Horror & Dark Fantasy



The H Word


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.


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.


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.


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.