“It came from the woods. Most strange things do.”
You know how horror movies can be super effective when they create a sense of unease just by making you know that something is not quite right? But you can’t determine what that thing that’s not right is, and therefore you have no idea what to do or how to fix the situation? How the idea of a monster is almost scarier than when you actually see what it is, because of the way your imagination runs wild and fills in the dark space with exactly what you fear? Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods, uses this idea of ambiguity and uncertainty to create an eerie set of visual short stories, all of which center around the concept of the dark and mysterious nature of the woods. What dangers might be lurking in there, unseen? What kind of monsters do our minds make up when we let it drift?
The five stories (as well as a short conclusion) are all presented in a way that never quite leaves a definitive end to the story: it is up to us to fill in the blanks as we see fit. While this has the potential to be frustrating, the ambiguity that I mentioned before really works here, as it creates a sense of unknowing to add to the overall mood of the collection.
The stories included in Through the Woods are as follows (and I’ll be brief in my descriptions as each story is pretty brief, and therefore I don’t want to give too much away):
– “Our Neighbor’s House”: Three young girls are left at home when their father goes on a hunting trip, but never returns.
– “A Lady’s Hands are Cold”: A woman marries a man, but begins hearing strange sounds from his house at night.
– “His Face All Red”: A man’s brother returns after being lost to the woods.
– “My Friend Janna”: A young girl acts as the town’s local medium.
– “ The Nesting Place”: A young girl does not take kindly to her brother’s new fiancé.
Each story is presented in a visual fashion, the artwork of which is absolutely beautiful and ties the whole thing together really well. I am particularly fond of all the artistic depictions of the woods, my favourite being a full, two-page spread of the woods at night found in the book’s conclusion section. Carroll also has a real knack for showing people’s exhaustion and unrest in their expressions, which is another thing that I think really works here as it illuminates how tired and drained people can become when they are stressed and afraid. She has a truly distinct style of artwork, which may not be for everyone, but I found it to be quite expressive and really love it personally.
The only thing that I could really bemoan about this book was that it reads very quickly, and therefore I almost wanted there to be more of it. I am not the fastest reader, but managed to finish it in one short sitting (possibly owing to there being not too much text on each page, as the artwork is really the main focus). It is not really like anything else I’ve read, and I thoroughly enjoyed this short and pretty book. I can see why some people may not love it, as it’s the kind of thing that’s not for everyone. I was also under the impression that it would be more of a “horror”-style book, but really I would just call it eerie or creepy, as that’s the mood I got through the whole thing, and it was really effective in maintaining.