Tag Archives: Horror

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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Halloween Monday Movie Marathon and Beer: Hillside Cannibals and Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

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I am disappointed to end this day on a low note, but that’s how it is. I am not a huge fan of Dogfish Head, but I decided I’d give them one more shot, in the spirit of the season. The problem isn’t so much with the brewery as it is with brown ales. I don’t like brown ales. I don’t like brown ales when they’re wearing the mask of pumpkin seasoning either. If you like Dogfish Head ales, you’ll probably like this. Me? Not so much.

 

And, on top of that, I didn’t really enjoy Hillside Cannibals either. It was a mean spirited little flick that didn’t do much in the way of scaring or anything else. It didn’t try and get you to care about the few characters it didn’t murder straight off the bat and it didn’t really invest much time in the villains either.

I spent a large amount of time flipping through things on my phone while pointless, meaningless violence played out on the screen. The few times I decided to pay attention, I discovered that the people in charge of making sure the plot made sense were on vacation.

Assuming you had a character hellbent on dispensing vengeance and he knew what he was in for; would you equip him with one hand gun and a machete? In his shoes, I’d pack a goddamn arsenal and I sure as hell wouldn’t let myself get caught in five minutes and dispatched just as quickly!

It was the most polished, well put together and best acted movie I’ve seen all day and it was, without a doubt, the worst. It could not follow through on its basic premise, could not deliver on the savagery it implied and it was not scary. It was not horror.

All in all, I’d say there must be chart that describes the failure of a budget to deliver on a movie’s premise. The higher the budget, the greater the disappointment and the angrier I am.

Stay away from these middle of the road flick. Go lower or go higher, but never stray too close to the middle of the road.

This is -D-, concluding his great Monday Halloween Movie Marathon and still ready and rarin’ to go for October 31st.

Boo.

-D-

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Monday Halloween Movie Marathon and Beer: Alice in Murderland and Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin

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Like before, let’s start off with my review of the beer, Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin. I smell cinnamon.  I taste cinnamon.  This is a cinnamon beer. There’s not much in the way of pumpkins here. I’m not sure what cinnamon has to do with pumpkins aside from pumpin pie, but, at least in the eyes of brewers, pumpkin flavor has become irrevocably linked with cinnamon. This is not as watery as some other beers that rely so heavily on cinnamon and is a pretty solid beer through and through. It’s just disappointing that they rely so heavily on a spice that is only tangentially related to pumpkins.

Alice in Murderland is a movie I started off hating and ended up liking because of its plucky charm. It’s one of those low budget horror movies that relies heavily on treading that fine line between black comedy and horror. It tries to be funny and it tries to be sca2ry and, in all honesty, it doesn’t do either one very well. It’s not scary or gorey enough to count as horror. The kill scenes are lackluster and most everything happens off camera. And it’s just not that funny, though there are moments that are humorous.

There are a few moments where the acting rises above what it should; Malerie Grady, Kelly Kula and Heath Butler all manage to make the most of it and the ending was what it was because Miss Grady just went balls to the walls crazy with her laughter. Kula brought home some truly intense moments of sadism and Butler was poignantly ditzy and actually provoked an emotion in me beyond wry cynicism.  Those three managed to bring enough to the table to ensure that I wouldn’t just write off Murderland.

Also, what event is Alice in Murderland supposed to be based on? I don’t really want to research it. Someone just tell me.

The beer and the movie were perfectly matched here. It’s time for our third and final filmbrew.

I can’t wait.

-D-

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Halloween Monday Movie Marathon (And Beer)

Two things have converged to create what will be my finest blog moment:

1.I have Monday off from work.

2. I just got back from Rock and Shock.’

After the convention yesterday, I was struck hard by the desire to really get some Halloween celebrating in. I knew that I had to do something and something big in order to truly express my love for this holiday. And I also knew I had to do it fast. If I waited, the spirit could leave me and I would have done nothing and we would be well on our way to Thanksgiving.

So I hatched a plan. There are two things I do every year around October: Pumpkin beer reviews and horror movie reviews. So far, I’ve only done one beer review and that was back in September.  I’m pretty sure I haven’t reviewed any movies in months.

Now, I’m going to kill two birds with one stone:

It’s the Halloween Monday Movie Marathon! And beer!

I’m going to watch three, low-budget, independently made horror movies and, AT THE SAME TIME, drink three pumpkin ales.

I’ll pair a beer with each movie and I’ll post the reviews soon as the credits start rolling. Two of the beers are ones I’ve reviewed in the past and I’m going to be revisiting them. The third is brand new and never before been tried. I’ll also not have seen any of the movies I’m about to see, but one of them I just bought yesterday from the very people who made it. Excitement.

I’ll be posting each review once the credits roll, so come back throughout the day for more content in one day than there has been all month!

I’ll also be updating my twitter throughout the day. That’s right: I’m live blogging.

So, if you’re home today, like me, and you want some Halloween cheer, like me, then sit back and relax as I watch movies, eat cold cut sandwiches and enjoy pumpkin ales.

-D-

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Rock and Shock 2013

I have to say that up until today, my Halloween spirit was lacking. I haven’t been watching scary movies. I haven’t been eating more than my usual share of fun sized Snickers bars. I haven’t been reveling in my usual Halloween activities. October has just been steadily and speedily been moving along and the whole damn month was about to slip on by without me doing a single thing about it.

Things had gone horribly awry somewhere.

But, today, something happened. something truly magical:

I went to Rock and Shock.

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For those that don’t know, Rock and Shock is a convention and concert series that is held every October in Worcester, Massachusetts. I haven’t really done anything with the rocking part of the equation. I’m there for the shocking. Last year was my first time there and I was impressed by the sheer number of vendors, celebrity guests and horror fans that were there.

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There is merchandise from every horror franchise you can think of: action figures, posters, beer koozies, coasters, shot glasses, post cards, lampshades, throw rugs, pillows, replicas, props, bootlegged DVDs showing the hit movie Jason versus Leatherface. If you’re looking for a piece of memorabilia from your favorite horror movie, this is the place to get it.

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And let’s say you don’t want things directly related to Jason or Freddy? They have things for you too. There are artists selling posters of their striking and macabre work. There are writers from small publishing houses and larger publishing houses. There are tattoo artists, taxidermists, animal shelters, jewelers and flask makers, make-up designers, mask makers; anything and anyone that might have something to do with those things that go bump in the night. They’re all there.

And then there are the celebrities. Kane Hodder, Gunnar Hansen, Robert Englund, Jason Mewes, Jack Ketchum; people directly related to the industry that keeps creating more scares.

I went from not feeling Halloween at all to feeling reinvigorated.

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Aside from the things I bought, the most important thing is that I got to wander around at will with a large group of people who share my niche interest. I got to talk to a local filmmaker about the movies they’re making, one of which was even banned in Germany. I chatted at an artist about Friday the 13th before walking off with a poster I hadn’t paid for. Gunnar Hansen quote Dylan Thomas at me. It reminded me about why I enjoy horror, Halloween and all this scary stuff. It’s about exciting, scary, terrifying art and the people who love to make it.  It’s about being able to connect with people who get it and love it as much as you do.

It’s about enjoying being scared.

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It’s also about Jason Voorhees action figures.

Tomorrow, I have something grand planned. I dunno if I’ll be able to pull it off, but I’m going to try. I’m going to try to do my damnedest to make up for the time I let slip by and give Halloween the attention it deserves in one big, bang.

See you tomorrow.

-D-

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