Friday, February 26, 2010

Vampire Wilford Brimley Meets Deer Woman

I know I said I was going to make my next post about startle-scares, so I apologize for the digression, but inspiration struck and when inspiration takes over, you have to go with it or all is lost.

A progression of facebook comments (that's how ALL my troubles begin these days, through 'a progression of facebook comments') got me to thinking about Wilford Brimley, and how awesome it would be if he were really a vampire. Then I started thinking about writing a short story about Vampire Wilford Brimley, hereafter known as Mustachica*. You see, one of the things I'd like to do with this blog is have a feature called Spookshow Sundays, where I feature short stories, art, videos, etc from up-and-comers in the horror world. (More on that in the future, whenever I get around to actually implementing it.) Mustachica (pronounced Mustache-ica, not Musta-CHICA) would make a great story for that.

'Come ON, Spooks,' I hear you thinking. 'Vampire WILFORD BRIMLEY? That's utterly ridiculous!' And it is, my friends; I don't disagree with you. But I believe it can work. Do you know WHY I believe it can work? Because of John Landis.

What the HELL does John Landis have to do with Mustachica? Well, nothing really. But he DID make the Masters of Horror episode Deer Woman. Yes, he made a lot of other awesome stuff too, but Deer Woman is what keeps me going when I feel like everything I am coming up with is pure drek, drivel, not fit for human consumption. Deer Woman keeps me going when I'm lost. Deer Woman... ok, so maybe I'm attributing a little too much to Deer Woman. But it really did give me hope.

I've mentioned before that I tend to consume a lot of my adult media (as in 'things I can't yet show to my kids', not 'porn') through spoilers these days, since I have little kids. I didn't have Showtime when the Masters of Horror series first aired. I wanted to see it but never got around to it. Periodically I would read about it and think 'yeah, I really wanted to watch those', but kept putting it off in favor of other hobbies. I did read spoilers about all the episodes on wikipedia though. And I remember reading about this Deer Woman episode (in which SPOILER a half-woman half-deer creature seduces men and kicks them to death) and thinking 'oh my god that sounds like the dumbest story EVER'.

Last year, I discovered that the Masters of Horror episodes were on Netflix Instant Play. Joy! I could watch them while I was working, on my computer! And I did. I multitasked through many of the episodes, and found many of them enjoyable. I wasn't exactly thrilled about the idea of Deer Woman when it was time for it, but in true horror fan spirit (I'll watch pretty much anything at least once), I gave it a fair shot.

Deer Woman, I'm sorry I maligned you. You were an excellent entry into the series. One of the best. You were FUNNY. You gave Brian Benben, one of my favorite actors since Dream On, a chance to shine again. You utterly charmed me.

If you haven't seen Deer Woman, I really do suggest you check it out.

And John Landis, thank you for... just... being awesome. I shouldn't have doubted you. Thank you for helping me believe in Mustachica.

I'm not saying I'm a John Landis, so please don't hate. Just that I'm inspired by him. Having people who inspire us, who we can believe in, who take these bizarre and ridiculous ideas and turn them into something great, it really helps those of us who are trying to do the same thing, keep going.

So thank you. And go watch Deer Woman! And believe in Mustachica! Like Tinkerbell, if enough people believe, perhaps he will live.

*not his real name

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Tracks Of My Fears

I said in my last post I would talk about what scares me, and since it's the middle of the day and I'm not home alone or anything I feel perfectly safe in doing so. ;)

As I mentioned before, it seems to take a lot to scare a seasoned horror veteran. Even the GOOD movies don't always get us. But everyone's got a trigger, something that freaks them out, scares the crap out of them. I'm not necessarily talking about phobias, though I have those too. Mine? Spiders and corpses. Yeah, Ol' Spooks is afraid of corpses. Funny, isn't it? The phobias have differing degrees. I would rank my spider phobia as SEVERE. I think about them almost constantly, live with a low-grade level of anxiety about encountering them, and panic uncontrollably when I DO encounter them. I can't watch movies with spiders - I did see Arachnophobia when I was 12 or 13, at a friend's sleepover; this was before my phobia was really bad, and honestly that movie may have helped kick it up a notch. I made it through that one viewing, and every moment of that film is permanently burned into my brain, coming out to terrify me at completely inopportune moments. Like, say, when I take a shower. Or pour myself a bowl of cereal. As much as I know I'd probably love the flick Eight Legged Freaks were the subject matter anything but arachnids, there is NO WAY I can watch it. A preview for it caught me by surprise at some other movie, and I screamed - loudly - and almost fled the theater. Yeah. It's ugly. Even talking about this is making my skin crawl. I've considered getting therapy, but the thought of getting over my phobia terrifies me too.

The corpse phobia is milder. It probably goes without saying that I adore Halloween. I can use faux corpses in my Halloween display, with glee even. I have no qualms about handling them (fake spiders, on the other hand? FUUUCKK NOOOO). I can go to funerals. If necessary, I can be in the same room as a dead body without experiencing too much anxiety. I just can't TOUCH a dead body. This applies to human, animal, AND insect. Dead bodies are kind of squicky anyway, for most people, but I think this one was amped up when I worked in a haunted house years back; I worked a torture scene, as a victim chained to the wall, and for some reason the folks in the haunted house thought it would give it some nice ambiance (zombiance?) if they put a real pig's head, fresh from the butcher, on the guillotine right next to me. It was so dark that I doubt any of the patrons even noticed it, but after three days of working that scene - well, Porky wasn't so 'fresh' anymore. Ew.

That's not me; I would NEVER pose naked with DEAD pigs. This is actually from a regretsy listing.

To sum up: if zombies start taking over the world, I am prepared to kick some ass. If spiders start taking over the world? I'm eating a bullet, right now.

So, where were we before I was NOT talking about phobias? Oh, right, things that scare me. It's probably not too hard to guess that the movies that get me are generally ghost-related. I'm not scared of ghosts all the time, or even most of the time. I believe in the paranormal, I've gone ghost hunting, I love it, and most of the time I feel ghosts are fairly benevolent. Sometimes though, they're not. Take The Ring, for instance. Love it or hate it, it scared the shit out of a lot of people. I was one of those people. The Ring got me but GOOD. I've only seen it once. I WOULD watch it again, but it would be one of those flicks that I watch parts of through my fingers. I have a thing about creepy kids though. When I myself was a kid, I was convinced my parents' bedroom was haunted. I had a dream one night about the Bug-Eyed Man, and it terrified me for years. The Bug-Eyed Man was actually this grossly oversized seven year old kid, and he just kind of hung around in my parents' room, lurking in the closet or under the bed. When I would walk by the door, he would leave his hiding place and rush to the doorway and just stand there, staring at me, pinning me down with his freaky bugged-out Large Marge-style eyes. The world around me would go totally silent, I could feel the air moving but I couldn't hear anything, and he would just stand there and STARE, and I could feel the malevolence rolling off him in waves. He never did anything to me, short of make me nearly crap my pants for a couple years, but man, to this day I still don't feel quite right in my parents' room, and I'm not entirely convinced that there wasn't a presence there. It was a very vivid dream for a little kid to have, and I felt that presence every time I walked past their door for about two years afterwards.

his eyes looked just. like. THIS!

So, creepy kids. Don't like 'em. Also don't like scary dead eyes. One time when I was about 11 or 12, visiting my aunt in Canada, I was sleeping alone on the third floor of her (awesome but ginormous) old house and... I had a dream. I was in the room one afternoon (in the dream) when the closet door opened and this thin old woman walked out, head down. She shuffled out the door and down the hall. I called out to her but she kept going. I followed her, down the stairs, down the hallways. It was a bright sunny day and I could see the dust motes spinning in the air as she shuffled by. I lost her somewhere on the second floor but there weren't many places she could have gone, and I ran out the front door to see if I could find her, find out who she was, what she was doing in my aunt's house. The air had that eerie silence to it again, not even the birds were making noise. As I ran out onto the porch, I saw the woman; drab and gray even in the bright sunlight, she was kneeling down in the garden, bent over the flowers. I called out, she didn't answer. I walked over to her and put my hand on her shoulder, and she turned to me. Her skin was gray too, and cold, and as we came face to face I saw that her muscles were all slack, lifeless, except for her mouth, which was curved into a hideous parody of a smile. Our eyes met and hers were cold, dead, gray, glazed. I was filled with such a sense of evil and terror that I woke up, sat bolt upright in bed, heart pounding, and refused to sleep in that room for the rest of my stay. I never once opened that closet. And to this day, those gray glazed-over eyes in movies scare the crap out of me.

The Ring kicked it up a notch with those herky-jerky movements. When Samara comes out of the TV at the end, I was terrified; the way she moved was so unnatural, so completely unnerving. When it speeds up and she bum-rushes the guy - HOLY SHIT. I think this is the crux of my issue with a good ghost story - most other scary critters can be stopped in some fashion, but ghosts? Ghosts can pretty much do whatever the fuck they want. My personal beliefs are that ghosts in real life have limited power, and that there are different types of hauntings, but I believe it is POSSIBLE for some ghosts to do whatever they want. Maybe in limited doses, but... yeah. That thought, if I let myself run with it for a while, will feel me with creepy-crawlies and leave me sleeping with the lights on.

This picture still makes me want to crap my pants. Seriously.

Running with the creepy kids theme, the beginning of the Dawn of The Dead remake - the neighbor kid who appears in their hall, all zombified and I'm-a-gonna-eat-cha? Yeah. I still sometimes check my hallway at night. Vulnerability, having someone or something in your house when you're sleeping or showering or otherwise unaware and totally vulnerable, also terrifies me. The rest of the movie, while I enjoyed it, not so much with the scary. But that one scene haunts me.

Sometimes, late at night, when I'm the last one awake and I'm in the right frame of mind, I am still convinced something is under my bed, something that is going to grab me and... I don't know what's going to happen then, it's just going to grab me and I'm going to panic and die, die of fear. This isn't an entirely unfounded fear because, you see, this happened to me once. Well, not the dying part obviously, but the being grabbed by something under my bed in the middle of the night part. I was 12, and though I don't remember the day, my mother's account is that I was behaving like a particular brat all day. So while I was in the bathroom getting ready for bed, she decided to teach me a lesson. I had a day bed, but no trundle, so it was fairly high off the ground. Mom snuck into my room, slid her ass under the bed, and waited. And waited. And waited for me to get into bed, read, turn the lights off. She waited some more, let me get good and comfortable, and when she felt the time was right... she reached out and grabbed my legs. I don't know if anything in real life has ever terrified me more than that moment, and I still sleep with the covers tucked firmly around my feet.

this is the face of evil

I've been scared by other movies... but nothing else comes to mind as a lingering, life-affecting fear, where it comes to mind unbidden in the middle of the night and makes me sleep with the lights on. Those are my big ones.

Next time, I'll talk about startle-scares and how I think they're generally a cheap plot device.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Horror Fans Get Scared Too

I've been a horror fan since youth. I do remember a time when I was a chickenshit little thing who ran with fear every time my mom tried to introduce me to anything remotely scary, but growing up with the family I did (especially around Halloween), it was inevitable that the horror bug would eventually bite. And once it did, it dug its teeth in fiercely and hasn't let go to this day (not that I want it to).

Though this isn't true for all horror fans, I myself am also a believer in the paranormal. The supernatural. As a youngster, I desperately wanted to grow up to be a parapsychologist, until I grew old enough to learn that there wasn't a lot of money in that field. (Then I decided I wanted to be a writer and film maker who would go ghost hunting in her 'spare time' - a concept which I don't tend to see much of in my current life, given the absurd amount of hobbies I have.) I believe that one day the zombies will rise up and come after us all. More than anything, though, I believe in ghosts. I am FASCINATED by ghosts, desperate to have encounters of my own.

Over the years I've met, befriended, and had discussions with a variety of horror fans, and it seems to be a universal truth that the longer you've been a fan of horror, the harder it is to scare you. We hit a point where we've seen most of what's out there, we've read just as much, and we've probably thought about it all to (pardon the pun) death. Sure, you might get a startle out of us now and again (which is NOT, to my way of thinking, the same as SCARING someone, but that's a whole blog entry on its own), but a good lingering scare? Hard to do. I don't scare easily. I go into most horror movies with glee rather than anticipated dread. I don't cower behind my hands or squeal in terror (usually, heh). I've been on real ghost-hunting expeditions to places rumored to be legitimately haunted - sometimes with permission, sometimes sneaking in in the middle of the night. I've been used as 'ghost bait' on some of these. The only thing that ever scared me on any of these was other people.

And yet, sometimes... sometimes something will grab a hold of my mind and not let go. Something will leave a lingering sense of dread that grows in me, takes a hold of my imagination (which is a formidable force in its own right), and I'm left sitting in bed with all the lights, terrified to go to sleep. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it's nearly impossible for me to shake, no matter how many times I tell myself I'm an adult and I'm safe and should just GET OVER IT ALREADY. Usually it's ghosts that do it in some fashion, and I'm sure that's because I believe they're real. If I didn't believe in them, there would be no reason for them to scare me, after all.

Last night was one of those 'sometimes' when creepy thoughts grabbed my mind and wouldn't let go. It wasn't even triggered by anything specific, it was just a bunch of things that snowballed thanks to creepy memories and my overactive imagination. I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Kindertrauma, and came across this post about the film Lake Mungo. I haven't seen Lake Mungo; I knew it was a part of Horror Fest this year but the films they've picked for past Horror Fests have done NOTHING for me, and after initially reading the synopsis a month or so ago I must admit my initial thought was "meh", and I moved on. After reading the Kindertrauma post about the movie though, my interest was piqued. I was especially intrigued by the mention of a 'horrific and iconic image' at the end.

CONFESSION TIME! I love spoilers. I'm incredibly impatient and, since I have young kids, we don't get out to movies very often. So I spend a lot of my time scouring the web for spoilers, synopses, trailers, clips of movies, and pictures. 99% of the time, when I eventually DO watch the films, I still get a huge amount of enjoyment out of them and am not sorry I spoiled myself. So, until my lifestyle is such that it allows me to go out and see as many movies as I want whenever I want to see them, I will continue to read spoilers. I understand that not everyone has the same view of spoilers as I do, and the folks at Kindertrauma were kind enough to NOT post a picture of said image for their readers. BUT I WANTED MORE.

So I went on a web hunt. And despite my excellent google skills, I did NOT find the image. I did find enough spoilers to read the context of the image and it does seem to have scared a number of people, but the end image / video itself I could not locate (still willing to view it if anyone else has better google-fu than I though!).

As I was searching and getting increasingly frustrated, my mind started wandering to other things, similar things that have scared me. Gradually I began to grow unsettled as I read more and more about hauntings and ghosts and premonitions of death. It was 2AM. Dark outside. The house was quiet. I had just returned home from a weekend road trip, from eleven hours of being on the road that day, from three days of not-enough-sleep. My computer is in the corner of our dining room, with windows in front of me and on the side / back of me. The world was dark, quiet, sleeping. My mind settled on an old terror, a memory of a story that's haunted me since I read it when I was a kid; a story about some lady who purchased a jigsaw puzzle at a thrift shop. The puzzle had no picture on the box so she didn't know what it was, and being a puzzle enthusiast she took it home and began assembling it. As she assembled it she began to grow unsettled as she realized that the puzzle was a picture of the VERY ROOM SHE WAS IN. She continued putting it together; it even showed her putting the puzzle together. The last piece she placed was the room's window - and in the puzzle, in the window there was a horrific fiend staring in the window at her! AHHHH! FREAKED MY SHIT OUT AS A KID. And to this day, I sometimes turn to windows and expect to see a hideous mangled face staring in at me, right before I DIE HORRIBLY.

Once that entered my head last night, naturally I couldn't get rid of it. Sitting next to darkened windows while you're reading creepy things and thinking about monsters standing RIGHT NEXT TO YOU, separated only by a measly pane of glass, will do wonders for your heart, let me tell you. I couldn't stop looking out the window and I really EXPECTED there to be something there. I started thinking about how ghosts could be anywhere at any time, watching you, watching me RIGHT NOW, plotting malevolent plots (generally I don't believe spirits are malevolent, but in the middle of the night when you're already letting your mind run out of control, logic does not prevail). I started remembering other movie images that scared me (the dead closet-girl in The Ring, Samara from The Ring (did I mention I found The Ring to be genuinely frightening? At least that little girl freaked my shit out!), some other story that I read about a monster in a mirror that was very scary and I can't FIND it but I can't get it out of my head even though I only read it once, other stuff I can't recall right now), and so I gave up and crawled into bed with my husband.

Once there, I still couldn't stop thinking. I haven't seen Paranormal Activity yet, but I've seen the scene in the trailer where something moves under the bedclothes while the couple is sleeping. I've seen other movies where things are in the bed with the couple that aren't supposed to be in the bed. I laid next to my husband, stiff as a board, eyes darting around the room, while he sleepily cuddled up to me and began trying to put the moves on me. "I'm scared," I told him pitifully, and he laughed and tried to comfort me by telling me the same thing he tells the kids: that he put signs outside forbidding monsters, zombies, vampires, ghosts, etc to enter the house. "I'm an adult," I tell him with a sniff. "I know those signs don't work. There could be ghosts in here RIGHT NOW." Yes, and they would LOVE it if we got down to business time, he tells me. But I just can't get past the thought of being vulnerable while something tries to get me. And being caught IN FLAGRANTE DELICTO is one of the most vulnerable states I can imagine. Try as I might, I can't push past my irrational fear. My poor husband resigns himself to the fact that ghosts mean NO BUSINESS TIME TONIGHT, and cuddles me instead. "I need to sleep with the light on," I tell him, and he says OK to that too. None of this stuff spooks him, so he doesn't understand it at all, but at least he's supportive of my fears, lol.

Eventually I fell asleep, even being able to turn the light off shortly before sleep overtook me. And it's morning, and I'm fine now, looking back at the events (or non-events, or events-in-my-head) of last night with a little bit of sheepishness, a little bit of wry humor. But last night, I was genuinely scared.

So, horror fans, what scares YOU? I'm always interested in the thoughts, concepts, and stories / films that have left people with a lingering sense of dread and unease... and if it gave you a sleepless night, more's the better. Hit me with your best scary shot! I'll share mine in my next post.

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