The Classic Dracula…Thank you Bram Stoker…

What better way to finish off a Halloween series than with the classic Dracula. There really is nothing to compare that has came out since. Vampire legends are in every country in the world and go as far back as recorded history, but Stoker took the European legends and solidified them into something that has been causing chills and thrills ever since. Many have tried to duplicate, spin off, or even completely change the legends of the vampire, (looking at you Twilight), but none have succeeded in the pure thrills and shivers that Stoker did with his masterpiece.

Whether it is in the beginning when Harker realizes he is a virtual prisoner in Dracula’s castle, or the final show down with the monster, the writing is such that you are there with the characters, experiencing the fear and loathing that they are.

Stoker uses the vintage style of diary entries/letters to tell his tale of horror and it is a favorite style of mine as a reader. Diaries and letters are personal things and there is privileged feeling of being allowed to read a personal writing of such importance. You know you are reading fiction, of course, but the personal touch of the journal style still has that effect. This style also enhances the feeling, mentioned above, of being there with the characters described. It is a wonderful way to make the story inclusive to the reader that is part of why this wonderful book has such impact and staying power in the world. As the saying goes, “often imitated, never duplicated.”

Thank you Bram Stoker!

Have you read it? What did you think?

Have you not read it? Why not? Scared? You should be…

Thoughts?

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The scary side of Lord of the Rings

Most people think about The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien and think of; war, good against evil, poetry in prose. Remember, however, Tolkien managed to create some incredibly shiver worthy scenes in his masterpiece.

The cries of the Nazgul, Ringwaiths if you will. These can bring chills down the spine and a glance at a darkened window to make sure you didn’t actually see a shadow there. Or did you?

For those who have issues with spiders, (myself included), Shelob, the horrific giant spider, in caves smelling of rotting corpses, moving her bulk toward Frodo, will sound off your warning bells and make you wonder was that your hair that brushed you neck or something more sinister.

Tolkien’s genius was such that amongst the grandeur and joy within Lord of the Rings, there is the darker side that makes you shiver and start at shadows in the most wonderful of ways.

How many times have you been creeped out by scenes in these wonderful books?

Do spiders bother you too?

Thoughts?

Night of the Living Dead (Zombie fans represent!)

While this blog concentrates mostly on books, a Halloween discussion cannot be complete with out this film. The Night of the Living Dead completely changed how horror movies were made. It was the most disturbing movie made up until that point. (I would argue that to this day it hasn’t been beat.) What made it so? Sure, the graphic depiction of cannibalism is pretty shocking, even if the diners were dead.

Does that make it cannibalism? Or do you have to be alive when eating someone for it to be cannibalism?

In any case I think what made it shocking, and further adventures of zombies since then shocking, was that we the people, normal everyday people, were the bad guys. Up until that point most horror flicks were in far away places with mad scientists or alien encounters. This was in the heartland of America and our deceased relatives were climbing out of their graves. The gore of the movie aside, the location and the people make The Night of the Living Dead a psychological horror film. This holds true for the flood of Zombie movies, shows and books that continue to be made. There have been many great zombie tales since, but for my money, it all begins and ends with The Night of the Living Dead.

As a side note, George Romero the director admits it was a rip off of the book I am Legend by Richard Matheson. Although in his novel, (and subsequent movies), it was a disease that caused something like vampirism.

Also the movie itself never called the zombies zombies. They were referred to as ghouls.

Memories of the first time you saw it?

Have not seen it? (gasp in shock)

Thoughts?

Those Who Hunt the Night

A frightening vampire story by Barbara Hambly that has a touch of realism which makes it all the more creepy. “Spoiler alert”. Set in 1907 England a man is hired to find out who is killing the Vampires of London. A threat against a loved one is sufficient to get him working for the Vampires, and so he hunts whoever is killing them during the day. Those who Hunt the Night is an intriguing look at what vampirism could scientifically be, yet this does not take the story out of the horror genre. It still remains one of my go to books for this season. Or any other when a good scare is what the doctor ordered.

There is a scene where they visit a crypt in underground Paris. It is the place where victims bodies of the Black Plague were dumped long ago. If that does not satisfy you taste for unnerving, you may need to see a doctor, because something is wrong with you.

Have you read this? Would you like to?

Thoughts?

The Raven, by Edgar Allen Poe

The narrator in this amazing work is haunted by his love Lenore, living in desolation and despair of his loss. He is visited by a Raven who has a one word vocabulary that is eerie and prophetic, saying “Nevermore”, merely this and nothing more. He would never see his beloved again, nevermore. The harshness of this poem comes from the repetition of the one word statement that says so much.

If you have never read this you should do so. It is worth the time, (and it is not a long poem). There is not much that I can add to the greatness of this work, so I will leave you with a stanza from the poem that I consider to be the most powerful.

‘Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend,’ I shrieked,
upstarting-
‘Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my
door!’
Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’ Edgar Allen Poe

Thoughts?

The Modern Prometheus, or Frankenstein

A great classic that is so much more than any movie made of it. Once again I will give a “spoiler alert” for those who have not yet read it. It is, at its heart, a story of madness and failed redemption. It is told through the narration of a sailor who Frankenstein is relating his tale to. That sailor in turn writes to his sister describing these events in letters. It is an old style of narration that I have always enjoyed because it seems to put you one step back from the events told through two sources, so as the reader you get a wider view of things, as well as the added influence of several story tellers in one story.

Doctor Frankenstein, in his hubris, creates a human life. He is terrified by what he has done. His creation, the “monster”, is a confused human who is spurned by his creator. When the “monster” realizes he will be spurned by all fellow humans he slips into the madness of vengeance against the Doctor who made him.

Doctor Frankenstein realizes that the death of his brother, the murder, is his creation’s doing and thus his own fault. He too slips into madness and the story continues as they spar, the doctor wanting to stop the “monster” and the monster plotting the abject ruin of the doctor.

After more murders and guilt for the murders, Frankenstein chases the “monster” into the north yet can not catch him before his own health betrays him, and he passes away just before his creation finds him for the last time.

Yet the “monster” is in some ways to be pitied for the state he is in, for it was not his doing, at least not at first. The madness he has sustained seems to pass, leaving him with greater knowledge of his wretchedness and his desire to see it end for good. (The following is the last section from Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein)

“Farewell! I leave you, and in you the last of human kind whom these eyes will ever behold. Farewell, Frankenstein! If thou wert yet alive, and yet cherished a desire of revenge against me, it would be better satiated in my life than in my destruction. But it was not so; thou didst seek my extinction that I might not cause greater wretchedness; and if yet, in some mode unknown to me, thou hast not ceased to think and feel, thou wouldst not desire against me a vengeance greater than that which I feel. Blasted as thou wert, my agony was still superior to thine; for the bitter sting of remorse will not cease to rankle in my wounds until death shall close them for ever.

“But soon,” he cried, with sad and solemn enthusiasm, “I shall die, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly, and exult in the agony of the torturing flames. The light of that conflagration will fade away; my ashes will be swept into the sea by the winds. My spirit will sleep in peace; or if it thinks, it will not surely think thus. Farewell.”

It is a tragic end to a extremely scary story of madness brought on by hubris.
Do you sympathies more with the “monster” or the Doctor?
What do you think of the Gothic style of horror?

Thoughts?

Salem’s Lot

Stephen Kings Salem’s Lot is perhaps the creepiest vampire book out there, not counting Bram Stokers Dracula. It is theĀ  only book that when I first read it at the tender age of seventeen, I left the light on to go to sleep. To not seem such a wimp, I left the hall light on, not the one in my room. At the time that seemed to make a difference to me. Looking back at it really didn’t matter, hall light, bedroom light, the book freaked me out and any light would do. King manages to make vampire’s come to life. For a time, while reading it and after, you believe. That is a frightening thing.

There are two scenes in the book that come to mind to mention and I should probably say “spoiler alert”. The first is when Barlow goes to the dump and has a conversation with Dud Rogers. Dud runs the dump and spends his days picking through trash and shooting rats. He thinks it is a fine life until Barlow comes along and shows him something better. The seduction of Dud is a seduction of his darker desires for a teenage girl named Ruthie. Also of his desire to get people back for looking down on him as just the weird guy at the dump. I particularly like how King makes looking into Barlow’s eyes like looking into a dragons eyes. It will cost you. It certainly does Dud.

The next scene is the confrontation between Barlow and father Callahan at the Petrie’s home after the vampire kills Mark Petrie’s parents. This is a different kind of seduction. He convinces Father Callahan that he lacks courage of his convictions. He convinces him, through a brief struggle that he is a weak priest and taints him so he can no longer even enter a church. Then Barlow lets him go like that instead of turning him to a vampire. Leaving him to finish his life unclean and full of self loathing. This may be worse than turning him into a vampire.
What do you think? Have you read it, do you want to?

Tomorrow I am thinking of doing a piece on Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, also known as The Modern Prometheus. I am calling these writing the 8 days of Halloween. For obvious reasons.