Gothic Fiction · Inspiration · Movies/Television

What is Australian Gothic?

Recently I watched my favourite film, Picnic at Hanging Rock. I make sure I watch it at least a couple of times a year. With its constant sense of dread, this film made a big impact on my life and as a result, my writing tends to naturally gravitate towards Australian Gothic.

So, what is Australian Gothic?

The Gothic genre came to Australia as an imported genre (you’ll find a helpful post here on the ten elements of Gothic Literature) and took on many qualities of the traditional gothic, including the supernatural, romance and gloomy atmosphere. Like traditional Gothic, Australian Gothic has an element of mystery and fear.

Within Australia, the Gothic soon developed its own characteristics. The unique landscape of the country became an important element, therefore, becoming a character all of its own. The Australian bush transformed into a monstrous, spectral place, becoming the setting for nightmare and terror.

During the colonisation of the country, earlier stories were tied to the violence of settler life, including stories of death and brutality where murder victims returned from the dead, and burial grounds were uncovered. Stories involved the protagonist becoming lost or disorientated, sometimes even abandoned, so that the protagonist is isolated from others in order to be confronted by events. Such events either took place on the edge of civilisation or within the colonial homestead.

Australia ‘was a world of reversals, the dark subconscious of Britain. It was, for all intents and purposes, Gothic par excellence, the dungeon of the world. The familiar transposed to unfamiliar space. Nature, it seemed to many, was out of kilter. From its inception, the Gothic has dealt with fears and themes which are endemic in the colonial experience: isolation, entrapment, fear of pursuit and fear of unknown’.*

In an article on Australian horror films, The Sydney Morning Herald describes Australia as ‘a scary place. The size of the United States but with only the population of greater Los Angeles, its outback means you can get about as far away from civilisation as it’s possible to get.’

“We call what we do ‘Australian Gothic’,” says Everett DeRoche, a key figure in Australian horror who wrote the scripts for classics such as Patrick (1978), The Long Weekend (1978) and Razorback (1984). “Australia doesn’t have that iconic ‘haunted house’ that we are familiar with from American movies. But it does have the outback, and people’s fear of that, that agoraphobia.”

If you have ever watched such films as Mad Max and Wolf Creek, then you are familiar with the horrors such a landscape can represent. For me, the combination of the traditional Gothic with elements that are uniquely Australian make for an intriguing mix, full of many possibilities.

Do you enjoy Gothic Fiction? Do you have a favourite book or film within the Gothic genre? What film has made an impact on your life?

*Turcotte, G. The Handbook to Gothic Literature, Mulvey-Roberts M. (Ed.) New York University Press, 1998, pp.10-11.

Movies/Television

The Horror of Marianne.

Recently, I watched the Netflix horror series Marianne. It has proven to be a much talked-about series on the internet, as well as garnering good reviews.

Famous French horror writer, Emma Larsimon, has decided to put an end to her series with her character Marianne. However, she is soon forced to return to her hometown after an absence of fifteen years. Here, she is confronted with the knowledge that the nightmares from her stories are coming to life.

I like the fact that in this series, the main character of Emma, is a writer. Yes, it has been done in horror before, but part of this attraction comes from the character herself. When we first meet Emma, she comes across as an obnoxious, rude and at times, childish character. However, we do get to see another side to her, so that we start to feel for her.

Like Emma, the rest of the cast of characters is compelling and well-developed. Emma gets to meet her old school friends and we become engaged in their secrets and histories and we get to care about them. There are some dark and disturbing moments throughout this series, which can at times be hard to watch, and it’s because of these relationships between the characters that we remain invested.

Located on a coastal town, the scares are maintained throughout the entire series. There were moments when even I was gripped and wondered what to expect next, but such tension is released with humour. This series even met with Stephen King’s seal of approval (and yes, I’m one of those sickos 😉 )

The cinematography and imagery are wonderful to look at and there is also a great musical score. During one scene, the music reminded me of Halloween and in another scene, the imagery reminded me of It, so there is homage to the classics of the horror genre. And yet, it does have its own unique style. The narrator has a suitably eerie voice and I really like the use of flipped pages of a book to illustrate flashbacks, for example.

Of-course, there is one character above all that really stands out and that is Madame Daugeron, the mother of one of Emma’s schoolfriends. This woman is seriously creepy and is played so well by Mireille Herbstmyer; her facial expressions, combined with the dubbed voice and laugh create some scary scenes. Yes, this show is dubbed in English, although I have heard some people have managed to watch it in original French. I would have loved to have seen that version. Not only do I love the French language, but it would help to get another feel for the series.

The twist ending may come as a surprise however, the narrator does hint at what’s to come. Such an ending means that there is scope for a second season. Given the positive reception, one can hope that we shall see that soon.

Have you watched Marianne? Did you find it scary or did it not grab your attention? What have you been watching recently?

Movies/Television

American Horror Story: Freak Show.

Recently, thanks to Netflix, I have been catching up with American Horror Story. Some years back I had watched the first in the series, Murder House, and that’s where I left it; I didn’t know back then that every season told a different story.

I really enjoyed season two, Asylum and thought that was even better than the first, however, I was disappointed in season three, Coven. The story just didn’t interest me as much as the first two seasons and I didn’t finish watching it, so went straight on to Freak Show.

After watching the first episode, I was hooked. Maybe it had something to do with the characters and their stories; feeling empathy for the ‘freaks’, fascination for the wealthy but spoilt Dandy, a serial killer on the loose and the dark humour. I really enjoyed the storyline in this one, as well as the setting and the acting. A credit to everyone in this season, but I couldn’t help but feel that Jessica Lange really steals the show.

I had some personal favourites when it comes to characters. I thought the ‘freak’ Ma Petite was gorgeous, played by Jyoti Amge, the world’s smallest woman, and I enjoyed the character Edward Mordrake whenever he made an appearance (there are two episodes dedicated to him). And yet, it was the spoilt Dandy and his dark personality that I really enjoyed watching. There was never going to be a happy ending for him and neither did I wish it but there is something about the dark side of our humanity that fascinates. The final episode where he erupts into a psychotic rage was truly horrifying.

Although Jessica Lange believes that she is not a singer, her cover for the song ‘Gods and Monsters’ became popular. One of the things I like about this song in the video is Edward Mordrake’s entrance and departure, which is really well done. If nothing else, this version introduced me to Lana Del Ray. 😉

Yes, I have yet to watch more in this series (Hotel and Roanoke are currently on my list), but I have to wonder if they will be anywhere near as good as Freak Show. Time will tell!

Do you have a favourite season from American Horror Story? Is there a particular season in this series that didn’t work for you? Are you fascinated by dark/bad characters?

Ghosts & The Paranormal · Research

Contacting the Dead: The Ouija Board.

Ouija Board. Two words that can send some people to recoil in horror. Realistically, they appear harmless enough, after all it is just a piece of wood containing letters and numbers, but they have been used in numerous horror movies over the years that they can sometimes be seen as instruments of the devil.

Is there any truth in the Ouija Board being an instrument of contacting the dead? In an article on The Weird and Mysterious History of the Ouija Board, the answer to that question remains elusive.

Designed as a parlour game in the late 1890s, the ouija board is now owned by Hasbro, who still market it as such and have even recently put out a Stranger Things edition.

During childhood, my sisters and I once made our own with paper and a glass for a bit of fun, but I don’t think I’d be doing that these days. After watching so many horror movies and television shows regarding the paranormal, I now err on the side of caution. Perhaps it’s warranted, perhaps not. Over the years, the ouija board has managed to have a stigma attached to them.

Sometimes I think about trying one out for the sake of research, other times I think of the bad juju surrounding it and chicken out. Either way, it is certainly an object that has aroused curiosity. 😉

Do you think Ouija Boards can help communicate with the dead or is it just a load of rubbish? Have you ever used a Ouija Board?

Main image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

IWSG · Writing

IWSG: What Is Your Favourite Genre to Write In?

I’ve always followed the old writing advice that in order to write, you need to read – a lot. Over the years I’ve read so many genres, that when it came to actually writing, I could never decide where I actually fit. It wasn’t until recently when I had my short stories professionally edited that I may have realised what was staring me in the face. I was told I had a ‘knack’ for horror.

Growing up, I watched a lot of television and movies. Watching the Gothic horror and mystery of Picnic at Hanging Rock at the cinema (yes, showing my age now), fascinated me and I leaned heavily toward lots of horror movies, including anything from Alfred Hitchcock. I fell in love with The Addams Family and anything Gothic. I was about ten when I accidentally discovered the Gothic Romance novel Dragonwyck and I was hooked. From there I went on to devour any book from Stephen King that I could get my hands on. And the 1980s was very big for horror! 😉

I guess horror was a natural fit as I was always fascinated by the paranormal, especially ghosts. In more recent years I have visited some haunted places and have come away with experiencing something.

It’s the thrill of being scared; an adrenalin rush. Like being on a roller coaster – it’s a high! Monsters can be scary, but also fascinating. It’s the unknown that makes one curious and question our existence. It’s not just monsters either as horror can also take the form of mankind, leaving us to wonder what we are truly capable of. Horror can also lurk within the natural environment too.

Horror is surrounded by suspense and mystery; you’re too frightened to know what lurks beyond, but at the same time you’re curious to find out. Alfred Hitchcock is famous for building suspense, which is a handy skill to know when it comes to writing. We really want our readers to keep turning the pages and not put our stories down until they get the answers they seek.

My writing may be a mix of genres, but so too is horror. And besides, I think it’s a fun genre to write in and shouldn’t we be writing what we enjoy? 😉

Do you enjoy horror? Are you fascinated by the paranormal? What is your favourite genre to write in and why?

The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

Movies/Television

Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House.

Recently, I watched the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House. I admit that as the show was inspired by the book by Shirley Jackson, I had my reservations. This wasn’t helped by the fact that by the end of the second episode, I really began to wonder if I would continue watching. This is because the series has a bit of a slow build, however, it didn’t pick up for me until the third episode, where I felt things were starting to get interesting. After that episode, I binged the next three. What a turn-around!

So, what happened?

The first six episodes focuses on one family member, telling their side to the story about the events that happened at Hill House and how it had affected their lives. It was Theo’s story in episode three that intrigued me and as the show progressed, it soon became apparent that it was the characters themselves that draws the viewer in, so that by the time we see Nell’s story, the viewer is seeing a horror show that makes you sad as well as scared.

The camera work in episode six is brilliantly done – apparently a seventeen-minute-long unbroken single shot and this episode demonstrates that it’s a family drama as much as it is a horror story. There were a couple of times where I actually jumped in my seat (which is rare for me these days), noticeably one of the car scenes.

This show tends to be more of a psychological horror series, than straight out horror, although it did have some truly scary moments. I’ve read that some people have even wanted to watch it again, so they could count how many ghosts there actually are!

The Haunting of Hill House is a terrific piece of television that weaves past and present narratives together with characters you soon become attached to. I mean, I couldn’t resist young Nell and Luke – they’re so cute! 🙂

Have you watched The Haunting of Hill House and what are your thoughts? Did you find the show had a bit of a slow build? Which characters did you like the most?

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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