Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
The Nice House on the Lake has been a delight for horror aficionados. So often these days, we get the same horror stories, be it a monster in the woods or the destruction mankind leaves in its wake. With The Nice House on the Lake, we’re introduced to a large cast of characters who mysteriously end up at a beautiful lake house, but things can’t be angelic and perfect, can they? Surely, something must be wrong, and their happiness manufactured? So begins a story that draws your attention, and it’s frightening as hell.
To better understand its genius–it won the Best New Series at the 2022 Eisner Awards for a reason–here are four reasons why James Tynion IV, Álvaro Martínez Bueno, Jordie Bellaire, and AndWorld Design’s The Nice House on the Lake is a modern horror masterpiece.
1. Defies expectations from the very start.
It’s not much of a spoiler to say the characters in this story learn the entire world is screwed in the first issue. In a glimpse, they learn everyone on Earth was burned alive. We don’t know if it was demons, an asteroid, or an alien invasion. We’re introduced to a bunch of characters who think they’re on some angelic vacation, but soon that perfect vacation turns into a cage they are trapped in while those they love die horribly. From the start, this series plays with our expectations.
Further, their captor–who was their friend in the before times–is some kind of creature. These reveals are surprising and blend in with the traits of these characters that further surprise them.
It seems every issue has some mystery to uncover or at least attempt to be explored. The characters may be safe, but there is constant dread hanging over everything due to new information changing how we think and feel about what is happening.
2. Knows how to tap into a primal fear.
The source of the fear you’ll feel, and feel for the characters in this comic, are primal. Knowing your friends and family are being harmed, for instance. Or the idea of being trapped with no way to escape. Since the series taps into a sense of dread, one can assume you never see a monster chasing these characters, but instead, they know danger is all around them.
Add in the strangeness of Walter and his abilities which seem unexplainable, and there are multiple elements at work here to set your amygdala aflame.
3. Keeps the monster, and its world, a mystery.
Often with horror stories, we get too much information, reducing the mystery and the unexplainable. Creators want to give readers answers; it keeps them coming back for more, and while The Nice House on the Lake has offered some answers, it maintains an unmistakable layer of mystery.
It’s obvious Walter, the captor of the characters in this story is some kind of powerful being. He never explains what he is – it’s almost like he can’t because the humans wouldn’t be able to comprehend it, and thus his role remains a mystery. He doesn’t mean harm to these people, but other beings like him do or at least have no care for the people like he does.
The series has carried a near-constant dread—we, the reader, have always known the apocalyptic stakes—while at times, there is also an undeniable personal terror we see with the characters. The horror ends scarier because it is veiled and abstracted from our characters’ lives.
The Nice House on the Lake #10 offers some answers about Walter’s abilities, but it’s still cast in a layer of unknowing that maintains a sense of magic and disturbing unknown.
4. Its characters are relatable.
The Nice House on the Lake benefits from a large cast of characters. They’re different, loud, and all connected, yet most wouldn’t get along. We learn that Walter has befriended them over the years, and each is unique. In a sense, they each represent a different facet of humanity, a facet worth saving. That doesn’t make them pure by any means – some of them are pretty obnoxious or even a bit deplorable, but they all have something to offer.
Tynion and Bueno do a fantastic job exploring each of them while revealing how they interact in highly relatable ways. Imagine being forced to hang with people you never met or chose to hang with, which might last forever. Things are going to get rocky fast.
Complexities aside, their captor Walter is also human in more ways than one. An incredibly loveable “person” who is undeniably the book’s forward-facing villain, Walter shows he’s caring, concerned, and maybe even insecure. Flashbacks throughout the first seven issues have shown him to be a deeply sweet, caring individual. Though he might be an integral part of the horrendous end of Earth, we can see him struggling with that. That adds another layer to the relatability as we try to comprehend what he’s going through as he tries to keep his friends captive and save them, even when it means taking away their agency and freedom.
Ultimately this series explores a group of people who should technically be content. They have all the food and pleasantries of life they could ever want, but when caged and facing unanswered questions, we learn the human psyche can’t be content. The horror is all around them, but it’s also inside them.
There are still a few issues, but The Nice House on the Lake is a masterclass in horror, tension, and uniqueness in a field where horror seems rote and repetitive. If you think you’ve seen it all in horror, give The Nice House on the Lake a read to see if there’s still hope for the genre. Volume 1 is now available to purchase, with Volume 2 out in March 2023.
Join the AIPT Patreon
Want to take our relationship to the next level? Become a patron today to gain access to exclusive perks, such as:
- ❌ Remove all ads on the website
- 💬 Join our Discord community, where we chat about the latest news and releases from everything we cover on AIPT
- 📗 Access to our monthly book club
- 📦 Get a physical trade paperback shipped to you every month
- 💥 And more!