Fear is subjective. What might be frightening to one person might not even cause a shudder in another. So being able to articulate your own personal fears in a way that makes another feel the same way – that’s what separates good horror from the mediocre – to make the ordinary terrifying, the mundane sinister – to take an unsettling moment and turn it into a shared, cathartic experience.

When writer Scott Snyder was a child he and a friend would make up stories about a group of occultists living in the woods outside their remote Pennsylvania town. It was just harmless fun. But years later as an adult Snyder would return to those woods and he felt something – an uncanny feeling that those woods were waiting for him, that there were shapes in the shadows anticipating his return; that buried memories had lives of their own.

Snyder took that feeling and turned it into the basis for Wytches, a 2014 6-issue limited series published by Image Comics written by Snyder and illustrated by Mark Simpson – better known by the pen name Jock.

Wytches tells the story of the Rook family, focusing on the daughter Sailor. Sailor is bullied relentlessly by a schoolmate Annie, and when Annie disappears mysteriously Sailor is suspected of foul play. Though nothing can be proven rumors persist to the point where the Rooks are forced to leave and relocate to a nearby town. There they try to put the past behind them as they deal with Sailor’s anxiety and depression, father Charlie’s recovery from alcoholism, and mother Lucy’s injuries from a recent car accident. But the rumors follow them. And their new town turns out to have sinister secrets all its own.

In time Sailor and her father Charlie uncover generational plots and conspiracies involving macabre creatures in the woods – terrifying monsters that devour those who have been singled out or “pledged” by others in return for a reward. And Sailor becomes trapped in a web of selfishness, lies, and cruelty. It is a seemingly unwinnable situation where Sailor and Charlie must make the choice to sacrifice themselves to escape evil or be consumed by it.

With Wytches Scott Snyder crafts a story that shakes you and Jock’s haunting imagery makes the unease and fear tangible. But there is more to this story than just creatures in the night – more than just creepy visuals.

Overall this is a story about trauma, and the decisions one makes to either overcome or run from that trauma. A good horror story makes you feel more than just afraid. It should unsettle you, it should make you confront ideas you’d rather not think about. But in doing so it makes you look at the world a little bit differently – and it lets you know that by confronting evil it can be overcome. Wytches does exactly that.

This article originally appeared as the introduction to episode 80: Wytches.

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