The boom times for paperback horror novels were the 1980s and 1990s, and right next to bus station bookstore perennials Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum and Stephen King, who might serve as these writer's more successful patron saint. Here, among these books were dozens of evil canine also-rans, a pack of not-quite-Cujos, not to mention psychic tots that more than resemble Danny Torrance, and post-Pennywise scary clowns. But these were also books that were a bit too pulpy and trashy for the King -- think Satanic orgies, demonic babies eating their way out of cursed mothers, and incestuous gothic tales to make V. C. Andrews blush.
Life, the newest movie (aside from Alien: Convenant) to pay homage (read: rip off) the Alien series, is also pretty vacuum-ous. The attractive-but-bland stock characters are paper thin, and the plot can be summarized by a phrase, like “alien kills everyone”.
Kiernan's prose provides the greatest part of that wonder. Achingly beautiful, always strange and never quotidian, she never lets the reader find any firm ground. Fittingly for a story which involves a Manson-like cult, it feels hallucinatory, dreamlike. And unlike most stories that fit, even peripherally, into Lovecraft's mythos, the story does not try too hard to replicate the feeling induced by the Master's works.
Of course its an absurdity to ask such a question. Be it resolved that everyone is different. Be it resolved that all writing is different. Even so: when you write, if you write, are you trying to say something?
Hello again, dear reader. Last time we were together I wrote about writer's block, a subject near, if not dear, to my heart. As you can tell from the length of time between posts, its something with which I have continued to tussle over the last month or so.
The reasons why are myriad and personal, and are certainly too boring to do more than hint at here; suffice it to say that my living situation has changed recently, and I don't do change well.
Though a lot of folks smarter than myself have argued, one way or the other, as to whether or not "writer's block" actually exists, I tend to think it does. Not the least before I periodically suffer long fits of it several times a year.
Its the kind of thing that makes you feel some real ennui, because I'm the kind of person who has said, aloud if not to a person, that all I really want to do is be allowed to write. If its true that we're all given one thing at which we're better than everything else, I think mine would be writing. This is not to say, of course, that I'm better than F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Nabokov, or you, or R.L. Stine, or anyone at all. Its only to say that of all the things I try to do (sleep, occasionally exercise, talk to people, do math, balance my checkbook, connect with someone or something), writing is the one which I do with the most success, which is: maybe a little.
Having come down with a nasty cold the last few days, I did what I always do when I feel like total shit, and tucked into the biggest, thickest, most difficult books that I could reach without having to get out of my chair. In this case they were Susanna Clarke's magnificent Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and Alan Moore's almost appallingly excellent From Hell.
Eyes of My Mother is 76 minutes long, but you feel every minute as if they've been crammed down your throat. It has pretentions to artistry and pathos. It is filmed in black and white, lavished on long static shots of its character's face. Long, static shots of a woman, bound in chains, shuffling out of the barn in which she has been prisoner. Long, long static shots of body parts arranged on a counter, shrink-wrapped, waiting to be stowed in the freezer. Its fairly boiler-plate horror content, different from less ambitious horror flicks only in the presentation.
About 4/5 of the way through A Cure for Wellness, Gore Verbinski’s nearly two and a half hour long horror epic, it becomes clear that there will not be a satisfactory resolution to the many threads and set ups teased earlier in the film. Certainly, the film is beautiful looking, in an ugly kind of way. But amidst a miasmatic soup of sea greens and handsomely framed, symmetrical shots, the film seemingly becomes bored with its own mysteries. Eventually, it wanders into another story entirely. What had been a psychological horror mystery about a mysterious clinic offering obscure treatments develops into the territory of rote gothic horror.
It is an endemic problem for horror narratives; just look at Stephen King.
In author Sharma Shield's The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac, an American family are touched in surprising, tragic and often poignant ways by their connection with a large upright bipedal ape named, improbably, Mr. Krantz. Mr. Krantz can talk - well enough, in fact, to seduce a woman named Agnes away from her husband and son. Her son, a sensitive boy named Eli, even meets Mr. Krantz, stuffed into a too-small suit, with tufts of thick and gnarled hair betraying his animal nature, before his mother leaves to begin a new life in the woods with her lover. The event is a catalyst of "high strangeness" which affects generations of his family in various ways.
Media has always been a little scary. It started way before Trump’s constant attack on the “unfair” or “fake” news, before the internet, even before the word media connoted some form of published communication. It probably started with grimoires, arcane texts full of spells and esoterica, prized by magicians and alchemists, decried by the medieval Catholic church.
But this, you understand, was before horror was a genre. Horror as we know it didn’t exist until some folks in the 18th and 19th century had sufficient privilege and leisure to amuse themselves, and then us, by writing ghastly stories. Before that, horror was merely the way things are.