I’m not doing my usual full blast of Halloween posts for the entirety of October, so it only seems fitting that I tackle this week’s That Artsy Reader Girl and scare the bajeezus out of myself in the process. I was recently talking with one of my rock gym friends about the type of horror movies that we like, and my favorite is always going to be a normal house where you feel safe because, inevitably, when it’s no longer safe, I end up high-tailing it through my house whenever I have to leave my bed for the next two days. It should mean that I stop watching these kind of horror films, and yet, they’re my favorite. Thus, here are some of my favorite horror settings!
There is a difference between a normal and a haunted house! You go into haunted houses knowing what to expect, and you’re ready to be scared, and yet they still get you. I love haunted houses for this reason because they need to up their scare factor even more than a regular house does. When you’re ready to be scared, you’re going to need a little extra oomph to actual get you. One of my favorite examples of this is House of Furies by Madeleine Roux. Though it’s originally pitched as a normal house, Louisa discovers before she’s even set foot inside the house that it’s probably going to eat her up and spit her back out, and yet? Still hated myself for reading it at night.
Again, there’s a difference between a normal forest and a spooky one. The most recent example I have of this is when I was up at my friend’s house in Maine for Pride this year, and one of the mornings, we went walking in the forest that surrounds her house. It felt like a magical morning–it was a little rainy, we were wearing layers, and everything was quiet and still. That afternoon, we watched The Ritual, which is set in the Icelandic woods, and, by nightfall, when we were having other friends over to celebrate the summer solstice, I could not stop looking over my shoulder. It was absolutely terrifying to have the forest at my back, and what was once normal had become something spooky and uncertain. We definitely did not walk through the woods for the rest of the trip.
a city shrouded in mist
I can’t actually think of a city shrouded in mist that’s scared me before. I’ve never read the Stephen King novel that’s got creatures in the mist, and most of the horror books I read take place in houses. However, the idea of this does sound downright awful. Anytime there’s fog when I’m driving, I call it zombie weather, and maybe that’s more what I’m thinking. You know something bad is about to go down when the world settles into that silent fog where it’s hard to see too far in front of you, and anything might creep out of it. Though I haven’t watched it in years, The Walking Dead is definitely one of my favorite examples of this, particularly in those scenes shot with a wide lens where you can see the world unfolding all around, but you can’t quite see what’s approaching out of the mist.
I love the Paranormal Activity franchise. I haven’t watched the last one, and I can’t really remember the third, but I am all in on these movies. The first one absolutely scared me bonkers, and it still does to this day. Found footage films are always going to do that to me, though, so that’s definitely a point in its favor, so I’m going to turn my attention more toward The Haunting of Hill House. Unlike in Roux’s series, you don’t know right away that there’s something wrong with Hill House, and so, you have time to trust your surroundings and believe that everything is going to be okay. And when the house does start to turn on you, it feels even more awful because of that. Normal houses are easily my favorite horror setting because you get to settle in that false sense of security that you believe is legit right up until it’s definitely not.
cult living in the woods
Admittedly, I don’t love this one on the list, but I had to come up with ten, so here we are. Most recently, this showed up in The Ritual in ways I was totally not expecting, and though it took the scare factor out of the movie, it definitely made it a hell of a lot more interesting, too. Whenever there’s a cult, or even cult-adjacent, living in the woods, or somewhere remote, you know they’re up to no good. Something terrible is bound to happen. And since I don’t want to talk about The Ritual twice, Apostle was truly fantastic, and I loved the slow reveal of ritual blood sacrifice to a goddess that controls the whole island.
Not me forgetting I had zombie city on this list and then talking about TWD above, nahhhh. Either way, I’m thinking World War Z when it comes to a zombie city because I will never forget the scene when they’re moving through the lab trying to avoid the zombies because truly what is scarier than letting a monstrous, rabid creature sniff around you in the hopes that the incredibly infectious disease you just injected into your body is going to save you from certain death? Exactly.
This is the most obvious one, I know, but is there truly anything creepier than a hospital setting during a horror story? Whether it’s because you’ve got patients turning into zombies or an outbreak of an infectious disease, or just because hospitals are spooky in general, but it’s always going to be a setting that gets me. One of my favorites is definitely The Possession because while it only partially takes place in a hospital, the scariest bits of the movie are in the hospital. Well, arguably, the scariest scene in the entire film is in a bathroom, but I digress.
Asylums have a lot of the same properties as hospitals for why they’re scary, except you always know it’s going to be scary when it’s set in an asylum. I’ll never forget how disappointed I was when I read Madeleine Roux’s Asylum series, and not only did most of it take place on a school campus, but none of it took place during the actual time period that was featured in all the artwork and journal entries. The cover is very deceiving on this one, and it looks like you’re about to enter something nearly as scary as House of Furies, but it just falls flat instead. However, I always love when Supernatural has asylum episodes because those always tend to be a little worse than normal.
A recent favorite of the cemetery location was definitely Victoria Schwab’s City of Ghosts trilogy. None of them take place directly in a cemetery, but given the nature of the story, there’s always a cemetery involved in big ways. The first one was definitely one of my favorites since there’s so much that Cassidy is still learning, and she does a lot of that learning in the cemetery, but I loved how Schwab showcased different types of cemeteries based on the cities that they were located in and how those cemeteries meant different things to the cities.
Look, I’m not actually afraid of The Shining, but it’s 100% something I think about often when I’m in a hotel. Granted, I think there’s been a lot of scary happenings at hotels, and they’re always featured on shows like Supernatural or even, heck, just Criminal Minds, which starts to take into account things like the Bates Motel. Sometimes, they’ve just got that super creepy vibe, too, with the flickering lights and hallways that feel endless. They’re always just a bit too quiet, but not in a way that libraries are, where you want to stay quiet, but in a way that makes you feel like you have to be quiet, or else.