31 Nights of Horror: An Epilogue

I’ve been doing 31 Nights of Horror for years. It’s a tradition stretching back nearly a decade now. Initially my brother and friends were who got my picks for the month. Later, the picks spread to Facebook. Now they’ve come to the web populace at large via this website.

Many people don’t like horror films. There are some people who don’t like the images they present or the stories they tell. They don’t like movies trying to scare them. These feelings and thoughts are entirely valid.

That said, many people have never seen really good horror pictures because the market has always been diluted with lowest common denominator dreck aimed at teenagers. The formula was distilled in the 70s and codified in the 80s. While these films might be shocking to the uninitiated, they aren’t really horror movies.

Real horror movies can appear in any genre. They are movies that make you feel the cold air in the darkened theater. They raise the hair on the back of your neck. They push you into uneasy emotional territory. The important thing is that they make you feel. The feelings they tap into are just as powerful as those touched by romances or dramas.

The emotion of being afraid is something we feel immediately upon entering this world. It comes from the loud sounds and bright lights that had previously been muted inside our mother’s wombs. It continues as we learn what is known and unknown. We know what’s in the light because we can see and touch it. What lingers in the dark? Wild animals who hunt nocturnally. That primal fear is mixed in our heads with everything else to form new horrors…horrors you are forced to watch in the theater of the mind. Watching, reading and listening to scary things is a way to inoculate ourselves. They allow us to temper our fears the same way your taste is tempered by spicy foods.

Remember this Halloween that scary things are out there. The only real protection is to face your fears one at a time. The easiest way is to return to the primal idea of the collective and shared risk. Go see a scary movie with friends or as part of the crowd at a movie theater. Your fear is reduced because you aren’t alone. This is the idea behind 31 Nights of Horror: Shared risk and enjoyment. In the age of so called “social media” what could be more appropriate?

31 Nights of Horror: An Index

Oct 1: House of Wax
Oct 2: Fascination

Oct. 3: NOS4A2

Oct. 4: Carnival of Souls

Oct. 5: Frailty

Oct 6: Wallace and Gromit in Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Oct 7: Friday the 13th

Oct 8: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Oct 9: I Married a Witch

Oct 10: Tower of Evil

Oct 11: Gremlins 2

Oct 12: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oct 13: The Fog

Oct 14: Sinister

Oct 15: The Haunting

Oct 16: Pacific Rim

Oct 17: Warm Bodies

Oct 18: Arsenic and Old Lace

Oct 19: An American Werewolf in London

Oct 20: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Oct 21: Click-Clack the Rattlebag

Oct 22: The Howling

Oct 23: The Conjuring

Oct 24: Pit and the Pendulum

Oct 25: Rosemary’s Baby

Oct 26: Viy

Oct 27: Juan of the Dead

Oct 28: The Halloween Tree

Oct 29: Doctor Sleep

Oct 30: Orson Welles’ Production of ‘War of the Worlds’

Oct 31: Dracula: Prince of Darkness


Sleepy Time

I started reading Doctor Sleep today. It’s Stephen King’s follow up on Danny Torrence, the kid from The Shining.

Two things struck me in the first chapter: I had a little bit of a nerdgasm when I saw King hook his universe up to his son Joe Hill’s with threats of Charlie Manx being levied against a character. Manx is a special kind of evil that fits perfectly within the worlds created by the elder King. Also, for anyone wondering what will happen if/when King actually does retire from writing. With Doctor Sleep, the torch has been at least unofficially passed.

Second, King’s book is really a special gift for fans of Scatman Crothers because Dick Hallorann is back. I think Hong Kong Fooey was my first introduction to Crothers followed by his portrayal of Jazz in the Transformers cartoon. It would be a while before I saw him in The Shining, but not before learning to love the decency and humanity he brought to all his roles, even cartoon voicing that might have only been to keep the lights on.

Modern Masculinity

Has anyone else been reading the frank discussion of cross gender issues on Cher Nobelle‘s website? Most of the items on her blog are in response to some guy who thinks he can’t be masculine in the modern world–that women destroyed that. I find this notion fascinating as a man in the modern world.

A lot of the people she writes about cling to old notions of what a man is or should be. They long to be the cowboy portrayed in a Marlboro advertisement. They want to look scruffy, wear chaps and rope doggies. Unfortunately if people like them were with a herd of cattle, it would likely be City Slickers 3 – The Posers Are in Town.

Doing manly things is hard. Mending fences is tough work even around a single acre much less hundreds of them. Recognizing the health of a cow, knowing when a calf is due, and what to do if the mom needs help are not things you just know. You also have to spend a lot of time with a rope and know how to use it the same way MacGyver uses a paperclip. And this is just scratching the surface of but one of the “manly men” professions.

I sympathize with these guys in some ways. It sucks to decide that you need to work out 72 hours a week to attract a woman, then have no woman be interested at all in you. They shouldn’t blame the women for being disinterested. Women do like a physically fit guy, but women need more than that from a guy who aims to be more than a one-time 15 minute shag. Instead of spending all their time looking up creatine concoctions, how about reading books women like? Not only will you gain insight into how women think, you will also arm yourself with a topic for conversation. Imagine how impressed if after you compliment the cute girl at the store, you ask her if Dogberry is her favorite character in Much Ado about Nothing.

These guys forget how hard it was to gain access to women in the past. I am really happy that I wasn’t required to kill anyone to obtain the affection of my fiancee. There was no duel with a rival suitor. There were no wild melees with a man who felt she was his territory.  I didn’t have to prove my worthiness by building the prettiest house or wearing the most brightly colored outfit the way that some birds do in order to attract a mate. I didn’t have societal pressures like “class” make it impossible for me to cross social strata to interact with her.

Yes, the role of men has changed and evolved over time. For the most part, it’s a big win for men. Yes, somewhere in the last 20 years, men lost the ability to rape a woman and have it he her fault. It’s no longer ok to slap a woman’s butt in public without some public shaming. These are small prices to pay in order to not spend the next three months riding around the hillside looking for lost calves, pulling barbed wire taut and masturbating on a bed of rocks with your head on a saddle.

31 Nights of Horror: N0S4A2

There is a man named Charlie Manx. If you get in his car, he will take you to Christmasland, a theme park where children never age and candy is always for dinner. The catch is that en route, Manx’s car, a ’38 Rolls Royce Wraith, will drain your soul powering itself and keeping Manx young. The you that arrives at Christmasland will not be the you before entering the car. This is with whom Vic McQueen does battle with in Joe Hill’s N0S4A2.

I discovered Joe Hill just after returning from my Peace Corps service. I devoured his first novel, Heart-shaped Box, in a way I hadn’t since I was in my early teens reading his dad’s stuff. Hill writes a lot like his dad, but he has extra geek cred because, well, he’s one of us. By us, I mean he’s from our demographic–a GenXer who loves comics and knows that there was an art to the tales his dad spun. Lou Carmody is a fat slob of a hero, but he’s also one of the few purely good characters I have encountered that seemed real. He rescues Vic in more ways than one over the course of the story sometimes at great risk to himself. He also convinces her to name their kid Bruce Wayne Carmody if you wondered where Lou’s loyalties like in a battle between Superman and Batman.

Vic herself is blessed with a particular power–an ability to travel to places where she needs to be simply by crossing an old, mostly destroyed bridge. Her power comes at a price to herself. There are other characters with similar powers, and each of them has to pay some price for their supranormal abilities. But Lou, again, is one of us. He stands close to these people armed with nothing but his courage, and sometimes that even fails him.

I could talk more about the plot–how Vic meets Manx, how Manx’s chases her with both vengeance and lust in his heart, how Vic’s parents are also incredibly real and flawed, how the book riffs on the loss of youth and innocence, but I won’t. You need to pick up the book and read all these things and more for yourself. If you haven’t read Joe Hill yet, this is the perfect place to start. His other two books are both good with really rich characters who I wish I could meet and hang out with, but there’s something special about Vic, Lou and their battle with Manx. I can tell you that this book is amazingly well-written and the perfect seasonal accompaniment. With the lights off. With the sound of a motorcycle revving in the late night autumn air.