Spooky season is upon us, and for some, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, with the ghosts and the ghouls and the pumpkin-flavoured everything. But for all you self-proclaimed scaredy-cats, ‘tis the season for hiding under the covers until November 1st.
I get it. As an avid horror reader, I’ve read books splattered with gore and I’ve experienced moments of unbearable tension. But that’s just one kind of horror; the genre has so much more to offer than chainsaw-wielding maniacs. Chances are, if you hate horror books, it’s because you’re reading the wrong type of horror for you.
Let’s think of horror less as a straight line and more like a set of steps, where each level offers an escalating dose of spookiness. We’ll start at the bottom, where horror meets cosy, and then make our way to the top, where depravity awaits.
Level One: Cosy
Cosy horror is all about a vibe. Picture bundling up with your favourite blanket and a hot drink, snuggling into a story that’s chillingly atmospheric. Think gingerbread towns or sweeping English manors, witches, and family secrets. These stories are whimsical and nostalgic, with the promise of a happily ever after.
Level Two: Creepy
In these stories, something isn’t quite right, but you can’t put your finger on it, sometimes until it’s too late. Creepy tales move at a leisurely pace and they won’t seriously frighten the reader; however, don’t be surprised if their eerie moments linger in your head.. Creepy stories often intersect with Gothic fiction, so expect haunted houses and curses galore.
Level Three: Unsettling
Now you're starting to feel uncomfortable. Maybe even a little icky. In these pages, reality shifts and you can’t tell what’s real or what’s in a character’s head. At this level, you’re dealing with character-centred stories, taking a deep-dive into an unravelling mind or dealing with a malicious entity. This is the level of possession stories and psychological horror.
Level Four: Horrific
When most people think of horror, it’s this level that they’re imagining. These are classic Stephen King-esque horror stories. They move at a faster pace and jump scares abound, but horror at this level has heart. Expect to love and lose your favourite characters.
Level Five: Terrifying
We’ve arrived at the seriously gruesome stuff. Don’t even think about a happy ending here; these stories are bleak. Terrifying stories often fall into the realm of social horror; they want to make a point about the horrors of our everyday world, but they do it at the expense of the characters they torture and the readers they torment. Proceed with caution.