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.

Advertisements

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.

Book Review: A Winter Sleep by Greg F. Gifune

A Winter Sleep Author: Greg F Gifune
Reviewed by Ariel DaWintre

I liked this book it was easy to read and kept your interest. It had elements I love; winter, Eerie Hotel, and Crazy people. The story has Horror, Psychological Horror and just plain crazy. I kept thinking I had figured out this story then the author would change it up on me. When I got to the end I was still doubting what seemed to be the end wondering if there will be a sequel and he will explain it to me in an epilogue.  Then I was just, “Whoa okay that is just crazy,” and I don’t know if it was the story or me.

I loved the main character, Ben Hooper. I don’t want to give away too much and ruin the story but you get that he is going somewhere and through the story, you find out what happened and what he is doing. He ends up at an old Hotel called the Monarch, this hotel made me think of another famous hotel “The Overlook” and even the song, “Hotel California”.  He meets a group of strangers at this hotel and they have what appears to be nothing in common, but something is keeping them all there. In the story Ben’s past and present intermingle and you wonder what his future holds.

The story has all kinds of things going on and it keeps you engaged to the end. You get crazy, horror, ghost, spooky something for everyone. The real question is it real or all in Ben’s mind. I am still wondering! Thanks for a fun read. I might have to read it again!

My Darling Dead: Episode 11/ The Tipping Point

Bron was torn. The girl was not much larger than his own daughter, who was docile enough during his visits to her at night, but the tone of her voice made him uneasy. He stood, uncertain, adjusting his wilting manhood through his dirty trousers. Alasin continued to stare at him, hands on her hips, making no effort to cover herself. 

Then his sneer returned, along with his erection. “No one would believe you,” he said, unfastening his trousers. “An’ if they did, no one would care. Yer name’s dirt ’round ‘ere, Your Highness.” The sneer sounded in his voice as he shot the bolt to the front door. “Yer mine.”

His insolence made Alasin’s blood boil. She had never wished harder for her poisoned blade, to plunge into the fat greasy man over and over until the walls were red with his blood. He started toward her, one hand reaching into his pants to grip whatever was in there, the other holding his pants up so they did not fall until he reached her. In spite of the wizard’s drug, Alasin felt the touch of fear. Bron smelled it on her. His member grew in his hand and his pace quickened. Involuntarily, Alasin retreated as he advanced upon her, backing until her legs encountered the bed behind her. They buckled, spilling her backward on to the mattress and the dead man. 

Bron was on her almost before she could react. His slobbering breath assaulted her nostrils as his tongue lolled from his mouth, drooling on her as he scrabbled between her legs with one hand, holding one of her arms immobile above her head with his other hand. Her free hand flailed, striking him, her short nails finding no purchase in the fat man’s flesh. Her arm went wide, searching for anything, and her hand closed around a sturdy wooden handle just as she felt something unspeakable and wet attempting to burrow between her legs. 

The blacksmith’s hammer glanced off Bron’s head with the first blow, sending him reeling away from her. Alasin shoved herself to her feet, getting a better grip on the handle just as Bron turned back to her, blood streaming from behind an ear. 

“Whu…you…b-b-b-” he said, and lurched toward her, arms reaching out as his pants fell around his ankles. His face drooped on the side she had hit him and one eye was bloody and dilated. He tripped and would have fallen had Alasin not swung the hammer once more with all her strength, caving in the side of his head and sending him to the ground. He spasmed once and she hit him again, and again, and again until nothing was left of his face and she realized she was screaming. 

She stopped, dropping the hammer into what was left of the peasant’s skull and stood, breathing heavily as she listened. No sounds from outside, nobody pounding but her heart. She listened to it thud in her chest and in time it slowed until she could no longer hear it.

She looked down at herself, fighting a wave of revulsion at the blood which covered her. Water. Was there any water here? A bucket by the front door caught her eye. She picked it up and set it on the small table that sat by the window. Opening the curtains just enough to allow a sliver of light, she could see clear liquid in the bucket. She tasted it. Water. 

Once she had satisfied her thirst and cleansed herself as best she could, she stood for a moment, looking at her reflection in the slowly calming water. A haggard wreck stared back at her, dark circles under her eyes, hair matted and straggly. A sob forced its way from her throat and she slapped at the water, destroying her reflection. A princess of the realm? Princess of dirt. 

Alasin moved about the small hut, gathering her clothing once more. Once she put on her underthings, she looked with distaste at the finery in which she had fled the castle and absorbed so much dirt. She did not want to attract attention as she had with the blacksmith. There were his clothes, but he was a giant; none would fit her. 

Her eyes shifted to the other dead body with whom she was currently keeping company, seeing him in a new light as she sized him up. He was wider by far but not much taller than she was, and if she blackened her face and hid her hair…

She knelt beside what remained of Bron, trying not to look at his face or genitals as she removed his minimally bloody clothes and failing at both. They both nauseated her. To her relief, his clothing fit her better than she had hoped. She even found a greasy cap crammed into the pocket of the filthy trousers into which she tucked her hair, pulling the cap down tight around her ears. In the corners of the hut she found a reasonable supply of dirt which she smeared on her face and neck. 

When she returned to the bucket, the face which looked back was dirty but unremarkable. The cap had a slight brim which she pulled down as low as it would go. On the open street, no one would look twice at her. The smell the clothes gave off stung her nostrils, forcing her to breathe through her mouth. She was almost certain she felt bugs crawling in her hair beneath the cap. 

Going to the door, she unbolted it and opened it just a crack. There was nobody within her field of view and nobody appeared as she opened it further. The street was deserted. She turned and looked at what she was leaving in her wake. Two dead bodies, one of whom was barely recognizable and the other who did nothing to deserve his fate but show a girl a good time. 

Tears sprang to her eyes and she pushed out of the door, slamming it behind her with a resounding snap as she strode up the street, toward the castle, toward the queen, toward everything she had known. She did not look back. If she had, she would have seen two rat people appear from the gap between huts and begin sniffing at the open window and the scent of death inside. 

Death’s Parade Film Fest- San Jose, California

For full info on the Death’s Parade Film Fest including schedule and how to buy tickets, go to: https://www.deathparadefilmfest.com

 

Due to the number of high-quality submissions the Death’s Parade Film Fest will be holding a virtual festival October 3rd from 7PM – 8:30PM in Sansar two days before the festival at the Towne 3 Cinemas in San  Jose. So, what is Sansar, you say?  In a nutshell, Sansar enables user-created 3D spaces where people can create and share interactive social experiences like comedy shows and film festivals, create and play games, have conversations in VR and much more. The Death’s Parade Film Fest is proud to be the first virtual horror film fest!

 

The view inside the theater is spectacular. You won’t need a virtual headset to enjoy the festivities, but the headset will enhance the experience. Logging into Sansar is made simple and with ease. The folks at Linden Lab want to get you into the world as effortlessly

The theater is decked out in Halloween affair, and we are arranging the program. The plan to is keep the duration within 90 minutes, and pack it with any many horrific selections as possible. We wish to thank the good folks at The NightmareCloset for sponsoring Death’s Parade – Sansar. It’s going to be crazy!

 

Terror Trax: SINthetik Messiah

Band Name: SINthetik Messiah

Members: Bug Gigabyte is the only member; drums,
keyboard, guitar, vocals, programming, writing lyrics, and sound design.
Everyone else who has been apart of this project was a
temporary collaboration, especially for live shows.

Album/Song/Tour we are excited about right now.

I’m excited for my next release on the 13th “Black Sheep (Feat Hart Fortenbery )”

What singers or bands inspired you growing up?

Portishead, Nine Inch Nails, Orgy and Deadsy

Who are your favorite artists today?

I have so many today, and their styles can range from classical to hardcore drum and bass.

What non-musical things inspire your music?

This question can be loaded. However, emotions and people are non-musical sources of inspiration. What is the human condition? What is the human soul? How does it affect one another? How does it affect me? The propaganda of the new age and the people who blindly follow. Spiritually and the duality of it all.  What is real, what others define as real. Because there is more of the same answer by so many, Does it make it real or have we all been deceived to further divide us?  I’m not talking about religion, I’m talking about self. How far is it when it becomes selfish or selfless?

Is there a place where you go to get inspired?

Two places that really trigger my inspiration; going out and seeing a live show or going out in the middle of a forest with a tent, hand drum and making a big fire. Sometimes dancing around it helps.

What’s been the greatest achievement of your band?

I’ve had many achievements I’m very proud of, but when you see a class of children that are underfunded, and I’m able to provide art supplies or instruments to them, because our educational system is in the toilet here in Louisiana, that, I think is one of my biggest achievements.  The dramatic difference in their confidence and work when having the right tools makes it worth the countless hours and lack of sleep I’ve spent trying to raise money for them through my benefit television show.

Where was the coolest place to play? Where did you enjoy yourselves the most?

So far the first year I played Southern Gothic Fest.  It is what really helped me spread the word of Industrial Dubstep; what I’m known for creating.  This was the first time I’ve ever played in the goth scene. This was something I’ve always dreamed about when I was a kid, because the city I’m from there is no goth scene.

What are your favorite horror movies?

Hellraiser.  The thought of a dimensional being who is into some really kinky dominatrix stuff that has no safe word is really terrifying.  haha

What was the scariest night of your life?

The only thing you have to fear is fear itself. The Boat Man and I are friends.

If you could play anywhere in the world, where would it be and who would be your opening band?

I want to play in Ibiza on the beach, on a full moon with Fever Ray and Dead Can Dance. I would have more of a tribal electronic witch set planned out…only meant for that one show.

What are you working on now for future release?

I just finished reworking a track for The Other La, that was originally produced by CJ Pierce of Drowning Pool.  It should be out in a couple of months.  Now I’m working on my first full-length album that will feature the vocals of Ms Cat Hall.

Final thoughts / Anything you want to tell the listeners?

First I want to thank HorrorAddicts.net for being so kind to me, and I want to thank the people who listen to my work.  It does mean the world to me. My love and respect goes out to all of you.

http://www.sinthetikmessiah.bandcamp.com

http://www.twitter.com/buggigabyte

http://www.instagram.com/sinthetikmessiah_official/