Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Published by Faber & Faber, 2014
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
I’m not generally a re-reader, but something seems to compel me to keep returning to this collection of graphic short stories at this time of year. This is the third or fourth time I’ve picked it up now, and my appreciation for it has grown each time. I always explain that as individual pieces, the majority of the stories fizzle out somewhat from a narrative perspective, but the concepts and atmosphere are so consistently creepy that the collection as a whole leaves a very strong lasting impression. If I were to pick a standout piece, however, it would definitely be The Nesting Place.
Carroll’s accompanying art is the real highlight. The vivid, bold use of colour, the striking, disturbing imagery, and the forgoing of traditional panels in favour of a playful, lively layout give the stories such a distinct energy that works so well. Opting for shivers up the spine more than outright scares, this is great for those who want some short, punchy tales of the uncanny.
The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun, translated from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell
Published by Arcade, 2017
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
When he is badly injured in a car crash that kills his wife, Oghi is taken into the care of his mother-in-law. What follows in an understated though unnerving look at grief, isolation, painful truths, and bitter revenge. It does a great job of capturing an atmosphere of claustrophobia and mounting unease, and it certainly taps into our fear of losing autonomy and feeling like a prisoner within our own bodies (Oghi is left paralyzed and largely unable to communicate). I don’t want to say much else, as the core plot follows a very predictable trajectory, but there is more going on beneath the surface than first meets the eye.
I kept waiting for things to be pushed that little bit further, but for those who like their horror on the subtle, psychological side, this is worth having on your radar.