The Horror Seeker : Give me the power I beg of you! / Bayou Berserk Month

“Thank you, almighty Damballa for life after death…”

Not exactly the kind of thing you’d expect to be based in reality. You know what they say, the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, and this is apparently the case with Child’s Play, rather the chant that Chucky needs to transfer his soul out of the infamous good guy doll.

Not so much the act of transferring a soul, but to my surprise, I found that Damballa, in Haitian and Louisiana lore, is known as the “sky father”. One might consider him to be on par with God, as he’s often synchronized with St. Patrick, Christ the Redeemer, or even Moses.

It’s interesting to note that he is referred to as ‘sky father”, as we all remember the rolling storm that would loom as Chucky recited his chant. Nowhere have I found that this is any kind of myth, or truth to Damballa, so I guess it’s safe to say it’s pure fiction. More so, I think the fact of him being sky father is nothing more than a coincidence, as the element of Voodoo was one of the last things added to the film, which admittedly helps it stand out amongst the horror community, even today.

Many aspects of Voodoo were used in the film: we see a Voodoo doll being executed to kill Chucky’s mentor… and, this one I just learned while penning this article. If you go back and listen to Chucky’s dialogue when he first meets John as the Good Guy doll, he presents himself by saying: “What do you think? The Gris Gris (gree-gree) work?” John nods but is terrified all the same, almost as if he can’t believe what happened. And neither did we… in Bride of Chucky.

Those familiar with the film can all agree, the sudden macguffin of the film, the amulet which Chucky and Tiffany are now after was in no way referenced in the original 1988 film… or was it?

No, we never see Charles Lee Ray wearing, or using it in any way when he’s killed, even though it’s made clear it was around his neck the night he died. It has been written off as a lame plot device to service the fourth installment, and I’m here to tell you that the filmmakers may have once again stumbled onto a bit of fortuitous history here, as well. As it turns out, a Gris-gris is indeed a Voodoo amulet based in Africa that is said to protect the wearer from evil, and or bring good fortune. It is something that has been found not only as a wearable charm, but any sort of intended stone put on buildings, etc. for the same reason.

Mind blown! Further, it’s entomology has best been traced back to the French term Juju, meaning fetish, or alternatively ‘doll” or “plaything”. You can make with the jokes, by all means, but it’s still quite interesting the speculated unintentional accuracy these films had!

Voodoo has a long and rich history, no doubt, but it is only a religion through and through. Like any ancient beliefs, I’m sure that much of its truths are beholden to those who are truly devout. For the rest of us, Voodoo has always had an ominous haze overhead which I guess you could say is due to our lack of modern understanding. Many who are nervous about it make jokes, are not informed, and are influenced by pop culture which isn’t always the best resource. I myself have always found it an interesting subject and look to read into it, for nothing more than curiosity, really. But what do you think? Are you familiar with the practice? If so, share below, and until next time my children… this is The Horror Seeker!

Horror Seeker Tribute : Remembering Donald Pleasence

You ask the average person who Donald Pleasence is you might get an answer like; he was one of the villains for James Bond. Those of us in the horror community will always remember him as Dr. Sam Loomis in the Halloween franchise, but with over 200 credits to his name, it’s near impossible to cover all his accomplishments in one article. However, there is so much more to the man that should be talked about in addition to his talents both on stage and screen. Here, we will take a moment to remember the life and career of one of the greats we lost on this February 2, 25 years later.
Born in the U.K. in 1919 Pleasence found out early on in his life that he wanted to be an actor. However, not long into his adult life he volunteered his services to the RAF (Royal Air Force) in 1940 during World War 2 as aircraft wireless operator, in which he flew near 60 raids until he was shot down during an attack and taken as a German POW. Interestingly, during this time it is said he produced and acted in many plays for his fellow captives. I can’t even begin to imagine the will and grace of the man during such a time, but all who’ve seen him on screen can’t help but be drawn in. Ironically, Pleasence would go on to play Himmler in 1976’s The Eagle Has Landed.
After the war and his subsequent release in 1946 Pleasence resumed his acting career in Birmingham and Bristol as a stage actor, but it wasn’t until his role in The Beachcomber in 1954 that he made his big-screen debut. From here he began his long and decorated career, staring in a number of horror films along the way, such and Circus of Horror, and The Flesh and the Fiends. These are two I have yet to see, but indeed are on my list. In researching for this article I am finding so many interesting films I now want to take a look at. If you are a fan of Pleasence’s work, can you recommend anything?
Another prominent role he is known for is the arch Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice. Many might see this portrayal and immediately recognize a certain buffoonish parody throughout the Austin Powers films. While it’s easy to catch that they are based on the Bond series as a whole, it is Pleasence’s performance which gave the template for Dr. Evil.
But now the one we’ve all come to know him as. Every great actor has their signature roll that they are revered for, or at the very least known for even to those who are unfamiliar, and I think it’s no contest that we all remember Pleasence as the quasi-mythic Dr. Sam Loomis. I say this because throughout the Halloween franchise he takes on the position of a Captain Ahab-esk type character forever searching for his White Whale – Michael Myers. It is never mentioned once of any family or friends, that Loomis is forever alone in his journey to stop the “evil”, as he calls it. You might see his mission as somewhat biblical, and his torment is ever-present no matter how close he seems to get.
Halloween was filmed on a shoestring budget at the time, during a period when the modern, well not so much today, but before the slasher craze had begun. There really wasn’t much of a wave for the film to ride to success. Like most great films it was created from original creativity, innovation and very little star power. While Jamie Lee Curtis is indeed the daughter of Psycho’s Janet Lee, it was Donald Pleasence’s involvement that became John Carpenter’s ace in the hole! He was who the people knew, and what a feather in his hat that Pleasence can be seen as one of the pioneers of such a great legacy of horror.
As we’ve seen his career has reached far beyond his own accolades and touched many and inspired even more. This I did not know, but thought was quite funny, that Pleasence had even hosted an episode of SNL in 1981. Below is a clip of this episode. I never knew him as a funny man.

Donald Pleasence has worked beside some of the greatest names including, but not limited to Robert Shaw, Alec Guinness, Peter Cussing, and Robert Duvall in George Lucas’s directorial debut THX 1138. Having seen this, I can’t help but wonder how close were we in having Pleasence in Star Wars? Who would he have played, you think?
We here at HorrorAddicts.net, and The Horror Seeker wish to extend our thanks to Donald Pleasence for everything he has given us both in Military service and performances on screen. Many of us may have grown up only knowing him for one or two roles, perhaps a bit more, but we must always honor the man as a whole! It’s been 25 years since his passing, and to sign off, here is his final appearance on screen in Halloween 6. Sadly, Pleasence had passed away before the film’s completion, but if you want to see a more coherent version, I suggest you find a copy of the Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6.

RIP Donald Pleasence, 1919 – 1995

From the Horror Seeker: Gozer the Gozarian

Gozer, for all its wonder, seems to be a Deity without any definitive form or essence of its own, coming to our plain in a predetermined form given to it by its followers, then surrendering its essence to a champion of its worshipers to choose the form by which it will destroy the earth. As we have come to know it, Gozer came to us in 1984 in the form of a Serbian actress Slavitza Jovan, where it was to be chosen by the Ghostbusters to destroy the earth in the form of the Stay Puff marshmallow man. Wait, what?

Yeah, it no doubt got our attention then, but when compared to the ancient tellings of Gozer, as it was by Egon in the film, Gozer has had many other, more intimidating figures it has brought upon humanity in the past.
Gozer came into pop culture as the main antagonist in 1984’s Ghostbusters. An ancient, but obscure God worshiped by the Mesopotamians, Sumerians and the Hittites somewhere around 6000 B.C.

Gozer was banished by the followers of an opposing force in Gozer’s sibling, Tiamat where it was exiled and left to roam the universe and its many dimensions, hence one of its many names as “The Traveller” Gozer spent many eons exploring and conquering world upon world until finally being summoned back to Earth more or less by a then strengthening group of followers headed by Dr. Ivo Shandor who went on to erect a building in NYC as an antenna to focus the spiritual energies of the plain and bring forth Gozer to take over the earth.

I thought it’d be an interesting look into an underappreciated antagonist, what with the 2020 Ghostbusters film on the way this summer. It has been rumored that Gozer will be making a comeback of sorts, and it will be very curious to see in what respect it will return; what form will it take now?

I have always thought Gozer to be something of an interesting character, not just for the sake of the film, but for inspiration. It is very clear that the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man is pure, uncontested fiction, obviously, however, a deity of Gozer’s like is nothing too obscure in history. As long as there has been man, there have been those man has worshiped. Regardless of a God/Deity’s intent, it almost seemed necessary for man’s survival, and I found myself wondering which God or Gods come closest to that of Gozer. Upon much digging, I have found it quite difficult to find anything close, until I uncovered an obscure Mesopotamian Deity known as Enlil. His roll in Mesopotamian mythology is power and authority, as such he has the ability to create and “destroy” – Gozer the Destructor.

An interesting passage I found here: Enlil was a provider, and as such he was declared the “Lord of abundance” in a hymn for Šu-Suen (2037-2029 BCE) (ETCSL 2.4.4.a: 20-21). However, Enlil could also take such plenty away and devastate the land, e.g., in The Lament for Urim, he is said to have “brought the storm of abundance away”, to have “annihilated the land, silenced the city” (ETCSL 2.2.2), and destroyed their houses and demolished their walls Enki and the World Order (ETCSL 1.1.3: 245).

There was nothing significant, however, about the timing of Enlil’s reign when compared to what we know, thanks to Egon. Nor was there anything relevant to a pairing of demi-gods in order to bring Gozer forward. However, further reading on Enlil will see he is also known as the “decreer of fates” and the holder of the “Tablet of destinies” to which the possessor would command the worlds. It becomes apparent why there would be such a devout following, and why Ivo Shandor would want to worship such a deity.

It has become a very interesting read though and I’d love to get some more of your thoughts on what you think of Gozer, as well as any further reading or discoveries you may find on anything closer resembling Gozer. Tell me what you hope to see in the upcoming film; if Gozer should return, and in what form?

From the Horror Seeker, we ask you to choose the form of the destructor—and perish!

Kid Fears: A History of the Bogeyman

It’s an enigmatic entity known to everyone, one that has almost as many faces as it does names. From all around the world people, mainly children,  live in fear of it; parents use its influence to insure good behavior, or as a fable to ward off mischief. It has been portrayed in countless mediums (art, film, etc…), rarely great, sometimes good, but often bad, and understandably so, as we will explore. This being, as you may have guessed is known almost universally as the Bogeyman!

As far back as the 1500’s this creature has been warped and molded throughout history and made its way through many of cultures who have adorned it with mythical status. While its image and origins have come to vary from country and time, there are a few consistent elements that have carried over to modern day. No matter its form, the Bogeyman is known to primarily focus its torment on that of misbehaving children, or those indirectly involved in such activities. They stalk and prey on their unsuspecting victims, usually waiting for them in their closets, or most commonly depicted underneath their beds, watching—waiting. In many cases they are said to feed on these children who are never to be seen again. Now, in context, coming as it did from a 16th century narrative, it’s not difficult to see how such tales were a perfect means to govern your children. Hell, even kids today might be so influenced by such a creature, though it may take some more convincing and the effect wouldn’t be as lasting.
These fables mostly came from isolated pockets of populates, usually villages in or near the miles of unexplored woods where tales of beasts and witches came for them all. Many lived in fear, and the Bogeyman as it was can be used as a sort of surrogate explanation for any misfortune. Even mass populations (towns, cities, etc…) were not safe, and had their own beliefs.

The Sackman, mainly of eastern Europe is a wide spread depiction reaching all around the globe, of a man who would roam the streets at night looking for any would be children who had not obeyed their parents and remained in bed. He is said to have a large bag slung over his shoulder, by which he would carry the children off to torment and eat. You can see how such a story would be of great use to parents, as well as the depiction relatively vague and simple; a man with a bag. I imagine there were plenty of them walking around at all hours. Homeless, vagrants; should a child lay their eyes on someone like this through their window at night, the shock of fear would almost be a guarantee.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sack_Man

El Coco (Cucu as is the female pronunciation) is the representation from Latin America. As far back as 1799 may be one of the earliest portrayals of our modern understanding of the Bogeyman (or woman, in this case), is said to hide under beds, or in closets, even watching from rooftops for disobedient children. ElCoco (Cucu) seems to be one of the more nefarious types that actively seeks and looks to kidnap children. With no specific form to itself, but it is known to be a shapeshifter of sorts, it is referred to sometimes as a “ghost monster” or even more rarely “the Devil”, even an alligator as one Brazilian description would claim. One of the more intriguing aspects is that of the numerous poems that are told in its name, one of the oldest comes from the 17th century which reads:

“Sleep child, sleep now,
Else coco comes, and will eat you—
Another, more traditional Brazilian spin is as follows:
Sleep little baby,
That Cuca comes to get you—
Daddy went to the farm,
Mommy went to work—”

If you ask me, these read like a creature intent on inflicting terror in innocent eyes, and not so much a simple foreboding tale.

The Baba Yaga or Witch of the Woods of Slavic culture is one we might all be familiar with thanks to its depiction in the more recent Hellboy or Ant Man films. Baba Yaga, come at night—Little children sleeping tight— Yeah, we all know it. However, Baba Yaga has a few more layers to it, specifically she; “she” being almost always a female, or rather an old hag of sorts, is known to not only seek out and eat children that should happen upon her home in the woods, but also to help those in need if they so earn her respect.

Baba Yaga has some of the more colorful characteristics in Bogeyman lore, for she is said to live in a house stilted atop a pair of chicken legs and enclosed by a fence made of human bones and skulls. She wanders the woods with her mortar and pestle, always ready to cook up her remedies, or victims. Usually an old frail woman, sometimes represented by not one but three women of the like; you can see how stories of Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Clash of the Titans or any number of Witching tales can be derived from such a concept. Once again, she is more noteworthy for her desire for small children, and yet it isn’t her appearance but her actions which places her in the category of Bogey(wo)man. Baba Yaga is rich with history I’m looking more into, but for those who wish to do the same, I’ll include two links below, one of which is an early mentioning in a story by Alexander Afanasyev (1826 – 1871) Vasilisa the Beautiful. I might liken it to a vague similarity to Cinderella, but tell me what you think.
https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends-europe/freaky-fairy-tale-ancient-folklore-vasilisa-beautiful-and-baba-yaga-009545

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJ0w6TyTeVk&t=908s

The final one I’ll mention here, as there are endless representations of the Bogeyman, is Black Annis of 18th century English descent. An interesting and, something of a more credible telling as Black Annis is said to be a misrepresentation of a real person, Agnes Scott. Both are said to have haunted the countryside of Leicestershire in the Dane Hills. Both are claimed to have lived in a cave marked by a large oak tree. But where the living Scott was said to be a reclusive nun who spent her life isolated in prayer, Black Annis was said to prowl the streets at night in search of children and lambs (livestock) to eat, only to tan their skins after and wear them around her waist, and go so far as to reach in through windows for her victims. A slight difference in interpretation you’d say! Makes me wonder did this Agnes Scott do something to bring about such a legacy unto herself? Although it’s been conjecture that this is only two similar stories molded to one ominous spin.

Nevertheless… it is a menacing creature no matter its form of concept, one that we are all weary of at some point in our lives. It is hard to contemplate why such a versatile being can be so hard to sell in fiction, though these days it’s understandable. It’s been tried many times, even in its own questionable film titled Boogeyman (2005). Hell, ECW/WWE had a character portrayal of the same name! But for a creature as adaptable and ever-changing as the Bogeyman, to confine it to a single image may be what dooms its representation. For this reason I, as well as many I’m sure, feel that Michael Myers may be the best representation; simple, ordinary, “Purely, and simply evil.” Sam Loomis (Halloween) may have known it best, confirming Laurie’s claim that it was the Bogeyman. “As a matter of fact, it was.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhvJiPpTO4s

Nightmare November : Is Freddy’s Dead really that bad?

If you ask me, “Freddy’s Dead – The Final Nightmare” gets a bad rap. Why is this? Why do fans object to this film so much? Well, to be fair it is the most disconnected from the rest of the series, having now abandoned the Alice storyline which had been the running canon – from Nancy to Kristen, to Alice, each of the heroines passing the torch down the line keeping the narrative fresh. But Freddy’s Dead might have taken too wide a step off the path for fans to accept and understand, and the choice of going 3D didn’t do it any favors either. However, I do believe this film does have its moments and is worth another look from fans of horror and the franchise alike! Let’s check it out!

For those not in the know, -SPOILER ALERT- The story follows the “last” of the Elm Street children, John Doe… no, really, that’s his name, played by Shon Greenblatt, a wandering amnesia stricken insomniac who is sent back to Springwood by Freddy for unknown reasons – reasons we find out later are for Freddy to find his daughter and escape the bonds of Springwood. Along the way, it’s more or less a typical run-through of victims for Freddy, with some creative and over the top death scenes, though the body count is kept to a relative minimum. The film culminates with Freddy being brought into the real world and having the final showdown with his daughter in a somewhat campy manner, even for Freddy’s antics. Not too bad, but I can see why fans might not have taken to it at the time.

As a seasoned member of the Nightmare on Elm Street team, Rachel Talalay makes her directorial debut in the 6th installment, addressing the question of who Freddy Krueger was before he was caught, giving us a bit more exposition than what Marge did for Nancy in part 1. It was the familiar fable about Freddy from parts 1 through 5, and it’s here where I find the first improvement. Usually exposition tends to water down a character/story, but in my opinion, it plays out well, giving us enough to carry the story forward with something new. That’s one of the better qualities of the film; it takes chances with a well-loved, well-established character. And like Jason Goes to Hell, or Halloween 3, and other films that tried to break from the patterns set, it was not as well-received as they had hoped.

We all know who Freddy is at this point, so there’s really nothing to hide. We can only learn more! Pop culture at the time had forced New Line’s hand to tease Freddy a bit, making him a bit more humorous in his antics, but again, in my opinion, I think it worked out well enough… not perfect mind you, but this is Freddy Krueger! One of the few slasher villains with a personality, arguably the best and most colorful! While the comedy at times did cloud over the intended horror, I feel it works for the character(s). It has been one of the discerning traits of Freddy. Having that strong personality has helped him become the icon of horror he is today.

So, why do we watch these films? For the kills, of course! Slasher films are known for their ever-inventive style of death scenes and here, well you can’t deny that they are memorable. While the violence is toned down a bit it’s not without imagination. From Carlos’s death by nails-on-a-chalk-board, this scene spends several minutes with its build-up leading to Carlos’s demise. It’s fun and terrifying, really putting you in Carlos’s perspective. How about Spencer? Who can forget the power glove? While I might gag at the shameless product placement, it is nonetheless creative. Again, the scene spends several minutes in its own element before giving us what we came to see! The lack of a body count, too, allows a bit more time to expand on the ones that got the axe (glove) making their scenes that much more unforgettable. Another quality here, that apart from a few throughout the franchise, all these characters are memorable, I my opinion. It’s a relatively lean cast with a few recognizable faces, such as Breckin Meyer, Lisa Zane, Yaphet Kotto, and some interesting cameos by Tom Arnold, Roseanne Barr, and Johnny Depp. Ha! Freddy gets one over on Glenn again during a bizarre twist on a familiar PSA. The scene gets a chuckle out of me every time! And while the acting is by no means Oscar-winning it is believable; you can tell the actors are having a good time, and I think that’s all you can ask for in any film.

It wraps up rather abruptly with a slideshow recap of the five previous films while the credits roll, with a perfect song by Iggy Pop to end, well “end” the franchise. Would’ve been nice to have a “Spoiler Alert” back then! But here it is!

As a kid, I had a bad habit of watching franchise films out of order, and Freddy’s Dead was one of the first I ever saw! I guess part “6” wasn’t exactly the best jumping on point, ha! So many songs have been written around Nightmare on Elm Street either for the films themselves or in general from The Fat Boys to Will Smith, to Tuesday Knight’s intro from Part 4.

It’s amazing to see what an influence these films had on not only the fans but the industry itself. Hell, New Line was on its last leg before Wes came along. It was a dare from the start, and New Line has been known since then as the house that Freddy built. And that’s another element that we can appreciate in Freddy’s Dead, it was a dare! As I say, it took chances, something that movies and studios today just don’t do anymore. It has survived some turbulent times, such as the writers’ strike of 1988 and being developed in a dying company. Could this, as well as being handled by some of the best in writing, directing, and effects have fostered this one of a kind creativity? I will say this, it has been a great inspiration for myself, as well as countless others, so I think it’s fair to say that Freddy’s Dead isn’t that bad. Again, I may be bias, but The Final Nightmare will always be something special to me. If I could ask the fans to give it another chance with a little more open appreciation for what it is, I think we can all remember that Every town has an Elm Street!

Horror Seeker: Are You Scared? Top 5 Countdown

These days, it’s sad to say that horror has lost a few nuances in subtlety. While there are a few outliers, mostly those of the independent realm that still manage to terrify with atmosphere and story, the jump scare has no doubt taken the place of genuine creativity and effort to scare us. It is indeed a shame; while jump scares are nothing new, and when used appropriately they can be effective, it is but one tool, not the ONLY tool by any means. This over-reliance on the exhausted trope may have even left the average moviegoer numb and impatient to any sort of suspense building element a film might have to offer. So, I am here to remind you of, and hopefully share something new, the chill in your spine. That feeling that makes you check the windows twice at night, and make you second guess looking into the dark again. This is by no means a complete list, only a collection of some of my favorites. So, without further ado…

5: FRIDAY THE 13TH VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan

Arguably, the most questionable addition to this list hence why it comes in at number 5, Jason Takes Manhattan is regarded as one of the more discombobulated installments of the franchise, and for good reason. Taking Jason away from Crystal Lake might not have been the best of choices, but this deep into the story there might not have been much left to explore. So, why not give him a “proper” sendoff and bring Jason to the Big Apple? New York has always been the go to for any film/character in good standing.

Unfortunately, it didn’t really live up to the title. Spending only 36 minutes of an hour and forty run time in the big city, it was kind of a letdown, I think most would agree. It is well known that a number of scenes were cut, but it was not without its moments. One I think everyone remembers is Julius’s death – Jason’s one-punch knockout! But that was just a WOW moment, really.

I’d like to talk about one of the many times we see Jason as a boy, in this case, his ghost, played by Tim Murkovich. It is one of the many times boy-Jason makes an appearance, probably the most in any film, however, he hold a certain level of eeriness to him. Waterlogged, and soggy, Jason appears as a harbinger of doom of sorts, preceding Jason’s actual presence. Kind of like his force-ghost, if I can get away with that! But the moment that stands out is one that is thrust onto us nearly without warning. As our survivors (what’s left of them) drive madly down the alley trying to escape Jason, they, or rather our heroine Rennie, is confronted by the boy-ghost. It is not so much his presence, nor the scene, but rather the camera work/editing that sells this one.

The scene begins at a high pace as they drive off in a commandeered police cruiser after having narrowly escaped Jason’s grasp. Your heart is pumping and continues to increase as everyone in the car is screaming, panicking, lost in their own madness and terror, when suddenly Rennie barrels down the alley toward a waiting apparition, one that only she can see. The scene instantly cuts to her perspective; void of any sound except for the abusive drums as she grows closer. It then borrows a modified soundbite from Psycho, bringing us uncomfortably close to the boy’s deformed, patient stare. For that moment, he is looking at you – I mean YOU! And you can feel it. It only lasts a split second, blink and you’ll mercifully miss it, but for those who don’t, it is one of the few times you can actually feel his presence next to you. This is, of course, my experience. What’s yours?

4: CREEPSHOW II – The Hitchhiker

Creepshow, Tales from the Crypt, there’s nothing quite like it, is there? You don’t really see too much of the horror miniseries these days, but these tales are still worth their weight in blood. If you’re not familiar, I highly recommend them.

SPOILER WARNING just in case. In this particular story, our adulterous woman is in a hurry to get home to her husband, unaware of the lonely man thumbing for a ride on the side of the road; not that she’d have picked him up anyway. Her night takes a turn for the worse when she accidentally runs him down and leaves him for dead. It is here the horror truly begins, opening up what may very well be one of my worst nightmares.

While calming her nerves, she continues on, soon coming to a stop to further calm herself down. Here she notices a figure approaching; a broken stagger of a man, bloody, but alive? – it can’t be… It may have been her own eyes playing tricks on her, until the same hitchhiker then appears in her window, his mangled body leaning desperately in the car as he thanks her for the “ride”.

These films were definitely played up for exaggeration, being derived from the comics of the respective names, but it’s in this short’s persistence and focus that the horror works. The unrelenting vengeful force that just won’t die no matter what you do. No gun, or tactic, or car, in this case, will help you, as the hitchhiker is run over again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and… it goes on! Truly brutal, and in his frantic, almost spell-binding mantra we are taken for a horrifically graphic trip in its own cartoony, over the top way. Goes without saying, thanks for the ride, lady!

 

3: PUMPKINHEAD – Ed Harley meets Haggis the Witch

Haunting; if I had to put this scene in a word, it’s that. When Ed Harley’s boy is killed by some obnoxious teenagers, he seeks retribution through a local witch known for such malevolent things. We don’t know very much about Haggis (the witch), only that the locals are somewhat uneasy about her presence. They know that she’s capable of some terrifying acts; everyone has stories, some have even seen things, such as Ed Harley has when he was younger. It was the memory that had stuck with him, and the same that had brought him here.

The setting hits all the beats for what one might think of when picturing a witch’s home, minus the bubbling caldron. A lone decrepit house lost in the woods, off the grid, severely weathered. Inside, Haggis sits in front of a fire, looking as though she hasn’t moved in decades. Candles are lit all around, and numerous creatures populate the area; rats, spiders, snakes, even an owl, all of which are keeping a close eye on anyone who might enter.

The witch’s makeup and presence are one of the best I’ve ever seen on screen. It doesn’t try to reinvent the mythos; Haggis looks like any old-timey witch, but it’s the effort put into the roll that sells it so perfectly. Florence Schauffler was 68 years old at the time, but her appearance looked as though she were 680. We don’t know as her backstory is mostly left to the audience’s imagination. It is one of the few times where I clamor for a prequel. Who is this woman? Where did she come from? So many questions raised by this brief encounter.

It is a perfect depiction of the consequences when the need for revenge consumes you completely. Presenting itself almost as a fable parents might tell their kids; a cautionary tale on anger and vengeance. It is a hauntingly atmospheric scene, quiet and unnerving in the way it draws the air out of your lungs as even you are afraid to move, worried that Haggis might see.

 

2: PET SEMETARY – Zelda

This was a tough call, as this scene/character has bothered me my whole life. Anyone who has seen this movie and remembers the disturbing performance by Andrew Hubatsek who portrayed Rachel’s sister Zelda. Among many elements, I feel that the fact that Zelda was played by a man only added to the disturbing nature of the character, and the scenes she was in. Though not a monster, or demon of sorts, she is a ghoulish entity which the MicMac grounds use against Rachel, and it is terrifying!

Even to this day, I get chills when I so much as hear her (well, his) voice in my head. It’s one of two movies I have a hard time watching in the dark alone, and that’s saying something. Like many great scenes, it’s a perfect storm of performance, set up, atmosphere, and cinematography that make it work. I don’t know about anyone else, but I can never forget that twisted look; Zelda’s deformed frame writhing on the bed, misshapen and tortured by fate. Unfortunately for her, she was stricken with spinal meningitis which, in the film is exaggerated of course, but is cringing nonetheless.

Zelda is nothing but Rachel’s haunting memory of her departed sister, so she bares no harm other than what Rachel’s guilty conscious weighs on her. Once again, we as the viewer are brought uncomfortably close to her twisted form as Zelda continuously taunts Rachel with a promise of sorts. In a way, it seems like she’s hoping Rachel will suffer the same fate one day as penance for letting her die. The words are repeated again, and again – yelled in fact, like… I don’t even know what to compare it to! All I know is to this day; it still terrifies me to open a door to a bedroom I’m not familiar with. What’s in there? Is Zelda dead yet? Wondering if she’s going to run up to me screaming, “NEVER GET OUT OF BED AGAIN! NEVER GET OUT OF BED AGAIN!”

 

1: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE – Sally and Franklin

After Leatherface’s jarring debut on screen, having just killed three of Sally’s friends, she and her brother franklin are left to wait, and wonder what’s become of them. This final entry wins not for its monster, or blood and gore, but it’s prolonged suspense. The clip below is the best I could find, but the scene is another few minutes longer with Sally and Franklin desperately calling out for their friend Jerry before venturing into the darkened woods.

I go back to Alfred Hitchcock and his definition of suspense. There’s a difference between a bomb going off, and knowing the bomb will go off. Which is more suspenseful? It is the same here; we have already witnessed the horrors that befell Sally’s friends, and what awaits her and Franklin. We know they won’t escape, we know everyone’s dead, we know what is waiting in the dark – WE know! And that is the key element here. We, as the audience know what is to come, we just don’t know when, or how, and I think that is more terrifying than anything. The scare, or the pop if you will, is the catharsis of the moment, and the longer the suspense is, the more it is dragged out, the bigger the pay off. This scene accomplishes this very well!

From the beginning, we learn of Franklin’s condition. A helpless, scared invalid; burden, really, on the group that we struggle to feel sorry for. That is until we get a feel for his point of view. He feels sorry for himself, and it kind of sad to watch. Over time, you do feel bad and begin to empathize with him. Though not entirely idolized as a character, it is his fear you feel resonating from the screen. You can tell how scared he is, how desperately he just wants his friends to come back, and it only gets worse when he realizes the keys are gone, and that they can’t leave even if they wanted to.

The scene is beautifully scored with an ominous droning aura that sounds like it belongs in a cave. But it is looming horror, the pending nightmare that patiently, oh so patiently awaits them. Honk the horn all you like, scream your head off, wait until daylight if you make it that long. Hell, another thing this film does well, is it takes away the security of the light, as most of the horror happens during the day, so you don’t even have that to fall back on.

So many great moments and it bears repeating that I feel it’s a lost art. Subtlety has been forgotten in cinema, unfortunately. The sad thing is, a jump scare will always get a reaction no matter how prepared you think you are, but it’s only as scary as me screaming BOO in your ear when you’re not expecting it. Great for a laugh, but not for a scare, and certainly won’t stay with you as these scenes have done for me. What do you think? Share some of your favorites I may have overlooked! Thanks for reading!

This is The Horror Seeker

Nightmare November : Dare to Dream from the Horror Seeker

Dreams are one of the most mysterious functions of the human mind, and we all have them. Many we can’t remember, but of the few we do, dreams are nothing short of an amazing experience in all their form and splendor, and none so profound as a vivid nightmare that wakes you out of a sound sleep.

Growing up, I became a fan of Nightmare on Elm Street at 3 years old, thank you, Aunt Liz, ha! But it has always been a foundation of inspiration for my writing. Could something like Freddy actually exist? As any fan of the franchise knows, one of Wes Craven’s inspirations in creating NOES was one of the many cases known as Asian Death Syndrome, or more commonly referred to as Night Terrors. These were only called Asian Death because during the 1980’s a sudden wave of sleep-related deaths had occurred amongst a number of healthy middle-aged Asian men in the Chicago area.  Much of the details we see in the movie are direct from his life, according to Wes; Nancy hiding a coffee pot to stay awake, the notion of some real entity trying to kill him, the screams and thrashes during sleep. Though, I think it’s safe to say nothing was brought out of a dream. Ha, oh what a life if that were a possibility! But I digress.

In my continual search for material, I keep a notebook at my bedside in case a potent dream manages to stick long enough for me to write down. However, it is the dark ones I hope to catch, and unfortunately, as we get older, I feel that nightmares become few and far between, but they never stop completely.

So, what are dreams? Well, they are attributed to the processing and organizing of the thoughts of the day, and they are vital in our brain’s ability to recover and recharge. One of the best ways I’ve heard it described is, imagine your brain is a warehouse. On one side all the material (thoughts, etc) are coming in and being shipped from one side to the other. As your day wears down your brain begins to process the material. Now, when you fall asleep its as if a door dividing the warehouse in two closes and our awareness is left on the empty end of the warehouse. Whatever the process is that organizes our brain’s activities we can not see, we can only listen. Dreams, as it is told, are our brain’s interpretation of those sounds. A loud bang, say, could have been anything really, but the experience is subjective to us all, perhaps influenced by our own unique programming. This description has stuck with me for a while, and really, it’s the one that excites the most intrigue. That being said, I’d like to leave you with the last memorable nightmare I have had in recent times.

Like many dreams begin we simply just happen into them with no real awareness of a beginning or an end. See Inception. In this case, it “began” in my car, dawn or dusk, I’m not really sure which, but it was stark, blue, like the fading or coming of a summer sun. Almost immediately I was aware of a presence next to me in the passenger seat. I say presence because, well, you’ll see. There were no words exchanged, no real movement. Only when I was aware, as if it could sense as such, the figure turned and leaned in as close to my face as it could without touching me. It was a faceless thing, dressed normally. It’s head cast in a hooded sweatshirt as Death would look if he were a skateboarder, ha! It said nothing, it did nothing, but it felt as though it was looking into my soul, deep and invasive! I remember being as terrified as ever, indescribable, and dangerously hyperventilating. The most horrifying thing was, I was aware of this on a conscious plane as if I were awake and asleep at the same time and unable to scare myself out of it. Only when my girlfriend at the time who had been awoken by my hysteria, shook me violently for several seconds did I snap out of it.

“Was it the shadow man?” She asked the next morning.

I hadn’t told her a thing up until that point, and yet somehow she knew what I saw. I could think of no better way to describe it. It was A Shadow Man. Having experienced that, I can say it is exactly the kind of dream I hope for and the exact kind of dream I never want to experience again!

Do you remember your dreams, your nightmares? If so, please share. I’m always on the lookout for a good tale to tell. Thanks for reading!