Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Bay 2012

I am trying to think back on this year's best horror movies to compile a Top 5 list and am coming up pretty empty handed; in the meanwhile, this sounds promising. The Bay.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reading List - What Scared the $#!@! Out of You?

What are you reading, or have you read recently, as far as horror short story collections go, that really knocked your socks off? I have been staying up late picking through old editions of the Mammoth Book of Horror, volumes 1 - 4, and there are plenty of good scares in there, and  I am picking up Joyce Carol Oates' new book Corn Maiden and other Terrors from the library soon, but I like to keep my bedside piled dangerously high with "to read" selections so am looking for more, much more. Also recently finished John Langan's Mr. Gaunt and other Tales. (Meh.) Primarily interested in short story collections, but if you have a novel that you consider a "must read" lay it on me.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Devil's Slide

As Wordsworth once wrote: 'I grew up Fostered alike by beauty and by fear …"

I would say I did, too, but in my case, a little more fear than beauty maybe. I met the Devil in the 60's, you see.

Here is an old photo I found online of the infamous Devil’s Slide, a notorious stretch of highway along the coast of California where "falling rocks" signs dotted the roadside and cars plunging off the edge to the ocean below were a regular news story. As a kid, I had to travel this road many times whenever we went to and from El Granada to San Francisco and back. Southbound, from the passenger seat I would have had the drop-off side of the road (a mere bread crust of space) right out my window--though mostly I could barely bring myself to look. The picture does not quite get you there, but for a child looking out the window the edge seemed a gust of wind away. And then swoosh, down that terrible drop to the ocean and rocks below. During my life in El Granada, there was  no shortage of reports of cars going off the edge and families plummeting to their death. More recent photos show that they've added a lot more guard railing. But when I lived there, this is what it looked like. Give me a Wordsworthian cataract any day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Creatures, Thirty Years of Monsters

Ho Ho Horror Stories galore here.

If you are looking for a last minute gift idea for that special twisted horror fan on your list, consider this book. Creatures, Thirty Years of Monsters. Quite a mix of really fun monster tales, but maybe the stories should speak for themselves.

Here are a few excerpts from some of my personal favorites ....

When Max Beecham  was eight years old, his mother Deena (delirious from antihypertensives) gave him a Polaroid and then lay down on the carpet behind him. Inside the white border of this photograph lurked a thing with the naked body of a gaunt man and the head of a dark, decayed stag. In sat on a tree stump the way neighborhood men sat on bar stools, surrounded by a cavalry of thin, burned trees …. Absolute Zero, by Nadia Bulkin

I enjoyed throwing them about. I raked meat off the bone, lathed, splintered, and shredded; wrung, wrenched, rooted. and uprooted. I opened them to the jungles. I unearthed their wet centers.
The Creature from the Black Lagoon, by Jim Shepard (note: this and other stories in the first section of the book are written from the point of view of the monster.)

It made its home in the deep forest near the village of Grommin, and all anyone ever saw of it, before the end, would be the hard eyes and the dark barrel of its muzzle. The smell of piss and blood and shit and bubbles of saliva and half-eaten food. The villagers called it the Third Bear because they had killed two bears already that year. But, near the end, no one really thought of it as a bear, even though the name had stuck, changed by repetition and fear and slurring through blood-filled mouths to Theeber. Sometimes it even sounded like “seethe” or “seabird”. The Third Bear, by Jeff VanderMeer

Even so, the numbered dead began a backward count. One by one, the bodies went gone, and when fifteen or twenty had most definitely been taken, or lost, that’s when we began to hear the noise at night. It was hard to calculate, hard to pinpoint. Hard to explain, or indicate. But it rattled like the bones of death himself. beneath a robe or within loose hanging skin. It wobbled and clattered back behind the sheds where the dead were kept.

It walked. It crept.

It gathered. Wishbones, by Cherie Priest

Also, even though I didn't have time to keystroke any of it into the post, Sarah Langan's The Changeling is fantastic--heart-breaking and terrifying. Looking forward to finding more of her work and (wishful thinking) her first collection.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Help Meeeeee: Obssessed with Not Dying

I made a weird leap last night. I was thinking about The Fly, the classic one, and I realized that what was so damn disturbing about the man-headed fly, apart from the pitiful “help meeeeeee” and a image itself, is that I am forced to imagine how awful it would be to die an insect death informed by human consciousness. Here, the kind of dumb indifference most of us would ascribe to a fly is swapped out with a human awareness of mortality, exploding with horror at the brutal prospect of being food, painfully dying. Being eaten alive is not my idea of a good time, unlike say a certain punk rock girl is some 80's Zombie movie: "Do you ever fantasize about being killed? Do you ever wonder about all the different ways of dying, you know, violently? I wonder like, what would be the most horrible way to die? Well for me, the worst way would be for a bunch of old men to get around me, and start biting and eating me alive.” (Bonus points if you know the source.) In fact, I went through this miserably long nightmare phase in my teens that involved being eaten alive. In the nightmares, I am still alive and contained in in great crushing pain while passing through some giant predator’s mouth, down its throat, into the stomach. Thankfully, I am a lucid dreamer and would always wake myself up before ... before what? I was shit out I guess. Insult to injury.

"We don't like to die; and if we have to die, we don't like to think of our own dead bodies feeding other creatures". This is a line I copied from an essay by John Daniels, a poet and nature writer. Daniels comes to this conclusion after he encounters a swarm of ants trying to kill a beetle. He's repulsed by the scene of ants swarming over and killing a beetle because he sees a glimpse of his own mortality in the drama. Perhaps this is true. Predation in nature reminds us of our own mortality--and this scene from The Fly really rubs our nose in it--of course there are dozens of other monster flicks that the same. Old HD Thoreau's journals are rich in accounts of predation. In one case, he writes about a snake trying to eat a toad and as Thoreau arrives, disrupting the scene, the snake coughs up the toad and flees. (I know it's not a toad but it's the best pic I could find.) The toad leisurely jumps away and Thoreau notes what he calls the toad's "healthy indifference".

I struggle not to see such acts as symbols of human mortality. Mine. The reflex is habit but I am working on it. I always point out to my son, when we witness predation and the like, that it is part of the cycle of life and that the snake (or whatever it is that's eating someone) is not being mean, it's just being a snake.

I like to think I am laying the groundwork for a better perspective - one, and I have to overlook the hypocrisy - I am still trying to embrace. Is it possible to evolve a kind of healthy indifference toward death? I can't imagine how. I have this son I adore and want to be around for his whole life. And, when do I show him The Fly?

Sunday, December 11, 2011


33.2 lbs. thinner ... a different kind of thinner than if a gypsy cursed me, but still thinner ..

that's how much weight I have lost since October 5th when I started weighwatchers and really picked up my running .. ran 8 miles today in fact.

In honor of losing the chub, here's a shot of shark boy from Hungry--one of my favorite X-Files episodes. He knew all about eating, and eating and eating ...