Archive for monsters

Fragment from THE NIGHT SHADOWS REPORT: Dad’s Stories

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2017 by smuckyproductions

 

I’ve finished a major rewrite of this project, so here is a fragment to celebrate. From the novel’s beginning, when the protagonist remembers his father’s campfire stories, which set him on a journey into the darkness of the woods, and his mind. 

Dad’s stories were all the same. The details shifted, depending on my age or his mood, but the format and essence were set in stone from the first. That’s why I loved them and why he could remember how to tell them. He started as early as age five, maybe earlier. We had to wait for the campfire to be raging, dinner charred and devoured, a whiskey to lubricate his throat. By the time he was ready, dusk had settled around us; his head a big shadow against the gold-red sky, and the night wind starting to stir the trees. Dad would take a sip of his drink, inhale deeply – a moment of anticipation, suspense – and then he would begin.

“There are some things, Luke…” He did that a lot, borrowing grand ideas from smarter people and tossing them at minds who must have been too little to understand, or at least couldn’t recognize the source. And following this statement, he would weave his world. All it took was a sweep of his hand. A dark mountain, endless rows of murky pines, sharp smells of water and dirt; in the center of it all, a father and son, huddled around their fire. He had a special way of framing it, not quite literary but remarkable for a suburban father who prided himself on straightforward thinking – no frilly shit. Every time I heard that opening, I could see nothing aside from his fire-crossed face, and I would be transported.

Our hero, the son, was always my age and height – usually shared my name, too. Luke (or Dan or Mike, if Dad was feeling creative) had embarked on a camping trip with his father. They were having a hell of a time, an ideal escapade, with no need for lessons or encouraging words or explanations. The trip started in this ideal manner, told as Dad’s eyes went a little glassy with the fantasy; but night had to fall sometime.

For all his shortcomings, Dad understood better than most the landscape of the woods at night. He might have been a strong rival for Algernon Blackwood, if I do say so, had he given it any real thought. He had the atmosphere on his side, too. It’s incomparable – the darkness is so complete, trapped in the tree branches, and while you know that your surroundings are overwhelmingly huge, you feel entombed in them, unable to run in any direction. Just to stand within it, be a part of its fabric, is an exhilarating enigma. But with exhilaration can come fear. There is nothing lonelier in the world than being lost in the woods after dark. I’m not sure if he was aware, but Dad always infused this terror into his stories. As a kid, it’s even worse, looking up into the dark and knowing that your only protection is your father.

So night would fall on fictional Luke, and he would dutifully go to sleep, or venture into the trees for more firewood – an obedient counterpart. He wouldn’t get far before he felt a weight in his gut, the weight of far away eyes; and then the noises would start. A twig snaps. Footsteps – tiny or huge – echo in the distance, then again, a little closer. They rattle the boy’s bones as they drew forward. My little body would be quivering by this point, thinking of that huge form slinking so effortlessly through the forest – but my counterpart stands his ground. In the early stories, fictional Luke would walk into the firelight as the beast appears, mountainous in its ebony self that blocked out the moon. Dad never gave it a clear shape, but my brain did a fine job; always adding an extra eye or mouth, endless limbs to hug its victims to death. In its gut-shaking voice, the monster howls, “I am hungry! And my favorite food is little boys!” But the boy is no coward. He steps into the firelight and challenges the beast. Usually, his threats work; the monster breaks down and proclaims that he’s just lonely. The boy makes a new friend and Dad gets away with scaring the shit out of me – as long as it’s a happy ending. Though in the silence, when my dad started snoring, I would think of the monster’s approaching steps and wonder – in real life, would I be brave enough?

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THE HALLOW (2015) – Review

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2015 by smuckyproductions

2015 has been one of the best years for horror in recent memory – between It Follows, Goodnight Mommy, Crimson Peak, and now THE HALLOW.

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Premiering alongside the much-anticipated The Witch at the 2015 Park City at Midnight, this film has generated a ton of buzz for several reasons – the director’s involvement in The Crow remake and the use of almost entirely practical effects being the most notable of them. While I will say that my expectations were high and were not met head-on, this film is nonetheless one of the best creature-features of the past ten years.

We’ve seen the plot before – urban family moves to rural area and pisses off something in the woods. Director Corin Hardy embraces the simplicity of his story and tells it with passion. He cares about each element – his characters, his monsters, his horror – so much that the film becomes earnest and fully realized through his intensity alone. Simple it may be, but The Hallow is full of hellish energy and intensity, anchored by two talented actors who convince you that they’re worth investing in.

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But the best part of this film is its creatures and the evil that they commit. Corin Hardy is a visual artist, and an avid horror fan, which comes through beautifully. The design is both aesthetically fascinating and disturbing. Any film featuring a killer fungus is a sure winner, too. It’s a lot of fun to see Irish folklore brought to life and milked for all the nasty stuff it contains. These ‘fairies’ are not Tinkerbell – but they aren’t purely abject, either, because Hardy gives them personality, and their design feels organic. To have them played by human beings, not computers, is also fabulous.

The scenes of horror are masterful for this reason. There’s both creature terror and classic body horror, with things invading and transforming in hideous ways. Hardy orchestrates the scary moments very well – the scene where everything kicks into high gear is just awesome, and the scene in the attic, good lord. And the gross-out effects aren’t only gross. There’s emotion behind the scares, which makes them resonate.

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Unfortunately, these elements also end up dragging the film down by its final act. I’ve only seen one creature feature that maintains the terror all the way through – that’s Alien – because it’s immensely difficult to keep something scary once you’ve seen it and know it can be defeated. The Hallow falls into this trap, losing its power of shock and showing too much. This isn’t all bad, of course – when the horror stops, the action begins, and the film maintains its entertainment value, just entering a different type of fun. I would have preferred the horror myself, but the genre switch does not sacrifice the film’s heart. I’ll leave it at that to avoid spoilers.

So, it is flawed, and doesn’t reach the level of terror that other recent offerings maintain. But it’s a terrific ride in its own right. This is a solidly effective and beautifully designed modern creature feature.