I have this really awful habit. I really love horror despite that I get just a little too scared for my own good. Whether it’s perusing one of the most talked about tumblr horror blogs, watching horror movies alone at night in my cemetary-facing apartment, or my absolute love for spooky urban legends, if it’s scary and not over the top gory, I’m probably there no matter how many times I sleep with my desk lamp on.
My latest horror geek interest is Emily Carroll’s comics. If you haven’t read her most popular comic, His Face All Read,you’re missing out. Her work blends the perfect amount of mystery, tension and terror into short comics that leave the reader deciding what, or who, the monsters are. Her first book, Through the Woods, tells five short stories accompanied by her incredible illustrations and use of color centered around people who live in the shadows of forests and the things they have to face.
I couldn’t put this book down. The stories lend themselves to reader interpretation on the strange things that come from the woods and therein lies her true grasp of horror. Over the years, I’ve found that the obvious monsters, like Jason in the Friday the 13th series, are just not the kind of horror that stays with me. He’s big and he has a machete, but you know he’s a monster before you even watch the movie. Sure he’s scary in the always coming after you sense, but if you’re not a camp counselor at Camp Crystal Lake you’re probably safe. The thing that sticks with me about Carroll’s work is that she doesn’t make it clear from the beginning who or what the monster might be and sometimes at the end, you have only caught a glimpse of it.
For me, horror is in the moment where the music goes quiet and you know the jump scare is coming, but it hasn’t yet and you don’t know which direction to run from or to. The jump scare itself is scary, sure, but it’s that split second of knowing the protagonist is about to have another encounter with their foe, but having to wait for it to happen. And in these comics, I quickly got pulled into a world where suspense is built slowly and carefully without always giving you the relief in actually witnessing the jump scare.
Carroll takes folklore tropes like monsters in the woods, and ghostly revenge and twists them into a larger look at not just the monstrous things that scare us, but the things that scare us about the people we know. So this Halloween Week, pick up a copy of Through the Woods, or read her web comics and let me know what you think about some of them questions she leaves you with, or tell me what kind of spooky stuff you love the most in the comments!