Too Spoopy

Too Spoopy

+menu-


  • Tag Archives Jack Ketchum
  • Random-Ass Interview: Jack Ketchum

    Ketchum

    Is there anything you wouldn’t sign for a fan?

    I think a penis is out of the question.

    What do you think of this new era in which tattoos are losing their stigma, and it seems that everyone and their grandma is getting ink done? Did you do any research into tattoos for your story The Rose.

    The first tattoo I ever saw on a pretty woman was that little one I describe in THE ROSE. The woman who wore it was a formidable but fragile-looking New York waitress, and I wrote the story for her. I like tatts if they’re well done, though I don’t have any myself. In my generation guys wore their hair long, women went braless and everybody had bell-bottom hip-hugger jeans and love beads. I have no problem with decorating the tree.

    Have you ever come up with any pseudonyms you decided not to use?

    Stinky Pinky.

    Has anyone ever sent you an angry email saying their name is Jack Ketchum, and that they wish you would stop writing books?

    No but I did have one guy on my message board say he’d like to “hang my sorry ass” just as they did my namesake.

    Do you have a working title for your book of poetry, or your collection of essays on other writers, or your next short story collection yet?
    Is one closer to the finish line than the others?

    Closest to the finish line is the book of poems, NOTES FROM THE CAT HOUSE. It’s edited and we’re at the discussing-cover-art stage. And I’ll be reading them myself for the audio-book version, which we’re planning to tape some time late this month up at Lucky McKee’s place in Oklahoma. Next up will be WHAT THEY WROTE: In Praise of Dark Fiction. I haven’t finished the story collection yet so the title’s subject to change, but I’m thinking WINTER CHILD at the moment.

    What’s the craziest shit you’ve ever seen in NYC?

    Walking up Broadway one day I saw this guy in a natty three-piece suit pull his jacket up completely over his head so he couldn’t see a damn thing and walk two blocks blind, crossing 69th Street against the light.

    Favorite horror comic, and or just comic, you read as a child?

    What’s your favorite comic currently, if you have one?

    I’m out of the loop on comics these days. But growing up I loved the Classic Comics, which I’d often read alongside the actual book so I could figure out what the author was saying during the rough spots. And then for some reason I was crazy about Plastic Man, reaching around buildings after the bad guys.


    Would you ever like to adapt your work into a comic? If there is already an adaptation out, I apologize for not knowing about it.
    (I think an Off Season comic would make my life, if adapted correctly.)

    Nobody’s approached me to adapt a novel, but I’d be up for it. OFF SEASON would be a great place to start. There’s one in the works for my story THE BOX. I read the storyboard and it’s pretty damn good.

    Has a nun ever thrown anything at you?
    They can’t all be winners…

    I had a brief affair with an ex-nun my first year out of college. I can’t remember if she threw anything at me. But probably.

    How many pets have you had over the years? Did you ever try to get them to dance around a fire, ala your story from Peaceable Kingdom, Firedance?

    When I was a kid my family had three dogs and a cat. Since then I’ve had ten cats, five of them with me now. I think they dance around a whole fuck of a lot while I’m asleep.

    Has there ever been a cover a publisher wanted to use that you weren’t a fan of?

    How much creative control have you had over covers in the past, and have you acquired more creative control over your covers in current years?

    What’s up with this cover?

    girlnextdoorcover

    Good grief, that again! The worst of a bad lot. The original covers for HIDE AND SEEK and COVER
    were lousy too, and I thought the single drop of blood against the black background for OFF SEASON was a ripoff of a Tom Tyron book — a drop of blood against a white background — though a lot of people seemed to like it. I’d suggested a severed female arm reaching up a la the Sistine Chapel’s Adam reaching up to god, and a red box with the words WARNING: THIS BOOK CONTAINS SCENES THAT MAY BE TOO GRAPHICALLY REALISTIC FOR SOME READERS prominent at the bottom. Which I thought was absolutely true. They actually printed something like that for the distributors’ edition but then dumped it when the distributors started calling me a violent pornographer. Early on the major publishers almost never gave me good covers. But this one for GIRL was the pits. It shot itself in the foot. If you were looking for fun horror, GIRL wasn’t it, and if you were looking for serious horror, you’d never pick up a book with that idiot image on the front. Now, unless it’s a foreign edition — and sometimes even then — I have serious input on all my covers.

    How do you deal with douchebags? I mean, you, specifically.

    I tolerate them until they become intolerable, then I leap down their throat. Happily I haven’t had to do that in a long time. It’s not a pretty sight.

    If you could be a dinosaur, what kind would you want to be?

    Archaeopteryx, transitioning into bird.

    Archaeopteryx

    Do you ever go to events out of genre functions to promote your work?

    I’ve done a few library readings and a half dozen or so at Barnes & Noble. And they tend to ask me once a year to read at the KGB Bar here in Manhattan. The year before last at Halloween I read two stories while artists illustrated them at the same time, which was projected live onto screens, and we had bands playing music they’d composed for each of the stories to accompany them. That was great fun!

    Sister guest questions:

    Gillian-Okay… do you like the beach?

    The nude ones, yes. The others, eh.

    What’s your favorite smell?

    A woman’s hair, a cat’s fur.

    What’s your favorite meat?

    Sauerbraten.


    Have you ever thought about writing a noir mystery novel?

    Though of it, but not seriously enough to actually do anything about it. Yet.

    What do you think of some of the names used to describe the subgenres your work supposedly fits into, such as splatterpunk, or torture porn for the film adaptations, such as The Woman?

    I prefer to think of your work as social horror, and the more extreme stuff I think of as simply extreme horror. Do you find the concept of genre labels to be something your not concerned with, and to be something publishers are primarily concerned with?

    We do love our little pigeonholes, don’t we. Okay, take these two. Edward Lee called me the Godfather of Splatterpunk and I didn’t mind that at all. If you’ve read the two original anthologies you know they’re pretty damn good, so to be associated with them was fine with me. Lately a lot of what I’ve read in the area of extreme horror is dull, derivative and dumbed-down, extreme for the sake of extreme, with no attention to character or new ideas, though happily there are also plenty of exceptions to that. So I still don’t mind. The term torture-porn is simply nonsense. What people are calling torture-porn is just FRIDAY THE 13th given a face-lift. You want real torture porn, you go on the net, right? You go to Abused Tube or Kinky Tube or whatever. Whoever called THE WOMAN torture porn should go do a comparison test between any of the FRIDAY movies and, say, HOSTEL and realize how alike they are, then watch THE WOMAN and see how different it is. All that said, I honestly don’t care what people call my stuff. I just call it “my stuff.”

    How many index cards do you usually go through per story? I wanna say I heard you say in an interview you take notes for your books on index cards, and put them on a cork board.

    Index cards, post-it notes, bar napkins. Yeah, they’re all over my three-quarter-round bulletin board. For a novel I can go through a hundred of them. But there’s always something. Story ideas out of left field, dreams, crazy notions. Right now there are thirty-six. I counted them for you.

    Is your worst fear a snake that’s abusive to its family?

    Ha! Actually my worst fear is Alzheimer’s. I get that, I might think that I’m a snake that’s abusive to his family.

    Would you be overjoyed if Tom Waits read one of your stories for an audiobook?

    Fuck, yes! And could I have James Earl Jones do one too? I might get rich on that one…


    What’s he worst job you’ve ever had? How did the lumberyard job stack up?

    In college I played garbage man to a slightly batty old Boston Brahmin lady who ate entirely out of S. S. Pierce cans. She’s wash them out clean and I’d come by once a week to collect them from her kitchen and take them down and dump them. She’d want to talk my ear off every time. And man, those cans were heavy! The lumberyard was a piece of cake by comparison. Hell, I got to drive a fork-lift.


    I know how you feel about the current self-publishing crazy landscape, but for my readers who haven’t heard you speak on it, what are your thoughts on this self publishing trend?

    What are your thoughts on the ever-evolving landscape of publishing? Has anything really changed, or just it does seem that way?

    Self-publishing used to be called Vanity Publishing and there was a reason for that. About ten of your closest friends were going to buy and read your book and you’d have boxes up the wazoo in your living room. Any fool could call himself an author and still can. Though now, because the net has made it cheaper, any godforsaken, lazy-ass fool can. And he can do it over and over again! Editors and agents, fallible though they may be, are the only ones that stand between us readers and the total dumbing-down of what we read. E-publishing is fine if you’re an established writer, if you’ve already earned your spurs. But that means you’ve probably already been rejected time and time again first. You’ve maybe even gotten some good advice along the way. Not everybody can drive a fork-lift first time out. And not everybody can be a writer.


    Thanks for agreeing to the interview. If you have anything to plug, plug it up right now!

    Almost all my Leisure titles have been picked up for either trade paperback or e-book or both by Amazon, so if you’re looking for my stuff that’s a good place to start. You can find books with other publishers by going to the list on my website at http://jackketchum.net and there’s even some freebies up there, with more to come, and a message board for you to complain on or whatever. The five movies made from my books are all available on Netflix. And finally…you’re welcome.


  • A Container of Terror: The Box in Horror Fiction

    The box, and especially its contents, has been a horror staple for many a year. You’ll excuse me, if during the course of my article I neglect to mention any number of what I’m sure are a great deal of stories containing boxes. Feel free to leave some stories with the cursed shape in the comment section below.

    The most famous box in horror literature, (yes, this article will be an exercise in avoiding innuendo, hard as it may be), is the lament configuration, Lemarchand’s box, from the brilliant novella by Clive Barker, The Hellbound Heart.

    This creation, from the exquisitely brimstone-laden mind of Barker, opens up a doorway to the gates of Hell, and releases the Cenobites. If you’re unfamiliar with the plot of The Hellbound Heart, apparently you’ve been living under a rock, and you can go Google it. The Cenobites of course went on to give fashion advice to the lead singer of Cradle of Filth.


    You opened the box, we came, and gave you fashion advice. We never told you to put in blue hair extensions.
    That shit is very tacky looking.

    Another brilliant, though somewhat lesser known story containing a box, is Jack Ketchum’s aptly titled story The Box from his infinitely rereadable short story collection Peaceable Kingdom.

    This story is about a man on the train two days before Christmas with a “red square gift box,” who lets the narrator’s son Danny look and see what’s inside his present. Unfortunately, said glimpse leads Danny to lose all appetite, and he withers away and dies from starvation. Though, Danny is perfectly content, and does not complain about being hungry. One night, mere weeks before his death, Danny tells his sister’s, Clarissa and Jenny, what he saw in the box. Soon, they stop eating. Soon, the narrator’s wife stops eating as well. It’s a heartbreaking, and incredibly scary, story.

    Here, we are presented with a particularly effective device used to scare. Stephen King discusses the concepts of this tool in Danse Macabre, when he discusses, to paraphrase, the concept of the thing behind the door. King references what he heard an author by the name of William F. Nolan say at the 1979 World Fantasy convention. The text can be found starting on page 110 of the 1981 Berkley edition.

    What’s behind the door or lurking at the top of the stairs is never as frightening as the door or the staircase itself.
    And because of this, comes the paradox: the artistic work of horror is almost always a disappointment. It is the classic
    no-win situation.

    It is common sense, as King goes on to explain by giving the example of a huge bug behind the door.

    You can scare people with the unknown for a long, long time (the classic example, as Bill Nolan also pointed out, is the Jacques Tourneur film with Dana Andrews, Curse of the Demon but sooner or later, as in poker, you have to turn your down cards up. You have to open the door and show the audience what’s behind it. And if what happens to be behind it is a bug, not ten but a hundred feet tall, the audience heaves a sigh of relief (or utters a scream of relief) and thinks, “A bug a hundred feet tall is pretty horrible, but I can deal with that. I was afraid it might be a thousand feet tall”…

    The Box by Ketchum, is not a typical example of a Ketchum story, as he normally doesn’t use this style of leaving most everything up to the reader’s imagination. However, it is a very efficient scary story, and it is the ambiguous nature of what this boy, Danny, saw within the red present box, which is so terrifying. The closest we get to an explanation of its contents, is on page 29 of the 2003 Leisure fiction edition of Peaceable Kingdom.

    “I don’t know. It was just…the box was empty.”
    He looked at me as though it was impossible for him to understand why I didn’t understand. Empty was empty. That was that.

    Something in this present box, made Danny, his sisters, and eventually their mother, lose all desire to eat. This leads the reader to fret over what it could have been in the box that could have such an effect on four people, of different ages. To add to the dread, only Danny actually saw what was in the present box, and the rest merely heard about it. We don’t know if it is the power of the thing in the box, whether it spreads some kind of disease of the mind; we have no idea what the contents of the present were, whose only gift appears to be a slow death.

    Though he is rarely thought of as a horror author, and rightly so as he is primarily a transgressive fiction author, Chuck Palahniuk has a wonderful story from his short story collection Haunted entitled, also fittingly enough, The Nightmare Box.

    The Nightmare Box tells the tale of Mrs Clark, and her fifteen year old daughter, Cassandra. Cassandra disappears one day, weeks after she has been to an art gallery containing something known as, you guessed it “The Nightmare Box.” It’s a box on “three tall legs,” “A tripod,” and it used to be in an antiques store, before it made its way to the gallery. It is described as “black,” and “the size of an old-time camera.” Each side of the box has “brass handles,” and you have to hold onto both while staring into the box to “complete a circuit.” The box has a “brass peephole,” on it, for you to stare into while you hold onto the brass handles. Long story short, you stare into the box, and you are playing Russian roulette with your sanity. For, not everyone gets to see anything, but for a very unlucky few, they see something so scarring, so horrifying, they have a nervous breakdown. They become withdrawn and hopeless. Needless to say, Cassandra is one of these unlucky people. There seems to be a lot of people who find this story, and indeed this collection, lacking. To those people, I say with utmost sincerity, you’re entitled to your opinion, but I love this story, and this collection.

    We can go back to Danse Macabre, to read more of King’s opinions on this, the thing we can not see.

    There is and always has been a school of horror writers (I am not among them) who believe that the way to beat this rap is to never open the door at all. .

    So this article doesn’t end up as just one long-ass Dance Macabre quote, let me go through the rest of what King says quickly. He mentions the film adaptation of the book by Shirley Jackson The Haunting of Hill House,which is directed by Robert Wise. It is the thing behind the door that causes it to “bulge grotesquely inward until it looks like a great convex bubble,” King is intrigued by, and its effect on the human imagination. He goes on to mention how “Lovecraft would open the door… but only a crack…” Let us skip to the end, where the rest of the meat of the discourse can be found, on page 113.

    My own disaproval of this method-We’ll let the door bulge but we’ll never open it-comes from the belief that it is playing to tie rather than to win. There is (or may be), after all, that hundreth case, and there is the whole concept of suspension of disbelief. Consequently, I’d rather yank the door open at some point during the festivities; I’d rather turn my hole cards face-up. And if the audience screams with laughter rather than terror, if they see the zipper running up the monster’s back, then you just gotta go back to the drawing board and try it again.

    While it is unfair to apply this quote to the stories and authors in question, as they usually don’t rely on this device in their fiction, it does bring up a valid critique of the method. Of course this device is effective; one doesn’t have to show anything. It’s the same approach as shutting off all the lights in your film or show, and relying only upon sound. The imagination is vastly superior and pumping in the fear, then any writer could ever be. Yet, it’s fun to read stories like Ketchum’s The Box and Palahniuk’s The Nightmare Box,for they allow us to use our imaginations.

    Finally, let us look at Richard Matheson’s story Button, Button or as you might know it, The Box which was the name of the film it was adapted into. It tells the story of a couple who receive a box, with a button inside. They are told that if they press the button, they will receive 50,000 dollars, but someone will die, and they will have no idea who this person will be. As you can probably guess, one of the two in the couple presses the button. You can listen to an excerpt from the audiobook version below.

    Button, Button is another variation on the unknowable effect if the box, much like in The Hellbound Heart. In this instance, the couple does not know who will die, rather than what the occupants of Hell will look like. Yet, isn’t each just a different take on the thing behind the door, which we can not see? The difference in this case, is we do get to eventually see the things brought by the Hell box, or the person who dies because of the button, in the box. But it is the unknown which is still the cause of apprehension and dread. And this is the power of the box with the horrible consequences as a literary device. This unknown effect, whether seen or never seen, is at the root of all good scary stories. It is this give and take which causes the fear response. And the box is a perfect metaphor for the concept of the unknown. The classic example is obviously the tale of Pandora’s Box. So, it’s been shown to be a lasting technique. Human curiosity leads one to open the box, and thus human curiosity brings about the undoing of man.

    Keep your eyes peeled for part 2 of this series, in which I explore the box as a container of terror in film.


  • Cover, and sympathy for a murderer

    As is blatantly obvious by now, I’m a huge Jack Ketchum fan. I’m going through everything the man has written, in the same way as a teenager I voraciously flipped through the pages of Stephen King. Once I latch onto a writer, I dig in and try to read everything they have to offer. I’m the same way with directors.
    So, a year ago I read Cover. You might wonder, well, why the delay on a review of it then? Well, I’ll tell you, you nosy son of a bitch, and by the way, if you think you can do any better, I’d like to see you…
    Because I’m an epic procrastinator. But, most importantly, I love this book. Often, when faced with something I truly love, I don’t want to review it. I feel like I won’t be able to do the work justice. Same reason I’ve yet to write a review for my favorite book, The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub. I don’t want to half-ass it, and make these great works sound anything less than what they are.
    Enough self-indulgence. Here is why Cover by Jack Ketchum is one of the single best books ever written.
    It makes you feel sorry for a man who kills innocent people.
    (Side note, the one sentence paragraph thing, yeah, it’s a Ketchum staple, and every time I do it, I’m paying homage to his style. And or ripping him off, whichever you prefer. The incomplete sentences are mostly me. When I abuse semi-colons, I’m paying homage/ripping off King; let’s face it, this whole parenthetical pause is a King homage/ rip off also. If I ever use gibbous or eldritch, well, take a wild guess with that one. Hey, you gotta start somewhere.)
    All you really need to know about the plot, is that it involves a Vietnam vet, who has terrible PTS, and flashbacks. As a result, he has to live in the woods, his wife and child are forced to leave him, and he has to work as a Marijuana farmer. He’s so out of it, he can’t work with regular people. He’s too dangerous to live anywhere but alone, deep in the woods.
    Your heart will bleed for this guy, Lee. The woods are his home, and all he has left is his dog. Some unlucky campers decide to camp out in Lee’s woods. Lee goes into flashback mode, and suddenly these regular people become the Viet Cong. And trust me, you don’t want to mess with Lee when he’s in war mode.
    Now, the campers are interesting. We get some chapters from their perspectives, an author, his wife, his mistress, and a photographer and playwright. For some reason, the wife knows about the affair the author is having with the mistress he brings along on the trip, and is completely fine with it, and her. This subplot of the novel is a bit odd. If there is one part of the book that seems somewhat off kilter, it’s this. But, you’re still glad he fleshes out the innocent victims. It makes it so much worse when they bite it.
    It takes a writer skilled in handling complex emotional landscapes to make a murderer, even one with flashbacks he can’t control, seem sympathetic. Yet, Ketchum does this with ease. You find yourself feeling sorry not only for the people Lee kills, but for Lee himself. You actually feel bad for the guy who is killing innocent campers with booby traps!
    This is one of Ketchum’s lesser known books, and that needs to change. Do yourself a favor, and track down a copy of this book, especially if you are interested in PTS, and war vets. It’s heartbreaking, nerve-wracking, and powerful until the last page.


  • The ADD Horror Fan, Life on the…Look, a String!

    Dude, ain’t done one o dese in a while. What the hell, I’ll do another one, maybe do some more. Speaking of some more, watched PA 3…well, read review for thoughts. Anyone else getting really tired of sequels and prequels? And remakes, fugedaboutit! I still haven’t seen The Thing remake. Heard it’s decent, but I’ll wait for the dvd.
    My parents had no power last week, so we watched a Tales From the Crypt dvd I brought over; I think it was season 4. Before that, I read a story I wrote for this Halloween called The Crunch of Dead Leaves. Yet another story that takes place near Whispering Pines. I’ve practically jumped the shark on them, and I haven’t even written the themed short story collection I’m planning yet! Oy Gavalt!
    Meshugana sounds kind of like Meshuggah, that band I don’t listen to. But I do like this radio Disney version of they song I’d never heard before.

    I got really bummed out the other day, cuz I figured out the site stat thing counted when I was looking at my site. So, I thought I had more readers than I actually do. But, to the ten of you that read this site, thank you. I’ll be sure to awkwardly not say hi to you, and just stare at you, when I see you in public.
    I’m drinking tea. T is the first letter of Texas. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the original, was one of the best independent films ever made. Tobe Hooper, why you no make good films any more?
    I’m reading Peaceable Kingdom by Jack Ketchum. What prompted it, was the analysis of the story Gone by Nicole…somethingerother…just follow the fucking link.
    Gone, bastiches
    Bastiches is a great word. Got it from Lobo comics, not to be confused with Los Lobos, the shitty band.
    Speaking of bands, Gwar’s lead guitarist died, which is a bummer. I wonder if it was drugs?
    Same thing I wonder about Gary Busey. You think that’s just how he is, or do you think there were a lot of drugs at some point?

    I want that man’s life. He makes a living on being a weirdo. How come I don’t get paid to be a professional weirdo? C’est la vie. I always have to google how to spell that. French girls are hot. So is my tea, I’m drinking it. I’m loving it, but it’s not from Mcdonalds. The Mcdonalds near my apartment has road work near it, and I was going to hit it up, but ya know, the road work. So, I went to Wendy’s. I go to get fast food after job interviews, especially shitty ones, which was the one yesterday. I’m going to be stuck at my crappy job forever, probably. Hey, at least I have a blog no one reads to vent on.
    I always love that scene in Die Hard, when McClane is in the vent. Or air duct. Whatever the fuck you call it.
    Yippie kiyay motherfuckers. I always remember it as yippie ki-yi-yay, but that’s just wrong.
    Who wants to see some chicks butt?


  • Off Season…Still Crazy After All These Years

    The king of social horror, Jack Ketchum is one of those rare individuals that seems to want to scare you so bad, he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about his reputation. The man writes such horrifying, disgusting things, and the worst part is often there is a tiny bit of fact behind his work. The Girl Next Door is based on the real case of Sylvia Likens, and the book Red could be pulled right from the headlines. However, the one that started it all, the one that left Ketchum’s first scar upon the world of horror literature, was Off Season. I won’t go into the history of the book, but if you have the time, Google its title, and read about the trouble Ketchum had releasing it. He was only able to come out with an uncensored version a few years back.
    A couple of people stay in a cabin in the woods of Dead River, Maine, and are attacked by a tribe of cannibals that live in the woods. That’s all you need to know.
    To paraphrase, Ketchum explain that he wrote this book to mirror the violence he saw in horror films like TCM (original) and Last House on the Left; movies like these which took place in real-time. The book was first released in 1980, and The Village Voice called it “violent pornography.” It isn’t, though this turn of phrase reminds me of the current “torture porn,” which is equally inane. To my mind, both of these descriptions are of a certain kind of porn containing s and m, or a snuff film; they are not adequate to describe gory films, unless there is a sexual element infused. A Serbian Film is the only movie I can think of that might be classified as such.
    If you’re going to read this beast, I suggest you read the unexpurgated edition, if only because it has a recipe for human being jerky in it. I think the cover looks way niftier too.
    So, holy shit, how do you even review this book? You know when you watch a film, or read a story, and you feel like you are taking a ride with a rebel? When you feel like anything could happen? Well, that’s my favorite kind of a journey. With Off Season, you’re reading a book, made by someone who first and foremost wants to scare the piss out of you. This is a book written to not so much go over the line, as to skip screaming over said line, and then grab a bazooka and blow the line to millions of fucking pieces. And I loved every damn minute of it.
    It’s bleak, it’s dark, it’s gory, and it is frightening. It may make you never want to visit the state of Maine ever again. Hell, it may make you never want to go in the woods again.
    For fans of shocking horror, but most of all, for fans of well written page turners. Its sentences are short and sharp, like a quick knife wound to the gut. Off Season will grab you by the tender parts, and head butt you in the damn nose…metaphorically.
    Welcome to Dead River.


  • The Evil that Men Do; The Woman Review

    What really scares me the most, are stories about regular people, with dark secrets. Because despite the intellectual part of my brain explaining that no, if I go out to put a letter in the mailbox, someone won’t run up and stab me to death, the phobic part of my brain still screams in terror every time I do even the most mundane of tasks outside of what I think of as my “safe zone.”
    An author that excels at true crime, realistic horror, the kind that get under my skin, is the woefully under appreciated Jack Ketchum. Ketchum understands that often, the scariest stories are about something as simple as a next door neighbor, with hidden, deviant desires. Time and again, Ketchum creates all too believable characters, who do terrible things because of very human motivations, like lust or insecurity. Some of these characters turn out to just be off their rocker. Yet, they never seem like characters in a book when you read Ketchum’s words. They seem like someone you know, a man or a woman you remember wondering about after a barbecue, or similar boring function.
    Which brings us to Lucky McKee, another director who excels at horror tales more often than not, just about people. He stared this trend with his first film, May (first released film at least, All Cheerleaders Die still has yet to be released…), the story of an isolated young girl whose best friend is a doll she received as a child. Things go wildly out of control for May through out the course of the film, though I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it yet. McKee is a master of the human horror tale.
    Kecthum and McKee decided to collaborate on a book together, and on a film, entitled The Woman. I’ve yet to read the book, but having seen the movie, my first reaction is simply “holy fuck.” That was my first honest review of the film after seeing it, just “holy fuck.” This is not to be taken lightly, my friends. I spend my life searching for the most disturbing films ever created. I spend hours reading about horrible murders, terrible monsters, ghosts. The Woman scared me, in the sense that it was far too close to home. It attacks through its depictions of an awful father, and the pain his family has to go through.
    A sense that this could be a house down the street from you, has nothing to do with the specific location the work was filmed in. It has to do with the characters we meet, and it has to do with the painstaking length McKee goes to make these people seem real. Which is why we are ultimately so shocked when near the end of the film, all Hell breaks loose.
    Hate to give plot synopsis, because I hate to ruin films for people. I’d prefer you went into The Woman relatively blind. However, in the interest of having you know at least something about the plot, I’ll give you a sentence. A terrible man finds a wild woman in the woods, and attempts to civilize her. Where the film goes from there is what makes it so fascinating.
    The use of framing in The Woman is masterful. This is a film that knows exactly what it’s doing. Everything is deliberate. It makes the film that much more terrifying to watch. You know that McKee wants to scare you, just look at the way he has the camera right in this or that character’s face, as something terrible is happening off screen.
    The use of editing aids in making you panic. I should know, it certainly made me very anxious. I nearly had a panic attack by the end of the film.
    The only aspect of the film I was on the fence about, was the choice of music. Obviously, I don’t have the same musical taste as Lucky McKee. To be fair, I rarely like much of the music I hear in any movie. Much of the songs are done by the same person, and are in a slow, acoustic style, or an indie rock kind of a style. Sometimes, the musical tracks seemed to get a little too overt. The use of score, and sound effects is great. Really, I’m just a proponent of not using songs with lyrics in films. I find they instantly take you out of a film.
    Usually, what really draws me into a film is the plot. For while explosions and T n A will drag me to the theater, it is the story that will have me re-watching the film, it’s the story that will make me want to buy a poster of the movie, that will make me want to campaign for a t-shirt to be made of the film (I’m looking at you Fright Rags, make me a The Woman shirt, dammit!). It is the story that hits me on that all important emotional level. And the story of The Woman is nothing less than the story of the uglier side of humanity. It is the story of our secret desires, and of the lengths that people will go to act out these terrible ideas. So, basically, it’s your typical Ketchum theme. I’ve heard some complaining that the humor in the film feels out of place, but adding humor to something as bleak as The Woman, only adds to the story. It makes the tale into a collaborative effort between Ketchum and McKee, and since I’m a huge fan of each artist, it’s a win win for my brain.
    Finally, I want to talk about Pollyanna Mcintosh. Most of the “holy fuck” of this movie, revolves around her character, and her jaw-dropping performance. She plays The Woman with equal parts feral beast, and deranged, all to human, woman. Angela Bettis does a great job as a battered house wife, and so did the rest of the cast, including Sean Bridgers as the head of the household, and Zach Rand as Brian, the son that has learned every lesson his deranged father has taught at him. Likewise, Lauren Ashley Carter plays a very convincing daughter subject to abuse. Yet, it’s Mcintosh’s Nicholson-esque, penetrating gaze that haunts you, after you’ve gone home, and are lying down in bed. She owns every minute we see her on screen as The Woman.
    I look forward to more Ketchum McKee collaborations in the future, or Hell, just more Ketchum and McKee in the future. These are artists that aren’t afraid of getting a bad reputation. Artists that know that first and foremost, art is not safe. That creative expression is often a terrifying thing in the horror genre, as it always should be. So, while more movies with sensual, teenaged vampires, and more terrible remakes are sure to come, take solace in the fact that there are still film makers like McKee, who want to scare the fuck out of you.


  • Random-Ass Interview: Lucky Mckee

    I first heard about one Mr. Lucky Mckee when I watched a film called May, several years ago, while I was still enrolled in college. I’ve been veritably obsessed with the man’s work since then, and I was even privileged enough to shake hands with Lucky at Rock and Shock several years ago. I just remember walking up, and asking if I could get a picture. Lucky was reading a book, and he put it down, and proceeded to stand up. It was only then that I realized how tall Lucky Mckee actually is.

    Lucky typed all his answers in caps. In the interest of style, I have changed them to lower case letters. I just tend to assume caps means shouting, so it also helps you not to think he shouted his answers to me.
    Anyway, off we go.

    Have you ever thought about being a basketball player?

    When I was young, sure. But I could never keep my head in a game, thoughts always somewhere else.

    What’s your favorite horror movie?

    Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

    You seem to have a fascination with your doggy. Does he or she actually write all the movies, and do you simply take the credit for them?

    She’s a storyboard artist.

    You acted in Roman, which was directed by yo friend Angela Bettis. Do you have any plans to act in another Bettis directed film?

    If she asked me to, I would. Acting is not something I actively pursue, just something I’ve had to do out of necessity in certain situations.

    I heard you filmed The Woman around central Massachusetts, or somewhere close to that. I grew up around there, now do you realize how creepy Massachusetts fucking is?!

    I loved it there. Really beautiful everywhere you look. It was really fun to make such an extreme film in broad daylight in such a pretty place.

    You co-wrote The Woman with Jack Ketchum. What was it like writing a book? Also, how did you go about the collaboration? Did Ketchum write a chapter, and then send it to you to write the next one? How did it work?

    We played to our strengths. I did the heavy lifting on the script, and Ketchum did the heavy lifting on the novel. Then we’d pass pages back and forth, and polish and throw in ideas. It was a wonderful collaboration.

    If you could be any kind of monster, what kind would you be?

    Wampa.

    Favorite swear word or phrase? I’d assume it isn’t go fuck yourself.

    Actually, go fuck yourself is a pretty handy one. But I also like shit-stick.

    What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?

    The Girl Next Door.

    Favorite adjective?

    Slippy.

    What is your favorite movie with an animal as the star?

    Tie between Cujo and First Blood.

    Which commentary was it that I heard you talking about your love of animal movies in college? Was that for Sick Girl, The Masters of Horror episode?

    Don’t know, but yes, if a real animal is doing people stuff in a film, they have a ticket sold to me.

    Don’t you have a friend who acted in some of your films named Sean, and doesn’t he spell his name the same way as me? Also, on a related note, when the shit is there going to be a dvd out of your first film, All Cheerleaders Die?

    When we have the ability to put it out ourselves. It’s a co-directed/written thing I did with my buddy Chris Sivertson, who is a helluva director himself. I grew up around a Sean that spells Sean like you spell Sean.

    Who is your favorite Ninja Turtle?

    The green one.

    Why do you hate women …. sorry, that was a bad joke. But seriously, did you have a feeling going into The Woman how strong the reaction to the film would be, or are you a little shocked at the viewer reactions?

    I knew it would freak some people out. I showed it to a variety of ages and types at my home before the fest. Like 4-6 people at a time who knew nothing about it. One poor girl just stared at the floor for an hour afterwards. So I knew there might be diverse reactions. I didn’t expect it all to happen so furiously on the first screening, but it did, and I can see why when I sit back and think about it objectively.

    A lot of your films have had female leads. Are you a lesbian?

    No, I’m not a lesbian. Unfortunately.

    What the dilly yo?

    I think the key is to show people that a relationship is a relationship, and they come in many forms and combinations, but we’re all pretty much the same. I’m just trying to show a diverse range of characters, that are not designed in a way to make you think a certain way politically, but in fact are simply there for you to relate to as real people.

    Thank you so much for doing this interview. Truly, it is I who is the lucky one. Bad puns forever!

    Ha. Goes with the territory. Thanks to you.