Not too long ago, I realized that I had been reading a specific word wrong for a very long time. I would see it in articles all over the internet and still read it wrong. What is that word you might be asking?
Cottagecore. I was reading it as cottagegore.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “How in hell did you do that? How did you see the pictures that went with word and think that ‘gore’ had anything to do with it?”
In my defense I…
I actually don’t have an answer that doesn’t sound completely bananas; that’s just what my brain read. Even now I have to correct myself. It could be that I equate a lot of really good horror with cottage-esque settings.
Think about; the haunted house trope is still the one of the most popular ones in the horror genre. Something about being completely cut off from civilization, and by extension help, that is still nightmare fuel.
I am an ambivert at best but I lean more towards introvert. When my social battery is drained, I leave as quickly as Bruce Wayne does when he sees the Bat Signal. So, I would love to live somewhere where I couldn’t hear my neighbors pee. But I also don’t want to be so far away that it would be a five minute drive to get to the McKenzies’ in case of a homicidal slasher emergency. Also, virtual cookie for you if you got that reference. Yes, it’s a fine line to walk and horror does it all the time.
Less-than-idyllic cottages, cabins in the woods, and haunted houses rank high in the best horror stories. It’s the utter isolation that does it for me. That feeling of being alone, cut off from the rest of the world at large. Whether that feeling of solitude is emotional or physical, it can be a terrible thing to be in. This especially true in situations where something is out to kill you. Even if that something is your own paranoia.
I believe that cottagegore could become the next big thing in horror. We Constant Readers can make it a new thing. The bookish community is mighty; and we can make it happen. For me, it’s a specific subset of horror, focused on isolated settings.
With that in mind, here are some of the books that I think would fully encapsulate cottagegore.
The Good House by Tanarive Due
Two years after the painful loss of her son, Angela Toussaint returns to her family’s home to really find out what happened to her son that fateful night. There, she is forced to confront the evil entity that has been haunting her family, and maybe her hometown, for years. An ancestral home that is literally called ‘the Good House’ by the townspeople and has housed years of familial tragedies? How could this not be considered cottagore?
Beloved by Toni Morrison
In terms of how this could be cottagegore, it’s one of those if you know, then you know. But, in case you don’t know, this story is about Sethe, a freed slave who is able to escape to Ohio. But try as she might, she can’t escape the the horrific events that happened to her, as well as the grim choices she had to make as a slave back at Sweet Home. I know some people may not think ‘horror’ when they think of Morrison, but this one may change your mind. It plays on psychological maternal trauma which hits close to him for me. The creepy factor is high here.
Gerald’s Game by Stephen King
This book got a bit of a revival in the book world when the Netflix adaptation was made, and for good reason. It’s more psychological than scary and shows what can happen to someone when left to silence and their own memories. It doesn’t help when you’re handcuffed to a bed and your husband’s corpse is next to you. Oh and guess what? You’re really all alone because no one knows where you are because you didn’t tell anyone that you were going off for a weekend of kinky debauchery. Good times.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Okay, so I know you’re probably thinking “how is this cottagegore?” since the protagonist is a socialite and the setting is the manor house of a well-to-do family. But hear me out; there is a lot of vegetation around that house, it is cut off from the town, and those people are freaking creepy. I was unsettled by this creepiness and the isolation of this house; and I’m not even close to being the social butterfly that Noemi was. If you read it, you’ll see what I mean.
Oh and if you do, be mindful that body horror is a very real thing in this one. I did not get the warning from my friend who read this before me and oh the glares I gave her. It’s not as bad as others I’ve read but it sure as hell ain’t subtle. So tread cautiously.
Say Her Name by Juno Dawson
Bloody Mary and me have a history with each other, so any store that involves her is inevitably going to give me the creeps. When you factor in an isolated boarding school and a countdown to who knows what (death; it’s always death) then it’s perfect cottagegore catnip. Most boarding schools are isolated somewhere because I guess that’s part of the draw for parents who send their kids there.
And they’re kids, which means that the adults never believe them. So they truly do feel alone in spooky situations where their life may hang in the balance, even if they were the ones who brought the vengeance down on them. This is a very entertaining read; even if you’re a YA novice and can see all the twists coming, you’ll still enjoy the ride. But don’t be like them kids and call her name in a mirror. It will not end in happiness for you.
And those are just a few of the books that I think of when I think of the word cottagegore. However, that’s the the beauty of it not actually being a real word yet. You can pretty much define it how you see fit. In the end as long as it’s a scare the pants off you book you enjoy, have at it. Happy reading!