What’s Horror?

I’ve been having this problem lately with the horror that I’m reading: I don’t feel like it’s horror.

Three of the last books I’ve read (Severance by Ling Ma, Bunny by Mona Awad, and The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson) are classified as horror. I discussed this a little bit in my review of Bunny, but when something is listed as horror, I want it to be horrifying. I want dread and high stakes and some kind of impending doom. In these last three books, I didn’t get that. Each of them had a slow feeling which was almost dream-like. In all three books I didn’t feel like there was enough happening to really make me feel like there was no way out, or that the main character was trapped in their circumstances and situation.

This led me to post on the horror lit subreddit, one of my new favorite places to go for horror recommendations, and to see what horror other people are reading. I mentioned the problem I was having, and asked if anyone had recommendations for what specific types of horror I should look for in order to avoid these sleepy stories.

The main recommendation was a book that I had been looking into reading for about a year now. Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix is a non-fiction book which covers the horror trends of the 70’s and 80’s. I’ll be diving more into my thoughts about the book in my review, but this definitely helped me look into new genres. Did I like animal or monster based horror? Creepy children, or dipping into the satanic panic which ravaged this time? A lot of these books, are cheesy and a bit over-the-top. Don’t get me wrong, I love that type of horror, but it doesn’t scare me as much as make me laugh.

I received other recommendations for horror too, some of which I’m really looking forward to checking out. These include:

The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp
Tales from the Gas Station by Jack Townsend
Haunted by Chuck Palanhiuk
Skullcrack City by Robert Johnson
Gil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez
Christine by Stephen King

All of these novels are said to combine horror with a bit of comedy, like most of my favorites (John Dies at the End, We Sold Our Souls, and My Best Friend’s Exorcism) do so well. I’m excited to dive into these quirky and horror-filled worlds, but I also want to know if this genre has a name, and what it would be.

I’m excited to keep looking for horror that I love, and to continue on defining my weird comedy/horror preferences.


1 thought on “What’s Horror?”

  1. I get this same problem with horror movies. Or with certain genres I read. There’s nothing worse than reading a novel and not getting what I expected in the end. It’s such a disappointment, and in most cases, it’s turns me off of the writer. But I agree with you 100%.


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