Tag Archives: red room

We Were Scared: Horror in the year 2021

I’m not one to look back on a year and say the horror produced in it was a reflection of how bad things were. Every year finds its sources of fear, be it war or global pandemics or even economic strife. There’s no shortage of things that inspire terror.

What’s been a constant throughout time is how we turn to stories to work through our collective fears. This year saw no shortage of them, and so we recognize them.

Ahead you’ll find a list of horror across media that stands as some of the most impressive, surprising, disturbing, and downright scary that came out in 2021. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive or a definitive list nor is it in any particular order. It’s a look at the stories that got us to confront the horrors of everyday life, for that is what horror does best: create monsters and specters to helps us sift through the madness of reality. Oh, and it’s entirely subjective, as every list is.

Without further ado, the list for some of the most compelling things in horror in 2021.

1. Resident Evil 8: Village (PS/Xbox/PC/Stadia)

The Resident Evil franchise went through a legitimate transformation with the arrival of RE7, the entry that shifted from the third-person perspective into the first-person. It got the series to reconsider the places it could extract fear from. RE8 builds upon this by taking a more action-heavy approach, but like the classic Resident Evil 4 before it, the faster pace allowed the game to be infused with a more violent and visceral sense of horror, turning each encounter into a nerve-shattering experience. We once again follow Ethan Winters as his family drama extends into a village bursting at the seams with grotesque creatures and insidious conspiracies. The new werewolf villagers Ethan faces are superbly designed and they carry themselves with the same degree of doom and maliciousness as The Ganado did in RE4, but deadlier. It’s one of the best horror games in recent years and it foretells of an indulgingly dark and exciting future for the franchise.

2. Red Room (Fantagraphics)

Ed Piskor has the most macabre and twisted book to have come out in recent years in comics, period. Red Room is not for the faint of heart. It’s for those who don’t mind watching cruel individuals tearing those hearts out. The comic centers on an on-going dark web streaming show, supported by cryptocurrency, called The Red Room where serial killers dismember, disembowel, torture, and kill in the most creative ways imaginable, building a fanbase in the process. The more gruesome the kill, the more crypto tips the killer gets. In a sense, it’s a story about the depravity of creativity in things considered evil, but it’s also about how dangerous something like the dark web can be and how crypto figures into something like this. Piskor said he didn’t base the story on an actual red room-like website he knows about, but that he wouldn’t be surprised if such a place already exists. The thought of that alone is frightening enough and the comic pulls on the same strings. There’s nothing like Red Room on the stands. Nothing.

3. The Night House (TSG Entertainment/Dir. by David Bruckner)

Some of the best horror movies manage to find that well-worn formulas never truly reach a point in which everything is said and done with them. The Night House is one such movie. Beth (played by Rebecca Hall) is dealing with the sudden and unexpected death of her husband, a man whose departure hints at something darker lurking in his backstory. Beth notices her lake house is behaving strangely, possibly haunted, and that her husband might be back for a visit. The movie excels at making the house seem labyrinthian, a place where memories are dangerous and the architecture itself contains hidden images if looked at from certain angles. Rebecca Hall plays Beth with a sense of sadness and anger that sets her apart from the usual haunted protagonist, more of an active participant in her grief rather than a victim to it. All of the elements of a haunted house story are also there, but then the movie pushes every expectation down a different route to come out the other end as a more disquieting experience. It deserves to be talked about more.

4. Evil Dead Trap (Unearthed Classics 2021 Blu-Ray edition, originally released in 1988)

Okay, I’m cheating a bit on this one—being that it’s the Blu-Ray edition of a Japanese giallo-inspired horror movie from 1988—but that Unearthed Classics restored this gem and made it available for gore hounds in 2021 was one of the year’s most pleasant surprises. Evil Dead Trap follows a TV reporter that sets off with her team to an abandoned factory where a mysterious snuff filmed was shot. As they search for answers, the video’s creator starts in on the killing, one team member at a time. The movie’s director, Toshiharu Ikeda, who started out in the industry directing pink films (movies with risqué or explicit sexual content), takes a lot of inspiration from the Italian slasher genre and manages to craft some truly memorable death scenes. Unlike giallo films, though, Evil Dead Trap opts to pay more attention to story and character motivations. It all adds up to a brutal experience that’s unafraid to go far beyond concept to push the envelope on genre conventions.

5. Two Moons (Image Comics)

Given the controversies surrounding anything related to the American Civil War in today’s political climate, I found John Arcudi and Valerio Giangiordano’s Two Moons to be quite the surprise. It’s a Civil War horror comic about a Pawnee soldier fighting for the North and the procession of creatures and monsters that he meets along the way. Whether these beings are real or imagined is part of the story’s mysteries, but what’s certain is that Giangiordano’s designs are nightmarish and worthy of mention. Arcudi treats the subject matter in a very clever way, avoiding moralistic pitfalls for a more complex narrative that explores hatred, myth, and the types of violence war inspires. It’s an impressive example of horror storytelling.

Midnight Mass

6. Midnight Mass (Netflix, dir. by Mike Flanagan)

Religion and horror together is like a highly dysfunctional marriage that still manages to work. It gets at the root of some of the darkest aspects of faith and how people try to keep it even when that darkness starts seeping through. Mike Flanagan’s Midnight Mass is precisely about that, but then it also throws a terrifying creature into the mix. The story follows a small town with a waning sense of religious devotion with a few key personalities ready to turn that around. In comes a new priest that holds a terrible secret that he thinks comes with good intentions but is actually entirely the opposite. Hamish Linklater as Father Paul Hill keeps the tension on a razors edge, going from approachable spiritual guide to fire and brimstone orator. The promise of hope and salvation religion provides proves to be dangerous when it asks for blind devotion and Flanagan makes sure the sentiment comes across without it being overbearing. It’s thought-provoking horror with a creature that will haunt you long after you’re done with it.

7. Nothing But Blackened Teeth (Tor Nightfire)

Cassandra Khaw’s Nothing But Blackened Teeth finds that haunted houses and destination weddings are pure horror gold, especially when the house is a Heian-era Japanese mansion with the bones of a dead bride in it. A group of thrill-seekers make their way to a mansion for their friends’ wedding and very quickly discover the ghosts that inhabit it like to torture their victims by bringing their past mistakes and personal misgivings come to the fore. Each character is confronted with themselves all the while a bride with black teeth roams the halls of the mansion. For such a short novel, the narrative feels dense and quite heavy tone-wise, but never to its detriment. Khaw gives readers enough information to get them acquainted with cast so that the haunting hits harder with each twist and turn. The book also invites repeated reading as it reveals layers upon layers of meaning the more time you spend between its tight and superbly crafted sentences. Truly a standout book you’ll want to keep on your permanent collection.

8. Magic: The Gathering- Innistrad Midnight Hunt/Crimson Vow (Wizards of the Coast)

MTG has had an impressive set of expansions in recent years despite the hardships of running a competitive card game during a global pandemic. Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow stand as two of its best, both parts of a whole centered on werewolves (Midnight Hunt) and vampires (Crimson Vow). Wizards of the Coast made a great decision in bringing back the day/night cycle for its werewolf cards, which allows for dual-identity creatures on double-sided cards. They play differently based on whether the sun is out or the full moon is up. The mechanic is simple and fair and adds another layer of strategy that directly affects deck building in surprising ways. Crimson Vow is set in a decadent vampire wedding and its spells are based on that concept. Zombie waiters and vampiric guests of honor grace its cards, giving the game a touch of celebratory gruesomeness that’s also playful with its elements. The day and night cycle doesn’t impact the vampires as much is it does the werewolves, but they complement each other well and make for a very story-driven affair. The Crimson Vow bundle comes with a collectible invitation to the wedding that is worth the price of it alone.

9. The Nice House on the Lake (DC Black Label)

James Tynion IV and Álvaro Martínez Bueno’s The Nice House on the Lake is set to become one of the best horror comics of the decade. No surprise, then, that it makes the list. The story unravels like an apocalyptic puzzle box horror mystery with an exceptional cast of characters and an overall visual design that gives everything a hazy vibe not unlike the kind found in dreams. An odd man called Walter brings a select group of friends to a very well-stocked house that’s just outside the fiery apocalypse’s reach. Each entry in the series peels back a few layers, but what they really like to sink their teeth into is individual backstories that explain how each person made it to the house and how Walter figures into their lives. Each character houses volumes of story and not one reveal is wasted as their personalities clash and lean on each other as they try to figure out what’s going on. This year saw the first half of the series run its course, making 2022 the year we finally get to see what the nice house on the lake truly is.

10. The Amusement Park (Communicator’s Pittsburg, dir. by George Romero)

George Romero left behind a vast collection of scripts, posters, props, and unreleased movies when he passed away back in 2017. It’s so extensive, in fact, that the George A. Romero Foundation (who possess the majority of the legendary filmmaker’s collection) is still uncovering new material. Back in 2018, the GARF discovered a feature-length film called The Amusement Park, a movie about how people treat their older population and how they get left behind and forgotten. It’s presented in a kind of surrealist way that leans on psychological horror as we witness the mistreatment of older folk in a strange amusement park that is not only indifferent to them but also hostile. The movie has a dystopic feel to it that isn’t all-encompassing. Instead, it’s an imposed way of life dictated by age. The older you get, the more life starts to resemble a dystopia. It hits hard and there’s a sadness coursing through it that separates it from the traditional psychological horror fare. The iconic horror elements Romero is known for make it into the film in a variety of ways, especially in terms of how regular people can become monsters. It’s necessary viewing and I hope it continues to promote discussion.

And there you have it, a look at what Horror was in 2021. Here’s to making monsters out of the things 2022 will definitely give us to scream at, and then confront them.

Preview: Red Room #4


(W) Ed Piskor (A) Ed Piskor
In Shops: Sep 15, 2021
Fantagraphics Books

The breakout smash hit of 2021 wraps up its debut four-issue monthly “season” with a trio of tales inspired by the great EC Comics such as Tales from the Crypt and focusing on Donna Butcher, the original Queen of the Red Rooms! “Cyclical Territory,” “Pure Evil,” and “Snuff Said” explore Butcher’s origins in the VHS/Betamax era of torture porn before twisting into a contemporary revenge fantasy gone wrong. Another stand alone masterpiece from creator of X-Men: Grand Design and Hip Hop Family Tree! As seen on Cartoonist Kayfabe (YouTube)!


Preview: Red Room #3

Red Room #3

(W) Ed Piskor (A) Ed Piskor
In Shops: Jul 28, 2021
SRP: $3.99

Levee Turks was an encryption software prodigy serving a life sentence for creating an online drug empire until the feds proposed a deal: infiltrate red rooms and help the FBI crack down on these deepest corners of the dark web. But Turks soon finds that prison might be a better fate… Another killer stand-alone issue of the all-new monthly series from the creator of Hip Hop Family Tree and X-Men: Grand Design! As seen on Piskor’s YouTube channel sensation, Cartoonist Kayfabe!

Red Room #3

Preview: Red Room #2

Red Room #2

(W) Ed Piskor (A) Ed Piskor
In Shops: Jun 30, 2021
SRP: $3.99

Grooming victims to be slaughtered on the DARK WEB for the enjoyment of psychopaths requires lots of work to keep them from being identified. The Poker Face organization, one of the most successful black market Red Room companies on the internet, goes to great lengths to fulfill their customers’ depraved fantasies while avoiding law enforcement every step of the way. From the creator of Hip Hop Family Tree and X-Men: Grand Design comes this ALL-NEW monthly comic book series! A cyberpunk, outlaw, splatterpunk deep dive into the subculture of criminals who live-stream and patronize webcam murders for entertainment in the darkest corners of the web with nearly untraceable crypto-currency. As seen on Piskor’s YouTube channel sensation, Cartoonist Kayfabe!

Red Room #2

Around the Tubes

Red Room #1

We’ve got a lot coming at you this week here at GP with lots of reviews, previews, and so much more. We’re kicking off the day with our roundup of what you might have missed this weekend!

The Beat – RIP David Anthony Kraft – Our thoughts are with his friends, family, and fans.


Collected Editions – Batman: The Movies

The Verge – Home Sick Pilots

Monkeys Fighting Robots – Red Room #1

CBR – Sleeping Beauties Vol. 1

Review: Red Room #1

Fresh off a couple of illustrated Wikipedia summary comics, writer/artist Ed Piskor turns in his first comic of original content in nine years, Red Room #1. It shows the inner workings of Red Rooms, which are online webcam sites on the dark web where viewers pay in cryptocurrency to watch cartoonish figures murder people in creative ways. There’s also a parallel story of Davis Mayfield, a pathetic, hypocritical court clerk, who is dealing with the death of his wife and daughter in a drunk driving accident and trying to provide for his surviving daughter, Brianna, to go to NYU. Piskor does a much better job handling the chat room banter and drawing the truly grotesque ways in which the even more gruesome-looking victims of the Red Rooms are dispatched than showing the real world of tragedy, loss, and even simple things like jobs and conversations. With the exception of Brianna and her friend, who are written like 1990s transplants instead of present-day teenagers (And it’s probably for the best.), the cast of Red Room, both in the “real world” and the complex are meant to be objects of derision, laughter, and disgust.

If I had to describe Red Room #1 in one catchy pull quote, it would be “The Invisibles for incels.” There’s conspiracies, initiations, and a cast of characters in fetish wear with names connected to Aleister Crowley. However, the only thing they’re hiding is unfettered exploitation with the origin of the “herd” or “cows” that Mistress Pentagram (A Red Room exec, I guess.) being more chilling than the actual on-panel violence. And Ed Piskor definitely seems to be having fun with the old ultraviolence creating an immersive environment with an attention to detail in the Red Room’s user interface probably born out of long hours on Chaturbate with the audience commentary adding context to the wannabe EC Horror or Clive Barker style images on the screen. To his credit, he does make references to Barker in the first Red Room video seen in the comic, and this kind of metacommentary acts as a shield his work from being derivative.

Even though there are lapses in his storytelling (The death of Davis’ wife and daughter is weirdly staged and melodramatic, Piskor’s work really pops in black and white, and you can see all kinds of gross and occasionally interesting details in his line art like the graffiti on Davis’ desk and the contempt that everyone shows him. The outlaw comic and splatterpunk comparisons have been mentioned a lot in the press material for Red Room, but Ed Piskor draws a lot on the work on Daniel Clowes in both his figure work and lettering. (Plus Brianna cosplays as Enid Coleslaw in a very old school take on a comic book convention, or maybe it was a dead ringer for East Coast Comicon…) The stylized “ha ha’s” at the cop bar when Davis is roasted for working a desk job and look like a serial killer could be directed towards Seymour or Daniel Pussey or any of Clowes’ pathetic protagonists, and this extends to his facial expressions and the way he holds his weight. Davis is this close to recording extreme closeup videos of QAnon rants in his car, or worse because this is Red Room.

Even though his writing (Especially his dialogue for non-white people) has a ways to go, Ed Piskor does continue to have a distinct art style in Red Room as he sheds the old school, four color superhero hijinks of Hip Hop Family Tree and X-Men: Grand Design for old school indie. (Black and White Explosion, weird old non-Hernandez Brothers Fantagraphics comics) However, Piskor’s plotting is direct to DVD horror, and his characters are definitely stock types as he tries to tell a father/daughter story when it definitely seems like he’d rather be delving into mob and serial killer conspiracies and coming up with different Red Room studios that are scarily close to drawing on stereotypes about sex workers. So, going a different route and focusing on Davis might have a better idea in the long run.

I definitely can’t recommend Red Room #1 as a story beyond some cool storytelling tricks from Ed Piskor. (He uses bullet casings to make sound effect lettering.) However, its utter contempt for humanity and 4chan-filtered-through 1990s nostalgia (Its sole connective tissue to the last volume of X-Men: Grand Design.) and dusty old paperbacks perspective on what makes society tick stimulates the doom-scrolling through Facebook comment threads and binge-watching 90 Day Fiance part of my brain so I might be making a return visit to this book…

Story: Ed Piskor Art: Ed Piskor
Story: 5.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 5.8 Recommendation: Pass

Fantagraphics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXologyKindle

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Red Room #1

Wednesdays (and now Tuesdays) are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in

Each week our contributors choose what they can’t wait to read this week or just sounds interesting. In other words, this is what we’re looking forward to and think you should be taking a look at!

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this week.

Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 (Marvel) – A new take on the Fantastic Four looking at their lives in real time across the years.

Home #2 (Image Comics) – The series takes a hard look at immigration. The first issue delivered a finale that took the series in a fantastical direction and we’re intrigued as to where it goes from there.

Nottingham #3 (Mad Cave Studios) – A fresh take on the Robin Hood mythology.

Phantom on the Scan #2 (AfterShock) – The first issue had a solid X-Files vibe to it and we want to learn more about these characters, their powers, and why they’re dying.

Rangers of the Divide #1 (Dark Horse) – A new series following a Commander who stumbles upon a team of cadets after the nation’s peace keepers disappear.

Red Room #1 (Fantagraphics) – Ed Piskor’s new monthly comic series kicks off with a double-sized issue. Red Room is cyberpunk, outlaw, splatterpunk, entertainment.

Shang-Chi #1 (Marvel) – The previous miniseries was fantastic and we’re expecting no less when it comes to this new series.

Stray Dogs #4 (Image Comics) – We really don’t know if murders actually took place. But, we’re sucked into this series that’s kept us guessing what’s going on with every issue.

Way of X #2 (Marvel) – Nightcrawler explores the world of Krakoa and that includes the bad that lies underneath. The first issue was a solid exploration of the new world of the X-Men from a different perspective.

We Live Vol. 1 (AfterShock) – If you missed the individual issues, you have no excuse now. This is an emotional journey and one hell of a debut.

White Lily #3 (Red 5 Comics) – Based on real history, the story focuses on a Russian female fighter pilot during World War II, one of the best ever.

Wonder Girl #1 (DC Comics) – The new Wonder Girl starts off here! From what we know from Future State, this is going to be a major character in the DC Universe for years to come!

Preview: Red Room #1

Red Room #1

(W) Ed Piskor (A) Ed Piskor
In Shops: May 19, 2021
SRP: $6.99

From the creator of Hip Hop Family Tree and X-Men: Grand Design comes this ALL-NEW monthly comic book series, with a specially priced, self-contained, double-sized debut issue! Red Room is a cyberpunk, outlaw, splatterpunk masterpiece. Aided by the anonymous dark web and nearly untraceable crypto-currency, there has emerged a subculture of criminals who live-stream and patronize webcam murders for entertainment. Who are the murderers? Who are the victims? How do we stop it? As seen on Piskor’s YouTube channel sensation, Cartoonist Kayfabe!

Red Room #1

Ed Piskor’s Red Room Comes to Fantagraphics

Red Room #1

Eisner Award-winning, indie cartoonist Ed Piskor is releasing Red Room, an ambitious, new sci-fi horror comic with Fantagraphics. Best known for documenting the history of hip hop with the best-selling Hip Hop Family Tree graphic novels and for distilling more than 8,000 pages of Marvel Comics continuity into the seamless masterpiece X-Men Grand Design, Red Room represents a significant milestone for the cartoonist: the creation of his first creator-owned, shared universe. Red Room will debut from Fantagraphics in May with an oversized 64-page first issue.

In Red Room, criminals livestream murders on the dark web for fun and profit. The series will be told through a series of interconnected, stand-alone stories, focusing on unsavory characters that lurk in the most grotesque corners of cyberspace. The murders are a mystery, the victims unknown. Aided by the anonymous dark web and nearly untraceable crypto-currency, business is booming and the viewership is ever-growing.

Red Room will be released in a variety of formats. The series will be published as monthly, four-issue arcs in a standard 32-page comic book format at $3.99 each, with the exception of May’s first issue, which will be a specially priced, 64-page double-sized issue selling for $6.99. In the fall of 2021, the first four issues will be collected into a trade paperback. Once the Red Room saga is complete, there will be a total of 12 single issues and three trade paperbacks.