USEREVIEW 077 (Capsule): Be Scared of Everything: Horror Essays

Joelle Kidd/ May 11, 2022/ Book Review, Capsule Review

Peter Counter
Be Scared of Everything: Horror Essays (Invisible Publishing, 2020)
ISBN 978-1-98878-456-4 | 200 pp | $20.95 CAD | BUY Here


In his 2020 debut essay collection, Be Scared of Everything: Horror Essays, Peter Counter turns sharp, thoughtful attention to one of literature and film’s most critically under-appreciated genres: horror. The collection, published by Invisible Publishing, is based on Counter’s horror blog, Everything is Scary, and the essays in the book retain a breezy pace and accessible tone. Counter’s essays vary in length and subject, punching to the point and not dwelling too long, and the book is easy to read in only a few sittings — maybe under the covers with a flashlight, late into the night.

Even so, the subjects covered are far from frivolous. Deftly blending personal narrative with cultural criticism, the writer tackles big philosophical themes, often from fresh, unexpected angles — like the connection between zombie stories and social media, trauma read through the mind of Hannibal Lecter, or the parallels between ghosts and mood disorders.

Counter has an adept critical voice and a deep knowledge of horror films, TV, literature and phenomena, which are found at play in his readings of racism in the work of H.P. Lovecraft or the existential dread of a Silent Hill video game teaser. The essays in which he draws upon his own life experience — including recollections of a traumatic moment in his life, painted with terrible, visceral clarity — are affecting and rich.

From spooky stories to movie monsters to climate change, Be Scared of Everything is a wide-ranging and thought-provoking meditation on the things that scare us.

Recommended excerpt:

I recommend an excerpt from the essay, ‘Please Add Me to Your Zombie Survival Network’ (p. 19) because it shows the book’s tone and the insightful juxtaposition of our modern, everyday world with popular horror tropes / media: “Like other people my age, I built digital avatars out of song lyrics and self-portraits. […] That’s why zombies are such an appealing conversation topic. A zombie apocalypse discussion is profile building for the meatspace. Agreeing to a set scenario with high stakes and an internal logic established by film, TV, video games, and past conversations, we define ourselves in opposition to the undead.”

Joelle Kidd is a writer, editor and journalist living in a book-filled basement in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Prairie Fire, PRISM International, The Walrus, THIS Magazine and elsewhere. More: + @joelle_kidd

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