Since I’ve started this horror blog – and have thus re-immersed myself in the world of the terrifying and often supernatural – I’ve become increasingly more interested in answering life’s “big” questions, at least, as they pertain to the horror genre. Most specifically, I’m interested in what scares us. When we’re children, I think, this list can be broad and sporadic. If my parents are to be believed, I was once afraid of gloves (yes, gloves!) And my sister possessed the unusual foreboding that she couldn’t go in the bathtub, lest a rogue ostrich who had stumbled into our abode might attack her. (You heard correctly: my sister was afraid there was an ostrich in the bathtub). There seems very little in the way of pattern or predictability when examining what scares us when we’re young.
It’s no surprise that I’m studying literature (though I’ll probably be forever impoverished for the decision) because I just love a good story. There is, in a book – or a good movie or television show – the plot, a chain of events driven by character actions, and then there’s the more subliminal but often pervasive mood created through all elements of work, including scenery and word choice. But, my point in this post is not really to be technical. My point is to proclaim, happily, that through the suggestion of one of Michael’s friends, we stumbled upon a phenomenal, intricate story thanks to the popular Showtime series, Penny Dreadful. Penny Dreadful’s third season aired this spring, but Michael and I, in our infinite fandom, have been busy re-watching the first two seasons to “fully prepare” before we settle down and view the third. This post, then, is my introductory post: I will likely write more on specific questions the show raises in future posts. After all, Penny Dreadful is complex and intelligent, and many facets of the show could be explored. In this post, I aim to discuss why I love the show through an exploration of the main characters. And, bonus, if you haven’t seen Season Three yet, neither have I, so there will be no Season Three spoilers! In fact, there are no major plot spoilers in this piece, so read away, without fear of any undesired revelations.
I was excited to read Kalie’s first post in her new series – What Scares Us? My First Fear. I love the idea of examining early memories of being afraid and/or exploring the things that frighten us. I was also pretty excited to contribute a piece myself! I knew there could be only one topic for this reflection. As I look back to my first vivid memory of heart-stopping, soul-chilling terror I journey back to the summer of 1989. A soon-to-be seven year old Michael was settling into a dark movie theatre with his family. He was ready for fun…but what he found was dark, disturbing, raw, primal fear. This experience has haunted me to this day. What movie did I see? None other than the heart-stopping, soul-shaking horrorfest that was Ghostbusters II. Continue reading “What Scares Us? Michael’s First Fright – Ghostbusters II”
Well, it’s official. I’ve written an uneven 73 posts on Just Dread-Full since the blog’s inception in late October of 2015. Now, before I continue, I had a different introduction written in this piece, but the ghost of Miss Jessel is apparently bitter about how I depicted her in my piece on The Innocents, because she’s crawled out of the movie and consumed my laptop. Really. Michael and I lost my laptop in the transition from his parents’ house to his house (one of us was carrying the bag). We, and his parents, have searched every conceivable place, and it’s simply disappeared. As such, I’m typing from his laptop, and I have to start this piece over again.
This may alarm you (in fact, you might want to sit down to hear it), but I wasn’t always an intrepid pioneer who sojourned through the world of horror with ease, grace, and relative peace of mind. I know: you thought I was born unflinchingly brave and are now trying to deal with the shock of finding out that even I, your humble Just Dread-Full writer, used to scare easily. But when I say “easily,” you might not understand just how easily I scared. To paint you a vivid picture of how far I’ve come in my (almost) 32 years of existence, how much bolder and more brazen I am, I’ve decided to tell you about one of my first scares (I’ll probably tell you about the other in a second part of this segment). Long before I sought the adrenaline of a tasty jump-scare, I used to quiver, quake, and cry at sudden upsets to my calm surroundings. I was, to be truthful, kind of a baby. You may gather that this is true when I tell you my earliest scary memory.
We’ve all seen it before – and it’s a frustrating trope. One person (often the insightful, level-headed, observant wife) believes that the house, child, etc., is haunted (or possessed). Annoyingly, the cynical, often condescending detractor (the husband, usually, in contemporary horror) remains completely unfazed by whatever alarming occurrences are taking place and refuses to take helpful, significant action (see Sinister and The Shining, for just a couple examples of this phenomenon). The equation stems from, I believe, a contemporary cultural awareness of sexism, and our understanding that maybe the “little lady” isn’t crazy when she senses that something’s truly wrong (with the hotel, the house, the kid, and so forth). But let’s crank the clocks back to a novella written in the 19th century, long before the Women’s Rights Movement, and then a bit ahead again, to 1961, when the movie based on the novella was released. The Innocents, based on Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw,” is either a soul-chilling ghost story or a complex jaunt into the frenetic world of acute neurosis, depending on whether or not you think Mrs. Giddens (Deborah Kerr), the governess and leading lady, is imagining things. We are not frustrated viewers who want the protagonist to believe his “pesky” wife in this film. Rather, we’re not sure we believe the female protagonist’s suspicions of haunting. Of course, “The Turn of the Screw,” and even the film, The Innocents, were products of a time in which women were often labeled hysterical and neurotic, so we should hardly be surprised that the film’s intrigue stems, in part, from the prospect (though, I would argue, not the certainty) that our female lead is severely unhinged. Continue reading “Apparition or Illusion? Ghosts and Neurosis in The Innocents”
Not surprisingly, I’m super stoked when basically any new horror flick hits theaters. That said, there are some films that inevitably provoke more anticipation than others. As I’ve insinuated on this site before, dangle an eerie ghost movie in front of me, and I’ll likely become more excited than I am for a murder mystery or similar fare. For that reason – and because The Purge: Anarchy was a little drawn out and monotonous – I didn’t have super high expectations headed into The Purge: Election Year. I mean, I was pumped, but I was experiencing a milder, more contained version of exhilaration, premised off the supposition that Election Year could get really damn boring by mid-movie. Alas, I was surprised! The Purge: Election Year is a film that delivers. It’s easily better than The Purge: Anarchy, and may be better than the original Purge. With a plot that grows increasingly more speculative of human nature and more critical of the purge, and the most likable cast to boot, The Purge: Election Year is almost certain to satiate the ardent horror enthusiast. Continue reading “The Purge: Election Year: A Thoughtful Study in Human Irrationality”