Horror & Drama in “Wytches”

There are horrors in those woods. The kind of horror you see in a rapid blink of an eye. Horror that appears as an indistinguishable, blurry mess of elongated limbs, boney fingers, and over-sized eyes staring back at you. Did you actually see something behind those trees, or was it just your imagination? Could that have been a witch? Careful what you say, insanity is a slippery slope and once you start sliding down it, it’s very difficult to claw your way back. The grinding of their teeth keeps beckoning you to them. They go chit chit chit chit chit.  The sound reverberates in your head. Insanity closes in. The witches cauldron is boiling and you are on the menu. Someone has pledged you to the witches. You did that person wrong. It might’ve been nothing in your mind’s eye, but it was hurtful to them and now they’ve put the witches curse upon you. There’s no escaping it. Pledged is pledged.

Wytches Panel

Wytches is Scott Snyder’s independent horror series published by Image Comics. It tells the story of the Rook’s family who’ve recently relocated to a small rural town and are haunted by a coven of witches in the woods near their house. It sounds like the regular recipe to a horror story with all the usual ingredients, but Snyder infuses the old horror recipe with equal parts drama and horror, creating something unique to the comic book medium that is more commonly found in popular horror fiction, namely by the king of horror, Stephen King. In King’s writing, horror and terror does not come from ghouls, ghosts, werewolves and zombies, but from families and communities that have turned on each other and gone insane. Desperate times is what causes people to do desperate and evil things, sometimes hurting those that they love. Even modern day television practices this technique of horror storytelling. Think of The Walking Dead. The horror does not come from the zombies, but from what the remaining people of this world are willing to do in order to survive.

Wytches panel2

The Rooks family in Wytches is no different. They love each other, but a sacrifice has to be made in order for the family to survive. That sacrifice is their daughter, Sailor Rooks. She’s 13 years of age, anxious and awkward, with red hair and glasses. It’s unfortunate, but she’s been pledged to the witches and there’s only one man that can save her. Her dad, Charlie Rooks, who’s a recovering alcoholic and author of children’s books, not your stereotypical slayer of witches. He believes in his daughter, more than she believes in herself. Both father and daughter must overcome their own personal demons and a haunted past in order to escape the witches and a town of insane loons.

Snyder sites Wytches as a personal story. One that sprouted in his mind as a child when he used to play in the woods behind his home in upstate New York. Now, a grown man with children of his own, Snyder feels the curse of parenting. It’s as if Charlie Rooks rationalizes Scott Snyder’s thoughts on being a parent in these lines of dialogue:

I swear, you’re never free. You love them too much. It’s like a vital organ walked out of your body and is out there in the fucking world waving hi to people and you fear for it all day, every day, because if something happened to it…

Charlie doesn’t finish his thought. But what if something happened to his daughter? How far is he willing to go to save her, and where does he cross the point of desperation before he slides into insanity? The mind is a fragile thing, Charlie Rooks. Neither a teenage daughter with anxiety nor supernatural creatures will help your stability. Tread carefully and beware the woods.

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