Snow. It’s good for horror.

I like to watch the snow fall, sitting here at my desk, facing the window. It lends the city an aura of calmness, of quiet, of solitude. Cars are silenced, the hustle and bustle of pedestrians dimmed and even the wind; the sibling of winter months, is softened, it’s breath reduced to a whisper; in awe perhaps of what must be one of nature’s most beautiful faces. And just as some of the most beautiful faces throughout history are, so it is with the snow. Pale, cold and on occasion… deadly.

Which is why snow lends itself so well to horror.

Take for instance John Carpenters 80’s reimagining of ‘The Thing’. Sure, there’s horror to be found in the alien virus and the creeping paranoia, but would the characters situation have worked as well if they had been stranded in the desert rather than the Antarctic? I think not. Snow enforces the feel of isolation, of being cut off from the rest of the world and let’s face it; blood always looks better upon a white background.

In literature also, snow can give a scene weight and atmosphere. It can separate the imagined from the real, the light from the darkness. In C.S Lewis’s ‘The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe’ our first glimpse upon stepping into Narnia is one of a winter wonderland, a season far removed from the summer in which the story begins. By using the extreme of two seasons seperated only by the door of an antiquated wardrobe, Lewis tells us straight away that something magical is a foot. As the character Lucy steps out having brushed by coats and clothes in an attempt to reach the back of the wardrobe, she looks up, and in surprise see the falling snow. You’re not in Kansas anymore. Opps, wrong book, but you get the idea.

In Clive Barker’s fantasy novel ‘Weaveworld’, the climax of which is set upon a hill in Somerset, we find our hero ‘Cal Mooney’ hiding, along with a forgotten tribe from the destructive Angel (?) Uriel. The vast hill is in the grip of a blizzard and it’s this winter setting that gives the scene its apocalyptic feel. It’s also worth noting here that Barker uses the seasons in this book very much like acts. The opening page finds us in the spring and as we progress through the novel, are path takes us through summer and then of course, as the tale darkens to its climax; winter. Where there’s terror, the snow isn’t far behind it seems.

Of course where there’s snow, there are usually snowmen. Here too, horrors are to found.

In Mark Morris’s debut novel ‘Toady’ the seaside town of Starmouth is under a blanket of snow and it is here, alone at night, that the character, Nigel, finds one of these ice monsters.

Mark Morris writes:
‘Nigel watched with horror as the snowman’s round head turned slowly towards him. He heard a sucking plop, the same as before, and the snowman lifted its stumpy left leg clear of the ground. Desperately, his own legs like water, Nige began to back away. The snowman took a few cautious experimental steps and then came shambling over the lawn.’

Mark creates a wonderful image here, and although I first read ‘Toady’ over twenty years ago, I still have a fear of snowmen even to this day.

Of course there are many more examples of snow being used in horror. Writers such as Robert Bloch, Ramsey Campbell and Stephen King, M.R.James, Lovecraft and Le Fanu all have written stories involving snow in their work, as have many others.

So, next time you look out of the window and curse the winter weather, stop and think for a moment about all the wonderful films and literature it has inspired. It may be cold; it may be the cause of many a complaint, but it’s a bedfellow for those of us who like our tales with bite.

Wrap up warm.

And look out for those snowmen.

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