Chilling Chat: Episode 174 | Elliot Thorpe

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Elliot Thorpe is a freelance writer. He scripted Doctor Who–Cryptobiosis (2005) and in 2013 wrote his first novel Cold Runs the Blood. He has contributions in Seasons of War Elliot Thorpe(2015), The Extraordinary Lives of People Who Never Existed (2015), Grave Matters (2015), Doctor Who–A Time Lord for Change (2016) and The Librarian (2017). 2018 saw the publication of Dean Martin–Recollections by Bernard H. Thorpe and Elliot Thorpe. Elliot writes for Search Magazine and redshirtsalwaysdie.com. A new, fully-revised edition of Cold Runs the Blood from Fossa Books is available now.

Elliot is a consummate gentleman and a remarkable writer. We spoke of inspiration, characterizations, and Dr. Who.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Elliot. Thank you for joining me today.

ET: Lovely to be here!

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

ET: The earliest memory I have (and I might be giving away my age here!) was back in the mid-70s. My father was a big fan of the Hammer Horrors so there was always a Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing horror movie on TV at some point that I remember hearing while I was (meant to be) tucked up in bed! So when I was old enough in the early 80s, I started watching them with him (when we had a first-gen video player). I was hooked from then on. My first horror movie I sat all the way through was Legend of the Werewolf (1975).

NTK: Are Hammer films your favorite films? What is your favorite horror film?

ET: I’ve got a great love for Hammer–I love the iconography, the style, the music. They are as unique as the old Universals. I love the “imply, don’t show” notion of horror movies–expecting a chill or a fright which doesn’t happen…then it does seconds later! With regard to a favorite– that’s a tricky one. I can watch something like Get Out or Us and find that as equally as enthralling as Bride of Frankenstein… I like the original Omen, but my favorite movie is Cronenberg’s The Fly.

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror TV show?

ET: There are three: True Blood, American Horror Story (albeit some of the later seasons aren’t as great) and Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

ET: I was waiting for this question!! Hands down, without a shadow of a doubt…William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. It was first published in 1972 (when I was not even yet 2!) and I first read it in 1990–and I still own my 1990 copy. Very threadbare but very loved. It surpasses the movie. Blatty’s use of language, expression, passion is unbound and I wish I could write as well as he did. I can almost chew the sentences, they are just so well constructed. I’ve never felt so passionate about any other fiction/horror book before or since. Paul Theroux is a close second for much of the same reasons but he’s not a horror writer so that’s going off topic!

NTK:  Blatty is awesome! Is he your greatest writing influence? Who is your greatest influence?

ET: The writer who made me want to write actually only passed away this week: Terrance Dicks. He was script editor for Doctor Who in the 70s but also novelised over 60 Dr. Whostories of the series–so he was my first understanding of how to write when I was a kid. I collected his books for years. Blatty I could never equal and wouldn’t even attempt to: but I still wish I could write like him! Bram Stoker, Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen King, and Ben Elton all inspire me (four markedly different authors and their differing styles allow me to push myself. Ursula K. Le Guin is another.)

NTK: Terrance Dicks was a great scriptwriter and wrote several frightening episodes of Dr. Who. Including, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang.” Which frightening episode is your favorite?

ET: “Talons of Weng-Chiang” is a great one. One that I always thought was chilling was “The Seeds of Doom” from 1976–where the alien seed pod split open and this tendril snaked out and grabbed one of the characters, turning him into a big green creature! Of the modern series, I fear I may have grown up, so I don’t spot the “behind the sofa” moments so much.

NTK: What inspires your writing?

ET: Inspiration for me comes in unexpected places. I can be sitting at my desk, reading a paper or a book, watching the news or watching a film. I can see snippets of things that I like and would like to use or find homage in using. Point in fact: my short story HorrorAddicts.net featured was inspired by the movie The Revenant. Nothing like the actual original story, but it’s the feel I was after. Also, I’m currently writing an alternative history World War I novel and so my inspiration comes from my great-grandfather who served, any number of WWI movies, Peaky Blinders (a recent BBC series), the books of Pat Barker and factual accounts of the war itself. And because it’s an alternative history, I have to make nods to authors like Philip K Dick and Robert Harris.

NTK: What inspired you to write the Bloodkind series?

ET: I originally wrote Cold Runs the Blood as an original Doctor Who novel for the BBC. This was when the series was due to be come back in 2005 (so around 2004) and it was called The Craft of Foreign Rule. Doctor Who had never featured Vlad the Impaler so, knowing that historical figure so well, I wrote a novel. The BBC rejected it: now, I hope it was because they had cancelled all scheduled books because of the sudden return of the series itself to TV. It may, of course, have been because it wasn’t very good!! In any case, it was in effect now a “dead” novel. So I filed it away and forgot about it until 2012 when I decided to rewrite it as a full-blown horror novel, removing all and every Doctor Who reference! It then became Cold Runs the Blood and was published in 2013 by Grosvenor House Publishing.

I never intended to write a sequel. What intrigued me most was the fact that I had created my own take on the vampire mythos so I started writing short stories based in the same fictional universe. It allowed me to maintain my love for vampire fiction but write in different styles: so we have stories jumping from one century to another…pirates and swashbucklers, contemporary or period, retro or future…and I called my vampires the Bloodkind.

NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?

ET: That’s a great question! I could speak to fellow writers who would say that mapping out a character’s actions is a requisite. But I disagree. There has to be some sort of autonomy: yes, I created my characters; yes, I need them to carry out certain objectives to move the plot along…but my best characters are those who tell me what to write! For example, in my WWI novel, there’s a scene set on a train heading to Lyon in France. My two main protagonists are being waited upon by a guy who works in the buffet car. When one of the protagonists returns to her berth, the waiter is in there ransacking her room looking for something he overheard in conversation. Now the waiter, when I Cold Runs the Blood - cover - 2019 editionintroduced him, was simply meant to be background detail. Now he’s involved in the plot proper and I have to work out why! And I love that challenge!

NTK: What a great example! What’s it like to write such a famous and established character as Dr. Who? How do you stay true to the character and yet create your own original story?

ET: When I got the commission to write for the Doctor, I didn’t know at that time which one, so my outline was very Doctor-by-numbers. When they told me it was for Colin Baker, I was overjoyed. He was and remains my favorite incarnation.

The sixth Doctor had a very obstreperous and arrogant style which meant I adapted the dialogue to fit his TV persona. Interestingly, I was asked by my producer (a really lovely guy called Gary Russell who I would love to work with/for again someday) to tone down the arrogance I’d imbued him with—to soften him, mellow him. I still injected those moments of pomposity but it was the characters around him who I had fun with, too. And I gave his companion, Peri, all the best lines. Intriguingly, it was an approach the rebooted TV series took: the companion pushed the story along, so I like to think that I unconsciously pre-empted that!

NTK: Elliot, what does the future hold for you? What work do we Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

ET: Well, I’ve got my WWI novel to come out in 2020 (I’m so proud of the title that I’m not telling a soul yet what it’s called!!) and I’m pulling together my vampire short stories to make a follow-up volume to Cold Runs the Blood. Called The Mistress and the Rogue…and other Tales of the Bloodkind, it’s also scheduled for 2020. I’m aiming for a Fall release, hopefully, to grab hold of that Hallowe’en fever. The story you’re featuring in your latest podcast will form part of that.

NTK: Awesome! Thank you for chatting with me, Elliot. It was really fun!

ET: It’s been an absolute pleasure, Naching

Horror Addicts, Elliot writes for The Doctor Who Companion and you can find him at the Dean Martin Association as well.

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#PLAGUE MASTER: Rebel Infection Sneak Peek

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HorrorAddicts.net is proud to present a sneak peek into Plague Master: Rebel Infection by H.E. Roulo. Please enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 14.

Hillside Threats

Trevor is hailed as a hero for returning with a vaccine for the zombie infection. His celebrity also makes him a dangerous threat to the powerful Founders of his homeworld. Revolution is in the air, and Trevor is caught in the middle. He is forced to seek help on other worlds and becomes trapped on a snowy hillside.

He rushed a dozen steps up the steep incline, barely noticing a soft shifting sound. A gray hand reached from the snow and yanked his arm. Caught unaware, Trevor fought for balance, instinctively reaching toward the ground for balance. A gaping mouth opened in the snow. The ice-coated zombie who’d grabbed him caught Trevor’s fingers between oil-slicked teeth, snowflakes pristine on its cold lips. Its tongue squirmed against his woolen glove.

Twisting his hand into a fist, Trevor rammed it forward with his momentum, scraping between gaping teeth and into the back of its throat. His other hand slammed his wrench into its bottom jaw. The joint shattered. Torn muscle flexed uselessly in the cheek his blow laid open.

The jaws tried to close, gnawing weakly at mitten and coat sleeve. Trevor lifted the wrench again and slammed it into the temple of the zombie. It lay still.

Panting, he yanked his hand out, not stopping to retrieve the soggy glove that bunched against the back of the skull’s teeth.

He stared at the stranger’s broken face, heart pounding. Man or woman, he couldn’t tell, but no cure would bring this zombie back.

“It’s not because you’re infected.” He yanked his wrench out of the zombie’s head, flicking away blackened matter. “It’s because I’m human.”

He’d started with the best intentions, but he’d fight for his life, even if someone else had to die.

Snow shifted on the hillside.

Trevor hopped several paces to the side, wrench held ready. Up and down the hillside, more zombies stirred. Dozens had followed him over the cliff, making random buried mines of teeth and grasping limbs. Traveling uphill was impossible with so many lying in wait.

PM Rebel InfectionGrateful he hadn’t broken a limb when he fell, he ran downhill at an angle, hoping to find a less steep and treacherous way up.

Snow rustled and crunched as they stirred behind him. The zombies pursued. He hadn’t meant to be such a good distraction.

Read more excerpts and see behind the scenes of the PLAGUE MASTER trilogy.

Find H.E. on Twitter, Facebook: Her Blog, Goodreads, and Author Central. 

Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome (Book 1) and Plague Master: Rebel Infection (Book 2) are available on Amazon.

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Eight: Abominable

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(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

A heartfelt performance by Matt McCoy as Preston Rogers and a virtuoso soundtrack by Argentinian composer Lalo Schifrin elevate the 2006 film Abominable above the average creature feature.

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McCoy is best known to horror fans as husband Michael Bartel in 1992’s nanny horror-thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and to many others as gum-chewing mental patient Lloyd Braun on Seinfeld. However, his performance as Preston Rogers ranks among the best on the list of lead actors in Bigfoot horror films.

Abominable follows Preston after being paralyzed six months ago in a mountain-climbing accident. As a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair, Preston returns to his cabin in the mountains as part of his rehabilitation in dealing with the tragedy of his last climb.

Preston is accompanied by a creepy male nurse named Otis who leaves his crippled patient alone in the house for hours to drive into town. Left on his own, Preston uses a pair of binoculars to check outside where a group of girls arrives at the cabin next door to celebrate an upcoming marriage.

Preston’s spying fuels the most intense and horrific scenes in the film. Preston hears noises and sees a downed phone line, making the lack of cell phone reception even more isolating. When Preston watches one of the girls walk outside to find cell phone reception, he notices movement in the trees behind her. The girl disappears but her cell phone remains behind on the pavement. One of the eeriest shots in the movie is when Preston uses a flashlight with his binoculars to scan the trees and Bigfoot’s eyes appear for the first time.

The best moments of Abominable show Preston as he watches Bigfoot break into the girls’ cabin and kill them one by one. Hampered by his disability, Preston tries to warn the girls, but the relentless Bigfoot is on a mission of mass murder. It’s an intense sequence.

A scene in the bathroom after one girl showers is particularly brutal. Horror scream queen Tiffany Shepis plays the victim. As well done as that practical special effect was, nothing compares to the Bigfoot face-bite to come later. Kudos to the special effects team.

Only one of the five girls, Amanda, survives Bigfoot’s attack. Haley Joel plays Amanda to perfection as the final girl who flees to Preston’s cabin. The most powerful scene in Abominable is when Preston delivers an inspirational speech to the terrified Amanda where he shares the heartbreaking details of his mountain-climbing accident.

“I’m scared to death right now,” Preston tells Amanda.

“Me too,” Amanda replies.

“That means that we want to live,” Preston says. “I was given a gift that day. And I don’t know why. I mean, it was a miracle that I lived. And I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that I don’t waste that gift.”

Galvanized by his courage, Amanda starts helping Preston implement his plan to escape the cabin and the rampaging Bigfoot. I especially liked how director Ryan Schifrin incorporated Preston’s use of his mountain-climbing skills to fuel their flight. Of course, their escape is only short-lived, but the final face-off with Bigfoot is intense and satisfying.

Like many horror movies, Abominable features veterans of the genre in small roles. Lance Henriksen (Pumpkinhead, Aliens) makes a brief appearance as a hunter. Henriksen was also in another Bigfoot film I reviewed for The Bigfoot Files, Big Legend. The always solid Dee Wallace (The Howling, Cujo) is a farmer’s wife under attack by Bigfoot in a chilling opening scene.

Other actors of note in Abominable include the late great Paul Gleason as the sheriff. You may remember him as disciplinarian/assistant principal Richard Vernon in 1985’s The Breakfast Club. Phil Morris, who played Kramer’s lawyer Jackie Chiles on Seinfeld for three seasons, is a sheriff’s deputy.

The Bigfoot itself in Abominable is suitably savage enough to deliver the goods and passes the quality test of this Bigfoot enthusiast.

Abominable is a low-budget film that originally aired on SyFy back when it was still called SCI FI Channel. However, thanks to McCoy’s stellar performance, wicked special effects, and superb soundtrack, Abominable stands the test of time as a good old-fashioned Saturday night popcorn fright flick.

NEXT UP | Chapter Nine: Stomping Ground. I review the 2014 horror film Stomping Ground directed by Dan Riesser.

 

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Friday the 13th Killer Puzzle

Sometimes, you just want something mindless and silly, something you can play while waiting in line at the DMV. Sometimes, you just want to mindlessly murder innocent campers with a machete is a free mobile puzzle game starring Jason Voorhees and his many, many victims.

Game Play

The player stars as Jason Voorhees, out for revenge and guided by the decapitated head of his dead mother.

The game is set up on a simple grid, with obstacles and victims spaced throughout. Jason can only move in straight lines and continues moving until he encounters an obstacle or victim. The player guides Jason to his victims by sliding him around the grid.

Once Jason has murdered all the existing victims on the grid, the Final Victim appears. Jason must reach this victim but then faces them in a final battle. The player must tap the screen at the perfect time to complete the level’s last gory murder.

As the player racks up their body count, they progress to more levels and unlock additional weapons and skins.

Game Experience

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle is a tongue-in-cheek game that appeals to those who rooted for the killer throughout his slasher movies.

The puzzles start simple but become genuinely challenging as you progress through the levels. The creators included a number of pitfalls that change the nature of the puzzles and keep interest high.

The game features, simple, cartoon graphics. The animation suits the style and serves to make the blood and gore silly rather than horrifying. The brutality of the killings of sharply set off by the South Park style characters.

There are some ads throughout (after passing a few levels or asking for a hint). These can be removed by making an in-app purchase, but aren’t annoying enough to ruin gameplay if you’d rather play for free.

Final Thoughts

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle is an excellent thematic game that doesn’t skimp on the puzzle element. The puzzles are genuinely challenging and the gruesome deaths of the victims is a reward all its own while playing. The game is ridiculous and over the top and absolutely worth playing.

#PLAGUE MASTER Facebook Takeover Party

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H.E. Roulo and HorrorAddicts.net cordially invite you to attend a Zomberrific Takeover Party. In honor of the PLAGUE MASTER: Rebel Infection release, HorrorAddicts.net will hold a special Facebook Takeover Party with hosts, A.F. Stewart, Winnie Jean Howard, McCallum Morgan, H.E. Roulo, and more! Please, RSVP and bring a friend. There will be prizes!

Date: September 21, 2019

Time: Noon-3:00PM PST

Where: Online at the PLAGUE MASTER Facebook Takeover Party

Be there and Be Spooky!!

Sincerely,

H.E. Roulo and HorrorAddicts.net

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: British Horror Documentaries!

British Horror Documentaries, Brilliant! By Kristin Battestella

This quartet of documentaries and informative programming has plagues, queens, holidays, and witches – all with a little across the pond flair.

The Black Death: The World’s Most Devastating Plague – Purdue Medieval Literature Professor Dorsey Armstrong hosts this 2016 twenty-four episode lecture series from The Great Courses Signature Channel, beginning with early feudal nobles versus peasants, religious society and church control, and urban growth in the medieval warm period before a changed Europe in 1348 with plague reducing the population from 150 million to 70 million. Onscreen maps, notations, and timelines supplement the disturbing first-hand accounts, despairing eye witness testimonies, and Old English translations of outbreak terrors – focusing on the human response to pestilence while dispelling misnomers on The Black Death’s name and symptoms. Some victims writhed in long-suffering agony while others died within a day, drowning in their own blood thanks to bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic bacterium. Ebola virus comparisons are specific and gruesome alongside scientific theories on bacillus causes, tuberculosis similarities, Blue Sickness inconsistencies, and Anthrax possibilities. Prior Justinian outbreaks, Asian beginnings in Kaffa, and Italian trade route migration spread plague while fleas, rats, and gerbils transmission, weather patterns, and even extraterrestrial origins are debated. Entire villages were ravaged with hemorrhagic fever contributing to the scourge’s spread on poor, crowded, malnourished people fearing the judgment of God, wearing creepy masks, and carrying fragrant herbs to curb the smell of mass shallow graves and dog-mauled bodies. Despite illiteracy, wills and documentation accumulate – although journals have blank spaces and abrupt ends because the writers died. Vacancies increase while religious orders decrease since those ministering to the sick die, yet crime declines as thieves won’t even enter a wealthy but plagued home. Avignon pilgrimages bring devastation and Walking Dead comparisons as Florence’s valuable textiles are burned. Prostitutes are often cast out – not for transmission worries, but to purge sin from a city. Orphans and widows become dependent on the patriarchal society, and artistic guild become charitable necessities. Flagellant movements fill the religious gap while England’s unexposed island population leaves London with no place left to put the dead. When only the 103 heads of households are marked dead in the census, one can conservatively deduce the number of dead was probably quadruple that 103. In a town of 1,000, what if the average household number was seven? Ghost ships arrive in Norway, and grim reaper folklore expresses Scandinavian fears amid whispers of children being buried alive to appease angry gods. Primitive remedies and bloodletting rise, as do tales of monks and nuns going out in style with debauchery and hedonism or gasp, dancing in town-wide festivals. An entire episode is dedicated to antisemitism and Jewish persecutions, a depressing and violent response on top of the plague, and the callous church using the pestilence as an opportunity to remind people it was their sinful fault may have helped spur later reformations. Of course, lack of clergy meant the church accepted anyone for ordination, leaving priests who didn’t know what they were doing when the faithful public needed help most. Outside of nobles losing their privileged status, most classes were ironically better off post-plague with memento mori artwork and danse macabre murals flourishing amid literary masterpieces and dramatic analysis inspiring the early renaissance and the likes of Chaucer. Economic booms re-establish trade as the aristocracy marries into the merchant class and peasants revolt for more power, changing the world for centuries to come. While lengthy for the classroom itself, these half hours are jammed packed with information, documentation, and statistics keeping viewers curious to learn more. This is a fine accompaniment or a la carte for independent study – an academic approach rather than the in your face, sensationalized documentary formats permeating television today. The Great Courses Channel is worth the streaming add-on for a variety of informative videos, and this macabre selection is perfect for fans of horror history.

Mary Queen of Scots: The Red Queen – Scottish castles, ruinous abbeys, and highland scenery anchor this 2014 documentary on that other devout catholic Mary thorn in protestant Elizabeth’s side. The narration admits the similar names are confusing, but the voiceover meanders with unnecessary time on Mary’s parents James V and his French wife Mary of Guise amid Henry VIII marital turmoil, perilous successions, and religious switches. Opera arias interfere further as we stray into Mary Mary quite contrary rhymes, earlier Robert the Bruce connections, Tudor rivalries, French alliances, and the possible poisoning of infant Stuart sons before finally getting to Mary being crowned at nine months old in defiance of male inheritance laws. Rough Wooing tensions and early betrothal plans with Edward VI lead to isolation at Stirling Castle before a pleasant childhood at the French court, but a princess education and marriage to the Dauphin in 1558 ultimately send the young widow back to Scotland as regent in 1561. Catholic unrest always leaves Mary on unfriendly terms with Bess alongside John Knox reformations at home, misogynist rhetoric, and a nasty marriage to her first cousin Henry Stuart. The need for an heir, murdered lovers, adulterous pregnancies, revenge – loyal nobles take sides as the Catholic baptism of the future James VI divides public opinion. Men with syphilis, suspicious gunpowder accidents, marital traps, and final meetings with her year-old son begat possible kidnappings, a new marriage to the Earl of Bothwell, revolts, imprisonment at Loch Leven, abdication, and rumors of stillborn twins with unknown fathers. It might have been interesting to see scholars contrasting bad girl Mary with her marriages and male interference versus Elizabeth The Virgin Queen rather than the all over the place narrative. Bess holds Mary captive in various English castles for eighteen years until religious coups, forged letters, an absentee trial, and the final treasonous Babington Plot. Mary goes out in style with symbolic red despite her botched beheading, with an ironic final resting place at Westminster Abbey beside Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I. This rambling hour confuses itself and repeats anecdotes in what should have been a tighter, more informative focus. However, such superficial storyteller basics can actually be a good classroom compliment with additional materials.

Witches: A Century of Murder – Historian Suzannah Lipscomb hosts this two-part 2015 special chronicling the seventeenth century persecutions and torture run rampant as witchcraft hysteria spread from James I in the late fifteen hundreds through Charles I and the English Civil War. 1589 Europe has burn at the stake fever thanks to the Malleus Maleficarum belief that witches were in league with the devil, and contemporaneous sources, books, and confessions help recount violent techniques and sexual aspects that may not be classroom-friendly. Innocent birthmarks or moles on maids and midwives were used and misconstrued until naming names and pointing fingers snowballed into deplorable jail conditions, hangings, and conspiracy. Postulating on why the innocent would confess is addressed alongside the details from the North Berwick Witch Trials – including garroting and even the smell of burning human fat. James I’s own Daemonologie becomes a license to hunt witches as the 1645 then-normal rationale that witches have sex with the devil escalates to extreme Puritan paranoia. Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins takes the law into his own hands via body searches, sleep deprivation, and agonizing deaths while unknown medicinal ills or causes were conveniently mistaken as evidence for witchcraft accusations. Names and faces are put to the exorbitant number of accused while on location scenery from Scotland to Oxford, Essex, and Denmark add to the prison tours and suspenseful trial re-enactments. Here specific facts and detailed information happen early and often rather than any hollow paranormal herky-jerky in your face design. Community fears, social cleansing frenzy, and things done in the name of good and God against evil and the Devil at work accent the timeline of how and why this prosecution became persecution run amok. Instead of broad, repetitive sensationalism or the same old Salem talk, this is a mature and well presented narrative on the erroneous impetus of the witchcraft hysteria.

You Make the Call, Addicts!

Halloween: Feast of the Dying Sun – This recent documentary hour intends to set the holiday straight with the Celtic origins of season, adding sunsets, cemeteries, Samhain bonfires, and end of the harvest celebrations to the spooky voiceover for heaps of atmosphere. From Scottish identity guessing games and the belief that the dead visit the living to trick or treating as beggars pleading door to door and souling for small cakes, tales of how our Halloween customs came together are detailed with banshees, hidden fairylands, and ghost sightings. It’s great to see Druid practices, pre-Tolkien fantasy ideals, and Victorian fairy beliefs rooted in daily culture rather than Halloween as we know it as October 31 and done. Brief reenactments add creepy alongside authoritative, folklorist interviews, but the campfire storytelling narrative is often too abstract, meandering from one spooky specter to another with only vague, basic minutes on Celtic arrivals in Britain, early sacrificial offerings, standing stones, and ancient sites. The facts jump from 4,000-year-old yew trees to otherworldly portals and fairies capturing mortals for liberating dance rituals – crowding intriguing details on the special power of nine or magic number three and church absorption of pagan practices. The generic Celtic talk drifts away from Samhain specifically, as if today’s generation needs hand-holding explanations on witch hunts, the origins of bobbing for apples, and the medieval transition toward All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints Day. The rough timeline tosses in New World changes, Victorian gothic literature, and horror cinema fodder as we both laud Halloween with parades and an American commercial revival yet continue to misconstrue witchcraft and occult hallmarks of the season. This can be spooky fun for folks who don’t know a lot about the history of Halloween, however, it will be too swift and superficial for expert viewers. It’s easy to zone out thanks to the random storytelling style, and the intended pagan history would be better served with a longer or specific, multipart documentary. Except for some wanton fairy queen sexy talk, as is this is neat for a teen sleepover or party background where rather than attempted academic, the tall tales can be casual fun.

Odds and Dead Ends: Hyde and Seek

Why Stevenson’s classic still haunts us

It’s hard to think that Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, could be anything like a surprise today, with the story so deeply ingrained in the popular conscious, at least at a basic level. But when the story was unleashed in 1886, it changed the face not only of gothic fiction but everyday thought. It altered how we look at ourselves. Its names are used so frequently as short-hands that we don’t even realise we use them. Its story is so potent because, at some instinctual level, we’ve known it all along.

That both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are two halves of the same person is so obvious to us now, that it is hard to remember that this was the novella’s major twist. Although the concept of the doppelganger had been used before; never quite like this. In an age of scientists beginning to look at the mind, Stevenson kick-started the psychoanalytic influence of popular culture. That later Freudian theories of the ‘id’ and the ‘ego’ would so closely mirror Henry Jekyll splitting his consciousness into its good and evil sides, is only to be expected. Studies into schizophrenia, insanity, and other levels of mental illness,  still the property of the scientist in the asylum, just beginning. That this madness could spill into the streets of London was unthinkable.

What I think captivates us most is that the moral dilemma proposed in the story is so deeply personal and human. After a single transformation, Jekyll gets a taste of his new, unrefined freedom. The dark activities that Hyde participates in thrill him, excite him so much that he voluntarily changes over and over again. When he realises that it’s getting harder to remain as his good side, something seems to change in Jekyll’s narrative. This is something much older, instinctual, a kind of self-possession. And when he thinks he is rid of Hyde for good, temptation strikes again, leading to the downward spiral that spells out his doom.

Therefore, we ask ourselves questions. Is evil inherent in all of us, and is it only a matter of time until temptation unleashes it? Once a single crack appears, have we set up an inevitable chain of events that will lead to our final demise? Though Jekyll’s potion may have rattled the initial cages, eventually Hyde possesses the key to his own lock. What about those of us who are perhaps weaker than he? Will one day our darker sides discover that the cell door, if rattled hard enough, will break on its own?

By now, the doubling trope is so old and worn down that it is hard to see it as new and refreshing. And yet, just like most of our movie monsters, time and time again it crops up. The reveal in Fight Club is one of the most well known in cinematic history, and even The Usual Suspects has a trace of it. Primal Fear (another Ed Norton movie, and another movie from the 90’s; perhaps there’s a follow-up article on the prevalence of doppelgangers in that particular decade?) also follows through on this concept. Psycho is perhaps one of the most influential examples of this theme being carried across, and Stephen King has used it several times in his various writings. Any ‘evil inside’ story is dubbed ‘a modern-day Jekyll-and-Hyde’. How many stories can you think of that receive this kind of treatment?

One of the best doppelganger movies of recent times is Jordan Peele’s Us. If you haven’t yet seen it, I highly recommend you do so immediately. Peele takes the concept and fills it with additional meaning. It isn’t just evil inside, but all of our lost hopes and griefs, all of the unfilled desires. The Untethered are our lost childhoods let loose and raging at the world. Life has crushed its dreams into the cookie-cutter pattern of capitalist aspirations that never manage to satisfy.

Never before have we been so aware as a people that, sometimes, we’re just as bad as the monster’s we have dreamed up to take our place. When before we created entities to embody our fears, we now project them as altered versions of ourselves as an attempt to come to grips with the evil inside. We don’t create avatars and fill them with our darkness anymore, because the avatar staring back at us is every bit ourselves as we are right in the beginning.

Even in The Exorcist, Karras must eliminate all doubt that the disturbances in the McNeill household are not being caused by Regan herself, before he can convince the Church that an exorcism is needed. He must go into the investigation with the initial belief that Regan, as a result of the breakup of her parents, the overworking of her mother, and her journey through puberty into adulthood, has unleashed a subconscious identity with parapsychological powers. In this story, demons are less readily-believed by the Church than Regan unknowingly having a ghostly Mr Hyde.

And so the legacy of Stevenson’s story lives on. Through its dozens of adaptations, its thousands of reworkings, and the endless imaginations his characters have inspired, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has touched us all because, very simply, it gets us to ask ourselves a very potent, and disturbing, question. “Am I evil?” I don’t think there’s a person in the world that hasn’t at some point thought they had a bad side waiting to destroy the world, and perhaps this little novella is the reason we all started looking at others, and ourselves, with a little more trepidation than we did before.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @KJudgeMental

Bibliography

Fight Club. 1999. [Film] Directed by David Fincher. USA: Fox 2000 Pictures.

Primal Fear. 1998. [Film] Directed by Gregory Hoblit. USA: Rysher Entertainment.

Psycho. 1960. [Film] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. United States of America: Shamley Productions.

Stevenson, R. L., 2006. Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In: R. Luckhurst, ed. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales. New York: Oxford, pp. 1 – 66.

The Exorcist. 1973. [Film] Directed by William Friedkin. USA: Hoya Productions.

The Usual Suspects. 1995. [Film] Directed by Bryan Singer. USA: Blue Parrot.

Us. 2019. [Film] Directed by Jordan Peele. USA: Monkeypaw Productions.