Saturday, January 24, 2015

H. P. Lovecraft's Poem, The Nightmare Lake

I think if I had had a nightmare like The Nightmare Lake I would have died in my sleep from fright. The imagery is so rich that each time I read the poem I find another detail that I seemed to have missed all the previous times. I love how the poem combines life and death:

A spirit dead and desolate;
A spirit ancient and unholy,
Heavy with fearsome melancholy,
Which from the waters dull and dense
Draws vapors cursed with pestilence.

A spirit that's "dead and desolate" yet is "heavy with fearsome melancholy" and "draws vapors cursed with pestilence." That is so scary! I wouldn't want to meet that spirit in a dark alley!

The lake and its shores are fatal to any living thing that goes near it that even vampires can't survive there. The only thing that seems able to survive are the narcophagi that feed on the rotting corpses of everything that comes into contact with the lake and its unbearable atmosphere. 

Then Lovecraft deliciously combines life and death and death and birth when describing the abandoned sunken town below the lake. The town is decayed and abandoned, nothing there but dancing shadows until the tombs fly open.

Till from the reeking, new-stript earth
Curl’d foetid fumes of noisome birth.
About the city, nigh uncover’d,
The monstrous dancing shadows hover’d,
When lo! there oped with sudden stir
The portal of each sepulchre!

It sends shivers down my spine! Lovecraft had such a command of words and language to be able to bring such horror and fear to life. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

From Dusk Till Dawn

I must admit my favorite scene of the movie From Dusk Till Dawn, directed by Robert Rodriguez, was the opening scene before the opening credits where Pete Bottoms the liquor store clerk (played by John Hawkes) seems to be innocently chatting with a Texas Ranger, but is really a hostage following the instructions of the fugitive brothers, Seth and Richie Gecko. Pete is probably one of the bravest people in the film as he keeps his cool the entire time only losing it when Richie accuses him of  trying to tip off the ranger and lying about it. The brothers shoot him as he opens the safe to get a gun and takes several shots of the brothers before they douse him with alcohol and set him on fire and shoot him to death. He was still proclaiming his honesty and shooting at the killers as he goes down in flames while the brothers calmly destroy the entire building and drive away to their next heinous hostage killing. I think he showed a lot of dignity and courage to stand up for his personal integrity instead of groveling and begging the nutty brothers to spare his life. He's the only victim who fought back.

Leaving a trail of blood and destruction after a mentally disturbed brother Richie (played by Quentin Tarrantino who also wrote the screenplay) breaks his crazy, yet really hot, older brother Seth (played by George Clooney) out of prison, the two brothers abduct a grief-stricken preacher and his two teenage children and force them to sneak them over the Mexican border in their RV. The blatant disregard for human life and disrespect for anything or anyone in their path is horrific. I felt like this abducted family was as doomed to die as everyone else these two brothers met in their travels.

Then the second part of the movie begins!

When you think the horror inflicted on innocent people by the two psychotic brothers is all you can take and dread the knowledge that the bloody terror will continue but you just can't look away, the two conjoined families stop at a Mexican biker/trucker bar where the brothers plan to meet some thug who's going to help them pursue their Mexican retirement.The whole atmosphere of the movie changes as they pull into the Titty Twister where there's biker mayhem going on in the dusty parking lot and Cheech Marin as Chet Pussy, the second of three roles he plays in the movie, is on the front steps like a carnival barker attempting to draw a paying crowd into the bar. I wondered who he could be talking to since the place was in the middle of nowhere and anyone in earshot was already there to patronize the place anyway. I guess it was Tarrantino's way to use the word "pussy" more times than in any other movie. It was interesting to me too, that the flight of steps leading to the front door where Chet Pussy shouted his sales pitch reminded me of the steps of a gothic cathedral. 

Once inside, the group is confronted by the owner/bartender Razor Charlie (played by Danny Trejo), what a bod! Of course, the psycho brothers want to resort to physical altercation to earn their admittance but the preacher (played by Harvey Keitel) uses his words to convince Razor they are worthy patrons. There are plenty of big bouncer-looking guys to easily overpower the two brothers, but they want to fight them anyway. They get their chance after Santanico Pandemonium (played by Salma Hayek) performs a mesmerizing snake dance catering right to sexual deviant and rapist/murderer brother Richie. Almost everyone turns into a vampire and the fun begins. The movie goes from depraved crime drama to gothic horror comedy. Heads are rolling and bouncing off the floor, blood is flowing, limbs are being torn off and tossed around and a guy named Sex Machine is shooting vampires with his pecker gun. It's hilarious, like Evil Dead Trilogy hilarious. 

The only survivors are Seth and Kate, the preacher's daughter (played by Juliette Lewis) who, with the help of the rising sun, destroy the last of the vampires.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Black Sabbath, the Movie

I found the movie Black Sabbath on Netflix and had to watch it out of curiosity and also because it’s the movie title that the band borrowed as its name. The movie was an anthology of three horror stories introduced by Boris Karloff who had a role in the third story, “The Wurdalak”, in which he played the patriarch of a ranch family in fear of a wurdalak, in other words, a vampire. While killing the wurdalak/vampire, the father is bitten and becomes a vampire himself. He returns home to methodically turn his entire family into vampires including his little grandson who’s barely out of diapers. I didn’t realize a child vampire character existed before Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. Fun to know!

The second story was about a young lady getting creepy stalker phone calls with the caller refusing to identify himself at first but creepily describe her every move and what she was wearing even though the door was locked and the blinds were closed. I liked this story, not only for the suspense when we learn that the victim, Rosy, believes the caller is actually calling from beyond the grave, but as a reminder of how limited telephone communication was before cell phones, voice mail, the internet with social media and especially caller ID. Back then the only way to find out who was calling was to take the major risk of having to talk to someone you hate and answer it. It would always ring when you were clear across the house or in the bathroom or, worse, in the middle of an exciting ending of a show you waited all week to watch. If you didn’t get to it in time you’d drive yourself crazy the rest of the day trying to guess who it might have been. Sometimes it would be days or weeks until you found out who that caller was that you missed. Unless they were an obnoxiously relentless caller who would keep calling until you answered, letting it ring and ring and ring until your neighbors wanted to kill you. It used to be protocol that you would only let someone’s phone ring ten times. If they couldn’t get to it within ten rings, they were either sleeping or not home. 

The first story of the trilogy was the ghouliest of the three. A grouchy self-centered nurse is called out in a storm to prepare one of her patients for pick up by the undertaker. The frantic maid who called her anxiously greets her at the door and shows her to the body of the dead medium lying in her bed with eyes agape and face in a leering distortion. The house is huge and messy with a large cat population and dolls everywhere. The nurse finally tries to close the corpse’s eyes after dressing her, positioning the hands and stealing a sapphire ring off her hand. The rest of the movie has the nurse driven crazy by a fly on her ring finger and dripping water once she returns home. It culminates with the corpse appearing in her bed and floating toward her forcing her to strangle herself. 

Sixties movies have some fun features like even if the story was set in a historic era the hair and make-up was always blatantly sixties. Blue eye shadow, thin long arched brows, thick black false lashes and a thick line of eyeliner above cherry-red lipstick. The hair was usually teased and brushed back away from the face and they had those cone-shaped high-lift bras. I also like the color of the sixties movies. I don’t know the technical terms, maybe Technicolor?, but you can tell a movie was made in the sixties just from the color. The color kind of took away from the gothic elements of the decaying old house in the Water Dripping story, but even more in the crumbling castle or church in the vampire story. Even though the stories themselves were dark and sinister, the vibrant color was a slight conflict.