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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > July 2016 > Fantastic realms: Town & country

Fantastic realms: Town & country

Horror has a rich tradition of rural settings, but urban locations are increasingly common. Alex Davis explores the landscape and current trends

One of the things that is so fascinating about being a horror fan is just how the genre can change over time. Five years from now we might well be seeing entirely different trends to today, and move on another half-decade from that and things will likely be different again. We’ve seen the popularity of one monster after another – most notably the vampire and the zombie – the classic ghost story, the rise of psychological horror and more recently the growth of the horror/thriller hybrid. Things come into fashion and things go out of fashion over time.

But one of the most interesting long-term developments is that horror has gradually moved away from its rural roots to far more considerations of the urban landscape. Look back to the finest work of Edgar Allan Poe – The Fall of The House of Usher for example – or books like The Haunting of Hill House or The Woman in White and we can see the value of a remote location out in the countryside. It means our lead characters are cut off from help, and the relative quiet gives their imagination time to run rampant. The fact that the idea of ‘the cabin in the woods’ is such a horror movie staple is no accident – it’s looking back to this tradition, in its own way, trying to give that more modern spin. We’re out of touch with nature and the countryside, and so it could be dangerous. And of course nobody’s mobile phone ever works...

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