Category Archives: Horror: Movies, Books, Stories and More

Neon Night Terrors

Hello,

I love 80’s horror.

Love it.

It is my favorite era of my favorite genre of movie.

I love the excess of 80’s horror. It’s big an it’s gory and it splatters and explodes across the screen.

It’s an enormous, backwoods madman in a hockey mask swinging a machete.

It’s a demon invading nightmares with knives for fingers.

It’s an antarctic expedition with dogs that erupt into tentacles.

It’s John Carpenter.

This is the time when horror lost its 1970’s addiction to grim and gritty and despair and satanic cults. It’s when horror realized it could be fun and gaudy and gross and extravagant and it’s amazing.

It’s something I think I could talk about endlessly.

Maybe record it.

I dunno.

Something to think about.

-D-

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Scary Fear

Hello Again,

I think about horror a lot. I think about horror movies, horror short fiction, horror novels, about the things that terrify us day-to-day.

Horror is a vital thing, an important thing and a thing worth studying.

I’ve had a project in the back of my mind, something I’ve been thinking about working but it’s a daunting project.

I think that I’ve finally reached the point where I don’t care about how daunting it is. I think it’s an important thing to work on.

I want you to watch this space because I think I’ll be announcing something in the next few months and it will be pretty intense.

At least, if you’re me.

-D-

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The Science-fication of Horror

In the days of olde, let’s say the 1940’s and back, horror movie monsters were the stuff of legends and myth. They were the vampires and werewolves of Eastern Europe. They were the mummies of Ancient Egypt. They were the primitive beasts from the Pleistocene Era. They were the ghosts and ghouls from Victorian castles.

With few exceptions, these beasts came lurking out from the shadows of superstition. They were magical or gypsy curses or hell-borne. Their reason for being was shrouded in the darkness of antiquity.

There are exceptions, of course. There are your Doctor Frankensteins and your Doctor Griffins and your Dr. Jekylls. But they are not so common and the science they practice is only step removed from wizardry and alchemy.

But then came the Atomic Bomb and people realized, suddenly and violently, that science could result in far more potent horrors than one ever found in the works of Stoker, Shelley or Wells.

The 50’s are plagued with atomic horrors, beasts irradiated and made large, deformed and horrific and bent on the destruction of mankind. They were garden variety pests that could chow down on sky scrapers. They were men and women blessed by radioactive stature. They stood tall and large and obscene and loomed like mushroom clouds over the landscape.

At the same time, the Space Race was getting started in earnest and people looked to the skies and saw the potential for menace. Whether space vegetables (either in the form of  pods or James Arness) or giant, crawling eyes or small, crawling hands, we saw invaders from the stars with the same hellish intents as our communist neighbors.

The gothic and the ghastly fell away to make way for horrors created by what Americans saw every day in the paper. Our fears are always defined by the larger pop culture and it rarely takes much to see what inspires our nightmares.

As we head into the late 60’s and 70’s, serial killers dominate the papers and we get Psycho, Black Christmas, and Halloween.

More and more, our fictional fears become more grounded in reality. We are reduced to large men with sharp knives. No matter how colorful or indestructible they are, they are still just glam rock versions of Bundy, Manson and Dahmer.

And that began a slow change within the traditional horrors and it can be seen in the zombie genre most clearly. Before Romero, zombies were voodoo and that was that. Witch doctors cast spells and lo, there came the walking dead.

But in The Night of the Living Dead, there is a passing reference to a comet and the walking dead, albeit in a very slight and subtle manner, are given a scientific reason for their improbable existence. Further, the “zed word” is never mentioned in the movie. The zombies are distanced from their religious roots, from folklore and from legend. As the “of the Living Dead” series progresses, Romero dissects them a little bit more each time. They are subjected to medical experiments and researched and psychoanalyzed.

And that’s what begins to happen to all of the old movie monsterss. Take any movie script involving vampires  or werewolves and you can do a find and replace for “magic” with “virus” and boom, you have the modern horror movie. It’s not a curse, it’s a disease.  It’s not magical, it’s biological. The modern audience does not accept magic as the obvious explanation. The audience needs explanation and dissection and vivisection. There needs to be analysis and intervention.

In all of this, there is a very key point: there is a need to understand the monster so that it can be destroyed.

Horror is our release valve for the internal pressures built up from fear and anxiety and worry. There are a thousand different anxieties that we face day to day and we have very little control over most of them. The horror fictions are only an effective release when we have a way to deal with the monsters they present.

A monster borne of magic is less effective as a release valve, when we don’t believe in magic in any form and cannot relate to the monster on any level, either as a believable threat or confrontable menace. As Americans become more secular, the idea of a monster that can be turned aside by a cross becomes less palatable. But a monster that can be turned aside by an injection or by a prescription becomes that needed release.

Horror, to be effective and relevant, is always adapting. It shapes our fears into beasts that can be killed. It turns car accidents and cancers and school shootings into fanged and fearsome dragons that can be slayed with the correct incantation and the right weapon.

As time passes and we grow more knowledgeable as a society, these dragons must adapt to be more sophisticated and more resilient and reflect our knowledge. The tools to defeat them grow increasingly more complex in response.

As time goes on, it will be more difficult for horror to function as an effective means for release. As knowledge and information become more accessible, our awareness will make it less possible to escape and to enjoy the fictions we create to avoid the painful truths of reality. At that point, fiction will stop being a bastion against reality and humanity will need to confront what it needs to do to continue as a species.

-D-

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Discussing Horror: The Ten Podcast

Horror, for a large part of my life, has been very important to me. I believe that great horror movies help us deal with our every day fears, the fears that we cannot control. We cannot prevent every accident, every illness, every tragedy. Horror helps us to release that fear, helps us to relieve that stress. It presents a scare that we can deal with, that we can resolve. There is no silver bullet for Alzheimer’s, cancer, drunk drivers or insane political candidates, but scary movies give us a fiction where we can face off with our fears man-to-man and beat them.

I started a podcast with a  friend of mine, Trevor BLEEP, to discuss the best of the best, the movies that best help us to deal with our fears. This is not about the shock and awe horror like Hostel and Saw . Our podcast, The Ten Podcast, is about those movies that really do address humanity and those fears we cannot resolve otherwise.

So far, we have discussed The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Alien and we’re going to be looking at some very interesting movies in the future. So check us out on iTunes or on Libsyn and take a listen.

And if you have a movie you want us to discuss in the future, feel free to email us at thetenpodcast@gmail.com.

We’ll be seeing you.

-D-

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The Ten (Episode One): Introductions

It is only now, in this final hour, that I will reveal the great undertaking that myself and Trevor C. have shouldered. It took six months of constant and ceaseless effort. We planned, plotted and prepared for this moment. Every step we took, every move we made was toward this one point. Every calculated effort was to get us to today, this day.

The day that we released The Ten.

The Ten is the master list of the greatest horror movies ever made as determined by Trevor C. and myself. Each movie will be scrutinized. Every movie will be made to stand among its peers. Every movie must go through The Panel.

It is only after this test of fire that a movie will be allowed to join The Ten.

Join us every two weeks as we nominate a movie and then pick it apart to determine its worthiness. This week, the episode elaborates on the process and the podcast that will eventually generate The Ten.

Listen to The Ten (Episode One) Introductions and we will see you in two weeks.

-D-

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A Quick and Easy Guide on How to Hell Raise

There are a lot of horror film franchises that have let me down. Scream, Friday the Thirteenth, Nightmare on Elm Street; They have all devolved into pointless, mindless and, to be frank, stupid repetitions of the same old song and dance. There was one franchise that disappoints more than any other and that’s the Hellraiser series.

I have watched all nine movies, all the way through, and if ever there was a squandered and lost opportunity, it would be Hellraiser. While Friday the Thirteenth was always doomed to be nothing more than simple series of slashings, Hellraiser showed far more promise. For the few people who read my blog and have not seen this movie, it’s about a puzzle box that opens a gateway to a dimension of extreme please and pain. It is governed by demons/angels/crazy dudes in bondage gear called The Cenobites and they attract the truly depraved.

Over the course of the series, they managed to do a lot of things with the material. It wasn’t always the same, tired story retreaded and rewritten.  They’ve done period pieces and futuristic visions of a dark future and even a noir of sorts. But it’s always felt lackluster and done with the bare minimum of funds. There is a potential for truly interesting storytelling and creepy and frightening visuals, but after the first two films, they stop dipping so deeply in the well and rely on tried and true methods.

And then it ends up with the last two movies which were so awful that I don’t even want to talk about them. Hellraiser: Hellworld turns Pinhead into just another slasher and Hellraiser: Revelations basically remakes the first movie but with poorly written and unlikable characters, a profoundly pointless plot and a mean spirited darkness that I’m sure the screenwriter thought was edginess and grit.

It’s a series that held so much potential and you can even see where they tried to maximize that potential; but the lacked the time, the funds or the ability to make it a reality. And, by the end, they ended up being as bad and, it pains me to say this, creatively worse than Jason X.

I want a remake, but one made with Clive Barker guiding it. Maybe Guillermo del Torro directing. That’s what I want. Until then, I don’t think we’ve seen what Pinhead is truly capable of.

-D-

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Movie Review: Evil Dead (Remake)

Last night, I went to see the Evil Dead remake and I was less than impressed.

For those that don’t know, the original The Evil Dead is a horror cult classic that exists in its own realm of awesome. It is a frantic, kinetic, slapstick gore-tastic explosion of excess. The sequels that followed are less innovative, but far more fun and added more to the sub-layers of pop culture than the first. The first was a horror movie that was as much informed by the Three Stooges as it was by George Romero and drive-in horror flicks.

The remake was, in a lot of ways, going to fail before it even got out of the gate. You cannot, absolutely cannot, remake the magic that makes a cult movie a cult movie. And nor do you want to. A cult movie is popular with only a small portion of the movie-going audience, hence the name. The studio is not going to go out of their way to try and please a very cranky, persnickety cluster of fans.

So the remake was far less frantic, more reserved and more by-the-numbers, more tailored for the average Friday night ticket holder. It followed closely along in the footsteps of the original movie and every “cabin in the woods” formula movie that followed.

But the more I thought about it, the more I began to consider the idea that the remake was, in a sly way, tapping into the same ideas that the first The Evil Dead did. It was violent. Ridiculously so. Almost Black Knight violent. It even made me wince once or thrice. Much in the way the first The Evil Dead reveled in the gooshy red stuff, the remake over-indulged as well, but catered to an audience that has been emotionally stunted on a steady diet of Saw and Hostel movies.

And as it progressed, Evil Dead became steadily more over the top and more absurd. At the time, when I saw duct tape routinely used as the cure-all for injuries, including, but not limited to, a severed arm, I thought that there was a very desperate or very ignorant screenwriter at play. But now, in retrospect, I think there were just screenwriters at play, trying to tread a very careful line between the goofy, over-the-top slapstick violence of every horror movie from the 80’s and the grim, ultra real, ultra gritty torture horror that has come to, disturbingly, dominate the market in the last ten years.

I hesitate to call Evil Dead a good movie, but I am willing to give it more credit than I initially gave it. If you’re a fan of the original or of 80’s horror in general (Hello Re-Aimator fans), give it a spin, keep an open mind and see it as an amalgam of the now and then.

I give it one, over-amorous tree.

-D-

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