Tag Archives: scary

31 Days of Spoooktacular: Masks

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Masks are scary. And not just masks of scary aliens or wolves or demons. I know for a fact that there are people who find the above mask creepy, even though there is nothing inherently creepy about it. There’s no blood or fangs. There’s nothing sinister about it. It represents no gender, race or deformity. It is a blank form.

And yet, this mask elicits uneasiness. If you don’t think this is scary, think about Michael Myer’s mask. It is a white, featureless face. Or think about Jason’s mask. It’s just a hockey mask. Before Friday the 13th Part III, people used to wear it as protective equipment. Now you can’t see that particular mask without immediately thinking of a machete wielding psychopath.

So many of our current monsters wear masks, from gas masks to hockey masks to ghostface masks. The blank, expressionless face is inherently frightening to us. I’m not going wax philosophical and psychological about why I think this is. It’s a gut feeling and gut feelings don’t need much analysis. It’s the return of that base fear, the one that drives all fears; our fear of the unknown.

We derive so much information from the face: age, gender, race, culture (piercings? tattoos? make-up?), emotions, illness. The face is our go-to point for knowing a person. The faceless mask, the one that’s not just a monster’s visage, is inherently creepy because it is still human, undeniably, incontrovertibly, but still so alien. There is no information to be gleaned. There is nothing to tell you about the person behind the face. Unlike a werewolf face, which just howls evil, the faceless mask could be…anything. It is up to the wearer to interpret how to portray this face.

If I did want to go deeper, and started laying some psychology on the table, I’d say that the faceless mask shows us what we already know: When we get down to it, a person’s face doesn’t tell us anything about who they, no matter how many times we comment on someone who has a kind face or has devilish features or a sinister countenance or a gentle look. A person does not wear their souls on their face, no matter how much we wish they did.

That mask, the blank one with no clues of the humanity beyond it, reminds us, all too much, of the fact that the stranger next door could be anyone behind that smile and that wave.

That they’re all masks.

-D-

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October 23, 2012 · 8:45 pm

31 Days of Spoooktacular: Do You Fear What I Fear?

If I were to catalog the myriad fears and superstitions that bind me, we would be here the rest of the night and you would be feeling increasingly sorry for me. They range from the mild, but compelling (numbers, silver, threes) to the more provoking, but manageable (don’t touch, please don’t touch, and now there’s germs) to the almost paralyzing (Emily’s late and almost certainly dead, that food is too old, this person is angry and I have to make them UN-angry). And, if you didn’t know it, three is good. Three threes are better and three three threes are the best, hence 27 is the best  number.

They’re binding because they prevent. It’s not like being scared of a movie. That just prevents you from watching the rest of the movie. And, with most horror movies, you’re probably better off not watching the whole thing anyway.

But a lot of those fears hamper things like a job or a relationship, or they do when they start to get out of control. It’s taken years of throwing myself repeatedly into situations I do not like, a dislike from the depth of me, before I could actually function and even, on occasion, thrive in those same situations.

Working retail in an urban environment, for example, has set off pretty much everyone of my major anxieties at some point. I get touched by dirty angry people and all I really want to do is run into the nearest bathroom and wash my hands for ten minutes. But I have to stay there. Not because I’m trying to be brave, but because this is my job and I’m getting paid to do it, so I don’t have an alternative.

The only way I know to deal with being scared of something is to hunch into a little ball and march forward and hope that my instinctual desire to run is, for once, not the correct impulse. Dealing with it, moving forward, always forward, is the only way to keep from getting stuck, from being bound by a thousand intertwining threads, a spider’s web of nervous anxiety that only builds up if I stay still.

366 is a good number of words.

-D-

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31 Days of Spoooktacular: Rock and Shock (The Event)

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I keep trying to condense all of this into one picture or thought that encompasses the entire event, but it’s just not possible.

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There are the celebrities. The few we actually talked to were absurdly nice and patient with our mumbling and limp handshakes.

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All around me, I see adulation for a genre that gets very little love outside of a small subset of fans. From modern horror to the old classics: everyone is here to share in their love of being scared.

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It’s the feeling of being with a bunch of people who love what I love, who work to create what I love. It’s bring surrounded by creators and artists and fans. It’s invigorating and energizing and l plan on coming back next year.

-D-

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31 Days of Spoooktacular: Even a Man Who Is Pure in Heart

For 31 Days of Spoooktacular, I wanted to do the occasional spotlight on the monsters that have formed the deep and gristly backbone of pop culture. Through a society’s monsters, you can tell a lot about that society. What scares us, helps to define us. It is no coincidence that, in the wake of World War II and the Emergence of the Atom Bomb, atomic horrors plagued our silver screen.

More telling, is the changes we made to old legends.

The werewolf, in the olde days, in the olde country, was a man or woman who had made a pact with the devil and, through that pact, had gained certain supernatural powers, including, but not limited to, changing into a ferocious beast. The idea was that this was a gift, a boon for giving oneself to evil. They were satisfying their baser urges.

Once it entered modernity, specifically the movies, the werewolf became a different kind of creature. No longer was the lycanthrope a witch or savage, but an innocent who had been cursed by the bite of another werewolf. The transformation could only happen under the light of a full moon, or a around a full moon. The person change against their will and, once transformed, lost all control.

It became a symbol of repression unleashed, of inner savagery, a beastial nature unchained.

In more recent years, it has followed the route of vampirism. Rather than a supernatural curse or a religious affliction, vampirism and lycanthropy have both become diseases. The disease is transmitted by a bite or scratch and produces extreme changes in both physiology and psychology.

It is the last gasp of the mythology to survive in our modern times as a viable thing that exists beyond entertainment, as a lesson. Because that’s what monsters are. Monsters are how we teach our children fear and how to deal with that fear. Be careful after dark. Do not talk to strangers. Stay in church and with your community. Do not go up to make-out point.

We use our monsters to learn what to be afraid of and how to deal with that fear. The lessons we learn from our folktales are meant to leave lasting repercussions that affect our behavior well into adulthood. The werewolf, the vampire, the ghoul, the goblins; they have lost resonance. They don’t function in our world anymore. In spite of increasingly desperate attempts to make them relevant, they are falling behind.

They have nothing left to teach us. They have nothing to scare us with. In a world with bombs and serial killers and viruses; the occult loses all meaning. The werewolf has lost his bite.

-D-

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31 Days of Spoooktacular: Portrait of a Slasher Movie

The slasher movie is, by far, one of the subgenres of horror that most sticks to a formula. And here is the formula:

Pre-Credits Kill+Character Introduction+Cat Scare*+Minor Character Killed Off+Pointless Drama/Comedic Scene+Secondary Character Killed+Hero(ine) and Killer Meet-Up+Hero(ine) Triumphs+One Last Scare=Slasher Movie

This is, for the most part, how every slasher movie plays out. You have the pre-credit sequence kill, which is either part of the back story or is set in modern day and sets off the chain of events. This is where you’ll see characters defiling graves or having sex when they should have been paying attention or telling stories around a campfire about the killer. If this is a sequel, this is where you’ll most likely see a character from the previous movie get killed off (see Friday the 13th Part 2 or Scream 3).

Then comes the cast introduction. During this point you’ll see a barrage of cliches come at you. Don’t worry! Most will be dead in 90 minutes. This is also the point where you’ll meet an ancillary character. Now, the ancillary character can fulfill numerous roles. They’re the Red Herring: “Who’s that?” “Oh that’s crazy Bob, he lives in the woods where we’ll be camping!” The Red Herring will show up lurking, here and there, through-out the movie and then will end up dead at the three-quarter mark.

There’s the Small Town Sheriff. He will say, in one form or another, “Those damn kids!” before the movie is over. Though he’s going to be an asshole throughout the entire movie, he’ll most likely show up toward the middle or end and seem like he’s going to do something to affect the outcome and give the audience false hope. He’s actually going to be murder fodder and everyone’s hopes are dashed.

There’s the Doomsayer. He (or she) is an old and crusty oldtimer who knows more than everyone else, but will be completely dismissed as being either old, crazy or both. The Doomsayer can also play the part of The Red Herring. It’s a toss-up to whether the Doomsayer will show up beyond the Introduction.

Then there’s the Cat Scare. The Cat Scare is when a character hears a noise, goes to investigate and finds a cat. It is almost ALWAYS a cat. And it’s always a cat that has somehow ended up in a cupboard. I have owned numerous cats, but they rarely ended up in cupboards.

Right after the cat scare, Minor Character death. The Doomsayer is a good choice for this, but sometimes it’s the gas station attendant or the lonely hitchhiker or any person who is not one of the fresh young teens.

Then you have the pointless drama and light-hearted comedy to trick you into thinking that that this movie is more than nubile young people being offed with chainsaws.

This is when the secondary characters start dying, one by one and, depending on how many characters there are, depends on how long this process will take.

After all the non-essential personnel are removed, the hero or, more frequently, the heroine meets up with the monster. If the monster is masked, this is where he’ll be de-masked. If the killer is actually the boyfriend, long lost-brother or the mother of a deformed little boy who drowned in the lake, this is where the shocking twist is revealed.

After the Killer is dispatched, the Hero(ine) and her/his Boyfriend/Girlfriend walk away from the body. Then the body moves, or the little boy comes out of the lake or the second killer steps out of the shadows or the Hero(ine) turns around with a crazy look in her eyes and you know SHE’S the killer now. This is the Final Scare. It can be either followed with a re-assuring shot of the Hero(ine) waking up or a freeze-frame of the Final Scare.

Bam. You don’t ever need to watch a slasher movie ever again. Because you just did. All of them.

-D-

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31 Days of Spoooktacular: The Anticipation

Halloween, a long time ago, stopped being about Halloween. I don’t go out and Trick ‘r’ Treat. I don’t wear costumes. I don’t have kids and take them Trick ‘r’ Treating. Generally, I hang out and watch a movie.

But all the days and weeks leading up have become a celebration of their own. I watch horror movies and drink beer with goblins on the front and talk about scary movies endlessly with my few friends who don’t run away when they see me coming between August and November. It’s about celebrating scary things in a pretty damn silly way. I am going to a convention that borderline deifies the man who played a character called Pinhead. That doesn’t mean I won’t do my damnedest to get his autograph, but I think it’s a good idea to occasionally step back and realize what we’re doing here.

Halloween is the time of year when we pants the Boogeyman, knock him on his ass into a mud puddle and point and laugh. We take a good, hard look at those things that live in the dark, turn a flashlight on in their eyes and laugh as they stumble away. To hell with the darkness and let’s have some fun.

-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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