So Ghostbusters is out and it is apparently not brilliant but better than the many angry trolls spamming the trailer’s dislike button on Youtube would have you believe. Also, we have the truly terrifying Lights Out coming out soon as well, on the 22nd. Then there’s The Shallows, which I suppose counts as a horror movie, although from the reports I’ve heard it’s more of a flimsy excuse for people to ogle Blake Lively in a swimsuit for an hour and a half. This just seems like a week for ghosts and horror in movies. You know who does horror even better, though? Books. Books always do it better, of course, but I suppose it bares repeating.
I always loved ghost stories, even when I was younger and absolutely convinced ghosts were real and terrifying. Because of this fixation, I’ve got loads of horror books I can recommend, but out of respect for movie buffs, I’m going to choose a nice chilling read that also has pictures in it, lots of pictures. I’m talking about a graphic novel, of course, and that graphic novel is Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. Technically, this graphic novel is a collection of short stories, a graphic anthology really. Whatever you call it though, the stories are all singularly terrifying.
Emily Carroll is a truly chilling, visionary illustrator, with beautiful work you can check out on her website. Her book,Through the Woods contains several original stories not available on her website, except for fan favorite “His Face All Red.” Looking at her work online is a good way to get a feel for what Carroll excels at. She makes beautiful illustrations and tells stories with ethereal, fairy tale-like elements, but I wouldn’t call this a picture book for the kiddies, unless you’re looking to mess up your children a bit. There’s monsters, mutilated corpses, and murder, the three m’s of “Okay honey let’s read something else before bed” every parent should know.
The whole book is a masterful exercise in pairing words and pictures on the page for the perfect effect. Depending on the point in the story, that can range from subtle eeriness to icy terror. She uses brilliant colors, flowing page layout, and even unique lettering to create a very powerful, cohesive atmosphere. I often find myself just going back and looking at the art, ignoring the story completely, and still getting the chills so fast. That’s not to say Carroll’s story telling skills aren’t brilliant, though.
The language and style of the stories are similar to the sort of folk and fairy tales I was told as a kid, which I felt added a sort of primal feeling to the anxiety and the fear, like it was something familiar from a time I almost couldn’t remember. That’s the power of horror told in a simple, folk tale-like manner. They remind you of a time when you were afraid of the dark, and the new horror whispers you were right all along.
That terrifying childhood connection is what reminds me of Ghostbusters when I read this book. Yeah, I know good old GB is supposed to be a comedy, but every single ghost in that movie terrified me when I was younger, with the possible exception of Slimer, the undead fat comic relief guy. Even then, that was one hungry ghost. He could’ve easily fit a child in his mouth. Can we verify he hasn’t eaten at least on kid? No. No we cannot. He’s just way too smiley. I’ve had a worse time watching movies my dad insisted were “just the coolest” and “totally appropriate for her age honey, I swear,” but there were still some scars from this one, no matter how funny Bill Murray was.
So, if this truly is just the week for horror like the theaters are saying it is, and you feel like checking out a book that’ll scare your pants off instead of a movie, I have to recommend Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods. You’ll be calling your parents to check under your bed after reading it for sure.