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  • Tag Archives The Blair Witch
  • Too Late: Notes on Jumpin’ Jack

    This one, jeez. Sometimes you write stuff, and don’t really remember what prompts it. With this one, I’d written a story set in Whispering Pines (the haunted woods in my fictional universe, in central Massachusetts) already for the Reddit board No Sleep. I’d written one about aliens which had done well, and this one later, which barely anyone read.

    To begin with, it’s an old black guy. I wanted to write as an old black guy. So I did. That’s probably the King influence again. I’ve always had an affinity for stories about old guys recounting sketchy things from their younger days.

    Recently, I reread Ligotti’s “The Frolic,” and while the only similarity is a child killer, I feel that “Jumpin’ Jack” shares a similar tone, and feel, though it’s less cosmic horror, and more folk horror.

    There is an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention, “The Tale of Watcher’s Woods.” Had an impact on me as a child, and helped get the mythology of Whispering Pines going. Probably some Blair Witch in there, too.

    The Tale of Watcher’s Woods

    Watcher's Woods


  • The Horror Influences of True Detective

    tdladyhornchurch

    True Detective follows Rust Cohle (Mathew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) as they attempt to solve the murder of a woman in Louisiana. It contains many elements, from classical horror stories, to modern horror stories, and from old and new horror films and shows.

    There are many references to the classic Robert W. Chambers series of horror stories, “The King in Yellow.” The main reference is through the visual use of something somewhat similar to “The Yellow Sign,” on the victim in the first episode, though I’m not sure yet whether or not this show is in a universe where the stories were published. The first victim in episode 1, former prostitute Dora Kelly Lange, has something that appears to be “The Yellow Sign,” on her back.

    sign

    spiraltd

    However, when looking for a picture of the design on Lange’s back, I discovered an article which says it is actually derived from the Illuminati. I know nothing about the Illuminati, so I’ll leave it up to you, the reader, to make your own judgement call on what the sign is supposed to be. It could easily just be a spiral, representing the cyclical nature the killer thinks life and time exist within.

    Any time you hear about “The Yellow King,” or “Carcossa,” or even “The Black Stars,” that’s the show drawing from “The King in Yellow.” Indeed, “The King in Yellow” was before it’s time. First published in 1895, most of the stories revolve around a fictional play, aptly named “The King in Yellow” that drove readers to madness.

    As the show progresses, Cohle’s character grows increasingly unsettling. We start to really question his sanity. This doubt fits perfectly with the theme of the most influential of stories in, “The King in Yellow,” namely that of “The Repairer of Reputations.” In “The Repairer” a man named Hildred meets with Mr. Wilde, who has a book that contains shocking truths about lots of people. Mr. Wilde uses this book, with its secrets, to blackmail individuals, makes his money in this fashion. I’ve talked about these stories on one of the podcasts I contribute to, Miskatonic Musings, on the episode entitled The King of Creol
    so if you want to hear more about my thoughts on the stories, listen to that.

    Recently, I was thrilled to read in an interview at The Wall Street Journal with Nic Pizzolatto that he is a fan of the work of Thomas Ligotti, and indeed some lines in the show are almost word for word from Ligotti’s books. Pizzolatto even references other modern day weird fiction writers I’ve yet to even take in. It’s a really great interview, and has made me an even bigger fan of Pizzolatto, and even more excited for the next season of True Detective.

    Visually, there are of course other influences, which dare I say are borderline derivative. The devil’s Trap is a Southern thing, I haven’t checked yet whether they are a legit thing, but they remind me an awful lot of the little stick designs and people from The Blair Witch Project.

    deviltrap

    BlairWitchProject-thumb-550x300-12916

    There’s also the glaringly obvious comparisons to be made between all the antler stuff on True Detective which also features prominently in Hannibal.

    hannibalantlers

    And, the use of the gas mask on Ledue reminds me of the character Bing from Joe Hill’s Nos4a2. The description of Bing as a gas mask wearing killer is a hard one to escape, when you compare him to the gas mask wearing killer in True Detective.

    No matter what, the show True Detective is great for horror. It is just police procedural enough to draw in the mainstream audience who wouldn’t normally indulge in these horrific things (Well, save for the Hannibal crowd), on their own. It combines the mystery and thriller genres with horror in a seamless and beautiful blend. And at the end of the day, who cares what the genre is classified as, as long as it’s good.


  • The Grotesque vs. The Unseen

    As a writer of fiction, particularly of scary stories, the issue arrives time and time again. What is better, seeing the monster revealed, or leaving it in sounds and shadows? Is it better to see the ax wound, with all of the blood that splatters, or to simply see the swing of the ax, and to have to imagine the wound afterward?
    Stephen King has a book, entitled Danse Macabre, which has some words on the very themes I’m talking about. If you haven’t read the book, and you are in any way a fan of things that go bump in the night, I must insist that you pick it up. At least, go to the library and see if they have it. Regahdless, I will attempt to give my own opinions on the matter.
    I guess, it all depends what emotions you are trying to evoke. If you want your reader to be appalled at all the shocking details of the grisly vehicular homicide, then by all means, you should mention every broken bone and road rashed abrasion on every bloody and bruised body. These descriptions will, if thought out and executed successfully, gross your reader out to no end. They will feel at the mercy of your power of gory description. However, this does not act upon the most powerful tool at any writers disposal, the reader’s imagination.
    If I was to talk about the same situation with vehicular homicide, but to simply say that the bodies found at the scene were mangled and torn, you, the reader, would come up with how mangled and torn they actually were, in your head. You would form a rough picture of what each victim looked like. Do they have broken bones, and which ones? You are the only one that knows that. I have my own vision, which involves broken leg and arm bones, and all sorts of scraped down skin.
    I guess it’s hard to say which is better, if indeed, you can even do such a thing. I go back and forth with each type of writing, though admittedly now I seem to be in a hyper descriptive phase, where I want to talk about the gore and the monsters for sentence after sentence. Yet, there is a certain power in hinting at horrors indescribable, in a certain Lovecraftian way. Keep in mind though, Lovecraft would usually go on to describe everything, right after his long and atmospheric build ups about how hard to describe everything was.
    I’d say it depends how you want to string the reader along. For a true crime type of horror story, I would say that everything in vivid detail is in order. Disgusting realism will ring true. However, with supernatural stories, it’s really all just personal opinion. Anyone who says otherwise, that there is one way to write supernatural horror better than the next, well, that person clearly doesn’t read enough. I happen to enjoy both. I love hearing about the entities, or creatures, and I also love being teased with only small glimpses and descriptions of the things.
    In the end, it all comes down to making it engaging. However you can draw a reader in, be it through intestines ripped from cadavers, or the mere mention of bodies being ripped apart most foully. It all comes down to what you are strong with, what you’re most comfortable with. Go with your instincts.
    The same applies to screenwriting and movies. You have movies like Jaws, and The Mist, where there is a good combination of seen and unseen horrors. Both are great films. However, then you have movies like A Serbian Film and the short film Aftermath, which revel in the gross out, and show you quite a lot. Also, good, if not incredibly disturbing, films. Then, you have movies like The Blair Witch and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which really don’t show you much of anything (it always makes me laugh when people talk about how “bloody” the original TCM is). All of these movies are equally effective. So, there is no one way to build tension, and scare your audience with film, the same as there is no set way to scare a reader. Again, it all comes down to getting your audience emotionally invested, and terrified, whichever way you can. It probably wouldn’t hurt to make sure your character’s are vivid and interesting. It’s far easier to gain emotional investment with a character people want to know about. Ultimately, this is where the audience is first drawn in. Besides, it’s far easier to make someone anxious about a strangler, when one of his or her potential victims is someone you don’t want to get choked out.
    This may not be anything you don’t already know. Just putting it out there, for those just starting out, or for those that need a reminder.