Odds and DEAD Ends: Analysis of Casting the Runes and Ring.

M. R. James’ classic ghost story, Casting the Runes, is perhaps one of the most beloved of all time. It follows Mr. Dunning, uncovering a plot by Dr. Karswell to kill him via a series of ancient runic symbols. Similarly, for the modern age, Koji Suzuki’s novel Ring, (thanks largely to Hideo Nakata’s film adaptation), changed the face of Japanese horror films, much in the way that Scream did for the slasher genre. Examined in this article is the concept of infecting a victim with a deadline, by which, if the deadline isn’t passed on, the victim will die. This concept is, in both texts, a product of history and the past, which can infiltrate the modern day to scare the reader.

CASTING THE RUNES

James’ story is rooted in folklore of witches and magic. James himself was a noted historian of folklore and mythology, writing many papers on medieval manuscripts and other texts. It’s not surprising, therefore, that this interest seeps through in Casting the Runes, his uncovering of ancient texts mirroring the discovery of the slip of paper with the runes.

The main conflict I perceive in the text is the tension between the modernity presented by Dunning and Harrington, and the history and past presented by Karswell, fighting for power. Karswell, a man who has “…invented a new religion for himself, and practiced no one could tell what appalling rites” (p.238), has cast a hex on Dunning for shunning his new book. The past, in its runes and legends, is here the antagonistic force presented through Karswell, his book described simply as ‘an evil book’ (p.242), the mythic past’s main point of origin. Karswell’s magic lantern show presents the darker side of children’s myths and fairy tales, such as Red Riding Hood, which bleed through into the modern world:

“At last he produced a series which represented a little boy passing through his own park – Lufford, I mean – in the evening. Every child in the room could recognize the place from the pictures. And this poor boy was followed, and at last pursued and overtaken, and either torn into horrible pieces or somehow made away with, by a horrible hopping creature in white, which you saw first dodging about among the trees, and gradually it appeared more and more plainly.” (p.239)

Not only do we see the past colliding with the modern present through this passage, but after this, showing slimy creatures on the slides, “…somehow or other he made it seem as if they were climbing out of the picture and getting in amongst the audience” (p.240). Dunning and Harrington, on the other hand, are modernity’s flag-bearers. Dunning investigates the noise in the night, “…for he knew he had shut the door that evening after putting his papers away in his desk” (p.252), proving a logical, empirical mind, later reinforced here: “It was a difficult concession for a scientific man, but it could eased by the phrase “hypnotic suggestion” (p.255). Dunning even suggests that Karswell was “…mixing up classical myths, and stories out of the Golden Legend with reports of savage customs of to-day…” (p.258), showing a scholarly knowledge of the subject matter.

Therefore, the strange atmosphere about Dunning, the mysterious death of Harrington’s brother, the strange wind, “I supposed the door blew open, though I didn’t notice it: at any rate a gust – a warm gust it was – came quite suddenly between us, took the paper and blew it into the fire” (p.258), only increases our fear and trepidation, especially with the three month deadline hanging over our heads before Dunning’s eventual demise, for they can only be supernatural, against Dunning’s core beliefs. We try to decipher it rationally, following our protagonist’s example, but are unable to. Modern science cannot fight back against the curse of the runes. When Dunning and Harrington resort to deception and return the slip to Karswell, we slip into the past, so to speak, presented with the evil past that the characters have tried to deny for so long. We want to see evil banished back to where it belongs, away from Dunning’s modern day, back into the history books.

This brings us to the final moral dilemma. We are asked at the tale’s conclusion, “Had they been justified in sending a man to his death, as they believed they had? Ought they not to warn him, at least?” (p.266). They have become like Karswell, dispensing an ancient, malevolent death upon those they deem a threat. Though they justify this by claiming Karswell deserved it, and that Dunning would be dead otherwise, it is an unnerving note to end with, asking if they should have asked the darkness of history to prove itself, or descended to the old ways as they do, dispensing justice in, what is for them, a “new rite”, much like Karswell created for himself.

RING

Suzuki’s novel, Ring, adopts a similar structure in terms of its narrative. A malevolent force (the spirit of Sadako Yamamura) has given a victim (Asakawa) a time limit (seven days) to find what mysterious instructions he needs to follow in order to save his life (copying the cursed tape and passing it on). The runes have been replaced by the video tape, and it is here that we see one of the key, fundamental differences to James’ story. Sadako is built upon the myths and folklore of Japan, but her embodiment of ‘the past’ is intertwined with modern technology. The distinct opposition inherent in James’ tale is no longer as easy to see in Suzuki’s novel.

The female ghost with long hair avenging their death is a well-established trait in Japanese folklore. These stories are called kaidan; the vengeful ghost termed an onryō. Theatre Group Soaring, in the novel, would no doubt have practiced traditional Japanese kabuki theatre, itself one of the main vehicles through which kaidan tales were passed throughout the centuries. Even in the film adaptation, the strange, contorted movements of Sadako (as played by Rie Inō) is directly inspired by stereotypical movements of onryō from kabuki theatre, and Rie Inō herself was apparently trained in kabuki. The story of the spirit in the well has also been around for centuries, the story of Okiku and the plates, being a potent example.

Sadako is therefore very much rooted in Japan’s past, in more ways than just being dead. Asakawa, on the other hand, is very much the modern man, constantly carrying around a word processor, saving files to floppy disks, phoning Yoshino from the island to help his investigation. Ryuji is a professor of philosophy, a discipline which “…as a field of inquiry had drawn ever closer to science,” (p.88). These two men are built of the modern world. They even live in Tokyo, one of the largest cities in the world. When arriving at Pacific Land, Asakawa notes that “Faced with this proof that the modern power of science functioned here, too, he felt somewhat reassured, strengthened.” (p.61).

Suzuki uses technology, the statement of the future and urbanity, to steer his antagonistic force, striking at civilisation’s heart. Sadako’s wrath and anger takes over the videotape, itself situated in a cabin complete with “A hundred-watt bulb lit a spacious living room. Papered walls, carpet, four-person sofa, television, dinette set: everything was new, everything was functionally arranged.” (p.63). Asakawa, despite his hesitations and fear of what the tape might show him, ‘No matter what sort of horrific images he might be shown, he felt confident he wouldn’t regret watching” (p.73). Why would his regret watching? It wouldn’t be as if anything could happen to him, constrained as it were by the (very much Western) technology before him.

Just like Karswell’s magic lantern show, however, the images on the tape have their own weight and reality, “Startled, he pulled back his hands. He had felt something. Something warm and wet – like amniotic fluid, or blood – and the weight of flesh.” (p.77). When Asakawa answers the phone, it is described that:

“There was no reply. Something was swirling around in a dark, cramped place. There was a deep rumble, as if the earth were resounding, and the damp smell of soil. There was a chill at his ear, and the hairs on the nape of his neck stood up. The pressure on his chest increased, and bugs from the bowls of the earth were crawling on his ankles and his spine, clinging to him. Unspeakable thoughts and long-ripened hatred almost reached to him through the receiver. Asakawa slammed down the receiver.” (p.81).

That silence from the other end of a telephone gives this impression, this startlingly sensory imagery, showcases Sadako’s reach and wrath, without her saying a word.

In the finale, Asakawa, realising why he survived and Ryuji did not, agrees to wager the entirety of humanity by spreading the virus to his parents-in-law. Whereas James simply had the characters return the curse to Karswell, he the price for Dunning’s survival, here, Suzuki has entire the world be the price for saving Asakawa’s family. Whereas Casting the Runes ends with a definite confirmation of Karswell’s demise, Ring ends with the ominous passage, “Black clouds moved eerily across the skies. They slithered like serpents, hinting at the unleashing of some apocalyptic evil.” (p.284). Asakawa has become accomplice to Sadako’s malice, the past in control of modern technology and, through that, the modern man. “In order to protect my family, I am about to let loose on the world a plague which could destroy all mankind.” (p.283).

CONCLUSION

Both James’ short story and Suzuki’s novel present characters eagerly, desperately trying to beat the deadlines they are faced with, wished upon them by people that want them dead. Through their representations of an evil, malevolent past, embodied by Karswell and Sadako, both authors present us with a moral choice of who we save, and who we kill in exchange. What is different about their endings is the level of intimacy and scope we are presented with. Casting the Runes is a story of personal vengeance, where the battle is between Karswell on one side and Dunning and Harrington on the other, with the evil-doer getting their just desserts, like a boxing match. Ring’s evil is much more impersonal, and the apocalyptic ending shows the sheer magnitude of what must happen for someone to live. You don’t end the curse; you just pass the buck and hope someone else will do it for you. The ending’s bleak tone implies that there is no hope, that nobody will sacrifice themselves to stop the bleeding, and that the virus will move from one soul to another, runes forever being cast.

Written by Kieran Judge

Bibliography

James, M. R., 1994. Casting the Runes. In: Collected Ghost Stories. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth, pp. 235 – 267.

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

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

Suzuki, K., 2004. Ring. London: HarperCollinsPublishers.

 

 

Horror Movie Conspiracies: The Scream Franchise By Kenzie Kordic

Horror Movie Conspiracies: The Scream Franchise  By Kenzie Kordic

Horror movies have always had conspiracy theories attached to them, explanations on what motivated characters, and much more. The conspiracy theories in the horror universe is mostly fan theories, some have concrete foundations, while others have no basis in facts. Scream is one of the most popular horror franchises. The casting, sequels and fan base have helped the Scream franchise grow to what it is today: a classic. Everyone thinks that they understand what is at play and what the movies are all about, but do they really? This article is going to highlight the hidden agenda of some characters.

The main theory is that Dewey has assisted with the murders in every movie. Now, this is hinted at in almost every movie. Dewey is Sidney’s best friends older brother. He is a cop, and is also portrayed to be stupid. So much so, in fact, that the town doesn’t trust him at all or have any faith in him as a police officer. This works in Dewey’s favor because since everyone believes him to be stupid, he can break the mold and become a respected man of the law.

Now, how does he assist with the murders? Well, in the original Scream movie, Sidney’s boyfriend, Billy, was originally arrested for the murders of the students in the high school. When they arrested him, he did have the costume on him as well as the phone that made the calls to the victims. With all that evidence against him, he was released the next day. How? Dewey let him go.

The next piece of evidence is that he is always there. With every crime scene, he is there. Now, you’re thinking that he is a cop, so he should be, but that isn’t true at all. He wasn’t a good cop at all so what would him even being at the scene of the crimes help at all? Also, in every single movie, he is never attacked alone. Every time he is attacked, it is in full view of someone else. For example, Sidney was attacked on numerous occasions when she was by herself, so was Gale, and other characters. Why was Dewey never attacked alone? Also, how come every time there is the big showdown at the end of the movies, Dewey is always hurt. He is rarely there to help, he is always incapacitated.

In conclusion, Dewey has assisted with the murders of every killer in the Scream franchise to help himself get more recognition by helping to “solve” the cases. He has always known who the killers are and has helped them escape the law on a few different occasions. Like Gale, Dewey was using the murders and the killers to further his own career and infamy. Unlike Gale, Dewey was at least knowledgeable of who the killers were and what was going on. This is the first of many different horror conspiracies that will be discussed and I hope to see you guys next time.

 

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Kenzie Kordic is a young author who strives to create truly scary stories.  Kenzie has been obsessed with the horror genre for as long as she’s been able to read. She has written numerous short stories as well as working on a novel.  She can be found watching horror movies with her pup.

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SUBMISSION CALL: Once Upon a Scream

SUBMISSION CALL: ONCE UPON A SCREAM
OUS

“Happily ever after” is for children. This book prefers to evoke the grim warnings of our oldest fables. We are seeking frightening fairytales, fables, and folklore. We want to feature your own new tales or new takes on old classics. Stories of seelie and unseelie alike. Are the things that go bump in the night there to help or harm us?

Submitted stories should deal with fairies or fairy tale settings, and must also be considered horror, evoking a classic fear and dread reminiscent of the fables of old. If you are submitting a new take on a classic fairy tale, the original story and characters must be in the public domain. The setting can be our world in the past, present, or future, or a fictional setting, or the exploration of both. Stories must be Gothic, Horror, Steampunk, Gaslamp Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Horror Romance, or have a horror element of some kind.

Manuscripts Format:

  1. Font either Courier or Times New Roman.
  2. Double spaced, font size 11 or 12 point.
  3. Your manuscript must be in either DOC or RTF format.
  4. 1st page header to state: author name, mailing address, email address, and word count.
  5. Following pages header to state: author name, story name, and page number.
  6. In the body of the email, give us:
    1. 100 words or less bio about you.
    2. One sentence explaining the story attached. Your elevator pitch.
  7. In the subject of the email state: ONCE UPON A SCREAM/Author Name/Story Title
  8. Send to: horroraddicts@gmail.com

No previously printed work and no simultaneous submissions.

Deadline: October 31st, 2015, 11:59pm PST
Length: 2,000-8,000 words, ideal length 5,000
Payment:$5.00 USD + digital contributor copy
Return time: Final decisions will not be made until AFTER the submission close date (10/31/15). You should expect a return within 3 months of the submission close date. If you do not receive an email stating your manuscript was received within two weeks of submission, please send a polite query to: horroraddicts@gmail.com

For any other questions, please send an email to:horroraddicts@gmail.com

Anchor Bay: Scream 4

From Anchor Bay Entertainment:

Scream 4

Available Now on DVD &
Blu-ray™ Combo Pack

“The best Scream since the original! Funny, clever and scary as hell.” –Life & Style Weekly

“Pure Genius.” –RichardRoeper.com

Directed by suspense master and director of the first trilogy, WES CRAVEN, Scream 4 is the newest installment in the acclaimed franchise that ushered in a new wave of horror in the 1990s. In Scream 4, Sidney Prescott (NEVE CAMPBELL), now the author of a self-help book, returns home to Woodsboro on the last stop of her book tour. There she reconnects with Sheriff Dewey (DAVID ARQUETTE) and Gale (COURTENEY COX), who are now married, as well as her cousin Jill (EMMA ROBERTS). Unfortunately Sidney’s appearance also brings about the return of Ghost Face, putting Sidney, Gale, and Dewey, along with Jill, her friends (HAYDEN PANETTIERE, RORY CULKIN, ADAM BRODY) and the whole town of Woodsboro in danger.

Starring:
COURTNEY COX (“Cougar Town”, “Friends”)
NEVE CAMPBELL (Wild Things, The Craft)
EMMA ROBERTS (Valentine’s Day, Hotel For Dogs)
HAYDEN PANETTIERE (“Heroes”, I Love You Beth Cooper)
DAVID ARQUETTE (Never Been Kissed)
Directed By WES CRAVEN (Scream 1-3, A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes)
http://starzhomeentertainment.cmail4.com/t/y/l/ghklkd/jiktkttky/i/