Newsletter #33: A Horror Post-Mortem

Some housekeeping and a post-Halloween analysis of the state of modern horror films and their relation to the cycles of the past


Hey guys, it's Scott.

I just wanted to say thank you so much for making the mini-class we did Tuesday night so much fun and a big hit. I want to do more of those now, actually. Just sort of loose and a little bit more freeform, a little bit more intimate extensions of the subjects that we talk about in Comic Writing 101. If you liked it, or you you like watching it in the archive, and you want me to do more like that, just let me know and I'll do my best. Also, the mini-class is archived now. So if you missed it, and you want to catch it, if you're a paid subscriber, it's there. And if you're a free subscriber and you want to see what we're up to, you can join for just $7 a month and you get access to all the classes we've done in our archive, all the ones we will do, and all kinds of other cool stuff. So, sign up now!

Our Best Jackett
10/27/21 Class #3 (Characterization) Audio & Video
Listen now (116 min) | Update: Because we ended up having to skip over some of the planned material in yesterday's class, I’ve decided to post a ~30-minute mini-class on Tuesday where I’ll be going over the opening of Cool Hand Luke along with some characterization examples from my own work. Hope you all enjoy…
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So, a couple quick housekeeping things. Next Tuesday on 11/9, We Have Demons #2, my book with brother Greg Capullo comes out. Really excited about it. Again, it’s an oversized issue, 34 to 36 pages long, ramps everything up. And then the following week, Tuesday on 11/16 , Clear #2 comes out from me and Francis Manapul. And then the following week, Tuesday on 11/23, Night of the Ghoul #2 from me and Francesco Francavilla comes out. So, I really want to drive home this point—if you subscribe to comiXology Unlimited, you can get all of our work for the price of one comic book a month. And this is going to keep going for months, We Have Demons is three oversized issues, but Clear and Night of the Ghoul are six to seven, and then we start our next wave soon after that, which will again be a book a week, continuing on, like three series in a row. So, you'll always be able to get a lot more than your money's worth per month by getting a subscription. And it'll give you access to tens of thousands of amazing classic comic books and emergent creators. And that's why we're so excited about this, we want you to fall in love with comics all over again and to present our own comics in a way that's affordable and immersive and fun in a way that we hope makes the industry stronger on the other side of this crazy period.

Subscribe to comiXology Unlimited!

Also, I'm also doing a big CGC signing in early December with Tony Daniel, brother Greg, and Charles Soule down in Florida. I'm not doing a lot of cons, I don't have plans to do any cons really right now. I couldn't go to Thought Bubble for family reasons. I'm really disappointed. I love that con, it's easily one of my favorites in the world, and I will definitely go next year when Tula and I have Barnstormers: A Ballad of Love and Murder up and running. But this year, it's just too much with the kids and everything. So, I'm not going to any conventions. I don't have any plans to do any signings, really, except maybe one at Midtown Comics in New York in January for Nocterra. So, please, if you want anything signed or graded or anything, please please please send them now. They're only going to accept books for another week or so for this mid-December signing. So, all you have to do is send your books in, pay whatever fee and we’ll sign them and ship them back to you safely and you never have to leave your house. So, Tyler, if you don't mind putting the link here for that, that would be great.

More info on the CGC signing event HERE!

So, other things, Chip Zdarsky is gonna come talk to us about character arcs. I'll do a lesson and I'll make sure I do at least an hour or so. And then he'll come on and talk about Wilson Fisk and how he designs a character arc in general. So, I think it's going to be huge fun later this month. And then, I wanted to know, as we move away from the heavy promotional stuff of Scottober, if you'd like me to make this a place where I also can kind of share thoughts with you and start a conversation about things that are on my mind when it comes to writing and craft and the industry and just cultural trends when it comes to storytelling.

Chip brimps his way into Comic Writing 101 this November!

Right now, one of the things that's been on my mind, for example, is horror. And I mentioned this to you, I think, in one of my former posts, but I'm really fascinated by how horror reflects the zeitgeist—not always and not every movie, I mean, obviously, they're always outliers. But horror is such a direct current, it's such a third rail, energized genre, because it's about presenting these things that are supposed to be terrifying to us. So, good horror is always trying to mine, in one way or another, the cultural fears and the psychology of the moment. And I feel like right now we're in this era that has a lot more in common with the 70s than with the 80s or 90s or even early 00s. I love 70s horror—I grew up in the 80s you know, slasher films and all of this, but there was something hypnotic about Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, The Exorcist, The Hills Have Eyes, and The Last House on the Left—these very unsettling horror films. And I tried to think about them a lot over the last month during Halloween, like why do we see this kind of echo of that now in a lot of the A24 films and things that are popular now like The Babadook, and Midsommar, and Hereditary, and new films coming all the time like Night House, and Lamb, and The Invitation, and Get Out?

And I feel like it's almost this approach to horror that is looking to explore the dread we feel about things falling apart. It's almost an entropic feeling where, in the 70s, you look at those movies and the monster always represents or touches on something falling apart—the idea of religious beliefs being upended in The Exorcist, or the presidency and the political system in The Omen, or in Texas Chainsaw Massacre where it's a bunch of young people being attacked by this Southern family that's been forgotten about, it's almost like this rotting sort of industry in this whole bizarre patriarchy attacking these young kids that are hippies and coming through.

And there's a sense even in the kind of films that I'm not a fan of, like The Last House on the Left or that stuff. I mean, it's fine. It didn't do it for me, really, but that idea of everything having soured—the hippie dream and the dreams of progress, these kinds of legitimate hopes about society becoming something with a different contract between government and the population and a different sort of ethos that was born in the 60s souring and turning rotten and commercial and corrupt. And there's that feeling there of disappointment and anger. And I think you see that in this pervasive way in all those movies.

And then in the 80s, there are some amazing films that don't adhere to this, obviously, some of my favorites, like The Thing and The Fly and a bunch, but when I think of 80s horror, I think of slashers, you know what I mean? I think of Freddy and Michael and Jason. And there's obviously the franchise commercialization of it that comes with the 80s, because the 80s was about commercializing everything. But there's also a weird return of conservative values after two decades. It feels like norms were being upended in the 60s and 70s, and it's almost like the kids breaking the rules, having sex or doing drugs or this kind of stuff, are punished. And these id figures, these strange, almost supernatural, demon-like figures come after them and kill them in all kinds of creative ways. And part of the fun was watching it and seeing how many gruesome things could be done to these people. And as a kid, you love seeing yourself on screen and you love seeing things marketed to you as a teen. And all of it was fun and there was a tongue-in-cheek element to it as well. But beneath it, there is a kind of strange ‘back to normal’ feeling of the girl that survives at the end, the final girl, who’s usually the innocent, sweet one, as opposed to people that were trying anything left of center.

And now I feel like we're back, after the 90s and early 00s did this whole meta thing, which was this odd postmodern dissection of horror with Scream and all those kind of remakes that were more tongue-in-cheek and whatever. There was I Know What You Did Last Summer and that whole wave of stuff. It feels like we're back to this kind of feeling of dread, that horror is not fun (aside from a movie like Get Out, which has a whole kind of humor to it). These other moves are not designed to be a fun or funny experience in any way, they're designed to be unsettling and really disturbing. A lot of the most popular ones, anyway. And in that way, I feel like we're at a really interesting moment, because this thing shift either more conservative or not, I think you're gonna see horror shift, too. I think the dominant, critical form of horror right now is still this kind of echo of the 70s. And I think I can imagine it going back to something that's more like 80s franchises in a way that I don’t know if I’d love or welcome.

But I'm just curious. I think I'm curious what you think, if it's a moment to you that feels vibrant and exciting, or you feel like you miss something else in horror that used to be there, or if there's a kind of horror you haven't seen yet that you just want to see that you think represents the things you're scared about more than the things that are coming out. I'd love to see more. But things resonating like Squid Game that are dark and critical, it feels like the moment. I'm just curious if it's gonna swing back the other way or not, and as a fan of horror, it's always interesting to see how it presents a kind of funhouse mirror to the times.

Anyway, that's just thoughts. I'm interested to see if these are things that you want more of from me, or to discuss, or go back and forth. even do a livestream where we just talk on a subject, or you just want kind of straight up here's when my stuff's coming out! Whatever, let me know. I want this to be a great place for you to come and relax and enjoy. And thanks again!