Horror · Movies/Television

Revisiting Halloween.

Recently I viewed the original Halloween movie, which is timed perfectly for this year’s Halloween (even though we don’t celebrate it here in Australia). It’s one of those films that I enjoy watching every now and again and I just love the theme music. Totally!

After having done some film studies at University, I’ve become a bit more aware of the tropes within horror movies. It seems to be the stock in trade, which is why it was so good to see successful spoof films such as Scream and Cabin in the Woods. Totally!

I found it quite remarkable that for such a suburban setting, the streets seem deserted and people just ignore Jamie Lee’s cries for help (isolation – check). You also have to have the sexually active young girls getting the chop, because in the end it always comes down to the ‘final girl’. And like all good ‘boogie-men’, Michael Myers can’t be stopped no matter how many times you may injure him and bring him down (even to be shot at and fall out a window), the guy just keeps on coming. I mean, how else are we supposed to have sequels?

And yes, who could ever forget the theme music, because like Jaws, it just sticks in your mind? To me it sounds like the approach of impending doom while you race against the clock, because after all, the boogie man strikes at Halloween. And as a writer, I like to listen to it every now and again to help build up some atmosphere in my own writing. 😉

Maybe I’ll sit and watch it with my kids over the coming weekend. They’ve sat through Aliens, so surely, they can handle Michael! But then, ‘boogie-men’ never really die, do they?

To those of you who celebrate it – Happy Halloween!

Have you been watching some old movie favourites lately? What horror movies do you watch at this time of year? Have you watched any of the Halloween sequels?

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Horror · Movies/Television

Do You Dislike Clowns?

Why do some people dislike clowns? Clowns are supposed to make people laugh, yet in others (myself included) they can provide the opposite effect. A fear of clowns has been termed coulrophobia and as recently as 2016, there was a creepy clown epidemic, where some cities in the United States experienced menacing looking clowns, and eventually would become sighted world-wide.

With the remake of Stephen King’s ‘It’, I wonder if this was the reason behind last year’s clown epidemic. I read the book back in the 1980s and naturally, the only part that stayed in my mind was Pennywise. How could you not be afraid of a clown carrying red balloons and trying to lure small children down sewers? Watching the telemovie only heightened my dislike. I’m still debating whether to go see this new version.

Recently I read an article that Nevada’s Haunted Clown Motel is for sale. A haunted clown motel situated on a deserted highway, next to a cemetery and I instantly had images of ‘Psycho’ in my head, amongst other things. My muse turned to overdrive with the possibilities and I wondered why on earth anyone would want to own a clown motel. Each to their own, I guess, but despite the possibility of it being haunted, I’ll keep my distance thanks! 😉

A dislike of clowns are only heightened (as least for me) when it comes to John Wayne Gacy. It wasn’t until the 1980s that I learned about him, and perhaps he was Stephen King’s inspiration for Pennywise, but either way, he only cemented my dislike of clowns ever since. Dressing up as ‘Pogo the Clown’, performing at parties, charitable events and children’s hospitals was all part of his act in being a valuable member of society. This would eventually earn him the name the ‘Killer Clown’. In the telemovie ‘To Catch a Killer’, Brian Dennehy did such a wonderful job as John Wayne Gacy, that I will always picture him in that role. It was so creepy; I’m not surprised he was nominated for an award for his performance.

I can only speak for myself, but I think one of the reasons for my dislike of clowns is their faces. With their entire faces painted, one cannot see the real person behind them and in the cases of John Wayne Gacy and Pennywise, what lies behind is not good. It can be the same with people wearing masks and why they tend to appear in horror movies. Such things can either frighten or deceive. For me, that’s what makes clowns so scary.

Do you dislike clowns or do you rather like them? Are you going to watch ‘It’? If you’ve already seen ‘It’, what did you think? Would you stay in a haunted clown motel? Did John Wayne Gacy make you dislike clowns or was it Pennywise or perhaps another clown entirely? What do you think makes clowns so scary?

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Horror · Movies/Television

The Slow Horror of The Orphanage.

When I was younger I used to watch a lot of horror movies, but I soon tired of the slasher films and stopped watching altogether. Recently, though, I’ve gone back to watching some more horror movies and one of those included The Orphanage.

The plot involves a couple and their adopted son, who move into the mother’s childhood home, which was once an orphanage. The mother, Laura, plans to turn it into a home for disabled children, but at a party for the opening of the home, their son goes missing.

I was pleasantly surprised with this movie and I’m glad it is an old-fashioned ghost story in that the horror is revealed by the building up of suspense. As I grew up on Hitchcock, this type of horror appeals to me more. To be perfectly honest, one thing that I did find disturbing was the young boy, Tomas. The way he followed the mother around was rather creepy; however, his story is drip-fed to the audience that one eventually feels sympathy for him.

The film is in Spanish and I didn’t have an issue with having to read sub-titles, as I’ve watched quite a few foreign films and television shows over the years. I enjoyed the cinematography, which helped create the atmosphere of isolation, darkness and abandonment. The only problem I had with the movie was self-inflicted in that I didn’t see the ending earlier that I may have done otherwise. I was clearly taken along with the ride and when the resolution was revealed it all made perfect sense. The ending was satisfying and rather poignant.

Even if you are not a fan of the horror genre, this film is still worth watching. It portrays a message of love between a mother and her child and for those less fortunate than ourselves.

Have you watched The Orphanage? Do you prefer the slow build of suspense or slasher flicks? Do you like to guess the ending or prefer to just go along for the ride? Do you have problems with watching foreign films?

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Back to the 80s · Horror · Movies/Television

Child’s Play: When Horror’s Not So Scary.

Back in the 1980s, I had never seen the movie Child’s Play and recently when it aired on television, I thought I’d have a look. Sure I knew of Chucky, but the film itself I had no interest in.

I watched the movie with my teenage son. Years earlier, he had been at a friend’s place and they had a Chucky doll in their bedroom. When my son pointed it out to me I shuddered.

‘Eww, Chucky’, I said.

‘Told you’, he said to his friend.

I guess creepy looking dolls rate high up on the list with clowns for me. Hate clowns, hate creepy looking dolls. My mum has a creepy looking puppet in her house and one day I told her what I thought of it. Of-course she thought I was mad. Maybe, but I can’t stand looking at it. So when I began to watch Chucky, it met my expectations.

Just looking at the doll even before it was taken over by the guy gave me the horrors. How that kid desperately wanted one was beyond me. It’s horrible! That kid looked like he had a struggle walking around with it too; they were pretty much the same size. Then there was the horror element. Hardly scary; in fact I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. In the end, I did laugh. What made me laugh more than anything was watching Chucky run. I loved that!

‘This is supposed to be a horror movie?’ my son said at one point, but I was too busy laughing. Well, it was the 80s!

I know there have been other Chucky movies since then, but one was enough for me. I don’t think I could tolerate anymore. After watching it at long last, I think it’s hardly scary. When I look at Chucky now, I just think of those little legs running and his arms swinging by his side (even if he does have a knife in his hand).

Chucky just might have made creepy looking dolls appear somehow less creepy. Well, almost. 😉

Have you watched Child’s Play? Did it scare you or make you laugh? Have you watched all the Chucky movies? Do you hate creepy looking dolls too? What’s a horror movie you’ve seen that actually made you laugh instead?

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Horror · Movies/Television · Writing

What Writers Can Learn from ‘Misery’.

anniewilkesinspirationRecently, I watched the movie Misery, starring Kathy Bates in her award winning role as Annie Wilkes. It’s a film I have not seen in quite some time and it has been even longer since I read the book, yet it is undoubtedly a story that stays with you. Stephen King not only demonstrates his skills as a writer by building up the suspense while focusing on two main characters in a confined space, but he also plays upon the fears of writers.

By the end of the film, I couldn’t help but think of what writers can learn from Misery.

1. Routine

Author Paul Sheldon had the luxury of staying in a hotel whenever he needed to finish writing a novel. He would also celebrate typing ‘the end’ with a cigarette and a glass of champagne. Writers need to have some kind of routine in order to produce the words on a regular basis, however, a change every once in a while can also be beneficial. Write in a different location (like a coffee shop or find your own writer’s retreat) and treat yourself to something different with each milestone you make, like some chocolate, a new book or a night out. Routines are necessary, but they can make us stale. Add some spice to your writing life.

2. Keep a Backup

Annie Wilkes insisted that Paul set fire to his latest manuscript. He tried to make out it was no big deal, as he had other copies, but Annie Wilkes being the obsessed fan that she was, knew better. Keep backup copies of all your writing projects. Hard copies, hard drives, external drives and flash drives; it all might sound excessive, but it pays to be cautious. There is nothing worse than losing your documents to a virus or computer problem and having to write everything again; a great waste of your most precious asset – time.

3. Keep Your Readers Happy

Killing off the main character in a series? That’s where it all went downhill for Paul – he did not keep one particular fan happy. If we don’t keep our readers happy, then quite simply, they will stop reading our stories and look to other writers to help fill that void. Readers bring a level of expectation they want from us, with regards to both our stories and ourselves as writers. Don’t disappoint them.

4. Motivation

With an obsessive fan like Annie Wilkes who has control over you, as well as threatening you with a hammer, you would learn to type pretty quickly. No time to worry about writer’s doubt, writer’s block or procrastination. You would make sure you got the words down in order to try and save your own life. Thankfully, we’re not in Paul Sheldon’s shoes, so for the rest of us we have such things as deadlines, a timer and a great deal of persistence, hard work and determination.

One final piece of advice when it comes to writing:- if you ever become successful in this field, just be careful of anyone who tells you that they’re your No.1 fan. 😉

Have you read the book and/or watched the movie Misery? What do you remember most about the story? What did you think of Kathy Bates’ performance? What motivates you to write?

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Authors · Horror · Movies/Television · Writers

At the Movies with Stephen King.

Monsters are real

Some time back, I had written a post regarding the influence of film when I was younger. It was watching movies that made me want to become a writer. Recently, I watched A Night at the Movies – Stephen King. As I had read some of his books when I was a teenager (and of-course had seen a number of those film adaptations), I found it interesting to hear what he had to say regarding the horror genre within the movie industry.

  • The first movie that ever scared him was ‘Bambi’ as he was terrified of the forest fire.
  • The terrifying thing about zombies is they won’t stop – death is not the end.
  • The ghost story that scared him the most was ‘The Changeling’.
  •  He believes the big films of the horror genre are ‘Psycho’, ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’.
  •  The ending of ‘The Blair Witch Project’ has no real explanation, which is where the real horror lies.
  • Favourite movie versions of his books include ‘The Dead Zone’,’ Misery’ and ‘Cujo’. He describes the movie version of his book ‘The Shining’ as ‘a beautiful car that has no engine’.
  • He still has a big affection for the monster movies – the B grade movies from the 50s and 60s.
  • If anyone gives us a run for our money in the horror genre, it’s the Japanese.
  • The reason he goes to see horror movies are to lay down his fears for a while and indulge some of his darker emotions. If the movies have supernatural elements to it, it’s a chance to exercise his imagination, to give it wings and let it fly.

These are just a few items that stood out to me – especially that one about poor innocent, Bambi. Who knew? That’s my favourite Disney movie! There are a couple of movies on his list that I still have yet to see, but I find it a fascinating insight into the mind of one of the greatest writers of our time.

Do you have a favourite Stephen King movie? What horror movie scared you the most? Do you enjoy watching movies that make you think? Do certain movies ‘exercise your imagination’?

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Horror · Movies/Television · Spooky Stories

The Twilight Zone & ‘The Dummy’.

The Twilight Zone & The DummyWhen I was growing up, television and old movies were a big influence in my life. One of the television shows I always watched was The Twilight Zone. These stories always caught my imagination, for just when you thought you had it all worked out, there was always that element of surprise. I have enjoyed reading stories with a twist in the end ever since.

One story in particular I have never forgotten was ‘The Dummy’. Believing that his dummy, Willie, is alive and talks to him, Gerry begins drinking. His agent does not believe Gerry and tells him he should see a psychiatrist. The story is psychological horror; is Willie alive or not, and if so how can Gerry escape? The plot resonates with our anxieties regarding mental illness; in this case schizophrenia. Horror does not always need to be physical, yet this episode reveals horror in both its physical and psychological forms.

There have been many stories of objects that are possessed, including dolls. Robert the Doll, believed to be cursed and possessed by evil spirits, is said to be the influence of Chucky in Child’s Play. More recently, in the film The Conjuring, is the story of Annabelle, The Haunted Doll. Although Willie is not possessed, as such, he does come to life only for Gerry, which causes much mental suffering.

My mother has a wooden puppet that I cannot stand looking at; I find it ugly and creepy.  When I mentioned that to her, she could not understand why I felt that way. Such is the influence of this particular episode from The Twilight Zone.

If you have never seen this episode, or would like a trip down memory lane, here’s a short clip:-

Is there an episode of The Twilight Zone that you have never forgotten? Do you find ventriloquist dummies give you the creeps? Do you prefer psychological horror rather than in its physical form? Do you believe inanimate objects can be possessed?

Image via Wikimedia Commons.