Starting a month of malevolent frights

Let me take a break, just for this post, from my usual focus on education and technology.  Today is the first of October, and I’d like to do something different in honor of this Halloween-tailed month.

So here’s my plan for the rest of October:

  • to read no fiction but scary stories
  • to see as many unseen-by-me horror movies as possible
  • to play scary computer games

So, dear readers, what scary fictions would you recommend to me?
misty woods

I should have good access to most materials, even from my remote home in Vermont, thanks to Netflix (DVD and streaming), Amazon (streaming video, Kindle books), a friendly public library, friends, RSS (for podcasts), and the internet in general.  Gaming platforms include PC, Android, and Xbox.

Are there horror novels from the past 15 or so years that stood out for you?  Have you found fine creepiness on Netflix, or even in the theater?  Gamers, anything made you turn on all the lights?  I’ll be traveling to Indianapolis and upstate New York; any recommendations for horror from those locales?
Pacman pumpkins, Quinn Norton

I don’t know if I’ll follow up on this blog with more horrific posts.  Perhaps that’s better suited for my long-running Gothic site Infocult.  Book reviews should end up on my Goodreads, at least.

(PacMan photo by Quinn Dombrowski; misty woods is by me)

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15 Responses to Starting a month of malevolent frights

  1. Joy Pixley says:

    I’m assuming you’ve already seen Dagon (2001) but what about Ink (2009)? More scary sci-fi/fantasy than traditional horror, but it’s really good, especially for being filmed on a shoestring.

    • Two excellent recommendations, Joy. Dagon, yup.
      I saw Ink late one night, and dug it, but don’t remember it well, so I should see it again. It does seem to be a very Joy-like movie.

  2. Gretchen says:

    I am still freaked out by Stephen King’s _Revival_ and I read it several months ago. But still FREAKED OUT.

  3. splatt2012 says:

    Hi Bryan,

    You may get a chuckle out of this…


    Shawn Platt ‘86
    Academic Technology Coordinator | Instructional Design & Technologies | Roger Williams University
    • 401 254.3001 | • | • One Old Ferry Road | Bristol, RI | 02809

  4. Eric LePage says:

    It’s a bit old-school, but HP Lovecraft’s stories still stand the test of time. The one that still sticks out in my mind is “The Shadow over Innsmouth”. CREEPY. Also, Clive Barker’s “Books of Blood” volumes are just terrific Halloween-season short story (and low commitment) stuff.

  5. Eric LePage says:

    In regards to very recent movies, I’ve heard great things about “The Babadook” (Netflix stream) and “It Follows”, so I’ll be checking those out this month. Wish I had more to offer on those. If you want to go old school (because 70s horror movies still rule), check out the fairly under-the-radar “Phantasm” if you haven’t seen it before.

  6. I think the current news cycle about the school shooter in our sister community college in Roseburg qualifies as horrific if not fictive. A part-time WR 121 teacher just like me got shot in the head–no more questions why a “talented” classroom teacher like me chooses to teach fully online.

    So, I don’t enjoy the genuine feelings of horror generated by this event, and I can only imagine those involved will have permanent PTSD. Blood and brains on the classroom floor, violent images of body parts…Yet you seem to posit the feelings of horror as a positive emotional charge you get from reading horror. I certainly want to assume you experience them as two different kinds of emotions and if not, that’s scary. Or is it?

    I’d like to see you parse the difference, tease the various meanings and experiences of the word “horror” apart. What in your life attracts you to the genre? Is it therapeutic reading? And if so to relieve what stresses? What stressors lead to the kinds of hormone release generated by horror because as we know, immersive reading is biological.

    This is Philip Lopate territory, so I offer him up as a mentor on such a journey, should you decide to venture forth into these dark woods.

    • It’s a good question, Sandy. A classic one for horror, often discussed in that genre’s history.

      Some describe the pleasures of horror as being akin to those of roller coasters. The readers/viewer/visitor/player gets to experience threats, without a chance of actually being injured. This lets us explore situations and feelings we normally don’t take in, and in some measure of comfort.

      Others see horror as the realm of metaphors, getting as psychological or social truths through imagination. Joanna Russ, for example, argues that the “female Gothic”‘s emphasis on women being threatened by husbands and families actually offers a useful way into understanding patriarchal systems. Freudians, on the other hand, readily analyze monsters as forms of the id, sexual repression, etc.

      Still others view horror as a particular aesthetic, a style which they enjoy on its own terms. There’s a beauty to darkness, a well-established pleasure in witnessing decade (cf popular tourism of ruins). Check out Shawn’s cute animation (a few comments above these); some people relish those landscapes and sounds. Think of black metal enthusiasts, for example, or the sad beauties of autumn. You may count me in with this crowd

      A more recent development is a kind of punk or counter-cultural sensibility. Call it the Goth subculture view. This enjoys horror as it opposes mainstream culture. Horror picks darkness instead of cheer, shadows instead of the light we’re expected to enjoy, decay instead of progress, etc. This approach satisfies different people at different stages of their lives. It worked for me as a bitter teenager, for example, and still makes me happy.

      I don’t know Lopate. Where should I start with this fellow?

  7. Steven Kaye says:

    Noel Carroll in his The Philosophy of Horror: Or, Paradoxes of the Heart posits a separate kind of reaction for horror movies than how we’d feel about those situations in real life. At the time it impressed me as a jury-rigged (jerry-rigged?) framework, but maybe I should re-read it.

  8. There are a few good recommendations on the latest RE podcast – Adam Nevill (No One Gets Out Alive) and John Langan are mentioned. I have not personally read either but I don’t read a lot of this genre! Looking forward to your reviews.

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