First time in a long time that I’ve done a Top 5 Wednesday post (or posted regularly at all, whoop). This week’s theme is spooky settings, both ones I’ve seen in books and one I would like to see in books. So this is going to be a more… wordy post. If anybody knows a book that fits any of the settings I describe, do let me know, won’t you. The T5W group can be found here if you’d like to participate.
I really enjoy settings with cultist or religion-gone-crazy overtones, especially if the entirety of exactly what this group of people is doing doesn’t come to light right away. I love that moment of horror, of realization that I get when I see what is truly happening within the group. It’s unsettling and the reason I love it so much is because it’s the most real. People join groups and do horrible things all the time – I’m not condoning or encouraging people to join a cult or anything, but knowing that it could happen makes the book all the more chilling. A good example of this is The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. The main character lives in a town surrounded by fences. On the outside of those fences are the rest of what once was humanity. As the book progresses, the reader sees that the horrors outside the fence might be matched by the horrors within. It’s so good, it’s so unsettling, it’s so goooood. Another example could be the latest season of American Horror Story: Roanoke. I’m not going to go into detail, but it’s the first season that’s actually frightened me in a long while.
The fear of the unknown is an excellent driver of horror in my book. Anything where the characters are surrounded by potential horror but they don’t know for sure. The movie Pitch Black is a good example of this. The characters find themselves on a planet covered in darkness and they can’t see or know what lies within it. Jump scares are common in this kind of writing/viewing and are usually super effective on me.
This could also apply to horrors that aren’t supernatural at all – being stranded in the ocean for example or lost in space. The movie Gravity terrified me even though it wasn’t technically a ‘horror’. The fear of getting lost or abandoned kept crawling up my skin while watching it and I couldn’t shake it for a while afterwards. Yuck, I love it.
Monsters. I know that’s a cop-out in general to say ‘Monsters’ but I mean it. Monsters! Big ones, vicious ones, ruthless ones. Ones that don’t see humans as anything but prey. That’s what scares me. The thought of being devolved into nothing but meat. Three good examples of this are Attack on Titan, both the manga and the anime (watch it, oh my gosh – it’s available on Netflix), Troll Hunter (also on Netflix) and The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey. All three call into question my humanity in the sense that… I may be a person, have my own thoughts, feelings and ideas, but there will always be something that doesn’t see that, that only sees the flesh on my bones. It’s creepy, I don’t like it, but I can’t get enough.
One of my favorite horror elements is something that Paranormal Activity captures pretty well. Camera feeds. It’s always so nerve-wracking for me to watch a still feed and just have to wait for something to happen. I know it’s going to happen, but it still scares the doody out of me.
Another thing the camera incorporates is the low-pitched sound when something is approaching. A lot of testimony of people who claim to have seen ghosts or demons or whatever often mention hearing that sound and I think it’s great when it’s incorporated.
My absolute very creepy setting is when the audience is involved in the horror. You the reader are involved. The best example I have of this is actually from an ongoing series written on the /r/nosleep subreddit on reddit (btw, /r/nosleep has a lot of spooky stuff on there if you want scary things to read). This series I’m talking about in particular is simply called ‘Correspondance‘ and was written by a user named ‘bloodstains’. It starts as a simple email correspondance and slowly devolves into horror. The writer involves the reader through technology. Pictures mentioned that have been ‘attached’ to the emails are linked in the posts, videos are linked. It allows the reader to see what the characters are seeing, hear what they’re hearing. It’s really unsettling, especially if you’re reading it in the dark by yourself. It’s like… do I really want to click on this link? Do I really want to see what’s being talked about? It’s creepy, it’s unnerving and it’s wonderful.
If you decide to read this one and are unfamiliar with reddit, know that after you finish the first bit of the series, you can click on the username that wrote it to access the next bits.
This is my favorite method of horror. It allows me to be in it but still at a safe distance.