The Monster Files (Pt. 2): The New School

Here is part two of my non-comprehensive list of Monstrology, The New School, although some of these aren’t so much new as updates of some of the classic monsters. I mostly tried to stick with monsters from the late 20th century, from the 70s to now, so some monsters won’t get mentioned, like the tripods from the original War of the Worlds because it hails from the 1950s, and there is a notable atomic theme in there, and the updated remake doesn’t quite qualify as new because it’s just the same monster. However, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers gets mentioned in the new monster category even though the original film was released in the 50s, because each subsequent remake adopts new scientific knowledge about how the invasion might occur. If you’re looking for consistency, my mind isn’t the place to find it!

The criteria my brain used for making these lists was a broad combination of form and intent. There are monsters that have a very specific intent,(like possession, or mimicry) and some have the same intent of all the other monsters, just in an unusual form, so that means I have left out a lot of monstrous creatures from these lists. If you don’t see your favorite monster that doesn’t mean I didn’t like or didn’t know about it. It just means I ran out of room to mention it. Like I said, this isn’t a comprehensive list but there are a lot of my favorites.

The New School: Devourers

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These monsters are not regular animals grown to large size, like the ones in the 50s. They’re smaller, faster, and in some cases, slightly more intelligent than their kaiju brothers, which makes them capable of reaching into smaller, more intimate spaces, like people’s homes, to actively hunt their prey. I’m also going to add to this list the more human-like predators, like the rural-style cannibals that look more or less human but are often twisted and deformed because of environmental factors, and a few alien invaders. These aren’t the kind that lurk in caves, and lie underground and wait, on the off-chance, that some humans might drop in but we’ll talk about those in a minute. These are the kind that actively stalk and occasionally eat humans in broad daylight. They’re not shy or taking any chances about finding their next meal.

The poster children for this type of monster are the creatures from Tremors, released in 1990 and starring Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, and Reba McEntire. These monsters come from underground and hunt their prey through sound, meaning any vibrations made on the ground will attract their attention.They’re also pretty smart, learning from their fellow monster’s mistakes, which requires humans to be inventive in dispatching them. The characters in the film had the bright idea to call them Graboids, and the movie was so popular that it spawned an entire franchise of sequels, most of them starring Michael Gross (Yes, the guy from the Family Ties sitcom) as Burt Gummer, a crackpot survivalist. Not all of the movies are any good but all of them try their best to be as much fun as the original.

In the same vein is the 2012 movie Grabbers, which feels like a comedic cross between Aliens and Tremors. Set in Ireland, the movie pokes fun at Irish drinking habits because drunkenness makes humans taste bad. The heroes of the movie spend their time trying to keep the inhabitants of their small town drunk enough to save them from being eaten. In another alien invasion movie are the Quiet Place monsters, who don’t appear to eat people but nevertheless stalk and kill them in using the same method as the Graboids from Tremors, sound. It’s possible for the Quiet Place alien monsters to go into their own category but I decided they belong here because not all alien invasions are the same, and my brain slotted these here because these monsters seem to have no other motive. They’re not trying to take over the planet or replace humanity or anything. In fact, The Quiet Place monsters seemed to have landed on Earth by accident, unlike the Martians from War of the Worlds who came with a specific intent. But this does include the aliens from Pitch Black., though. Yeah, humans dropped into their environment by accident but they do actively hunt and eat people.

One of the newer popular monsters (popular in the last thirty years) is the Wendigo, a creature of Algonquin folklore, a gluttonous spirit that was once human but has been corrupted by cannibalism to always feed on human flesh. Normally this monster abides in forests and out-of-the-way places, as in the historical horror movie Ravenous, which deals with issues of colonialism, greed, and personal cowardice, as a group of American soldiers are possessed by the Wendigo. There are also a few of these films set in urban landscapes, like the 2021 film, Antlers, where a little boy is tasked to take care of his father and brother after they both become possessed after being bitten by one. The movie also addresses issues of poverty and child abuse.

Addressing cultural and social issues is kind of new thing too, at least since 1968s Night of the Living Dead, which set the stage for movies to be about more than just interpersonal relations. Before NOTLD, most Horror movies didn’t really discuss social issues like racism or domestic abuse, at least not much beyond anti-nuclear sentiment, or environmentalist issues, and seemed to focus almost entirely on the relationships between the characters.

There are also the modern-day cannibal mutants in the American Southwest, in The Hills Have Eyes. In some of these movies, the monsters are or were once human. We must also not forget the updated versions of vampires in movies like 30 Days of Night, and the highly infectious fast-moving modern zombies in movies like Train to Busan and 28 Days Later, and the deformed and infected zombies of the Resident Evil franchise. The sole purpose of a lot of these monsters is to devour people and that’s it. They are creatures with not much motive beyond procuring food.

The New School: Possessive Aliens and Parasites

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There is an entire class of monsters that just want to be us, because humans are a great place to hide, or sometimes breed.

These are the body snatchers, and the shape-shifting memory thieves and these type of monsters did not appear until the mid-20th century and are usually based on scientific principles. The original bodysnatchers were human body thieves who stole cadavers from cemeteries, to meet the demands of the nascent English medical establishment, during the 1800s, and there are a few of these type of films made in the early 20th century. Later on, the term bodysnatcher came to mean something very different, a living being, or organism, that uses live human bodies as hosts.

I know some of you are thinking 1979’s Alien, and yes, that is one of them, but this actually began in 1956, with the movie adaptation of Albert Finney’s horror scifi novel, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, in which infectious alien spores take over human bodies in a small California town. In the1978 remake, the spores would become more ambitious, taking over the city of San Francisco, then a military base in 1993, and eventually the entire world in 2007. Each remake gets updated with a new version of how the invasion and possession of the human body occurs.

In the original and 1978 versions, there are actual plant-like pods that grow imitations of human bodies, while in the 1993 movie Body Snatchers the possession of a human body takes the form of tentacles, and in the 2007 version, the possession occurs in the form of a contractable virus. The three early versions had human bodies be destroyed as the alien took over their consciousness, but in the last one, the bodies are not broken down to make a new plant-like body. In the new version the invason behaves like a virus that overwrites the mind of its host, so that it is possible for a person to be converted back to their original self, once the infection is destroyed.

Let’s not forget all of the many alien invasion movies that have a somewhat similar idea like 2018’s Annihilation,where a team of women are sent into a spreading patch of Earth that’s been taken over by an alien threat. There is 2019’s Assimilate, where a small town gets invaded by bodysnatcing aliens from a swamp, and 2013’s The World’s End, where humans get replaced with robot-like aliens during a pub crawl by some high school friends.

One of the most famous bodysnatching alien invasions films is John Carpenter’s gory 1982 remake of the 1951 movie,The Thing From Another World, which was based on John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There. Here, the alien consumes the entire person, after which it can mimic their form perfectly, with their knowledge and personality intact, thereby making it indistinguishable from the original person.

The Thing is notable because in the other body snatcher films, there is a noticeable emotional flattening that gives away the mimicry. Not so here. A mimicked person is completely indistinguishable from the person they were before, and there has been much argument among fans if a person knows if they are a Thing, and if so, are they truly dead. Unlike in 1979s Alien this isn’t a parasitic relationship, nor is it like some of the later versions of the bodysnatcher invasion where the human host isn’t destroyed, although The Thing’s invasion contains elements of the infection storyline. The human body is invaded and destroyed, with the person becoming another component of the alien mind, which possesses all of their knowledge and sense of self.

In Ridley Scott’s Alien, human bodies are used as incubators for alien young. Consuming humans isn’t the alien’s ultimate intent but I find it difficult to believe that the aliens don’t eat the leftovers. Many fans have likened this particular monster to Earth’s parasitic wasps, a creature which uses other insects as hosts for its young. Birthed from eggs this monster has a complicated three part lifecycle, which culminates in the implantation of yet another egg into a human body, and the eventual live birth of an alien, called appropriately enough, the chestburster.

As was said in the 1978 Invasion movie: Aliens don’t always need metal ships.

The New School: Possessive Ghosts and Demons

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These are possessive monsters too, the only differences are they’re usually supernatural in origin, are non-corporeal entities, and aren’t so much interested in becoming someone, so much as being alive again. They’re non-corporeal beings that, hating their non-corporeal state, are looking for a physical shell in which to exist.

Possession films are a genuinely new category appearing for the first time in the late 60s/ early 70s. The Exorcist, released in 1972 was based on the book by Wm. Peter Blatty who claims that it’s based on the real story of an exorcism performed by the Catholic Church, and this paved the way for an entire sub-genre of film, with hundreds of ripoffs, lookalikes, and related miscellanea. Almost any movie starring Satanic rituals and/or demonic possession can be traced back to it, and/or 1968s Rosemary’s Baby. To be sure movies with a demonic theme existed long before The Exorcist, but it was this movie that set the template for all the possession movies that came afterward, including comedies like The Evil Dead, which spawned its on sub-sub-category. In fact, The Exorcist was so influential that most of the body horror imagery of demonic possession and exorcism has not changed in over forty years.

The Exorcist was a deeply controversial film at the time and I suspect that it, and Rosemary’s Baby set the stage for the Satanic panic of the 80s, since people had been imbibing a steady diet of demonic films all throughout the 70s, and which were often about Satanic conspiracies in otherwise innocuous jobs and communities. Movies like 1975’s The Devil’s Rain, 1978’s The Omen, its sequel, and 1973’s Satan’s School for Girls were set in small towns, the world of politics, and private schools, positing the idea that people who worshipped Satan could be found anywhere and everywhere, and appear quite innocent. (Actually, there were a helluva lot of movies with Satan in their titles during the 70s, so there’s that.) During the Satanic Panic the police formed whole units dedicated to deciphering satanic symbols and people actually went to prison on Satanic conspiracy charges.

The Evil Dead movies spawned an entire sub genre of its own during the 80s about people being possessed by demons and going on killing sprees in movies like 1985s Demons, and The Night of the Demons from 1988.

I should include haunted house movies since there is a common theme of incorporeal beings inhabiting a physical structure, but it’s a little bit different since hauntings mostly occur against the will of the haunters. They just happen to be stuck in a place they can’t leave. Even though the trope is a classic, there aren’t a whole lot of these types of movies in Hollywood’s early history. There is the 1927 Cat and the Canary, a couple of movies in the 40s, namely Rebecca by Alfred Hitchcock, and 1959s House on haunted Hill. So although there can be spirits possessing a person in such movies as 1983s Amityville 3D: The Demon, it’s not quite the same thing, and Haunted Houses are a much older trope.

The New School: Cellar Dwellers

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These kinds of monsters are hidden in the out-of-the-way places where humans generally don’t make a home, like outer space, the desert, caves, sewers, and jungles. These monsters don’t normally go on the hunt for human beings unless they drop in uninvited. These are opportunistic predators that lie in wait, sometimes for centuries, for their prey to come to them. This is a relatively new sub-genre as there are only a handful of early films with this theme, like the 1925 Phantom of the Opera, and the 1959 Beast From Haunted Cave, in which a group of thieves flee into the jungle while being pursued by a giant spider creature.

I suppose one could add those Lost World-type movies, and even King Kong, but the primary goal of those type of movies is adventure. In Cellar Dweller films the primary goal of the monster is usually to eat people, or use them for some other reason, and there is a rich history of this type of film despite it having only really sprung up in the 80s, with movies about extra-large crocodiles, alligators, and various sea creatures coming out of the depths of wherever they were to terrorize. (Sea Creatures can be another sub-genre itself.)

Movies like Alligator from 1980 were based on the US urban legend that people were buying baby alligators as pets and flushing them into the sewers when they couldn’t take care of them. I am including movies where people are unsafe in watery conditions, with 1976’s Jaws setting the stage. These include all the Jaws ripoffs that have ever been made in its wake, like Lake Placid, Deep Star Six, Leviathan, Deep Rising, and the newest addition, Sea Fever. I didn’t include any of the Sharknado-style movies because I refuse to sit through one of those, and the point is humans usually have to encroach into the monster’s territory (the water), although according to such films, being on land is not a guarantee of safety either.

Cellar Dweller movies play on humanity’s innate claustrophobia, fear of the dark, and/or enclosed spaces that are not easily escaped. 1979s Alien set the stage by being the perfect Cellar Dweller movie with a group of people trapped in a spaceship while being picked off by a stealthy vicious creature. Since then there have been several standout movies of this sort, like the famous Descent films from 2005, where a group of women cave hikers are hunted by weird humanoid predators, and The Cave, where yet another group of cave explorers are hunted by some unnameable humanoid creatures. For some reason, there was a huge slate of these movies released in the early aughts. I’m not sure exactly what America was going through at that time but this was a very popular sub-genre.

And then we have the jungle dwellers, in movies like The Ritual where a Norse forest god menaces a group of hikers for the rather vague purpose of collecting worshipers. But there are also lots of reptiles grown to large size in the jungles, in movies like Anaconda, and Rogue Crocodile. I want to include some of the Predator films, since only one of those takes place in an urban environment. The rest are in the jungles and one is set in the Arctic, these are the kind of places that are just a little bit out of the way for a regular person, a person must actually travel to or through them. If you stick close to your urban home you may be able to avoid giant spiders, small spiders, small snakes, giant snakes, any monsters that live in lagoons, and giant rats that have grown to large size after eating The Food of the Gods.

My point is that by avoiding traveling to these places you may also avoid being eaten by jungle cannibals, killer shrews, and giant wasps and chickens. However, I cannot vouchsafe your safety if you live near a sewer system, or catacombs since things like demons, rat gods, giant roaches, regular size snakes, and other monsters are given access to your basements and toilets.

https://www.imdb.com/list/ls002119103/

The New School: Machines

Humans battling against murderous machines are almost a staple of the genre in movies like The Terminator and Maximum Overdrive, but I’m classifying them as new monsters because this particular horror of technology is relatively new (about mid 20th century) and because there have been so many of these movies in the latter half of the 20th century that killer machines have become their own subgenre of Scifi Horror.

Horror Scifi started with the golem-like Frankenstein and fears of the robot revolution of 1927s Metropolis, but updated movie-making techniques have moved us beyond techno-paranoia to full-on technophobia. The machines aren’t simply going to rebel. They’re going to kill us all. From movies like 1999s The Matrix to Ex-Machina, from the alien style Virus, to the futuristic Saturn 3, murderous robots are not simply content to win their freedom from human bondage, but wipe out specific human beings and sometimes humanity altogether. I wrote about this topic for Medium, where I discussed where the foundation of this particular fear might have sprung.

The Slave Rebellion Genre (by Lakitha Tolbert)

White Hollywood loves slave rebellion movies starring robots, but starring Black people, not so much.

New and Weird

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This category is the repository for all those monsters where there is simply no real classification and sometimes not even a name. They don’t make up a sub-genre, and are often stand-alone, without a franchise or sometimes even a comprehensive theme. Some of them don’t seem much interested in eating people even though they are inimical to human life, because hating, and/or killing humans seems to be their primary objective. Personally, I blame Stephen King for this as he has made an entire career out of making innocuous items terrifying.

Outside of masquerading as an innocent-looking object many of them don’t usually lurk or sneak, often committing their murderous behavior right out in the open where the victims can see them. They’ve basically got no chill, and tend to be the kinds of objects that are not commonly associated with killing people, or even being considered animated, like dolls, rubber tires, plants, shopping carts, donuts, and tomatoes, as a result, many of these types of films fall into the comedy spectrum, like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and yes I did indeed watch the exceptionally stupid Attack of the Killer Donuts.

No, I’m not talking about haunted dolls that cause supernatural mischief. Those belong directly in the Supernatural genre. I mean creatures like Richard Matheson’s murderous doll from 1975’s Trilogy of Terror, 1988’s Chucky, and the cast of Demonic Toys from 1992. This category applies to inanimate objects that come to life and try to kill and/or eat human beings. Sometimes they stalk their prey, imitating the template of the slasher film and sometimes they like to be a little more stealthy, but most of these beings and creatures don’t get that no one is supposed to be seeing them.

This type of movie is sometimes one that is genuinely scary for me because I have a thing about inanimate objects, that aren’t supposed to be moving, moving! In Trilogy of Terror Karen Black plays a woman named Amelia who buys a doll that proceeds to hunt her through her apartment. It’s not so much that it’s a killer doll that scares me, so much that the little thing is small, sneaky, and frighteningly intelligent. He is also appropriately named “He Who Kills”. I consider myself reasonably intelligent so part of the fun, and terror, of watching this movie is figuring out how I would outsmart such a thing. Yeah, I think I could take him. Not that I would ever want to, but I think I could.

This category includes movies such as Killer Klowns from Outer Space from 1988, about …guess what? A murderous conjoined twin in 1982’s Basketcase, Society from 1989 is a new take on the rich consuming the poor, Zombeavers from 2014 is a new take on, well…zombies, in Street Trash, the monster is a deadly bottle of liquor that melts its imbibers into puddles of goo, and sometimes, well sometimes, the monster is one’s parents, like the cannibal parents from1989s Parents, 2018’s Mom and Dad, where kids have to survive against their suddenly murderous parents..oh hell! Killer parents, siblings, and grandparents can probably all be part of their own sub-sub-genre! (No, The Shining doesn’t count because that’s a Haunted House movie!) There are also a whole host of movies that feature randomly possessed childhood objects like Frosty the Snowman, The Gingerbread Man, and other food items like donuts and tomatoes.

There are also some rather unique monsters that haven’t really been copied anywhere else, like The Blob, both the 1956 version and its 1988 remake, and the highly unique The Stuff from 1985. There are insectile monsters, like the alien induced giant bugs from Love and Monsters, the folkloric Babadook, the science-based The Fly, The Yautja aliens from the Predator franchise, the Krites from the Critters movies, and technically speaking, the monsters from Gremlins are kind of unique, but it’s success did spawn a bunch of replicas like Ghoulies, and Trolls. I would also include comedies like the genetically engineered, zombie-like creatures, from the 2006 comedy, Black Sheep.

Sometimes it’s not so much the monster as the movie itself is just unique. Movies like the Final Destination franchise, in which the thematic purpose of Horror movies is made explicit because Death itself is the villain, as really all monsters, no matter what their form, are simply manifestations of death.

There are one-off movies like Cabin in the Woods, which features all the monsters and film tropes, as well as The Mist, with entirely unique creatures from another dimension, some of which kinda resemble the monsters of this one, and wholly unique Cosmic horror movies like From Beyond, about a machine that creates portals to a hell universe, and Event Horizon about people trapped on a Hellish ship. There are some interesting stand-alone films, like Pontypool, and the uniquely terrifying Birdbox.

This list also includes monsters for which there is simply no description because they are non-corporeal entities or simply remain unseen, and yet, they don’t necessarily have a supernatural origin, like the invisible monster from It Follows, the invisible rapist from the 1982 film, The Entity, and the nameless god-like creature from Children of the Corn, He Who Walks Behind the Rows.

Okay, this is obviously turning into Monster May! I have a couple more SCP posts coming up, and some mini reviews of things I’ve seen, like the new Dr. Strange movie, and a movie called Underground Monster, from China!

The Monster Files (Pt. 1): The Old School

I had a lot of fun making this list and classifying these monsters, although there are all types of classifications to be made and someone else’s list may be very different from this one.! This is just how my mind classifies certain Horror films.

I love monsters! I love watching the movies and talking about them, and I don’t need to wait for Halloween to do that if I don’t want to…

This isn’t a comprehensive or even academic list, btw. This is just a broad, general sort of list, and there were a few I had trouble assigning to a type, because some monsters simply defy description, and I guess that’s their point. Some of them I just threw in where I think they should show up. You’re probably going to have a different idea of where certain monsters go, for example, you may classify some of The Stalkers into another category.

You should argue about this among yourselves, and then let me know what consensus y’all reached.

Also, some of these monsters can fit into multiple categories anyway, because most of them do eat people, many of them lurk in isolated areas, and almost all of them can certainly be classified as animals of some kind, but I chose to put certain ones wherever, for reasons. For example, zombies can go under both Devourers and Classic Monsters, and I chose to put them under both.

The Classics: The Old School

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Y’all know these guys. They’ve been around forever, and there are about five bajillion movies and television shows that are all about their prehistory, history, present, and future. That’s right, we’re talking about vampires, werewolves, and zombies, although the modern versions of zombies are relatively new, compared to say, Frankenstein’s monster. Some of the earliest films in the horror genre were made during the silent film era, like Nosferatu from 1922, which bears little resemblance to the vampires we see today, and Dracula, which was released in 1931, starring Bela Lugosi, in which some of the vampire tropes were simply made up for that film, (but that is a fairly common occurrence). There is also the silent-era movie, The Vampire, from 1913, which starred one of the first female vampires and was taken from a poem by Rudyard Kipling.

Vampires can be used as a stand-in for a wide variety of issues. The original Dracula was a stand-in for sex, disease, and anti-immigrant hysteria of East Europeans into England. Since then, vampires have been a euphemism for sexually transmitted diseases, unmitigated consumption, wealthy patriarchy feeding on the proletariat, and elites fighting against extinction.

And then there are the scientific and natural vampires, that have nothing to do with the supernatural, as their condition of vampirehood is scientifically explained, like the advanced vampires from Guillermo Del Toro’s Blade 2, and the TV series The Strain, and the species of vampires featured in 30 Days of Night. Vampires even managed to make their way into outer space in movies like the 1985 Lifeforce. And finally, there are the parodies of vampires like 1995’s Dracula: Dead and Loving It, and the brand new, What We Do in the Shadows, which can be seen on television and the big screen.

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The next classic monster would be the Werewolf, with the first movie about a man becoming a wolf, released in 1941, and starring Lon Chaney. Although Chaney, and his monster, went on to star in a bunch of team-up movies and parodies with other classic monsters, the werewolf never seemed to gain quite the same amount of popularity as the vampire, even though it too can be successfully used for allegorical storytelling. Typical themes associated with the werewolf are the ancestral curse, dark legacy, or hereditary disease.

There are long stretches of time when we don’t get any movies about werewolves, and no one seems to miss them. There was a brief spate of them in the ’80s, which made for a good handful of modern movies, like American Werewolf in London, with its themes of personal displacement, The Howling, which addressed sexual assault trauma, Dog Soldiers, which involved military corruption, Ginger Snaps discussed sexuality and young womanhood, and the Underworld franchise addressed themes of class and slavery, through a long-standing war between vampires and werewolves.

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And then there are Zombies. The ones we see today don’t have a lot of resemblance to the really old-school version. There are, at least, three types of them, and pretty much all they have in common is being dead. Some of the old-school classic zombies are based on the demonization of African pagan religions by Hollywood. In some of the Caribbean cultures, there is extensive folklore about bringing the dead back to life, to serve as slaves using magic. What a group of people consider horror is closely related to the culture, and the creation of zombie folklore in Caribbean cultures, served much the same purpose as the Japanese creation of Godzilla, in that it served to give voice to the cultural, and generational trauma of chattel slavery. Pre-Night of the Living Dead, most zombie movies had their basis in Hollywood’s racist depictions of African religions of the diaspora, with the exception of scientific zombies, like Frankenstein. Written by Mary Shelly in 1818, it’s about a scientist who resurrects a man from the pieced together bodies of the dead.

Today’s zombies are not based on religion and have a closer resemblance to scientific zombies, as they are sometimes caused by outside factors like viruses, meteors, or experimentation, and can be a stand-in for social issues, like consumerism or racism. Many modern zombies are the fast kind, that apparently do a lot of cardio, and there are now ironic, and self-referential, zombie parodies, starring people who’ve seen all the zombie movies that came before and mock the sub-genre.

There’s always a new zombie movie lurching about, and there are far too many to name, since the huge resurgence in zombie fiction that started in the late 90s and hasn’t let up yet, as people keep finding new twists, like the Historical zombies of 2016’s Pride Prejudice and Zombies, and Zack Snyder’s heist/zombie mashup, Army of the Dead. We now have several television series about them, and zombies have even moved onto the international stage, with some of the best stories produced in South Korea, like the historical zombie television epic, Kingdom, which was created by the writers of the movie Train to Busan, and movies like #Alive, and One Cut of the Dead.

https://asianmoviepulse.com/2019/03/30-asian-zombie-movies-that-are-worth-your-time/

The Classics/Slashers

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The Slasher movie had its heyday in the ’80s, but the ball really got rolling in 1960, after Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was released to shocked audiences, and it set some of the conventions of the genre, like the spooky house, the surprised female victims, and the killer’s association with madness. Psycho spawned a slew of similar films about isolated houses, where crazed, knife welding, madmen lay in wait, although movies, like Don’t Look In the Basement, were usually called psychological thrillers.

After Psycho, other movies paved the way. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre used the same idea of the isolated, rural location that was seen in so many slasher movies of the 80s, and the 1978 Halloween, introduced the staple trope of The Final Girl, who fights the slasher and survives to the end of the movie, due to her sexual purity. All these movies led to what is now called The Golden Age of Slasher Movies, with Jason, Michael, And Freddy, slashing their way through nubile teenage girls, between 1978, and 1990. During the 80s, novel plot twists would be added, like the dream killings of Freddy Krueger, from the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. This Golden Age also sparked a Conservative backlash based on concerns about violence in movies, which eventually led to the decline of such films by the 90s. Not that such films weren’t still being made, because there were always the low budget and direct to video movies, but the larger commercial sellers mostly fell by the wayside, as the teenagers, of the early 80s, grew into adulthood, and mostly lost interest.

In the 90s though, a new crop of teenagers spurred the creation of a wave of Slasher movies with ironic, meta-textual, and self-referential themes, like Scream, Halloween :H2O, and I Saw What You Did Last Summer, which existed mostly to highlight the various murders of stars like Jada Pinkett, Brandy, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze, Drew Barrymore, and Courtney Cox, but this era was eventually supplanted by the genres next biggest darling, The Zombie film. This current era has produced the comedic version of the Slasher film, based on viewer’s knowledge of previous slasher movies, like Cabin in the Woods, Freaky, and the re-emergence of the Scream franchise.

The Classics/Kaiju

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Contrary to popular belief, Kaiju are pretty old school, and did not actually start with Toho Studios 1953 Godzilla. It sort of began with the 1933 King Kong, which had some influence on the making of Godzilla. Later in 1953, The Beast from 20,00 Fathoms was released, about a newly awakened dinosaur rampaging its way through the streets of New York. The Kaiju movie is distinct from your typical giant monster movie, in that it takes place during the modern age, the monster is mostly a metaphor for another real-world problem, and at some point, the monster must menace a city, although that is negotiable. Godzilla was a metaphor for nuclear power and was Japan’s way of dealing with the trauma of the atomic bomb, and King Kong was a metaphor for the American enslavement of Africans, not because that was the intent of the creators, but because many of the movie’s viewers thought that allegory mapped neatly to the film’s plot.

Many of the American monsters of the 50s were nuclear metaphors, with regular animals, and insects becoming oversized because of atomic energy, like ants, locusts, rabbits, spiders, and in one spectacular case, an angry white woman, in Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman. And then there is The Blob, which wasn’t so much about the fear of radiation as it was about science in general, and a response to American fears about the US space program.

There is a good, long history of movies about giant monsters tearing up cities, and Hollywood continued this fine tradition, by substituting fictional monsters, like the Ymir from 20 Million Miles to Earth, and the monster from Cloverfield, and the scientific man-made monsters, like the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. We’ve even reached the stage of parody, in movies like Colossal, where a young woman finds out she is the avatar of a rampaging Kaiju and can control its actions, and we’ve also reached the “homage” stage, with a callback to the Japanese monster/robot battle movies of the 60s, with movies like Pacific Rim. I spoke about this in my Starring the Landscape series on cities, about how cities, mankind’s greatest artificial construction, and the theme of destruction by creatures that were irresponsibly created by mankind, or were a form of natural revenge.

There is room in the genre for all kinds of stories to be told, from Korea’s ecological horror movie, The Host, mysteries like the Cloverfield franchise, the old school science fiction of War of the Worlds, children’s comedies like Monsters Vs. Aliens, and the more contemplative, Monsters, from 2010, about an invasion of Earth by strange giant aliens, that much like the original War of the Worlds aliens, take no notice of humanity, at all.

The Classics: Animals

Garrett morris john belushi GIF - Find on GIFER

Outside of the gigantism suffered by regular animals, during the 1950s, which was usually caused by nuclear waste or bomb testing, there was the issue of their smaller cousins. In the 70s, a new type of horror arose, based on environmental fears, which spawned a great number of nature revenge films. In 1962, Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, which helped to launch the Environmental Movement in the US, which had so much influence, that it began to affect Pop-Cultural trends. Jaws was released in the Summer of 1975 and we were off to the races. What animal can kill human beings in the goriest fashion?!!

Hence the absolute glut of When Animals Attack films that were released between 1975, and 1984, like Food of the Gods, about rats grown to enormous size from eating a substance bubbling out of the ground, The Swarm, featuring Africanized killer bees, Squirm, about worms enraged by downed power lines. There were pirahna, sharks, frogs, spiders, dogs, bears, and every other animal got in on the action, in the 1977 film Day of the Animals, where hikers encounter hostile animals in a forest that had been poisoned by chemicals. I remember watching a lot of these movies when I was a kid, and while I did laugh at a lot of them, some of them were actually scary. I distinctly remember discussing the arrival of killer bees to America’s shores with my classmates and all of us were genuinely terrified at the thought. Well, they got here some time ago, and it hasn’t actually been as terrifying as the news media and the movies made it out to be.

And let’s not forget the prevalence of killer bear films, many of them clearly Jaws ripoffs, starting with Grizzly in 1976, and reaching the pinnacle in 1979, with the release of Prophecy, which checks off all the popular boxes for movies made in that interval, with a murderous bear-like creature, mutated by environmental waste from a logging company, tears apart random backpackers. We can still experience a little of this today, in the crop of grizzly horror films, like Into the Grizzly Maze, The Edge, The Revenant, Annihilation, BackCountry, and Grizzly Man.

Next up in Part 2: The New School!

I really enjoyed writing this but it was getting a bit long, so I decided to divide this list into pre-modern, and Modern. I said earlier that this isn’t a comprehensive list since there are some things that don’t make either list, like ghosts and haunted houses, a list of which is so massive, and so old, that it could go on The Classics list, or The New School list since those movies never stopped getting made. They simply kept updating themselves. I will talk about a few of them in part two.

The Most Terrifying and Sneakiest SCPs

I love covering these SCPs. It satisfies my love for horror stories and movies all year round, and I’m really glad I found it. Why didn’t anybody tell me about the SCP Foundation before two years ago?

Here’s my list of SCPs which are especially creepy, sneaky, and horrifying. These are SCPs that creep up on you, or masquerade as something else, in order to lure you closer before eating you, or maybe just scaring you to death.

SCP 906: Scouring Hive

SCP-906 | Scouring Hive - SCP | Secure. Contain. Protect.

I found this SCP pretty horrifying, because its just a collection of bugs, that can group together, until they form a humanoid shape, which can mimic the sound of a human voice. If you’ve ever seen the movie Mimic, this is sort of like that, only these bugs are smaller. They produce a clear acid like substance that can burn through everything except titanium, and completely dissolves its prey. When it’s hungry, it swarms its victims, covering them in the acidic liquid, until the person is reduced to a slurry that it can then more easily consume. It can only be destroyed by fire. Not only that, but it seems to enjoy targeting human beings, and has been known to laugh at its victims, after luring them in.

My brain isn’t even trying to picture what this SCP might look like. (Probably disgusting.)

SCP 303: The Doorman

SCP-303 - The Doorman : Object Class - Euclid : Mind affecting SCP - YouTube

The Doorman is a cognito-hazard that, while it doesn’t do any actual physical harm, is nonetheless terrifying, because that’s the point. It’s a humanoid shaped creature, with a large head that has no eyes, is mostly made up of teeth, and lurks near doors and windows, where it can stare in at its victims. The person’s terror can become so great, they simply freeze, unable to move forward, or go through any doors, after having witnessed it. The Doorman only shows itself to one victim at a time, hiding when any other potential witnesses come near.

Oddly, the creature isn’t doing this on purpose, as the fear it produces, is just a side effect of its presence, and it doesn’t make physical contact with the people it observes, but I imagine that’s of little comfort to people on the receiving end of that eyeless stare.

SCP 525: Spider Eyes

SCP 525 - Eye Spiders by MusicMurder on DeviantArt

Oooh, this one is particularly disgusting, as it involves both eyeballs, and arachnids. Its also pretty weird since, in its original state, its just a bunch of disjointed legs, until more than six of them get put near each other, then they hook themselves together, and go looking for a host to inhabit. After finding a suitable life form, the legs go directly to a person’s eyeballs, removes one of them, attaches itself to the eyeball just removed, then implants itself back in the eye socket. And then it just lives there, in the person’s eye socket, until the eyeball withers away.

That’s it. It doesn’t take over the body, or make little spiders, or anything, and when its done with that host, it simply goes looking for a new one.

SCP 1471: Mal0 App

MalO ver1.1.1 | SCP-1471 Lore - YouTube

Okay, this one is pretty weird, and a little hard to describe, but essentially it’s a stalker/hunter SCP, like a cross between It Follows, and The Ring, except it finds its victims through an app, of the same name. A person receives and invitation to download the app, and once they do, no shortcut will appear on their phone, but they will begin to receive images of the their new stalker, a large humanoid figure with the skull of some kind of dog, usually in background shots of places they like to frequent. They will be sent these images every few hours, starting with places they visited in the past, to places they just visited, and finally in the same place with them, and getting closer with each photo. The victim will also start to see the figure in their peripheral vision, or in reflective surfaces nearby.

Like The Doorman, it is non-hostile, but still terrifying to look at, and be stalked by, so I’m opting out of this one, too.

SCP 198: The Coffee Mug

SCP-198 | Cup of Joe - SCP | Secure. Contain. Protect.

This pretty little cup is definitely one of the more disgusting ways to die. First of all, it changes its shape to trick people into picking it up, is difficult to contain, and is currently under heavy guard at the SCP Foundation, just in case it disappears at some point. When a person picks it up, it immediately bonds itself to their hands, in what is said to be an incredibly painful process, and cannot be removed, until the person is dead. So picking it up is essentially a death sentence unless someone is there to cut off the limb holding the cup.

After it bonds to its victim’s hand, it begins to automatically fill with different body fluids from the victim, both dehydrating the person really, really, fast, and causing a tremendous thirst. The liquid could be anything from blood to mucus, to urine, to bile, but the only way to slow down the process of dehydration, and eventual death, is to drink what’s in the cup, after which it will immediately fill up with more liquid. Not that that’s going to save them, because throughout the entire process, the victim is still dehydrating. They will mummify much faster if they stop drinking, so pouring it out is not an option, if the victim wants to live a little bit longer, but eventually, they can’t drink anymore, because they are either too full, or too repulsed to keep going.

And that’s enough of that. My brain had no problem imagining this one.

SCP 1128: The Aquatic Horror

Steam-værksted::SCP 1128 Swep

SCP 1128, is both a physio- and cognitohazard. Its a meme where, if someone describes this underwater creature to someone in detail, than that person will also be infected by the idea. There aren’t any symptoms, at first, but eventually the person starts to become hydrophobic, and begin trying to avoid being immersed in water. After a few days of this fear/obsession, they can be pulled bodily into any amount of water, no matter its depth, and if fully immersed, they may or may not survive the event. Those that survive the experience, come back very disturbed, and frantic, and will describe being transported to a large body of water, where they are relentlessly chased by a massive predator.

And then there are the ones that don’t make it back…

SCP 1382: Save Our Souls

SCP-1382 - Save Our Souls - YouTube

This for me is one of the saddest and most horrifying SCP’s. Just the entire idea of being trapped in a horrific situation that you can never get out of sounds pretty bleak. This is one of the aquatic SCPs, anchored to a buoy, with an alarm on it. When the alarm goes off, any water-going vessel, that’s close to it, will sink, and its inhabitants will become part of the SCP.

The SCP itself (called 1382-1) is the remains of a downed airplane in Lake Michigan, that contains the skeletal remains of the passengers and crew. When the alarm on the buoy sounds an SOS, in Morse code, the remains will resurrect, and go through the motions of their last 13 seconds aboard the drowned aircraft. Any ship or boat near the buoy, when it sounds the SOS, will disappear, and its crew and passengers will become trapped with the remains on the drowned plane.

This sounds absolutely awful as the resurrected remains keep reliving their deaths over and over.

SCP: Mold Ester Moon

I’m not entirely sure that this is an SCP, because I couldn’t find a number for it. Like The Doorman and Mal0, its essentially harmless, but is nevertheless still pretty damn creepy. There are a lot of rumors about what it will do to a person if it encounters them, but I couldn’t confirm any of these on the SCP website. The Mold Ester is basically a moon shaped orb that just like It Follows, stalks its prey, slowly and relentlessly, until it finally catches up, and does something to them, but what, goes unsaid. According to rumor there is no escaping from it. Once it has targeted its prey, through line of sight, it will follow them without rest, passing through any solid objects, and ignoring all other people, until its prey is caught.

SCP 178: 3D Glasses

SCP-178 - "3-D" Specs : Object Class: Euclid : Intangible SCP - YouTube

At first, these seem like a typical pair of cardboard 3-D glasses. But when a person puts them on, they can see into a kind of spirit world, that can affect this one. Putting on the glasses allows a person to see the vicious, ugly, alien beings that are invisible in everyday life. It is possible to survive having seen them, if a person pretends they haven’t or simply doesn’t react to their presence. Any reaction to seeing them, especially if a person tries to interact, will result in the creatures brutally slashing the person to death, once the glasses come off. What’s more, the creatures often know the person is there, and will try to provoke a reaction by standing as close as possible to the viewer. Also, if one perosn sees them, and any other people are in the vicinity, they’ll be killed too, even though they didn’t see anything.

SCP 017: Shadow Person

scp017InCaptivity.jpg

This SCP appears to be the smoke-like shadow of a child, but given the opportunity, will devour whole, any human being that stands close enough to it for their own shadow to touch it.To that end, it must be surrounded by bright lights at all times, and any staff that manage its containment must wear reflective gear within the containment unit.

SCP 072: The Foot of the Bed

The Foot of the Bed" [SCP-072] - YouTube

There’s a reason to be afraid of the monster under the bed. This SCP resembles such a monster in that it attacks and consumes its victims when they go to bed. If a person leaves any limbs hanging off the edge of the bed, within reach of it, it will waken them, by first, tapping on their exposed limb, then paralyzing them, before slowly stripping all the skin and flesh from the dangling appendage, and squirreling that away somewhere. This can last for several hours, as the victim remains unable to move, scream, or call for help, but can feel everything. SCP is also contagious. If one bed in the house becomes infected with this SCP, it will spread to other beds in the room, and eventually the entire house. It manifests only as a hand, and only at certain light levels.

Honorable Mention: Weirdest SCP

SCP 2137: Forensic Ghost of Tupac Shakur

This is a fascinating SCP that, while not dangerous or horrifying, I had to talk about it, because its just sooo weird. Its a CD, of various songs by Tupac Shakur, that when played, solve current crimes. Its based on Tupac Shakur’s Me Against the World CD, which the SCP Foundation uses to tip off the police, to capture murderers, or sometimes capture themselves.

When the Foundation decided it no longer would use the CD, because of the increased interaction with the police that came with doing so, the CD uploaded itself to the internet, where Tupac began a war against the SCP Foundation, by releasing classified SCP files, which threatened to create Keter Class world events. After coercing the Foundation into using it again, the Tupac CD is now considered a Thaumiel class object. Objects that are actually helpful to the Foundation in capturing murderers, or containing other SCPs. Such objects are incredibly rare, so they are well protected.

It also turns out that the CD is NOT actually possessed by the ghost of Tupac, but is in fact some sort of vengeance/justice higher being, that came to Earth, masquerading as Tupac. Once a murder has been solved, the CD seems to know this, and the track changes to provide information lon a new unsolved case. It is theorized that the entity that was Tupac Shakur will join with SCP 999, in its war against The Scarlet King, (a Euclid Class entity which we will discuss later.)

If you have the time, you have to listen to the entire file. The music is both spot on, and hilarious, as the musician who made this file sounds exactly like Tupac, and that 90s style of Rap that we all grew up listening to. This SCP is awesome (I was a huge Tupac fan), and has very quickly become one of my top favorite SCPs, right up there with SCP 1730 – What Happened to Site 13, and SCP 1936 – Daleport!

I have a couple more treats coming up for you guys. We’ll talk more about the makeup SCP Foundation, including the different Mobile Task Forces, and the other major organizations that are a part of that world, as the SCP isn’t the only one. I’ll have a list of my favorite British Urban Fantasy novels, and some movie recommendations for Black History Month, that are more lighthearted than the usual fare we get. (Its not that struggle movies shouldn’t be made, or that I don’t support them, but I’m getting older now, and I’m kinda tired of those. It’s time for Black films and TV series that are a little more fun.)

10 Historical Horror Movies For Halloween

I really enjoyed making this list, as I’ve seen nearly all of these, and the rest are on my radar. I tried not to choose conventional movies, that everyone has already talked about, like Dracula, and The Wolfman, which are kind of a given really, or the kind of movies which featured the usual take on vampires and werewolves, although there is a tiny bit of that on this list. I also tried to add a few international movies that have maybe gotten a bit of attention on this blog. If you’re looking for a little novelty for Halloween viewing check these out.

Ravenous (1999)

After surviving a military ambush, Lt. John Boyd, discovers that he’s developed a taste for human flesh. When he gets sent to an isolated outpost, as punishment for the cowardice that saved his life, he encounters another cannibal who has fully given in to his proclivities, and tries to talk Boyd into doing so as well. This movie was directed by the late Antonia Bird, and stars Guy Pierce. Its a humorous movie, with tiny moments of camp, in the form of occasional asides from one of the characters, or the music during certain scenes, but mostly the plot and characters take themselves seriously. There are elements of the real life Donner Party incident, and strong references to overcoming addiction.

Ginger Snaps II: The Beginning (2004)

This is a sequel to the modern version of the first movie simply called Ginger Snaps. In the first movie, a young woman gets bitten by a strange creature in the woods, that was attracted to her because she was having her first period. There’s a little less of that here, but the movie does have a lot to say about the plight of women during this particular time period. There are the occasional moments of humor, but the movie isn’t particularly campy, and there is the obligatory Indigenous character ,who knows more than he’s telling, but who, of course, dies first.

After finding two sisters in the woods, being attacked by wolves, the men from an isolated outpost start giving in to paranoia and cabin fever, as they start getting picked off by a mysterious creature, that has followed them from the sister’s rescue site.

The Witch (2015)

This is a rather famous film as it won a slew of minor awards. It’s also one of my favorites. Its more dread inducing than terrifying, but if you saw Midsommar ,and Hereditary, than this is the movie you need to watch this Halloween. After her family is accused of witchcraft, a young woman encounters strange and terrifying events around her family’s isolated house. The atmosphere is perfect, but is a bit of a slow burn. The terror carefully creeps up on you, so you may want watch this with the lights on.

Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

I talked about this movie in an earlier post. This kind of a werewolf movie without a werewolf. This is an odd mishmash of historical fiction, martial arts, and political mystery, based on the French story of the Beast of Gevaudin, a werewolf adjacent creature that killed several people, in the French countryside, during the 17th century. This is a horror movie for people who don’t like horror movies, or don’t want to get too scared, but its not for kids. There is some amount of gore and sexual activity.

Mark Dacascos stars as an Indigenous man with the skills of Bruce Lee, and the movie highlights these skills in several beautifully spectacular, but completely unnecessary, fight scenes. Conveniently, he barely has any dialogue. A lot of the film is taken up with political arguments, a little bit of romance, and the mystery of finding The Beast, before it kills again.

The Head Hunter (2018)

This movie was a little confusing for me, because its not a linear transgression from moment to moment. There is some backing and forthing, and the lead character doesn’t make the plot clear from the beginning, because he’s pretty much all alone. There’s no one to explain things to. This is not a fast movie, but if you wait a minute its worth it.The movie, is dark, grim, and fairly gruesome, but if you like that sort of thing, then check it out. Its about a Viking who hunts people, but also the alien looking creature that killed his family. This movie is available on Amazon Prime.

Lizzie (2018)

This a revisionist retelling of the story of Lizzie Borden, who murdered her parents with an ax, in the 19th century. There have been a couple of these in the past ten years, but this one is more artistic, and intimates that Lizzie killed her family because they disapproved of her relationship with a young woman, who moved into their home. I didn’t care too much for the revision, ( only because I prefer a simpler version of the story), but the acting is first class, and its a lovely looking film, that’s well worth the watch, just for those two things. This is available for viewing on Amazon Prime’s Shudder app.

The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

This is one of Guillermo Del Toro’s early films, which, unless you are a real Del Toro enthusiast, you probably haven’t seen, since this movie, like Cronos, was made before his emigration to Hollywood. It contains most of the usual Del Toro imagery, and themes, and is very similar in feel and story to Pan’s Labyrinth, with children telling each other ghost stories, while trying to protect themselves from a malevolent adult, against the backdrop of war.

Overlord (2018)

This is an unusual zombie story set during WWII. What captured my attention is the lead character is a Black man, who is ostensibly the hero of this film. After they crash their plane in a village in German territory, he and his fellow soldiers stumble across German experiments in resurrection, using some kind of black goo, that bubbles out of the ground. When his companions become infected, he has to try to destroy them, the experiments, and escape the castle where they took place. This is available on Amazon Prime.

Deadlands (2014)

This isn’t actually a movie, its a series that is loosely based on a movie of the same title. A young Maori man who fights zombie- like creatures in the real world, but at some point, must go into the afterlife to discover why the dead are rising, find the source of the evil, and save his people. This is an interesting peek into ancient Maori history, the cinematography is stunning, and this is the first type of zombie movie I’ve ever seen like this. There have been some interesting genre movies and series coming out of New Zealand, since Peter Jackson filmed Lord of the Rings there, some twenty years ago. This series is available on Amazon Prime.

Monstrum (2020)

I talked about this movie in an earlier post as well. Set in ancient Korea, its about a ruler who is given a pet creature, that grows to an enormous size. At some point he loses control over it, and sets it free to roam, and attack the citizens in an effort to keep them under control. A group of brave soldiers and clerics band together to destroy the beast.

Like Train to Busan, this is a very exhilarating action horror mashup. The monster is mysterious and terrifying, the action scenes are very suspenseful, and no one is too important to be spared. This movie is airing on Amazon Prime.

Starring The Landscape: This City Is Horrible

There are two different stories in horror: internal and external. In external horror films, the evil comes from the outside, the other tribe, this thing in the darkness that we don’t understand. Internal is the human heart.

John Carpenter

 

city gif on Tumblr | Night city, City lights at night, City aesthetic

When I was a child, the very first city related Horror movies I remember, were Godzilla, and The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, two stories about larger than life monsters destroying the biggest things humans have ever built — cities. These movies made an indelible impression on a little girl who lived in the city, and loved dinosaurs. It explains my love of Kaiju stories, from Godzilla, to Cloverfield, to Pacific Rim, and how movies about the destruction of cities have often moved me the most.

I grew up watching these films during the Cold War, between Russia and America, under the constant threat of mutual nuclear annihilation. I remember having nightmares about that, and avoiding movies and shows where it was depicted.

The underlying tone of most of these films is apocalyptic, with many of them indirectly referencing atomic energy. The destruction of entire cities, by some ravaging creature that was caused by atomic bombs, was often a stand-in for nuclear holocaust, natural disasters, or mankind’s hubris. These movies were terrifying, but still invoked awe and wonder, for something greater, whether that was a giant ape, a massive venom spewing dinosaur, or a fifty foot tall woman. They also provided a sense of comfort, as order, and the status quo, were restored at the end.

The stories are all about scale. The monsters are larger than life, meant to distract our attention from the city, and have the side effect of making us realize the more important things in our lives, like our loved ones, or unaccomplished personal goals. The monsters are often huge and unknowable things, that are impossible for any one individual to overcome, much like the city itself.

The monster must rival the size of the city. In 1953, New York got destroyed by a rampaging beast, awakened in the Arctic, by an atomic bomb. It was one of the first atomic age horror movies, and it set the stage for the destruction of New York, by similar beasts, like King Kong, the Cloverfield monster, and Godzilla, for the next fifty years, albeit with different motives.

Best Godzilla 1998 GIFs | Gfycat

After Godzilla in 1998, New York was destroyed again in 2008’s Cloverfield, where the lead character, who has planned to move out of the city, realizes what’s most important to him is his ex-girlfriend, when the city is invaded by some giant creature, of unknowable origin. He sets out to rescue her, in an effort to let her know how much he values her. The live action scenes of the two of them trying to escape the destruction of the city, by the rampaging creature, are juxtaposed against the live action footage of their lives during happier times. Here, the horror comes from the contrast of their human connection, with the disruption of order represented by the monster.

In 1954, long before he reached New York, Godzilla (Gojira) trampled Tokyo for the first time, and that film is an example of true urban horror, tragic, and awful, channeling the real citizen’s pain and bewilderment, after the nuclear bombing of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki nearly ten years before. None of the many Godzilla films that followed captured that level of intensity.  Godzilla even became an endearing and protective father figure, in a series of zany comedies, which featured other monsters. It was almost like the Japanese were healing themselves of their trauma, through film.

That is until the Fukushima disaster of 2011, a real life horror, in which a massive, earthquake-driven, tsunami, caused a meltdown of the nuclear facility in Fukushima on the same day. Nearly 16,000 people lost their lives, and the entire city of Fukushima had to be evacuated. Five years later, Shin Godzilla was released, and successfully captured all the horror and tragedy of those two events , becoming yet another example of Japan reliving its worst nightmares, through the medium of film.

 

 

As in suburban settings, there are three types of Horror stories about the city. someone or something invades the city, which brings about the city’s destruction (external), something insidious is growing within the city or its people, (internal), and destroys its citizens, or it’s the setting itself that is the horror. Movies like Dracula, Blade, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Train to Busan, are examples of these, although they have different goals. One is about the xenophobic fear of disease and contagion from outside the city, or growing within it, one is about the dehumanization of city life, and the loss of individual selfhood, and another is about human connections during its destruction.

Francis Ford Coppola’s version of the Dracula myth was released in 1992, and by that time, most of its original xenophobic themes had been papered over with themes of sexually transmitted disease, and romance, but there are still remnants left behind. Dracula is an outsider, from the Middle East, who brings the plague of vampirism to the busy streets of London, which, in the Victorian 1880s, was in the midst of an industrial revolution. In the real world, talk of outsiders bringing disease, has once again reared it’s ugly head, as the British government threatens to separate from the European Union, while its members speak out against illegal immigrants from places like Iran, Pakistan, and Iraq. So it’s quite a coincidence that there happens to be a yet another version of Dracula, this time set in modern day London, airing on Netflix right now.

Body Snatchers Point GIF - BodySnatchers Point Epic - Discover ...

Contagion is also one of the themes present in the movie Blade, and its sequel, Blade 2, as New York threatens to be overtaken by a plague of vampires growing within the city of New York, and is also the theme of several alien invasion films, where “sentient diseases” are passed on to unsuspecting human beings through non-consenting fluid exchange, in movies The Invasion, a remake of the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, a movie which is not as effective a story, without the sounds and images of the city of San Francisco as the backdrop. The setting is contrasted against the funny, quirky, Dr. Matthew Bennell, and his close friends. One of the other messages of the movie is how the city encourages social isolation, and dehumanizes the inhabitants, as much as the alien invasion.

In fact, the nature of city life, makes it nearly impossible to tell who has been reborn as an alien, and who has not, and that is the point. The people of San Francisco are so separated from one another, that no one really knows any of the people around them, so it’s impossible to notice if anyone has changed, even after multiple people tell the lead characters that their friends, lovers, and spouses, are not who they say they are.

The individual stories of the invasion victims are tiny, compared to the size of the city, and only heightens the pointlessness of their struggle to tell the world that an alien invasion has occurred. City people are so good at not minding the business of others, that by the time Dr. Matthew Bennell has noticed that people are losing their humanity, it’s too late to do anything about it. The city and the invasion are too huge and implacable for one person to make a difference.

The theme of dehumanization is also captured in movies like Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, and Train to Busan, where a select group of individuals run a gauntlet of ravenous, once human, creatures, while trying desperately to hold onto the last shreds of their own humanity, both literally and figuratively, as civilization collapses around them. The focus of these types of stories are on the humans attempting to survive a chaotic environment, rather than the inhumanity of the monsters. The audience is drawn into the story through the kinds of decisions they make, which determine what kind of people they are. The audience is meant to identify with them, and place themselves in their shoes, thereby illuminating their own character.

 

 

Zombie movies are  a way to tell an intimate story in an oversized location. Many horror movies set in cities tend to focus on small dramas that happen during its destruction. In Train to Busan, the lead character, a callous business man, who cares more about his job than his family, learns to reconnect with his neglected young daughter, the people around him, and his own conscience, as he tries to protect her, during a zombie apocalypse. The zombie apocalypse is used as a backdrop to tell the story of a man regaining his humanity in the face of everyone losing theirs.

Sometimes, city dwellers themselves are monsters, and the the city is shown as a darkly cynical place, a cutthroat “urban jungle”, where people prey on one another, and no one can be trusted. City living is badmouthed in other movies. There are people who will rape or kill you at a moment’s notice, something which was not entirely an incorrect observation, especially during the 60’s and 70’s, when New York city was a much seedier, and more pornographic place, and Times Square in particular, before its gentrification and cleanup. Now, Times Square is clean and neat, but in the 70s, it was rife with strip clubs, open prostitution, porn theaters, and drug use. The frantic sights and sounds, river of traffic lights, buzzing of neon signs, sleek fashions, inclement weather, and constant chatter of people, are the hallmark tropes of city living. Cities are shown as cold, fast, sleek environments, often at night, using cool blues, and hot reds, which serve as  visual shorthand for lusts, and desires, but also  the emotional disconnect of the characters.

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 The movie Candyman was loosely based on a combination of African American urban legends, and the lives of the Black citizens of the Cabrini-Green housing projects of North Chicago. In the years since its creation in 1957, crime, gangs, and administrative neglect, created horrifying living conditions for its residents. Now add an immortal monster, that preys on their pain and sorrow, and what is depicted is an insidious horror, The Candyman, who was created out of  Black anguish, and white racist hysteria.

Much of Cabrini Green was eventually torn down in the 90s, and the last few buildings were destroyed in 2011. In 2020 Jordan Peele will release the spiritual sequel to the 1992 original film, which will tackle themes of displacement, and gentrification by affluent white residents, who of course, are not immune to the horrors of the city, no matter how much they tell themselves that they are improving it with their return.

Seven: The Brilliance of David Fincher's Chase Scene | Den of Geek

In 1995s  Se7en, Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Pitt, she a schoolteacher, and he a cop, move back to the nameless every-city featured in the film. Unused to the grit, and callousness, she tells Morgan Freeman’s William Somerset, “I hate this city…the conditions here, are horrible.” And she is right. In Se7en, it is always raining, everything is gray, and littered with garbage, and the only warmth to be found is in Gwyneth’s character, and the home she has made for her and her husband. Throughout the movie, Somerset gives several speeches about the apathy of the people who live there, and how easy it is for human beings to not care about each other. The two people who claim to care the most about the city’s plight, are on opposite sides of the law. One is a serial killer, whose only solution seems to be causing more misery, by killing its weakest inhabitants, and the latter is Somerset’s hotheaded partner, who is eventually broken by his interaction with the former.

Cities can be a visual shorthand that represents the dehumanizing future that comes with technological progress. Got a horror story involving robots (The Terminator), or virtual reality, (The Matrix), then the best way to tackle so many sub-themes at once, is to set it in a city. Movies that question humanity, (The Fly), and reality (The 13th Floor), through technology, are almost always set in cities.

Movie of the Month - Dark City (July 2017) - Movie Forums

Just the name of the movie, Dark City (1998), invokes images of tall buildings, trash strewn alleys, crime, and permanent darkness, all of the shorthand that’s been used in Film Noir to indicate the horror of city living. Film Noir comes out of the German Expressionist cinema of 1920’s Berlin, and the American movies released in the 40’s, are based on that concept, while also referencing the crime and pulp fiction novels of the 30’s. In Film Noir, a person’s fortunes can turn on a dime, and human beings are the monsters, and with their suspect motivations, and weaknesses of character, they often bring about their own demise.

Dark City contains several monsters, including the actual  city itself, as it grows and transforms, at the whim of its alien masters. This is a literal parallel to real life cities, where, unlike the country with its bland stability, sites and markers come and go, the city grows and changes, and no where is there a fixed position.

In Dark City, a nameless man is pursued by strange men in black, for a series of murders he doesn’t remember committing. He spends most of the movie in pursuit of his memories, while discovering that the city itself is a lie. As the story progresses, we are introduced to alien possession, superpowers, and multiple themes about identity, alienation, and existential dread, which would be more difficult to impart, if the movie were set, for example, in the desert, which is representative of a different type of isolation.

It is said that there are a million stories in the naked city, and whether they are small and intimate (Rear Window, American Psycho, 1408), or huge and bombastic, (War of the Worlds, Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman), that’s a promise for many more lives and cities to be destroyed, and more themes to be explored, in the foreseeable future.

Let’s hope we can survive them all.

SCP: Special Containment Procedures

 Hi! Welcome to my new obsession!

The shared world of SCP has been around for about ten years now, but I’m just now hearing about it, and I’m kinda mad about that. SCP is a shared world anthology series, not unlike Wikipedia, about an organization somewhat like the Men in Black, that does all of the above for paranormal events, people, places, monsters, objects, and any other things that may potentially harm humanity, are just plain weird, or anomalous.

SCP is old enough  that you can spend weeks reading about the different events, protocols, and monsters of this universe, some of which are truly terrifying, some of which are deeply funny, and some of which are just cute. Anyone can contribute (once you’ve done your research) usually in the form of stories about the organization’s encounters with the weird, dangerous, and/or paranormal. Strictly speaking, there isn’t any canon, and writers are free to reference other characters, events, and  monsters in their own works. Some of these works take the form of personal narratives, fictional stories, biographies, and internal memos of the various anomolies.

For those of you have a little trouble with the written word, there is a huge trough of videos about SCP on YouTube, some of which are audio versions  of  the more famous and popular encounters, some are examinations of various creatures, and artifacts, and explorations of events and places.

For a quick rundown of the past ten years, including stories about experiments, first encounters, and biographies of the hundreds of creatures, beings, places, artifacts, and events, you can visit the following Wiki:

SCP Foundation

 

What is the SCP Foundation?

Most of the things featured, in this shared world, are about monsters, (and y’all know I love monsters), but there are also quite a number of benign objects, and a few downright cute ones, which are often classified not just according to their level of danger to humanity, but how much, or how little, procedure is involved in containing them.

I spent the entire weekend watching videos about the different creatures, places, and events of the SCP, from the funniest (a company that that will get a regular, plain, ol’ llama out to you immediately, no matter where in the world you are), to the most terrifying, ( a god-like creature, that is  set to destroy the world, after the breaking of seven chains, six of which have already broken), to the cutest, (a small orange blob that loves to be tickled, and might be the savior of humanity! ), to just the oddball, (a vending machine that can dispense almost any beverage that can be imagined, a shower curtain that kills you with your worst fear, and a company that specializes in selling dinosaur meat.)

 

There are a number of different  “object” classes, and the site is also used as a guide, for writers who wish to contribute to this shared world experience:

Safe

Safe-class SCPs are anomalies that are easily and safely contained. This is often due to the fact that the Foundation has researched the SCP well enough that containment does not require significant resources or that the anomalies require a specific and conscious activation or trigger. Classifying an SCP as Safe, however, does not mean that handling or activating it does not pose a threat.

For a complete list of Safe-class articles on the site, click here.

Euclid

Euclid-class SCPs are anomalies that require more resources to contain completely or where containment isn’t always reliable. Usually this is because the SCP is insufficiently understood or inherently unpredictable. Euclid is the Object Class with the greatest scope, and it’s usually a safe bet that an SCP will be this class if it doesn’t easily fall into any of the other standard Object Classes.

As a note, any SCP that’s autonomoussentient and/or sapient is generally classified as Euclid, due to the inherent unpredictability of an object that can act or think on its own.

For a complete list of Euclid-class articles on the site, click here.

Keter

Keter-class SCPs are anomalies that are exceedingly difficult to contain consistently or reliably, with containment procedures often being extensive and complex. The Foundation often can’t contain these SCPs well due to not having a solid understanding of the anomaly, or lacking the technology to properly contain or counter it. A Keter SCP does not mean the SCP is dangerous, just that it is simply very difficult or costly to contain.

For a complete list of Keter-class articles on the site, click here.

Thaumiel

Thaumiel-class SCPs are anomalies that the Foundation specifically uses to contain other SCPs. Even the mere existence of Thaumiel-class objects is classified at the highest levels of the Foundation and their locations, functions, and current status are known to few Foundation personnel outside of the O5 Council.

 

Most of the contained creatures and artifacts do not have names, only numbers, but same have both. Some of the more famous SCPs are The Shy Guy, The Flesh That Hates, and The Blood Pool, which are some of the more horrific “things” the organization keeps a watch over.

 

The  top five most terrifying SCP encounters:

 

There are also a number of security clearance levels with D and E being the lowest.

Class D personnel are expendable personnel used to handle extremely hazardous anomalies and are not allowed to come into contact with Class A or Class B personnel. Class D personnel are typically drawn worldwide from the ranks of prison inmates convicted of violent crimes, especially those on death row. In times of duress, Protocol 12 may be enacted, which allows recruitment from other sources — such as political prisoners, refugee populations, and other civilian sources — that can be transferred into Foundation custody under plausibly deniable circumstances. Class D personnel are to be given regular mandatory psychiatric evaluations and are to be administered an amnestic of at least Class B strength or terminated at the end of the month at the discretion of on-site security or medical staff. In the event of a catastrophic site event, Class D personnel are to be terminated immediately except as deemed necessary by on-site security personnel.

 

There are a few channels on YouTube that explore and chronicle these creatures and events. For those of you who are not interested in being scared, there’s something here for you too, as there are a number of deeply funny SCPs out there. There are several different classes of SCP. The less strange and horrible ones are  classified as SAFE. If you’re not a fan of horror, try to steer clear of anything labeled Keter, or Euclid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Terrifying Books For Halloween

Here’s a really good collection of unconventional books to read for Halloween. So pick one up, (or all of them), and prepare to be frightened. Best time to read them? Halloween night of course.

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Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

You might remember these books from your childhood. I remember reading the first of these in elementary school and being scared out of what wits I’d managed to scrape together at age eight. The other two books in the series are less scary, but Gammell’s drawings  were always deliciously disturbing, and I loved them. Is this series just as effective when reading it as an adult? Yes!

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The Institute – Stephen King

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This is a horror novel for people who don’t like horror novels. I just finished this about a couple of weeks ago. While it started off kind of slow, and King really needs to stop writing any Black people into any of his books, until he can write us to sound like regular fucking people, I ultimately found it very satisfying. This is a story for people who think the Harry Potter universe wasn’t dark enough. In fact, this book slaps that universe in the face, kicks it a few times, and then electrocutes its gonads.  In other words, its got a lot of unpalatable stuff in it, including the (bloodless) torture of children. I listened to the audio-book version of this and some parts were hard to get through, and had I been reading it instead of listening to it, I probably would have put the book down and not finished it. What I can say, in King’s favor, is that the torture isn’t  gratuitous, and does serve the plot.

I don’t usually like the endings of King’s books, although I’m okay with the journey to get there, (I prefer his shorter stuff), but this had a nicely bittersweet ending, that made everything that came before it worth crawling through, and I appreciated it. The kids really did come across sounding and acting  like kids, too. Despite his complete inability to make Black people sound like, ya know, people, he really is pretty good at writing White people who are not men. The lead character is compassionate, smart as fuck, and brave, so that helped, too.

Warning for torture of children.

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Mystery Walk – Robert McCammon

This book is from waaay back in the 80s, and is a great Halloween read, as its one of the few pantshittingly scary books I remember fondly. McCammon writes dark Historical mysteries now, so a lot of people aren’t as aware of his Horror past, as perhaps they should be. He didn’t ever quite rise to the level of King, but his grand novel, Swan Song, is right at the top of apocalyptic fiction along with The Stand, as it should be.

Mystery Walk is about a young man’s journey to adulthood, after he finds out that he has inherited the ability to not only see and speak to ghosts, but he can lay them to rest by consuming their pain. There’s also another character with the same ability that is a dark reflection of him. The book builds up to their eventual confrontation, with one using his abilities for evil and gain, and being manipulated by a demon, while the other, having resisted the demon’s temptations, tries to save him.

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God’s Demon – Wayne D. Barlowe

This is another one of those journeys through Hell books. I have a whole collection of these. I love strong imagery in a book, and Wayne Barlowe, being an artist (who has done at least two illustrated books on this subject) is a master craftsmen. But its not just the images that grab you here, its the characters too, from the  repentant Lilith, to the foot soldiers of the demons major, Hell isn’t just made up of damned souls, and the unredeemable, as Sargatanas, one of Hell’s most powerful Fallen, fights a war to prove that he actually belongs back at God’s side, again.

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FantasticLand

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Okay, I got this book from NetGalley because the plot sounded like it might be funny. I thought it was going to be a satire about Disneyland or something.

This book was not funny.

This book was harrowing, but in a good way. I felt like I had been on a serious journey after I read this. Its not like the other books on this list, in that all the monsters here, are entirely human.

You might get the same idea that its a comedy or satire, as the basic plot is a  bunch of  young people get trapped in an amusement park called FantasticLand, during a hurricane, and over the next couple of weeks, all civility breaks down, as they start to hoard food, break into different tribes, and factions, and begin  warring against each other. In the meantime, they are still dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane, and the resultant flooding.

This is told in reports and interviews after the event. with the people who were involved, various rescue workers, and the media. So its an excellent use of the World War Z format, and unlike the Lord of the Flies book, there are plenty of women, there’s a lot more death, and some very clear reasons behind why everyone starts behaving the way they do, that’s beyond people just being stupid or bad. The book has a lot more depth than I expected, and is a more realistic depiction of how something like it could occur. What’s interesting is that even though the reason why the events happened were pretty clear, the public is still massively puzzled about why it happened.

I can;t praise this book enough, even though it was really hard to get through.

Warning for off-screen rape, and lots of ultra-violence.

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Nocturnes –  John Connolly

This is an excellent collection for Halloween, and one of my favorite anthologies. All of the stories here are straight up horror, ,and very well done. From Mr. Pettinger’s Demon, to the Inkpot Monkey,  with many of the stories consisting of people dealing with different types of demons, both real and imaginary. There are also a couple of really good monster stories, The Wakeford Abyss, and The Man From the Second Fifteen. It also includes a less horrific, but still pretty dark Charlie Parker story, The Reflecting Eye.

“Children go missing, lovers are lost, creatures emerge from below the ground and demons lurk in the shadows as Connolly, clearly having the time of his life, does his best to scare the wits out of his readers.”

 —Gold Coast Bulletin (Australia)

 

I also want to rec the sequel, Nocturnes II, Night Music, with its long form short stories, The Caxton Library, which is not horror, but still lots of fun, and The Fractured Atlas, which is deeply disturbing in a Lovecraftian sort of way. There’s also a fun Sherlockian story, where he meets the man who authored him. The sequel has fewer stories, but The Fractured Atlas more than makes up for the lack of scare in the other stories. Other stories of note are The Lamia, which is not about a vampire at all, and The Children of Dr. Lyall, where two men break into a house, and get trapped in alternate dimensions.

 

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We Are Where The Nightmares Go – C. Robert Cargill

The first story in this collection is one of the most unique zombie stories I’ve ever read. Cargill has this thing, where he can take a well worn trope, like zombies or ghosts, or even Indigenous mythology, and pull out some truly interesting stories, that are not like any other types of those stories. In The Town That Wasn’t Anymore, an entire town is so haunted, that most of its citizens are  afraid to go out at night. There’s a Sin Eater and a Soul Thief’s Son, and the title story is an Anti- Alice in Wonderland tale, as a  little girl goes through a doorway under her bed, and finds herself in a very dark world.

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The Haunted forest Tour – Jeff Strand

If a horror novel can be classified as Pulp, than this is it. I thought it was great, horrific, trashy fun, as a magical forest takes over several acres in America, when it pops out of thin air. The forest just happens to be haunted by every sort of monster that has ever inhabited a horror novel. The whole thing has a very Cabin in the Woods feel to it, right down to its  premise.

This is a story that’s best listened to rather than read. I did both, and the narrator for the audio-book does an excellent job of capturing the incredulity of the characters, and  the horribleness of the monsters.

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The Wide Carnivorous Sky – John Langan

Most of the stories in this collection would best be described as haunting. The first two stories are zombie stories but there is less of a focus on gore, and like any good zombie story, more of a focus on how the end of the world affects the survivors. The title story is, very probably, one of the scariest vampire stories I’ve ever read, not because the vampire is so frightening, although yes it is scary as fuck, but because of the mood. There is a feeling of dread in it that heavily reminds me of The Thing ,as a bunch of afghan vets deal, not just with the aftermath of the war, but the PTSD from encountering the vampire.

The Wide Carnivorous Sky is an excellent story to read on Halloween night.

You will be scaredt!

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The Scarlet Gospels – Clive Barker

If you’re a fan of Hellraiser, this chronicles what happened after the events of the second film, Pinhead’s journey across Cenobite Hell, and  his attempts to gain more power.  This is also good book for  fans of Harry D’amour from Barker’s The Last Illusion, as he travels to Hell to rescue a friend who gets caught up in Pinhead’s machinations, and their eventual confrontation.

This was a deeply satisfying book, but then Barker has always been able to capture me through the vivid imagery he presents, and the depth of his characters. I don’t remember many of the plot details but that is one of the dangers of reading a Barker book.

Warning for torture and rape scenes.

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US (2019) Jordan Peele

Here’s a nice after Christmas treat.

The trailer for Jordan Peele’s new movie just dropped. What a beautiful Christmas present this was!

I watched this trailer, and I am shooketh! This looks genuinely terrifying!

Seriously, Peele’s been a comedian for years, and he’s been holding out on us. I love the cast for this movie, Lupita Nyongo, and Winston Duke, both fresh off of Black Panther. I expect this to be scary, and I expect it to have as much depth as his first movie, Get Out.

https://ew.com/trailers/2018/12/25/us-movie-trailer-jordan-peele/

Jordan says this is not a home invasion movie, it’s not about race, and it involves a new mythology that he’s invented about “The Tethered”. As you can see a lot of it takes place well into the next day, and once again, we get to see Lupita kicking some ass.

Things To Notice:

* That opening song. I Got 5 On It by Luniz was the song from my youth, too. It came out during my college years. I didn’t know I knew the lyrics to this song, and quite frankly the backbeat was always creepy to me, but that’s not something you say to your friends when they jammin’. (And Yes, it is about drugs.)

*The entire family is dark skinned, especially the mother and daughter. The usual dynamic, especially for mainstream movies, is to cast the father as dark skinned, and all the women in the family as several shades lighter, but here, the entire family has the same skin tone, which is something refreshing that people are noticing. It may seem an insignificant detail but those of us who are darker than than a paper bag tend to notice things like that.

*The shoutout to Howard University

*It appears as if the little boy may be on the spectrum. He is wearing a little red devil mask on his head when we first see him, and his mom talks him through the song in the car. Those are the kinds of little things one does when a family member has sensory issues.

*Bunnies!

*People have noticed at least one parallel scene between Lupita’s character, and the main character’s single tear scene from Get Out.

Jordan says having a Black family was incidental, because it’s not something that’s really been done before, and I’d have to agree, because a lot of family style horror movies involve White suburban families dealing with some disruption to their lifestyle, with the status quo being restored by the end of the movie, through their efforts. That’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s a pretty common one.

Honestly, there really aren’t enough PoC in the horror genre, this is refreshing for that reason alone, and this kind of thing is honestly why we need them, to inject some fresh ideas into a genre that’s been coasting for too long on the kinds of things, made primarily by white men, that only seem to scare teenagers – torture porn, jump scares, ghost stories, and possession plots. (Having a Black cast isn’t unheard of, it’s just not especially common.)

Not that the men who almost entirely run this genre don’t have some good ideas from time to time, (It Follows, Poltergeist, two of the films cited by Peele as being significant enough that they was required viewing for the adult cast), but so much of this genre is not anything to get really excited about, beyond the occasional tentpole film like Halloween. The same way the J-Horror craze injected some new material into the genre, Black and Brown people will too, so hopefully this is the beginning of a trend that will see more women and PoC filmmakers in this genre.

I want to get back to a time when Horror had something interesting to say about the world, it’s people, anything really. Far too much of the genre has nothing to say from either a political or social standpoint, that isn’t abjectly negative about humanity, or just nihilistic. It will be interesting to see where Jordan Peele takes this story, and what meaning it will have on a wider scale, if any.

13 Great Comic Books For Halloween

I stopped reading superhero comic books, a little while back, and went back to my roots. When I first starting reading grownup books, I started by reading Horror novels by Stephen King,  and comics like Eerie, and Creepy. I never completely got away from them over the years, but when I gave up superheroes (because of the paucity of storylines, and the hot mess of continuities that is Marvel and DC), I  started reading the work of individual writers, and following different artists I like, which led me back to reading horror comics again.

Here are some great comic books to read for Halloween. I’ve read all of these except the Honorable Mentions.

 

30 Days of Night by Steve Niles

30 Days of Night has since become an entire series of books, with crossovers with other horror comics, and a movie starring Josh Hartnett. The graphic novel is so much better than the movie, and the movie is pretty damn good. The atmospheric art of Ben Templesmith is a huge factor in how scary the first book is. I became a huge fan of Steve Niles after reading this.

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Arkham Asylum: A Serious  House on Serious Earth  by Grant Morrison

This is one of my all-time favorite Batman books. If you ever wanted to know what being inside Arkham Asylum must be like, this should give you a pretty good idea why the criminals keep trying to escape. But this isn’t your typical Batman chases down some insanity through Gotham. No, Batman has to journey into the heart of the asylum, where he not only confronts his greatest opponents, but the inner workings of his own psyche. Naturally, it’s the Joker who asks the most important  question: Why isn’t he in there with them?

The artist is actually Dave McKean, but I think you can see a pattern forming, in that I like either cutsie, or painterly, styles of art.

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The Nocturnals (The Gunwitch) by Dan Brereton

I was intrigued by the  illustrations for this series long before I’d ever heard it was a comic book.That first image was of The Gunwitch, and I loved that name so much, that I went on an all out search for more of it, and came across The Nocturnals. Essentially, this is a Halloween superhero team, with the various members having superpowers based on being supernatural creatures. The Gunwitch is the former bodyguard of the young lady holding the stuffy, with the pumpkin purse, named Evening Horror.  The art is funky and colorful and, despite the presence of sexy women, this is safe  for juveniles.

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Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites by Evan Dorkin

This is similar to The Nocturnals in theme. I discovered this comic in an anthology series about Halloween, about a group of neighborhood dogs, (and one cat), who fight the various monsters that keep invading their territories. My favorite part is the relationship between the various pooches, who are all brave and  good doggos. It’s not all sweetness and light though, because the stakes are very real, and sometimes the dogs get killed. It’s safe enough for pre-teens because there is very little gore, but not okay for small kids.

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http://deadshirt.net/2014/03/11/hellhounds-and-scaredy-cats-why-beasts-of-burden-is-the-best-horror-comic-youre-not-reading/

 

Constantine Hellbalzer: All His Engines by Mike Carey

I would definitely consider myself a Constantine fan, as I’ve read most of the graphic novels. Not all, but most, and I do have some favorite storylines. This is a particular favorite of mine, because apparently all you have to do is throw in an old Aztec god, and I’m in. The art is exceptionally well done, very detailed, and disgusting, and very, very effective. In this one, Constantine manages to find his way  to Los Angeles, investigating why his best friend’s grandchild has fallen into a coma, only to find its a trap meant just for him, in a war between an ancient god, and a demon wannabe.

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Spiral/Uzumaki by Junji Ito

This is one of those comics that has no gore, but nevertheless, haunts you long after you’ve finished the story. A curse causes the people in a small Japanese town to become obsessed with spirals to the point where they begin physically  transforming into spirals. If you like geographical horror, like the movie Annihilation, this is a great spooky story for Halloween.

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Enormous by Tim Daniel

The earth has been taken over by gigantic monsters. In the first story, Ellen Grace tries to get some orphaned children to a safe place, after the death of her mother, and the destruction of most of Arizona.

You know how much I love monsters, and the art for this series is truly spectacular, with full color paintings. It also has a female lead, ala Ellen Ripley. This is a pretty graphic and harrowing adventure story about not just physically surviving, but surviving emotionally. This is a comic you read in small sips.

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Wormwood: Gentlemen Corpse by Ben Templesmith

I mentioned this series some time ago. I love horror-comedy mashups, and this is Ben Templesmith knocking it out of the park, with the hilarious, and terrifying stories of Wormwood, a tiny little worm inhabiting a rotting corpse, which  has not stopped him from living up to his responsibilities of  drinking, cussing, and saving the world from the interdimensional, Cthulhu-like horrors, waiting to destroy the Earth.

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The Goon Series by Eric Powell

For those of you who like monsters, but don’t like being scared, here’s some  humorous horror from Eric Powell. Think Ash vs. The Evil Dead, (and everything else), including mad scientists, zombies, Cthulhu, and femme fatales, set in the forties. The Goon usually wins by punching things, and when that doesn’t work, his loudmouthed partner will offer to shoot it. Don’t let the artistic style fool you. These books are nice and gory, but that’s okay, because they’re also deeply, deeply silly.

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Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing

I knew about the original backstory of the Swamp Thing because I read the comics when I was a little  kid, but when Alan Moore began his run in the 80s, he turned all of that on its head, and created one of the best story arcs for any character in the DC universe. Moore was aided in this endeavor by the  artists Bernie Wrightson, Steve Veitch, John Totleben, and Steve Bissette. (Please read the 1984 story “The Anatomy Lesson” if you want to be emotionally devastated.)

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Shaolin Cowboy by Geof Darrow

I was first introduced to the art of Geof Darrow in the book HardBoiled. A book with almost no dialogue, but plenty, and I mean plenty, of art. His work is so incredibly detailed, it’s ridiculous.  I went on to read Big Guy and Rusty (Who remembers that cartoon, but me?), and this crazed adventure here, Shaolin Cowboy, about the supernatural adventures of a Shaolin monk, in a techno alternate future America. Once again, there’s no dialogue to speak about, but you will spend hours staring intently at the pages trying to parse every detail, and it will be worth it, because Darrow likes to add lots of easter eggs to his work. It’s fun without  that anxiety producing gameshow feeling of  having to search for Waldo.

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Criminal Macabre by Steve Niles

Criminal Macabre is like if Ash from The Evil Dead had been born with the psychic ability to see the supernatural world, and tried unsuccessfully to suppress that power with a ton of booze and drugs. This series is deeply funny, mostly due to Cal McDonald’s ability to wisecrack, in even the most dire situations. This man takes so many drugs, it’s a wonder he’s able to stand up straight most of the time, often walking into fights drunk, high, or both, yet still somehow managing to prevail. And for those of you who consider comic books a little  too juvenile for your taste, there is a nice, fat, prose anthology of Cal’s adventures called Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories. The prose version isn’t as funny as the comics but the plots are just as ridiculous.

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Hellboy and B.P.R.D Series by Mike Mignola

I’m a long time Hellboy fan. Some of the love is at least partly due to the artistic style of Mike Mignola. If your only knowledge of Hellboy is through the two Guillermo Del Toro movies, then I urge you to check out the comic books, graphic, and prose novels, which are deeper than the films, and if possible, even more dark and moody. The biggest difference between the style of the movies and the books is tone. There’s not as much color or  humor in the books. If you’re looking for fun and funny, this ain’t necessarily it.

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https://nerdist.com/hellboy-rise-blood-queen-comics-history/

 

 

Honorable Mentions or What I’m About to Start Reading Soon

Aliens Salvation by Dave Gibbons

I actually haven’t read a whole lot of books in the Alien franchise. It doesn’t mean I don’t like the series. It mostly means I’m  too chickenshit to consume a steady diet of them.

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Beautiful Darkness by Fabian Vehlmann

This story about tiny mutated people living in and around the rotting body of a little girl abandoned in the woods, sounds suitably horrific and yes, very, very strange.

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Gyo by Junji Ito

I’m told that the actual title of this book is called Death Stench and has something to do with people dying horribly from intestinal gas. This should resonate with anyone like me who is lactose intolerant and has ever made the mistake of drinking dairy products.

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Hillbilly by Eric Powell

Since I love the midwestern horror stories of Manly Wade Wellman, I’m pretty sure I’m going to like this other series by Eric Powell, about a Hillbilly guardian who fights monsters, in the hills of Appalachia, accompanied by his friend, a giant bear.

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Neonomicon by Alan Moore

I heard that this book was deeply frightening, about two government detectives stumbling across a supernatural mystery. It’s written by Alan Moore, so I trust that assessment.

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Safari Honeymoon by Jesse Jacobs

Another monster book, about a couple who decide to spend their honeymoon hunting bizarre natural monsters. It sounds really cute, and I hope it’s not too scary for me.

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A Quiet Place Review

Mom managed to talk me into going to see this movie, which I had no plans to see, at the theater. I didn’t want to see it, not because I thought it was going to be bad, (I was really intrigued by it), but because sometimes my anxiety likes to ramp itself up, and I can’t leave the theater. When you’re at home you can turn off the TV, or pause a disc, but its a lot harder to call time out in public. I told her this, but she really wanted to see it, and it really did look good, so we agreed that I could hold her hand if I got too scared.

I loved it, actually. I love scary movies, but usually only only watch them when I can control my reaction to them. I didn’t get too scared, though. There were a couple of moments where I was white knuckling it a bit, because I really did like the characters, and empathized with them. One of the ways of controlling my anxiety is telling myself is that its okay, I’m not actually in any danger, and this is what I’m supposed to be feeling during such scenes. This is a process that may, or may not, work for you in public, but I have many, many years of practice at managing such this.

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Also, one of the reasons I didn’t get too worked up is because the movie isn’t exactly what I expected. It has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Normally, I don’t give a fly what a movie’s rating is on that site, but in this case, I understand why it’s rated so high, and I see why people are crazy about it. It really is very good, just not what I was expecting. I was expecting more bombast, more jump scares, lots of monsters, but the writers did more interesting things.

If you’re going to see this for the monster, or for gore, you’re going to be disappointed. There’s not much of either, beyond the occasional blink and you’ll miss it shot. You do get a good look at the monster eventually, but  the monsters are not the focus of the movie. Like the movie Alien, the focus is the relationships between the characters, and how they’re dealing with a horrific situation.

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The Earth has experienced some kind of alien invasion, most of humanity has been killed, and the ones left alive mostly live underground, and can’t make any noise, or the aliens, which operate solely on sound waves, (they don’t have eyes) will attack them. The aliens are extremely fast and brutal, with long legs, and giant claws. They don’t eat their victims it seems. They just kill them. I think they just dislike noise. I had the impression that they view loud noises as some sort of attack, rather than as a source of food.

The movie follows a family with a deaf daughter, and a hearing son, who are navigating this world with its new set of rules. They go barefoot, along sand trails that have been set down by the father, to the places they most often frequent. They use American Sign Language to communicate. They wear headphones to listen to anything. They live above ground during the day because the father has been working to perfect a radio system to communicate with any other people.

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Most of this information you can get from paying close attention to what’s happening on the screen. There’s no sound for most of the movies running time, so there’s plenty of time to concentrate, and if you don’t like to read movies…too bad.. you’re to see this movie anyway, and like it!

The terror comes from the logistics of living in a world in which the slightest sound you make could get you killed. When you think about it, human beings are made up of nothing but noise. It seems to be our primary superpower, and kids and babies are noise personified. Getting above a certain decibel level attracts the monsters, and just because you hunker down and get quiet doesn’t mean necessarily mean they go away. There are work-arounds to be had, though. For example, natural sounds like running water, wind, storms, etc.do not attract them, and if you’re near something that’s a natural sound, that’s louder than whatever noise you’re making, you’re mostly safe. I enjoyed watching some of the father’s clever ideas of living within the rules.

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The movie is mostly about this family, their relationships, how they feel about what’s happening and how they navigate this world. The parents are genuinely in love, they love their kids deeply, and most of the film’s tension arises from their need to keep their children safe, and past guilts. At the beginning of the movie something horrible happens that the daughter spends the rest of the movie blaming herself for, and believing her father blames her and hates her for, too. Meanwhile, the mother also blames herself for it, and the son is just terrified of living in this world, in general.

I loved Emily Blunt here. I’ve been a fan of hers for a while now, and she really carries the emotionalism in this movie. The rest of the cast is good too, especially the little actress who plays the daughter. I really enjoyed her performance, although I could’ve done without the “kids wander off on their own” plot points. A lot of the plot points are predictable too, but the acting is so well done, you’re not particularly bothered by that. And the movie is just beautiful to look at. The country landscape is lush and green and…quiet.

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There were a few things I noticed that I had questions about, and a lot of things you can infer from the information onscreen. I understand why cities would have been abandoned. And we witness that any animal that makes noise will be attacked, not just human beings, which implies that most of Earth’s ground animals were probably killed. We can still see that there are some birds left, and that would make some sense.

My biggest problem was the ending, which was only disappointing in the sense that I wanted more of it. I wanted to see a big boss battle at the end. I wanted a little bit more closure. But I get why the movie ended the way it did. You get to tell your own ending and the one I made up was a happy one, that fits the last image we see.

The Terror TV Series

I’ve been fascinated by Arctic environments since I first watched the 1956 verson of The Thing (with James Arness) when I was a kid. And it wasn’t just The Thing, there was another movie called The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, that combined Arctic environments with dinosaurs rampaging through a city, that I got a real kick out of, too.

A few years ago, I’d never read any of Dan Simmons books, although he was on my radar because he is one of the top horror writers in the industry. I hadn’t read them, not because he’s a bad writer,he’s a most excellent writer, I just never had the time, and he writes some real doorstoppers. But I couldn’t resist the plot of The Terror, about an old school Arctic expedition that goes horribly wrong. It features a mysterious monster, some serious levels of  hardship, starvation, and  possibly some cannibalism.

I love the book.  It’s one of my top favorites of the past 20 years, so imagine my joy when I found out they were making a TV show about it, and it’s on AMC, which means the creators can remain faithful  to the plot of the book, which also involves an element of the supernatural, and some graphic deaths. It definitely classifies as horror. I hope it blows up as much as The Walking Dead did, too.

This week, the first trailer was released. The show airs right at the end of TWD’s season in March, which will be here in no time, so I’m very excited. I just want to hype this up a bit, in case you guys hadn’t heard of it yet.

 

 

It also looks very faithful to the plot of the book, and seems to have captured that feeling of dread, that seems to be a requirement of y movie set in a cold climate.It’s based on a true story in the sense that it has many events from that have actually happened in such expeditions.

For those of you worried about problematic issues, I can’t recall any from the book There is a young Indigenous woman, but in the book she comes to no harm, and if the creators keep that truthfulness to the book, she won’t on the show.

I’ll review the pilot episode when it airs.

10 More Scary Short Films

Here are ten more very short horror films to watch for Halloween. I had to watch a lot of really boring, and in some cases really bad movies to pick these ten gems. There are a bunch of these all over Youtube, so I just sorted through, picking my favorites. Some of these are genuinely scary, and others… not so much:

Close Before Midnight

I’m still not sure what to think of this one. Is it funny or just terrifying? Is it both?

 

 

The Moonlight Man

The main character is none too bright, but this was actually pretty scary.

 

The Other Lily

This one actually scared the bejeebus out of me because I had no idea where it was headed, and the animation is appropriately frightening.

 

 

The Hambuster

You’re gonna fall on the floor laughing at this one, and then probably throw up. Its disgusting!

 

 

Horror Short Film

This was genuinely scary.

 

 

Who’s Hungry?

This one is cute, disgusting, and funny. I had no idea where it was really going  either. (Warning for children being eaten by a giant.)

 

 

I Heard That Too

I first heard of this in a two line short story which was really creepy. This movie is just as effective.

 

Dead Friends

This one was funny, sweet, and disgusting. Skip it if you don’t want to see accidental animal mutilation.

 

 

Killer Kart

This one is almost as ridiculous as the movie, “Rubber”, and if you haven’t seen that one, it’s hilariously surreal, and you should check it out. This is gory, so I warred between feeling disgusted, and laughing my ass off, two feelings which are not necessarily compatible:

 

Nightfall

I thought I’d end on a funny note. This one just tickled the hell out of me. I totally identified with the little girl in this film.

The Mist Vs. Nightworld: Writing the Supernatural Apocalypse II

I just recently listened to the audiobook versions of these two stories, and was as  struck by the similarities,  as much as the dissimilarities. Suffice to say, if you’re going to write a Kaiju Style Apocalypse, for maximum terror, these are the things you’re gonna need to include: monsters, death, intrepid survivors, and some human villains.

Nightworld, written by F. Paul Wilson, waaay back in 1992, (it was heavily revised in 2001) ,  was the conclusion to a seven book series that started with The Keep, and starred Wilson’s original character, Repairman Jack, (who is sort of like Jack Reacher, only he fights the supernatural.)

In Nightworld, the entire world is beset by  monsters who have emerged from sinkholes that circle the globe. This invasion is the precursor to the rise of an of Anti-God, named Rasolom, and Hell on Earth, as the sun begins rising later every day, and setting earlier every evening. Worldwide. (To someone with even the most basic understanding of Astronomy, that’s already pretty terrifying.) The endgame is an endless nighttime, where the various monsters, that are  allergic to sunlight, can roam, and eat, freely.

In The Mist, a novella written by Stephen King, and first published in 1980, in the anthology titled Dark Forces, the world is overcome by a dense fog, in which all manner of different  monsters live. It is theorized, by the characters, that scientists accidentally opened a portal to another universe, that flooded into Earth.

First, something naturally unnatural has to occur, in the sky or in the earth, like the sun setting at the wrong time everyday, fogs, mists,  tsunamis, or giant holes opening up in the ground. The precursor to all hell breaking loose (literally), for these characters, is if the natural environment has suddenly gone horribly awry.

Second, you are going to  need monsters, and not just Leviathans. You’re gonna need a variety of sizes to induce maximum terror. After all, you might be able to fight off,  or avoid, the big ones, (I say “might”) but smaller monsters can creep into human hiding places, and cause general havoc, as well as sleeplessness.This is what makes these books different from a Kaiju story. They’re more like Kaiju-Adjacent.

You must have gruesome deaths. Some of these gruesome deaths must involve the use of some kind of acid that dissolves its victims alive. In Nightworld, there is a thoroughly disgusting collection of acidic  critters that fly around eating people’s faces. In The Mist there are giant spiders with acidic webbing, as if the idea of giant spiders isn’t  quite terrifying enough,I guess.

Some of your monsters must have wings. It doesn’t particularly matter what type of wings, as long as the creatures can fly. In Nightworld they have insect wings. In The Mist bat wings seem to be the preferred method of flight.

At least some of your monsters must have tentacles. Nightworld fulfills this requirement admirably, by having lots (and lots) of creatures with tentacles, grabbing people and pulling them into small apertures. The Mist has giant tentacles just sitting outside a grocery story, not even attached to anything, apparently. They’re certainly not attached to anything aquatic as grocery stores are normally on land. The Mist pours some extra gravy on its tentacular horrors by giving them tiny mouths.

At least one of the monsters encountered has to be so fantastical, that it defies belief , like The Mist’s Leviathan, or the creature that decides to take up most of the Atlantic Ocean in Nightworld.

Speaking of giant monsters, they have to come from somewhere, and out of giant holes, whether under the ocean,  or out of the ground, as in Nightworld, are the perfect portals for entry. You must have portals. What?! Them monsters gotta get here somehow.

Okay, once you’ve got your monsters sorted into their various sizes, along with where they’re visiting  from, and their transportation, you then have to lay out who it is they’ll be eating. You must have an intrepid group of people, whose job it is to be eaten, trapped, survive, or defeat the monsters.

Intrepid – fearless, unafraid, undaunted, unflinching, unshrinking, bold, daring, gallant, audacious, adventurous, heroic, dynamic, spirited, indomitable;

I’m not sure if The Mist qualifies in that department, as the people in that story seem scared shitless, throughout the entire ordeal. Nevertheless, since all the other criteria are met, we’ll refer to them as intrepid anyway. After all, they do some brave things,  like fighting the giant spiders, and arguing with the crazy religious lady. The characters from Nightworld are actually described as brave and fearless in the book. In fact, one of the characters has a speech about it, and they all engage in some boldness, some daring, and  even some indomitable behavior.

Your intrepid group of people must consist of, at least one straight, honest, stand-up, White guy. It is a requirement that he be both honest, and White, and no substitutes will be made. He must be the kind of White guy who is strong and bold, but also compassionate, idealistic, and willing to protect the little guy. He must be able to clearly articulate why things need doing, and convey those beliefs to the other characters.

In other words, you need Captain James Tiberius Kirk.

Nightworld fulfills this quota with two…count’em!, two stand-up White guys. Although,  I feel the writer is clearly overdoing it, by having one of them be a former priest, and the other an ancient swordsman.

In accordance with the James Kirk Axiom, you will them need a pretty  blond  White woman. A redhead or possibly auburn haired woman can be used in a pinch, but she must be heterosexual, and conventionally pretty. No arm fat, tattoos, arthritis, or nervous diseases need apply. Not even allergies. She must be in perfect physical health and form, and above all else, she must remain un-traumatized by any of the preceding events attending the end of the world, like watching her family and friends be eaten.

And for Gob’s sake, no women of color! Apparently women of color, (and any women with tattoos) all get eaten first…or something. Whatever is happening though,  they never seem to make it to the being intrepid  part of the story.

There must be at least one child, preferably a boy, but a young girl will suffice. They can be White, but it is not a hard and fast rule, as it is not  required that they be genetically related to either the White man, or White woman. Sometimes it can just be some kid one of them picked up somewhere. Extra points if the child is an orphan who  just witnessed their family be eaten by the monsters, for maximum trauma. How else are you going to convey to the reader how dangerous the world  is, without the help of crying, screaming children. Also, you can always fill up some time by having the child be in extra special danger, by having them wander off alone, or be autistic, or something.

Nightworld is interesting in that there is a perfectly healthy and un-traumatized child in the story, which is turned on its head, by having the child become autistic, when he helps save the world.

Surrounding this trio are what I like to call the intrepid, but disposable people. They are the  literary equivalent of non-playable characters. Don’t get too attached to them, these characters could be eaten at any second. They should consist of at least one (if not more) men of color, preferably Black or Latino.  You can break the rules and have there be at least one  woman of color in the story, but they can’t have any lines of dialogue, unless its exclamations like “Look out!”, or “Aaaaaahhhh!” Any exposition should be left to any extra White men, that you have added,  preferably a teacher, or a scientist. Nightworld has a priest, who knows what’s happening, and can explain it to those characters who are out of the loop. David Drayton, from The Mist, is an illustrator, which kind of changes things up a bit, but he is still the narrator.

Nightworld is not a good template for casting your characters because all of its major characters are White. (People of color probably didn’t exist when it was written. I have it on good authority, that we weren’t invented, in Horror literature, until about 1999. Well, Stephen King had discovered us, but we had to be magical to get in his stories.) There should be no more than ten of these non-essential characters. More than ten and the reader will  lose track of who they should be terrified is going to die next.

And last, but not least, you must have at least one asshole. No story about the end of the world is complete without at least one human being, who is trying to kill off the other human beings, and  that you wish would hurry up and be eaten by something. By anything.

The Mist is exemplary in that it has two…Count ’em! Two assholes. Norton, the asshole neighbor of David Drayton, and Ms. Carmody, the asshole religious townie. Norton fulfills the role of the asshole who wants desperately to be in charge, but no one will listen to him, who becomes increasingly unhinged. He eventually dies by skipping out into the mist to feed himself to the monsters.

Ms Carmody fulfills the role of the asshole, who is already thoroughly unhinged, before the story even begins, and the intrepid people are now trapped with her crazy ass, and the other scared  people start thinking that human sacrifice makes sense.

Nightworld  fulfills this requirement, in exemplary fashion, by also having multiple assholes in the script. In the unrevised edition of the story, (from before 2001), it was the husband of one of the intrepid people. In the newly improved book, its some random bad guys from  previous books, who mostly don’t come into contact with our intrepid gang.

And finally, the ending can’t be all wishy-washy. (We’re looking at you Steve!) In The Mist, there really isn’t much of an end to the story. We don’t know if David Drayton and his friends ever get out of it, or how long it lasts. (Thankfully the movie corrects this problem, which is all I have to say, in that the movie definitely has an end.) Nightworld correctly follows the rules, by having the good guys win, at the last possible second. You know the rules. Disaster is only averted when the countdown reaches one.

Now my people, go forth, and kill your darlings.

Gruesomely!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kong: Skull Island

First of all this review contains lots of spoilers. So if you haven’t seen  the movie, you know the drill.

 I had no plans to go see this movie. Not to say I wasn’t intrigued. I love giant monsters as much as the next person,  but I had a choice between Get Out, Logan, and Kong, and I had chose Logan. I’ve since seen both of those movies, thanks to friends with more money than me, who enjoy my company. I still hadn’t planned to see Kong. 

Well, Mom had other plans. She saw the trailer, and because it hit all the check marks for her entertainment, we were gonna be seeing it. 

Big guns! Check.

 Monsters! Check. 

Samuel L Jackson! Check.

I had read some  reviews, which seemed neither bad nor good, and I had the impression it would be sort of like Apocalypse Now with monsters. I was, and was not wrong.  It was very entertaining, mostly as a war movie with monsters, than a straight up monster movie. I’m a huge fan of Apocalypse Now and it’s got more than a few parallels with that movie.

Me, Mom, and two of the little tikes; my niece, The Potato and her baby sister, who we like to call Lil’ Momma, had a girls day out. I spent a not inconsiderable amount of time between amusing Lil Momma with treats, hugging her when she got scared, and being scared shitless myself. There’s a reason I don’t see too many scary movies in a theatre. I can’t turn them off, and walk out.

But it was still a helluva lot of fun too, and not exactly what I thought it would be. Most of the tropes of King Kong movies were neatly, and deliberately, subverted.There was a lot more talking but that was okay because most of it was setup for the action scenes. It’s not a very deep film. Well, it didn’t have a deep message in it,  but I think y’all should know that King Kong movies (and those Planet of the Ape films) have always had a deep meaning for Black Americans. We always found subtext in them. This movie manages to neatly set aside that subtext, which in itself ends up creating subtext. 

The year is 1974 and the US had just made the decision to pull out of Vietnam. Jacksons character is depressed and enraged by this, which informs his motivation for the rest of the movie. Hiddlestons character is set adrift and looking for adventure. Goodman’s character is considered something of a crackpot conspiracy theorist with his Hollow Earth, and Lost World beliefs. Him and his partner, played by Corey Hawkins, have been petitioning the government to fund an expedition to search for one of these lost worlds. They’re finally granted permission and have to assemble their crew. Tom Hiddleston is a bland, but brave hero, who didn’t really stand out to me, very much. Samuel Jackson plays the Colonel, for whom Kong becomes his white whale, after Kong nearly kills his entire team. Brie Larson is a photographer along for the ride. I barely know who she is, as there ain’t any white actresses, under 45, whose careers I pay any attention to. She wasn’t bad though, and the movie didn’t do with her what I was afraid it would do, which was fetishize the awesome purity of her blonde whiteness to Kong. There’s another woman in the movie. She’s Asian. She and Brie’s character don’t say so much as a hello to each other. It’s almost like they’re in separate movies. 

Kong does form an attachment to Brie’s character, but not because of her looks ,which is how the director sidesteps the subtext black people see in these movies. Kong likes her because of something she does, and he approves of. At no point do the Natives try to sacrifice her to him, and the rest of the crew don’t spend all their time rescuing her. Tom Hiddleston’s character does so, but only because he likes her, and she’s very brave. At one point he asks her to do a very dangerous thing, to save their lives, and she successfully carries it off. He’s not protecting her because he thinks of her as a delicate woman, and the only person who mentions her femininity at all, is Reilly’s character, and he sounds ridiculous, when he does. 

The writers neatly sidestep the native issues by having there be no Natives. The people on the island are the leftover crew members from a Japanese ship that crashed on the island and became trapped there. They’re fierce but not mindlessly hostile, and appear to have developed their own peaceful culture. Storms have caused a lot of crashes there, so there are a lot of shipwrecks lying about.  There’s a giant wall on the island, but it’s not there to keep Kong out, just the hostile wildlife at bay, and  it turns out his job is protecting the people.  Since the rest of Kong’s family were killed by the island wildlife, he’s seemingly adopted these trapped humans as his clan. Make no mistake, Kong is the star of this movie. He is the lead character, and the protagonist, and survives to the end.

 John C. Reilly’s character is the most fun and memorable character in the movie, and I loved him right away. I’ve found that I enjoy movies a lot more if I can attach myself to a particular character and just follow that character through the plot. His character gives a lot of exposition, but it doesn’t feel like speechifying, when he does it, which is a testament to how good Mr. Reilly is, as an actor. We see his plane crash on the island at the beginning of the movie. His Japanese opponent also crashes his plane, and the two immediately commence to fighting, but are interrupted by Kong. After that they stop and become friends. Kong just has that effect on people. Later, Reilly’s character gets a sweet and happy ending when he’s reunited with his family. He’d been trapped on the island since 1944, and acts exactly the way a person would, after having been separated from a life they missed, for nearly thirty years.

Kong’s motivations are also explained in the movie. He’s a guy who likes everything peaceful and quiet, because when the military expedition starts dropping bombs on the landscape, to track the islands depth, he becomes enraged, and makes short work of all of the helicopters. They were disturbing the peace. So what’s funny is that all of the usual Kong tropes are in this movie but under completely different contexts, with Kong fighting helicopters, or wrapped in chains, or rescuing the blonde damsel. You can tell the writers gave it some thought, playing with our expectations, and knowledge of other Kong movies. The end result of all this is you end up rooting for Kong, as the hero of this movie, rather than the human characters.

Kong is set up as the protector of the island (and possibly the world) from some dinosaur-like creatures, that come out of the Hollow Earth, having been awakened by the bombings. There’s some little ones, and one giant one, with skull-like heads, full of teeth, slithering around on two legs. They’re fast, powerful, and will eat anything, even Kong. He spends a not inconsiderable amount of time fighting these nasty fuckers all over the landscape. He spends a lot of the movie fighting something. At one point he fights a giant octopus, and then eats it. 

There are other monstrous creatures on the island. Some pterosaur like creatures, that like to gang up on a person and carry them off, like in the Riddick movie called Pitch Black. There’s a giant spider naturally, and also what we hilariously figured out was a giant walking stick, and just about as bright. The Potato and I guessed this because it looked like a cross between Groot, and a small Ent, from Lord of the Rings. It scared the shit outta my Mom, when she saw it, even though it’s harmless.  My favorites were the house sized Water Buffalo, because I thought they were dumb but  cute, and more importantly, non- hostile. 

Brie’s  character wins Kongs fondness, when he finds her trying to save one of the big dumb brutes, who is  trapped under a helicopter wing, and he helps her out. He likes her because she was trying to save one of the creatures he has decided to protect, and even allows her to get close enough to touch his face. It’s  telling that his closeness to her never directly endangers him. On the other hand, her proximity to Kong, puts her in danger from the skull dinosaurs. Later, she saves his life, by standing between him and a bullet from the colonel’s gun, after Kong has been hobbled, by being set on fire with napalm. The military is the bad guys in this movie, and Kong kills them indiscriminately. So if you feel some kind of way about the military, you might want to  skip this movie. They’re not totally evil, but they’re not the heroes.
During a significant portion of the movie, everyone has to ride upriver in a hastily thrown together plane/boat combo, and that, and the helicopter intro when they arrive at the island, is what lends it that Apocalypse Now feeling. But I liked the movie a lot and didn’t mind the parallels. I was expecting at some point to be insulted or offended by something in the movie, but the writers were careful to sidestep all the major issues that my Mom and I usually have with Kong movies. Unfortunately, that also took away any depth. That’s okay. The movie makes  up for this lack with a great deal of spectacle. 

Now, I have since seen Godzilla Resurgence, and I heard rumors that both of these movies were being setup for a future sequel,  where Kong and Godzilla would be fighting each other. If that’s true you could watch the setup in this movie, where Kong is being put forth as a good guy protector to the Japanese people, or whatever group of people survive to the sequel. The Kong in this movie is said to be an adolescent who hasn’t reached his full height, and like Godzilla, he’s already as tall as an office building. So the reason Kong looks bigger than ever is because of this future plan for a franchise, of some kind. In Godzilla Resurgence, Godzilla is definitely a bad monster who, sort of randomly, destroys parts of Japan, for no fucking reason. I’ll be reviewing that movie later this Summer. But keep in mind, if these two characters meet, there will be blood.

After a certain age, I stopped watching Godzilla movies, but I did enjoy the remakes, and I liked this movie okay. I’m not sure I’ll enjoy a sequel where these two characters fight, although after watching  the fight scenes in Kong, I anticipate that Kong will win.

Bite (2016)

 

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I was trying to  review some of the lesser known horror movies that caught my eye,  that I felt were worth watching this Halloween.

This is a 2016, transformation horror movie by Canadian Director Chad Archibald.

Bite is definitely for people who don’t want to watch torture porn but can stomach lots and lots of goop. The special effects in this movie seem to consist of almost nothing but goop. The plot is nothing remarkable, consisting pretty much of girl gets bitten by a strange bug, and turns into a monster.

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On some level , I think the filmmakers are trying to evoke the specter of body horror films like Cronenberg’s  1986, The Fly, but this film doesn’t reach that level. It does have an underwritten theme about the horrors of pregnancy but it doesn’t reach the thematic levels of Cronenberg’s 1975 film, The Brood, either. It has a cast consisting almost entirely of women but isn’t as frightening as The Descent.

This isn’t a great film. Its never going to be a classic, but it is worth looking at just for the spectacle.

Casey is in Costa Rica with her two best friends, Jill and Kirsten, celebrating her impending wedding to Jared when, as per formula, they decide to get off the tourist trail and  go swimming in a remote location. Casey gets bitten by some strange insect. She seems alright but later she passes out. Its all downhill from that point.

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When Casey gets back home, she starts developing some strange urges and appetites, but doesn’t pay much heed to them as she’s distracted by other anxieties, such as her upcoming wedding, her bitchy mother-in-law, frenemy Jill, and Jared’s insistence that she will start popping out babies as soon as they’re married. What kind of man brings his future wife a baby’s highchair, as a wedding gift? All of this is only exacerbated by Casey having recurring dreams  of vomiting up tiny eggs all over her apartment.

The movie has some echoes of It Follows in that it features yet another  pretty White girl,  frightened of what her future might hold, and the existential angst around birth and death.  Just once I’d like to see what one of these movies might say about a young  WoC’s existential crisis.

The first part of the movie, where you get to know the characters goes on almost too long. So long that it  starts to be a bore because none of her friends or family have enough personality to be that interesting and the acting is a little dodgy, too.

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But the movie starts to reach its high point after Casey actually starts vomiting up thousands of eggs, instead of just dreaming it, until every surface in her apartment is covered in them. By the time Jill (the nice friend) comes to check on her absence, her apartment is coated in goo, egg sacs, and webbing. Nevertheless, Jill just waltzes her dumbass right in, and this is how you know your’e not dealing with normal human behavior from the other characters, because anyone else would’ve run screaming. Jill, naturally, pays the ultimate price for her stupidity.

As per formula, people keep wandering into  the apartment looking for Casey, so that by the end of the movie she’s managed to catch everybody who was giving her grief earlier.

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The movie does set itself up for a kind of sequel as the eggs start hatching, producing more of the weird insects that bit Casey, and getting into the outside world.

As I said, this isn’t a bad film. Its definitely worth seeing but its never going to be considered a great movie. It does continue the grand ol’ tradition of body horror spectacle, though, and will tide you over until you can watch that television re-run of The Fly.