Natural Horrors?

By: Gina Brandolino

This is one of the ideas I’ve been tossing around for a potential new unit in future versions of this course.  All the stories somehow implicate nature as a sinister force, be it in the form of animals or insects, or landscape itself. This unit would allow me to work in a lot of stories I have had a hard time finding a place for in the past, and it would also maybe help scratch the itch of students who have asked for more horror stories involving wilderness.

Below are my ideas so far for potential texts for this unit; I welcome more suggestions or ideas about how to refine the unit!

  • Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, about a town plagued by incredible numbers of viciously aggressive birds.
  • The short story “The Damned Thing” by Ambrose Bierce, recommended to me by Alex Tobar, who took this course in Winter 2013. This story involves an inquest into the death of a man who appears to have been killed by an invisible feral beast.
  • The short story “Death by Landscape” by Margaret Atwood (from Wilderness Tips), in which a young girl is apparently swallowed up by the wilderness at summer camp.
  • The short stories “The Snail Watcher” and “The Quest for Blank Claveringi” by Patricia Highsmith (from Eleven, recommended by my friend Troy Cummings), both of which, improbably, are horror stories about snails! Troy, by the way, has an excellent early reader series about monsters!
  • The classic film Jaws, which features a shark that terrorizes vacationers and then those who seek to destroy it.
  • The short story “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut” by Stephen King (from Skeleton Crew),
  • The blog Ted’s Caving Page (recommended by my former student Josh Kim), in which spelunkers encounter something mysterious and horrifying in the bowels of a cave.

2 thoughts on “Natural Horrors?

  1. This unit sounds like a great idea, especially withe ecocriticism becoming an evermore expanding field in literary studies. One text in particular I might suggest at least reviewing for this list is Scott Smith’s incredibly haunting (and bleak) 2006 novel, The Ruins. It’s set in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and pits a group of young twenty-somethings against a sinister, long forgotten natural threat in the heart of the Yucatan wilderness, and borrows equally from The Lord of the Flies and Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. Smith’s writing is crisp and engaging, the characters are realistic and believable, and the novel as a whole is ripe for analysis and dissection. I think it’s about 400 pages or so, but it’s a very quick read. A film version was released in 2008, but it made significant changes to the plot which I’m not really too happy about.

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