Fear and Gorey

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about Edward Gorey and his work. While he is one of the author/illustrators I am focusing on for my paper, I have been considering him within the context of popular scary movies. Edward Gorey is not an author who is full of “jumpscares,” that is the technique in horror films of having something jump out at you, usually unexpectedly. Certainly it is hard to compare an illustration to a scary scene, because, unless one is turning the pages of the book very fast, one usually has time to see the photo or illustration and not be that scared.

Though the mediums differ, I find Gorey’s work to slowly seep into the reader, and slowly gets scarier. It reminded me of a film that came out last year, entitled “The Witch.” The film was billed as supposedly the scariest film of all time (which I’m not sure is accurate) but it certainly slowly crept up on me, like the fog in an early morning. While the film was not altogether that scary (disclaimer: it was a little scary) it was more the setting in the cold New England woods, the fog, and the lack of music that set the stage. It was as if the point of the film was to make the viewer think something was going to scare them badly, but never quite did.

I feel similarly about Gorey. The Gashlycrumb Tinies are not exactly scary – but that doesn’t mean that don’t incorporate aspects of fear or horror. The combination of the Alphabetical story and young children meeting terrible ends creates a duality of fear: Firstly, the situations are scary. And secondly, whenever children are involved, the fear factor is heightened exponentially. Gorey plays into that duality.


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