Mother Nature is such a nurturing, reassuring term. But sometimes mom gets pissed and it makes for extraordinary plots. Natural horror is about the forces of nature unleashing their anger at us humans.
Forget time out. This one is an old school ass whooping.
As horror subgenres go, this one seems more popular in movies than in books. Perhaps it is because it may be easier to express in images the terrifying power of mother nature.
Regardless of reasons, natural horror has its fans. Besides, it seems more grounded in reality.
There is a reason Shark Week remains popular and those ‘When Animals Attack’ videos sell. People understand the terrifying power of mother nature.
Nature can be beautiful and soothing. However, there is this other side, wilder, feral and undomesticated that can scare more than any monster (and cause just as much damage).
Speaking of monsters, I once stated every good story needs a monster. While this remains true, no rule says the monster cannot be mother nature.
We love horror in our speculative fiction. But horror takes many forms.
When Animals Attack
It is easy to pretend humankind has conquered nature and the modern world has an answer to any danger that lurks in the wild. Not so much so.
Besides rats, spiders and snakes, who wouldn’t be afraid of a giant shark or alligator or any ramping beast coming at you? With fury in their eyes, chasing you down a dark corridor.
Or what about a loose tiger, a lion or (name the dangerous predator) escaped from a zoo into the city hunting humans?
Mother nature is dangerous when is left out of control or provoked to attack. Not to mention, there are plenty of dangerous plants and insects out there. I am surprised writers do not milk it more often the story possibilities of nature.
Another side of natural horror is those stories where there is some type of natural disaster, like a tornado, earthquake or hurricane.
In fact, I predict once we start feeling more about the effects of climate change, this type of story will move out of the ecological science fiction realm into the horror realm. These are scenarios I posted about when I spoke about scary thoughts that keep me up at night.
Who needs vampires and werewolves when there are earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, and forest fires out there killing and displacing people?
Natural horror is perhaps more terrifying because it can happen. It is happening.
Where to Start?
Are you intrigued by natural horror (also called wilderness horror)?
Besides classic films like Jaws or The Birds, where to turn to? Here are a few literary recommendations:
- There is Something in the Woods is Taking People by Stephen Young
- Richard Laymon‘s Dark Mountain
- Gerald’s Game by Stephen King
- John Krakauer‘s Into the Wild.
- And of course, do not forget the classic by H.G. Wells‘ The Island of Doctor Moreau.
I bet once you watch those films and read those books you would not look at nature the same way.
Natural horror is indeed the most realistic horror we can experience. And although I rather read about it than experience it, unless we change our ways, Mother Earth will keep unleashing its fury at us.
Reading it should be required. Both for entertainment and for awareness. Reading natural horror is fun and as a bonus, it may make you think.
Do you like natural horror? Which books or films do you recommend?