Showing the Symptoms

By: Gina Brandolino

We’re halfway through Charles Burns’ creepy, creepy graphic novel Black Hole, and my students drew portraits of themselves inspired by Burns’ in the back cover of the book.  Have a look!

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Getting Political

By Donte Neal

By Donte Neal

By: Gina Brandolino

I can’t help myself.

With Election Day right around the corner, I have to share these excellent posters created by Donte Neal.  My favorite is to the left here–not because Jason has my vote for favorite antagonist, but because, wow, can you beat that slogan?!

Let’s keep it light in the comments section, ok? Talk horror, not politics.  (I know, I know.)

The Horror of Crime Shows


By: Molly Liebeskind

Generally when we think of horror we think of the monsters being the devil, witches, and ghosts but we rarely consider the horror of daily crimes. I started watching Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit last year. At first I just found it to be interesting (which is a little twisted). But soon I realized I was not just become paranoid when I was alone at night, but also, that every person on the street who looked at me, I suddenly feared.

The horror of crime shows is that they are based on true stories. Although each individual episode is not necessarily based on a true story but the genre as a whole is based on real people and real crimes that have or could occur. Often when watching the horror films presented in this class I find myself anxious because I know a jumps-scare is coming. But when the movie or book ends its over and I don’t keep thinking about it. I am removed from the plot. I know that it won’t happen to me. However, when and episode of Law and Order ends I am always shaken, permanently. There are not generally jump scares so what makes these popular shows so scary?

Image of a group of victims from season 12 episode 7.

Image of a group of victims from season 12 episode 7.

The stories involve regular people, in a city I have lived in who aren’t seeking trouble or generally committing one of the seven deadly sins (which often provokes the devil in those stories). For no reason other than they are unlucky, these people become the targets of heinous crimes. They’re homes are broken into; they are kidnapped while sleeping, raped, beat, and sometimes killed. The normality of these targets is what makes these shows so scary.

Not only in these shows are the victims average New Yorkers, but most of the time the monster is also ordinary. The monster characters range from best friends, parents, and children to random strangers on the street or subway. This wide range means that everyone is a threat and every place is dangerous. When all the episodes are woven together there is no safe place left. Some episodes take place in the victims home, some at school, some in public. The ambiguity of who can be the predator increases the horror.

More than just the ambiguity, the horror of these monsters comes from the fact that often they are someone close to the victim. We are raised to trust our parents and friends and to use them as our safety net. Law and Order however, turns these people into the predators. A father or mother kills or abuses their kid. A schoolgirl kills her best friend. A sibling, we learn, is a psychopath. Loved ones, our protectors, become the people we fear. This is truly horrifying.

If you are interested in watching, many of these episodes can be found on Hulu or on USA network.  




The Nightmares of Other People

By: Gina Brandolino

photo by G Brandolino May 2014

I took the photo above while my partner Ellen and I were out on a hike in the north woods of Michigan a few days ago.  If you know who that is in the black suit off in the distance, I bet you have seen him yourself on occasion, or wondered if you have.  If not, read on at your own risk.

That man off in the woods is Slenderman. I first learned about him from my student Michael Mitchell (a.k.a. Mitch), who recommended him for the horror course. After spending a few afternoons watching Marble Hornets videos, I gave Slenderman a spot on the syllabus for Fall 2013. That class’s reaction to him was interesting. One thing I have learned teaching horror is that you will never find a story that scares everyone–and indeed, not everyone was scared of Slenderman.  But a great many students were, and that fear lingered.  Slenderman was a consistent recurring theme in class for the rest of the term. Students wrote blog posts about him. Months after the semester ended, I ran into a student on campus who said, “you know, I still get really freaked out that Slenderman is following me around when I walk back to my dorm alone at night.” (And this was the guy who sided with Damien in The Omen!)

This is one way horror works; someone tells us a scary story and, pretty often, it stays with us, and we pass it on. Fear is, in this way, sort of viral–this is an apt metaphor to apply to an internet-born and -bred monster like Slenderman, but it’s been explored in different contexts, too. (See, for example, the X-Files episode called “X-Cops.”) As the title of this post puts it, we inherit other people’s nightmares. It’s thanks to my student Mitch that I see Slenderman in the woods now; it’s on account of the horror class of Fall 2013 that some of my students look over their shoulders for him on their way back to their dorms late at night. And maybe because of this post, you’ll have something new that you peer into the dark or the distance hoping not to see.