Tag Archives: horror

Adventures in the Uncanny with Otherside Picnic

Otherside Picnic is a portal fantasy… in a sense. Though you might be able to call it an isekai by a technicality, it certainly doesn’t have much in common with other “transported to a virtual world” anime among its contemporaries. It might be more accurate to call it a portal horror, because the titular Otherside is so delightfully eerie; constructed entirely of sweeping plains, ruined buildings, and strange inexplicable shapes and “glitches” in the landscape.

It’s scary because of the cryptids and folkloric monsters who roam the grasslands, but the horror is present even before they take centre stage. A sense of bizarre dread is baked into the setting itself. The Otherside is a monster in its own right, and the aesthetic of the world masterfully sets the stage for the psychological horror that is to come.

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A Comedy of Horrors

All logic tells us that horror and comedy are two genres that should be worlds apart. But, finally getting to hang out at the big genre dinner party, while Fantasy and Sci-Fi are chatting happily, Romance and Drama have retreated to the kitchen with the champagne bottle and Arthouse is smoking in the bathroom, Horror and Comedy find they have more common than one might initially think.

The conventions that make us laugh are, strangely enough, the same sort of things that make us scared. Juxtapositions, for example. Things doing what they should not normally do are funny; for instance, elderly women forming gangs and beating people up a la Monty Python, or children’s stuffed toys being foul-mouthed drug users, a la Ted. Things being the wrong size, like a giant sandwich falling from the sky, or being where they shouldn’t, like finding Rowan Atkinson in the cabinet under your kitchen sink.

These tweaks of the ordinary make for humour, but the same idea is also a fundamental ingredient in scaring the bejeezus out of people. The dead, for instance, should stay dead. It is an accepted piece of logic in most cultures, despite whatever succinct beliefs they hold about what happens to the soul afterwards. That is why zombies and ghosts are scary, because once somebody has died and been laid to rest, the general consensus in society is that they should stay there. It’s immediately eerie when the dead in question subverts that by dragging itself back into the picture.

Furniture should also not move of its own accord, which is what makes poltergeists and other demonic tomfoolery freaky. In fact, generally speaking, demons and company should stay in mythology where they came from, and black magic, unquiet spirits and bloodthirsty night-crawlers are immediately disconcerting to any viewer because they’re already defying the rules of the world.

The Empty Child, Doctor Who

No I am not your Mummy. Leave me alone

Just as the image of old ladies going savage amuses us, the image of children acting creepy terrifies us. Old ladies are, traditionally, quiet and refined and soft and lovely and not going to go out into the streets on motorbikes and start bashing up phone booths. And children are, traditionally, pictures of innocence and cuteness and need to be protected by adults. This is why it’s so effective when horror movies or books use the creepy child trope—it subverts every instinct we have about the nature of children, and it freaks us the hell out. Continue reading

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The Genre That Won’t Stay Dead

Zombies!

Oh, aren’t they wonderful? They’re flesh-hungry, bloodthirsty, shambling balls of apocalyptic fun that we can all enjoy. There’s a zombie film for everyone, from fans of gore and horror to those in want of a romantic comedy to an opportunity for a fun family outing to the cinema.

In less lyrical prose, zombies are freaking everywhere. They are in our video games and our comics and our movies and our TV shows and our children’s programming and our books. They are a staple of popular culture and everyone knows what they are. How exactly did this happen? And, my big question for this week, why are we so obsessed with dead people that walk around?

Zombies would have to be one of the most recognised fictional monsters out there, alongside Frankenstein’s monster and all that seek to reanimate it (no pun intended… actually that’s a blatant lie) and vampires, which funnily enough both have their roots in Gothic literature. Zombies didn’t shamble towards the Western media until the 1930s, and then they were a very different type of thing. The original zombies, of course, were not the reanimated dead but ordinary people put under a spell using voodoo, leaving their association much more with the horrors of exotic witchcraft than radioactivity-induced brain-eating. They were a favourite movie monster in the early days of cinema and were the star of many a moving picture such as White Zombie (1931), Revolt of the Zombies (1936) and I Walked with a Zombie (1943). As you can see, they marketed their niche very well.

I Walked with a Zombie poster

“Her radiant blonde loveliness ravaged through the curse of vengeful voodoo!”

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