It’s no secret to my friends and family that I love weird stuff. Serial killers, horror, conspiracy theories, cults—all these things fascinate me in equal amounts. I was the kid who devoured the Goosebumps series at a too-tender age, then graduated straight on to Stephen King. You know how Mr. Ollivander says to Harry that “the wand chooses the wizard”? That’s kind of how I feel about horror and the weird—just like how some people are natural thrill seekers, I think there are some people with a predilection for this stuff. The weird chooses you.
So I thought I’d throw together a post about my favorite weird and horror bits and bobs. My personal taste tends toward a slow build narrative, occasional hyper-violence, surrealism, and some narrative ambiguity. I’m no expert, but out of the thousands of hours I’ve spent consuming this stuff, I’ll go on record saying that everything listed below is really deserving of praise.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Yeah, yeah, the show on Netflix is pretty cool, but the book is better. This is an atmospheric and psychological masterpiece about a haunted house. Definitely pick up a copy—it’s not a lengthy book, so technically it won’t take you long, but you might find yourself wanting to take frequent breaks to escape the chilling atmosphere of the house.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Another piece of literature about a house. How spooky can a house that is a bit bigger inside than outside be, you might ask? Well. WELL. This is a book you need to read in hard copy—the book’s bizarre formatting is simply incompatible with ebooks. At least do a quick flip-through in the book store to see what I’m talking about—you won’t be disappointed.
Anything by Haruki Murakami
I’m a big Murakami fan, to say the least. I haven’t read everything by him, but I’ll get there eventually. There’s something about Murakami’s matter-of-fact tone that really connects with me. His most acclaimed book is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, for good reason, but really anything by him is great—as far as I’m concerned, he is the undisputed master of magical realism.
The Interface Series by _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9
So this isn’t a book yet. The author is an anonymous Reddit user, who posted the entire work in non sequitur comments. There was some talk that this was a major inspiration for Stranger Things—I don’t believe this theory myself due to the lengthy production timeline needed for producing a show like Stranger Things, but I think it’s worth noting that the two are similar… though the Interface Series is weirder. Want to know more about flesh interfaces? You can get started reading for free here.
The Downside Trilogy by S. L. Grey
The South African duo S. L. Grey has gained a bit more notoriety for their recent novel The Apartment, but I remain a steadfast fan of the Downside Trilogy, in particular the first book The Mall. It has a lot to do with my abiding love for Silent Hill 3, which also prominently features a mall… But these books stand on their own, and the worldbuilding is excellent.
Creep 1 and 2
I’d seen Creep floating around on Netflix for a while before I buckled down to watch it. Somehow I didn’t expect much. Oh, how wrong I was. This is the franchise for anyone who’s ever gotten leery about meeting people off the Internet. Mark Duplass’s acting in both the first and second film are phenomenal—here’s hoping for a third movie. I just can’t get enough of the MC.
Yeah, yeah, a lot of people like to claim that the sequel, Aliens, is better, but for me it veers off too much into action territory. I much prefer the more atmospheric and slower-paced Alien; it creeps along until all hell breaks loose. I also have to appreciate that this is the movie that inspired Blake Snyder’s “save the cat” writing philosophy—just a fun little tidbit.
This is a tough movie for me to recommend, since I struggle a bit with Roman Polanski being the director. Nevertheless, I’ve watched Rosemary’s Baby numerous times and love it for the pacing, the characters, the pregnancy theme, and the atmosphere. Riley Sager’s new novel Lock Every Door draws heavily from Rosemary’s Baby, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
I don’t care what people say about the film version of the Silent Hill franchise; this movie is fantastic. It preserves the Silent Hill atmosphere, keeps in the baddies we all love like Pyramid Head and the nurses, and has a comprehensive plot with a satisfying ending. Not even The Babadook could achieve that last bit. (Fighting words, I know.)
I have vivid memories of taking a community college Japanese class, where for the last two classes the teacher abandoned any sort of curriculum and instead put on The Ring. On VHS tape. In a dark room with no windows. On one of those old, flickering CRT TVs. Yeah, it was terrifying, and it took me a couple years after that singular viewing experience before I could watch The Ring again. This was basically the seminal horror film of my generation, and it will remain one of the top three horror films of all time for me.
Hitchcock produced a lot of masterpieces, but this is my favorite of the bunch by far, enough so that it even made a brief appearance in Specter. Pyscho’s music and shower scene are classic, and the whole movie is beautifully shot; the black and white adds so much atmospherically.
(original Austrian version)
This is a polarizing movie for its infamous breaking of the fourth wall; a loooooooot of people hate this movie. But for me, as someone who really enjoys dissecting the horror genre, the director’s commentary on the audience’s twisted relationship with horror films is fantastic. If you like home invasion flicks and philosophical subtext, definitely give this a watch.
Silent Hill 1-3
These are the only games on the list that I have not played myself, but have only watched being streamed. If I’d had access to these games growing up I would definitely have played them, but we were a PC family, not a console family, so I never got the chance. (Mom definitely would have balked at all that blood and gore, too. 😉 ) Anyway, something about the Silent Hill atmosphere really connects with me—all that fog and the twisted mutants.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
This game made a name for itself with the game design decision that the MC is not able to fight back against the monsters hunting him in a sprawling, creepy castle. Additionally, you have to stay on top of the MC’s sanity meter, meaning that the more scared your character is, the more you’ll suffer manifestations of that fear, including teeth grinding, visual and auditory hallucinations, etc. It’s a deliciously terrifying game, and though the plot could leave something to be desired, the concept, execution, and level design of the game more than carries it to greatness.
Outlast 1 and Whistleblower DLC
Outlast took the helpless MC concept from Amnesia and ran with it in a modern-day setting. The premise is that the MC is a journalist investigating a psychiatric facility; some levels are so dark that they can only be navigated with a night vision camera, and your battery runs out fast. I unfortunately can’t get on board with the second in the series, which struck me as more of a jump scare running simulator, but Outlast and the Whistleblower DLC were horror game perfection. A warning: these games above all others here are not suitable for anybody squeamish. There are some parts of Whistleblower that are beyond gross.
Doki Doki Literature Club
I don’t really want to give anything away about this game, since one spoiler can ruin the experience… but just know that this game is not the adorable anime dating sim that it appears to be! 😉 I also love all the analysis videos about this game online; here’s hoping some of them are correct and Team Salvato will be releasing some sort of connected material for this game.
Ah, Twin Peaks… there is something so charming and relaxing about David Lynch’s surreal creation. The soap opera characters are what make the show, though I also love the tinge of magical realism. I literally remember watching this the first time feeling like I was high; that is how off-kilter this show is, but in the best way possible. In what other show could you have an accidental llama steal the scene?
I’m pretty sure it was the fantastic Night Mind who introduced me to Alan Resnick’s work. I’m including Resnick in this section because he does work for Adult Swim, producing those late night segments that you remember the next day as something akin to a fever dream. Some people may recognize Resnick from way back in the day as the creator of the web series alantutorial. Anyway, his work is markedly surreal and unsettling. Watch Unedited Footage of a Bear, then if you’re feeling up for it, dive into the convoluted puzzle that is This House Has People in It.
And… that’s… it! I’m sure I’ve left out some of my favorite weird/horror stuff, but this is a pretty good sampling of what I’ll vouch for as good. Are you a horror fan? Do you enjoy surreal or “weird” media? Leave your recommendations down below!