By: Jeannie Sandefer
When I started reading “Dionaea House” this week, I didn’t know what to expect. Maybe a website that’s all black, with some flickering lights and an interactive house? I read the blog post by the student who recommended it, and then I got a different idea: some creative uses of transmedia all housed in this website to create a story. Sounds interesting enough. But then I read the word Houston and I froze.
I’m the only person from Houston in this class, and probably one of the very very few who have taken this class in semesters past. At first I thought No big deal, it’s just a setting. Houston is just a city, this is just a story. But I got only a couple of emails into the story when I realized I was horribly, horribly wrong.
From the names of the highways and streets I’ve driven on millions of times, to the references of neighborhoods I know and places where my friends live, this story feels like my story, and in turn, feels real. Each time I recognize something, and I think back to what that area was probably like in 1999, I feel a small chill go down my spine.
Houston, as many people know, is a huge city, but it’s always changing, always morphing into something different than it used to be. It is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, and I’ve watched it grow, from my place in the suburbs. Shopping strips and grocery stores will be erected within months, and it’s hard to remember what the landscape looked like before then. I’m privileged to be able to use the stores in these ever-expanding suburbs, but there are still areas of town where the landscape is wild and untamed. A family friend of mine now lives in a neighborhood where she’s backed up to the Brazos River, and frequently gets alligators on her back lawn. I’ve seen woods, thick groves of trees that conceal whatever lays inside. These things are still common on the outskirts of Southwest Houston, where I live and where this story is set.
And that is why I can only imagine what it was like in 1999. Out off of Highway 6, with barely any streetlamps, just a collection of houses that make up Pecan Grove, I can picture a house, a withering, solitary house, waiting for a teen boy, possibly a friend of mine from high school. I can see Mark, walking up to the house, trying to figure out what it was that made Drew go crazy. I can see this boy, walking up to the house, and getting spat back out.
I’ve never particularly thought that the setting for a horror story was all that important. Sure, the backwoods of Kentucky makes for great ambiance, but does it really matter if it’s set in a state I’ve never seen, or somewhere close by?
By the increase in my heartbeat, I can confirm that yes, yes it does.