Halloween Horror: Through The Woods by Emily Carroll

If you love horror,you've come to the right place! It's another entry in Panel Patter's Halloween Horror 2013! You can find all our eerie entries by following this Halloween Horror tag.

If the soul of wit is brevity, the heart of horror is simplicity. H. P. Lovecraft said “the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” – which seems so obvious that it’s not something that we really think about. But really, what do we fear more than what we don’t know? That’s why we’re afraid of the dark, why we’re afraid of change, why there is racism, and really, why we’re afraid of most things.

A lot of horror stories today forget that fact - and horror is an easy thing to mess up. Just a little too much focus on the big monster reveal, gore, too complicated of a concept or a million other problems and it quickly devolves from terrifying to campy. With Through the Woods, Emily Carroll has proven not only that to be an excellent comics creator, but a true master of horror, a world apart from the subpar works the genre is known for.

The list of things I could praise about Through the Woods is seemingly endless. Carroll has a particular type of horror, relying on chilling imagery, twist endings in the vein of Lovecraft, and simplicity reminiscent of Poe, combining her influences to create something uniquely her own (and exactly what I want to be reading right now). It has been an extremely long time since I read a book that truly frightened me (so long that I cannot quickly name the last book that did so), but Through the Woods gave me a truly amazing chill with every story - a literal chill, with goose flesh and an audible “Ooo!” almost every time. Carroll’s has an excellent 1800’s-esque aesthetic, and an art style that fits her stories very well. Her colors are bold, which typically does not work very well for horror, but Carroll rocks it – using her colors for a look and atmosphere that is rarely achieved in horror nowadays.

What impressed me the most about her art, though, was how frightening she could make a monster (or person). Typically, when the monster is revealed the story stops being scary – because it stops being unknown, it becomes a tangible thing that is not nearly as frightening as we imagine it. But Carroll’s monsters are gross inversions of human form, something very familiar yet disgustingly different, things that are really and truly frightening. When she reveals her monsters the story gets scarier. Carroll is able to draw terrifying, subtle, horrific things from the mundane, playing with something seemingly normal until it becomes twisted and frightening. She realized that messing with average things, people that are close to you and things that you see every day, is far scarier than any sort of Elder God or undead slasher.

Horror is a tricky genre. It’s easy to spook people, to unnerve them or make them jump. It’s harder to create atmosphere, to invent a world that you know cannot hurt you, that isn’t even real, and transport your audience to it so well that they are frightened anyway. Emily Carroll is going to be compared to Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King a lot in the near future (and has already), but I’m going to say it anyway: Emily Carroll is an excellent combination of E. A. Poe, Stephen King, the better aspects of Lovecraft, and the most terrifying things hiding in the back of your mind. If you enjoy horror (and even if you don’t), you should definitely read this book.