Why is race, why is diversity, important in speculative fiction? Why is it important, why should it matter, what race one’s characters are?
As a child, I devoured YA fiction, filled with ghosts and goblins. My TV interests were the same: I gravitated toward the weird, the fantastic, so much so I often had to look under my bed to make sure Dracula hadn’t found his new resting place there.
But there were, with few exceptions, no characters who looked like me. There were no characters from neighborhoods like mine. What was far worse was that many of the characters who later came, and are still around today, didn’t act like me or anyone else I knew. I wonder if my life would have been more enriched if there’d been a brown-skinned girl or boy who starred in the fiction I so greedily devoured? If he or she had walked across the TV screen of my youth? Of this I’m sure.
Diversity is important because we, people of color, need heroines and heroes to people the landscape of our imagination … to point the way, to help us dream, to help us see something better in our tomorrows. We need characters to help make us proud of who we are and where we came from. In short, we need characters to identify with. Characters who are coming from the same space. We need role models, most especially ones who don’t die in the first fifteen minutes of the story, ones who aren’t caricatures and stereotypes.
Now don’t get me wrong. I continue to enjoy literature and films created by white authors. But I still need, I’d venture to say we still need stories that emerge from the Black experience. And we aren’t the only ones who need this. Diversity in speculative fiction is important for folks of all races.
If you want to know what’s going on in my neighborhood, if you want to know what moves me politically, and socially, if you want to know what I dream, who better to ask than me? In other words, SF/fantasy/horror written not just by Black folks, but by Native Americans, peoples of Latin descent, written by the full racial spectrum, goes a long way toward making folks more intelligent, more tolerant … to moving our world a little bit closer to global humanity and understanding.
Racial inclusiveness, diversity, is just as important in speculative fiction as it is in every other aspect of our lives. And in 2019 it is becoming an everpresent reality.
I’ve always hated it when folks overgeneralize and paint everyone with the same broad brush. So here’s what I have to say: to those white creators who are trying so hard to be racially sensitive and accurate. We are not talking about you. I myself, create Native American, Asian, Spanish and White characters based on folks I’ve been fortunate enough to meet in my lifetime. As I’ve said before, I hope that I do a decent job. Only my readers can answer that.
The authors and screenwriters we’re trying to move forward are those who have no idea how to create a nonwhite character and don’t even try to learn. Who just dig in their bag of stereotypes and throw something together. Personally, I’d rather be portrayed as a White woman with a deep tan, not perfect mind you, but better, rather than a “Yuk, yuk missus … I’s a-comin’” myth.
As writers, we’ve all heard of publishing companies that strong-arm authors into making their characters white or racially ambiguous, so they can attract white readers. Again, all publishing companies are not equal. But these stories have made me glad I decided to self-publish. I’d also like to say, since I have white readers, to these companies (you know who you are): you aren’t giving your readers enough credit. You should stop treating them like children. Folks will read good writing, no matter where it comes from, and who writes it.
And now to Hollywood. Oh man, don’t get me started! On the stereotypical characters that make us all cringe, the people of color (yes, not just black folks) who die fifteen to thirty minutes into the film, to the scores and scores of films made with no people of color at all.
So what do we do? We keep on keeping on. In 2019, the speculative fiction landscape is filled with more films, books and animation created by folks of color than I have ever seen in my lifetime.
Our numbers will continue to grow. We are coming. We have arrived. We are here.
And we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
Valjeanne Jeffers is a science fiction writer and the author of Immortal, Immortal 2: The Time of Legend and Immortal 3: Stealer of Souls. She is a graduate of Spelman College, NCCU and a member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective (CAAWC).
Black Devil Doll From Hell or Chester Turners Revenge
A Review by James Goodridge
“This is bad, very bad … but I love it,” I say to myself while clicking through a cornucopia of videos, reviews, soundtrack music, and other snippets, but not the full-length movie Black Devil Doll From Hell or BDDFH. Now I have a macabre love for B movies be it Sci-Fi or Horror the more absurd (see Scream Baby Scream 1969) or Grind House the better. With some low budget movies watching them you get a sense that they were made for the quick buck, but some have a feel that passion was injected into the movie kind of an Ed Wood radiance.
BDDFH was written, directed, music scored and produced by Chester Turner. Starring Shirley Jones, it was filmed in 1984 in Chicago for under $10,000 using a video camera, a VCR and a Casio organ for soundtrack music.
The ’80s were an era of mobile video freedom for people to create, a challenge to would-be amateur filmmakers. Mr. Turner took up the challenge. The plot surrounds Helen Black(Jones) a God-fearing woman who buys a three-foot doll with Rick James corn rolls from a strange gift shop, not aware that the doll is possessed by the devil. Later in the slow-paced movie, the doll comes to life and attacks her in the shower. For the rest of the movie, we’re tormented by devil doll’s old hustler voice harassing Helen as she has succumbed to his power, going on the prowl to pick up men for sexual gratification. Obie Dunson plays the Preacher in some scenes.
Years later, Turner said he stayed up three days and nights writing the script. Maybe I’m wrong because I had a hard time following parts of the movie and there is barely a plot. Now I must say that the doll itself is creepy, one of those old ventriloquist dummies with the huge eyes and to Turner’s credit you do get a visceral sense of unease.
The Casio droning on in the background makes you wish it would stop. Scenes lingering too long, stiff acting and bad lighting doom this labor of love Chester Turner produced. Selling the movie on VHS from the trunk of his car then making sales pitches in-person to video store owners generated limited profits for Turner and Jones (they were in a relationship at the time) and soon the movie was forgotten with Turner and Jones moving on to create Tales From the Quadead Zone (1987).
Over the decades, social media has not been kind to BDDFH with would-be reviewers piling on with bad reviews. I came across one reviewer on YouTube using a racial slur when talking about Ms. Jones’s looks. But a documentary Adjust Your Tracking (2013) and a Daily Grind House article in 2013 revived interest in BDDFH. It is now the holy grail when it comes to VHS tape collectors with a tape selling between $ 419 to $1,000 online.
Internet detective work helped me come across a Q & A segment at the 2013 Austin Film Society Festival featuring Turner and Jones. The movie now in cult status, Turner answered questions with humbleness and grace while Jones is reserved and matter of fact. Both feel vindicated, Turner still has the master copy and was redistributing it on DVD. In 2001
A non-related remake of BDDFH was released on DVD. A soft porn splatter movie mess, the best I can say about it is that… I’ll get back to you a few years from now maybe with some kind words.
At the end of the day Turner and Jones chased their dream with passion.
By Eden Royce
Both Ganja and Hess (1973) and Spike Lee’s remake Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014) feature Dr. Hess Green, an anthropologist who from an encounter with a cursed knife, develops a thirst for blood. Soon after, he meets Ganja Hightower and shares his curse of immortality with her to ensure they will be together forever. They begin a dangerous romance that strikes at the heart of what we know as love and addiction.
When you look up cult films, as I do, the list inevitably includes at least one Blaxploitation horror movie. The one I see mentioned most often and the one listed on Halliwell’s Film Guide is Blacula. It deserves its place and if you haven’t seen it, I recommend you do so.
One deserving black horror flick that doesn’t get such love is Ganga and Hess.
I have a hard time placing this movie with other films in the Blaxploitation horror genre like J.D.’s Revenge, and Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde because Ganja and Hess stands alone as almost a genre within itself. Some may find this movie difficult to watch as it drags its feet in some places, and in others rushes through, skipping niftily past plot and minor details like why did getting stabbed with this ancient knife give Dr. Hess a form of vampirism?
Even so, William Gunn’s directorial choices are resonant. G&H is artsy and full of symbolism. In addition, he plays Lafayette Hightower in the film, Ganja’s husband and Hess’s disturbed assistant who stabs him with the aforementioned knife. While I don’t always need or want to be spoon-fed all of the details in a movie, I found Ganja’s throwaway attitude of yes, my husband’s body is in your wine cellar, but do you wanna get together? mystifying.
I appreciated that the characters were not portrayed as stereotypically Black; their roles could be played successfully by any race. Hess, played by Duane Jones of Night of the Living Dead fame, is an anthropologist and is obviously wealthy if his home and the Rolls Royce his driver carts him around in are any indication. Ganja’s tone is acerbic and cutting at first, but Hess is too cool and comfortable in his own skin to rise to the challenge. Eventually, she mellows into a thoughtful, introspective character, assessing her plight, then accepting, and finally reveling in it.
Ganja and Hess is such an unusual movie, part horror, part surreal dream-state montage; it was initially received poorly and almost ended Gunn’s career. The movie was re-released under different titles: Blood Couple, Black Vampire, and Black Evil, which underwhelm and do little to show the true intricate nature of this film. Now it has become a cult favorite that dips and dives, allowing you to observe without explaining much of anything. It’s a lingering movie that taunts you for trying to understand it.
Perhaps that’s why Spike Lee wanted to remake this film. His retelling of these blood-bonded lovers is titled, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, highlighting the original’s footage of African-Americans worshipping and singing gospel hymns, creating a religious tone that echoes throughout both movies.
Financed via Kickstarter, Lee’s film brings the characters into the modern world but loses some of the allure of the original. The long scenes of church worship are there, as are the overlaid images and the characters’ grudging acceptance of blood as necessity.
However, Stephen Tyrone Williams does not have the easy cool of Jones, instead of giving Dr. Hess a stiff, wooden portrayal. British actress Zaraah Abrahams is marginally better, but still feels awkward as Ganja. Abrahams has several nude scenes in the remake, while the original only featured frontal male nudity.
For the most part, Lee’s film remains true to Gunn’s version. A notable exception is that Lee is more forthright with explaining plot, which is not a bad thing. He spends more time developing characters and revealing their intentions and motivations.
Also, Ganja and Hess is grainy and difficult to hear in places as background noise plagued the filming. Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is clear and clean, with high image quality and a sturdy soundtrack.
I recommend seeing both movies for different reasons. It would be a good fit for lovers of indie films, those interested in seeing Black characters in leading horror roles, and those who just love a good, surreal experience. Both films give a different take on the blood drinker mythos and that in and of itself makes them refreshingly interesting movies.
Eden Royce’s short stories have appeared in various print and online publications including, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror (2018 and 2019), Sycorax’s Daughters (Bram Stoker award finalist), Apex Magazine, Strange Horizons, Fiyah Literary Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, PodCastle, PseudoPod, and Fireside Fiction. She is also a recipient of the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Diverse Worlds grant.
Her debut middle grade Own Voices historical Southern Gothic novel, TYING THE DEVIL’S SHOESTRINGS, is forthcoming from Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins. More at her website edenroyce.com.
Excerpt from: Legends of Old by Violet Tempest
The Old Charleston Jail, located at 21 Magazine Street, Charleston, SC is well known to locals as being haunted. Some refuse to go near this structure while thrill seekers buy tickets from Bulldog Tours for guided tours. The long history of this jail does give creditability to its many hauntings. Having been used as a prison for over 200 years there was a great deal of suffering that occurred on the grounds and in the cells. (pg. 72)
My personal experience of the tour and afterward:
When our daughter was eleven years old, my husband and I decided it would be fun to start a Halloween tradition of going on a different Ghost Tour in Charleston, SC every year. These would allow us to spend time as a family and introduce our daughter to Lowcountry History.
The area goes back to 1670 when settlers landed on the shores of the Cooper River, founding what is now known as Charlestown Landing. Our first tour was a family friendly tour of the old churches and graveyards in Downtown Charleston.
Two years later we decided to take it up a notch. That’s when we took The Haunted Jail Tour.
By this time our daughter was familiar with the lore of the area, and like us she found the old tales intriguing. Little did we know that the tour would change our views on ghost tours.
We booked a tour for the Saturday before Halloween of 2008. It was chilly evening, and the tour didn’t start until after dark. WE made an event of it, like we had done in the past. Going out to dinner, and our daughter invited her best friend to go with us. The four of us were looking forward to a fun spooky filled evening.
We arrived at the Old Jail with about 20 minutes to spare, so we, along with others who were arriving for the tour, had to stand outside while the tour in progress finished up. Standing on the sidewalk we could hear an occasional loud bang followed by a scream or two. The girls moved to the sidewalk opposite the street, and we weren’t too far behind them. Even across the street we could feel the heavy despair that hung around the old building and grounds.
Finally, the tour ended, and it was time for us to take ours. Friendly, joking banter floated around as strangers teased one another. Nothing that anyone in the group took seriously. I mean, everyone knows the noises on these tours are false.
Before we could enter, we were told the rules; the most important was to stay together, no one was to wander off. Then the tour began. Standing outside the front entrance our tour guide told us that what is now known as the old jail started out in a hospital for the homeless and other impoverished people.
Years later, in 1802 that building was torn down and replaced with the building that currently stands. Over the years the building that was designed to hold 128 prisoners would at times have so many occupants that there was standing room only. Not only inside, but outside as well. The grounds would be packed with barely enough room for the prisoners to move, and men and women were placed together. They did not separate them.
As you can imagine, the conditions created disease, and many died before they were released. The city kept a body cart on the property where the dead bodies were stacked on top of one another.
When the cart was full, it was then driven to the river, and the bodies dumped. Our guide said that there were many times the bodies piled up before they decayed and so another site, further down the river, would have to be used. Her words painted a vivid image and my flesh crawled as my mind carried me back to that time.
That wasn’t the end of the horror she painted for us.
We followed her inside, and she showed us the shackles that are still on the walls. The torture devise varied from room to room. Our guide told us how the prisoners who were considered the worst of the Charleston population were tortured, shackled, and starved.
Next, we went up the narrow staircase and saw the huge rooms where, in the winter there wasn’t any heat nor, of course, in the summer any air conditioning.
The criminals weren’t shown any kindness.
These harsh conditions made it almost impossible to survive. It is approximated that by the time the jail closed in 1939 over 10,000 people died on the property.
It was in the last room where we heard the tale of Lavina Fisher, according to legend she’s the country’s first female serial killer. And yes, while we were in the room a loud bang sounded out. Where exactly it came from I cannot say. The sound echoed all around us. Now, even though I have experienced the unexplained since I was a small child, I was skeptical.
“But surely it was Lavina?” some may be asking. I do not know. Personally, I feel it was all sound effects the tour company added to give their customers a thrill. I can tell you the despair that bore down on us before we started the tour did not leave me. There were times that it felt like someone was behind me, but when I looked no one was there. Other times a cold reached my bones that wasn’t from the chilly autumn air.
Throughout the whole tour I couldn’t shake the feeling of evil all around me.
No one was injured on the tour, and everyone took plenty of pictures. Nothing unusual showed in ours and driving away we talked about the history that we had learned that night. Little did we know that our experience with the old jail was far from over.
Over the next year our daughter and I could not shake the feeling of something watching us at all times. Even in our sleep. After a couple of months things progressed. Our daughter began staying in her room all the time and was always sleepy and moody. We chalked it up to her becoming a teenager, even though that didn’t squelch our concerns.
Then she started showing me her sketches. They were full of an evil crawling out of the darkness of her closest. It wasn’t until one night while she stayed with a friend that I discovered what was really happening to her.
My dear husband snores, and when I say snore I mean shake the walls snore. So that night I was awoken by what can only be called an Earth-Shattering Rumble, I went down to her room and crawled into her empty bed. The snoring was tolerable down there, and I eventually fell back asleep. How long I was asleep I do not know. But while I lay there on my right side, under her comforter, deep asleep, I felt something jump on the bed, placing hands and feet on either side of me, startling me awake.
At first I thought it was our dog, and I turned to pet her and get her to snuggle up beside me.
What I saw was not our dog.
From the streetlight that peeked through the curtains, I could make out the thing on my daughter’s bed straddling me was a deep, dark, green. Its skin was slimy in appearance. Its squished face did not have a nose, but instead two slits located where one should’ve been. Two glowing red embers for eyes, and a thin, toad-like mouth. When it saw me, those lips pulled back in a snarl showing me sharp, pointy, yellow teeth.
That snarl told me it was not expecting me to be there. It raised its thin right arm and swung claws like a big cat at me.
I jumped from the bed. My muscles quivering, my heart pounding.
“How dare you! You meant to attack my daughter!” I said. The creature jumped down off the bed, and with a laugh that was full of evil, made its way toward me. I did the only thing I could think of.
I stood there in the room, shaking my head, anger filling every pore of my body. “No! You will not get away with this.”
I placed my right palm in the air, toward the ceiling, toward the universe. With my left hand I pointed at the creature and with every fiber of my being I said the only thing I could think of.
“I call on the power of the one who created me. I call upon the power of the supreme one to send you back to the depths of Hell from which you came from!”
As those words left my lips, I felt a warm energy enter my right palm, surge down my arm, through my core, before shooting out my left arm. A bright blue beam shown from my left hand.
The creature’s eyes grew big. Its slimy face filled with fear as its mouth opened in a silent scream. Then it was gone, and I was left standing alone in the center of my daughter’s room.
Looking around, I realized what had happened. A demon had come to attack my daughter and to its surprise found me instead. My heart felt like it was going to beat its way out of my chest, and my body trembled as fear started to take the place of anger. Finally satisfied it was gone, at least for the night, I turned and walked quickly back to our bed where my husband was still sound asleep, his snores now a sound of comfort. I slid back under our covers and laid there the rest of the night.
Sleep did not return.
Come morning, I got up and went back into the room. The bed was still a mess like I’d left it and in the light of day, the previous night’s experience seemed unreal. My mind quickly brought up the images of my daughter’s sketches and I knew that thing had been after her. And I also knew where it had come from.
For some reason it latched on to us at the jail. Coming home with us; a sort of supernatural souvenir.
I talked to my daughter and husband about what happened that night and that’s when we found out the creature had been terrorizing her. It had thrown her clothes across the room. Even lifted her up and spun her around. I told her what I had done, and that I hoped that took care of it.
She changed rooms to what was the spare room. Who could blame her?
Never again has the creature made an appearance and no longer do we feel like something is watching us from the shadows. I will tell you this, The Old Charleston Jail is one place I refuse to go back to.
If you decide to take the tour remember this, there’s no telling what souvenir you will end up with.
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by Violet Tempest
Since I’m an author, I view stories as a platform to speak out about experiences I have gone through in hopes my experiences may help others. If for no other reason than for them to know they are not alone.
That is why I would like to share the following experience with you.
As far back as I can remember I have seen things others don’t. Felt things others seem oblivious to. In almost fifty years I have had more than one experience with the supernatural and paranormal worlds out there. One such experience happened about eleven years ago. My family and I had moved into a house in a new subdivision. Since the place was new, I’d hoped that we would be left alone by those other worlds.
My hopes would soon prove wrong.
We’d lived there for about a year when one night I awoke about two in the morning. My husband was fast asleep. I couldn’t figure out what caused me to wake up and as I lay there, I looked about the room. At first my eyes landed on a shadow form. I kept looking at it, expecting that the longer I looked at it the more my eyes would adjust, and it would just be a trick of the eye.
But that’s not what happened.
The black form seemed to move closer. Was this a trick of my eye? Were my eyes being fooled by the outside light that filtered in between the curtains? Still, on my back I just watched as this form seemed to float until it stood at the foot of our bed. There what had been dark forms just moments before took the shape of a woman.
I sat up, leaned closer, astonished by what I was seeing. Clearly, I was imagining it.
I reached over with my right hand and began to shake my husband, urging him to wake up. As I did so the woman’s features became crystal clear. No longer was she just shadows but before me, at the foot of our bed stood a woman about five feet in height, average build, long dark hair that seemed to shimmer with non-existent light. Her straight hair so long it went past her waist and seemed to disappear behind her. Around her there appeared this glow that allowed me to see her in detail. Her skin softened with age, tanned as if she spent a lot of time out in the sun, and her clothes, well her clothes seemed to be from an earlier time. Say hundreds of years earlier. Around her shoulders she wore a blue shawl that she clutched with her right hand, her dress appeared brown and it was hard to tell if it were made from leather or cotton.
As I continued to shake my husband awake, pleading with him to wake up, she began to move along his side of the bed.
“I really need you to wake-up!” I cried out. By this time the figure was at his feet and began to pat the bed with her left hand.
“Huh, wha?” He mumbled.
“Wake-up. There’s someone in the room with us!” I demanded. Now the woman was at his waist, still patting his side of the bed as if she were trying to make him lay back down.
“What? Where?!” He sat straight up, looking around him.
At this point this woman stood right beside him, looking at him.
“Right there!” I pointed at her.
He jumped out of the bed and turned the light on.
But by that time, she had disappeared. As if she had never even been there.
My heartbeat against my rib cage. My hands shook. My whole body trembled.
My dear husband looked under the bed, in the closest, anywhere he could think of. But I knew he’d never find her or anyone else.
Then he checked the windows and doors. All were locked.
He never got mad at me. He never called me crazy. He believed me when I said I saw something and to this day he still believes me. And that’s why I love him. Because when I see a ghost he doesn’t question me or make me feel stupid. He accepts that I experienced something he didn’t.
Which is what happened that night. I saw a ghost. Even though the house and subdivision were new, the land wasn’t. Land can become haunted just as buildings do. I don’t believe what I saw was a poltergeist or a ghost that meant to do harm. I believe what I saw was more of an imprint in time. A spirit doomed to repeat a moment of their life over and over for all eternity.
I never saw her again. Why? Well, for one thing, the very next day we moved the bed to the opposite wall. If what showed itself was a spirit passing through a gateway, I didn’t want another experience like it so we moved the bed. If that’s why I can’t say. I do know for the rest of the time we lived in that house I didn’t see another ghost despite strange things that happened. Items moved. Lights and water turn on by themselves. Things of that nature.
It took nine years, but we finally moved from that house. Where we are living seems to be free from the paranormal visitors. But I have a feeling that I will experience something else again. Like I said, I’ve seen and felt things from the Supernatural and Paranormal worlds all my life and expect to until the end.
When will be the next time? I don’t have a clue.
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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.
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.
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
Demon Pigs and Other Childhood Fears
Slobbering pigs frequently defied gravity and appeared outside the window of my second-story, childhood bedroom in Alaska. These weren’t the cute, when-pigs-fly variety with angel-like wings to lift them to the height of my window. These pigs silently hovered, and they were one of my childhood fears. I’m decades removed from those days, but I still remember my three supernatural childhood fears, starting with the demon pigs.
The pigs would arrive one or two at a time. Their overgrown incisors gleamed white in the midnight sun, and they drooled when they spotted me through the window because they had a taste for human flesh. During the Alaskan winters when the night sky was black and endless, the pigs’ eyes glowed red.
Another fear I had was the vampire under my bed. The cavern below the bed frame was the darkest part of my room and a natural place for an undead creature to lurk. Sometimes the vampire’s hand would skitter out, find the glow cast from the ceiling light, and snap back. I wasn’t allowed to go to sleep with the light on, so I’d stand by the wall switch and, leaving one hand on the switch, crouch like a runner about to dash from the starting line. I’d flip the switch as I leapt forward, and I would sprint then hurl myself onto the bed. The idea was to be airborne before my naked feet got close to the underbowels of my bed where the vampire could snag my ankle with his bony, pale fingers. He had thick, grey fingernails that ended in points like claws. Fortunately, once on top of the bed, I was safe from the vampire.
But I wasn’t safe from the witch in the closet. A few times Daddy would humor me after I called for him, and he’d check my closet. (Of course, I couldn’t check the closet myself because that would mean stepping on the floor near the bed where the vampire could get me.) The witch wasn’t a modern Wiccan woman in tune with nature, no, not that kind of witch. She wasn’t even an old hag from a storybook. This witch was wicked and immortal and freakishly muscular. She stood hunched over with her stringy, dark hair hanging to the sides of her white face. Her eyes were yellow either from centuries of age or from the evil coursing through her body. Her fingernails were yellow, too. (What was it with my younger self and the fingernail detail?) She snarled a lot, and her teeth were too sharp.
It didn’t take a psychologist to figure out why I saw (imagined) these creatures. The brain is a powerful thing and can mess with our bodies and our senses. For instance, when I was four I woke up late at night on Christmas Eve and spied my mother placing presents under the tree. No, it can’t be Mommy! It has to be Santa. My young brain was traumatized by the thought that Santa might not be real. I blinked, and my mother became a jolly old man in a red suit. I can still picture him near the tree to the right of the fireplace.
Later, in elementary school, a teacher had a violent meltdown in the classroom. The metal trash can went soaring and landed with the noise of a construction zone. He shoved desks and threw a chair. He yelled words that until then I had only heard whispered in the far corner of the playground. That evening the vampire appeared under my bed for the first time, and while I knew the beast was simply a reaction to my teacher’s outburst, the vampire refused to leave.
As for the demonic pigs, when the neighborhood newspaper delivery girl had a misunderstanding with my parent’s overpayment, she carved a dirty word in our front door and toilet-papered our house. I got in trouble for it. The pigs appeared a few hours later.
I’m not sure when the witch first appeared, but any of the three fearsome beasts could and would pop up when I’d had a tough day.
Nowadays, I manage life’s stressful encounters from the perspective of adulthood, and I no longer see pigs hovering outside my window or worry about approaching my bed in the dark. But I do still choose to believe in Santa.
Priscilla Bettis read her first grownup horror story, The Exorcist, when she was a little kid. (Because, if you think about it, the children’s book The Three Little Pigs is also a horror story.) She snuck the grownup book from her parents’ den. The Exorcist scared Priscilla silly, and she was hooked on the power of the horror genre from that moment on. She blogs about her writing journey at https://priscillabettisauthor.wordpress.com.
With our emphasis on nightmares this month of November, I have been considering whether or not to write a blog about my own most incessantly recurring dream. On the chance that it may scare up some dreams for you, I present the following:
My nightmare begins rather innocuously as I am climbing up a flight of stairs. Nothing scary about that. I am able to climb two or three stories and continue on to whatever appointed task takes me up. This is where the dream turns dark for me. For some reason, I must quickly descend the stairway. Sometimes I hear a fire bell and everyone starts running down. Other times, something is chasing me and I am so frightened, I turn to run down. At other times I simply have to go to the bathroom which, of course, is on the first floor.
Several years ago, I had an experience in which I actually thought I had dropped into my most frightening dream. A friend enlisted me to help decorate for her wedding. My job was to wrap the banister of the stairway she and her new husband would descend into the reception hall. I started at the bottom and began wrapping ribbons up the chrome banister, while another friend attached flowers to the bolster at the bottom. In a hurry to get the job done, I proceeded up and up and was almost to the top of the stairs when someone called out to me. Turning quickly to answer, I could see no stairs. I became dizzy as I teetered at the top and rather than fall, I forced myself to sit on the step where I stood. Noticing that I had turned pale and sat down hard, friends ran to my assistance. I sucked in several breaths of air and as my fear subsided, I realized I was staring through a glass side panel below the banister.
This was frightening to me because in my dream, I turn the corner and find that the bottom portion of the stairway has disappeared. It’s fallen, or its burned or some mean person has removed it! I’m often not sure why–it’s just gone! I can no longer descend the staircase but I need to flee whatever horror is causing my decent.
Perhaps this is where I should tell you that in my waking life I have an unreasonable fear of being high up off the ground. No walking across any glass balcony dangling over the Grand Canyon for me! And you will not read about me skydiving on my 90th birthday. When faced with this fear, I tend to lose the ability to breathe. On one occasion, my nails drew blood from the arm of a companion who had taken me to ride on the Space Needle. In my fear, I was unable to let go of his arm as we rose above the city.
The remainder of my dream is spent being terribly frightened and trying to figure out how to get down in spite of the fact that no staircase exists. I cannot see any way to climb down and I cannot force myself to jump to the bottom. My heart is, as one would say, in my throat. I’m so frightened I cry, scream, and beg for help but no one comes to my aid. Thankfully, the dream ends and I am in my bed. Safe, warm, and secure but with a racing heartbeat and rapid breathing.
I have always had vivid color dreams. I have even been in a dream where I decided I don’t have to stay and be devoured by whatever is chasing me. I tell myself, I can simply wake up and escape from the horror. I have never, however, been able to just exit this absent stairway scenario and must wait until the dream ends of its own will.
I think all dreams have a purpose, but I wonder what the purpose of this dream would be? People who seem to know more about dreams than I have told me this dream means I am feeling in over my head or that I feel I’m involved in something beyond my abilities. Having spent a great deal of my career in a high-stress occupation where many people and events were dependent on my capabilities and presence, I tend to believe this explanation.
What is your recurring nightmare? Share it with us in the comments!
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
The world’s first heavy metal band, Black Sabbath, took their name from Mario Bava’s classic 1963 horror film. In the years since, horror and metal have continued to have an ongoing conversation, from horror-themed metal bands (such as Cradle of Filth, The Great Old Ones, or Carach Angren) to metal-themed horror films.
My short story Requiem in Frost continues this tradition, telling the story of a Norwegian girl who moves into a house haunted by the ghost of a black metal musician.
To coincide with its release, I’ve decided to make a list of movies that, to me, feel “metal.” However, I’m not going to limit this list to horror, and I’m going to avoid films that are specifically about metal. This is because every other list of “Most Metal films of all time” take it literally, all of them focusing exclusively on the same 10 or so movies to have explicit references to the genre. The internet can only withstand so many posts containing Deathgasm, The Gate, The Devil’s Candy, and Lords of Chaos. So instead, I’m going to focus on movies that feel like they capture the essence of metal.
Here’s my criteria: do the images in the movie feel like they could be metal album covers? Could you put metal on the soundtrack and have it feel right? Does the story feel like it could also be that of a metal concept album? Does it feel powerful and meticulously constructed in the way that good metal does?
Obviously, everyone will have their own view on what does and doesn’t belong on this list. These are my choices, and I’m sure that your own are perfectly valid. That’s why these are 25 of the most metal films that aren’t about metal—not the 25 most.
Here we go. Organized by year:
- BLACK SABBATH (1963): Let’s just get this shoo-in out of the way. It honestly doesn’t feel that metal to me, but the fact that it inspired what many consider to be the first metal band ever makes it retroactively metal.
- WIZARDS (1977): Ralph Bakshi’s animated feature establishes a world in which, following a nuclear apocalypse, humans have all died or become mutants, and fantasy races have taken over in the meantime. An evil wizard uses Nazi propaganda footage to inspire his troops; a robot finds redemption, and fairy tits jiggle. It’s a strange, over-ambitious film, but the subject matter and imagery would feel right at home in a strange, over-ambitious metal concept album. Bakshi’s Fire and Ice might also be a suitable pick, but I haven’t seen it so I can’t put it here.
- HEAVY METAL (1981): A token inclusion, this adult animated anthology feature contains aliens on drugs, women with big swords, and copious amounts of sex and violence. It’s rather dated, particularly in the treatment of its female characters, but there’s no denying it is as metal as its name.
- CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982): Look, the poster for Conan the Barbarian looks just like a Manowar album. It opens with the forging of a sword. It’s full of Vikings. It has to be on this list.
- LEGEND (1985): When you get down to it, a lot of metal is quite geeky, full of fantasy tropes and looming apocalypses—much like Legend. Plus, Tim Curry’s Darkness is such a perfectly iconic heavy metal demon that it would be sinful not to include it.
- HELLRAISER (1987): Clive Barker’s squirmfest is undeniably metal, if only for the aesthetic of the cenobites and for the film’s obsession with pain, pleasure, and Hell. Hellraiser was also a huge influence on the band Cradle of Filth, with Pinhead’s actor Doug Bradley making regular appearances on their albums.
- EVIL DEAD 2 (1987): The Necronomicon. Ash’s chainsaw hand. The bleeding walls. The soul-swallowing, flesh-possessing demons. Evil Dead 2 is as metal as it gets.
- THE CROW (1994): While it’s arguably more of a goth film than a metal film, The Crow is nonetheless filled with such metal-appropriate themes as coming back from the dead to avenge your frigid lover. It’s also one of the rare movies where both the protagonist and antagonist have longer-than-average hair. Kaw, kaw.
- DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (1994): Also known as Cemetery Man, this underrated dark comedy stars Rupert Everett as the keeper of a cemetery where the dead come back to life after burial. It features a romance with a severed head, a zombie on a motorbike, and Death himself, as well as amusingly cynical quotes like “I’d give my life to be dead” and “At a certain point in life, you realize you know more dead people than living.”
- VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST (2000): One of the most beautiful animated films of all time, and also one of the darkest. There’s vampires, giant flying manta rays, strange monsters, dark magic, zombies, and more. The first Vampire Hunter D film is good, but Bloodlust just gives the audience one incredibly metal scene after another, and it’s filled with shots that look like they could be metal album covers.
- LORD OF THE RINGS (2001 – 2003): Just look at this meme. I think that demonstrates pretty clearly just how metal these films are.
- HELLBOY (2004) & HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008): Guillermo del Toro’s fantastic Hellboy films follow a demon who fights Nazis, tentacled Eldritch abominations, faeries, and more. The fact that we have a demon as the hero of the story is pretty significant, but the films’ hellishly lush imagery also demand their inclusion. Particularly metal is the Angel of Death we meet in Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
- 300 (2006): I’m including Zach Snyder’s divisive “300” here because the whole movie just feels like a mosh pit to me, with its fetishization of big men with big swords fighting in big groups. It has stunning, brutal, beautiful violence, and plenty of images that feel like metal album covers. Lest you think metal can only be from Scandinavia, check out the amazing Greek metal bands Rotting Christ or Septicflesh, and the Mesopotamian metal band Melecesh. All three bands would feel right at home on the 300 soundtrack.
- PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006): Another beautiful Guillermo del Toro picture, Pan’s Labyrinth is both a grisly fairy tale and a story of rebellion. The Faun and the Pale Man, both played by the incomparable Doug Jones, are stunningly dark creations, and this list would be incomplete without them.
- SILENT HILL (2006): Pyramid Head’s scenes. ‘Nuff said.
- MARTYRS (2008): Extreme metal is like extreme horror: enjoyment often requires a process of conditioning and desensitization. Just as you can recommend some extreme metal only to people with the ear for it, you can only really recommend Martyrs to people with the stomach for it. Somewhere out there, a goregrind band is writing lyrics about a woman’s skin being removed in honor of this grueling film.
- VALHALLA RISING (2009): Nicolas Refn’s surreal Viking picture stars Mads Mikkelsen as One Eye, a man who resembles Odin and goes on a transcendent journey. It’s bloody, somber, drenched in pagan spirituality and black metal as Hell.
- HELLDRIVER (2010): This bonkers Japanese splatterfest contains a car made out of body parts, an eight-armed zombie holding eight assault rifles, a plane made out of zombies, and…look, it’s just nuts, okay? I might have also included similar Japanese bonkers films like Tokyo Gore Police, The Machine Girl, or Robogeisha, but I feel like Helldriver belongs here the most.
- DRIVE ANGRY 3D (2011): Nicholas Cage escapes from Hell to take revenge on some evil cultists by driving…angrily…in 3D. While being pursued by a demon accountant…who is also, yes, in 3D. There’s also a sex scene gunfight…which is, you guessed it, also in 3D.
- BERSERK: THE GOLDEN AGE ARC (2012 – 2013): While it isn’t nearly as good as the manga it’s based on, this anime film trilogy is nonetheless quite metal. Set in a medieval fantasy world, Berserk has big swords, big battles, and big demons, culminating with the infamously hellish “Eclipse” sequence. But really, read the manga instead.
- KUNG FURY (2015): This 30-minute long Swedish crowd-funded film manages to pack more metal stuff in it than most films can manage in a feature-length. In Kung Fury, a Kung-Fu Cop must fight Hitler, but accidentally goes too far back in time and ends up in the Viking Age, where Viking women ride dinosaurs and fight laser raptors. In other words, it’s amazing. You can watch it for free on YouTube.
- MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015): This movie contains a man playing a fire-spewing guitar on top of a stage that’s on a moving big rig, and if that’s not metal, then I don’t know what is.
- THE WITCH (2015): The Witch kicks off with the ritualistic sacrifice of an infant, and from there only continues to bombard us with Satanic imagery. Of particular note is Black Philip, the sinister goat who apparently terrorized the actors as much as he does the characters in the film.
- MANDY (2018): Nicolas Cage makes a bat’leth and fights a shitty cult in this surreal film that’s destined to be a cult favorite. Like some great metal albums, I can think of, Mandy starts off slow and atmospheric, lulling you with hypnotic beauty before exploding into an orgy of batshit violence. Also, like many great metal albums I can think of, it feels like it was conceived while on drugs.
- AQUAMAN (2018): Okay, hear me out. James Wan’s Aquaman makes Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman look as metal as possible, and he makes the rest of the film as metal as possible too. The scene where Aquaman bursts from the ground while riding a giant crab? Metal. The Lovecraft references? Metal. The Trench sequence with its creepy fishmen? Metal. Amber Heard’s jellyfish dress? Metal. The fact that Aquaman fights a giant tentacle monster that’s voiced by Mary Poppins herself, Julie Andrews? Oh, so metal. There’s even a cute scene with the cuddly metalheads at a bar. This movie is a treasure.
Jonathan Fortin is the author of Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus (coming December 2019 from Crystal Lake Publishing) and Nightmarescape (Mocha Memoirs Press). An unashamed lover of spooky Gothic stories, Jonathan was named the “Next Great Horror Writer” in 2017 by HorrorAddicts.net. He attended the Clarion Writing Program in 2012, one year after graduating summa cum laude from San Francisco State University’s Creative Writing program. When not writing, Jonathan enjoys voice acting, dressing like a Victorian gentleman, and indulging in all things odd and macabre in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can follow him online at www.jonathanfortin.com or on Twitter @Jonathan_Fortin.
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.
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.
Grateful 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.
Evolutionary impulses drag us back to when we came. Whether we like it or not, they’re always there. There’s only so much we can do to fight against them. We both hope and fear that the natural human impulse to regress will take over. Even worse, in horror fiction, modern science seems to be getting in on the act.
In the 1984 film The Company of Wolves (dir: Neil Jordan), the childhood tale of Little Red Riding Hood is given a modern makeover. Red drifts into the forest and meets a handsome stranger, whereupon Granny’s advice goes right out the window. Well, sexual appetite does that to you. It’s a shame that Red can’t remember the cautionary element of Granny’s werewolf tale, as Angela Lansbury is quick to point out: not to trust a man who’s too proud to piss into a chamber pot. Let’s just say that in Granny’s tale the young bride’s new husband answers the Call of Nature in more sense than one.
The prime mover of sexual appetite is as good a reason to junk steady adult advice as any.
Fairy stories and folk tales abound with examples of spontaneous changes in shape from man to beast and back again. Those old tales are so central to our cultural identity, developed over hundreds of years in writing and for much longer before that via the oral tradition, that it’s no surprise that they are still cropping up in films and TV today.
If it’s natural for us to long to return to our genetic origins, it’s no surprise that modern science isn’t slow in embracing the opportunities to engineer this for us. And big business being what it is, the profit motive lies right at the heart of it.
In Graham Masterton’s novel Flesh and Blood, the Spellman Institute of Genetics is conducting experiments to implant human genetic material into pigs. Animal rights activists have plenty to say on that subject and are lobbying for a US-wide law banning testing on animals. The pig research (Masterton says his wife always called this book ‘the pig novel’) becomes a cause celebre for them. The pig, Captain Black, is as terrifying as you’d expect:
“His body was awesome enough, but his face made Nathan swallow in discomfort. It was more like the face of a giant werewolf than a hog: it was covered all over in thick glossy black hair, with a hideously flattened snout. Two curved incisors rose from his lower jaw, and strings of drool swung with every step he took.”
Mankind just can’t seem to help themselves from meddling in the mix of human and animal DNA when there’s a commercial excuse for it. But in the 2009 film Splice (dir: Vincenzo Natali) the insanity of experimentation mixing human with animal DNA reaches new heights when two leading scientists splice the DNA of a bird with that of a human. Yikes!
As a species, we are so prone to egotism that we want to be the ones to push the boundaries of creation. Like modern-day Dr. Frankensteins, it’s all about power over the hideous monstrosities we generate.
Like any form of meddling, the best lesson of all is just to leave well enough alone. If only it were that simple…
John C Adams is a horror and fantasy writer. ‘Souls For The Master‘ is available on Amazon and Smashwords.
John C Adams is a Contributing Editor for the Aeon Award and Albedo One Magazine, and a Reviewer with Schlock! Webzine.
You can read John’s short fiction in anthologies from Horrified Press, Lycan Valley Press, and many others.
A non-binary gendered writer, John has also had fiction published in The Horror Zine, Devolution Z magazine and many other smaller magazines.
John’s fantasy novel ‘Aspatria’ and futuristic horror novel Souls for the Master are both available on Kindle and via Smashwords.
John lives in rural Northumberland, UK, and is a non-practising solicitor.
Vampires – Animated Corpses by Brian McKinley
This is what most people in Western culture think of when they hear the word vampire. But, as you’ll see, there are nearly as many varieties of animated corpse vampires as there are every other kind.
The Vetal of the Indian subcontinent is an example of a vampire who straddles categories. It’s a spirit that possesses and animates corpses and in many tales it has sorcerous powers. In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Vetal are said to be a race of divine vampiric beings who appear half human and half bat. However, like other vampires we’ve seen, the Vetal can possess a human corpse in order to disguise itself, using fresh blood to keep the body from decay. Feeding on the intoxicated, the insane, and others whom society would not be likely to believe, the Vetal enters a home by use of a magic thread down the chimney—so those of us with central air are safe. Not content simply with blood, it consumes intestines and excrement as well.
Despite this unsavory aspect, the Vetal is far from a mindless killer. In fact, its’ most famous appearance is in the tale of King Vikram in which one of these creatures thwarts twenty four attempts to capture it by telling tales which all end in a riddle. Later, the vampire gives the king advice on how to turn the tables on a trap which his enemy has planned.
In some versions, a Vetal is created when a child dies and doesn’t receive proper funeral rites. This is similar to creation methods found in vampires of surrounding regions like the Greek peninsula, China, and the Balkans. Turning our attention to China, no survey of vampire folklore would be complete without the Jiangshi, the infamous hopping vampire.
One of the most distinctive and memorable tales from around the globe, the Jiangshi is created in a number of ways: cats jumping over fresh corpses, moonlight shining down on fresh corpses, and black magic. In its early form, it is literally just a corpse stiff with rigor mortis who hops around and attacks either on its own or under the command of a sorcerer. It is difficult to destroy in this form, but relatively easy to capture or elude, as it fears running water, can’t move in anything but a straight line, and has a compulsion to stop and count rice, peas, or iron filings thrown in its direction. While doing that, you sweep them away and the Jiangshi follows so that it can resume counting.
As it ages, however, it is said to grow long white or green fur, limber up, and gain the ability to fly and shape-shift into mist and animals. Now, a lot of these traits—aside from the fur—sound pretty familiar, right? My personal theory is that the Chinese incorporated elements from other vampire legends into their own. Anyway, by this point, Jiangshi are nearly indestructible and need to be burned completely in order to be rid of them.
Which brings us to Greece and the Vrykolaka. These can be created by a person living a bad life, being excommunicated by the church, committing suicide, and many of the other typical methods we’ve seen. One unique method is simply by being a werewolf in life, which is a condition one is born with in Greek culture. When those come back from the dead, they’re called Varkolaks. When Vrykolakas rise from the grave, it looks every bit like the bloated, animated corpse that it is. It will go to the homes of the people it knew in life and knock upon their doors. Whoever has the misfortune to answer, the vrykolaka will ruthlessly attack by day or by night. Victims who happen to survive the attack of a vrykolaka will become this type of vampire themselves when they die unless they eat some of the dirt from the grave of the body that attacked him.
The vrykolaka can be prevented from attacking if its resting place is found. Decapitating the vampire and hiding its head where it cannot be found is used in modern times, but the traditional method of rendering the body to ash is the most certain and effective. The only way to destroy a vrykolaka that was created through excommunication is to have a priest perform a special ceremony over the body followed immediately by either of the methods of destruction previously mentioned. Honestly, though, this one has more regional variations than almost any other.
The Draugr of Iceland was a fearsome revenant exists solely to guard its treasure, which Viking warriors were traditionally buried with. Draugrs could do strange tricks like increasing their body weight and growing or shrinking, move freely through earth and stone, conjure storms, and see the future. What’s more, draugrs were said to be impervious to mundane weapons and that the only way they could be killed was by being wrestled into submission by a hero and then beheaded. Some scholars believe that Grendel of the Beowulf saga was a draugr, and others think that we get the concept of the ogre, troll, and dragon from these legends as well.
Finally, we come to the guy that most of us think of when we think of a traditional vampire: the Upyr. Known by many regional variations including Upire, upior, upiri, vapir, and wampyr, this is most likely the word that eventually gave us the term vampire. Russia’s version has iron teeth that allow it to chew out of its grave and eat the heart from its victim’s chest. Unlike our modern version, though, it tends to be active between noon and midnight—kind of like me. The Polish variety has a stinger on the end of its tongue to drain blood with and it likes to sleep in a bath of blood. In Germany, it resembles the Greek Vrykolaka but needs to be destroyed with a stake made of mountain ash in a single blow. Call Buffy for that one. In other Slavic countries, the body has to be dug up and re-buried face-down so that the suspected vampire can’t dig its way out anymore. In other areas, you hear about garlic, prayers, and holy water.
And that most famous of vampire terms, Nosferatu? Where’s he? Well, there’s some debate about that. The term itself comes from Greek and means plague-bearer; many believe that it had nothing at all to do with vampires until Emily Gerard used it in her book on Transylvania, which Bram Stoker based much of his folklore in Dracula on. Others insist that there is a particularly sexually oriented vampire by that name in central and Eastern Europe, known to return to its home and try to resume its old life. To me, this also sounds a lot like some of the stories of the Vrykolaka, but I could be wrong.
In any event, you’ve probably noticed that almost none of these types fit all the tropes of the modern vampire archetype and that’s true. Today’s vampire is an ever-changing amalgamation of various folklores and that’s what makes them so captivating.
Brian McKinley doesn’t really exist. He’s a constructed mortal identity used by a relatively young Vampyr in order to publish the truth about The Order. Due to the world-wide influence of The Order and its minions, these accounts must all be published as fiction. Sometimes the names and sequence of events have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and to keep from getting sued.