Monday, June 15, 2009

Because It's Never Too Early to Prepare for Halloween

Starting with a new link on the right!

Halloween is without a doubt my favorite holiday. Yes, I love Christmas, and watching people open gifts, enjoying the company of family and friends, and trying to maintain an optimistic outlook on humanity. Those who know me will immediately recognize how hard it is for me to accomplish the last one in that list!

But while Christmas and the other holidays are fun. Nothing beats Halloween.

No, it's not the candy. Nor is it, as comedian Jim Gaffigan so elequently put it, "because all you women like to dress up as prostitutes!" Rather, I love Halloween because it's an ancient holiday (predating Christianity by milennia), and in many ways I can get in touch with that cultural memory. The ancient Celts and Germanic tribes believed that it was the time of the year when the veil between the land of the living and that of the dead was at its thinnest, and an air of uncertainty and the uncanny was omnipresent. It's the time of the year when what Dr. Volney Gay terms "Occult Thinking" (connecting an event to a completely unrelated event and tossing in religious or superstitious flavoring, then mixing until well blended)in his book Understanding the Occult: Fragmentation and Repair of the Self is not only allowed, but encouraged.

In other words, at Haloween, anything can and often does happen, in our minds at least. And unlike Christmas, the results are not always to our liking. Which is why horror movies and books are so popular, and their creators often have such a loyal following. Readers and viewers don't know whether or not the good guys are going to win. They don't know if sanity will prevail, or if life for the characters will return to "normal." In other words, once a good work of horror is read or viewed, all bets are off. And I love it.

Note I said that referring to "good works of horror," so obviously we're talking about opinions and subjective views. What one person considers great horror, others might consider boring or dull. The chaplain down the hall loves the Saw movies, due to the issues of justice and punishment involved. I consider them to be "torture porn" and lump it together with the likes of Hostel, Touristas, Wolf Creek and other films where the plot and character development is almost non-existent and the emphasis is on gore and depicting violence in as many different ways as possible. But that's just my opinion.

My tastes run towards the classic "Gothic" horror of the late 19th, early 20th century. Obviously you know of my fondness for Lovecraft and his contemporaries, but I also like horror movies set in that time period, such as In Hell, and Sleepy Hollow. Yes, there is some gore there, but the emphasis is on plot, characters, and the environment in which the stories play out.

Not all Gothic horror is good, of course, and I have been impressed with many of the films that have come out of Japan recently, as well as the books they were based on. The first two Ring movies I thought were very good, as was Pulse (see the Japanese version and avoid the American remake at all costs!). All were very unnerving, in their use of ordinary objects (a videotape or modern technology) as threats to the characters.

So, I've added a new link to the right - The Literary Gothic. It's a reference site, and not a blog, that lists hundreds and hundreds of authors, including Lovecraft, H.G. Wells, Edgar Allen Poe, and other favorites of mine. Enjoy.

I've also begun my annual search for - in my opinion - good horror movies to watch this season. If any really surprise me, I'll put them up here. And if I can find any that tie in pirates and horror, you can bet that all kinds of information will find its way here!


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