The Hills Are Alive With The Sound of Horror

Every ‘90s child remembers Ms. Frizzle as their favourite grade school teacher. True, she’s a cartoon character on the TV show Magic School Bus, but my original statement stands. Because of her, I know more about the human body, ecosystems, and outer space than I’d ever have thought possible. She even taught me all about music and sound in what is arguably the scariest episode of the series. Appropriately so. With the right combination of instruments, rhythm, and tempo, music can heighten horror beyond mere ghosts and goblins.  

But before we get into the meat and ectoplasm of the discussion, let’s try an experiment. You’ll need a Blu-ray player and a copy of Psycho. It’s available on Amazon Prime so you’ll save money on shipping. I’ll wait the two days…

Got it? Wonderful. Pop it into your Blu-ray player, put the TV on mute, and fast-forward to the infamous shower scene. Is that a yawn I see? I suppose you’ve noticed the lack of tension without the wree-wree-wree of out-of-tune strings. Now try the same experiment but with Jaws. Make sure the TV is still on mute. It’s like something out of a nature documentary, isn’t it?

Just as Carlos discovered the right sound to compliment Dorothy-Anne’s concerto in that haunted Magic School Bus episode, composers Bernard Herrmann and John Williams found the appropriate sounds to transform a shower stabbing and a shark attack into two of the most iconic horror film scores to date. Heck, I still get paranoid every time I take a shower!

And these are just two examples.

 Courtesy of Compass International Pictures

Courtesy of Compass International Pictures

My personal favourite is the chilling score from John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween. Early in his career as a director and composer, Carpenter sought inspiration from Herrmann, who was a master at creating unease through simple sounds. This influence makes up the backbone of the main theme from Halloween. The twinkling piano and booming organ gives life to an unsettling melody that itches the back of the brain long after the music has stopped.

With an incredibly low budget, Carpenter’s plan was to save the movie through his music. We could argue whether the film stands on other merits until Michael Myers comes home to slaughter us, but in the interest of saving lives, I think it’s safe to argue that Carpenter’s composition fosters a much more sinister tone.

Its main theme reminds audiences immediately of Michael Myers. I could be in Loblaws browsing the produce on a sunny day in the middle of July and I’d still burrow under a pile of grapefruit if it blasted over the loudspeakers. When done right, a movie’s score becomes synonymous with the evil prowling in the shadows.

If Halloween is the master, than Insidious is the apprentice—and, in my opinion, the best contemporary example. Its musical score is a journey of jarring notes, constantly building tension, all leading to a bombastic climax of harsh noise that, in any other context, would inspire many speaker-related destructive tantrums. But in a film designed to be uncomfortable for the viewer, incessant buzzing is the perfect sound to play throughout.

Music has the ability to enhance any movie sequence. Whether it’s a flutter of flutes in a romance or a trill of trumpets in a fantasy epic, it is a powerful tool used by many filmmakers. Horror is no exception. There’s a reason Ms. Frizzle took her students to a haunted house to learn about sound. But if I may contradict her just this once, it is best not to take chances. When it comes to horror, there are no mistakes. If you hear the menacing wree-wree-wree of a plunging knife… run!


Nathaniel Neil Whelan

Nathaniel has an M.A. from Carleton University and is currently enrolled in the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. An up-and-coming author, he lives in Ottawa with his partner and pet cat Susie-Bear.

Techniques to Terrify

The challenge of writing horror has always been scaring the reader without it being too obvious. Authors like Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft have a tougher job than movie directors since they can’t rely on cheap jump scares and music.

R.L. Stine has frightened thousands of children with his Goosebumps series and no matter how ridiculous the monsters may seem, he’s found a way to instill fear in our minds. Traditionally, Stine uses a first-person narrator to give readers the impression that they’re in the story and that it is them being attacked by a horde of evil garden gnomes.

A similar but different approach is what some call “the every man”. This technique is frequently used by Stephen King, the world-renowned king of horror. This approach doesn’t use a first-person narrator, but instead, frames the story around an average Joe. This technique reminds readers that if this horror could happen to a simple guy, then it could also happen to them

It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there...
— Stephen King

The best stories in the genre never include blood and gore because it’s difficult to visualize and therefore, hard to be unnerved by. Masterful storytellers know that the best way into a reader’s head is to let the scares quietly creep in. Horror will often start with a slow beginning that only hints at something eerie. This way, when spooky things finally start to happen, readers are already invested in the story and characters.

Perhaps the most common tool utilized by horror storytellers is to write as if it were happening today. Reading such a tale further increases our connection to the story. The goal for most horror writers is to fully immerse the reader in the action and experiences of their stories and this is definitely, in my opinion, one of the best ways to do it.


Nikki McKenzie is full of sarcasm and also positivity and the embodiment of when Jim from The Office looks into the camera.

Jordan Peele - From Comedy to Horror

Get Out.jpg

Before directing Get Out, Jordan Peele was known for his comedic chops, first appearing on Mad TV for five seasons, and then on Key & Peele. But in 2017, the first-time director released Get Out, the hit horror movie which received astounding acclaim, garnered $255.5 million (out of a $4.5 million budget) at the box office, and received four Academy Award nominations, winning one for Peele’s original screenplay.

So what’s the secret? How does an actor with a comedy background come to direct a horror movie that is already being viewed by many as a classic?

Although Peele had never directed a horror movie before, he had been a fan of the genre since childhood. As a kid, he watched and studied horror films, learning their inner workings and trying to figure out what made them scary. Once he got to his teens, he knew he wanted to be a horror film director. However, this dream went off track for a little while, and Peele was led to various ventures in comedy. But his time spent acting in Key & Peele showed him the striking similarities between horror and comedy and eventually, the opportunity to direct his own movie presented itself.

To Peele, comedy and horror are one in the same—conjoined twins, in his own words. Both mediums build toward the release of something, whether a laugh or a scare, to break the tension, and both attempt to get a visceral reaction out of the audience. For Peele, horror and comedy are the best ways for us to deal with our fears.

Having spent several years in the discipline of comedy, Peele was able to learn a lot about the interconnected relationship between both mediums, and in Get Out, he integrated comedy into the story in a seamless manner, most of it coming from Rod Williams, the comic relief.

In addition, the theme of racial identity and feeling like an outsider in the movie is something Peele himself dealt with in his youth. Peele’s mother is white, and his father, who passed away, was black. As a teen, Peele recalls that being biracial made him feel like he did not belong. He sometimes worried he sounded “too white” and when taking standardized tests, he was always confused at having to choose “other” for the racial category. Having such experiences, as well as others, Peele was able to approach Get Out from a deeply personal perspective. Being a fan of Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby, films that deal with submissiveness and the female gender, Peele wanted to recreate that same idea, but from the perspective of race.

And so, through personal experience, his career in comedy, and his love for horror, Get Out was conceived, taking the world by storm in 2017 and becoming a cultural phenomenon, as well as a hit for the horror genre.


Daniel Paternostre is a second-year Professional Writing student at Algonquin College. Above all, he enjoys reading and writing and hopes to someday become a published author.

Niche Horror Films: The Babadook

 Courtesy of Screen Australia and Causeway Films

Courtesy of Screen Australia and Causeway Films

We’ve all flinched—or in the case of the particularly squeamish—jumped out of our seats at a cruelly timed jump-scare, but rarely are we creeped out enough by a scene in a horror movie to think about it long after the film is over. Throwing occasional jump-scares our way is the easiest method for horror films to check that they’ve scared us off their checklist. Granted, the CGI in the jump-scare might be impressive, but it need not be. I guarantee if a horror movie threw anyone’s face in front of the camera and paired it with an obnoxiously loud noise, you’d leap behind the couch. I would. Of this crime, the Paranormal Activity franchise is among the guiltiest. Doors slam, vases smash, and disembodied voices scream, but when I go to bed at night, I’m sleeping like a baby. The only thing keeping me up is thinking about the two hours I wasted. On the other hand, after watching movies like The Babadook, I become a paranoid insomniac for the following 48 hours.

Instead of putting our nervous system through jump-scare after jump-scare, The Babadook makes us paranoid. Throughout the entire film, we’re waiting for that horrifying jump-scare in which the Babadook reveals itself, but the truth is, we hardly ever see him. Trust me, I remember my friends and I saying: “What, did they just not have the budget to make a CGI for this fraud?” But I assure you, this is deliberate. And quite smart.

We’re shown body parts, shadows, and even the face of the Babadook, but he’s overall ambiguous. This ambiguity keeps us in suspense throughout the film, wondering when we’ll finally find out what he looks like. If the film introduced you to the Babadook right away like you might introduce a friend to another friend, every subsequent encounter wouldn’t scare you. Instead, you would just think to yourself: “There’s good ol’ Babadook again”.

The Babadook does an excellent job at forcing its audience to sustain their suspense, and that alone could be enough to classify it as a successful horror film. But surprisingly, it’s not the primary reason The Babadook scares us, and that brings me to the meat and potatoes of what I’m talking about: niche horror tactics. Not only are we in the shoes of a vulnerable child throughout the film, we’re in the shoes of a vulnerable child whose single-mother has turned against him. Think back to a time in your childhood when you were alone with your mother. Now, imagine how terrifying it would be if suddenly, she began chasing you around the house while brandishing a knife and screaming death threats. Your mother took care of you, she cooked your meals, and she helped you with your homework. The shift between that and her trying to kill you is, needless to say, horrific. The Babadook just goes to show us that the only thing scarier than a bloodthirsty demon trying to kill us is our mothers trying to kill us.


Sam Gagnon

Sam's niche analytical style of writing spans across a plethora of passions. He's debunked high protein myths, offered us an objective deconstruction of the success of eSports, and has written several elegant reviews of best-selling movies. Sam now looks forward to offering his insights to the things that make us shiver.

Be Sure To Tip Your Ax Murderer

Do you ever stare deep into Hugh Grant’s eyes and feel weak at the knees? Or perhaps you live vicariously through Julia Roberts as she runs her fingers through Richard Gere’s lush salt-and-pepper hair? Of course, I’m talking about everyone’s favourite gag-fest: the rom-com. Don’t lie, you know what I’m talking about…


Boy meets girl.
Boy falls in love with girl.
Boy royally screws up.
Boy apologizes to girl via a mixed-tape featuring the Backstreet Boys.
Boy and girl live happily ever after, at least until the credits roll.

A blend of both genres, these stories harness the charm of romance and the humour of comedy to invest the audience in the characters. You’ll be sitting in the theater asking yourself: Do I laugh? Do I cry? And why is my heart growing three sizes bigger?

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Rom-coms? I came here for blood and guts!”

My apologies. I’m sorry to have let you down. Let me start over.

Do you ever shiver with delight as the maniacal spirit Beetlejuice is summoned with a flash of lightening? Or perhaps you watch with frightened fascination as water is spilled on Gizmo, spawning five more devilish gremlins? Of course, I’m talking about the frequently overlooked comedy-horror.

Sounds somewhat paradoxical, doesn’t it? You’d be forgiven in thinking so. Many people believe that comedy and horror are two radically different genres, that they’re somehow the antithesis of each other. How can a genre that makes you laugh be similar to one that raises the hair on the back of your neck?

You heard it here first folks: comedy and horror share more in common than you think.

Chills and chuckles may be opposing responses, but regardless, the aim of both genres is to spark a reaction from their respective audiences. Scary or funny, it doesn’t matter. Do they both not make you pee your pants? But please, don’t misunderstand. Dramas can certainly make you cry—Jack and Rose’s love was so pure!—but if you sit in your seat, hands folded neatly in your lap, you can still enjoy the journey. With comedy and horror, if you don’t laugh or squirm, the film has failed.

Comedians understand the importance of building anticipation, timing, and payoff. It takes the same ingredients to craft successful horror. You can’t simply throw a ghoul up on the screen and expect a scream. Because of this similarity, it’s no wonder why so many comedians are making the shift to horror: Jordan Peele with Get Out, John Krasinski with A Quiet Place, and Danny McBride with 2018’s Halloween. It’s a natural fit: comedy-horror isn’t paradoxical at all.  

 Courtesy of Mutant Enemy Productions

Courtesy of Mutant Enemy Productions

Now, let us switch gears and talk about Chris Hemsworth. Oh-ho! That got your attention. No, instead, let’s talk about The Cabin in the Woods, in which the God of Thunder plays a typical college jock. In many ways, this film is the perfect example of how to balance this seemingly contradictory line. A film about a ritual sacrifice to an ancient god, The Cabin in the Woods embraces a comedic self-referential tone in order to poke fun at horror and its deplorable tropes and clichés. And yet there is still something unnerving about the film, whether it’s the mist that creeps along the forest floor or the sense of isolation and impending doom. 

Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead are two other modern examples; however, comedy-horror goes back decades with 1974’s Young Frankenstein, or even 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, or better yet the original 1931 Frankenstein—although, that last one might be funny for unrelated reasons.

Nonetheless, just like rom-coms, comedy-horror utilizes the characteristics of both separate genres to create a completely unique moviegoing experience. Horror can be used to great effect with other types of films—science fiction and the Alien franchise for example—but comedy, above all else, compliments it best. It’s the chicken and waffles of the movie world: two things that seemingly do not go, and yet together make something incredibly satisfying.  


Nathaniel Neil Whelan

Nathaniel has an M.A. from Carleton University and is currently enrolled in the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. An up-and-coming author, he lives in Ottawa with his partner and pet cat Susie-Bear.

The Boo Tube 👻


Imagine watching Paranormal Activity or Psycho repeatedly; eventually it stops being scary. This is where horror television writers work to ensure that each storyline produces cinema-worthy scares without overusing the same tropes.

The horror film genre is lucky. Usually capping out at less than two hours, movies don’t need to keep anyone’s attention past the climax. But what about the newer trend of horror television? One of the most challenging aspects of writing any scary story is making the dreadful feelings persist throughout the narrative and leave an imprint in the mind that stays with the audience long after viewing. Screenwriters fight to keep viewers coming back episode after episode without becoming repetitive.

 Image courtesy of netflix

Image courtesy of netflix

We can look back at shows like Twin Peaks and see the very beginnings of what would become the TV horror genre, but the real breakout for fanatics was American Horror Story. Creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk created a new type of show that was both creepy and endearing. The first season had many horror fans hooked with its mysterious ghost house, and they kept that same audience coming back through six seasons. What American Horror Story did brilliantly was remove a lot of classic tropes typical of the genre and replace them with more complex characters. Prior to the show’s creation, not many films could say that the audience was truly invested in which people lived or died. American Horror Story relies on the audience getting invested in the characters by not simply reducing them to jock, brain, slut, and stoner stereotypes.

Another breakout TV show was brought to us by Ross and Matt Duffer. Stranger Things takes a similar approach to American Horror Story and really focuses on the development of its characters. It perfectly casts lovable misfits that you can’t help but root for… and then throws them into a terrifying science-fiction world. Unlike other shows of its kind, Stranger Things feels more familiar, which makes every event that takes place twice as scary as it feels like it could happen to you!

An amazing example of a new horror series done right comes to us through Mike Flanagan’s Haunting of Hill House. The interwoven timelines take us through an eerie chain of events that has viewers on the edge of their seats. The show doesn’t rely on jump scares typical of modern horror films, but instead creeps us out with what we don’t get to see. The true horror of Hill House Is waiting for the monster and not quite knowing what we’re scared of. Throughout the series, they reveal more and more but only just enough to keep watching. This technique, coupled with the brilliant score composed by the Newton Brothers, proves that a new wave of horror is just beginning.

 image courtesy of netflix

image courtesy of netflix


Nikki McKenzie is full of sarcasm and also positivity and the embodiment of when Jim from The Office looks into the camera.

Del Toro's Horror Elements

You might be familiar with Guillermo Del Toro, the director of the recent Oscar winning film The Shape of Water; at the 2018 Academy Awards, the film took home four Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director, and was nominated for a total of 13. Because of this mainstream success, the movie has enjoyed an exposure to a much broader audience than it would otherwise have received. (Before the nominations were announced, the film was playing sporadically in ONE Ottawa cinema. And that cinema was in Kanata. I had to go to Kanata…)



The Shape of Water is a lovely example of the ways in which Del Toro mixes genres to produce a unique final project: a heavy dose of fantasy, crime drama, and classic romance intersperse a piece of magical realism that is used to highlight and showcase the bright and exceptional qualities of the unseen and marginalized figures in everyday human drama.

Del Toro is well-known for the unusual and masterful ways in which he mixes genres, especially in the films he also writes, which tend to be more personal. A prime example is the 2006 Spanish-language film Pan’s Labyrinth, which is a beautiful and genuinely unsettling cauldron of historical tragedy, classic folklore and fairy stories, and horror (THE MAN WITH THE EYES ON HIS HANDS. Enough said). His Hellboy films also include an unusual mixture of comedy, science-fiction, and supernatural horror elements in an action/superhero film.

But I’d like to go back a bit further. Before Del Toro was an Oscar winner, before he was a director or producer of massive films such as Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak, and Mama, he was a Spanish-language horror director making independent gems with cult followings such as Cronos, Mimic, and one of my favourites, The Devil’s Backbone.

Made in 2001 before his first commercial successes, The Devil’s Backbone is a Spanish-language film that shares certain crucial similarities with Pan’s Labyrinth in terms of channeling the particular (and momentous) sorrows of the time period of Spanish history in which it is based, while remaining a solid and unflinching example of horror cinema—though perhaps not in the way you might expect.

Set at the end of the Spanish Civil War (Del Toro has called Pan’s Labyrinth, the events of which take place five years later in 1944 after the war has ended, its metaphorical successor), the films tells the bleak, uncompromising story of an orphanage run by a couple who are on “the wrong side”, as it were, loyal to the Republican cause that Franco’s Nationalist Movement is attempting to eradicate. Franco’s troops have already bombed the area, and the orphanage yard boasts a massive defused bomb which mysteriously never exploded when it fell (Important Symbol Number 1). While the war wages in the background of the film, seeming to creep ever closer to our central setting and to impose more and more immediate danger on the characters, another story is being told within the orphanage walls. It is a scary story, a story which the boys whisper to each other at night, a story to explain the inexplicable.

The figure at the heart of this film is a beautifully and intricately designed ghost-child who speaks very little but encapsulates the warped emotions caused by violent actions (Important Symbol Number 2). The film is a jarring harmony of the ghostly and the real, the horror elements only by-products of what man is capable of in the first place. The Big Bad isn’t the supernatural, just as it isn’t in Pan’s Labyrinth—that would be much too simple considering the context. The Big Bad is a story men tell themselves, of what it means to be “right” and what they feel they are entitled to do to others based on this belief.

Del Toro has found a remarkable way to communicate historical atrocity by using the horror genre. Historical fictions or dramas can’t convey the violent emotions and actions he is depicting; only horror, with its ability to evoke genuine fear, uneasiness, anxiety, and disturbed mindsets, can capture the truths of the story he is telling.

Meagan wants to eat your children. But she’s super fun.

Father and Son



In any situation where the son of a famous writer follows in his father’s footsteps, the question is raised as to their similarities: do they nurture a similar style? Do they share thematic interests? Is creativity genetic, and if so, how closely are the father’s genes mapped onto the son? In the case of Stephen King and Joe Hill, there are striking and uncanny similarities such as the contemporary concerns voiced in their works and their thematic interest in childhood and its dark side. However, I maintain that each has a different sense of aesthetics.

In one sense, King is more straightforward in his writing style, though both writers jump from genre to genre (sometimes within the course of the same work).

Hill’s latest publication, Strange Weather, seems to me quite a departure from his former style, but his previous works all share a sense of layered composition that in its nature is different from the tone of King’s writing. (It must be said at this point that I have not read King’s entire body of work, though I have read Hill’s).

In his novel Horns, for instance, Hill is meticulous about building and emphasizing the heavy historical and literary layers behind the concepts of good and evil, and Heaven and Hell. The imagery he uses shares much in common with Milton’s “Paradise Lost”—I believe it directly references it. Its obvious literary and historical predecessor is the Bible, but not in the sense that every horror film or novel about demons or the devil has the Bible as its predecessor. In a very deliberate and calculated way, Joe Hill takes the weight of biblical narrative and places it into the story he has created of a man, Ignatius Perrish, who suddenly gains powers that historically have been solely attributed to the side of evil, and as a result is forced to question his own nature and that of those around him. The characters in Horns, and in many of his other novels, embody and defy (often simultaneously) classic literary, mythological, and religious types and figures.   

King’s thoroughness, on the other hand, seems to reside in his seemingly tireless research into any object, place, time, scientific principle, etc. that he includes in his work. King’s people are his own; he has been writing so long that the type of characters that emerge from his work can be defined entirely in terms of himself. He can be cited as his own precedent. If you think about how immersive his creative worlds are and the ways in which his novels intersect with each other, King is creating his own literary history. Both approaches are incredibly compelling and I very much recommend the work of both writers. 


Meagan wants to eat your children. But she’s super fun.

How Horror Games Give Us the Creeps


Since Le Manoir du Diable (1896), horror movies have made us paranoid of what lurks behind the closet when we put ourselves to bed at night. In today’s age, such films may still shock us, but what you may find even more shocking is that video games are far more effective at scaring us than movies. If you’re a long-time horror fanatic but not a gamer, 2018 might be a good year for you to hop on the bandwagon.

The past decade saw the release of several triple A horror titles such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Outlast, The Evil Within, Soma, and the Five Nights at Freddy’s series, each of which have their own unique method of striking fear into us. However, while the scare tactics in horror games are endlessly diverse, almost all of them spin off a central element: immersion. Unlike its film counterpart, horror games refuse to let you be a spectator while someone else runs for their life; instead, you’re the one in danger. Most horror games have you control a character from the first-person view. This is no coincidence; by making you see what the character sees for long enough, your brain is tricked into thinking it is that character. As empathetic as we are, our hearts couldn’t be bothered to beat at light speed while watching a masked chainsaw-wielding freak chase down some teenager who probably deserved what they had coming to them. A masked chainsaw-wielding freak chasing you­… quite different.

Immersion is crucial. After all, how else would we care about what’s going on? Nonetheless, our nervous system eventually adapts to having jump scares thrown at it left, right, and center, even if we’re fully immersed. What horror games do, beyond simply scaring us, is creeping us out. This is accomplished by incorporating ambiguity. You’ve probably heard the adage: “Seeing nothing is scarier than seeing something.” This is exactly how horror games use your own imagination as the engine for fear. As soon as the game shows you something, whether it be a demon, a killer, or a zombie, they’ve revealed their hand. All the cards are on the table and they’re betting it will scare you. If they’ve bet wrong, it’s game over for them. Instead, they’ll throw some hulking footsteps, a tall shadow, or a loud bang your way. Ambiguous sights and sounds like these force your mind to materialize the most terrifying thing imaginable. No game knows your fears like you do, but fortunately for them, they don’t have to.


Sam Gagnon

Sam's niche analytical style of writing spans across a plethora of passions. He's debunked high protein myths, offered us an objective deconstruction of the success of eSports, and has written several elegant reviews of best-selling movies. Sam now looks forward to offering his insights to the things that make us shiver.

The Spooks Strike Back


Let’s talk cheap tricks.

No, not the band; the plague that has, until recently, infested the horror genre. Laughable jump scares, forced frights, and an overall disregard for the potential of the genre has resulted in decades of low-quality films. Before I continue, let me be absolutely clear: I’m not insinuating that there aren’t any masterful works of horror—nobody puts Clarice in the corner!—but for too long the chills and thrills of horror claimed fame as Hollywood’s biggest joke.

With an overabundance of unnecessary sequels and straight-to-DVD blunders, how could anyone expect the genre to be taken seriously? Who can tell me how many Paranormal Activity movies there are? Or recount the plot of Saw 7, otherwise known as Saw 3D, otherwise known as Saw: The Final Chapter? I bet even the Boogeyman couldn’t. After a while, you just have to hang up the machete and call it a day. 

Recently, however, there’s been a change in the wind, a rustling of leaves, giving way to what I lovingly call the renaissance of horror. Just as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo helped redefine the artistic landscape of the Middle Ages, ushering in a cultural movement still studied today, so too have the likes of James Wan and John Krasinski revolutionized horror, breathing new life into a genre that was deader than Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense.

 Courtesy of New Line Cinema

Courtesy of New Line Cinema

It’s no longer a mixed bag of cheap tricks. Rather, horror stands as a glowing example of competent filmmaking. Who knew that the resurrection of Pennywise in 2017’s It would have audiences falling in love with an unknown cast of kids? Director Andrés Muschietti did when he prioritized characterization over creeps. Or how about A Quiet Place which demonstrates Krasinski’s creative talents at world-building? Every aspect of life from communicating, to eating, to recreation cleverly revolves around one simple concept: staying silent. And of course, with Halloween set to release later in October, we’re witnessing a return to the classic slasher icons of drive-in theaters, back when horror was held in higher esteem.

From The Conjuring to this year’s Hereditary, horror isn’t so much becoming a part of our cinematic zeitgeist as it is shaping it. Filmmakers are approaching their craft with a deep appreciation for the genre and in turn, fans are digesting the fruits of their labour with a zealous appetite. All the broken box office records are not mere coincidence. Even the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science is slowly remembering that horror, when done right, can be worthy of recognition—ring Jordan Peele and ask for yourself.

Hell has returned to Hollywood, a rebirth of terror and trepidation. Such a shift has forged a newfound respect for horror, a reverence that’s been missing since the good old days when high school proms featured buckets of pigs’ blood and the heads of bedridden teenagers spun 360 degrees.

And when TVs crackled with static and little girls eerily proclaimed: “They’re heeeeeeere.”

Hopefully this time it’s to stay.


Nathaniel Neil Whelan

Nathaniel has an M.A. from Carleton University and is currently enrolled in the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. An up-and-coming author, he lives in Ottawa with his partner and pet cat Susie-Bear.

The Heavy Weight Champions of Horror

What defines a horror icon? For me they need to be timeless, unique, and ultimately still be able to bring a chill to my spine. Very few monsters and murderers meet these standards but I’m here to tell you why these following five classic horror villains have become icons of the genre.

The first movie I think of when autumn rolls around is Halloween. No film really sets the mood for scary as well this one. The infamous Michael Myers made viewers shriek in 1978 and has continued to do so for years. There’s something so absolutely unnerving about the expressionless mask with black holes for eyes that has had us squirming in movie theaters for years and is still regarded as one the creepiest villains of all time.

 image courtesy of warner brother entertainment

image courtesy of warner brother entertainment

It’s Halloween, everyone’s entitled to a good scare.
— Halloween (1978)

Now, if Michael Myers gives you nightmares you may want to skip this next guy. Freddy Kreuger has terrified us over the years with his disfigured face and sharp razor hands. He comes at your most vulnerable and infects your mind with fear. The star of Nightmare on Elm Street has been keeping kids awake since 1984 with his bloodthirsty presence and makes no plans to sleep on a new generation of kids to scare. He’s the thing of nightmares, literally.

Arguably one of the most intimidating characters from the horror world is number three: Ghostface. This crazy killer first appeared in Scream back in 1996 and his quiet, stalking demeanor has continued its murder streak for over 22 years of film and television. Perhaps the most chilling attribute Ghostface has is anonymity. You might never know who’s behind the mask. Or who to trust.

Behind all the monsters, ghouls, and movie characters lies Leatherface, a serial killer from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre based on the real-life psychopath Ed Gein. Nothing can ever be as fear inducing as knowing that the events on screen are based on true events. There’s nothing manufactured horror can do to replicate the uneasiness of Leatherface, the skin wearing everyday man who could be right next door. The carnage his chainsaw creates still makes me jump whenever the neighbors are doing yard work.

Finally, we have the original monster, myth, and legend… Count Dracula himself. Created with inspiration from the notorious Vlad the Impaler, Bram Stoker’s work has spanned decades. The sinister vampire has appeared in film, television, and literature since 1897. He’s had people uneasy about the night for as long as we’ve been alive. This blood thirsty vamp is a timeless example of horror and how to instill fear for much longer than your typical jump scare. A classic staple for the genre, Dracula remains one of the most feared monsters in the world. With myths and legends surrounding his existence, it’s no wonder we keep getting more of his story.

 image courtesy of compass international pictures

image courtesy of compass international pictures


Nikki McKenzie is full of sarcasm and also positivity and the embodiment of when Jim from The Office looks into the camera. She also likes to write.


(A chilling examination of the horror genre.)