Archive for December, 2015

New MINUTE MORBIDITIES: BEDMATE

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Happy Friday, ghouls! Need a little lovin’ to keep you warm this winter?

Check out a new MINUTE MORBIDITIES, called BEDMATE:

Get all warm and fuzzy, and share in the morbid.

SUBSCRIBE to our channel for new videos every TUESDAY and FRIDAY.

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Forbidden Tomes: HAUNTED

Posted in Forbidden Tomes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Short stories were arguably the first great American literary tradition, with Washington Irving, Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne contributing groundbreaking tales that still resonate. It is no question that many of these stories at least dabbled in the Gothic. This tradition has lessened over the years, but there are some contemporary authors who have not forgotten. Joyce Carol Oates is one of them, and she contributes to this tradition brilliantly with her collection HAUNTED.

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I talk about Oates a lot. That’s because I think she’s a genius. These stories showcase her ability to render a typical American scene – dollhouses, Christmas dinner, and Thanksgiving shopping, to name a few – in visceral prose that makes them disturbingly wrong. Her detailed and ruthless eye skewers the everyday with macabre observations, warping things until they are almost beyond recognition. Almost. Her stories are all the more chilling because they rarely stray into the supernatural, drawing all of their horror from things that could – and have – happened.

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With these details Oates explores a number of themes that may, in another author’s hands, be commonplace – but not here. There are four sections of stories, and each deals with a broader, recognizable topic: aging, birth, sex, and finally, death. Oates handles these with just the right touch of grotesque, avoiding the garish, and brings them to light in a way that feels revelatory. In the title story, a girl’s childhood ends abruptly with a nebulous trauma and her friend’s death; “Extenuating Circumstances” and “Don’t You Trust Me” both display the horror to which mothers are subjected; and “Martyrdom” makes us question the nature of humanity in the most horrific way.

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In Oates’s beautiful but glaring prose, the above topics become magnified. Her vivid rendering is what makes her ‘normal’ environments so disturbing. Because Oates is also the master of the unreliable narrator, these worlds become even more unreliable. But, like the best horror fiction, their extremes bring out truths that would otherwise be lost.

On a very specific note, the penultimate story – “Accursed Inhabitants of the House of Bly” – presents a delight for horror fans in its reimagining of “Turn of the Screw.” Seen from the perspective of the ghosts themselves, who cannot reconcile their place between life and death, and instead taunt the children whom they loved. This story alone is reason to explore Oates’s collection.

Take these grotesque visions of a world we all know and plunge into them. On cold evenings, the rotted truths that Oates presents will make a particular mark.

Films That Haunt Me: ILS (THEM)

Posted in Films That Haunt Me with tags , , , , on December 16, 2015 by smuckyproductions

With a remake of 2008’s “Martyrs” coming out, the public is reminded of the heyday that was the French Extreme cinema. These works, including “Irreversible,” “Frontier(s)” and “Inside,” pushed the limits of viewer stamina with their intense violence and deeply existential ideas. There is one French offering, however, that avoids violence almost entirely – a heart-shattering and pulse-bursting piece of suspense called ILS.

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American audiences will recognize the plot from 2008’s “The Strangers,” a remake of this film. It is strikingly simplistic – a couple living out in the middle of nowhere must fend off mysterious figures who invade their house, with insidious intentions. This story has been done exponential times, but rarely has the filmmaking pushed it so far into brutal terror. Without having viewed the remake in its entirety, I can’t speak to their comparison – I know, however that the original goes much further thematically, and winds up making a bleaker statement.

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I haven’t seen this film for years, but it has stuck with me in an unconscious way. The execution of the suspense and scares is unique for a modern film because of its lack of gloss – the terror is raw, simple, but all the more effective. Quiet, out-of-place noises and glimpses of figures as they run down the hall become heart-stopping. The filmmakers place utter confidence in their scenarios and leave out all fancy trappings. Because of this, the film will fall flat for some people – but for me, it was overwhelmingly visceral.

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The ending is another point that ruined the film for some viewers. Without giving it away, I will state that I found it satisfyingly bold – not groundbreaking in any way, but it fit the tone so well, and avoided the cheap shock that a lesser film would have grabbed at. It is remarkable that the filmmakers could sustain the tension for even 77 minutes, and they do not waste that talent in their climax. Clear, brutal and not a little bit bizarre, the ending has always stayed with me.

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The simplicity and lack of glitz will certainly turn off many viewers. For those viewers who are drawn into its atmosphere as I was, it is a phenomenal exercise in suspense and terror. It is old-fashioned in that way – setting it apart from its equally noteworthy, but much uglier, cinematic contemporaries. Lock the doors, check the windows, and see if you can watch it without looking over your shoulder. After all, “we just want to play…”

New MINUTE MORBIDITIES: FOLLOWER

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Greetings, ghouls! Ever feel that prickle on your neck that makes you wonder… is someone following me?

Today’s episode, FOLLOWER, is for you:

Look behind you. And SHARE THE SCARE.

New episodes every TUESDAY and FRIDAY.

Poem: THE SECOND HAND

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2015 by smuckyproductions

The end of a semester, the end of a year – we feel time’s march in our skulls. Here, a hymn to that nebulous dread. 

THE SECOND HAND

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A relentless marching clock.
Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
The hour of madness not far off.
Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
Terror in the march.
Slip down at doze
Up sharp urgent dawn
The hour nearing
Do you hear it ringing?
It deafens and dooms
Eternity looms.
Terror in the march.
Tock tock tock tock.
Right, left. Endless clock.
Rest not sore mind;
Blood’s flow pulse on
Breath to breath
Hour to hour
Til heart grows sour
Til eye goes red
And the warning call crows –
No one knows where the dead hour goes.
Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
Terror in the clock.

Winter Traditions: Ghost Stories by the Fire

Posted in Dark Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2015 by smuckyproductions

 

Our Western culture often associates December and its holidays with cheerfulness, light, and warmth. These are defenses against the long nights and cold winds that otherwise would haunt us. We forget, however, a tradition predominant in Victorian Europe, one that ran alongside the cheery tidings: winter ghost stories by the firelight.

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Evidence of this tradition exists throughout Victorian literature. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is arguably the most famous, and the lightest-hearted – but many authors contributed darker tales. M.R. James, for instance, was famous for writing out his chilling stories by hand and reading them in utter darkness to his holiday guests. Other authors, such as Sheridan LeFanu, Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Gaskell, followed this tradition as well.

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These stories are far from cheery, designed to create dread and uncanny fear in the reader. Coming from these talented scribes, the effects are considerable. They spin for the fireside audience spectral evil, cursed objects, and decaying churches where wicked creatures hide. Sometimes the protagonists escape with only rattled nerves; other times the supernatural prevails. Rarely, however, do the stories end in upbeat morals, in the form of “A Christmas Carol.” They are purely written to frighten and make listeners question the existence of ghosts.

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Where does this tradition come from, then, and where has it gone? We have shirked ghost stories and shivers for sentiment and comedy. I think, though, that these opposite moods serve a similar purpose. They both present a distraction from that dreary dark outside. Whether laughing or shaking, the entertainment is harmless – these ghosts don’t haunt us as they do the characters. It is the momentary catharsis, the communal chills, that make the ghost story an important part of the Christmas tradition. Perhaps, one day, it will reinstate itself.

New MINUTE MORBIDITIES: REFRESHMENT

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Happy Freakish Friday, everyone! To quench that weekend thirst, here is a new MINUTE MORBIDITIES.

Drink up, and SHARE THE SCARE!

New episodes every TUESDAY and FRIDAY.