Tag Archives: s.l. grey

Lover of the Weird: A Totally Non-Subjective List of the Best Weird and Horror Media ;)

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.

Books

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.

Movies

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.

Alien

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.

Rosemary’s Baby

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.

Silent Hill

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.)

The Ring

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.

Psycho

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.

Funny Games
(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.

Games

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.

TV

Twin Peaks

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?

Alan Resnick

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!

The New Girl by S.L. Grey

The New Girl is the third and final installment in the Downside series by South African duo Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg, who write under the pseudonym S.L. Grey. Yet despite the fact that this is a series, these books read basically as standalones, with the (excellent omg I’m so sad it’s all over) worldbuilding being the real tie between them all.

Let me paint you a picture. Below our human realm on the surface of the earth is an underground horror society of almost humans who regard everyone up top as a curious, amusing, entirely different species. The downsiders speak almost English, eat almost food, shop in almost stores.

She grabs her gelphone and hides under the blankets with it. She reads the proclamation ticker for comfort, to make herself feel closer to home. ‘Victuals are precious. The meat tree is a fable. Use your tokens appropriately.’ ‘Apparel does not auto-generate. Wash sparingly.’ ‘Energy is scarce and opulent. Save energy for essential tasks and services only.’ Everyone knows that resources are scarce, she finds herself commenting, you don’t have to repeat yourself. She tries to block out the disregardful thoughts.

Everything downside is human culture with a horror twist; the downside society is structured like a massive corporation, with a dual focus on production and resource conservation. Whether you’re a downsider or an unfortunate human who has somehow stumbled downside, you are a mere cog in the grinding horror megastructure. And as the horrific atrocities pile up one by one, understand that there is no ill intent meant toward the hapless upsiders. Yes, it’s unfortunate that you had to lose a few appendages… But this is simply just a part of doing business. 😉

The New Girl breaks a bit from the formula of the last two books. Here, most of the action takes place upside, but we are at last allowed a downsider POV, in addition to the other two upsider POVs. I was forever waiting for the next POV section starring Penter, Deputy Node Liaison for the Ministry of Upside Relations. All Penter wants is to do her job, but the more time she spends upside, the more nuggets of humanity she discovers within herself. Can a downsider learn what love is? You’ll need to read the book to find out.

For fans of dark humor, Silent Hill 3, or body horror, this series is a must, in particular the first book. The South African setting, too, adds another fascinating layer to the whole effect. In short, I can’t recommend this series highly enough, and I’m hoping S.L. Grey release something new soon, since it’s been a little while since their last book.


Just a brief reminder that a new chapter for The Gold in the Dark will be up this Sunday! All right, that’s all for now. ❤

A Good, Old-Fashioned Haul

You know that feeling-spendy itch, the kind where the only way to scratch it is by heading to Barnes and Noble or Amazon? It doesn’t hit me often, especially now that I receive ARCs, but maybe it’s the change of seasons or something—I just had to add some new books to my TBR shelf. And it’s not a lot, but listen, this girl has a limited amount of shelf space, so I have to be choosy about the physical books I bring into my house. (Spring cleaning un-haul coming soon!!)

Since this is the only book of the bunch that just came out, I wanted to buy this in hardcover at Barnes and Noble in the first week of release. That’s my general rule of thumb for new releases I care about—I do this 1) because I’m surprisingly often able to buy a signed in-store copy; 2) because I’ve found that many times these books are still stashed in the back, even though they’ve just been released, so I feel it helps the author out to go specifically to the store and remind the booksellers to get them on the shelves; and 3) because I have a vague sense that buying the hardcover helps the author more than buying the ebook in terms of sales numbers and the possibility of future opportunities. Would love to know if those suspicions are correct… :/

Anyway, I’m super excited to read this book, since I’ve heard good things about the author and it’s supposed to be similar to Stranger Things. I’m also really interested to see how the aliens are handled in this book, since aliens in YA aren’t a huge thing. Or are aliens the next vampires or something???

The other three books I bought were from Amazon. Under Rose-Tainted Skies only landed on my radar recently, since I was searching for a book featuring a character suffering from agoraphobia. I have a book in the works that may have an agoraphobic character, so I’m curious to see how other authors have written about agoraphobia, as well as to get some sense of how people deal with the condition. It’s just the first step of what will likely be a whole lotta research. Look at that gorgeous cover—I’m pretty psyched for this one to arrive in the mail.

This is the final book in the Downside trilogy by S.L. Grey, the South African horror duo who wrote The Apartment. The Downside books can be read as standalones; it’s really the horror worldbuilding that ties them together—and it’s the best worldbuilding, let me tell you. If you are a Silent Hill fan, especially if you’re a Silent Hill 3 fan, then do yourself a favor and read The Mall. There are no words to express how excited I am to read this book—it’s going to be fantastic.

The last book I picked up was Matt Haig’s The Humans. This is definitely one of those books that’s made the rounds in the book blogosphere, and also another book to do with aliens! As I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I have an idea marinating for a book about an alien, so I’m trying to read some alien-related fiction to get a sense of how other authors approach the topic. I’m also pretty interested to see how funny this book is; most people say it’s hilarious, but I have a track record of disliking supposedly funny books. (Bad Omens, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, etc.)

And that’s my haul! Short and sweet, but I think keeping hauls smaller makes me more likely to read the books for some reason.

Have you picked up any exciting books lately? Are you also getting that spring shopping fever? Let me know, and thanks for reading!


Just a real quick reminder that Chapter Five of The Gold in the Dark will be posting this Sunday at 11 AM EST! All right, that’s all, folks.