Archive for November, 2015

Poem: “ROOFTOP PARTY”

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Not all ghosts have yet died. 

ROOFTOP PARTY

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Upon this murky hollow
The congregation waits:
City a ghost in the distance
A dome of brown night above them
Even the darkness is not real

 

Their floating hair wreathed
In timid moon, cloying streetlight
Too weak to reach their faces
Conceal the drunken sheen
Of desperation, voices
Uniform cacophony of
Blearing silence
Wordless, yet their mouths gape

 

Glued to empty cups,
Failing places on this wasteland,
Smoke wise enough to drift away,
Faces they can’t see
And would turn from anyway –
These ghosts deny their state
To the point of a half-life
Resurrection, false reflection
Because actual breathing
Repulses them –
Better to draw fractal air
That will not show the holes
In their rotted lungs

 

To be one of them is to be blind
As they are –
To observe from the edge
Extracted defunct tooth
To listen to empty mouths
Spouting garbled pleas
Is to know
And to fear
And to pity
What they do not see

 

An era ago I was a ghost
Not yet dead, shivering
Beside the moonlight
Straining for a shock of flesh
To understand – but you
Cannot return once
You see them screaming
And do not scream back

 

I lurk on the sides
No better than a vulture
Yet no worse than one, either
For I keep my tongue
And solitary cries comfort
When their non-skin chills

 

My muse is the throng
Of these grinning creatures
Who have forgotten their name –
What use is a wordless muse?

Yet still I lurk
And on the coldest of nights
I, too, would trade
My name

 

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Review: #HORROR

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2015 by smuckyproductions

This is a tough one to place, partially because I haven’t seen anything quite like it. But that is also what makes #HORROR worth talking about.

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Directed by actress Tara Subkoff, played out by both veterans like Chloe Sevigny and a group of newcomers, this film feels like a mix of several disparate elements: video art piece, a lost episode of American Horror Story, and a very grim Breakfast Club-style dramedy. All of this comes together to tell a story about cyberbullying, the vicious nature of teenage girls who take their insecurities out on others, and the violence that results. (Sort of.)

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Let it be said that, structurally, #Horror is a mess – there is no clear story, beats are repeated over and over again, and the ending is frustratingly rushed – what could have been tense and scary is confused (but disturbing nonetheless). Many audience members will be completely turned off by this. But it seems, maybe, that this is the point.

Subkoff constructs her film to look and feel like a millennial’s subconscious. It’s flashy, fancy and sleek – the production design is stunning – and it’s also cold as hell. The Connecticut winter woods that serve as the backdrop reflect the characters themselves: pretty, but frozen and ruthless. The video art that represents social media in the film is loud, colorful, and abrasive – disturbingly so. It’s frenetic, unfocused, and crazy. Which, as a millennial, I can say isn’t wholly inaccurate.

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The sleekness is almost mocked by the brutality of the characters. They’re pure grotesque, which is another thing audience members will recoil from – they’re easy to hate. Subkoff doesn’t leave them in the dust, though. She makes it clear that these girls are hurting – and their parents, too. It’s the unjust nature of the story that does not allow them to reconcile. They destroy each other and themselves, parent and child, friend and enemy. It helps that the cast is very, very talented – especially the newcomers, who display a lot of confidence in the face of a script that doesn’t pull punches.

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I am not arguing that the film is good. That is something I haven’t decided myself. It is, however, fascinating and evocative, which is more than can be said about many films. And it’s the first horror film I’ve seen that has tackled the bizarre world of social media, along with the self-hatred that accompanies such a world, in an honest, authentic way. Tara Subkoff has created a wildly unique film – even if it doesn’t horrify or entertain, it does provoke.

My initial reaction is still confused, but I applaud #Horror for being one of the only horror offerings that has commented on the state of youth today. We need more of these films. And may they all be as frenetic, original, and strange as this one.

Forbidden Tomes: THE KING IN YELLOW by ROBERT W. CHAMBERS

Posted in Forbidden Tomes, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2015 by smuckyproductions

This collection of stories has gained much-deserved attention after its cited influence on the first season of “True Detective” – the source, along with stories by Ambrose Bierce, of the nightmare that is Carcosa and the Yellow King. A work that precedes Lovecraft and even Machen, delving into the madness that is cosmic horror, there is little that surpasses the power of THE KING IN YELLOW.

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Most of the stories in the collection have nothing to do with the title – referring to a centuries-old play written by an unknown author destroys anyone who reads the second act. In the four stories that apply, the play acts as either a threat or as a catalyst, lurking both corporeally and spiritually as a terrible evil. Its words – detailing the nightmarish realm of Carcosa, where the Yellow King presides – bring paranoia, insanity and death to those who encounter them. Chambers’ four works pay witness to the horrors that rise from the play, horrors that predict awful fates for the human race.

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Chambers plays brilliantly at perceptions of reality. The first story, “The Repairer of Reputations,” gives us one of the best unreliable narrators in horror fiction – a man who believes he is going to be crowned king after he murders his brother. The final two, “In the Court of the Dragon” and “The Yellow Sign” (the most famous of all), characters are haunted by grotesque figures that watch them from afar – by all accounts human aside for their evil expressions. Similar to Lovecraft, but perhaps even more powerfully, Chambers creates a universe in which nothing is stable, and anything can succumb to the powers of madness.

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The style and aesthetic of these stories is distinctly decadent, a fascinating contrast to the terror that occurs within them. Chambers pays homage to Wilde’s school of poets with sensuous images of flowers, golden crowns, and ivory sculptures (see “The Mask,” the second story) – lush imagery and youthful, vigorous characters, until they come into contact with the dreaded play. His Bacchanal settings and delicate environments become subject to decay and destruction as the madness takes root.

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He is most notable, of course, for his ingenious creation of the titular play and mythos. I have always been fascinated by the idea of pieces of art – books, film, paintings, et cetera – that can affect people solely by coming into contact with them. “The King in Yellow” is the most formidable example of this. Its presumably fictional terrors root in the mind, making them real, with agents of the madness lurking around every corner to torment the narrator until death. The evil has a more profound mental effect because of its interiority, compared to the devils of Lovecraft that exist so distantly from our physical world. The Yellow King makes his home close to us, inside of us. It is harder to escape a horror like that.

While it is regrettable that Chambers did not write more about the world of Carcosa, the four stories that he did present are powerful enough to create a lasting impression on horror fiction. His luxurious writing style infuses the reader with a sense of paranoia and insanity that is dreadfully tangible. The King in Yellow has cast his shadow over a century of fiction, and lasts just as long in the reader’s mind.

New MINUTE MORBIDITIES: BAD BREAD

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Don’t you hate it when your food talks back?

The folks at Minute Morbidities can relate. Find out why in today’s episode, BAD BREAD:

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Short Story: THIRST

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Another bit of flash fiction that originated from a class assignment – to write a character who wants something. Badly. 

THIRST

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Even the grass had begun to scald her exposed skin by the time she noticed the glass of water, shimmering in the rays of brutal white sun. Her sandpaper throat gaped and sucked in dusty air at its promise. The sun had taken nearly every atom of moisture from her body and absorbed it uselessly into the furious sky. Brittle and draining, she could not move, let alone find her way back into the house under the protection of a roof. She had lain there wheezing, aware of how her body would shrivel like a forgotten apple off the tree, until the glint of liquid shot into her eyes and blinded her. Someone had left it on the old boards of the porch, barely concealed by the shade and leaking deliriously attractive condensation. As she stared at it, she could almost feel it sliding down her throat, seeping into the membrane that had receded and cracked, replenishing all that was about to evaporate. The false sensation was enough to give her strength, and she turned over, and began to crawl.

Dark sweat had crusted on her skin, beneath which her muscles and bones were melting into rancid jelly, so movement was a monstrously painful task; but the water beckoned, and she could slide along the grass if she rooted her fingers into the soil and tugged. With pitiful huffs of desert-breath she inched toward the house. The soil singed her hands and formed instantaneous blisters. Pain, however, had become mundane to her in the heat. She scorned her hands for their weakness. Soon soon soon she promised them, that cool touch and rush and we will feel good again.

The porch seemed to retreat from her as she dragged her gelatinous body toward its prize. Stooooop she wanted to cry, but her tongue clacked like a dying beetle between her teeth. She could feel her vocal cords twanging in her chest; in a moment they would snap. Wait goddamnit she cried to them, wait one fucking second. It was closer, yes, drawing closer all the time. The water seemed to exude relief and mercy in a cooling breeze. Its cresting kiss invigorated her flaccid limbs and they slunk forward at a slightly faster pace, just fast enough to reach that water before the sun finished its task of burning her to ashes. She would laugh at the sun once the water had restored her vocal chords and tongue. Oh, how she would laugh, shake the earth with the raging sound, quake the sky until the sun itself came tumbling down, crashing into her flood of moisture and extinguishing in a pathetic fizzle of steam, how lovely that sound would be in her gushing ears, how powerful her cooled and reanimated body pulsing with fresh fluid…

The door to the house opened as she reached for the glass, hardly a foot away. A man dressed in loose beige linen stepped out, squinted at the sun in disdain, and made his slow way over to the edge where she was lying. Without looking at her, he stooped and swiped the glass from its place. He sipped at it and grimaced – no longer cold. Spitting to rid himself of the taste, he upended the glass and let the water tumble into the dirt, which drank it up greedily. Then the man took the glass back inside and disappeared.

She remained still, unfeeling, for a moment. Her mind had numbed. But she did notice the rim of condensation on the wood of the porch, the ghost of her salvation. The grass or the sun had not yet swallowed it. Perhaps if she moved quickly, pulled harder at the soil, she could reach it with her tongue before it, too, disappeared. With a hollow groan to the merciless sky, she rooted her fingers once more and heaved.

Films That Haunt Me: ABSENTIA

Posted in Films That Haunt Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2015 by smuckyproductions

While ‘Oculus’ made a decent-sized splash when it came out in 2014, director Mike Flanagan is no novice when it comes to horror. His earlier effort, and perhaps the superior film, is a must-see when discussing independent horror – an unsettling fairy tale called ABSENTIA.

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The film is centered around a woman, her sister, and the disappearance of the sister’s husband. When the woman moves in with her sister to assist in the investigation (also to try to kick her drug habit), she begins to notice strange things – all connected with a creepy tunnel nearby. She starts to wonder what really happened to her sister’s husband, but the closer she gets to an answer, the more deadly the situation becomes.

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Sure, it sounds simple, but Flanagan does something that many horror filmmakers forget to do: he gives his characters full-fledged lives. ‘Oculus’ is also populated by dimensional and flawed characters, but ‘Absentia’ gives them much more attention. Everything horrific about the film stems from character interactions. The main character wants to prove that she isn’t a fuck-up by solving the mystery; her sister struggles with resentment for the same reason; and both must grapple with the question of what lives in the tunnel, what is taking people. With the human drama brewing underneath, the impact of the horror is much stronger.

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Combined with these down-to-earth characters is a gleefully fantastical villain. Flanagan shamelessly takes inspiration from the fairy tale Three Billy Goats Gruff, but the monster under the bridge is far nastier than any troll. And he refuses to show us too much, keeping the fear unknown and unnamed. For this reason, the film will alienate many viewers, but for those who pay attention to details, a treasure trove of implied horror will be unearthed. The hints that Flanagan gives are chilling.

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The concept, in its simplicity, also works beautifully. It isn’t a terrifying film – it’s too quiet and patient for that – but it works up a feeling of dread that is at once mundane and uncanny. By layering on the strange occurrences and keeping the audience in the dark, Flanagan constructs an atmosphere akin to Lovecraft, the cloying but silent fear of touching ever so briefly a titanic evil. The dull, familiar setting of the suburbs makes it even more effective. The tunnel that hides the evil is no subterranean nightmare – it could be in any neighborhood, in any city. What’s to say this couldn’t happen to you?

I can’t say that this film scared me, but it leaves the viewer with a sense of wrongness, as if the world has been altered slightly. The human drama comes head-to-head with incomprehensible, invisible evil in a chilling way. And Flanagan, with a budget of only $70K, creates something that inches close to Lovecraft. It’s a celebration of guerilla filmmaking, subtle horror, and the dread of the unknown.

New MINUTE MORBIDITIES: MIDNIGHT SNACK

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Greetings, horror fans!

Feeling a bit peckish this Tuesday? We’ve got just the thing for you – a new Minute Morbidities called MIDNIGHT SNACK.

Feast, and SHARE THE SCARE!

For biweekly morsels of horror, CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE.