CanLitInternational LiteratureThe Horror Show

Nick Cutter, aka Craig Davidson, on the allure of Asian horror

“It’s like an insect hurling itself into a flytrap knowing it’s a flytrap” (Photo by Kevin Kelly)

Toronto’s Nick Cutter is the author of The Troop, The Deep, and Little Heaven, all published by Simon & Schuster Canada. His alter ego, Craig Davidson, was shortlisted for the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel Cataract City. His 2018 novel The Saturday Night Ghost Club, a literary/genre hybrid, was shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Award for fiction. Davidson’s latest book is the short fiction collection Cascade.

In today’s guest post, Cutter talks about his affection for Asian horror, in particular the work of manga artist Junji Ito.

Since watching the dubbed version of Ringu way back as a twentysomething, I’ve been a fan of Asian horror. As a kid I was raised on American and English horrors – Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Clive Barker, John Carpenter, Shirley Jackson, Dean Koontz, and Anne Rice, to name but a few. The Japanese horror stylings (and later, Korean) were unlike anything I’d ever seen. A completely different kind of horror, it felt to me – summoning the same dread I’d felt reading Pet Semetary or watching The Thing, but doing so in ways I’d never seen before or honestly thought possible.

I felt by then that I was pretty battle-hardened and unscareable, but imagine my surprise and delight (and fear!) to find myself walking down the hallway to my apartment at the time, seeing the light flickering overhead, and shrinking just a bit in my skin. Or waking up in the night and contemplating the ten steps of blackness separating my safe, unhaunted bed and the dark, possibly ghost-infested bathroom – a specific kind of ghost, too, whose limbs cracked like ice-cubes in a glass and who walked on all fours like a skittering spider. From that point I made certain to devour as much Asian horror as possible.

Bringing me to Junji Ito. He’s a manga creator. He’s terrifying. My suggestion is that you read The Enigma of Amigara Fault. It’s easy to find online, though of course you ought to buy it legally! It’s a delicious combination of enclosed spaces, group mania, and most of all obsessive desire – which is an Ito staple. In his other work, most notably Tomie, he plumbs the strange and terrible fascinations/fixations of desire: Tomie is some ill-defined kind of undying ghost and temptress who is forever bringing men (and women, come to think of it) to bloody ruin. In Enigma, the characters become obsessed with doing an activity they know is ruinous … but they can’t help themselves. It’s like an insect hurling itself into a flytrap knowing it’s a flytrap. This is an oddly hard thing to do well in horror, but those practitioners who can mine that particular vein effectively – to have characters pursue an endeavour that is deadly or even soul-destroying to themselves (or even more deliciously, to those they love) and to do so not only willingly but joyously, unable to help themselves – well, that’s truly unnatural and thus creepy as all hell.

Not to mention delightful!

Cascade, the new story collection by Nick Cutter’s doppelgänger, Craig Davidson, is published by Knopf Canada.

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