Publisher: Redshift Pess
Words: Chris Sides
Art: Freja Steele
Letters and Post Production: Chris Travel
Release Date: 14th November, 2015 (Thought Bubble Festival)
When horror is at its best, it works by taking very real anxieties or shared traumas and repackaging these with some eerie imagery so that we can stare down the monster from a different perspective. Some of my favourite horror films of recent years have done this to great effect, movies like “The Babadook” and “It Follows” putting a monster mask on larger, scarier things like grief and sexual trauma. In a similar way, Whispering Sands tries to approach the horrors of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami that struck Thailand by focusing on the supposedly supernatural occurrences that accompanied the tragedy.
This new comic from indie publisher, Redshift Press is centred on a Thai father and son, who find themselves caught up in the middle of the disaster, showing the reader the nightmare of the event itself and its lasting fallout. My reaction to the innocuously bright scenery of the first page was the overwhelming feeling of ‘this doesn’t look like a horror comic’ as typically glorious sunshine doesn’t go hand in hand with terror. However, Chris Sides swiftly undermines this by developing a growing sense of unease and skilfully develops a nightmare that is both supernatural and psychological.
I tend to prefer more stylised artwork than seen here, but it certainly makes sense in a horror tale that is strongly grounded in actual events. Freja Steele has a strong sense of visual storytelling and this works really well with Chris Side’s pacing. A couple of reveals that foreshadow the catastrophe are handled pretty nicely and her style works for both the supernatural elements and more emotional moments of the story. There’s a one-page spread of the Thai landscape that really stresses the vulnerability of the tiny characters and scenes showing the desolation caused by the tsunami’s impact are also really affecting.
On a side note: I really liked that the comic focused on Thai characters in contrast to narratives like 2012 film “The Impossible”, where the Thai casualties are made a backdrop for the experiences of a handful of white holidaymakers.
The comic also includes the additional story, ‘In the Forest of Scorched Trees’ which again focuses on a kind of psychological trauma – this time a couple’s attempt to escape the clutches of an ominous cult – and the reader is transfixed as the situation rapidly escalates into chaos and violence. Both tales play with very real fears, in a way that is less focused on outright scares than a sort of eerie lasting horror. Definitely one for the discerning horror fan, who shuns blood and gore for more psychological chills.
The writer of this piece was: Kirsty Hunter
Kirsty Tweets from @kirstythehunter.