Snowed In

The writer William F Nolan once said that nothing is scarier than a closed door. As an audience watching a film we sit there & hold our breath, hearing scratching on the other side & then scream as the door is thrown open to reveal a 10 ft tall bug. But there is also relief in that scream because we’re just relieved that it wasn’t a 100 foot tall & if the bug is 100 foot tall then we’d have been just as relieved that it wasn’t a 1000 feet tall. You see whatever’s behind the door can’t scare us any more than it has done once it’s been opened.

Various people over the years have experimented with how far you can open the door. H.P. Lovecraft would do everything in his power to avoid ever opening the door more than a crack, lest it drive his readers mad. More recent horror output however, such as the Saw franchise, has smashed the door off its hinges in an attempt to make the audience witness every possible brutality its writers could muster a dollar out of. But no matter the approach it still seems (to this reviewer at least) that it is the door which is our primary fear rather than what is behind it.

It seems only apt then that Snowed In begins outside the closed door of a secluded Cabin. What’s behind the door is nothing more threatening than 4 friends who have decided to get away from it all. It’s not long before a storm has set in & cut them off completely & while this is of little concern to them things take a turn for the weird when there is a knock at the door. Needless to say it’s not somebody asking if the holidaymakers have heard the word of our lord Jesus. Instead it’s somebody with a message, “It is coming for them & It wants them dead”.

It’s pretty obvious that Shawn Gabborin & Rick Lundeen, the creators of Snowed In, understand the idea of the door & what it does to the reader pretty damn well. It’s more than easy for anyone to open a door, see what’s behind it & then close it again putting whatever was behind it out of their mind, but if you let something in… Well that’s a different matter all together. Once you let something in It takes hold & It refuses to leave. At this point it doesn’t matter what else happens because you’re not just a member of the audience anymore. You’re now a willing participant & your mind is doing all the work. That’s the beauty of Snowed In. It whispers the simplest of ideas & watches as long forgotten fears dislodge themselves in your mind, increasing in size till they become an avalanche, burying you underneath. This is due in part to Gabborin’s writing. On first glance it seems paired down & simple almost to the point of non existence. However once you put Snowed in down, It doesn’t go away; It plays on your mind, banging on that door & refusing to be shut out till you open the pages again. Then, after a second (& a third) read through you start to appreciate how the book really works. What’s behind the door doesn’t matter, because while you were busy reading this story It crept in somewhere else & now It has you exactly where it wants you.

Gabborin can’t take all the credit though. Rick Lundeen’s art puts in a lot of the heavy lifting here. The atmosphere of this book hangs thick in the air & its Lundeen’s clean approach, sharp line work & heavy monochrome palette that carry it across. It would be very easy to qualify Lundeen’s work as “less is more”, but on closer inspection his panel work is an Easter egg hunt of significant details that play a part in their telling of the story. Meanwhile the layouts, that gradually progress from clean & simple to fractured & jagged as the minds of the central characters do the same, contribute far more than just pointing out which direction you need to be reading in next.  In fact it is the book’s signature motif of a bloodied handprint on a door that best reflects Lundeen’s approach. Being that this image forms the book’s cover more conventional horror would assume that its appearance would be of huge significance. Not so, in fact it’s a blink & you’ll miss it moment, but when you notice it, you’ll be left with a whole new set of questions.

& so here we are, back at that door again. It would be fair to say that horror more than most genres has the ability to divide opinion & what is behind the door in the case of Snowed In certainly won’t be to everyone’s particular taste.  Those looking for something more visceral & instantaneous may find Snowed In’s slow build & psychological approach frustrating at times, but if you like your horror with a dollop of brains (the thinking kind, not the splattered sort) then Snowed In offers much of interest behind its closed door… If you dare to open it that is.