I recently recalled a cherished Halloween memory from my childhood: I was in the living room watching a Casper the Friendly Ghost Halloween special on TV the Saturday morning prior to the big day. My monumentally hung over grandfather just came out of the kitchen, a glass of what surely held only healthy tomato juice in his unsteady hand. A great question had formed in my mind.
“Grandpa, how did Casper die?”
“He asked the wrong people a lot of stupid questions.”
By now it must be obvious that I have seized upon Halloween as the inspiration for this post. Since the Nobel prize for literature has already been passed out, I see no reason to introduce revolutionary literary techniques or topics until the next voting cycle begins.
Ah, the macabre….Can’t get enough of it.
Yet I have read only two truly frightening works of fiction: Shirley Jackson’s great novel The Haunting of Hill House, and a short story, Silent Snow, Secret Snow by Conrad Aiken. There was something about both disturbing voices that gave me the heebie jeebies. Now, I have been greatly entertained by Stephen King, but he’s never scared me for a second. To me he’s the Vincent Price of letters. Fun, but not at all frightening when compared to the various hells of the real world.
That’s not to knock King or horror writers. It’s just that scary movies are what get to me. You know, the trembling, ill-advised walk up the staircase by candlelight, the insistent, eerie music, a sudden red herring leaping from the shadows to break the tension, quickly followed by the real thing from behind. I fall for it everytime. And yet the biggest reaction I’ve ever had to a horror film came from an unlikely source when I was seven.
“Nightmare Theatre” ran for years on Channel 7 after the Friday night late local news. It was hosted by a laughing vampire cleverly named “The Count” (who by day was just some guy who worked at the station). Despite the “spooky” premise, neither Nightmare Theatre nor The Count were intended to be taken seriously.
The typical Nightmare Theatre fare involved the atomic bug and teen-centric monster movies from the 50’s. Being Friday, I always managed to stay up until Nightmare Theatre came on at 11:30, but since it was nearly three hours past my regular bedtime I seldom stayed awake much past 11:45, no matter what was on. I’d fall asleep on the couch and briefly come to as I was being put to bed. This was followed by melting into line dried sheets and a warm secure feeling that I’m now too old and cold to experience.
But one week I didn’t fall asleep in time to miss the start of something called Horrors Of The Black Museum. It opened with a woman receiving a pair of binoculars in a package. She went to the window, raised the binoculars and was immediately killed when spring-loaded spikes hammered through her eyes on their way to her brain. There was no real gore, for it was as tastefully done as a thing like that can be done, while still getting the point across.
Nothing scars better than a young mind. Although I usually jump at the right places during scary movies, none have ever come close to getting the personal reaction Horrors Of The Black Museum got from me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and a “thing” I already had about my eyes intensified because of it. Even now I refuse to watch it.
Yes, it is in this season of motion activated (and usually highly irritating) ghouls, waxy, tasteless budget candy corn, supporting the fantasy that caramel apples will help you lose weight, and trying not to get too depressed by the sight of all things Christmas poised to pour over the walls like godless huns the instant the last trick or treat is uttered, I find myself needing a big finish for this week’s post, even though right now I’d settle for a way out of this sentence short of suicide.
Anyway, the orange and black of it all has motivated me to create a list: an A to Z of Horror films to run after we show proper love for this week’s quintet of stories.
And now for the curtain calls!
This week two authors broke through for a second time, another made his site debut, and there were the returns of two top performers who continue to shatter site records on a consistent basis.
Mark Russo’s first LS tale appeared on Monday. In Escaping the Good Old Days, Mark has his way with reality, and it was good to see Betty Boop and Daisy Mae getting work. It’s a fun and fanciful first outing.
I hope everyone had a look on Tuesday at Yashar Seyedbagheri’s latest, Looking at Women. Hoo-wee, Dad gets thrown under the bus and dragged a ways to boot. As always, Yash is appearing in my weekly post, and as always it’s due to a top effort on his part. This raises the site record he already owns for appearances in one year to 37; his next will bring Yash to the seldom achieved forty mark, overall.
Wednesday saw the record breaking return of our most published author, Tom Sheehan. He is at his elegiac best in The Quiet Empty Bedrooms of Saugus. Few writers I’ve read can do this sort of thing as well as Tom, none better.
Ghosting by Tom Koperwas appeared Thursday. This is his second site appearance, and this little story contains more than the sum of its words. I thought it was going one way but headed the other to a satisfying conclusion.
David Rudd took the stage Friday. Dying For a Laugh amusingly, and even a bit poignantly, tells of a world of which I had limited knowledge until I read this piece. The title has both a literal and a deeper meaning. This was also David’s second site appearance, and we look forward to seeing more from him as well as our other contributors.
There they are, readership–let’s have a hand for the five performers who brought joy and pain and laughter and memories to the site this week.
Now for the A to Z list of Horror films. After several seconds of soul searching I decided to omit letters S, C, A, R, E, D in a blatant attempt to land comments.
B: Brain From Planet Arous
F: Freaks (creepiest thing I have ever seen)
H: Happy Birthday to Me (I only saw three minutes of Horrors of the Black Museum)
I: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (original)
K: Kolchak: The Night Stalker (TV movie, and a good one)
L: Last House on the Left
M: Motel Hell (I regret using preservatives)
N: Night of the Living Dead (scariest ever)
Q: Quatermass and the Pit (a great underrated film)
*T: Texas Chainsaw Massacre
V: Village of the Damned
X: X–The Man With X-ray Eyes
Y: Young Frankenstein (Sorry– “Franken-schteen”; not scary, but incredible)
Z: Zombeavers (couldn’t pay me to see it, but I love the title,)
*I was toying with the 1982 version of The Thing. Then I remembered that it made my best friend barf beer all over the inside of my car at the drive in.
Before I go, I heartily thank all our commenters and beseech the shy to participate. Consider each story that appears as a knock at the door: “Trick or Treat.” Although that’s hardly clever, remember what I said about the Nobel being off the table.