horror


Publication year: 2008
Page count: 303
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2009
Format: print
Finnish translator: Inka Parpola
Finnish Publisher: Otava
Art: Dave McKean

The man named Jack kills people. He kills a family but the youngest boy, an infant, has gone wandering and manages to escape – to a graveyard. A mysterious man who calls himself the groundskeeper sends the man Jack away while the spirits of the dead decide what to do with the boy. In the end, the Owens adopt him and the mysterious man, Silas, agreed to be his guardian, as the spirits can’t leave the cemetery and can’t even touch the infant. Nobody Owens, Bod, is made an honorary dead and he grows up in the cemetery.

The dead are kind and willing to teach him what they know. Of course, sometimes what they know aren’t current anymore. Bod explores the graveyard, including the oldest grave and the witch’s grave. But he’s also curious about the outside world. After all, even when he was an infant he was always escaping from his parents and exploring the world around him.

Many of the things we take for granted are turned on their head in this book. For example, the dead are almost always kind while the living people Bod meets are often greedy, distrustful or otherwise disagreeable. The Graveyard book feels like a collection of short stories, except for the two last chapters when Bod grows up and meets challenges.

The stories are warmhearted if a bit scary at times and the ending is bittersweet.

McKean’s art helps to build a great atmosphere. Especially on the first page, the art really starts the story.

Collects issues 1-6

Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriquez
Publisher: IDW Publishing

Locke & Key is a comic with multiple mysteries for the characters to solve. The story starts with the Locke family: the parents Rendell and Nina, and their kids Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode. The first issue alternates between the past and the present.

In the past the Locke family is vacationing in Mendocino Valley where the parents are brutally attacked. Rendell is killed and Nina is brutalized. Kinsey and Bode are hiding from the two attackers while Tyler confronts them. The attackers are teenagers who knew Rendell.

The present starts with Rendell’s funeral and then Nina takes her children to live with Rendell’s brother in the big Keyhouse in Lovecraft, Massachusetts. The family is trying to start a new life but they all have issues to deal with. Tyler knew one of the attackers, Sam Lesser, and ended up beating him throughly, so that Sam has multiple scars on his face. Kinsey lives in constant fear. She changes her hair to a less radical style so that the other kids wouldn’t stare at her in school. And Bode finds a magic doorway which separates his body and spirit. The he finds a girl who lives in a well. Of course, nobody believes little Bode.

I found the first issue a little confusing because of the many shifts between now and then, but once the story starts rolling, it’s much clearer. The family dynamic is great. Even though the family has suffered a great loss and they are all trying to cope the best way they can, they are also trying to support each other. Tyler especially is trying to push down his own pain and fear, and be the rock for the others. He even thinks about killing himself at one point but realizes that he can’t do that to the others.

It comes quickly clear to the reader that the Keyhouse is a magical place and the Locke’s uncle Duncan seems to know more about it than he’s saying. Sam Lesser also knew something about the Keyhouse that prompted the attack. Issue four focuses on Sam’s side of the story.

The first trade of Locke and Key is a full of mysteries and may questions, as is usual for the first part. It’s also quite violent and doesn’t sugar coat the aftereffects of violence.

A collection of nine short stories in the Gothic horror genre.

Publication year: 1914
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2012
Format: print
Finnish translator: Inkeri Koskinen
Page count: 201
Finnish Publisher: Tammi

The stories:

“Dracula’s Guest”
“The Judge’s House”
“The Squaw”
“The Secret of the Growing Gold”
“A Gipsy Prophecy”
“The Coming of Abel Behenna”
“The Burial of the Rats”
“A Dream of Red Hands”
“Crooken Sands”

The first story is supposedly an extract from the manuscript of Dracula. Some sites disclaim it but a note from Stoker’s wife is included here. The narrator’s name isn’t mentioned but he seems to be Jonathan Harker who has a misadventure on his way to Dracula’s castle.

All of the stories are horror or mystery and most of them have supernatural elements, although in a few stories they are explained away. A few of them also have romantic elements. Most of the stories worked for me although some of them have comedic elements which I suspect are not intentional; for example in “The Judge’s House” the main character is warned that drinking too much strong tea will affect his nerves badly.

The story “Squaw” has an eccentric American who reminds me of Quincey Morris in the novel Dracula. Many of the stories underline the nature of Englishmen as brave, adventurous, and loyal but also as vain and stubborn. Unfortunately, the women are a far cry from Mina Harker; mostly they are delicate flowers who are quick to faint or have a hysteric fit. Some of the stories have first person narrator and some are told in the third person. However, in every story the main character is a British male.

The stories are old fashioned horror, without much splatter or violence. They rely more on atmosphere and psychological effects.

The Finnish translation has the translator’s introduction about Stoker’s life and influences. That was fascinating to read about.

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