To celebrate Halloween this year, I watched Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the second time and not only does it remain one of the most terrifying pieces of horror cinema, but the finest example of ambiguous horror as there was never an explanation of why the killers act the way they do. This approach to the genre became a template during the seventies, especially during John Carpenter’s filmography, and one can definitely see the influence in Winnebago Graveyard from Image Comics.
When Dan is trying to bond with his stepson Bobby at the behest of his mother Chrissie, the three of them make a stop in a small Californian town where a carnival is occurring. However, when their Winnebago goes missing, the vacation turns into a nightmare as the family becomes targets of the town’s citizens who just happen to be Satanists.
Only four issues long, the miniseries delivers on the above synopsis and never goes beyond that as 30 Days of Night writer Steve Niles cuts straight to the chase with the classic dysfunctional American family being thrown into bloody terror. The book wastes no time calming things, as we never really get to know the family apart from a brief argument during the initial issue. However, once the horror ensues, you are engaged by the peril they face and considering how violent things can get from the first few pages, anyone can bite the dust.
As I’ve said before, horror works best when it’s not entirely explained, and since the villains here are a group of Satanists, you can’t get much more evil than that. However, there are gaps in-between the narrative that you think Niles forgot to fill as the outcome of the human sacrifices that open the book is never understood, while the book concludes with a confusing final page. However, in the bonus material, there are essays by Casey Gilly who explores the real history of Satanism.
When it comes to horror comics, it’s difficult to simply look at a picture and be chilled to your very bones, but fortunately the art by Alison Sampson the something to marvel at. Along with Stephane Paitreau’s colors, Sampson presents a grim realism of Americana, from the creepy carnival to the empty surroundings of the town of Acton. The idea that the town’s citizens are secretly black-hooded Satanists is scary enough, but the creators don’t entirely stick to their guns with the arrival of a monster, which isn’t that visually interesting but offers plenty of gory sequences. The third issue in particular is face-rippingly good.
This four-issue miniseries is a brisk read, but it provides chilling horror and unflinching violence about confronting ambiguous evil in the lands of Americana.
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