Odds and Dead Ends : Lost in Translation: Sadako vs Samara

This is a topic I’ve mused upon for many years, and when the remake of Pet Sematary came out last year, featuring a ghost girl of sorts, the thoughts returned to me. Why is it that I disliked Samara in The Ring, but loved Sadako in Ringu? It couldn’t just be that one was the original whilst one was a remake. It couldn’t be that they changed the name for a western audience. It couldn’t just be the different actress. So here I’ve decided to break down the two presentations of the character from the two most well known adaptations, 1998’s Ringu, directed by Hideo Nakata, and Gore Verbinski’s 2002 remake, Ring, to try and place my discomfort.

We first have to acknowledge a difference in how we are first exposed to Sadako and Samara, which is deeply cultural in origin. Sadako’s story is given to us by having one of our protagonists experience visions of Shizuka’s psychic performances which led to her slander, suicide, and the unfolding of events around Sadako. With Samara, however, the equivalent information is revealed through a series of tapes, including some interviewing Samara about her powers. Here we see that there are some things that have been changed in the cultural translation; that the spiritual, psychic reveal has been altered for a technological one. We can reason that this is because the supernatural version would be more plausibly received in Japan than the US, where a scientific, technological explanation has been given (this is a slightly stereotypical explanation, but it seems to fit). This doesn’t change anything to do with the character, but does highlight that the changes are more than just the name.

Now we get to what we are shown in these reveals, our antagonist, and it is here that I begin to feel the difference. In Ringu, Sadako flashes, never utters a word. The journalist who calls out Shizuka for fraud keels over with a heart attack, and we have a ringing in our ears. Then, when Shizuka calls out Sadako, and we have the memory of the word ‘Sada’ on the tape, things fall into place. We still haven’t seen her. But when little Sadako runs into Asakawa, transplanted into the dream, and we see her ripped fingernails clench around her wrist, we know that something is seriously wrong, and violent.

At the well, we have another flash of a young woman (Sadako) with long hair peering into a well, before being bludgeoned and tossed inside. All without seeing her face; without hearing a word. A few minutes later we get the reveal of her skeleton, rotted away from decades in the dark, alone, having tried to claw her way out of the well. In all of this we have never heard her voice, seen her face; nothing that makes her an individual. She is a figure repressed, pent up, who has murdered four people already, and has a curse on several more. She is disembodied, silent, vengeful wrath, inhabiting a mere shell.

And this is what we see in the final, climactic scene of the film with Sadako crawling out of the television. It is slow and laborious, her kabuki-theatre-styled movements like someone unused to using their limbs, like a force possessing a body. She slowly stands, arms creaking, shuffling across the floor. You get the feeling that it doesn’t matter that she’s moving so slowly, because she’s just come out of a damn videotape. You’re dead anyway. And when her hair finally lifts, all we get is a swollen, veined, wrathful eye. No mouth, no nose, not even both eyes. Just the one, expressing all the rage and malice that has built like a brewing storm.

When we look at Samara’s presentation, what we get is a much more personal, humanised take on the character. Verbinski and writer Ehren Kruger give Samara a personality, and by giving her a voice and letting us see her face, try to create a distinct individual behind the long hair. They present us with a wronged child, instead of the repressed (and wronged by default) woman.

The trouble with this is that, in my opinion (and this is an opinion piece, let’s be fair), when you give a child a voice in a film, and especially an antagonistic child, you need to make sure that the child actually comes across as malevolent. For me, she comes across as a little annoying, and too much like a young child to feel particularly threatening.

We have the same issue seen with the original, silent Michael Myers in Halloween (Carpenter, 1978), as opposed to the remake by Rob Zombie (2007). By giving Myers a voice in his past, it strips some of the mystery away from the character, and his place, as a surrogate for evil has been replaced by a clichéd journey of a troubled child into psychopathy. For me, the same thing is present here in The Ring. These interview scenes don’t seem much different to Charlie’s incarceration in Stephen King’s Firestarter, and at least there we had Charlie as a main character for hundreds of pages beforehand, and were hoping for her escape. It’s a different take, a different look at the same character, but for me, much of the malice is taken out of Samara by attempting to present her as a person.

And in the final scene, a number of changes in how the TV-crawl is handled have been implemented. Instead of just using the television as a medium to record herself and emerge into the real world, Samara is part of the television itself, glitching and glowing as the image renders. She’s not fully part of this world anymore, but still connected to it, more of a ghost than a real, sinister presence. A downside to this is that you have to believe the CGI on Samara as well. She’s much quicker than Sadako here, out of the television in seconds, on her feet almost instantly, and teleporting across the room for a jump scare. She wants to be there and in your face, as opposed to Sadako’s wrathful judgement. It’s far more personal, as if there’s a specific grudge to bear against individuals inside Samara, whereas Sadako didn’t care because there was no humanity left; it had been hollowed out and filled back up with sheer hatred. Samara is specified revenge; Sadako is revenge personified.

The Ring also includes a Hollywood-style cross-cutting, with Rachel rushing across town to try and save Noah. I’m all for cross-cutting for tension building; it’s one of those techniques which works 80% of the time. But here it dilutes what made the original scene’s sense of inevitability. By not leaving that room whilst Sadako emerged, you were trapped in there along with Ryuji, and the slow, laborious way in which the scene played out kept you transfixed. You forgot the rest of the world existed, and focused only on the threat that had emerged before you.

Another aspect of the vocal/silent change is that we feel in the final scene that we might have a chance to reason with Samara, because we’ve seen her asking about her mother, and interacting verbally with the doctors. With Sadako, when she emerges from that TV set, you know that there’s no chance of getting out alive.

I’m of the opinion (in general), that Ringu is the superior film over The Ring, but then I’m of the opinion that Suzuki’s novel is even better than the film (seriously one of the best horror thrillers I’ve ever read). In both films we have fairly different interpretations of Sadako; a silent embodiment of sheer wrath and female repression in Japan, and a personal, paranormal grudge spilling out of control in America. With Sadako, her interpretation plays into the overall doom-laden, dark and dour atmosphere of inevitability which the film creates. In Samara, a more humanised manifestation leads to a stylised paranormal revenge story to suit a mainstream western audience.

I don’t disagree with trying what the remake attempted in Samara, because sometimes humanising a villain makes them scarier, that we know they’re human (or nearly) and can still do what they do. Here, however, was not the right time to do it. That doomy dread becomes a stylised shocker which never hits the same nerve, and Samara’s ‘can I see my mommy?’ removes all of the terror from my antagonist. The Ring isn’t an awful movie in itself, and there are certainly worse adaptations the US has done of paranormal films from Asia in the last few decades, but I’ll go back to Ringu and Sadako Yamamura over Samara Morgan all seven days of the week.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @kjudgemental

-I discussed the original Ring novel a few years ago in relation to M. R. James’ short story, Casting the Runes, and their handling of deadlines in horror literature. You can read it here: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2018/08/06/odds-and-dead-ends-analysis-of-casting-the-runes-and-ring/

-And if, after that, you want to jump on the M. R. James wagon for more ghostly thrills, I did a recent analysis of the BBC adaptation of A warning to the curious, which you can read here: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2020/06/14/odds-and-dead-ends-the-danger-of-the-future-in-a-warning-to-the-curious-by-m-r-james/

Odds and Dead Ends: The danger of the future in ‘A Warning to the Curious’ by M. R. James

“May I ask what you intend to do with it next?”

“I’m going to put it back.”

The 1972 Christmas adaptation of the classic M. R. James ghost story, A Warning to the Curious, perfectly captured the unique terror of the story, a terror that was at the heart of most of James’ classics. In the tale, an amateur archaeologist finds himself on the trail of an ancient Anglian crown said to protect the ancient kingdom from invasion, but is pursued by its ghostly protector intent on keeping it hidden. What drives the story is that the past should remain in the past, admired from a distance but never defiled for personal gain, lest destruction be wrought on more than just the individual.

For note, I’m going to discuss the story in detail, so, spoilers ahead. Just a little warning to the curious.

The idea of a ghostly companion isn’t something new; for one such example, Sheridan Le Fanu used a disturbing rendition of a demonic presence in Green Tea, about a man who had his third eye opened to a demon, which takes the shape of a monkey with glowing red eyes that haunts his every waking moment. As James was a great admirer of Le Fanu’s work, and helped compile several volumes of his stories, he would have obviously been aware of this story, and the ghostly companion idea.

For James, however, he uses this device for more than just scaring people. James in his personal life was most at home in the old libraries of Cambridge and Eton, as a medievalist and scholar. He was, for all intents and purposes, very much afraid of radical changes of life, especially through technology and social upheaval. The First World War is said to have affected him tremendously, to hear and know of his students, and friends, dying in the trenches abroad. All of this helps us understand where James comes from when his story puts so much emphasis on maintenance of a status quo, of letting the past lie.

It’s interesting to me that in both the original short story and the BBC adaptation, the main character, Paxton, is going through a period of personal lifestyle change. In the short story he is in the process of moving to Sweden, and spending a last few weeks in England before he follows his belongings abroad. In the BBC version, Paxton has been a clerk for twelve years before his company folded the week before, and he decided to follow up on the story of the Anglian crown as a result of nothing else to do, and nothing left to lose; a chance of making a name for himself. The curiosity in finding an ancient relic, and using it to begin a new life (economically and socially on the screen, as a metaphorical omen of good luck for a new beginning in the original), morphs into Paxton’s eventual undoing.

Even the title spells out the intended meaning of the text; don’t let your curiosity get the better of you. And that in both versions of the text, the re-burial of the crown doesn’t deter the spirit from pursuing Paxton, is further proof that the uncovering of the artifact is not simply a physical defiling of the past, but an endangerment on a larger scale. By removing the crown, there is danger of the shores being invaded, bringing about that social upheaval and radical change that James feared so much. To deter others from doing likewise, and having knock-on effects which negatively influences the wider world, the guardian of the crown must end Paxton’s life. This punishment for curiosity is famously central to H. P. Lovecraft’s stories. Lovecraft would have had the protagonist end up insane, or gods breaking through into our dimension in some way. Lovecraft himself wrote of M R James in many letters and articles, praising him as a master of weird fiction, so the connection between the two writers is certainly there.

In our own days of great social change, with the world going through unprecedented times, the antiquated verse of James’ ghost stories might seem a little stilted. Yet he seemed to express that fear in all of us with the best, that the change overcoming the world might contain some ghosts to be feared. How we choose to take his warning for the world, is up to us, but it seems chilling nonetheless that James was putting into fiction exactly what many people fear will happen if one kicks the hornet’s nest of the past. For an old-fashioned Victorian like James, he wanted the comfort of his history. For any change to happen, we must be prepared to face whatever consequences we unleash.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-If you want more M. R. James, here’s a link to an article I did a few years ago, comparing the device of very literal ‘deadlines’ in James’ Casting The Runes and Koji Suzuki’s novel, Ring: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2018/08/06/odds-and-dead-ends-analysis-of-casting-the-runes-and-ring/

Odds and Deadends : Monsters Under The Bed

It’s something we probably don’t consider, but everyone has been scared that there’s something lurking underneath us as we sleep at some point in their lives. It’s been in episodes of Doctor Who, it’s been in Luther, it’s been all over the place, and it seems to be getting more and more prevalent as time goes on. But why is it that the idea haunts us? I don’t mean to solve the issue, but present a few feelers and ideas as to possible interpretations.

Firstly, of course, we must tackle the dark. In evolutionary terms, we’re scared of the dark because it conceals predators, and as primitive man, we’re not going to last long if a beast comes and eats us. The monsters children believe in may not be the saber-toothed tiger our ancestors feared (although I’m sure some have thought that one is underneath them), but the principle applies. It is a similar story with the cupboard across the room, which I will quickly divert to. Anything might be hiding in there, and isn’t it much scarier when the door is ever so slightly open when we can just about peer into the gloom and convince ourselves that something monstrous is moving around in there?

And now for something completely different (but which will reconnect).

As we grow up, our perception of the world is shaped by past events. In essence, we build up a pattern recognition of what is, based on what has come before, and therefore we can predict what might come later. This is one reason why theorists believe it is more difficult to learn languages when you get older because language is tied to our perception of reality. We understand, for example, what a door is, because we have learned to associate the temporary opening-and-closing of a portal with the word ‘door’. Therefore, whenever we see something similar (even between different cosmic dimensions), we associate the word ‘door’ because it has similar properties to those we have seen before, even though it may not strictly be a ‘door’ as such. Try and substitute the word with something different and our inherent understanding of it changes, and we find it harder to make the connection.

Children, who have had less time to build up such an intimacy with language, are able to apply several terms to a concept more easily than adults. Following that same principle, children are less able to come to terms with the inherent cause and effect of past-present-future, because their brains aren’t as hardwired to associate past with present and with future from previous knowledge, as adults can by their previous knowledge of a door, to use the same concept. When adults know that there was nothing in the wardrobe with the light on and therefore there won’t be with the light off, because there never has been before, children are less able to come to that conclusion because the dark, for them, creates a completely different space. Our inherent understanding of human experience of reality changes as we age and experience the world around us. Children haven’t had the time to build up the understanding that the dark doesn’t change anything, so they believe that even though there was nothing there before, switching it off doesn’t necessarily mean the same holds true.

Now put that concept under the bed. The proximity of the dark place to the child is that much closer, that much more unbearable. When the monster was in the wardrobe at the end of the room, at least we had running distance. Now someone’s put a dark place, where anything could be hiding, where we can’t see, only inches away from us. What’s a child supposed to think, to believe, when the lights are off and the parents are in another room, very close and yet so incredibly far away? This is why the sheets getting pulled off the bed in Shutter, and indeed in Paranormal Activity, is disturbing. Throughout our lives the bed has been the safe place, and now something is able to tamper with that safety net. It can get to us.

There’s also perhaps the element of parent-child separation involved with this as well. For the first years of its life the child is almost constantly in contact with the mother. Now, put in a room on their own where they cannot see or hear their protector for so many years? At an impressionable age when so many images and concepts are being bombarded at them, everything comes at the worst possible time. They’re on their own, and absolutely anything they have seen or experienced could be lurking there.

And yet it is a rite of passage. Conquering this growing-up period is how children understand the dark, how they come to create the pattern-recognition that tells them that, no matter how much they imagine shapes there, logic holds that it can’t be true. It’s part of the mirror-stage, I would say, the Freudian concept of the child recognising that it is independent from the mother. Now that the child is alone, it has to realise that it must protect itself from attack. To do this it must recognise, understand, and parry potential threats, and in today’s world we don’t have tigers hunting us, but instead monsters under the bed. The child must go through the experience long enough to build up past knowledge that there are no monsters under the bed, and so eventually understand that the dark is simply obscuring something which isn’t there.

However, we as adults can look back on the past. And we can remember a time when the dark space underneath us wasn’t just filled with pillows and the odd box of Christmas decorations. We can remember it being a place where the monsters hid, and where they crept out of before we cowered under the covers and waited for it to be over. And sometimes it seems that we haven’t quite conquered our fears completely, and we return to that moment of childhood horror. And that’s when they come for us, at the moment when logic and reasoning breaks down for just a split second and we believe, we know, that there really were, and still are, monsters under the bed.

 

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @KJudgeMental

Nightmare : The Monkey Queen

Nightmares aren’t all super scary to other people. In fact, when I say I’m scared of monkeys, people often laugh. But trust me, there is nothing funny about it.

A few years ago I was asked to write about my phobia for Hidden Thoughts Press and this piece describes exactly what sort of chaos monkeys can cause. To read the PHOBIAS book in its entirety, it’s available on Amazon.


The Monkey Queen

by Emerian Rich

As a little girl, I had this reoccurring nightmare. Everything started nice and innocent. I was on a tropical island at a big luau. The dream was extremely vivid and in color, which was rare for me. A volcano in the distance spewed pink ash into the bright blue sky. The jungles were vibrant with life and color. Happy calypso music played in the background. All in attendance cheered as I was carried on a throne of bamboo and deposited at the head of a bedecked table. Dressed in a Hawaiian frock of loud oranges and greens, I sported a banana leaf skirt and flowers around my neck. Atop my head was a wreath weaved from vines and hibiscus flowers. I was fanned by palm fronds and hundreds of exotic fruits were paraded before me.

I remember the taste of the mangos, grapes, kiwi, bananas, and papaya. The smell of the tropical flowers and fruit lulled me into a false sense of peaceful tranquility. Cool ocean air wafted over me as if Mother Nature had found my perfect temperature and set the island’s thermostat to please me. In a word, it was paradise.

I was the only human there, but that didn’t bother me, because I was amongst friends. Snakes massaged my toes as they slithered past. Panthers and tigers yawned as they lay in the late afternoon sun. Macaws and toucans sang gleefully along with the drums beaten by tree frogs in tiki masks.

And then there were monkeys. Hundreds of the primates sat at my table and ate fruit, chattering happily as they paid homage to me, their ruler.

Little groups of two or three monkeys danced before me, putting on a show. They spun and twirled and did death-defying trapeze stunts. Several would come up at a time to honor me, or kiss my feet, or mist me with fragrant water. Some even sang or played musical instruments.

As the sun went down, torches were lit and the festivities got more rambunctious. Soon the merriment became too much for me. The crowd got rowdy and I closed my eyes, thinking I might pass out from exhaustion. It was eight o’clock and I knew I had to get home before my curfew.

As I stood, the music stopped and all the monkeys turned to me. Hundreds of little beady eyes stared, their tails curled upwards into question marks.

They asked a flurry of questions.

“What can we get you?”

“Are you well?”

“Do you need something to eat or drink?”

“Where are you going, my queen?”

I smiled and patted the one closest to me on the shoulder as I said, “It’s been lovely playing with you all, but now I must go home.”

The monkey put his tiny fingers on mine and said, “Oh no, you are our queen. You can never go home.”

I laughed at first, thinking he was joking, but as his fingers tightened on mine, I realized he was serious. Panic filled my heart and I screamed. I jumped down from my royal perch to the damp jungle floor. I ran as fast as I could through the dark jungle, trying to find my way home. I felt like Alice, running from all the cards. Vines tangled in my hair and lashed across my bare arms and legs as if trying to hold me back. I heard chattering and scampering of thousands of little monkeys chasing after me. The path never seemed to get clearer and as I looked around, I saw the menacing stares of red beady eyes at varying levels on trees, vines, and bushes. Every once in a while, I’d feel a scratch on my shoulder or tickle on my ankles and I could never find my way home.

With the touch of a whiskery kiss at my neck, visions of being pulled apart by minuscule monkey nails shook me awake.

My scream would bring Mom. I recounted the tale between labored breaths as my adolescent heart raced and tears blurred my eyes. She’d assure me that no monkeys were or would ever be in the house. Glancing around the room, I would spot several places they could squeeze in. Through the ripped screen on the open window, under the closet door, or from the heater vent leading to the basement. I knew the creatures would invade my home. No matter how harmless or accommodating monkeys seemed, they were out for blood.

I don’t know why I had these dreams. They were so real, they seemed like memories, not simply nightmares. Could they be a product of watching Jungle Book as a child? Were they past life memories or perhaps…a premonition?

As I grew up, my childhood nightmare blossomed into a full-blown phobia. Cute “Hang in There” posters on office walls featuring a monkey can conjure all kinds of horror stories in my mind. They are everywhere! Waiting to pluck out your eyeballs and juggle them for tips.

If you haven’t been terrorized by a hoard of primates chasing you through a jungle, you probably don’t realize just how many damned monkeys are around us every day. Curious George, Bubbles, Planet of the Apes, Barrel of Monkeys, Donkey Kong, Chunky Monkey, monkey emojis, monkey bread, sock monkeys, marmosets, orangutans, baboons, the list just doesn’t end! And don’t even get me started on those friggin’ cymbal clacking organ grinders.

When I hear in the news that some lady’s face was ripped off by a monkey, I’m not shocked. Did you ever see that movie Monkey Shines where a shoulder monkey terrorizes a man in a wheelchair? It should be turned into a public service film. I say, anyone who wants to own a monkey must watch this movie before adopting, because the things are evil, people!

I’ve tried to get over my primate aversion, but I just can’t do it. Photos of the creatures make me shiver. While other people fear typing a word in on Google and having porn or blasphemous content pop up, I panic about the possibility of seeing one of those fanged mouths open in what some would say a laugh, but I say an evil shriek. I wait in fear of the day they will attack, tiny nails digging into my skin, creating infested blotches all over my body. Have you seen the pygmy marmosets that are so small, they wrap themselves around your finger? My skin crawls at the thought of their little bodies embedding themselves under my skin. Chilling!

Despite my distaste for primates, one of them infiltrated my monkey-proof perimeter a few years back when my son was a baby. Being an alternative lifestyle, child of darkness, city dweller, people don’t normally give me things that might have monkeys on them. The Nightmare Before Christmas décor, spiders, and jack-o-lantern gifts abound, but primate nonsense? Not a whisper. I enjoyed this fact until I became pregnant with my son. Suddenly all sorts of cutesy baby gifts poured in, many of them monkey themed. Most of them went straight into the giveaway pile, but there was one soft, fuzzy blanket I fell in love with by touch before I realized its sinister side. When my fingertips found the blanket at the bottom of a pink polka-dot box, it felt like wisps of cloud from heaven. I held the blanket to my cheek for fully five minutes, breathing in the deep scent of baby lotion before my husband said, “Um, did you notice it has a monkey on it?”

Fear pierced my chest. I started breathing heavy and felt a tingle up my spine as if I were being watched. My first instinct was to throw the evil blanket across the room–to distance myself from such a vile, ghastly object–but the touch of the baby soft fabric made me hesitate. Was I being too judgmental, to chastise an item of such sensory enjoyment, just because some manufacturer had wrongly decided to decorate it with the image of my nemesis?

I ultimately put the blanket in the keep pile, somehow knowing my newborn child would adore it. As predicted, it’s become my son’s favorite blankie. Since his birth, I’ve had to endure hundreds of movies containing monkeys. I keep my head turned, eyes focused on something else, praying not to hear the shrill monkey squeals from my dreams. If I happen to miss the appearance of one of these creatures on the screen, my son will point and squeal with delight, “Momma don’t like monkeys!”

You would think my son’s innocent delight of the vile creatures would make them more acceptable in my eyes. That with every trek through the zoo or watching of a primate cartoon, it would get easier to see them, easier to push my fear in the background. No such luck. I’m still just as much a Pithikosophobian as ever.

I guess you could say a smidgen of the fear has gone, but is tolerance the same as acceptance? I don’t think so. I still get nervous when people start talking about marmosets or pretend to be a monkey as they hand me a banana. And every time I wash that blanket, I wonder if the monkey is mocking me. Perhaps one day, the little bugger will peel himself from the plush fleece and hop onto my shoulder, pledging his undying love and pulling at my hair ’til I scream. He may even take me back to Monkey Island.

But for now, the blanket can stay, as long as it behaves, keeps my son happy, and doesn’t sprout miniature fingers.


Update: The blanket did get thrown away (finally) much to my relief. My son is now fourteen and my home is once again a place of tranquil monkey-less bliss. Yet, every so often someone who doesn’t know me sends a monkey emoji or posts a monkey meme and my fear spins once again out of control.

My biggest fear is not the apocalypse. It’s an apocalypse where I am, alone with only primates as my companions. I’ve been told to write that book, that it would be the scariest tale I’ve told yet, but I’m afraid the only one it would instigate nightmares in would be me. And it’s just not worth the price.

PR: The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Unveils: Rogue

The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Unveils: Rogue

Navigate a Spine-Chilling Journey of Chaos & Dread in Dark Harbor’s NEWEST MAZE

 Sink to Never-Before-Seen Depths of the Historically Haunted Ship, including Door 13 & the Boiler Room

Test the Waters with 23 Nights of Terror September 26 – November 2

Brace for impact as The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor releases a storm of fear like no other in the all-new maze: Rogue. Dark Harbor’s newest maze will take guests through the frightening voyage that nearly changed history. Sparking the creation of the Hollywood blockbuster The Poseidon Adventure, the 95-foot wall of blackness sent waves of panic through the marine community and re-defined science as we know it. All who dare will grasp for air as they plummet with fear, clinging to survival in the newest, spine-chilling maze.

 

As the tale goes, while transporting American troops during World War II, the RMS Queen Mary became known as the Grey Ghost. During a stormy December crossing from New York to Scotland, the famed ocean liner was broadsided by a monstrous force of nature: later classified by NOAA as a “rogue wave”.

 

Dark Harbor attendees will roll into the tide of this historic moment by becoming fully immersed in the panic and chaos of Rogue’s impact with deafening water effects, complete darkness, floor to ceiling seafoam, and even experience the feeling of being capsized. All those aboard will hold on to dear life, as the Grey Ghost attempts to keep herself afloat. 

 

In addition to the announcement of the all-new maze, the producers of Dark Harbor announced at Midsummer Scream, on Sunday August 4, for the first-time ever, Dark Harbor guest will have access to never-before-seen depths of the Queen Mary. In one of the newly re-imagined mazes onboard the historic ocean liner, attendees can now walk through the infamous Door 13. Dubbed one of the most haunted areas on the ship, legend has it that an 18-year old crewman was crushed to death by Door 13 in 1967, and now Dark Harbor guests can walk-thru the iconic location. Guests can also venture 6-fathoms below sea level submerged in the notorious Boiler Room to indulge in the newest secret bar offered at Dark Harbor nightly. 

 

Southern California’s most haunted Halloween event will welcome MORE scares than ever before with the season’s most authentically frightening experience available. Dark Harbor tells the truly haunted, historic tales of the Queen Mary through the infamous spirits of Captain, Chef, Iron Master, Samuel the Savage, Graceful Gale, Half-Hatch Henry, Scary Mary, Voodoo Priestess, Ringmaster, plus hundreds of their bloodcurdling henchmen await to tempt your fate. 

 

Live your nightmares aboard the Queen Mary with newly-intensified returning mazes Feast, B340 and Lullaby. Circus and Intrepid prove even more twisted and darker than before with new immersions and even more twisted scares for the 2019 season.

 

With Dark Harbor’s disturbingly creative minds, 6 mazes, 13 bars, fire shows, aerialists, sliders, Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch Sinister Swings, Panic! 4-D Experience, zombie DJs, Barrel Room Tastings, R.I.P. Lounge, and much more, Dark Harbor 2019 is certain to be a freakishly fun time.

 

The annual haunt opens its gates on September 26 and continues to scare those who dare on select nights through November 2. General admission ticket prices start at just $20 online, with Fast Fright, Evil Express, RIP Lounge Passes, Creepy Cabanas and lodging packages available. Dark Harbor is offering a 40% discount on general admission for select nights until August 5 at 11:59pm with promo code SCREAM. For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit www.queenmary.com/dark-harbor.

Odds and Dead Ends : Scaring Ourselves Silly | Monsters and the Uncanny Valley

We all love a good monster. Be it Godzilla or King Kong, werewolves or cenobites, we can’t get enough of them. Guillermo Del Toro has made a living out of them, and nobody in their right mind would begrudge him that. But when we think of being scared, perhaps what touches the nerves more than anything else are not the big, lumbering beasts towering above us. It’s those fiends that come close to being human, just one step away from actually being us.

This concept is known in the field of robotics as the ‘uncanny valley’. Coined initially by Masahiro Mori, the basic idea of it is that there is a distinct, graph-able curve in people’s emotional responses to the verisimilitude of a robot to people. Essentially, when you start to make a robot look like a person, people view it more favourably. Then, suddenly, as you keep going, there’s a point where it’s not completely robotic, but not completely human, and it’s in this stage when we have a strong feeling of revulsion or disgust. When it gets close to being indistinguishable from us, it becomes so lifelike that we view it favourably again. This dip into disgust is the uncanny valley.

The theory of the uncanny itself was used by Sigmund Freud in his 1919 essay The Uncanny as a way to explain why we’re so creeped out by dolls and waxwork figures and the likes. He goes back to the original German for uncanny, unheimlich, and its roots in the word heimlich which roughly means to conceal or hide. He proposes that we find something uncanny because it is a revealing of social taboos and ideas which we try to hide in everyday life. This eventually gets linked on to concepts of the id and the subconscious, which is really the subject for another article altogether.

But what does all of this mean for our monsters? How can we link these concepts together in a way that impacts our understanding of our favourite horror villains?

Well perhaps this doesn’t apply for the big Kaiju as such, but maybe it helps explain why we’re still chilled by vampires, ghosts, and ghouls. The brain sees their general shape and recognises them as human, or at least, very human-like. Yet there’s always something just a little bit off, be it the pallor of their skin, or the sharp claws or teeth, which sets them apart and makes them disturbing to us. Going back to Del Toro, think of The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth. He’s got a recognisably human shape (based off Saturn in the painting Saturn Devouring His Sun by Francisco Goya), but with the skin stretched over the frame, the nostrils flared with no bridge, claw-like talons, and eyes in his hands. He’s started off human but been warped.

Even cursed or possessed dolls have something off about them; the animation of a human avatar is almost the very concept of the uncanny valley, with the robot being substituted for a doll, but the basic principle remaining. Toys are essentially us, preserved in miniature, and when they rise up against us, the human part of their design strikes a chord with us.

This is perhaps why we find masked killers a distressing concept. The shape is human, and the mask is human-like, but it doesn’t change, and as humans learn to see the face as the main projector of emotion when it doesn’t alter during extreme acts of violence, we slip down the slope of the valley. Masks such as those belonging to Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers, fairly blank and devoid of emotion, would, therefore, represent something uncanny. Also very often the mask represents a demon or spirit (thinking of films such as Onibaba or Scream) which conjures up concepts of possession by an unseen force. This might explain why we’re so focused on the killer’s mask in these films, because they are themselves imbued with that uncanny quality which makes them memorable beyond the killer behind them.

Think of the Scream franchise, where the mask comes to represent something much deeper, a force of evil in itself. When you see someone without the mask, they’re normal, but as soon as the face is obscured, they become terrifying, a body for the murderous will of the mask. And the mask and the murderous intent has the power to transfer its ownership from one person to another, like a spirit darting in and out of its possessed victims. Even think of the numerous killers that take on Jigsaw’s role in the Saw films. As soon as you come into possession of Billy, leading the charge of the traps, you become Jigsaw, the embodiment of John Kramer and his will to put people to the test of their drive to survive. We dip from being too human to being something slightly removed.

The idea of the uncanny valley even feeds into ghosts. Think of Kayako and Toshio from the Ju-on films. Though it sounds funny, how many of us were deeply disturbed when Toshio, a pale little boy, opened his mouth and meowed? When Kayako came crawling down the stairs, her throat croaking like a door very slowly opening? This concept of uncanniness transfers over to the sounds we make, affecting us when someone’s voice is not what it should be. This is something obviously well known to anyone who has watched The Exorcist in their time.

And so whilst the big monsters from The Ritual and Cloverfield might scare us, they don’t get anywhere close to instilling that distinct feeling of unease which those humanoid villains which nestle in the uncanny valley have the ability to do. When vampires flash their fangs, with blood in their eyes, we see something hiding inside the human form. When we see Schwarzenegger doing his own repairs in The Terminator, we find lines between humanity and inhumanity blurred. From now on, he looks just like us, but we know he isn’t.

And when we transfer over to imitation narratives such as The Thing or The Body Snatchers, suddenly we’re even more scared, because any one of us could be them. Now the uncanny transfers into paranoia, and we have to rely on looking out for the uncanny to alert us to danger. We have to fall back on something terrifying to keep us calm. In a way, we hope for something uncanny to confirm our fears. And that, more than anything, is scary.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: KJudgeMental

Bibliography

Cloverfield. 2007. [Film] Directed by Matt Reeves. USA: Bad Robot.

Finney, J., 2010. The Body Snatchers. Great Britain: Orion Publishing.

Freud, S., McLintock, D. & Haughton, H., 2003. The Uncanny. New York: Penguin Books.

Friday the 13th. 1980. [Film] Directed by Sean S. Cunningham. Unites States of America: Georgetown Productions Inc.

Godzilla. 1954. [Film] Directed by Ishiro Honda. Japan: Toho.

Goya, F., 1819 – 1823. Saturn Devouring His Son. [Art] (Museo del Prado).

Halloween. 1978. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Falcon International Productions.

John Carpenter’s The Thing. 1982. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Universal Studios.

Ju-On: The Grudge. 2002. [Film] Directed by Takashi Shimizu. Japan: Pioneer LDC.

King Kong. 1933. [Film] Directed by Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack. USA: RKO Pictures Inc..

Onibaba. 1964. [Film] Directed by Kaneto Shindo. Japan: Kindai Eiga Kyokai.

Pan’s Labyrinth. 2006. [Film] Directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Spain: Telecinco Cinema.

Saw. 2004. [Film] Directed by James Wan. USA: Twisted Pictures.

Scream. 1996. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States: Dimension Films.

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

The Ritual. 2017. [Film] Directed by David Bruckner. UK: The Imaginarium.

The Terminator. 1984. [Film] Directed by James Cameron. United States of America: Hemdale.

 

Vile Vacations: The Haunted Queen Mary Experience

Originally posted Jan 12, 2017

qm18Visiting the retired, permanently moored RMS Queen Mary is an experience in itself. You don’t have to experience ghost activity to feel the history on board. They offer awesome tour packs where you can see the engine rooms, one of the exposed propellers, and the rumored haunted “Vortex” near the dilapidated—but beautiful—pool. I’ve been fortunate to visit several times and even stay overnight a few years ago. I will give you a tour and then explain my experience. You can decide if the place is really haunted or not.

qm10The ship in general is a fantastic place to visit with so much history to explore. For Titanic enthusiasts, it’s a must-visit. As part of the White Star Line, this so closely resembles Titanic, that you will find yourself doing double-takes as you pass the promenade deck, the dining room, and even the inner room halls. Not only does it resemble the famous iceberg-disabled ship, many movies, and TV shows have been filmed on the Queen Mary so you might find the place familiar as you step on board, which adds to the mystique. The Queen Mary has graced the sets of movies like Titanic II, Pearl Harbor, Aviator, The Natural, The 13th Floor, and television series such as The Search for the Next Elvira, Moonlight, Murder She Wrote, Unsolved Mysteries, and Quantum Leap. They also have historical exhibits that run for a short time. If you are into the royals and fashion, you might enjoy the pricey but beautiful exhibit on now, “Diana: Legacy of a Princess” where you can see many of her iconic dresses in person. They also have other royal history and some of the clothes from the current monarch. For military buffs, the QM played a big part in the WWII effort as a transport ship for Australian and New Zealand soldiers. Per Wikipedia,

In the WWII conversion, the ship’s hull, superstructure and funnels were painted navy grey. As a result of her new color, and in combination with her great speed, she became known as the “Grey Ghost.”

As far as hauntings on the ship, there have been many reported. No wonder, since at least 49 crew and passengers are known to have died during the Queen Mary‘s service as a luxury liner.

qm16In the engine room, our tour guide told us of one such haunting. Although somewhat “set-up” by and ominous number 13, the guide recalled a sailor was crushed by this water-tight door. They aren’t clear on the “why”, but it’s attributed to him either playing chicken or going back to grab something in an emergency. The ship’s underground system of working tunnels is certainly creepy, but as for ghosts? Who knows?

qm19Another creepy location on the ship is the ominous 1st Class Pool. Those horror buffs out there will swear it was the pool in the movie Ghostship, but it’s not.
Still, the effect of the once-beautiful place being in complete disrepair sent a chill up my spine. Pardon the dim pictures because of lack of light and the fact that we could not explore the place fully because most of the pool was closed due to safety regulations. The most haunted place in the pool area is purported to be what they call the “Vortex” located in the pool showers.qm11I took a picture standing right in the middle of the “Vortex” although warned by the tour guide, “It may not come out, or your phone might die.” He said reports of this happening are frequent and that several people have found light spots or “ghost” images in their photos. I played along, and it was fun to imagine, but as you can see, that did not happen. My picture is clear of “ghosties” and I didn’t feel anything but the same creepiness you feel when entering any derelict structure.

So, if I didn’t feel anything in the most haunted part of the ship, what did I feel? I had two experiences that will stay with me forever.

qm14First, when we were walking through the bowels of the ship, I kept feeling like someone was behind me. I was the last one in the tour at that time. I kept looking behind me and would catch just a shadow or a blur. Not really anything tangible, but enough to creep you out. This was before the tour guide told us about the crewman of hatch 13 that was crushed there. It creeped me out, but only because I kept feeling the presence the entire time we were in the down below.

qm17 qm20 qm202

When we went into this particularly dark part of the ship, standing at the doorway into the place, I became nauseous. The boat is moored, so there is no movement to make me sick. I stepped into the huge room and felt like someone had given me a push into the room. Again, I was the last one in and no one was behind me. My nausea grew and I wasn’t able to even step forward to where the rest of the tour was. My husband asked if I was okay and I nodded, motioning him on so he look at the mechanics of the ship. As my stomachache grew, my attention was drawn to a door up high looking over us. The door was open, and light shone through from an unseen bulb, but it wasn’t anywhere anyone would be. However, in my periphery, I saw someone standing there. I looked up and nothing was there. It kind of creeped me out, but after the “sighting”(?) I felt fine again and was able to enjoy the rest of the tour without incident. In the pictures (Again I apologize for poor light shots.) the large shot is the massive room we entered. There are light spots, but I doubt they were ghost proof because it was so dusty in the room. In the second shot, you can see the room where I felt the presence standing. Doesn’t appear that I caught anything on film. However, a few people who have seen the shot wonder if I did catch a ghost. The head is higher than a normal human would stand. Is the partial shot of a mustached man a spirit? Or is it just a pipe and a trick of sight? I still don’t know what I believe about the picture, but I do know a male presence was following me during this part of the tour. Was a ghost or spirit following me through the crew hatches to cause menace? Or was he guiding me to make sure I stayed safe? Or was it merely making its self known to mark its territory?

 

qm3qm5My second experience happened in our suite. We stayed in the Eisenhower Suite. If anyone knows me, they know I am so not a history—especially political—buff. If I know history, it’s usually fashion or something I’ve had to research for a book. I knew nothing about Eisenhower nor did I have an impression of the president before I stayed there. The suite was beautiful. It felt luxurious to have not only a quite sizable bedroom (for a ship) and bathroom, but also another servants quarters where I could lay out my stuff and put on my makeup. qm21Probably the posh-est place I’ve stayed, not counting the inconvenience of the bathroom on a ship. (We kept stubbing our toes on the raised bathroom entry and in the shower, the tub was so circular, you had to stand with one foot in front of the other like walking tight rope while washing.) Laying down in the fresh clean sheets with my husband next to me, I thought there couldn’t be any place more comfortable.

Unfortunately, the night of sleep was not as good as we planned. Beyond the sounds of the ship (Pipes creaking and pounding, the movement of others, and various sounds we were unused to.) I found my sleep state to hover on the “almost awake” state. qm6During this night, I kept hearing the tinkling of a dog’s tags and the light pressure of a small dog hoping on the bed. It was so real to me, I woke and looked down at the foot of the bed several times, sure it had actually happened. I haven’t had a dog since I was a child and I haven’t felt that dog jumping on the bed thing since then, but it was unmistakable. The next morning, I related the story to my husband and he agreed, he had been kept in REM sleep for what seemed like all night. Although he had the same trouble sleeping, he did not feel or hear the dog. After telling a few people of my experience—and not connecting it at all with Eisenhower and his dogs—my friends started a discussion about his dogs and which one might have been alive when he traveled on the Queen Mary in 1946. The connection is interesting.

I don’t know if Eisenhower even boarded with a dog on his voyage, but it certainly makes sense. All I know is that it was a small-type dog like a Terrier. But what did I really experience? Was it the ghost or imprint of one of the President’s dogs? Or was it someone else’s dog that perished onboard? Or perhaps for the skeptic, it’s more believable that I had a kernel of a memory from years ago about Eisenhower having a dog that I didn’t remember…and my brain caused me to “dream” of this fact in my unconscious state?

Whether you visit the Queen Mary to experience it’s greatness or to attend the annual “Dark Harbor” Halloween event, this is a haunted locale you can’t miss. I would advise to come for the tours, but not to stay overnight, unless you don’t mind little sleep.

Have you been to a haunted locale? Tell us about it.

Why Abertoir Festival 2018 promises to be killer

Abertoir
The International Horror Festival of Wales

13 – 18 November 2018

Coming into its thirteenth year, Abertoir goes from strength to strength. Located on the Aberystwyth University campus on the Welsh coast, the team have broken out the tents and the log cabins this year for the slasher/camping theme. Complete with the offsite screening of Friday the 13th: Part 3, in old-school 3D, the unlucky number 13 is the (un)lucky number in Wales as the year draws to a close.

Running from Nov. 13-18, and starting with a drinks reception and the classic 1984 film Sleepaway Camp, the bloody celebrations will be going off with a proper bang, or flash of the knife at the very least. No doubt the festival-goers will be partaking heavily of this year’s Abertoir ales, aptly named Black Christmas and Crystal Lake, as they plough on through a slew of slasher classics such as Slumber Party Massacre and Prom Night, along with new films such as Summer of ‘84, and Blumhouse’s new thriller, Cam, throughout the six-day run.

There are three UK premieres at this year’s festival, with Occult Bolshevism, The Black Forest, and Party Hard, Die Young, all getting their first outings on the isle in the Abertoir cinema. The short film competition (with previous years seeing modern classics like The Birch being shown) promises to be top-notch once again, showing off the new blood heading towards the horror stage.

It’s not just the films, however, that makes Abertoir unique, because there’s a whole slew of other events lined up for this year’s festival. From the traditional Bad Film Club, always a crowd favourite and chance to heckle your heart out, to the fascinating presentations and live performances, Abertoir always makes sure to make it an all-rounder of a week, not simply about the films. This is the festival that hosted the European premiere of Fabio Frizzi’s live composer’s cut for Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond a few years ago, and this year’s musical masterpiece looks to be the culminating event in The Elvis Dead, a one-man retelling of The Evil Dead, through Elvis Presley songs.

But what would a festival be without a special guest? Don’t think that just because it’s tucked away on the west coast of a little, mostly rural, country, that they don’t pull in some heavy hitters. Previous guests have included Doug Bradley, Victoria Price, Luigi Cozzi, Robin Hardy, Lamberto Bava, and a booked-but-unable-to-attend-on-the-day Sir James Herbert, so this year’s guest has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, they meet the criteria. Including a Q+A, a special screening of a new project, and a three-hour filmmaking masterclass… the one and only Sean S Cunningham will be venturing out to the windy coast. As if the festival needed another prestigious name on the list.

So if you’re in the UK and happen to have a few days free next week, Abertoir Festival 2018 promises to be a week stacked with cult classics, great premieres, lots of laughter and barrels of ale. And if you can’t make it this year, well, you know where to come next year.

 

Article by Kieran Judge

 

For more information, visit Abertoir’s website: http://www.abertoir.co.uk/, and/or like them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/abertoir/

Odds and DEAD Ends: Shutter – A curse defined by it’s country

I think we often assume such concepts as ‘curses’ or ‘evil’, and their representations in media, to be generic and similar wherever we go. I’d like to challenge that notion here.

Just under two years ago I was completing a module for my course entitled ‘Film Genre’, the focus example being horror. Due to a mix-up in my head and getting the date wrong, I went to submit my second assignment two days late. I had to resit the assignment (an essay eventually completed about Takashi Miike’s film As The Gods Will), but I’ve always wondered what my work on the original assignment would have garnered.

And so, in time for the finale of HorrorAddicts.net’s examination of curses in all their various guises, I’ve decided to bring out that original essay, redraft it, give it a little touch up, and present it to you for your enjoyment and, hopefully, education. It’s about one of my favourite horror films of all time, Shutter, and the direct influence of Thailand on its presentation, creation, construction, and identity. If you take nothing away from this article than an increased awareness of how a country can create a unique, different experience, perhaps a differing viewpoint and perspective than a western film might show, then that’ll suit me fine.

Enjoy.

“National specificity is often what is being ‘sold’ as a distinguishing quality in any film being offered for export in a world market.” (Knee, 2008, p. 125).

Thailand may seem an unlikely place for a healthy horror tradition, given western audiences’ tendencies to associate the genre with the USA and UK, from the Technicolor castles of Hammer Horror to the 1980’s American slasher era, but it thrives nonetheless. As Adam Knee notes, “Over the course of several months from late 2001 into early 2002, no fewer than four Thai horror films were released in Thai cinemas – a substantial enough phenomenon (given the dozen or so Thai films being produced annually in recent years)” (Knee, 2005, p. 141). The rich past of Thailand, with its prevalence of Theravada Buddhism, history of trading and cultural exchanges with neighbouring nations, and relatively accelerated technological advances and recent urbanisation, make it a perfect setting for horror. I shall discuss the influences of many of these aspects of Thai life and history on its horror films, focusing on the film Shutter from 2004, and the many influences that Thailand has had on its themes and formal construction.

The premise of Shutter is a simple one. A photographer, Tun, and his girlfriend, Jane, hit a young girl whilst driving home one night after meeting with the photographer’s friends, and drive off without checking to see if she’s alive. The girl’s spirit, Natre, haunts the pair, mostly Tun and his photographs, unlocking the secrets of Tun’s past, and the dark connection between himself, the ghostly spirit and the cameras he loves so much. Whilst this premise could seemingly be picked up and placed in any country, Shutter is nevertheless distinctly Thai.

I’ll begin with the fear of technology in the film as a symbol for the evils of Thailand’s rapidly developing urban areas. Thailand, and more specifically Bangkok, is one of the most quickly developed areas in the world. As noted in A History of Thailand, “In 1998, the economy shrank 11 percent – a dramatic end to the 40 year ‘development’ era during which the Thai economy had averaged 7 percent growth and never fallen below 4 percent,” and when discussing a man who had visited rural Thailand in the latter half of the 20th century in one decade and returned the next, he said that “Villagers who had described the local rituals to him only a decade ago now exclaimed that ‘the rice spirit is no match for chemical fertiliser.’” (Baker & Phongpaichit, 2010, pp. 259, 160). As Knee notes, “Bangkok, a city that, in an architectural sense, is haunted indeed – with the old and the new, the disused and the thriving often crammed into the same spaces,” (Knee, 2005, p. 147). This all illustrates that Thailand has changed dramatically over the past few decades leading to Shutter’s production and release, becoming almost unrecognisable from what it once was, complete with the invasion of technology into the home, including television; “By the mid-1990s, over 90 percent of households had one,” (Baker & Phongpaichit, 2010, p. 223).

This chaotic eruption of advancement gives the film the perfect backdrop to use technology, a symbol of advancement and modernity, as a vehicle for Natre’s spirit to conduct herself. Although not confined to the camera, it is photography, and the technology associated with it, that is her main medium of choice for her haunting. Not only does she use the camera to present herself (such as Tun seeing her through the viewfinder), or uses the photographs (she turns her head in a developed photograph in another scene), but she actively uses this medium to manifest as a physical presence. In the scene with Jane in the development room, Natre’s spirit manifests itself inside a sink covered with photographs, rising slowly out of it, as if emerging from the photographs themselves. Natre’s use of the camera therefore may not only be seen as a narrative link between her and Tun, but also as a warning of the dislocation from reality that technology can provide in a new and thriving Bangkok. “Bangkok, as an emblem or instantiation of modernity, is a key reference point… and often appears to engender an anxiety over foreign influence and the loss of traditional mores,” (Knee, 2005, p. 157)

This unease around technology is expressed as unreality, which the film discusses in Jane’s University lecture, “photography does not produce reality.” Tun’s obsession with this ability to capture an unreality means he is more easily pressured into photographing Natre’s rape; he is able to detach himself from the scene because in his mind photography doesn’t replicate reality, only an unreality. He is able to forget these events after Natre’s departure from Bangkok, to the ‘real’ world, until Tonn mentions it again; the Bangkok he lives in has become to him, through the influence of his photography, an unreality, the world of his photographs even more so, easily dealt with because they are not the true reality.

It is perhaps impossible to lead on from the evils of Thailand than to go to its religious good, and its prevalent religious beliefs in Theravada Buddhism. One of the key ways in which Shutter creates its terror can be seen in both the grounding, and eventual perversion, of this particular strand of Buddhism’s treatment of malevolent spirits.

In Buddhism, “Villagers view abnormal death with great fear, because the winjan may become a malevolent phi called a phii tai hoeng”, (winjan being a form of consciousness, phii  a spirit, and phii tai hoeng a vengeful and restless spirit of one who has come to an abnormal death) (Tambiah, 1975, p. 189). Suicide falls into this category of abnormal death, and so it may be correct to classify Natre’s vengeful ghost as a phii tai hoeng, according to Buddhist tradition, perhaps not too dissimilar to Japanese Onryō. Natre isn’t disconnected from Buddhist teachings either, as is displayed by the Buddhist funeral held for her. A Buddhist view and understanding of her spirit is a decent idea therefore, with Buddhist rules to follow in our understanding of the film.

When her mother initially denies the village’s wish to bury her, the villagers treat her afterward like an outcast; “All the villagers were scared. No one wanted to socialise with her.” Natre’s spirit is unable to rest, as she hasn’t been given a proper burial, and will return as a phii tai hoeng in due course. Her mother, however, may hold a clue as to why she did not return immediately. A short booklet called Thailand Society & Culture Complete Report, when discussing the belief of evil spirits arising from suicide, remarks that “the music and presence of loved ones generally keep the spirits at bay,” (Press, World Trade, 2010, p. 12). By this logic, the presence of her mother, living in the same house as her corpse, should have kept Natre’s spirit at bay, despite the lack of a funeral. However, several events may have led to Natre’s sudden appearance again at the beginning of the film.

At the house, as Tun and Jane proceed to Natre’s room to discover her body, they pass hundreds of bottles of liquid. On the DVD commentary, Natthaweeranuch Thongmee, who plays Jane, says that “some people didn’t know what those bottles were,” to which director Parkpoom Wongpoom replies “the drunken mum.” (Shutter (DVD Commentary), 2004). This excessive drinking, an evil no doubt symbolically returning with Natre from Bangkok, would surely have an effect on the restraining of Natre’s spirit to her corpse, allowing her to escape at the right moment more easily.

Along with this, Tun, her former lover, is now with a new partner, and taking her on nights out with the group that raped her. It seems no coincidence then that she first materialises after Tun looks at Jane and remarks “beautiful you.” With no mother able to hold her back (she acts as if Natre is alive, and goes away when she says she will fetch Natre upstairs, proof she is in no fit mental state to able to contain Natre’s spirit), along with Tun’s display of affection for Jane, we see that the immoral, violent world of modern, Bangkok society overrides the Buddhist teachings and traditions that would hold Natre at bay. It is, of course, at a great hospital (probably in an urbanised area, maybe Bangkok), that Natre jumps from and commits suicide, and inside a Bangkok University where she is raped. Natre has become a product of the evils of the allure of the technological advancement of Bangkok, which might prevent the Buddhist teachings from keeping hold of her, and hold of morality as a whole.

In terms of the possible perversion of Buddhist traditions mentioned, it could be possible to understand Tun’s camera as a symbolic form of amulet. According to the World Trade Press, “The Thai people widely use amulets called khawng-khlong, which literally means ‘sacred potent objects’”, and “Amulet-wearers usually seek protection from diseases, witchcraft and accidents.” (Press, World Trade, 2010). The image of Tun using his camera as a means of profession, hanging by a strap around his neck, warding off the evils of poverty and illegal money-making, could be taken as symbolism for a Buddhist amulet. If we adopt this theory, we can see that Natre’s usage of this symbol of protection for her haunting is a direct attack on Buddhist traditions and beliefs. Even her eventual cremation and Buddhist funereal rites can’t stop her, with Natre manifesting at her own funeral by putting a hand on Tun’s shoulder, perhaps the biggest insult to Buddhism one could imagine.

As mentioned before, the Buddhist elements in the film are mainly associated with the rural areas outside Bangkok, which adds further reasoning to Bangkok being an immoral place removed from righteous, religious teachings. It is only in the rural areas that we see evidence of Buddhism, with the monks at the roadside as Tun and Jane are asking about Natre’s mother, and then again at the funeral and subsequent cremation. Whilst in Bangkok, nothing of these traditions are seen or mentioned. Instead we have the drunken ‘gang’ of Tonn’s raping a young woman in one of the city’s Universities, and the eventual madness and chaos brought about by her revenge. This can be no accident. Buddhism is firmly planted in the rural, whereas the urbanisation represents evil, both in life and after it.

Another key thing to note is the context of other Thai film in relation to Shutter, especially Nang Nak, released five years earlier in 1999. It tells a traditional Thai folk story of a woman who died during childbirth whilst her husband is away at war, whose spirit continues to dwell in their home and live with him after he returns, eventually being discovered by her husband, Mak, and exorcised and set to rest by the Buddhist monks. This film became a box office hit in Thailand, winning over a dozen awards. In considering Shutter, it is important to also consider the links to Nang Nak and the influence it had on the creation of the film.

Aside from the concept of a departed woman not being able to rest without her significant other, there are several places where the two films bear a striking resemblance to one another. The opening title sequence of Nang Nak has the titles appearing over paintings and murals depicting Thai history, as a way to enhance the film’s setting. This is not too dissimilar from Shutter’s opening sequence of what could almost be described as a photographic mural, a montage of images showing the main character’s past. Having the titles over images of the past, with the film so closely following Nang Nak, can’t be coincidence. Along with this, the sequence where Natre walks towards Tun outside his apartment along the ceiling is strikingly similar to a scene in Nang Nak where Nak stands on the roof of the Buddhist temple (this image being frightening and representative of an inversion and perversion of Buddhism, such as Natre’s spirit represents). Nak’s spirit is eventually contained inside a fragment of her skull made into a broach, just as Natre is contained initially inside the camera, and eventually in the hospital room with Tun at the very end. Added to all of these resemblances is the fact that Chatchai Pongrapaphan, who composed for Nang Nak, also composed the music for Shutter, providing yet another link between the two. Without a doubt, Shutter took inspiration from the 1999 film and, as the tale of Nak is a well-known legend in Thailand with dozens of adaptations, it is possible that Natre herself was even inspired by Nak.

The influences on Shutter however, are not merely restricted to Thailand. Many international considerations need to be made in order to understand it, perhaps the most important one being the emergence of the cycle of Japanese horror films kick-started by the release of Ringu, a 1998 adaptation of the 1991 novel of the same name. The film’s main antagonist, the vengeful spirit or onryō of Sadako Yamamura, became a cultural icon when the film hit theatres, becoming one of Japan’s top box-office hits of all time. The USA would commission a remake, The Ring, to be released four years later. In the wake of Ringu’s immense success, the image of a vengeful ghostly female character with long black hair became prevalent in films such as Ju-On: The Grudge (2002), One Missed Call (2003) and Dark Water (2002).

It wasn’t long before word got around that this was an almost sure-fire method to get people into cinemas, along with international interest. This is noted perhaps humorously in a blog post by Grady Hendrix on Kaiju Shakedown, “after The Ring, The Ring Two, The Ring Virus, Nightmare, Scissors, Ju-On 1 & 2, A Tale of Two Sisters, Dark Water, Kakashi, The Phone, Shutter, Unborn but forgotten, Into The Mirror, Wicked Ghost, Shikoku, One Missed Call, Horror Hotline… Big Head Monster, Pulse, R-Point, Three Extremes and on and on, this whole ‘long-haired-dead-wet-chick’ trope is dead.” (McRoy, 2008, p. 173) His association of numerous films on his list, including Shutter, with ‘J-Horror’, even when they aren’t from Japan, is perhaps telling of the cycle’s influence on Asian cinema. Everyone wanted to have their own ghost-girl film that was more terrifying than the others.

On a horror revival, with western eyes turning towards Asia for ghostly women to see on their screens, it’s not hard to see that Shutter took influences from Ringu and the like for its character of Natre, similarly a vengeful female ghost with long black hair. Thailand had been looking to Japan for influences for decades, especially when it comes to film; “the first permanent exhibition space for films in Thailand was built by a Japanese promoter in 1905,” (Ruh, 2008, p. 143). Added to this, Davis and Yeh state that “Japanese horror films have a long history, tapping ghost tales and Buddhist sermons in the Edo period,” similar to Shutter’s usage of Buddhist influences, as well as noting that, in their discussion of Ringu, “In this story, some of our most trusted devices inexplicably turn against us”, similar to Natre turning the camera on Tun (Davis & Yeh, 2008, p. 119). Also to note is in the DVD commentary, when Tun walks into the room before seeing Tonn jump to his death, remarking about the static on the television, Pisanthanakun remarks that “on the website they said we’d copied this scene from The Ring,” This remark clearly indicates that the filmmakers are aware of Ringu/The Ring and its influence on current Asian cinema, and whilst this is a denial that the scene is explicitly referencing the Japanese film, the general motifs and iconography of the film are so similar to the cycle that they cannot be ignored.

The cycle of horror at that time, especially the original J-horror as well, also loved to use technology as a means of manifesting the malevolent entity involved. In Ringu it is a videotape, Pulse (2001) uses computers, Suicide Club (2002) uses the radio and television broadcasting. Shutter, then, follows a long line of films in Japanese cinema by using technology as a focus point for its malevolence and evil, but added the influence of Bangkok for this technological evil.

A final point to note might be the inclusion of the number 4 in the staircase scene with Tun running away from Natre. On the DVD commentary, Wongpoom states that “Foreigners say that they know the number four means death for the Chinese… I was surprised they knew that,” and when asked if it was intentional, both he and Pisanthanakun replied “yes”. This use of numbers in Chinese culture and tradition specifically for foreshadowing events and themes of the action taking place shows a very nice cross-cultural connection between the Thai filmmakers and the neighbouring country that has had so much connection with Thailand in the past centuries through to the present day, with many millions of Chinese residents living in the country.

In conclusion, Thailand’s social and cultural history has led to its films becoming rich with remnants and depictions of its setting in both formal construction and through its themes and symbolism. In Shutter, Buddhism and its traditions are invoked and subverted in an attempt to portray the rural countryside as a place of tranquillity and peace, with the city of Bangkok a thriving haven of rape, alcohol abuse and evil. Bangkok’s malevolence includes its rapid industrialisation and technological advancement which can further enhance and continue to spread the evil, in a similar fashion (but different meaning) to Asia’s cycle of horror films inspired by the kaidan tales of Japan, with Thailand’s own film history in Nang Nak influencing its construction. China also shows its influence in its superstitions appearing in the film, knowledge of which is acquired via close national connections with the country. Shutter then, despite first appearing to be a standard ghostly horror movie, is in fact layered deeply with the social concerns and cultural influences of Thailand, with other Asian nations helping to create a rich, transnational horror film.

 

 

Bibliography

Baker, C. & Phongpaichit, P., 2010. A History of Thailand. Second Edition ed. China: Cambridge University Press.

Dark Water. 2002. [Film] Directed by Hideo Nakata. Japan: Oz.

Davis, D. W. & Yeh, E. Y.-Y., 2008. East Asian Screen Industries. London: British Film Institute.

Ju-On: The Grudge. 2002. [Film] Directed by Takashi Shimizu. Japan: Pioneer LDC.

Knee, A., 2005. Thailand Haunted: The Power of the Past in the Contemporary Thai Horror Film.. In: S. J. Schneider & T. Williams, eds. Horror International. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, pp. 141 – 159.

Knee, A., 2008. Suriyothai becomes Legend: National Identity and Global Currency. In: L. Hunt & W. Leung, eds. East Asian Cineams, Exploring Transnational Connections on Film. London: I.B Tauris, pp. 123 – 137.

Nang Nak. 1999. [Film] Directed by Nonzee Nimibutr. Thailand: Tai Entertainment.

One Missed Call. 2003. [Film] Directed by Takashi Miike. Japan: Kadokawa Pictures.

Press, World Trade, 2010. Thailand Society and Culture Complete Report: An All-Inclusive Profile Containing All Of Our Society & Culture Reports, s.l.: World Trade Press.

Pulse. 2001. [Film] Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Japan: Toho Company.

Ringu. 1998. [Film] Directed by Hideo Nakata. Japan: Ringu/Rasen Production Company.

Ruh, B., 2008. Last Life in the Universe: Nationality, Technologies and Authorship. In: L. Hunt & L. Wing-Fai, eds. East Asian Cinemas: Exploring Transnational Connections on Film. New York: I.B Tauris + Co Ltd., pp. 138 – 152.

Shutter (DVD Commentary). 2004. [Film] Directed by Parkpoom Wongpoom, Banjong Pisanthanakun. Thailand: Contender Films.

Shutter. 2004. [Film] Directed by Parkpoom Wongpoom, Banjong Pisanthanakun. Thailand: GMM Pictures.

Suicide Club. 2002. [Film] Directed by Sion Sono. Japan: Earthrise.

Suzuki, K., 1991. Ringu. Tokyo: Kodakawa Shoten.

Tambiah, S., 1975. Buddhism and the Spirit Cults in North-east Thailand. Cabridge: Cabridge University Press.

The Ring. 2002. [Film] Directed by Gore Verbinski. USA: Dreamworks Pictures.

 

Odds and DEAD Ends: Resurrecting The Queen

Resurrecting The Queen: Queen Tera in Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars,

When people think of Bram Stoker, they invariably think of Dracula. His novel, The Jewel of Seven Stars, is perhaps overshadowed simply by the importance of the vampire, but it is by no means an inferior novel. Detailing the attempt to resurrect an ancient Egyptian Queen, the novel went on to inspire movies such as Hammer’s Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, and in some ways the Universal adaptation of The Mummy with Tom Cruise. In this article, I will discuss Queen Tera, and the way she is portrayed as a constant threat to patriarchal society.

To note, I’m using a copy of the novel which includes the original ending and the second, revised ending. I’m basing my discussion on the original ending because it’s darker and, presumably, the direction Stoker originally intended. Also, selfishly, because I much prefer it.

Let us first note that, aside from Margaret Trelawny (and a brief mention of her mother), Queen Tera is the only female character in the novel, and she never utters a word. Her characterization is presented through the male characters of the novel; the documentation of Van Huyn’s book, or the recounting of Corbeck and Trelawny. The power that she exhumes, therefore, may or may not be interpreted to be being played up by the male characters to increase the sense of a threat that she poses. Note that before we are given a name, we have the warning that “‘The “Nameless One” has insulted them and is forever alone. Go not nigh, lest their vengeance wither you away.’” (P.84)

With all that in mind, what is initially deciphered from the sarcophagus reveals Tera to have challenged the male-dominated society of the priests, “‘who had by then achieved immense power’” (p.87). “‘In the statement, it was plainly set forth that the hatred of the priests was, she knew, stored up for her, and that they would after her death try to suppress her name.’” (p.88). Their motivation is her strength in being able to combat their overthrowing of the monarchy, “‘They were then secretly ready to make an effort… that of transferring the governing power from a Kingship to a Hierarchy.’” (p.87) The priests, to their own gain, attempt to get rid of her, “‘make out that the real Princess Tera had died in the experiment, and that another girl had been substituted, but she conclusively proved their error.’” (P.88)

Tera, however, shows incredible resilience thanks to her own determination and learning from her father, “‘He had also had her taught statecraft, and had even made her learned in the lore of the very priests themselves.’” (p.87). She even breaks the tradition of a male ruler, though others try to align her to it. “‘In the following picture she was in female dress, but still wearing the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt, while the discarded male raiment lay at her feet.’” (P.88). She is very much her own woman, not afraid to show her sex, going against the patriarchy set up for the Kingship, and against the priesthood. “‘She seems to have seen through the weakness of her own religion.’” (p.113)

Her intelligence is noted by the present-day protagonists, who even say that the mummy’s gender may affect their knowledge of the situation, that “Men may find that what seemed empiric deductions were, in reality, the results of a loftier intelligence and a learning greater than our own.” (P.164) Mr. Trelawny also states that:

“We might have known that the maker of such a tomb – a woman, who had shown in other ways such a sense of beauty and completeness, and who had finished every detail with such a feminine richness of elaboration – would not have neglected such an architectural feature.” (P.95)

However, Queen Tera possesses a knowledge which the others do not, which ensures their eventual demise and her assumed resurrection. As is noted by Carol A. Senf, “What makes Tera so overwhelming is her violence and ability to over-power the assembled experts.” (p.107). The science and understanding of all the men in the room cannot save them from Tera’s avenging evil, just as the priests could not stop her eventual revival.

It is this knowledge of another world, knowledge beyond that of the priests and the protagonists, that they fear. Women’s rights movements are slowly gaining momentum at the time, and just a few years before the novel’s publication, in 1898, Stoker’s native Ireland had the Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association arise from the Dublin Women’s Suffrage Association. Gender politics is on the rise, and the female threats to patriarchal power could not have been far from Stoker’s mind.

This fear of female invasion to the modern patriarchal society is what makes Tera so terrifying. Killing dozens of people throughout the recorded events, based on a combination of ambition and supernatural power, fuelled by a wrath based on gender politics very closely linked to the rising gender politics of Stoker’s time, Queen Tera is an overshadowed classic villain of gothic horror. With gender politics still very much in the public consciousness in today’s world, perhaps revisiting this pushed-aside novel by one of modern horror’s founding fathers, is worth the time for all of us.

Article by Kieran Judge

Bibliography

Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb. 1971. [Film] Directed by Seth Holt. United Kingdom: Hammer.

Senf, C. A., 2010. Bram Stoker. Wales: University of Wales Press.

Stoker, B., 2009. The Jewel of Seven Stars. United States of America: Seven Treasures Publications.

The Mummy. 2017. [Film] Directed by Alex Kurtzman. United States of America: Universal.

 

 

Guest Blog: Not So Hasty, If You Please! By John C Adams

Not So Hasty, If You Please!

By John C Adams

Do you think babies worry about never being born? When you think about the risk of premature burial as a metaphor for our general concerns in life it becomes easier to understand why it frequently appears in horror fiction. There’s something very womblike about being prematurely buried.

The only individuals I can think of, off the top of my head, who don’t seem to worry about premature burial seem to be vampires. In fact, they can’t wait to scurry home to the crypt as dawn breaks over the sky and cuddle back into the womblike environment of a coffin.

The very first vampire story is John Polidori’s The Vampire. It did much to establish the central notion of the vampire rising from the dead after what was later discovered to have been a premature burial. Lord Ruthven, who displayed most of the features readers quickly came to associate with the vampire, is laid to rest by some locals as per his instructions. However, Aubrey his companion finds that Ruthven’s body has disappeared:

“Aubrey was astonished, and taking several of the men, determined to go and bury it upon the spot where it lay. But, when he mounted to the summit, he found no traces of either the corpse or the clothes, though the robbers swore they pointed out the identical rock on which they had laid the body.”

There’s something very infantile about a vampire. Sucking blood from a person to sustain you isn’t so very different from breastfeeding. Perhaps that’s why the baby-like vampire finds being buried alive (as a voluntary act) satisfying rather than traumatic.

For the rest of us, being buried alive is a terrifying prospect, not least of all because in many ways it represents waking up back in a womblike environment to discover the loss of control we have over our lives. The unborn baby lives comfortably in the womb until he or she is ready to be born, and then triggers the labour. It’s the baby’s first act of control as he or she prepares to meet the outside world for the first time and it’s very empowering. But what if that element of control is taken away from us and a mother-like figure reasserts a control from which we cannot escape?

In Edgar Allan Poe’s The Premature Burial the narrator is terrified by the ease with which this disaster could befall him. He provides various examples in the story of how this has happened in the past. Suffice to say, the narrator becomes obsessed with the danger of falling into a fit of unconsciousness and waking up again to discover that he’s been buried alive. He makes elaborate precautions to ensure his rescue:

“I exacted the most sacred oaths, that under no circumstances they would bury me until decomposition had so materially advanced as to render further preservation impossible. And, even then, my mortal terrors would listen to no reason.”

In some ways premature burial can also be interpreted as representing a more general loss of control and helplessness over our own lives and fates. Many of us worry about that quite genuinely on a daily basis and even when things are going well the fear of that happening can be paralysing.

The ‘elaborate precautions’ made by Poe’s narrator to forestall his premature burial as so thorough that one almost wonders if he wants to have it happen:

“The slightest pressure upon a long lever that extended far into the tomb would cause the iron portals to fly back. There were arrangements also for the free admission of air and light, and convenient receptacles for food and water, within immediate reach of the coffin intended for my reception. The coffin was warmly and softly padded.”

Could anything sound more womblike if it tried?

Our suspicions that we might want to return to the maternal embrace are amply born out by the narrator of H P Lovecraft’s early tale The Tomb. As a young boy, Jervas Dudley becomes obsessed by gaining entry into a vault in the woods near his home. The door is slightly open but he remains frustrated by a complicated padlock. Here, we can be in no doubt that a return to the womb would be welcome:

“In that instant of curiosity was born the madly unreasoning desire which has brought me to this hell of confinement. Spurred on by a voice which must have come from the hideous soul of the forest, I resolved to enter the beckoning gloom in spite of the ponderous chains which barred my passage.”

Perhaps the fear of premature burial increases with age. Younger children in fiction are portrayed as being less bothered by the prospect, that’s certainly true. Although maybe that’s just because they are less fearless in general!

Whatever the explanation, I’m not sure what’s more terrifying: dreading waking up back inside our mother’s womb or secretly longing for it to happen?


John C Adams is an emerging horror and fantasy writer. 

http://johncadams.wix.com/johnadamssf

 

Happy Halloween from HorrorAddicts.net

From all of us at HorrorAddicts.net, have a very creepy, fantastical, spooky, holiday!
If you haven’t listened to our Halloween finale, listen now:

And don’t forget our submission call for the next anthology Crescendo of Darkness closes tonight at 11:59pm, PST

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 Happy Halloween!!!!
Now go eat some candy and then read
a horror novel,
save the horror movies for the other 364 days. ~David Watson

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Keeping it Halloween 24/7 amirite, Addicts?! 😉 ~ Kbatz

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Pleasant nightmares on this All Hallows’ Eve, Addicts! ~Donald Pitsiladis

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Happy Halloween my Addicts!!! I shall miss you so much!
Don’t forget to send me pictures of your great Halloween outfits
and party festivities so we can carry over until January!!
Batty Hugz! ~Emerian Rich

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Dark blessings to all our “Addicts” – until we rise again! Love,
“The Darque Halo” ~Lisa Vasquez

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Ghoulish Greetings, Addicts!
Enjoy your haunted holidays and we’ll see you all after our hibernation!
Darkest Dreams! ~Dan Shaurette

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Something’s sniffing around this time of year.
Is it a demon? A werewolf? Maybe a ghost?
Nope, just Kenzie!
Happy All Hallows Eve and to all a ghoulish holiday. ~Kenzie Kordic

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The demon is up in the Attic to the left … Happy Halloween! ~Stacy Rich

mimielle

Vile Vacations: The Haunted Queen Mary Experience

qm18Visiting the retired, permanently moored RMS Queen Mary is an experience in itself. You don’t have to experience ghost activity to feel the history on board. They offer awesome tour packs where you can see the engine rooms, one of the exposed propellers, and the rumored haunted “Vortex” near the dilapidated—but beautiful—pool. I’ve been fortunate to visit several times and even stay overnight a few years ago. I will give you a tour and then explain my experience. You can decide if the place is really haunted or not.

qm10The ship in general is a fantastic place to visit with so much history to explore. For Titanic enthusiasts, it’s a must-visit. As part of the White Star Line, this so closely resembles Titanic, that you will find yourself doing double-takes as you pass the promenade deck, the dining room, and even the inner room halls. Not only does it resemble the famous iceberg-disabled ship, many movies, and TV shows have been filmed on the Queen Mary so you might find the place familiar as you step on board, which adds to the mystique. The Queen Mary has graced the sets of movies like Titanic II, Pearl Harbor, Aviator, The Natural, The 13th Floor, and television series such as The Search for the Next Elvira, Moonlight, Murder She Wrote, Unsolved Mysteries, and Quantum Leap. They also have historical exhibits that run for a short time. If you are into the royals and fashion, you might enjoy the pricey but beautiful exhibit on now, “Diana: Legacy of a Princess” where you can see many of her iconic dresses in person. They also have other royal history and some of the clothes from the current monarch. For military buffs, the QM played a big part in the WWII effort as a transport ship for Australian and New Zealand soldiers. Per Wikipedia,

In the WWII conversion, the ship’s hull, superstructure and funnels were painted navy grey. As a result of her new color, and in combination with her great speed, she became known as the “Grey Ghost.”

As far as hauntings on the ship, there have been many reported. No wonder, since at least 49 crew and passengers are known to have died during the Queen Mary‘s service as a luxury liner.

qm16In the engine room, our tour guide told us of one such haunting. Although somewhat “set-up” by and ominous number 13, the guide recalled a sailor was crushed by this water-tight door. They aren’t clear on the “why”, but it’s attributed to him either playing chicken or going back to grab something in an emergency. The ship’s underground system of working tunnels is certainly creepy, but as for ghosts? Who knows?

qm19Another creepy location on the ship is the ominous 1st Class Pool. Those horror buffs out there will swear it was the pool in the movie Ghostship, but it’s not.
Still, the effect of the once-beautiful place being in complete disrepair sent a chill up my spine. Pardon the dim pictures because of lack of light and the fact that we could not explore the place fully because most of the pool was closed due to safety regulations. The most haunted place in the pool area is purported to be what they call the “Vortex” located in the pool showers.qm11I took a picture standing right in the middle of the “Vortex” although warned by the tour guide, “It may not come out, or your phone might die.” He said reports of this happening are frequent and that several people have found light spots or “ghost” images in their photos. I played along, and it was fun to imagine, but as you can see, that did not happen. My picture is clear of “ghosties” and I didn’t feel anything but the same creepiness you feel when entering any derelict structure.

So, if I didn’t feel anything in the most haunted part of the ship, what did I feel? I had two experiences that will stay with me forever.

qm14First, when we were walking through the bowels of the ship, I kept feeling like someone was behind me. I was the last one in the tour at that time. I kept looking behind me and would catch just a shadow or a blur. Not really anything tangible, but enough to creep you out. This was before the tour guide told us about the crewman of hatch 13 that was crushed there. It creeped me out, but only because I kept feeling the presence the entire time we were in the down below.

qm17 qm20 qm202

When we went into this particularly dark part of the ship, standing at the doorway into the place, I became nauseous. The boat is moored, so there is no movement to make me sick. I stepped into the huge room and felt like someone had given me a push into the room. Again, I was the last one in and no one was behind me. My nausea grew and I wasn’t able to even step forward to where the rest of the tour was. My husband asked if I was okay and I nodded, motioning him on so he look at the mechanics of the ship. As my stomachache grew, my attention was drawn to a door up high looking over us. The door was open, and light shone through from an unseen bulb, but it wasn’t anywhere anyone would be. However, in my periphery, I saw someone standing there. I looked up and nothing was there. It kind of creeped me out, but after the “sighting”(?) I felt fine again and was able to enjoy the rest of the tour without incident. In the pictures (Again I apologize for poor light shots.) the large shot is the massive room we entered. There are light spots, but I doubt they were ghost proof because it was so dusty in the room. In the second shot, you can see the room where I felt the presence standing. Doesn’t appear that I caught anything on film. However, a few people who have seen the shot wonder if I did catch a ghost. The head is higher than a normal human would stand. Is the partial shot of a mustached man a spirit? Or is it just a pipe and a trick of sight? I still don’t know what I believe about the picture, but I do know a male presence was following me during this part of the tour. Was a ghost or spirit following me through the crew hatches to cause menace? Or was he guiding me to make sure I stayed safe? Or was it merely making its self known to mark its territory?

 

qm3qm5My second experience happened in our suite. We stayed in the Eisenhower Suite. If anyone knows me, they know I am so not a history—especially political—buff. If I know history, it’s usually fashion or something I’ve had to research for a book. I knew nothing about Eisenhower nor did I have an impression of the president before I stayed there. The suite was beautiful. It felt luxurious to have not only a quite sizable bedroom (for a ship) and bathroom, but also another servants quarters where I could lay out my stuff and put on my makeup. qm21Probably the posh-est place I’ve stayed, not counting the inconvenience of the bathroom on a ship. (We kept stubbing our toes on the raised bathroom entry and in the shower, the tub was so circular, you had to stand with one foot in front of the other like walking tight rope while washing.) Laying down in the fresh clean sheets with my husband next to me, I thought there couldn’t be any place more comfortable.

Unfortunately, the night of sleep was not as good as we planned. Beyond the sounds of the ship (Pipes creaking and pounding, the movement of others, and various sounds we were unused to.) I found my sleep state to hover on the “almost awake” state. qm6During this night, I kept hearing the tinkling of a dog’s tags and the light pressure of a small dog hoping on the bed. It was so real to me, I woke and looked down at the foot of the bed several times, sure it had actually happened. I haven’t had a dog since I was a child and I haven’t felt that dog jumping on the bed thing since then, but it was unmistakable. The next morning, I related the story to my husband and he agreed, he had been kept in REM sleep for what seemed like all night. Although he had the same trouble sleeping, he did not feel or hear the dog. After telling a few people of my experience—and not connecting it at all with Eisenhower and his dogs—my friends started a discussion about his dogs and which one might have been alive when he traveled on the Queen Mary in 1946. The connection is interesting.

fala2

Eisenhower and his Terrier “Fala”.

I don’t know if Eisenhower even boarded with a dog on his voyage, but it certainly makes sense. All I know is that it was a small-type dog like a Terrier. But what did I really experience? Was it the ghost or imprint of one of the President’s dogs? Or was it someone else’s dog that perished onboard? Or perhaps for the skeptic, it’s more believable that I had a kernel of a memory from years ago about Eisenhower having a dog that I didn’t remember…and my brain caused me to “dream” of this fact in my unconscious state?

Whether you visit the Queen Mary to experience it’s greatness or to attend the annual “Dark Harbor” Halloween event, this is a haunted locale you can’t miss. I would advise to come for the tours, but not to stay overnight, unless you don’t mind little sleep.

Have you been to a haunted locale? Tell us about it. Email: horroraddicts@gmail.com

Happy Halloween from HorrorAddicts.net

hahalloweencard2

From all of us at HorrorAddicts.net, have a very creepy, fantastical, spooky, holiday!
If you haven’t listened to our Halloween special, listen now:

And don’t forget our submission call for the next anthology Clockwork Wonderland closes tonight at 11:59pm, PST

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Beware of the clown apocalypse. Happy Halloween. ~David Watson
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The demon is up in the Attic to the left … Happy Halloween! ~Stacy Rich

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Here’s to a Spooktacular Halloween, Addicts! Have a ghoulishly great new year! ~Dan Shaurette

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It’s okay to be a little BATTY! ~Kristin Battestella (aka Kbatz)

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The first step toward overcoming addiction is admitting you’ve got a problem. ~Jesse Orr

mimielle

Ghastly Games: Monster Fluxx

GhastlyGames2

On episode #133, hear Emerian Rich talk about Fluxx, Monster edition

fm fmFluxx is a card game where the rules keep changing and the excitement never stops. You still start out simple: draw one card and play one card, changing the rules as you go, while collecting up different cards to combine into the goals. Changing Goals will keep you on your toes as well, and Action cards are still shaking things up! Monster Fluxx takes classic monster movies and TV shows and adds them to the basic Fluxx deck. With the prominent monster presence, this deck is designed to introduce new players to the Fluxx system and has it has just four main card types.

 

Find out more about this awesome game on Episode #133, coming September 3rd.

Review: Witch House by Evangeline Walton

WitchHouseWitch House by Evangeline Walton is a creepy novel written in 1945.

A doctor travels to a large ominous house on an island separated from town by a lake. This house is inhabited by evil either imprinted there or from ghosts of past family members. The doctor’s task is to confront and cure a small girl who has either been seeing poltergeist activity or causing it. Also residing in the house are the girl’s mother, and her two male cousins. The three adults must live together for the terms of the will if they wish to retain ownership, but when the ghost activity gets physical and people start dying, even the ownership doesn’t seem like that big of a loss if they want to save their lives. Most of the ghostly legends center around Aunt Sarai, a woman who ruled the house with an iron fist and who may still rule from beyond the grave.

The house reminds me of the movie The Woman in Black although it is distinctly American, but the house is also separated from the town by water. The residents of the town could be plucked from one of Stephen King’s novels in that they embody the small New England townsfolk who tell stories about the folks that “live the house.” Yet, this book was written in 1945, long before King’s career.

What drew me to read Witch House was the intriguing cover. I wanted to see the scary witch painting come alive and attack the poor little girl. It never happens that way, but the woman called Aunt Sarai does seem to terrorize the child. Although the book is slow and much of it is about how the doctor tries to convince the girl that the objects and people tormenting her are harmless, there was a spookiness to the tale that I enjoyed. Because it’s slow, the payoffs take a long time to present themselves. Scary corridors with no end, strangely solid ghost figures, and a large black hare all add to the scare in this book. In the end, I felt the scare never was as scary as the build-up. However, passages like…

“Broken through the dark webs of her destiny…”

and

“The full moon should give that watching figure this semblance of flesh as well as shadow…”

…kept me reading. It’s evident the writing is from another time, but instead of irritating me, the style drew me in. Sure, the ending is not as scary as I would have liked and looking back nothing truly frightening happened that I’ve not read a hundred times before, but her language and description kept me in the world of Witch House and I’m not sad I gave it a try. If I were a child experiencing these things, I would truly be terrified. It’s just not up to our 2016 standards as far as fear. I’ll leave with you one last passage which is my favorite.

“The room was dark now, totally dark, too dark for the dangerous half-light that aids materializations…but at the windows there were touches of moon-silver twilight. Presently they enabled him to distinguish…something darker than the darkness—the skirted silhouette of a woman. He knew the shape and the folds in which the dress fell; he had seen them in Aunt Sarai’s portrait… Each detail appeared gradually now, thickening and blackening into perfection, out of the nebulous darkness…”

Tonight in bed don’t let Aunt Sarai’s silhouette in the window scare you. She’s not real. She’s a figment of your imagination…or is she?

Meet Author Alexander Beresford, #108

BeresfordPICThis week’s author is Alexander Beresford, author of Charla, which David reviewed last November. Alexander has a new book, Doll Face coming out soon and brings us a piece of flash fiction this week called “Needs”. “Needs” is about a man who has lost his mind. He receives an unexpected call from a special love interest from his past while he’s in the middle of living a moment of indulgence while experimenting with things he had only fantasized about, respecting little of anything, engaging in selfish, psychotic curiosities.

Alexander has a twisted way of bringing us disturbing characters that you can’t stop reading or listening to, even though you are horrified at what’s going on. Let’s find out more about Alexander.

HA: What is your most recent work?

Alexander: I have a new novel coming out soon called DOLL FACE, but my most recent published work is CHARLA, the story of a sexy mother who hates her daughter and manages to secretly bring her pain and discomfort. So creative is Charla in satisfying her unsettling needs, that even Amelie grew up unaware of her mother’s deranged feelings towards her. With Amelie all grown up now, it has become harder and harder for Charla to quench her morbid impulses without getting her hands dirty. So, one lonely dawn, Charla experiences a very weird event that sparks the idea of summoning a demon to disrupt her twenty-five year old daughter’s perfect, pretty little life. She puts the sick plan into action … and the demon moves in!

HA: What was the spookiest night of your life?

Alexander: I’m not sure how much of this I can reveal, but a friend got permission to visit a famous political figure’s unused house currently being restored and known to be haunted. This friend, my girlfriend, and I entered the house at night, out in the woods, with no electricity, with our ghost hunting equipment and began to investigate for fun. We heard all kinds of noises, saw strange shadows and things, our equipment went nuts, we heard a voice in the EVP recording later, it was crazy. We didn’t last long in there, it was incredibly creepy. Whatever was there didn’t like us visiting for “fun”.

HA: How do you create stories? What is in your writers tool kit?

Alexander: I use a laptop and a program called StoryMill which helps me stay organized. I will usually write in one spot, on the couch next to the baby grand piano in my living room. I prefer to write early in the moring and late at night. I’m simply too distracted to get much done in the middle of the day, though I try.

Charla cover front finalHA: What era do you feel most at home in?

Alexander: I like technology and other advances, I like this era just fine.

HA: Who is one person you’d like to meet, living or dead, and why?

Alexander: I would like to meet Clive Barker. He is a brilliant writer and a person I am certain I would enjoy hanging out with. I’d like to speak to him about writing, art and creativity in general.

HA: What is your favorite horror flick?

Alexander: I’m fond of the classics, Exorcist, Carrie, The Omen, Friday The 13th, Halloween.

HA: If you were to battle a hoard of zombies, who would be your dream team fighting next to you?

Alexander: Probably no one you would’ve heard of. People I trust, strong characters, fighters, intelligent people, my friends Rey Armenteros, Alex Armenteros, and writer and long time friend Wesley Gurion for starters.

HA: Where can fans catch up with your newest work?

Alexander: www.AlexanderBeresford.net

HorrorAddictsCon: Michele Roger Evil Holidays 4

Santa CLAWS

by Michele Roger

Santa returns after his Christmas Eve night of delivery.  But Mrs. Clause discovers that something terrible has happened… somone on the naughty list has turned Santa into a werewolf!

Having trouble with the clickable player? Here is the direct link:
http://www.micheleroger.com/Podcasts/SWTWC-SantaClaws.mp3

Michele Roger is the author of “Dark Matter” and “The Conservatory”; both horror novels.  She also hosts her own podcast of short stories called “Something Wicked This Way Strums”.  When Michele isn’t writing, she is performing as a solo harpist as well as in the ensemble “Bellissima Musica”.  You can find both her writing and her music at www.micheleroger.com

Guest Blog: What Is Horrifying to Me – Ron Vitale

What Is Horrifying to Me
By Ron Vitale

I woke up startled from a noise. It was the middle of the night and I had been sleeping. I opened my eyes and floated between consciousness and sleep, my mind reeling. Still in bed, I saw lights in the hallway. The lights appeared to dance in the air and I heard an odd noise that rushed toward me. The sound, distant yet constant appeared to be coming from the strange lights levitating in my hallway. My teenage body froze in fear. The lights grew in size, moving closer to my doorway and increased in their intensity. I tried to move again and could not. Trapped in pure horror I remained paralyzed and could not speak and I tried thinking but my brain refused to work. The rumbling noise faded and the lights faded back.

And then I knew it, a ghost or an angel had come to visit me. Torn between which it might be, I desperately pushed aside the thought that a ghost had come to haunt me and take my soul. In my compromised state, an angel seemed the better option. But this ethereal being sounded more like Gabriel coming with his sword to wreck havoc on the unjust than to help a poor soul like me. I had wasted too much time as the rumbling sound increased in volume, shaking ever so slightly the apartment we lived in, and the lights flared up, angry and brilliantly white. With seeming aggression, they floated toward the door and I begged them to not hurt me. The horror of my predicament left me powerless. The angel of death had come for me and instead of being asleep as it had intended I would see my last few minutes on this Earth before being taken and dragged into the chute of hell, to writhe with the rest of the unfortunate souls who had not done God’s will. I would suffer for all eternity, cast aside and adrift from the light, only to be in utter darkness and fear—forever.

I cannot tell you how many minutes my run in with the angel of death lasted, but I can tell you how I woke from it. Having heard the sound again, my sleepy brain began to put two and two together. The “roar” and “rumble” were trucks and cars passing by our apartment. The sound of their passing was echoing off a wall and coming in through the bathroom window. Similarly, I then realized that the light from their headlights was reflecting off the bathroom mirror and then onto the full length hallway mirror creating the illusion of floating balls of light. I logical answer for my other worldly experience was simply that I had been in a dream state and a large truck rumbled by. I wasn’t quite awake and saw the lights, thinking that they were some spirits coming to get me. When you’re 15 years old and have an active imagination, that’s all it took to instill that dreadful horror into me.

But what is horror? Truly, what does it mean? For our edification, I looked it up on Wikipedia and learned that horror is defined as:

-noun
1. an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting; a shuddering fear: to shrink back from a mutilated corpse in horror.

Now that we know what horror is defined as I’d like to expound a bit on what horror means to me. I’ll be honest: I’m a scaredy cat. It doesn’t take much to frighten me but there is power in horror and I’d like to propose that the anticipation of an event or action is so much more powerful and horrifying than any monster that Hollywood can put on the big screen. I love CGI, but it pales in comparison to my imagination.

A few examples. Remember, the movie Jaws? There’s a scene in the beginning in which a young woman is swimming at night. She feels a tug at her leg and a confused look crosses her face. Then it happens again and she’s pulled under the water. She’s scared, it’s dark, you can’t see much and then she’s dragged around and pulled under. Many minutes go by in the film until you actually see the shark. Granted, with the limited technology at the time, the shark isn’t much to look at. In 2010, who would be afraid of that mechanical monstrosity? But re-watch the film and take in what Spielberg does to build suspense and fear. Granted, Jaws is not a horror film, but, as a little kid, it was my first understanding of how powerful my imagination could be.

A few years later Alien came out and as I was only 8 at the time so I didn’t get to see the movie until it was on VCR a few years later. But I’ll never forget the stomach bursting scene and Ridley Scott’s use of the camera. How many long, smoking corridors does he bring us down as the crew searches for the creature? How many times do you think it’s going to pop out and instead it’s a cat or nothing? Building that suspense and then, when you least expect it the creature would come out scare the crap out of my pre-teen self.

And my third example will be a controversial one. I’ve learned that there’s a split camp on this one. I’ll break the argument down as such:

I saw The Blair Witch Project before all the hype. My brother waited until the movie had been blown up into being something that would scare God Herself. There’s a scene at the end (I apologize for the spoiler but the film came out in 1999 so stop reading this if you haven’t seen it) in which Mike is standing facing a wall. You know something’s there (the witch creature thingy) and Heather falls down and the camera is knocked on its side. There’s screams and the camera fades out. Boom. The End. Now I saw the film, thought it was good and came home and that night I had nightmares that freaked the hell out of me. Why?

I could not stop replaying the ending of the movie in my head: Mike is standing in the corner, hunched a bit like he’s a little boy, immobile and trapped by the witch. She/it is there in the room waiting to get Heather. With the darkened, grainy video, you don’t see much. I didn’t need to, but my imagination filled in the rest. In my dream, I replayed that ending scene and was horrified at the potential for evil in that room. My psyche can dredge up the most imaginative creatures, places or events that will tear at my mind, enabling me to live in that moment. I had not been more terrified and frightened from a movie’s ending in a long time.

My brother laughed at me. “Dude, there’s a guy standing in front of a wall. The bitch trips and drops the camera and then she screams and the camera fades. What’s up with that?”

I understand his point. I do. But, for me, true horror isn’t what we see on the screen or read on the page. It’s the anticipation, the implied horror that can take your feeble human mind and break you down into the puny little kid you once were—afraid of lights dancing in the hallway in the middle of night.

I would argue that the best horror masterpieces embrace that human weakness of ours: We want to know and put explanations to the unknowable. An odd noise or sight: We will think it’s a ghost, a creature or a UFO. And to me, finding the intersection between what we think we know and try to anticipate what we know is the true horror. It’s hearing the odd noise in the middle of the night in a darkened house. Is it the house settling or is someone there, waiting for you?

By no means am I saying that my definition of horror is the “right” one. No, that’s not true at all. But I would ask that if you are, like my brother, loving the exploding guts and mindless zombies eating the intestines of hapless teenagers on the screen or in books, I’d recommend trying a different type of horror. Explore what you can’t see and let your imagination fill in the gaps. I wonder: Will what you dream up be more horrifying? There’s only one way to find out…

Ron Vitale is the author of the fantasy novel Dorothea’s Song, the creator of The Magic Sock and co-creator of The Podd couple podcasts. Learn more at http://www.ronvitale.com and follow him on Twitter @ronvitale.