There’s an affinity between horror and the avant-garde. From the visceral dystopian visions found in Burroughs’ Naked Lunch and Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition, to the gothic-infused surrealism of films like Jane Arden’s The Other Side of Underneath and Bill Gunn’s Ganja & Hess, and even to David Lynch’s projects over multiple mediums, experiments in form frequently amplify the nightmarish aspects of horror (both horror as a genre and horror as an emotion). Adam L.G. Nevill’s recent collection of stories entitled Wyrd and Other Derelictions is part of that avant-garde horror tradition.
The Night Will Find Us by Matthew Lyons wastes no time in taking us into the woods, and fans of supernaturally active forests – from Adam Nevill’s rural Sweden in The Ritual to the Burkittsville woods of the Blair Witch Project – will find much to enjoy in its deftly-conjured location. But the novel’s bold and satisfying blend of folk and cosmic horror put me in mind of Gemma Amor’s masterful White Pines, and this comparison only grew stronger as the novel continued, demonstrating its deep preoccupation with grief and loss.
Last summer, alone, I decided to watch The Ritual on Netflix. I’ll admit, despite being a horror fan and generally desensitised, I was spooked. The tension of the first half and the eerie imagery of the second half got me, but I enjoyed myself. I was clearly in a particular type of mood because the next night I saw The Forest come up on my suggestions. Always down for a horror movie rooted in mythology and folklore, feeling like I wanted to watch more people get lost in the woods for some reason, I decided to give it ago.
I was sorely disappointed.