Tremblay is an old Horror Month friend. I especially loved his novel A Head Full of Ghosts. His latest is a tense, compelling, and intimate story about the end of the world.
Wen and her dads are vacationing at a remote cabin in northern New Hampshire when a group of four strangers arrives. They carry homemade weapons and insist that Wen and her parents have been prophesied to help them save the world from the coming apocalypse.
Stories about home invasion always make my skin crawl, and this one is no different. You’re as tense and frightened and uncertain as the protagonists, which always makes for the best scary stories. Later on, when you’re finally in the heads of the invaders, it’s even creepier.
For a Halloween read packed with some shocking violence, surprising humor, an eerie open ending, and a compulsively readable style, give this one a try!
Nothing like some good old-fashioned paranoia and body horror come Halloweentime!
The Troop follows a group of scouts on a camping trip on an island. Scoutmaster Tim takes the troop out every year for a three-day camp in the Canadian wilderness. And this year, there’s a ravenous, sickly something at the campsite with them–and this something was created to infect as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
The scares in this story come both from the goriness of it (and it’s pretty cringe-inducingly gross!) and from the paranoia and claustrophobia of the island. The boys in the troop quickly find themselves on their own and open to infection–who’s still safe? Who’s been infected? Can they get themselves safely off the island, or are outside forces going to keep them there? It’s very reminiscent of the classic The Thing, though our monster originates far closer to home.
The Troop is a profoundly creepy and unsettling book, in the very best possible way. The characters are great, too–you’re really invested in each of these boys (uh, except one, but I won’t spoil it), and it’s both scary and sad to watch them all fight it out and try to survive.
If you’re an old-school Stephen King fan, definitely give Cutter’s work a look!
If you’re a fan of Stranger Things and/or Twin Peaks, you should give American Elsewherea try!
Mona, a former cop, inherits a house in New Mexico after the death of her father. Apparently the house belonged to Mona’s long-dead mother. It’s in a tiny town called Wink. Wink is a strange place that doesn’t appear on any map. The people there are strange, as well. The streets are all perfect and the houses are pretty, but no one goes out at night.
Lurking behind it all is a long-defunct laboratory and mysterious creatures that live in the canyons. As the story goes on and Mona uncovers more and more about this mysterious town and its secrets, the more she finds herself in danger. And more connected to Wink than she realizes.
The general creepiness of the atmosphere is great. There’s always this sense of mystery and danger, and the style is very cinematic and evocative–in many places it really feels like a lost episode of Twin Peaks. The tiny town with its secrets and seedy underbelly gets metaphysical in American Elsewhere, and the setting of the New Mexico desert adds an isolation and a strange beauty to the story. And for all the weird fiction creepiness, this story is also about motherhood, family, and belonging.
If you like claustrophobic small-town horror with entertaining characters and a dash of alien/monster invasion, you might enjoy this!
Happy Less-Than-Halfway to Halloween, everybody! I couldn’t wait until October to share this one: a great mix of horror and Western called Unbury Carol.
In a town called Harrows on the dark and dangerous Trail, a woman named Carol lives with her husband. Ever since she was a girl, Carol has suffered from a disorder without a name or treatment. This disorder causes her to go into a coma every once in a while. To the outside world she looks dead, but she’s still aware of things happening around her. She usually wakes up in a couple of days.
But when Carol goes into her coma-state this time, her husband has nefarious plans. Only one other person knows about her condition: her former lover and notorious outlaw James Moxie. As Carol’s husband makes plans to bury her alive so that he can steal her fortune, Moxie sets out on the Trail to return to Harrows and save her.
This is such a rich book. It’s atmospheric and vividly described, and the whole story has a sort of threatening darkness to it. There’s menace on all sides–both Carol and Moxie find themselves in danger, and all the while there’s the suspense of wondering whether or not Moxie will make it to Carol in time. There’s also a supernatural element in the form of an entity that calls itself Rot, which attaches itself to Moxie out on the trail as well as to Carol.
If you want to get in the Halloween spirit a little early, and your tastes run toward the suspenseful and slightly Gothic, give this one a look!
This story is absolutely heartbreaking on top of being dreadfully creepy. Brother is about a deeply, deeply dysfunctional and warped family dynamic. The cannibalism is nearly incidental, though Ahlborn certainly doesn’t skimp on that side of the story.
Michael Morrow is different than the rest of his family. He wants to get out of Appalachia someday. He wants to have a normal life. He doesn’t want to be a monster. But his brother, Rebel, is determined to keep Michael in the family. And he won’t stop at anything to teach Michael his place.
The ending is a kick in the gut. There are tons of kicks to the gut in this story. You’re on Michael’s side even as you cringe at him. His situation seems so hopeless. The sense of inevitable tragedy runs all through this novel.
If you liked the movie We Are What We Are (and I sure did!), you should give Brother a try.
I first became acquainted with Carroll’s work when I followed a link to her website a couple of Halloweens ago. The link was to a creepy comic about guilt and murder called His Face All Red.
That comic appears along with four others in her collection of horror comics, Through the Woods.
All of Carroll’s horror comics have the feel of dark fairy tales. There are abandoned children, mysterious strangers, dangerous husbands, vengeful ghosts, and monsters in the woods. Every piece is shrouded in mystery and a sense of foreboding. Her art evokes small villages of bygone eras, with lots of stark whites, deep blacks, and startling blood reds.
My particular favorite in this collection is the Bluebeard-esque story of a young bride who uncovers a grisly secret in her new husband’s house. It’s called A Lady’s Hands Are Cold, and I found it terrifically creepy and incredibly well-told–the art and script work perfectly together, and the sense of place is fantastic. It’s visibly gory and has several beautiful Gothic touches. It’s a perfect dark, gruesome fairy tale.
If you enjoy old-fashioned horror, give Emily Carroll’s work a look! And be sure to visit her website for more. While you’re there, check out Out of Skin. You’re welcome in advance for the nightmares.