with trepidation, and the locals treat him with mistrust. When he falls for the owner of an antique shop who sells him a silver-headed cane, he believes his fortunes are looking up, but it is not long until he is bitten by what he believes to be a wolf. Warnings of his new ailment fall on deaf ears, and on the next full moon, his rampage kills several people.

Nonfiction

The H Word: Hand-Me-Down Horror

“You have to give it back to me tomorrow because I have to drive an hour south again to return it, and I don’t want to pay a late fee.” He handed me the VHS tape, secure in its clunky plastic rental case. My nerves tingled as I read the title on the spine: Dawn of the Dead. The year was 2001. I was a freshman in high school when a junior on the track team learned that I loved horror movies but had never seen Romero’s magnum opus.

Nonfiction

The H Word: The Sporror, the Sporror!

I’ve always enjoyed watching classic horror movies with my mom. Along with Vincent Price flicks and creature features, she introduced me to Godzilla and other kaiju movies. Because of this shared interest, many years ago, we stumbled upon a 1963 Japanese horror movie directed by Ishirô Honda: Matango (known in the United States as Attack of the Mushroom People). In this truly weird film, a small group of wealthy vacationers seek shelter on a mysterious island after their yacht is damaged in a storm. The island offers little for the bickering group to eat, other than huge mushrooms.

Nonfiction

The H Word: The Horror of Hair

Hair. Ornament. Source of power. Source of beauty. Whether decoration or burden, hair is at the forefront of many cultures and has been a part of the body consciousness of women since the dawn of time. Some cultures consider it a most prized possession, one that should be donated to the gods in thanks for favor. Others consider it a defining characteristic, one that speaks of a person’s background, upbringing, and worth.

Nonfiction

The H Word: The Devil’s Laughter

If the devil is real, he is neither skulking in dark corners nor leering at the unwary nor hatching plots of unimaginable evil. If the devil is real, he is laughing. He is proffering a juicy secret and waiting, not to see if you’re tempted, but how much. He is waiting to see whether this is the temptation that, at last, proves irresistible. Whatever it takes for you to give in, whatever marks the tipping point—whatever that is, that’s the devil.

Nonfiction

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. 

Nonfiction

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.

Nonfiction

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.

Nonfiction

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