Category Archives: horror movie

H. P. Lovecraft Gaming

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Back in the early 1990’s my little group of game players turned the full power of nerd obsession on the fantasy role-playing game Call of Cthulhu.  It is a totally weird little game based on the novels and short stories of H. P. Lovecraft.   It is a game about solving mysteries that, if successfully solved, will lead you to confrontations with all-powerful ancient evils that you cannot win against.  And you keep playing until your character absorbs so many insanity points that they go completely insane.  Your character then becomes a minion of demonic and irresistible evil that the next player character you roll up will have to hunt and defeat.  It is not a game you ever win.  You merely have to learn to survive and stay sane, things at which the game is set up to make you fail.

In 1991 the television gods took an old vampire soap opera that I had loved in the 60’s and remade it.  Dark Shadows came back to life starring Ben Cross as Barnabas Collins (the Chariots of Fire guy playing the vampire role that would later have a part in the downfall of Johnny Depp.)  The lead player in our group, a kid who was such a nerd that he would go one to be in the intelligence division of the Marine Corps, decided his character would have to be the vampire Barnabas Collins.  He reasoned that the only way to fight big evils was to fight back with evil that had been converted back to goodness.

And his instincts were good.  Barnabas and his lady love, Victoria Winters, were the only player characters not eaten by the minions of Nyarlathotep in the first adventure.  And Victoria had to be raised from the dead by having Barnabas turn her into a Vampire.

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Of course, the very next challenge would be from a white witch voodoo priestess from New Orleans, the Vampire hunter Sofia Jefferson.  (She was an NPC, not Sofie’s player character).  And she had a special potion that, given to a vampire, would restore it to normal human life.

This was a problem for Barnabas, because he really depended on his powers as a vampire and was not willing to go on without those powers.  So the vampire hunter had to be avoided without killing her and putting an end to her good work fighting evil.  If you can’t tell from the picture, Sofia was blind, yet could see with uncanny vision through sightless eyes.

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The next player character added to survive more than one adventure borrowed Luis’s vampire idea by making his character from the movie Darkman, a Liam Neeson movie about a doctor who had burned his face off, but could become other people by wearing their cloned skin.  He was the lead investigator to help solve the werewolf problem in the bayou , and took on the dark circus adventure where the foolish sideshow people were trying to make money exhibiting the captured Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.

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There was a lot of death and horrible murders in those game sessions, but not committed by the player characters.  They had to keep good notes and draw conclusions and manage their characters’ powers and assets.  Notes like these;

And so, while the game never ended to my satisfaction, the players did get the feel of acting in a horror movie and fighting on the side of goodness against evil.  It was weird, but definitely worth doing.

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Filed under autobiography, Dungeons and Dragons, horror movie, horror writing, humor, Paffooney

Werewolf Writing

dscn5093 (640x480)I am now in that period of deflation after having finished a draft of a novel.  My brain is drained and mostly empty.  I am left with leftover piles of stupid words and guileless thoughts that I didn’t use in the book and none of that is good fuel for thinking.

But I can tell you a few things about my novel.

First of all, the werewolf of the title is not really a werewolf.  He is instead a boy afflicted with a genetic hair-growth disorder called hypertrichosis.  It is genetic in nature and runs in families.  It may skip generations.  But it is a hard thing to deal with in terms of self image for the sufferer.  Once the wearers of werewolf hair were treated as circus freaks, to be marveled at, pitied, and sometimes reviled.

 

But this is a horror novel of sorts, not really about the hypertrichosis sufferer, but more about another member of the family who has become abusive in increasingly horrible ways.  And the murders in the book are committed using canines as weapons.

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The wolfishness is not located in the animals, but in the heart of a man.

There is a lot of Saturday night black and white horror movie watching in the 70’s that went into this book.  It also comes to fruition by way of my own experience being sexually assaulted at the age of ten.  The fear and self-loathing that this story has to tell about are metaphorically very real things.  I was not myself a monsterous-looking creature in my youth, but I felt the same feelings of isolation and rejection that one of the main characters, the boy with werewolf hair feels in this book.  Part of why it took me twenty years to write this tale is my own personal struggle to overcome my own fear and self-loathing.

But even though this book comes to its conclusion with silver bullets and death by wolf fang, it is basically a comedy.  Comedy, in the Shakespearean sense, always ends with the hero getting the girl and the monsters defeated.  And it has a few laughs that not even the death-by-teeth parts can overturn.

So, I am glad I am finally finished with this book.  Not edited and published, but finished as an exercise in wringing things out of the terrible nightmares and monstrous memories buried in my cluttered old brain.

 

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The Encounter

Life, like a good Dungeons and Dragons game, is basically controlled by rolling the dice of random encounters.  Even if there is a great over-arching plan for this reality in the brain of the Great Dungeon Master in the Sky, it is constantly altered by the roll of celestial dice and ultimate random chance.

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Thusly, I managed a D & D encounter in the middle of the night last night.

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I generally have a sleeping skill of only +1.  That means, that if sleeping is a simple skill, I can add my +1 to the roll and only have to get a 6 or higher on a twenty-sided dice.  At 3:10 a.m. I rolled a 3.  I had to get up and wander bleary-eyed to the bathroom, a -2 for terrain effects to successfully to make it to the bathroom and pee through a prostate that is swollen to the size of a grapefruit, most often a difficult task, requiring a 15 on a twenty-sided dice.  I got lucky.  I rolled a 19.  Then, on the way back to bed, the dog rolled a natural 20 on her get-the-master’s-attention roll and let me know she had to go to the bathroom too.

I have to tell you at this point, that since I am trying to be more of a nudist, I seriously considered taking her out naked (by which I mean me, not her).  Dressing up in the middle of the night can be daunting.  And no one was going to see in the dark of the park at 3:15 a.m.  But I thought it probably wasn’t a good idea to go adventuring without armor in the darkness, so I at least put on shoes and a magic +4 bathrobe.

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So, we went out to let the dog poop in the park, a thing she can do profusely on a roll of 3 or higher.  We got it accomplished with little fuss.  Oh, there was some complaining and growling, but the dog manage to ignore me when I did it.  Then we had to find our way safely back to the house, and bed…. but we had a random encounter roll that didn’t go in our favor.  I am always on the lookout in the dark for aliens or black-eyed children or even the onset of the zombie apocalypse.  But what I got was the monster from under the bridge.

One of the denizens of the city suburbs that most enjoys the nightlife in the city and thrives even though it isn’t human is the horrorific creature known as a raccoon.  She’s a sow that I have seen a number of times before at night.  She lives under the bridge in the park and often has three or four cubs trailing behind her in the spring.  And she has nothing but contempt for humans with dogs.  She immediately launched into her fear-based hiss attack.  And coming from a possibly seven-foot tall monster sitting atop the pool fence and hissing in the night, it seized the initiative with a very effective attack.  She rolled an 18.  The attack succeeded.

I tried the ever-popular pee-your-pants defense, but failed, rolling a 2.  The reservoir was previously emptied, and I wasn’t wearing pants.  The dog bolted for the kitchen door and dragged me with her.  Her magic bark attack wasn’t even tried.  We were in the house before my heart skipped its third beat.

Surviving the encounter in this way is probably good for the heart.  It beat really hard for a bit and got thoroughly exercised.  But I went back to bed and reflected on the fact that random encounters like that are entirely dependent on the roll of the dice.

 

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The Darkest of the Coming Darkness

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Egghead  might be slightly batty.

I do not claim to be prescient.  But like any overly smart and perceptive person, I often see what’s going to happen before it happens.  Sometimes it is almost as eerie as a Vincent Price movie.  Sometimes eerier.  After all, on the 60’s Batman TV show, Price played the ridiculous villain Egghead, and was completely creepy while doing it, but still, you know… Egghead.

One thing that I have to predict about the coming darkness is about politics.  I mean, the current Republican administration, where it is decisions by all Republicans all the time, has become nothing more than a monster movie.  Not merely a bad monster movie, but a super-creepy-bad monster movie with a gigantic orange rubber rooster as the main monster.

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This is what the great orange rooster looks like in black and white.

The reason it is bad is because, basically, to become a member of the Republican Party’s elected elite, you basically have to have your heart removed.  Heartless, soulless monsters have a tendency to do things like take away Meals on Wheels for invalid seniors, health-care services from Planned Parenthood, and any hope of ever having affordable health insurance that actually pays for health care.

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                                                                          Senator Ted Cruz grinning about taking away Obamacare

And now, the monsters who have taken control of the theater are pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement because… well, apparently clean air isn’t good for decaying, desiccated monster skin and shriveled monster lungs that don’t breathe air anyway.

So here are my predictions for the coming darkness.

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What people like me will look like in the future.  That’s me in the middle.

I won’t live to see it.  My body is breaking down at age 60. My lungs are compromised by years of bronchitis and flu.  I am diabetic, so my very body chemistry is betraying me.  There is a family history of heart disease.  And I have already gone broke once on health care bills that the health insurance people really don’t pay for.  (They are in the business of collecting premiums, after all, not making people well.)

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What a lovely oxygen-free environment we will have!

As the climate changes take away large parts of our food production and resources, and the sea rises to take away land and major cities, people will be at war increasingly over diminishing resources vital to a population of seven billion souls.  Graveyards and unburied bodies will become a part of every monster-movie scene.

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Kiss me, Baby!

Love will become more complicated, because people who are selfless and put others before even their own life will die out first.  The heartless, selfish, and often stupid ones will have the best chance for survival because they put themselves ahead of everyone else, and so have an unfair advantage over those who are not content with mere survival and exhibit self-sacrificing love.

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You’ve never had a friend like me.  And I can always eat you later if need be.

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So, if you find my black-and-white monster movie post upsetting with the darknesses I am sincerely predicting, please remember, this is a satire post in a humor blog.  The way it is supposed to work is that you wake up to the factors that make it upsetting and decide to do something for yourself to change them.  Everybody doing a lot of the same little thing to make the world better can move mountains and fly to the moon.  Big things don’t happen without everybody taking a hand.  Maybe we can dream dreams once again and make some good things come true.

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Filed under angry rant, battling depression, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, horror movie, humor, monsters

Downloading Darkness

I just finished a novel project last Thursday, completing the manuscript of Recipes for Gingerbread Children.  But being the excessively creative goofball that I am, this was not a stand-alone project.  The companion book, The Baby Werewolf,  is an incomplete manuscript of a comedy horror story about a boy with hypertrichosis, sometimes known as werewolf-hair disease.  Both books happen in the same period of time in 1974 and share both characters and events.  The boy, Torrie Brownfield, has lost his mother.  His father has brought him back to a small Iowa town where he himself was once a boy, to live in the same house where the boy’s father and uncle grew up.  The uncle, hiding some dark secrets of his own, requires that Torrie be raised in hiding up in the attic.  But this only lasts until a local farm boy,  Todd Niland, discovers Torrie’s sad existence and becomes his friend. This is a much darker story than I have tackled before, and I am no stranger to dark humor.  It is significant, though, that both Todd and Torrie are gingerbread children from the book I just finished, and even though some sad, dark things come to light in that book, they are not nearly as sad and dark as what is present in this next project.  So I had to find some inspiration before trying to re-ignite the novel forge for The Baby Werewolf.

That led me to watch the video Donnie Darko for the very first time.

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Oofah!  What a strange, horrible, yet beautiful movie!  Richard Kelly’s first film is an incredible artwork that makes your soul sing darkly.  Talk about listening to dark rabbits from the future… really, I mean, no one told anyone they should talk about about dark rabbits from the future… but this film does with a twisted elegance and ironically terrible beauty.  It discusses the sex lives of Smurfs, raises alarms with old women wandering aimlessly to the mailbox in the path of oncoming cars, and fires teachers from their jobs for discussing the short stories of Graham Greene.  There is no way I can explain in a witless-wordless movie review.  You must simply watch the movie for yourself.

Remember this musical masterpiece?  “Hello, Darkness, my old friend… I’ve come to talk with you again…”  Yes, I am entertaining the darkness again because I will be depending on her to help me write this book whose theme is going to be, “Everyone dies in the end, but the real life depends on how we deal with that fact.”

Yes, people who know me, I mean really know me, including the facts behind what I can’t actually say in this blog because the innocent must be protected, will probably worry that I am undertaking a writing project about monsters and depression and suicidal thoughts and child abuse.  I do have scars.  But I am at peace with the hard parts of the life behind me.  And from great pain and profound suffering, beautiful things can be made.  So don’t worry.  Downloading a bunch of monster-movie darkness into my stupid old head is not going to hurt me at this point in my life.  And if I can’t write it now, it will never be written.

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Midnight Monster Movies

I slept in this morning.  Spent another late night doing nothing but watching monster movies.  I recently got myself a DVD collection of Hammer Films monster movies from the sixties.  I found it in the $5 bargain bin at Walmart, a place I regularly shop for movies.

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When I was a boy, back in the 60’s, there always used to be a midnight monster movie feature called Gravesend Manor on Channel 5, WOI TV in Ames, Iowa.  It started at 11:00 pm and ran til 1:00 am.  I, of course, being a weird little monster-obsessed kid, would sneak downstairs in my PJ’s when everyone else was asleep and I would laugh at the antics of the goofy butler, possibly gay vampire duke, and the other guy who was supposedly made in the master’s laboratory.  And when the movie started, I was often scared witless by the black-and-white monster B-movie like Scream of Fear!, or Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, or Eyes of the Gorgon.  It was always the reason I could rarely get up in time for church and Sunday school the next morning without complaints and bleary-eyed stumbling through breakfast.  I never knew if my parents figured it out or not, but they probably did and were just too tired to care.

It was my source for critical monster-knowledge that would aid me greatly when I grew up to be a fireman/cowboy hero.  Because battling monsters was… you know, a hero prerequisite.  And I intended to be the greatest one there ever was.  Even better than Wyatt Earp or Sherlock Holmes or Jungle Jim.

Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Peter Lorre, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, and the immortal Christopher Lee were my tutors in the ways of combating the darkness.  When I started watching a really creepy monster movie, I always had to stick it out to the end to see the monster defeated and the pretty girl saved.  And they didn’t always end in ways that allowed me to sleep soundly after Gravesend Manor had signed off the airways for the night.  Some movies were tragedies.  Sometimes the hero didn’t win.  Sometimes it was really more of a romance than a monster movie, and the monster was the one you were rooting for by the end.  I remember how the original Mighty Joe Young made me cry.  And sometimes you had to contemplate more than tragedy.  You had to face the facts of death… sometimes grisly, painful, and filled with fear.  You had to walk in the shoes of that luckless victim who never looked over his shoulder at the right moment, or walked down the wrong dark alley, or opened the wrong door.  The future was filled with terrifying possibilities.

Now, at the end of a long life, when I am supposed to be more mature and sensible, I find myself watching midnight monster movies again.  What’s wrong with me?  Am in my second childhood already?  Am I just a goofy old coot with limited decision-making capabilities?  Of course I am.  And I intend to enjoy every horrifying moment of it.

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Penny Dreadful (Thoughts from the Uncritical Critic)

 

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I confess to binge-watching the show Penny Dreadful, all three seasons on Netflix.   Good God!  What was I thinking?  It is everything that I cringe about in movies.  Blood and gore.  Gratuitous sex and debauchery.  I almost gave up and stopped watching when the Creature came bursting through the chest of Dr. Frankenstein’s latest creation.  And yet for a monster to be introduced to the series in such a way, and then to become the one character that strives hardest for redemption… I was hooked.

Sin and redemption is the major theme of the whole series.  And each character strives so painfully for redemption that you cannot help but love them… even though they are monsters.

You see, I, like all other people, am aware that one day, sooner than I would like, I will die and live no more.  And life, though filled with heartache and suffering and regret, is a priceless treasure to be guarded for as long as I can hold onto it.  There is poetry in that condition.  The greatest beauty that can be beheld is soon to pass away into ugliness.  The candle flame lights the darkness briefly and then is gone.

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The story is built from Victorian era literature and includes Mary Shelly’s Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a couple of werewolves, numerous witches, demons, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll, and a character named Lord Malcom Murray who is obviously based on the African explorer Allan Quartermain from King Solomon’s Mines by H.Rider Haggard.

The characters all do a lot of suffering and striving.  Friendships are formed and made blood-and-family deep by shared adventures and brushes with pure evil and death.  The main character, Vanessa Ives, is variously possessed by a demon, courted by Lucifer, hunted by witches, and then seduced by Dracula.  She uses her deep faith in God, which wavers continually, to defeat every enemy but the last.  She is also aided by a cowboy werewolf and sharp-shooter who is her destined lover, protector, and killer.  It all swiftly becomes ridiculous-sounding when you try to summarize the convoluted Gothic-style plot.  But as it slowly unfolds and reveals new terrors with every episode, it mesmerizes.  The sets, the cinematography, the costumes, and the horrifyingly sweet-sad orchestral background music puts a spell on you that, when you awaken from it, you realize you want more than is available.  Three seasons was simply not enough.

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As I believe I indicated previously, the character that almost made me give up on the series, Frankenstein’s Creature, became the most compelling character of all to me.  He began as such a violent, repellent, selfish thing… and in the end became the most self-sacrificing and tragic character in the entire drama.  He took the name of the English poet John Clare for himself, and became a tragically beautiful person.

Do I recommend that you watch this thing?  This poetic and sometimes deeply disturbing depiction of what it means to be human and be alive?  I cannot.  It was a moving personal experience for me, one that made me weep for beauty and horror at almost every episode.  No one can find that sort of thing through a mere recommendation.  It is entirely between you and your God.

 

 

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