Archive for disturbing

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.

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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.

New episode of MINUTE MORBIDITIES: GROOMING

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Good morning, horror fans! A gruesome Friday treat for you: the third episode of Minute Morbidities has been released. (And it’s not for the faint of heart.)

Appearance is very important.

Don’t forget to share the scare – tell your friends and family about this nasty web series!

Upcoming Film – “Goodnight Mommy”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Fantastically excited for the release of Goodnight Mommy this Friday, at the IFC Center. I’ll be seeing it hopefully that day and posting a review following.

Rumor has it that, at its festival premiers, several audience members had to run out of the theater due to the extremity of the ending. That alone makes it tantalising – the trailer seals the deal, so to speak.

This film seems to be a part of a festival trend, discovering quality, original horror films and bringing them to the mainstream. It occurred last year with “It Follows” and “The Babadook,” arguably the best horror films to come out in this decade. This year we have “Goodnight Mommy” and “The Witch,” among others. I’m hoping this is a start of a trend, paying more attention to indie horror that has a brain (and a heart).

Anyone else excited for this? Leave a comment and let me know what films are on your 2015 list!