Category Archives: Hovel Of Horror

An Investigation into the Death of Professor Bergman 

Preface

This is the second entry in an ongoing story that I am literally making up every time I sit down at the keyboard (the one with eighty eight keys). Being my 3rd musical project, I am learning that these notes are more than sounds produced from a speaker; they are my sounds. They represent my emotions and my thoughts, and these I share with you. Why? Because I hope that you will discover what represents you, and then share that with another. Enjoy.

The Story

Singularity.

The point at which man and machine will meld together. Science said it couldn’t be done. Oh, did science deny me my right to hypothesize and dream and desire for something so impossible. But science is not man’s only tool in his quest for knowledge; emotion has carried my existence farther than fact. With this in mind, I begun my trials.

I will not list the details regarding my experiment in this report, because the world is full of thieves and fools who would wish to recreate this, and I cannot bear the possibility of one using this for selfish gain. If my calculations are correct, then I will assume the responsibility of being the one who brought the divine and the digital together for there is nothing, at this present time, that can do so. Of course it would be the synergizing of sound and silence that transfers the soul from body to build. But, I realize that an invention untested will never grant rest to my imagination; and in the shadows lurks a greater evil, the envious man.

The man who tried to steal my plans is now dead, but I fear that I will join him. It’s ironic, the dagger that will inevitably be the death of me is the same tool keeping my blood from leaking out of my punctured heart. And how fate loves to flirt, I have just put the finishing touches on my new invention. I call it the “phonetic transcriber“.

The device itself is compact, about the size of the average typewriter, but by utilizing a key biochemical byproduct, the machine is somehow able to separate the soul from the body. Hypothetically, at least. However, the time for hypotheses and calculations has passed, and action is required for I feel the cold tendrils of death looping around my neck.

Liv, although you’d probably tell me I’m a fool for doing this, I must take the risk; what else is there left for me but the eternal void? Heaven or hell may await me, and I fear neither of them. I am terrified, however, of leaving this earth without knowledge that my device worked.

With death on my doorstep, I have to take the risk: I will test the phonetic transcriber on myself.

*non-distinct static and digital downpour erupt from the device*

I declare that on October 9th, 1851, the first step towards the Singularity was conducted by I, Professor Cedric Bergman; may the world forget that this was also the day that I drew my last breath.

P.S. Liv, I hope you find your happiness.

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Night at the Kino: Terrifying Thirteen

Thirteen Fear-Filled Films Since 2000

This Friday happens to be a very special day; how rare is it to have a Friday the 13th occur in October. What are you going to do? If you have no plans, and are probably going to stay in, then this list is perfect for you! Why? Because I’m going to give you thirteen options for horror movies since the year 2000 (specific right?). Unlike my previous Night at the Kino, I wanted to introduce readers to the standout films that are considered modern. These range from zombie thrillers, possession stories, animated apparitions, even socially aware scares, and I’m confident that one of these films could get you in the mood for October (if you aren’t already). Now, how to find these films…well, there’s Redbox, some are on Hulu, but for the most…I’d say…do what you normally do (you know what you do, don’t you?). Below you’ll find them, and this is in somewhat of a particular order, but not one that is definite; honestly, take your pick, they won’t disappoint.

The Witch (2015)

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Hands down, I’d have to say this is the Control verse of modern horror. Robert Eggers meticulously crafted a truly tragic tale involving a Puritan faminly living in exile. Without revealing much of anything, I will say that the terror in this tale comes not from the supernatural but the human element. Where most films would focus on creating a grotesque or evil witches, Eggers turns the lens inward and dissects the nuclear family, one member at a time.

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The cinematography does a fantastic job of adjusting to the scope of the film, encompassing the entire woodlands and jumping to claustrophobic cabin settings. It truly is a terrifying film, and I dare you to try and watch it without feeling the dread on your skin. For his efforts Eggers won best director at 2016’s Sundance Film Festival. If you’d like to read my random movie review of The Witch, then click here

The Conjuring (2013)

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We’ve all seen plenty of films with this back story. A family moves into a home that happens to be possessed by an evil entity and it takes the family uncovering the secrets-with the help of some eccentric paranormal investigators-to break the curse. That’s this film in a nutshell, but that is only the surface of it. What James Wan’s The Conjuring did for horror (at least in my opinion) was focus on character development rather than diving right into the scare. This aids in the progression and pacing of the plot, which flows at a steady rate, rising to a dramatic climax in the end.

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Some people go crazy over the “Based on a True Story” label, but I will say, after doing my post-credits research, I was able to accept this title while others fail (The Warren’s were really out here, yo). Yeah, there are some jump scares and some cheap shocks, but the true terror of The Conjuring comes from its style of shooting. It feels campy, like a home movie at times, but that gives the viewer a closer approach to the terror, rather than capturing just reactionary moments.

28 Days Later (2002)

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Poster by Nathan Miller

Before Rick Grimes awoke from his coma to the end of the world, there was another hospital patient being welcomed to a zombie apocalypse in Danny Boyle’s (Trainspotting) 2002 thriller “28 Days Later”. The plot is simple, a virus in a research facility gets released and humanity is in deep shit. How deep? Well, when your blood comes into contact with the strain, you lose sense of yourself and become a zombie. And this is where “28 Days Later” shines, the ability to revamp a concept. Instead of giving us mindless ghouls like George A. Romero did (R.I.P. to a legend), Boyle went with a more savage approach, giving them speed and ferocity instead of shuffling. The characters in the story are survivors, they aren’t heroes of any sort, and that’s what I love.Most tales in the zombie genre have gun toting warriors, but this group outlasts the horde by using wit-and luck. 

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The cinematography is gritty and there is an overarching feeling of abandonment in nearly all of the locations. Makeup and Special effects shine with the trademark red eyes for the Rage virus, and who can get John Murphy’s chilling track “In a House, In a Heartbeat”. Overall, this movie is on my list for its revolutionary take on a common theme in the horror genre. Also, fun fact, Danny Boyle turned down knighthood in England.

Noroi (2005)

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Hands down, this is the most terrifying movie I’ve seen. Noroi: The Curse is a Japanese film directed by Koji Shiraishi and from the first time I watched it, I’ve been cursed. The first thing to note is the storytelling: using a “mockumentary” style of cinematography to capture the horror (similar to the original “The Blair Witch Project”). Often this fails because we’re bound to one point of view for it, but this film does a great job by using various sources of media to cover the story-news clippings, and both professional and personal recordings. It introduces us to characters and we get an intimate look at their lives, and how this curse is affecting, and ultimately destroying them.

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My favorite character has to be Mr. Aluminum Foil (you’ll see), his role is so vital to the plot because he creates a sense of panic every time he’s on screen. This isn’t your typical supernatural film, so don’t expect to be hit with the cliche like jump scares and melodramatic sounds; the film grounds itself into reality, and only steps foot into the abyss when it has reached the base of the spiral. A truly terrifying film for anybody willing to read the subtitles (if you can watch Narcos, you can peep this too).

The Descent (2005)

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Poster by Chris Weston

What happens when you take a group of spelunking woman who have underlying beef with each other, and pit them against the elements of nature, and a superior predator? If you watch Neil Marshall’s “The Descent” you’ll soon discover that answer. Firstly, having an all woman cast for this film is a testament to the versatility of horror-it’s not confined to the male genre-and that’s one of the main reasons I’ve listed it here. The premise alone is sure to breed fear, and then the writer decided to add a well-crafted back story behind the characters, which only added to the level of isolation and abandonment.

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Cinematically, this film pushes into new barriers, throwing us in the midst of extremely claustrophobic spaces, and using the natural darkness to add to the unknown element (also night vision was such a thing back in the early 2000’s). And who can forget that iconic scene when Sarah, played by Shauna Macdonald, emerges from the pool: it’s poster-worthy (which is why they used it as a promo). The Descent will have you afraid to explore any dark depths, whether they be caves or secrets.

It (2017)

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I read my first Stephen King book this year, “The Shining”, and it plunged me into a dark world, so when I heard that the classic “It” was being remade I was skeptical, but ready. Honesty Hour: I’ve never watched the original It-I am reading the book now though-but what I viewed in Andres Muschietti’s 2017 film was a very dark retelling of an already terrifying story. Clowns are easily the thing of nightmares; and Pennywise, played by Bill Skarskgard (“Hemlock Grove”) happens to be the most entertaining. Already from the beginning of the film we are cast into Derry Maine, and into the lives of the youth. The movie pairs both the innocence of growing up with the grim reaper of the gutters, and it delivers.

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Every moment was liable to worsen, as the film proved by keeping us on our toes. Why is this also on my list, because this is one example of paying homage to the source material. Hearing that Stephen King stamped this movie was enough for me to see it; avid readers know that it is rare for novels and films to find a common ground (Lookin at you “Game of Thrones”). It’s still in theaters, and makes for a perfect outing this Friday the 13th!

Kakurenbo (2008)

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Horror does not only apply to the human world, but to the digital as well, and Shuhei Morita’s 2008 animated short “Kakurenbo” is proof. Coming in at around thirty minutes, this film packs a dose of dread from the jump. The art style and background is haunting, and one is imprisoned in this game of hide and seek. A group of children come to play this mysterious game, Otokoyo, where oni (demons) come alive and seek the children.

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I remember watching this on Adult Swim, and having an entire new outlook on animated films. Once the story revs up, you’ll be upset when you find that the end is approaching; definitely something to view when you have some down time though.

Get Out (2017)

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Poster by Francesco Francavalli

There’s no way that I can go any further without addressing Jordan Peele’s breakthrough film, “Get Out”. Who would’ve thought black folk could do horror? (Because it’s not all devil magic). Aside from the social commentary regarding it-not brushing it’s importance off, there’s plenty of other think pieces out there-this is an engaging story. A “meet my black boyfriend” scenario gone wrong, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, “Johnny English Reborn”) begins to uncover a secret behind his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) family. I have to give a shout out to the supporting cast in this film who really embodied their characters, Georgina’s meme worthy face, Walter’s sprint becoming an entire challenge, and Rod with his antics.

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Look at how much the film has shifted our culture, allowing more black stories to be told by us. And, the final bit that has to be addressed is the comedy (I’m a firm believer that any modern horror has to have it). Peele transfers his “Key and Peele” skit writing into the script, making room for fresh dialogue that naturally flows between each character; the comedy gave us the comfort we needed to get through this scary ordeal.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

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This might be closer into the thriller era, but I will set it on this list anyways. I am one of the folk who enjoyed the original “Cloverfield”, and when this one appeared on Hulu, I decided to watch it. Now, like everybody else, I assumed that it was going to be the same take from a different point of view, but instead this film went in the opposite direction. Where the first film featured a monster raging through the city, this one focuses on the monsters inside of men, and what happens when three individuals are forced to occupy a bunker.

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Without giving away too much, John Goodman’s portrayal of the pragmatic Howard was one of the most underrated performances of 2016, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as Michelle, held her own against him. The film has its moments of joy, but there is always a tension looming in the claustrophobic cabin, and it often ignites into confrontation. Aside from the other thematic elements, I have to say that the characters shine the most, and I believe that comes from the small number. Having fewer people on screen can create time for development and exploration.

Signs (2002)

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Aliens in a cornfield? Cmon that’s fresh af. M. Night Shyamalan brought the world one of the greatest plot twists with “The Sixth Sense”, so naturally there was already an air of mystery surrounding this film. And then, you hear the cast: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Abigail Breslin, Rory Culkin, and they welcome us into the Hess family. When a mysterious sign appears in the crop field in front of Hess family, it will push the renounced reverend Graham to uncover the mystery.

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Signs is unlike any other film on this list, it’s horror being in the unknown. We are graced with many moments in the film (the foil hats, Merrill’s monologue, Shyamalan’s cameo), and I like how they all relate back to this unknown entity; it’s all speculation, and it translates to the viewer as well. By the end of the film you’ll be wondering if any of it was real. Oh yeah, it’s on Hulu now!

The Babadook (2014)

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Another film that is currently on streaming sites is “The Babadook”. Yo, don’t let the people fool you, this movie is a scare, it’s just from an angle that is original; because what’s more fearful: a phantom from a child story booy, or a mother’s struggling battle with grief and a child that fails to behave. Director Jennifer Kent takes a leap into her own world utilizing set pieces and a cryptic style of storytelling, relying on an erratic rhythm rather than a steady pace. Do we ever know what “The Babadook” is, or isn’t; does it even matter?

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The desaturated color tone of the shots enhance the already grim tale, and Essie Davis’ portrayal of Amelia forces the viewer to share in her grief. And this is what makes the film scary, because once we’ve identified with this mother, we are sensitive to her plight but ultimately we’re enraged that she won’t address the issues. This frustration is converted into fear whenever the supernatural element is added, and since we’re in such a volatile state, we’re already ensnared. But it’s only an hour and a half of imprisonment, and will surely make you keep the lights on a little longer this weekend.

 

Drag Me To Hell (2009)

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After he blessed us with the “Spiderman” Trilogy (starring Tobey McGuire), director Sam Raimi returned to his slapstick horror roots with “Drag Me To Hell”. When Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), a loan officer seeking a promotion, denies an elderly woman her loan, she is inadvertently cursed, and what a curse. It keeps the audience laughing long enough for the tension to build, turning back to the terror at a moment’s notice. The humor is amped with Justin Long cast as Christine’s boyfriend Clay Dalton, who often has smart remarks for every scenario.

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The film is true to Raimi’s genre blending of comedy and horror, even the antics of the supernatural are borderline hilarious (the maggots in the mouth scene). A must watch for any of his fan (if you watch “Mr. Robot”, you’re a Raimi fan).

 

Gok-seong or The Wailing (2016)

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Netflix has this movie on it’s catalog so there is no reason you can’t watch it this Friday the 13th. “The Wailing” is a South Korean film directed by Hong-jin Na, and it has crossed over into America for a very good reason. It’s terrifying. It’s hard to describe what this film is, because there are plenty of intertwining plots, but you watch a village become beset by an akuma, or demon. The film has great writing, both in terms of story as well as dialogue, each complementing each other. The conversations between the officers are often hilarious, and a great contrast to the macabre mysteries that are befalling the town.

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The soundtrack is spooky (yeah, I said spooky), and it really teeters on the shadow realm of acoustics. There are some scenes that leave you baffled (The Exorcism), and just when you expect the truth to be revealed, the film presses on further. It is a long ride, 2 hours and 36 minutes, but once the engine revs, you’ll be Wailing all the way until the end.

Conclusion

There you have it, folks. Ain’t no reason you shouldn’t be entertained-and terrified-this Friday the 13th. Of course, there are other notable works that I missed, and I feel cliche for making that disclaimer, but I’m going to do so anyways so you understand that my opinion is based more so on my immediate memory rather than a well devised agenda.. As always, feel free to comment or leave any feedback regarding my choices for films. Until next Tuesday…

Black Dwarf: A Playlist for Alice on Alpha Centauri

Foreward

Let it be known that I make music for myself, and for no one else, so what you are about to listen to is definitely for me, and it’s up to you as a potential listener to see if it is for you as well. What does one think of when they gaze into the void above, into the black twilight known as space? I have often pondered what lies out there, and this is where this project began. This is the soundtrack to the space terror that I have yet to write. 

The Story

Log Transmission: Nanophycisit Dr. Aurelius
Date: The 18th Cycle of the Ghoul Cluster, 20993

Alice,
I love you. It…it doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to keep my promise. Something happened on our voyage…we were attacked by a giant ship as soon as we reached the Caesarian nebula, but then we took a prisoner on board who helped us defeat them. I should’ve known that was a bad idea because shortly after we had faults in our electrical systems, and the prisoner…well he’s gone. But he left something here, something horrible; we’ve called it the Omega-9. It infected my nanobytes somehow, and ever since then we’ve been battling for our survival. The crew started…mutating, and we’ve lost so many of them. It’s all hard to explain but, somehow, I made it to the Captain’s Cabin. There is a phonetic transcriber in here, so I’m going to write it all down, and hopefully you will receive this message. Look, remember when I said if I ever had the chance to be a hero, I would do so without question? Well, that time is now. I just…wish it wasn’t after we got married.

*Self-Destruct Sequence Activated*

Alice. My constellation, Alice. Not a day went by that I didn’t wish to be back on Alpha Centauri, in your arms. I always felt safe there. I don’t know why, but I kept replaying this one memory during  hyper sleep. It was that trip we took to the Chronos Cluster, and we watched the Narwal Nebula turn into a supernova. It looked like a school of flying fish, cosmic dust and energy rain; and, then you told me something I’ve never forgotten.

*5* “You said that-”
*4* “The stars don’t com-”
*3* “-pare to the”
*2* “constellation in my”
*1* “corazon.”

10101A10100101010
1010101010LI1010101
1C10001010110110011
001101010100101E01

–Transmission Lost.

Black Dwarf

Gangrene

Ein

“Grand Wizard Zaltua, I fear…that we’ve made a grave mistake.” A stream of white static ran across the laptop screen, distorting the image of a young, raven haired woman.

“Servant of almighty Saturn, what has your mind troubled?” Zaltua inquired as he cautiously leaned forward into his computer screen. “Come share with me what has you wretched in agony, and let us find some sort of understanding.” The feedback in his voice rang through the speakers, filling the man’s office with a mighty echo. Expansive textbooks with enlarged Latin symbols covered the table, black robes were cast along the damp floorboards while empty picture frames hung along the chipped walls. Thirteen thin black candles had been arranged in a near perfect circle; the majority of them had been melted, exposing a charred wick. The room smelled of body odor, rotting fruit, and mercury, a common (but toxic) ingredient in many necromantic rituals.  Zaltua directed himself to the left side of his display and noticed that he was receiving another call.

“Wait. Malach is on the other line, I’m going to transfer him to our call.” The Grand Wizard moved his mouse towards the green camera button and double-tapped his device.

“Malach…he’s calling you?” the woman asked in near disbelief. Her face alone made the Grand Wizard question his previous choice as the video feed from Malach appeared. The normally robust, mid-twenties man was now a skeleton; his fragile frame was beyond anemic and there were mustard yellow patches on his skin.

“Grand Wizard,”the frail man spoke into his microphone.

“Malach, what has happened to you? Why…do you look-”

“Malach! What have you done? The police are out looking for you,” the woman on the opposing screen shouted. The Grand Wizard scratched the arch of his curly eyebrow and waited for her to finish ranting.

“Bezel, was it? We are not personally acquainted, but I am curious as to why you contacted me and not Malach as we intended. I’m hoping that he will be able to dispel this confusion.”

“Grand Wizard, I’m asking you to help us because we’ve gotten ourselves into a dire situation.” The woman’s face was distorted by the fluctuating static. Her features were plain and her cheeks were free from any foundation. Her brown eyes shone like those who still exuded youth, yet they were also darkened and full of impending doom. “Malach…you’ve got to get away”

The enigmatic man spoke into the web camera, his rancid breath fogging the lens. “Nonsense. Grand Wizard, allow me to introduce, septum Bezel. She is somewhat new to our craft, but has shown great potential.”

“Malach, please…” the young woman begged. The Grand Wizard found it difficult to juggle between the two video streams, while he impatiently waited for their intimate conversations to invite him.

“Two completed seances, the conjuring of a familiar, there are even rumors that she summoned a succubus to perform…certain services,” Malach teased, although his sickening frame made the flirtation seem cynical.

“Let’s not forget you Malach. Aren’t you the Midwestern man of Macabre? Your ambition carried our teachings to the internet, now the entire world is able to witness our arts.” Bezel shot her comment back across the screen with elven-like accuracy.

“Your praises are welcomed but thin. I have no need for such titles and trivial matters,” Malach curtly remarked. He adjusted the black device, changing the angle of the webcam. His fingernails were raw and black from being gnawed, and his pale wrist was hairless and thin to the point where the veins were exposed.

“My liege, my teacher, I must confess to you.”

“Malach what troubles you?” Zaltua inquired while he adjusted the brightness on his computer display.

“The truth, how blinding it is. What I have just done will shape the nature of the world, erecting a new pillar of society with necromancy etched at its peak. I have accomplished a feat that none in this age have been able to attempt. I do believe that I have been chosen to usher in a new world. And there is no room for false prophets.”

“Then it was a success…” the young woman quietly muttered into her microphone, but the words  were lost due to the poor connection.

“Malach, what has gotten ahold of you? You’re not making any sense.” The Grand Wizard then turned his attention to Bezel, “and why have you yet to tell me anything?”

“My apologies. I…I am still shaken to see Malach on the other line. He’s jeopardizing his safety. However, I digress. Grand Wizard, have you watched the news at all today?”

“No, I was occupied for most of the day,” he confessed.

“The local news is abuzz with a story, our story; however, they will only present facts that are alternative to my version. It is only by this version will you be able to understand what has befallen us in Lindsborg. Malach…do you wish to share it?” Bezel asked while she positioned herself in her desktop chair.

“No, I will let you speak. I’m going to listen to pass the time,” Malach stated as he devilishly grinned at the video stream belonging to the Grand Wizard. His eyes shone as if he were content to patiently wait while she shared her story.

Bezel exhaled and removed her hands from her desk. “Well, Grand Wizard let me to tell you my truth…”

I, myself am a native of Kansas, however, I hail from the outskirts of Wichita. Being the daughter of farm hands I was blessed with an uncanny strength and vigor, my mother often commended me on the passion of my spirit. The agricultural lifestyle was mentally exhausting, despite what others may say. One must remember everything from the harvest moon to the distance between planted seeds as well as the rain and dry seasons that happen all too often in the Midwest. Although quite handy with the hoe, unfortunately I was not a stellar student. After graduating with one cord (for what, I do not know), I performed various odd jobs and peculiar tasks in order to help my family with their bills; this monotonous routine continued until I met Malach this previous summer.

I’m sure that you are familiar with Malach’s past, but for the sake of this story allow me to grace your ears with his origins. He was conceived to be a drifter; born to a carnival worker who traveled throughout the Midwest. His mother died during childbirth and some blame the doctor who oversaw the delivery (those in poverty usually have poor health-care). This sudden hardship left Jeremy Thomas, Malach’s father, in a tight bind while he raised the boy. Thomas was an entertainer of  little fame in the circus industry; but there are rumors that he included young Malach in his strange performance, which some say included rope bindings, searing fire, and the blood of bats. Whatever account you choose to believe is strictly contingent upon your own desire. As the generations changed and people became socially conscious, less individuals visited the freak-show, leading to the eventual closing of the carnival. Malach and his illiterate father were forced to temporarily settle down in the town of Lindsborg, Kansas. Lacking any real education save for the skills he learned while on the road, his father had a great difficulty finding a stable job, pushing them to the brink of poverty. This streak was broken when one day, by fate or luck (whichever is your preference), his dad was hired. The job? Working as the caretaker of a morgue. Since Malach had grown up around the circus and had no knowledge of public school system, his natural assignment was to aid his single parent. Together, their days were spent embalming the recently deceased, stuffing ashes into elaborate vases, dressing the corpses for the wake, all while maintaining the integrity of the county morgue. Being only a teenager at the time, Malach was not allowed to directly handle the bodies; however, tragedy struck again and his father became ill. The city officials permitted Malach to take over his position since he’d been trained (plus so few were willing to stomach the stench of embalming fluid). Now, exactly when Malach decided to give his soul to the eternal abyss I am not entirely sure, but he has mentioned to me that his choice was based on the failing health of his sole parent. For months, he watched his sickly father toil with the dead; and sure enough, he was buried on the boy’s nineteenth birthday. Since that fateful day, Malach has been a dutiful servant of Saturn, furiously studying the arcane arts in hopes to become a Grand Wizard. It would be another four years before our paths crossed in the most unusual of circumstances.

During the summer, I managed to pick up a new position of employment that seemed to fit my lifestyle. I’d only begun dabbling in dark magic when I was hired at the apothecary. While working as a clerk in the local herbal shop (the only shop for miles), I was tending to some freshly grown rosemary, when he entered the store. Upon first glance, I would have never guessed that he was an apprentice of the arcane for he wore jeans, a plain black t-shirt, and his face was free from any tattoos or piercings; one would even consider him somewhat handsome. We exchanged the usual customer/clerk banter until it came time for him to procure the items on his list. I immediately recognized the peculiarity of the objects requested-for they lacked practical or culinary use. The items included worms wood, frog’s breath, nightshade, a clove of yellow garlic, lamb’s ear, and the petals of a black dahlia. At the time, I myself was still scratching the surface of the powers of Saturn, but I was informed enough to engage him in conversation regarding the black dahlia-it is the ideal vessel for one to use in binding a departed soul to this world. Naturally, my bond to him was solidified; a man who, like me, was no stranger to death, willing to entreat with the dark wonders. I considered him to be the ideal magician, an alchemist unafraid to conjure creations from the netherworld. How refreshing it had been to meet another; for too long I believed myself to be the only seer within one hundred miles. Our companionship was instant, and the two of us spent the entirety of the summer performing rituals and recording them to be broadcasted. And thus began our journey as neo-necromancers.

I’m aware that most tales of the macabre begin in the bellows of a thundering storm; however, this story starts underneath the Midwestern sun in the town of Lindsborg, Kansas. Fall was evident everywhere one turned: the color of the leaves had transformed from green to orange and brown, diesel tractors hummed while lands lay bare from harvested crops, and Main Street was decorated with turkey feathers and images of pilgrims. Thanksgiving was but a week away, and the entire town was preparing for the fellowship and feast. With a population of less than three thousand, this place had all the essentials of a small town. We lived in the Rust Belt and streets were lined with old buildings, the relics of the steel industry. There was only one of each civic institution, one police station, one library, one hospital which only had two floors; we were lucky enough to have a movie theater. Although the majority of Lindsborg foundations were eroding, it was the people that carried the essence of life. Smiles and waves were exchanged upon passing, and the churches were always packed on Sundays. Nearly all the townsfolk were acquainted with each other, although, we were considered outcasts from their sappy society (and for good reason).

After successfully completed the conjuring of a bat familiar on Sunday, Malach and I decided to return back to his residence and recharge our energies. For the past month, we toiled to gather the ingredients and perform the spell; under the waxing moon of the previous night, our combined efforts were rewarded. The fresh remains of the bat reanimated and took flight for a few moments, before plummeting to its grave. Astounded, I watched the impossible become real; however, in my partner I could sense a senseless anxiety plagued him, seeing as the assigned tasks were somewhat simple to his standards. Malach had years of experience over me, yet he was tasked with the apprentice-level spells to perform. For the past month, he’d been wanting to expand his level and begin his Abysmal Trials-our nightmarish ordeal to become a Grand Wizard-but he’s had little chance to practice at that high of a level. Knowing this, I could only stay so excited as the black leathery wings of the bat finally stopped beating against the soaked earth.

When we finally reached his home (which was a studio apartment), there was a young boy sitting at Malach’s doorstep with a stick in hand. To distract himself, the boy was poking at something black and formless that was on the ground. As we approached him, our natural human instincts arose, and I tried to locate a parent in the surrounding area; but, before either of us could address him we were halted what we saw. The object that he’d been toying with was a bloated, dead, black rat. Maggots and gram-negative bacteria had eaten through the creature’s flesh, giving the unsuspecting passersby an uncomfortable view of its spoiled innards. And the boy’s repetitive, and I dare say, joyful tapping of the branch against the deceased beast made the cold run through my bones. Strangely enough, the boy who looked no older than seven wore a magnificent garb; jewels aligned his puffed shoulders, mushroom-colored boots shone in the light, and his pants were neatly tailored to fit his frame. But…what I remember most vividly was the shape of his pupils, they engulfed the entirety of the young boy’s eyes. And how black they were, darker than any new-moon night that I’d witnessed in my twenty-four years of life. There was something…sinister, about the young boy. His presence alone had intensified the pulsing of my veins, and my vision became hypersensitive, turning the sublime sunset into a kaleidoscope of twilight terrors. As we neared him, I caught sight of a strange object sitting next to him. A box, a package roughly the size of a small cabinet drawer. It was made out of cardboard, yet it was soggy and there were also black ten-gallon trash bags tied around it. There were recent reports that orphans had been seeking homes, but judging by his stance I knew the boy had not come to seek refuge. The enigmatic child cocked his head to the side and greeted me with an ivory white smile; how perfectly defined his teeth.

Malach was the first to approach him, for it was his apartment; the child lifted the medium-sized package off of the sidewalk, placing it in his hands. “This is the will of your father,” is all that he said before skipping down the sidewalk, eerily dancing towards the outskirts of town.

As he faded from our sight, the bindings that had been around the base of my jugular were loosened, and my vision returned back to normal; and yet, I’ve been unsuccessful in removing his grin from my memory. The rat lay on the sidewalk still, with the boys stick impaled within the stomach. Upon entering the apartment, the first thing Malach did was unwrap the package; had his father’s will finally been found? Although he’s rarely discussed it, Malach had somewhat of a disagreement with his father before the man’s expected death. I assumed this to be part of his driving force in his journey with the dark arts, as the loss of a family member can make one resort to a new reality. He tore through the cardboard while I contemplated the origins of the delivery boy. His late father had indeed worked in the circus business, and it was true that there were freaks among men (depending on how one defines man); but this boy was no carny, he lacked any desire to entertain. How long had he been waiting here for us anyways? Scraps of the package were thrown across the furnished apartment and Malach beckoned me to join him at the brown dining room table. We pushed the circular placemats to the side, making room for the object that had been gifted to us, and together prepared to uncover this mystery.

A book, or rather a grimoire. The binding was wrapped in a splotchy gray, self-lubricating substance, giving the pale tome the appearance of lungs excised from a chronic smoker, and around the edges were the objects that resembled human incisors. What exactly had Malach’s father given him? A flaccid maggot crawled out from underneath book onto the table and I quickly swatted it away; it was customary for old texts to house insect eggs, especially if they’d been in storage. My insides lurched at the sight; although I dabble in necromancy, I was never a fan of maggots. As Malach opened the cover, a foul stench came out from the pages. Typically, his apartment smelled of fried bacon, scented candles, and herbs; that was all replaced by the putrid odor that resembled what one would experience while trekking through a peat bog. On the inside of the cover were two feathers, bound at the quills, that had a congealed liquid at the tip. Being an expert in alchemical ingredients and apothecaries, I immediately recognized it as the feather belonging to the white vulture; yet, I’d never heard of a single spell that required the use of such a prized item. Some spend their entire life without ever laying eyes upon one, and here we were, with two in our possession. Next to the feathers was a small rectangular container that held a jagged, cast-iron, black needle; there was also a strange ring with a gray jewel in its hilt. While I inspected these peculiar contents, Malach hurriedly flipped through the pages until he momentarily paused with his finger hanging off one of the ‘teeth’.

“The pages, they’re blank. All of them.”

Continue reading Gangrene

Hope in an Abandoned Home

Thirty Pieces of Silver – Antonio Smith

Back in February, I collaborated with a talented NC artist, Antonio, to create this music video. We combined our crafts, his words and my vision, and this was the product. For this week’s Terror Tuesday, I plan to show this video along with what happened during the shoot. The short story below is an entry from my journal, that was written shortly after experiencing the fear associated with creating this work of art. The video matches up with the theme of this month, and if you’ve seen it, then watch it again and try to find a new interpretation of it. Enjoy.

Based on a “True” Story

I am here again, trapped within an abandoned house with the joker, or rather his reflection in the form of a man with tattooed hands (and yes, love is this word). We were ready to shoot the music video we scheduled at the beginning of the year. And, what a day, what a glorious day. A dance recital in the woods, sun setting as we capture the releasing of a spirit that has taken root in all of us. There is more than eyes and hands in this work, our very lives, the fabric of this branded existence, the dream after one thousand sleepless nights. We are invested to the point that the sentinels who guard the hourglass of Midas, momentarily quit their posts to allow us thieves draped deception to rob them blind, leaving only an oil soaked feather. I damn near say that the world’s axis tilted a degree, gripped by the suffocating feeling that has parasitically latched onto our own golden moment…

…It is so cold that I can see the dying air escaping my pleural cavity with ease, the dust from the strange rubbish twirling in the flashlight beam. It is odd, the material that we stand upon is most bizarre. At first glance, one expects to experience the same phenomenon as taking combat boot to desert sand. However, our first journey to this demolished home dispelled our foolhardy hypothesis. The rubble was, honestly, soft, gentle like clouds; but the tarnish below is far from the graces of heaven. I imagine this to be the place of a ghost, not of the dead kind, but the living who have decided that disappearing is better than a decision. Gone, so far removed from the eyes of a bittersome society that milk cartons remain unchanged for there is no hope in discovery. We are nefarious trespassers, bringing our self-centered art to a domain of imminent despair. Who were we to foolishly encroach upon this shambling foundation, as if it were vacant? Upon first entry, I knew in an instant that this house had something of a beat beating in the desolate closet.

What an ugly shade of pink the walls is, the peeling of chips long untouched reminds one of scabs upon the knee. And here we stand, those who are too fearless in our pursuit to pursue and question our invasion.

 

Until her voice broke through the shivering darkness, “What is that on the wall?”

 

What wall? There should be no wall that is unfamiliar to my eye. I recognize these walls for they have graced my sight twice, and you know what they say about the third time. We pause, my camera flashing. It reflects, and the Joker keeps asking to break the mirror. My attention back on the wall, and this note. The letters are illegible unless one crosses into a risky threshold, choosing details over safety. We peer at the parchment that has been, admittedly, carefully positioned upon the wall. A tick, a scratch, there is a mischievous sensation upon my brow as my lips curl to read the lettering.

“God has given us two ears-” this alone was enough to make me retreat to the uncharted forest in my mind. I dared not allow my creativity and curiosity the best of my rational mind, forgoing a magnified view of the sheet, allowing the Lovecraftian unknown to stay at a distance. Insanity besets those shamelessly brave enough to know. Leaving the note, she suddenly remarks, “there’s another.”

Now I am bound by the principles of man to venture into the realm of shadows, aimlessly wandering the cosmos for some degree of truth. I pause the right brain and allow its contrast to tarry me through the Styx, serving as an eternally dependent Charon, ferrying me through this phantom permanence. This note is bubbly and childish as if it were lazily drawn on the picnic table in the blood orange haze of summer; and, yet this is hung at a height that no sapphire-eyed youth could reach. No, this is the working of an adult. Neatly hung at such a fright-filled height was the name, Felicia. A star decorating the “I”.

A pointless phrase escaped my chapped lips, the Joker well aware of our situation. Change has always been the hope of man. It is in his hastily constructed will where this belief originates, and here, I pray, it takes its last breath. To hope for change is the existence of the enslaved for its tangible as the gut-wrenching apprehension that now has wrapped its icy whip upon my ankles. See, we were experiencing a moment of so-called “change”, and the desire to escape through the shattered window exponentially increased. Where was hope, written by hands enshrouded by blood and shadow, upon the wall where the ghostly message had been etched? No, hope had no domain here, bound to a rusted chain that once obliterated the proud spirits of my precursors. How can one aspire to have hope while being strung by the hands of the faceless puppeteers, the slightest twitch of fingers has the power to divert the direction of my fate?

It is inevitable, and the witching hour draws near; yet, this cabin has us trapped in an illusion, unaware of the surrounding nature. Tension has us gripped and my passion dares me to throw my hands in hopes of pressing forward. Even after use, I come no closer to understanding hope, but it has saved me again.

We begin and the red sphere floating in the corner of my eye, serving as a necessary metronome. We film, and create, and shot, drones to the hive mind of art, risking our beings in the pursuit of a sealed truths. Only our hands have the power to restrain this horror, but we are unable to undertake a task; we are but guppies on a galleon. He begins, lips moving in the boreal night, but words he does not speak. Indiscriminate slurs, a grave-bound grunt spoken by a writhing tongue. And I feel the curiosity of all those who will view this as if one member of the audience was tasked with being the only visual sensation; a theater full of obscure faces will use this as law. I am serving as the owl of Athena, providing convex visions to those who were too indisposed to explore this derelict residence.

As he performs, and the pressure of his spirit sets the room ablaze, I am reminded of the curse. The hex has succeeded, turning my attention away from reality, tossing my mind into a gutter of primordial ooze and corrosive ambition. I am the wall, the very point where the nail has been amended to the wrist upon the back of Felicia’s canvas. Did I just hear a twig break under the nonexistent feet or is the blood rushing through my jugular misplaced? The pulse of my viscera cannot be contained by elastic veins alone, spilling art into the apprehension. My vertebrae have been reaching the qualms of a surrender, each click, and sense filling my eyes with the spectrum of light.

Will the floor break, finding my foot in some body-filled basement only to become the next stiff addition?

Maybe the beast that breathes in the thicket, behind the window in the eastern corner, will ignite their inhuman muscles. I can see the glorious moment now, a monster with snarling teeth, drenched in the fresh kill, will appear. In a flash, he will have torn through my abdomen with one precise swipe of his jagged claws. Oh, how foul it will be to witness the splattering of my organs, however, they say that disembowelment is in this season. Lying on the soft earth, half the man I used to be, I’ll notice the striking quality of his objects of terror. The bulbous nose that resembles a cliff above putrid waters, the ivory bloodlust that has materialized in his pupils; how they reflected the dying light. And his jaw, how shapely defined as if Michelangelo was commissioned by the commander of the Ninth circle, and given inspiration one final time to chisel centuries of undiagnosed violence and maddening thirst for my erythrocytes into this panther-like mandible. The last thing I may very well see may be the foamed jaws of the beast of Revelations hibernating in the home we have invaded.  They say hope is found on the inside, maybe I will locate it among my distended cecum?

Alas, that was only a noise, and so far as modern science has extensively proven, noises are unable to disfigure the body such as mine. The Joker continues his hysterical rituals, my camera can no longer predict his movements. Erratic and spastic as if a queen ant had entered his chest, and burrowed into his ribs; there she laid ten-thousand eggs, all circulating through the four-chambered dungeon of crimson walls; and after being carried around to his appendages, they all decide to hatch and gnash at his tissue. Moving in ways that no normal human should contort, I am unable to predict him with my third eye (camera).

Now, it is me and this newly birthed creation, standing in the corner of a grimy room; but we may have been in limbo. My friend, who I’ve shared memories and substance with has disappeared beneath the finger-painted makeup. In his representation, physically; but, is a spirit that has been bound to a cursed object.

Ah, the rose. It makes sense, with the bottle half-empty. A bowl of packaged fruit waiting to be drained, the smears across his neck and mouth. This…this is a blood sacrifice, and I’ve been deemed worthy to die in this archaic ritual. Since before the fall of Jericho, there have been sacrifices requiring a living host who will face the end with hope.

Again, there is that damn word, how it pollutes my mental capacity for rationality. To lose that would mean to fail to find Rand’s individuals, yet it poisons me. Noxious fumes and toxins travel, disguised as particles of chance occurrences.

 

Why do I continue to have hope in the face of utter terror?

 

Do I not feel the bindings of my wrist, the pain that has yet to save me from this illusion. It is considered deprave to dream for something so impossible as hope, only the wise men and alchemist understand its working, and I am neither.

This golem in front of my lens has condemned me to this brief instant, altering the flow of the Nile, only for a moment. We exist as one, shared by two: source and projection. Each providing the devil with some contract written in the dark, by ink from a leaking thumb. When did we barter our souls, was this the unknown entry fee, the ante to bet on this moment. The candle in front of his blackened lips has finally burned out, and I am returned to the real. It seems that my hand was possessed by this idea, causing a Gothic style to dip from my dying pen. I am returned to the bar, the comfort of light upon my neck. But there is a fragment of me, still locked within that infernal moment, for upon completion is where things turned.

Our video called for an assortment of props: a series of Frank Sinatra records, the torso of a jester toy, wick and spark, a rose that reached the fragility of the end. But none were as fascinating, and oddly placed, than the mirror.

Positioned in the corner, in front of a child’s sock, it was erected. Angled as a corpse would be if it rose from the dark soul, its appearance is enthralling. Mesmerized by the reflection of this broken foundation, who knew such a beauty could thrive under forgotten objects? It was the production teams designation to leave the mirror for this so-called Felicia. If she were a spirit, I do believe this mirror has the power to return flesh to her, at the expense of divine currency. Surely, you don’t behave such blasphemy at free. Now, if our missing hostess happened to retain some degree of her assigned humanity, then this will serve as a portal to her pain. In her reflection may she finds suffering because only suffering has the power to remind the unconscious that life has an energy, a force that is beyond the measure of man’s greatest inventions, the gears will never understand the guarantee of the grave. A mirror, what change will this bring to this place?

Will…will I dare not utter this, for we are still under the derelict roof, but perhaps we can connect telepathically, for our values have been expressed through this ordeal. I apologize for this vain intrusion, but I must rationalize this decision with someone. I have stated time and time again, until my cords are raw with regret, that my life has been melded to this, proving that Prometheus is still bound. My heart goes to Sisyphus, maybe he will understand this ravenous plight. We will inevitably change the life of this house, clinging onto the shore of the last wave. Men have always held action higher than the idea, but unable to project this will into a stable reality. It is in moments like this, with terror lurking, that we have to cling to our fundamental values, most notably fear of the unknown. I am consciously choosing to throw an anomaly, a reflective surface in the dark abyss, surrounded by demolished furniture and dusted beer bottles. Notes strung upon the wall like strange fruit. Naturally, it was customary, and strangely courteous of us trespassers-bandits in some way-to leave something behind. We have taken the eternity of this place, no longer will it remain anonymous. It has been brought to a life of perpetual suffering.

To craft a project; this one goal has taken us through the caverns of an abandoned Thanatos, and we have conspired with the warden to leave a treasure upon our completion. Will the prisoners of this wooded Hell find a glimpse of God, resting inside their bosom-

Still, the word escapes my tongue, and I cannot speak the truth, not yet.

Hastily, we exit through the same path that brought us to this studio of terror, greeted by the shadowed thicket. The vines tangle with the tendons of the wilted branches as if they gained momentary animation, and let Arachne perfect her craft. We hack through with arms and machetes until one final ditch remains. A dried moat that, once, possibly isolated this crypt from the rest of the road. I half expected the snarling beast to grip me before departing, and tear me into pieces at the very end.

A well-timed step, a brush of the pine green, the feel of familiar bark in my hand: freedom.

Who knew the street was only five-feet away from the edge of the forest? Above lies darting comets, illuminated dots waiting to be connected by frost-bitten fingers. The silhouette of my car, enshrouded by the darkness that can only be found on the roads ungraced by a constructed street light. How splendid the cosmos are, how we forgot that infinity is just above.

 

I remember now, how it felt when that sensation comes alive, that word that has finally turned from noun to verb: hope.

Haunting Harmonies

Sounds and Screams

Disclaimer. I am not a trained musician/lyricist. All songs were recorded in my closet with a camera microphone and instrumentals made on GarageBand 2014, so I apologize for any issues with the quality.

What is it about a sound that affects us so much? Auditory sensations can have a significant effect on our being to the point that music can calm a restless child, can entice an amorous feeling in lovers, and can even bring tears to eyes at a funeral. So continuing my study of fear and being, the next topic to unearth is sound. Can these same sensations and sonic vibrations send shivers down our spine? If music is the language of the soul, then it is quite possible that agonizing screams and cries of terror could somehow communicate with the soul. What, then, would your being say when it heard the snapping of a jaw or the tale of a cannibal on a dinner date? And what of the lyrics? If terror and fright are somehow weaved into a poetic tale, gracing a complimenting instrumentation, would we accept them as music? I present my own answers to these questions with the work that I’m bringing on this week of Terror Tuesday. Somehow, I’ve picked up my musical habit ( I was a trumpeter for one year) and have begun creating my own sounds. The songs you may, or may not depending on your patience, listen to are written, composed, and produced by yours truly ( you can tell by the quality). However, if you choose to engross your ears, then look past the technological shortcomings and listen to the language of my soul.

 

 

Night at the Kino: Groundbreaking Terror

Welcome once again to another Night at the Kino; however, this evening seems to be a bit more macabre than normal. As part of Terror Tuesday, I’m dedicating this month to horror, and what better way to introduce people to the genre than by reviewing movies that are landmark films. Each of these are original in their own right and have set the foundation for the majority of the films (both terrifying and cringeworthy) that we watch today. They may not all be considered “classics, ” but they have a permanent foundation in horror. Of course this goes to say that these are my opinions; however, I’ve been studying the genre and have made valid points to serve as evidence for my choices. There is a movie up here for every person too, despite what you may think. Watching the occasional scary movie can sometimes be a cathartic release of any potential fears that exist within your mind, so if you have nothing to do after reading this, why not stream one of these tales of terror. I try to keep the spoilers to a minimum as well but read at your own risk.

First in Fright

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This is a film you’ve probably never heard of, and you may, honestly, never watch but I’m starting my list with this entry because it is the first “horror” film (even before Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1960). The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari as it is known in Germany, its country of origin, was released in 1920 during the silent film era, and yes this is a silent film. The story follows Francis, his friend Alan (who happens to be in love with the same woman as Francis), the woman, a strange carnival, and an even more bizarre booth owner. Dr. Caligari comes to the festival and wows the crowd with a somnambulist (a sleepwalker), Cesare, who also has the ability to predict the future. What happens after this is a series of strange murders, a kidnapping, and a finale that will leave you with the taste of confusion in your mouth. “Gothic horror” is evident in the story, but is also present in the entire production. By utilizing various color filters and handpainted sets, the director Robert Weine thrills us with a visual display of psychedelic madness. My favorite aspect of this movie was the use of the musical score and how it overlaps whenever characters are “speaking,” it’s a genius way to combine visual and auditory sensations without having the actual dialogue. Remember, this is a silent film made in the 1920’s, during the German Expressionism movement; what they did for this film may be considered rudimentary to today’s standards; however, this movie opened the door for the horror genre in cinema.

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Favorite Line: “How long will I live…?” “Til the break of dawn”


Dying of Laughter

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In 1984 Big Brother rules and Oceania is at war with Eastasia, but in our reality, away from the Orwellian nightmare, we were graced with another form of terror. Wes Craven came to the director’s chair once again after successfully completing both The Hills Have Eyes and The Last House on the Left, but this time he approached the genre with a new idea, comedy. This unlikely combination of terror and laughs introduced us to the maniacal dream-murder Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street. In a small town, on Elm Street, a group of teenagers finds their dreams haunted by a ghoulish man with a claw on his hand. Interesting fact: Craven got the idea after reading a report about a group of Hmong men mysteriously dying in from nightmares after refusing to fall asleep. What makes this movie so iconic is the villain. I’d argue that this film is carried more by Kruger than the protagonist Nancy, mainly because he was an entirely different villain than the previous movie monsters and masked killers. Krueger is a witty but ruthless, comedic but sadistic, a hilarious but horrifying character who throws in dark humor just before he mercilessly kills his victims. Craven also steps it up with the gore and the death scenes, for each one is uniquely crafted to the situation and the dreamer. Plus, this movie is the debut of everybody’s favorite pirate, Johnny Depp.

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Favorite Line: “Morality sucks”


“Based on A True Story…lol”

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You either love it or hate it, but you’ve undoubtedly heard of The Blair Witch Project (TBWP). Released in 1999 this film was a pioneer in the genre for one simple reason: found footage. This is a style of cinematography where the camera is angled from the point of view of the characters as if they were holding the device directly. What this does is add a new, intimate approach to terror. In TBWP, we follow a group of documentary students on a quest to uncover the secret of the Blair Witch, a mythical entity that is said to have lived in the woods. However, everything becomes increasingly tense as more strange happenings occur on their trip. If you’re looking for a film that gives you visual scares, then look elsewhere; the magic of TBWP is in the tense atmosphere that it builds. It’s heart-aching, dizzying, and traumatic while being a near-perfect imitation of a real camping experience gone horribly wrong. Although we may be too young to remember, this film also had an interesting twist when it came to promotion; it listed the three actors as missing on their website and utilized this gimmick to generate buzz for the initial release.

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Favorite Line: “I’m afraid to close my eyes, I’m afraid to open my eyes.”


Guess Who’s Going To Be Dinner

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Thomas Harris is a bestselling writer, and he is the creator of one of the most iconic cinema antagonists, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Harris’ novel, Silence of The Lambs, was adapted to the big screen in the year 1991, and it brought a dramatic shift to the horror genre by creating the “psychological thriller” subsection. Up until this point, horror movies were weekend flicks for teenagers and thrillseekers to watch, but this film attracted new audience members for its compelling and deranged story. FBI agent Clarice Starling, played by a young Jodie Foster, is recruited by the bureau to interview (read: interrogate) Dr. Lecter, the ever-impressive Anthony Hopkins, in hopes of learning clues to help them catch a serial killer by the name of Buffalo Bill. Some would argue that this isn’t a horror film, but it contains many of the elements: a crazed killer who skins his victims, a second crazed killer with a craving for human flesh, a labyrinth (in both the plot and home), a kidnapping, torture, and character suffering. It doesn’t get more horrific than that. This is also groundbreaking for it was the first “not-horror-but-really-is-horror” film to win five Oscars, including Best Picture, further validating horror as a true paragon of cinematic art.

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Favorite Line: “Put the lotion in the basket!”


Late Night Cravings

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Our world today is completely oversaturated with zombies. The shambling corpses are in everything from one of the greatest comic book-to-TV adaptations to 4.99 cell phone games your seven-year-old cousin downloads over Easter weekend with the family. But, none of that would be the case if George A. Romero wouldn’t have come to the screen in 1968 (his feature debut) with the OG of zombie films, Night of The Living Dead. Plotwise this is insanely simple, a group of ragtag people has to survive in a cabin against a countless onslaught of “flesh-eating ghouls.” Now, the zombie was already a mythological entity that Hollywood had already tackled back in the 1920’s with White Zombie, but this film was the first time we saw the brainless, ravenous creatures that populate our culture. Romero’s skill lies in his ability to create both tensions between the survivors and the ghouls, but also within the group; also he cast a black man as the lead character, which was unheard of at the time (but that ending tho smh). The film is shot in black and white, but it was later remade in color. We owe a great deal of our culture to this film, and the best part is, the word “Zombie” is never used in this movie.  

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Favorite Line: “They’re coming to get you, Barbara”


Mask On: The Concealed Killer

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We in America have John Carpenter to thank for many of our scares. This director/writer invented some of the best themes for horror, and he did most of it on an indie budget, starting with Halloween in 1987. The plot is quite simple (it becomes increasingly more fleshed out over the series…sort of), an emotionless murderer escapes from his detention center and returns to his small town to wreak havoc on a babysitter and her friends; did I mention that it was on Halloween night? What Carpenter does with this film is give us a realistic predator/prey scenario, which is reflected in the visuals. The cinematography is unique because Carpenter employs extended tracking shots that almost give one the feeling of “stalking,” and he doesn’t rely on cheap gimmicks (i.e. jump scares) to frighten us; his “Shape” (aka Myers), as it was called in the script, does that for him. This film not only opened the door for the “masked killer” genre (aside from The Town that Dreaded Sundown), but it also birthed the career of Jamie Lee Curtis who plays the babysitter. Her character also establishes the theme of the “resourceful, clean-teen” survivor, although there is a scene of her hotboxing with her friends. If you’re looking for something that makes you feel uncomfortable after watching then this is the film for you. Also, fun fact about Michael Myers mask: the production team had excluded a mask from their budget, so left with only a few dollars they purchased a Captain Kirk mask (in the likeness of William Shatner) and malformed it to create the terrifying face we know and fear today.

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Favorite Line: “He hasn’t spoken a word in fifteen years.”


Love Can Be Scary Too

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This list of original sins wouldn’t be complete if there weren’t a horror film that included genetics, a mad scientist, and…romance? Enter, The Fly, directed by David Cronenberg. The version I’m reviewing is 1986 one, featuring Jeff Goldblum as our surprisingly charming Dr. Brundle. What separates this film from other horror films (and crappy remakes in general) is its ability to craft a love story that eventually spins into a horrific tragedy. Dr. Brundle is a reclusive scientist who has successfully created a teleportation device, but when his experiment goes wrong, he slowly starts transforming into something more insectoid and dangerous. But the beauty of this story lies in the relationship between him and Veronica, the beautiful journalist (played by the equally beautiful Geena Davis) who is writing an article about his project. We’re able to witness the transformation of our beloved protagonist into this bestial monstrosity, but we also watch the tragedy unfold as Veronica tries to save her lover. Patience is key in this film as the pacing is relatively slow, but there are elements of humor and drama that make the time pass until it’s time for The Fly to appear. This film was much more successful than its predecessor for two main reasons: the establishment of the story before the horror, and the special effects (it won Best Makeup at the following Oscars). Also, I stand by this claim that this film has one of the best climaxes I’ve ever seen.

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Favorite Line*: “I’d like to be the first insect politician.”

*Although not my personal favorite, the line “Be afraid. Be very afraid,” was improvised by Geena Davis in this movie.


Man and Madness

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Madness is the greatest sickness of the mind, and this list wouldn’t be complete if there weren’t a film that delved into this metaphysical plague. Take one scary novel from a NY Times Best-Selling horror author and the visionary mind behind Full Metal Jacket and 2001: A Space Odyssey and you have created the terrifying classic known as The Shining. Written by Stephen King, The Shining is about a writer, Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson), serving as the caretaker of a lavish hotel in the mountains of Colorado. He brings his family along and together they experience evil, in both the supernatural and the real. It’s a dizzying tale that’s sure to make any viewer squirm as they watch Jack descend into madness. Director Kubrick may have steered away from the direct source material, but in it’s place he created a visual masterpiece, often revered as one of the most artistic horror films. In every shot, there is a hint of fantasy, but it’s overshadowed by the realness of the situation, making it akin to a dream (or nightmare) rather than just a film. The soundtrack is another redeeming quality; there is more silence than sound, which draws our senses in and whenever it does grace our ears, the noises are more chaotic than typical songs. What Kubrick does with this horror film is show you that the terrifying things aren’t what you show, but what you don’t. This gives the viewer an opportunity to formulate his/her own fear, and there’s nothing more frightening than what is within the mind.

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Favorite Line: “Here’s Johnny!”


How to Properly Handle a Possession

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Considered one of the most terrifying films of the 20th century, The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin, did something that other horror movies in the past hadn’t considered, which was to make a film that explored the dark side of religion, specifically (as the title says) exorcism. Exorcisms were, and still are, religious practices to “excise” a demon from a human host; many religions have their variation of exorcisms, but this film tackles the Catholic Church. When a teenage girl, Regan, suddenly starts to exhibit some increasingly bizarre behavior, her mother Chris, played by Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn, goes to whatever lengths to save her daughter including recruiting a priest, who happens to be struggling with his own faith. The buildup of the tension and terror in this film is phenomenal; we slowly watch this normal girl become possessed by a foul-mouthed (and I mean foul) demon. It also has a very realistic approach to the story, because chances are you’re not going to take your daughter to Father Ignacio the minute she has an episode. Aside from the story, the other notable aspects of this film were the cinematography and soundtrack. The song “Tubular Bells” may be one of the most chilling melodies that have accompanied a horror movie. The visuals have a way of entrancing the viewer with recognizable and comforting symbols of religion (ex. Statues of the Virgin & Crucifixes) and then at the same time transporting them to a dark realm where children can crab walk up stairways and twist their heads. This film is an essential for any supernatural horror fan.

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Favorite Line: “What an excellent day for an exorcism”


Fear in the Final Frontier

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Let me go ahead and get my fanboy out the way and say that Alien is one of the best horror films ever made and my personal favorite. With only one other film under his belt, Sir. Ridley Scott used his creative genius and improvisation techniques to give us the deep space terror, Alien, in 1979. In the late future, where space travel and androids are common, a mining vessel receives a distress signal from a nearby planet. When the crew goes to explore, they uncover a mysterious “alien” lifeform that finds its way back onto their ship…and proceeded to hunt the remaining crew. The film contains classic elements of gothic horror but also incorporates science fiction as well, which sets the stage for this survival horror. Each character is fleshed out enough to have us care about them, the xenomorph was unlike any movie monster we’d previously seen, and the progression of the story is well-paced. There are also thematic elements in the story such as the life cycle of the creature, birth and death, artificial intelligence, and even some feminism. Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, is worth mentioning too for her character is a break from the typical “helpless” female lead, in fact, Ripley is probably one of the most badass heroines in cinema history. The set design is another important quality; the Nostromo (the ship) is unlike any futuristic vessels. Most of us imagine space travel to be highly advanced, but this ship is a labyrinth filled with dead ends, claustrophobic ventilation shafts, aggressive steam, and other industrial elements. Even the antagonist, the xenomorph, goes through a change like the rest of the characters; tell me you weren’t terrified when it made its first kill as an adult. It’s design, along with the alien homeworld and Space Jockey, were creations of H.R. Giger (R.I.P.), a Swedish artist, whom Scott and the production team hired to be the art director. The “chestburster” scene is iconic and was unexpected by the crew (Veronica Cartwright’s reaction as Lambert is very real). What Alien did for horror was usher in the opportunity for genre-mixing, it blended so many aspects of cinema and art that it’s almost impossible to classify it as simply one. There are high tech computers and cryogenic chambers to appease the sci-fi fan, war-drama worthy camaraderie, and even elements of humor in the dialogue; but, what this film does most is generate fear, and it is this emotion that helps push it closer to the horror genre than the others. Regardless of where it’s classified, just know that this is a cinematic masterpiece and my number one film (in case you forgot).

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Favorite Line: “I admire its purity. A survivor…unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.


Eulogy of the Essence

So there you have it, ten tales of terror on a Tuesday (say that five times fast). Now, I realize that there are plenty of other films that I did not cover, but these selected entries, to me, are the most groundbreaking when it comes to horror, either due to their effect on the genre or originality. Each of them has their own strengths and weaknesses, but fundamentally, they are complete, and for that reason, they sit as the pillars of my foundation of fright. When it finally comes time for me to tackle the dark side of cinema, I will be drawing inspiration from these productions. I hope you’ve enjoyed my review and take the time out of your week to catch one of these movies because a good scare can do wonders for the soul.