Just in time for Halloween, here’s a list of ten of my favorite spoopy things that y’all should consider checking out. If you need specific content warnings for anything, send me a message here or on Twitter!
Note: most of the links that lead to Amazon are affiliate links!
1. Silvia Moreno Garcia’s Certain Dark Things
Back in 2016, I did a review for SMG’s fantastic urban fantasy stand-alone novel for Strange Horizons where I say that it is “the book I wish had been my introduction to vampires in literature back when I was a kid”.
Certain Dark Things is a dark and innovative urban fantasy novel that gets you to reimagine the vampire as we know it, subverting the species as the genre tends to do it, and offering an interesting take on those bite-y bloodsuckers.
2. Cassandra Khaw’s Food of the Gods (the Rupert Wong duology)
Gorgeous and gloriously gory, Cassandra Khaw’s lush writing makes the horrors of Rupert Wong’s life and his experiences as a chef for a bunch of human-eating ghouls and gods almost… appetizing. I’m constantly torn between being flat out grossed out by and salivating over food I shouldn’t want to eat. (I reviewed the second book in this duology – Rupert Wong and the Ends of the Earth – for Strange Horizons and talked a ton about Khaw’s use of Greek mythology.)
3. Franken Fran
Despite the fanservice -y covers (that really don’t have anything to do with the actual plots of the stories within), the Franken Fran series is a solid, body horror-filled series about how messed up people are. It’s an unsettling series focusing on Fran, the cobbled together creation of the missing scientist Dr. Madaraki, who just wants to follow in her “father’s” footsteps.
Fran is honest, uncalculating, and genuinely means well. Unfortunately, her good intentions definitely don’t end well for most of the people she’s interacting with.
Superstition is the terrible hot mess of an urban fantasy show that I’ve always wanted. It is a capital-m Mess and understandably got canceled after its first season, but I can’t help but feel slighted because Supernatural (another hot mess of an urban fantasy show) is on season 14.
Following the Hastings, a family of Black demon hunters who try to keep the peace in their town, this is a 12-episode series that was canceled too soon. Scenes of body horror and graphic violence abound and while it’s a messy Mess, it’s definitely spoopy. Marathon it if you have cable, buy it on Amazon if you don’t.
5. Tim Lebbon’s The Nature of Balance
I had a paperback copy of this book back when I was twelve or thirteen and it destroyed me. I literally didn’t sleep for days after reading this novel and part of it is because at the start of the novel, a bunch of people die in the middle of the night, not waking up from their dreams. It’s super graphic and violent… I was a child when I read this. There’s a scene where cows are eating… people? I think? I can barely remember anything aside from the terror I felt.
(At one point, my sister surprised me while I was reading in our laundry room at the time and I honest to god peed a little.)
6. Tokyo Ghoul
If you don’t know about my intense love of Sui Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul already… where have you been? I love this series so much. Kaneki is one of those pretty bland self-insert anime leads, but he’s surrounded by a cast of characters that definitely make up for his personality.
I’m into this series because of characters like the gourmet ghoul Shuu Tsukiyama, tattooed Miyavi lookalike Uta, and the cutie pies that make up the Quinx squad. And… the cannibalism.
The series’ weak points are some major plot holes, Kaneki himself, and some representation of gender non-conforming characters in the second series (re) that feels transphobic to me.
7. Crimson Peak
Crimson Peak refueled my love of gothic romance and horror. I literally wrote a 7000+ word paper on how it could serve as a spiritual successor The Portrait of Dorian Gray back when I was in grad school. It’s not the most diverse movie out there (there are no main or recurring characters of color or queer characters in the film) and while it loses points for that, the horror of the film and the women at its heart definitely allow me to keep some of my goodwill towards it.
I saw this movie twice during its first week in theaters. I own the novelization, its audiobook, and the artbook. It scares the hell out of me every single time and I love it. (Bonus: you do see Tom Hiddleston’s pale little butt in this movie so if that’s your thing, enjoy that quick flash of skin.)
8. Undead Uprising: Haiti, Horror and The Zombie Complex
Colonization is awful. Obviously.
In Undead Uprising, the scariest thing about the zombie myth is the role that anti-black racism, the legacy of slavery, and colonization from the world’s major powers played in the development of the creature alongside pervasive and racist myths about Black monstrosity and our own mythologies.
I’m only halfway through this book, but it’s an interesting and often upsetting look at the true origins of a horror movie staple.
9. Junji Ito’s Frankenstein
Junji Ito’s work terrifies me. That is obviously the point.
While I have never been able to read some of his original works all the way to the end because I literally couldn’t handle the fear they inspired, I found his Frankenstein adaptation to be one of the most interesting adaptations of the 1818 story.
His art style lends to gothic horror very well and on top of that, he does a very great job of rendering Frankenstein’s creation as both horrific and hurting.
10. Pet Shop of Horrors Tokyo
Akino Matsuri’s Petshop of Horrors series was a formative influence for me when I was a little kid getting into manga. While it is a truly beautifully rendered manga with a stunning cast of characters and creatures, it’s also a very visceral horror series about the ways that humans can be monstrous.
In Pet Shop of Horrors Tokyo, the sequel to Matsuri’s original mid-nineties series Pet Shop of Horrors, is set in Tokyo, an ocean (and possibly twenty years) away from the previous series as Count D returns to giving humans gifts in the form of pets that are (and do) more than we expect.
I have no idea how the series ends because I only have 8 out of 12 volumes (and the last 4 aren’t in English) but up until the end of that series, it’s a superbly spoopy series with all kinds of messed up situations. (Also: I am gonna die mad at Tokyopop for fucking up as a publishing company.)
Those are my spoopy faves, now what are yours?