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

Just Down Downs Road

In spite of the fact that I do not believe in monsters, the supernatural or Lovecraftian horrors, I will still go out of my way to try and find them. I’ve gone to Boston Commons trying to find the numerous ghosts that are supposed to have been sighted there. I’ve journeyed down abandoned stairwells hidden away in the walls of the bookstore I worked at.

And now I’ve walked down the legendary Downs Road. There are a few blog entries already written on the subject and the road has worked itself into a few book on haunted New England locations, but that’s not how I first found out about it. A friend of mine claims to have had his own spooky experiences on the road involving a dream catcher and he has been wanting to go back.

Now, we’ve been wanting to go down the Downs Road for a year and a half now, but haven’t had the time or the resources until recently. If you don’t live in New England, you may not be aware that less than two weeks ago, three feet of snow were dumped on the whole region. Snow and rain were also forecast for the whole day. But that didn’t matter, because we were goin to hunt monsters and ghosts and redneck hillbillies and whatever else might be lurking on the road.

Because the stories aren’t really clear what lives on that road. There are stories of ghosts and stories of malformed hillbillies and stories of a four foot tall bigfoot. There’s no one thing that ties together the stories except for creeped out hikers and scary experiences.

My friend, a third friend and myself all went out at around 5 yesterday in the hopes that on our way back it would be truly dark and we could get proper scared. To access the road, you need to drive to Hampden, Connecticut, to the end of a residential street that ends in a cul de sac. At the end of Downs Road, there’s a second cul de sac that’s located one town over, in Bethany.

We marched through snowy woods in snow over a foot thick while we got more and more soaked in the rain. We came across strange tracks in the snow that seemed to belong to some large, three toed creature. But I’ve spent enough time in the country to know that I know nothing about animal tracks. What look like monster tracks to a city slicker like me are most likely tracks made by squirrels that have altered as the snow melts, making the tracks appear larger than they were at the outset.

We heard the occasional owl and saw foot prints from other people hiking through, some of which stopped abruptly in the middle of nowhere, but I’m going to chalk that up to the tracks merely fading as time went on.

We explored the old ruins and the stone walls that cross the countryside. It’s eerie, there’s no doubt about that. It’s so quiet and the little bits and pieces of someone’s failed attempts to colonize the woods are not exactly uplifting. That’s what unnerved me the most; it was a reminder of a time when someone could walk into those woods and never come out again, when the wilderness spanned much further than two cul de sacs, and a body could get lost forever in the wilds.

We walked the length of Downs Road and back again and we saw and heard nothing of note. We were soaking wet, exhausted and ready to make the two hour drive back to Boston. On the way back, we reflected on the sobering realization of an era long lost and the reminders of our own fragility in the face of the unforgiving wilderness.

Or we belted out Weird Al songs while eating junk food.

D-

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I Want to Live in a Haunted House

For the first time, I think I can truly understand why people say that their house is haunted. I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in the supernatural. I don’t believe in anything that can’t be proven with the logical, brute force of Science.

But….

Late last night, I was in bed reading when I thought I heard the back door open and then close. A minute or so later, I heard footsteps walking passed the dining room door. I called out to Emily.

No answer.

I got out of bed and walked out into the dining room and into the hallway. No-one was there. Emily wasn’t home and I was all by myself.

It was a little nerve-wracking.

This is no isolated incident. The doors open and close on their own. The venetian blinds hum and chatter. There are the sounds in the walls like something is pressing to get in.

It’s an old house. It moves and settles and shifts. The doors close and open because they’re too damn loose on their hinges and the wind from the open windows opens and shuts them.

I know it. I internalize it. And I still don’t believe in ghosts. Not one jot.

But….sometimes, when it’s really late at night and I’m all alone in the apartment and I hear those soft and sinister sounds start up again, deep within the walls of the house and moving across the floorboards like cat’s paws, I can’t help but want to believe there are ghosts making their way through the apartment with unearthly purpose.

Because, really, isn’t that more fun that a seventy year old house with some creaky floorboards?

-D-

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Learning the History

If there’s one thing that I’m particularly weak on, it’s my horror history. I don’t read a lot of horror to start and I read even less of the older examples of the genre. Sure, I’ll pick up some pulps or read more Lovecraft than can fill the forgotten tomb city of R’lyeh, but for the most part I stick to mysteries and detective novels and anything written by Stephen King.

But I think it’s long past time for me to go back to the old classics and relearn the old ways. I started with Lovecraft, because he is a compelling author, if stylistically repetitive after awhile. The more I read him, the more I like him and the more unnerving his stories are.

And then I went to Bradbury, because  he writes some truly chilling, relentless horror under the guise of Sci-Fi. “The Long Rain” and “Mars is Heaven!” are two of his creepier stories. “The Long Rain,” in particular, makes me want to curl into a ball and just stop reading. It seems never to end, much like the Venusian rain.

And now I’ve moved onto Richard  Matheson. Matheson, unlike the other two, is a writer with whom I’m only vaguely familiar. I’ve read I am Legend and I’ve read one or two of his short stories before, though only a few I’d call horror. But I picked up an audiobook recently of his horror works and he is a writer of singular tenacity. His usual M.O. involves an individual and then the slow, tearing down of that individual; a thorough dissection of them, either through their own idiosyncrasies or through external events beyond their ability to withstand.

It’s painful to sit through some of the stories, because they grind slow, but exceedingly fine and on some levels, they’re capable of making me uncomfortable and uneasy.

And I’m learning from him, learning about things that I can take away and add to my own fiction. It’s those little pieces that I’m looking to take away, to add to my abilities and tools as a writer.

And I think I have an idea.

-D-

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Movie Review: Antichrist (Part 2)

I finished watching Antichrist and, as promised, here’s the second and last part of my review.

After I finished watching it, I needed a hug. It’s an emotionally draining movie; filled with disturbing images and grotesque elements. It depicted vile things and at the end, I wasn’t entirely sure what I had seen. I don’t think I’ll ever watch it again and I doubt I’ll ever be able to recommend it to anyone.

In spite of that and because of that, I’m more than willing to say that this is one of the best horror movies to be made in the last fifteen years. It went to the very limited of my comfort zones and stayed there for the duration of the movie. At no point was I ever relaxed or settling back down. It ratcheted up the tension and kept it here and didn’t allow for a moment of respite.

It’s  moments like this that I long for when I watch horror movies. I want to be uncomfortable. I want to be on edge. I want to be swept up in a tide of relentless energy.

It’s movies like Antichrist that give me hope that the genre will not be completely lost in a sea of senseless sequels and gratuitous violence. There is hope that people can go to the movies and experience true fear. Because if we cannot be scared in a theater, that leaves us precious few options.

-D-

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Movie Review: Antichrist (Part 1)

It is very rare that a movie scares me anymore. I’m not bragging. It just means I’ve seen too many scary movies. I know how it’s going to end. I know which characters are going to die at which points. I know where the monster will appear and what its name is. It’s all about knowing the tropes and the cliches and the very nature of the genre.

And as I’ve stated many times, fear is about not knowing. It’s about being surprised. It’s about not knowing what’s around the corner.

What’s great, truly great, about modern movies is there are no restrictions. Back in ye olden days, the good guys one, the bad guys died. Some secondary characters bit the dust, but you knew Bruce Strongchin and Betty Blondhairs would be ok in the end. As time went on and 70’s horror lost its sense of right and wrong, the hero stopped being safe. Movies started being shocking again. This was especially true in all those thousands of cult and Satan movies.

Movies could show more and more violence, so they showed more and more violence. And we got inured to violence and shock and horror and yawn. Horror has so much freedom now. It can go places and show things and tell stories that it couldn’t have told in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. So what does it do with this freedom?

Torture porn and the human centipede. Modern horror makers, for the most part, seem to feel the necessity to top themselves in an unwinnable attempt to be the most shocking and forget that the best way to scare is to show less and draw out the tension on a razor’s edge.

All this is leading to Antichrist. I’m not done watching it. I got so excited and so bursting with nervous energy that I had to stop in the middle and start writing about it. It made me uneasy. It made me scared and upset and worried and freaked out and oh, there’s no jump scares and there’s no psycho in the woods; it’s all just upsetting imagery and freaky visuals and a tight script and two actors falling deeper and deeper into madness inducing fear.

This is what the freedom allows. It’s not about being able to show every aspect of a decapitation from every angle in excruciating slow motion. It’s about being able to upset the audience. It’s about making people uncomfortable. That’s what good horror does. It’s uncomfortable and uneasy and it makes you squirm and when it’s done you let out that tension in one shaky release of breath.

I have to get back to my movie.

Part 2 tomorrow.

-D-

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Horror on a Budget

I talk a lot about horror as an art form. I rail against poorly made horror movies and I talk endlessly about what horror needs to do as a genre in order to regain its ability to actually frighten people.

All of that doesn’t change the fact that I really like shitty horror movies.

I don’t know why. I’ve tried to think of reasons for it; explanations for my love of truly awful movies.

They’re…comforting, intrinsically. You know what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it. I know their ins and outs and I know what their plot is before they do. They make me laugh, though they don’t mean to. And sometimes, very rarely, they actually have the power to shock me.

It’s because they’re not bound by any rules or standards. Characters appear and disappear for no reason. And terrible, truly terrible things will happen, in all senses of the word, because the filmmakers are completely and utterly unbound by any concept of what should or shouldn’t be in a movie.

And that, in and of itself, is extremely refreshing.

It doesn’t change the fact that these movies are shockingly bad and inexcusably awful, but it at least gives me a way to defend my love for them all.

-D-

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The North End Excursion (Part II)

There are places in this world where the skin of our world has been worn thin. Here, breaches can happen and travelers from our world can cross over to the other….just as they can also cross over into our world. These are places where the very fabric of reality has been frayed and where the unreal and impossible realities of other dimensions bleed into our own. These are places where the mad prophets have visions of phantasms and the insane see their brain-fever dreams made unbearable reality.

It was during my researches into the Necronomicon that I believed I found the location of one of these places. The Mad American prophet Lovecraft gave vague instruction about the location of a nexus where demons could cross into our world with the same ease that we cross the street. I made the decision that I would track down this place, this portal into other worlds, and I would see for myself if it truly existed.

With a fellow explorer, we made our way deep into the North End. We walked through markets that reeked of fish and sold strange and exotic fruits. We trudged up main thoroughfares clogged with the pulsing hum of humanity, tourists unaware of how close they were to some dark, elder nightmare

And after an hour of climbing up and down hills, we determined that Lovecraft was full of horseshit. We gave up on our quest and headed to the local Applebees, where we enjoyed four dollar Killians (a Friday special!) and nachos. I also ordered the Cowboy Burger, a delicious all-beef patty topped with fried onion rings and applewood smoked bacon and slathered with melted cheddar cheese. My fellow traveler into the dark abysses that hide beneath the skin of the world ordered the Bourbon Black and Bleu burger, which was covered in bleu cheese, mushrooms and smoky mayo.

It was delicious.

-D-

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