That’s right, a second blog in as many days.
To set this up I have to reveal a few things about myself. I am a horror junkie. That’s right, in addition to a sci-fi and gaming nerd, I also really enjoy horror movies and the grotesque in general. And I enjoy them on a number of levels. The “make your date jump” type of “shock/scare” movies are fun in a way, but I often find them severely lacking in any kind of substance. I can place most of those in the same category that one does the overdone “campy” genre films that are as much about laughs as they are about scares. Don’t get me wrong, those things have true entertainment value and are fun if you are in the right mood. What I’m talking about today is different though. I’m talking about genuine horror today, calculating and merciless terror. These are the things that actually scare even me, and that’s really tough to do because of the level of de-sensitizing I have from exposing myself to such things for years and years. So, some really frightening things ahead.
Continue if you dare…
“The Watcher in the Woods.” Uncle Walt Disney should have been shot for this one. This so-called “Disney” movie was easily responsible for screwing up a pretty large number of kids over the years. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. I saw this movie when I was about 7 or 8 and it scared the crap out of me. Nostalgia wise it can still get to me a little. 2 things stand out about TWitW. 1st, it’s the casting. Everyone does a great job in this movie, but the woman playing the creepy old lady… has the “Betty Davis Eyes.” Oh wait, it WAS Betty Davis, and she made the creepy factor push all the way to up 11. Second (and this is a common thread in all of these “truly frightening” things) it never showed you what you were afraid of. Step one in overcoming fear… is IDENTIFYING what it is that is making you afraid. When you can’t see it… YOU CAN NEVER GET OVER YOUR FEAR OF IT. TV and movie writers need to have that tattooed on their foreheads, because showing the monster or bad guy too soon is one of the first mistakes they make. A person’s own imagination crafts the worst horror, and when shown the reality of the situation it is almost always a little bit of a letdown.
Cthulhu Mythos. This would be the exception to the above rule. H.P. Lovecraft theorized that there was a horror BEYOND what the human mind could comprehend. A terror so great that just a glimpse at the enormity of it would drive a man completely insane. And that was the very basis for a large number of his stories. And “Lovecraftian” themes outlived him and are stand-up examples of horror to this day provided that the author is good enough. The upshot of that… you don’t have to go back to early 20th century literature to find a good Cthulhu like scare. Some good examples; (and fun if you are like me and like a good scare) John Carpenter’s “In the Mouth of Madness,” the artwork of H.R. Giger, and the black and white silent film adaptation of “The Call of Cthulhu,” which was filmed in 2005 and is really awesome. Some new internet memes are also kind of Lovecraftian and scary. Like "The Slender Man." If you want to, watch the video here. Also Lovecraftian is the Silicon Knights video game “Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem.” A game that actually does its very best to try and make the player think that they are losing their mind. I’m pretty sure that it didn’t work on me, but I’m also pretty sure it did.
Huh? Well anyway…
In the video game world the best of the “true horror” type tales is that of Silent Hill. There are a number of installments in the world of Silent Hill, but I’d suggest that the best is “Silent Hill 2.” Although it is a game with a number of technical faults, the one thing that it does (and better than most other games) is mood and atmosphere. The hero of the story, James Sunderland, has come to the town of Silent Hill after getting a letter from his wife telling him to meet her there. Which he does despite the fact that his wife died of cancer 2 years prior. In “Silent Hill 2” one gets the feeling that it’s not anything but the town itself and perhaps even James’ own mind is the true villain of the piece. The streets of Silent Hill are mist filled and quiet. And those people that you on rare occasions come across don’t seem to be reacting to the same reality that James is seeing. Creating the idea that either they are all crazy… or YOU are. It’s a video game that could leave you feeling desolate and totally alone even if you were playing it in a room full of people doing Jell-O shots.
By the way, if you did go to youtube to watch "the Slender Man" video... it's all fake. I know it looked kind of well researched and real, but it's fake. It was an attempt to "create" folklore that went viral on the internet. And was pretty successful.
Do I even have to say “It.” The book is bad enough, but the mini-series adaption of Stephen King’s “It,” is truly one of the most frightening things anyone could watch. Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown… just thinking about it is enough to scare anyone.
Down here they all float, Georgie.
Book wise, check out “Phantoms” by Dean Koontz. They made a movie out of it, but it was really stinky. Did not do the book justice at all. Short stories by Steven King are usually better than his long form novels, and you get a lot of them in his collections like “Night Shift” and “Nightmares and Dreamscapes.” And classically, you can’t go wrong with Poe. Try reading “The Raven” sometime when you are all alone at night in an empty space, usually alive with people, but sullen and desolate when un-populated. Kind of like me when I get here to work at KNSS at midnight. While I ponder weak and weary over daily news stories galore. Suddenly I hear a rapping, as if someone gently tapping, tapping on my studio door…
IT’S MACINTOSH, AAARRRRGGGGGHHHHHH.
But seriously, Poe is one of the reasons I’m like I am today (i.e. not normal or so screwed up.) His fault, and the person who thought an illustrated version of “The Masque of the Red Death” would make a great children’s book. A drawing of Prince Prospero’s guests bleeding from every orifice like they got a weaponized version of super Ebola makes a permanent impression on the mind of a 6 year old.
Reading is fun.
And from all of us here at Steve and Ted in the Morning… Have a safe and fun Halloween.