An American ballet student discovers that sinister things are afoot at a prestigious German dance academy. The film is regarded as one of the most influential horror films, with its striking visuals and haunting soundtrack.
An eccentric millionaire invites five strangers to a party at a haunted house, offering $10,000 to whomever survives the night. Partially inspired by Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, this film has solidified itself as a campy horror classic.
A woman accompanies her boyfriend and his friends on a trip to Sweden for a midsummer festival and chaos ensues. Don’t let the beautiful setting and cheery color palate of the film deceive you – Midsommar is one of the most disturbing horror films I’ve ever seen.
A woman, in the midst of divorce negotiations, moves to a run-down apartment with her young daughter. A mysterious ceiling leak and ghostly appearances ensue. In 2005, an American remake of this Japanese film starring Jennifer Connelly was released.
Horrifyingly creepy. Creepily horrifying. Either way, it’s gothic. The author tells you right there in the title. I’m not a big fan of horror – gothic or otherwise. You can keep your atmospheric creepies to yourself.
This book absorbed me. I literally could not put it down.
Noemi Taboada is my kind of girl: smart and sassy. She’s contemplating an advanced degree in anthropology, if only she can convince her father that there’s more to a well-off woman’s life than marriage and family. In Mexico in the 1950s, this is a harder sell than it should be. She’s also something of a party girl, who enjoys dancing and smoking with her active social circle.
Her cousin Catalina, though, is cut from more traditional cloth. She is married and has moved to her new husband’s remote estate, away from the family in Mexico City. When the family receives troubling letters from and about Catalina, Noemi agrees to her father’s plan to visit her cousin and investigate the situation.
Catalina has married Virgil Doyle, oldest son of a family that immigrated to Mexico generations ago but have maintained an English sensibility, including not speaking Spanish. They came for the silver mines and stayed for reasons that become clear later. The house (in all honestly, a sinister mansion) is dark – literally with drapes pulled and limited electricity – decorated with overwrought furnishings in a variety of mythological motifs and loaded with tarnished silver. Gothic oozes out of the story’s rotting wainscoting.
Noemi is not a particularly welcome visitor. She smokes. She asks questions. She’s not particularly interested in being obedient to the Doyles’ odd rules. She wants to see her cousin. She visits town. She roams the family’s cemetery where she befriends younger cousin Francis, who helps her understand that not all is right or well at High Place – and not just because the family’s fortunes are dwindling with the mines being closed.
Francis has a fascination with fungus. Mushrooms are his main interest, and I don’t want to spoil too much – but it’s relevant. He also seems to spend plenty of time outdoors to get away from his overbearing family: Virgil who reeks of ambition and charisma but codes as emotionally abusive, and Florence, the strict maiden aunt who is the enforcer for Howard, the ailing patriarch with a keen interest in eugenics. Honestly, I’d spend as much time outside as I could, too.
Noemi’s questions reveal that the Doyle family has all sorts of secrets and scandals, including murder and incest. Things start to fall into place just as Noemi begins to demonstrate the same sort of worrisome symptoms as her cousin Catalina. Noemi’s vivid dream sequences contribute to the sense of impending doom and overall wrongness. When Howard and Florence forcibly insist that Noemi marry Francis, it all comes apart at the seams and a nightmare of truly gothic proportions ensues. The author fully embraces Latin magical realism as she dives into the deep end of the horror genre.
You should read it, preferably on a dank, rainy day in a spider-infested garret. Personally, I am glad I read it on a hot, summer day next to a window while traveling on a train. Mexican Gothic is available in print, ebook, and eaudiobook.
Kristen B. is a devoted bookworm lucky enough to work as the graphic designer for HCLS. She likes to read, stitch, dance, and watch baseball (but not all at the same time).
Until recently, if someone mentioned Stephen King around me, all I pictured were the usual horror staples: clowns, spiders, dark hallways, mysteriously red and sticky substances. Of course my familiarity with King’s work was about the same as the average media consumer – starting and ending with the Hollywood blockbusters like It and The Shining. As a reader who prefers historical fiction over horror, I never ventured into his dizzyingly enormous body of work.
It was not until my recent read of King’s 2019 novel The Institute that I realized I may have been missing out on his ever-developing literary skills. The Institute delivers on a terrifying antagonist, but rather than supernatural, the bad guys in this story are all-too human. In the “Institute,” inmates with telekinetic abilities are kidnapped, imprisoned, and tormented with unexplained experiments. The inmates are children. The story primarily revolves around Luke Ellis, a 12-year old with extraordinary genius, as he wakes up in the Institute and attempts to navigate the sadistic staff and build peculiar friendships. As he and his newfound friends and allies learn more about where they are, readers come to understand that those working for the Institute believe they serve a higher good, and that there exists a place for cruelty with a purpose. The staff members in charge of the children would show up to work, run their terrifying tests, stop for coffee in their breakrooms, chat and flirt, then head home each night. Even as Ellis and his fellow captives live their days bouncing between mysterious injections and surreally normal basketball games, the real horror is apparent in the quiet complacency towards child abuse as a necessary evil, and at its worse no more than daily routine.
How could children survive in a place designed to strip them of dignity and humanity? Could they even survive? The Institute weaves together a story of unimaginable scale with the most authentically human characters: policemen, innkeepers, custodians. And yes, there is a 12-year old genius and kids who can read minds, but their abilities are the least important things about them. Their moments of anger, sadness, courage, and joy are their characters’ truly grounding elements.
While definitely a tough read, it surprised me how much I enjoyed this novel. Ruthless and brutal, but at times captivatingly heart-warming. If you’re interested in making a foray into the Stephen King sphere, The Institute is a great book to pick up and get absorbed into.