Friday, March 23, 2007


What is horror without its monsters? Nothing! Nothing I tell you! They are the things that go bump in the night (poltergeists aside). They are the manifestation of the unknown. Teeth, claws, strange abilities, oftentimes stranger origins. While there is much focus on the one's that are animalistic and simple predators looking to feast on parts of us, those are just the tip of the horrific iceberg.

There comes a point where one has differentiate between what is a monster and what is a demon, for instance. Some might argue that if it goes beyond that primal predator that perhaps it isn't a monster but some kind of higher being, whether it is an inter-dimensional traveller, an alien, or a demon. Each of those is kind of their own thing. All of them can be simply called monsters anyway, except where certain overtones of the demonic would be concerned.

So what of the monsters that lurk in the shadows and do their evil things from there? This brings up it's own point, that pretty much a monster must be evil to be a monster. Certainly the Fantasy genre has "races" that are considered monsters because of their appearance. While this idea of a species of something being a monster does carry over to horror on the other hand as Disney and its ilk would have us believe what makes a monster is its intent. I have to concur.

I am all for the eating, and the cat and mouse games of the hungry monsters, but I definitely prefer the thinking man's monster. They can have plans, and there can be manipulation and seduction—in this case of a power or results kind, though certainly Incubi and Succubi represent the sexual kind aptly—and there can be head games. The possibilities are legion and their terror bone chilling. So bump on, monsters!

Mood: smooth.
Music: Rock & Roll Saviours by Twisted Sister and Plastic Money by Twisted Sister.

Twisted Sister: Club Daze (Volume 1)
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Twisted Sister: Club Daze (Volume 2)

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Things That Go "Boo!" In the Night

It always comes back to the ghosts doesn't it? The only thing maybe more prevalent is next blog's topic, but let's not get into that now. As to our haunting staples they just have so much to offer. There is the instant creep factor. The stereotypical ambience surrounding them is always delightful even when it's full-on cliché—well maybe. However, what sets them apart is the sheer breadth of ways in which they can be put to use.

First and most obviously a ghost can be the focus of the story. They can be on the side of the protagonist or they can be the antagonists directly. There are those rare cases where they are the protagonist, but that is most often a secret that is revealed during the climax or somewhere in the dénouement. Other times rather than a direct involvement they can still exert huge influence on the story when they take on the role of narrator.

Ghosts can play a part as a secondary element to a story. This role can be as a distraction, as misleaders, or as a plot twist. The best twist is often of a similar vein to the role of a ghost as protagonist. Some key character just turns out to be dead. The mood and setting of the story have to be right or it comes off as silly. However, when done correctly, the big reveal can be anywhere from satisfying to downright powerful.

Putting ghosts to use as a purely mood enhancing thing is perhaps the most exciting use of them from the standpoint of having great familiarity with them, or other overexposure to those types of stories. The mood is not the only thing affected in such cases—and they are few and far between, but out there nonetheless—but also it sets certain conventions (rules) in the readers' minds, and carries other advantages of similarly definitional types.

Mood: fatigued.
Music: Loco by Coal Chamber and Twist My Sister by Murderdolls.

Coal Chamber: Coal Chamber
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Murderdolls: Beyond the Valley of the Murderdolls

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fire Bad. Fire BAD!

As far as something that could befall anyone, maybe even at any time, fire tops the chart of things to be afraid of, and with good reason. As a useful thing fire is a powerful tool. In fact we have to consider not just the fire but also the heat, so rather than imagine speaking of just crackling to shooting flames imagine the whole kit and caboodle. It's when fire gets out of hand or is misused that this great and useful tool becomes an object of abject terror.

Fire is a great destroyer. Not only can it wipe away the physical but it can do harm on a more "spiritual" level. Consider the huge demoralizing affect it can have from just a house fire. All that time fixing or maintaining the house is gone, all the memories that the contents of the house had are blotted out, and all the memories of the place itself are supplanted (these last too temporarily, but still). Beyond the scars to the psyche this is not to mention the scars that may result to the body if the fire alarm doesn't rouse you soon enough, or the children have to be rescued from the flames before the firemen arrive, for example.

Now, imagine the same loss on a larger scale, like the fire that tore through old Chicago. On the other hand the scale need not be increased to heighten the horror. For that, all that is required is a simple thing called motive. The fear of something happening accidentally or as part of an unforeseeable result of something only goes so far. It has to go only so far; otherwise we would be crushed by such fear. When the cause is purposeful, and motivated by hate or greed or, put simply, the wills of men then there is a whole new added dimension of fear.

Speaking of the wills of men. What of that step beyond the norm to those in fiction who can will fire into existence and wield it at their whim? Is that not some kind of ultimate crystallization of the power of fire as a force of fear in the form of a person? Does that not speak of great horror in the making? It sometimes may not seem so when such power is frequently bandied about and given a comic-bookish quality. That seeming may be very contrary to the idea itself though. Someone should do something about that.

Mood: frantic.
Music: Die With Your Boots On by Iron Maiden and The Hand That Feeds by Nine Inch Nails.

Iron Maiden: Piece of Mind
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Nine Inch Nails: With Teeth

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Creepy Crawlies

Was there a point in our history that giant insects and spiders besieged us? It might be easy to imagine so given the level of fear these little beasties of the animal kingdom bring to us. Then again, some of the biting and stinging ones would give good enough reason to be leery them. Anyone who has ever been stung by a bunch of hornets over and over would certainly deserve their fear. Such things aside, is there anything beyond weirdness of form that leaves people afraid of the creepy crawlies?

Certainly as far as appearances go, insects and spiders represent something very different than other animals that we see. Their designs are foreign to us; multiple limbs, hard shells, strange or multiple eyes, and the aforementioned stingers and fangs, and let's not forget antennae. For the longest time these creatures had to represent the unknown as much as anything, and we know fear of the unknown is the worst.

Knowledge of the workings of the anatomy and even the thought processes of insects and spiders has not lessened the fear any. One area of knowledge about them has actually made the fear worse. The fact that we know they can be carriers of terrible diseases, and be the cause of other forms of sickness hasn't waylaid anyone's bad impressions of them.

This is added to the fact that in some ways insects have been competitors in the food arena, in that at least they love to eat the things that we do. Anyone who has ever opened a box of cereal from the cupboard and found a hundred or more ants running among the flakes knows this all too well. This all leads back to the original hypothesis, or a parallel of it. There is one type of actual besieging, the locust swarm devouring the crop fields. Seeing that firsthand must be quite the horror, a living cloud, hard bodies blotting out the sun, scouring the land, leaving it barren...

Mood: springy
Music: Be the Ball by Slash's Snakepit and One Tin Soldier by Me First & the Gimme Gimmes.

Slash's Snakepit: It's Five O'clock Somewhere
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Me First & the Gimme Gimmes: Have A Ball

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Dying to Tell You

Death is a huge universal fear. The fear of it covers the spectrum from suffering instead of dying, to the act of dying, to what happens after the person is dead (in several senses). This is added to the fact that eventually death happens to everyone. In fact the difference of when it is going to happen might even be the biggest cause of fear over the event. Certainly most people would prefer that it be later than sooner.

It can be argued that where it applies it is the fear of death that holds the greatest horror where the story is concerned. A monster may be all ugly and scary looking, and it may have unnatural powers, but just how much can a person get worked up over unnatural powers or goings on compared to the results of such things. In fact for the most parts results are what matters the most.

As a result, death would have to be the final result, at least as far as the world of the living is concerned. Beyond the fear of what it is like to die is the set of ideas with respect to what happens afterward. From a physical stand point there is ceasing to be able to interact with others, and the degradation of the body. Then, if a person subscribes to the idea that there is nothing after death it could be a fairly low level fear because once it comes there is nothing more to worry about.

For the people that believe there is a judgment to be placed upon them after death then death can be even more frightening yet. If the judgment was to be against them then things could only get worse. That's a pretty heavy weight if the person thinks that result is likely, especially given it usually leads to eternal torment. That has to be the worst. If that's what awaits them, then as it's been said, "Do not go gentle into that good night."

Mood: even.
Music: Hero of the Day by Metallica and Do You Sleep? by Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories.

Metallica: Load
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Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories: Tails

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Closet Monster

It would be of great interest to know when the idea first came about that some "thing", some monster, or some other malevolent force took up residence in the closet. First there would have to be closets in use across a number of homes. Or would there have to be? Perhaps the phenomena—the idea as the phenomena not there actually being evil beings in closets—dates further back with the existences of wardrobes and armoires. Either way as horror fan and writer it is a historically important point in time, undefined as it is.

What is a closet if not a modern form of the cave? That something hideous should live in there seems only natural. Ever wonder why it is that the most famous of the creatures attributed to live in the closet is always hideous? There has always been that connection between ugly on the outside, ugly on the inside. That would have to be the reasoning. Of course who has nightmares about beautiful things trying to eat you, or steal your soul, or any of the other tonne of terrible things the inhuman do.

The love affair with the closet monster is a long-standing one in the horror medium, though often, like the beast, it is kept in the closet. It doesn't get a lot of play, sadly. Sometimes in film when it has the results have been pretty spectacular cheese-wise. The king of those that comes to mind is the classic, "The Monster in the Closet". Camp... check. Cheese... check. Clichés out to there... check. Hilarity... check.

On the more serious fronts we have "The Boogeyman" from Ghost House Pictures. There are even movies where the closet itself is the centre of terror without anything living in it such as Poltergeist. One short film that shouldn't be missed is the adaptation of Stephen King's short story "The Boogeyman". This short film was paired on VHS with King's "The Woman in the Room". Shamefully sad is that neither of these gems is available on DVD. The short film is pretty spectacular given it couldn't have any budget whatsoever.

Any way you slice it, it doesn't get any more iconic than horrors in the closet. Whether it be on film, or in books—a notable shout out to, once again, Stephen King for the closet scenes in Cujo—it is a fascinating bit of fear.

Mood: energized.
Music: Show Some Emotion by Paul Di'Anno and Hell on High Heels by Motley Crue.

Paul Di'Anno: Beyond the Maiden
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Motley Crue: New Tattoo

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