From the Vault Replay! A Very Special Christmas Eve by A.D. Vick

Originally posted on HorrorAddicts.net December, 2015

Johnny and his little sister Stacy went to bed earlier than usual that night, but they didn’t mind. It was Christmas Eve after all, and what child isn’t willing to sacrifice a bit of play time when he or she knows that turning in early might just hasten the arrival of Saint Nick? The last thing they did before retiring to their rooms was to watch their mom place a cup of hot tea and a small plate of chocolate cookies on the counter for Santa. “The jolly old elf travels all over the world through the cold and snow every Christmas Eve to deliver toys to good little girls and boys,” she would often tell them. Both children took her at her word because…well, didn’t they receive the toys they asked for the last couple of years?

During the year Mom would often warn her children that Santa only brought presents to youngsters who behaved. Stacy generally tried her best to do what was right, never forgetting her mother’s warning. She felt confident that, after having asked Santa for some new dolls, that he would deliver the goods as he always had. The one thing she couldn’t understand though is why her marionettes would disappear during the weeks and months that followed Christmas. She knew that she loved them and took good care of them; yet, they would sometimes simply vanish from her room. Whenever she complained about these events to her parents, they generally brushed off her concerns dismissively, telling her that she simply needed to stop leaving her things outside where other kids or the neighborhood dogs could run off with them.

krampus2

Johnny, being a couple of years older than his sister, really didn’t buy into his mother’s warnings that Santa only brought toys to children who behaved. Johnny had a secret. He knew what was happening to Stacy’s dolls because he would sometimes sneak into her room while she was out in the yard playing with her girlfriends. He would then take them out to the nearby creek; and after pretending to drown them, would gouge their eyes out with his pocket knife before cutting off their heads and tossing them into a nearby trash can. Upon his return home from these occasional escapades, he delighted in hearing his parents chastise his teary-eyed sister for once again neglecting to take care of her things.

The boy had a mean streak when it came to girls and his sweet sister Stacy was not exempt from his hurtful machinations. Still, he felt confidant that Santa would once again bring him toys this Christmas Eve.

Stacy climbed under the covers of her comfortable bed; and with visions of sugar plums and new dollies dancing in her head, she fell into a peaceful slumber. Johnny on the other hand, decided to remain awake. He would listen until he could be sure that his parents had gone to bed. Then, he’d lie in wait for Santa, determined to catch a glimpse of him.

Within an hour the sounds from the TV ceased and Johnny heard, amid his parent’s playful banter, the door to their bedroom close shut. He quietly climbed out of bed and gazed out the window, searching for any signs of Santa’s sleigh or his reindeer. The snow, still falling on a gentle breeze, made the neighbor’s colorful light display across the street seem all the more authentic. It’s really Christmas, he thought to himself. Santa should be here with my presents any time now! 

His thoughts were distracted by a sudden pitter-patter on the roof followed by the sound of footsteps. Johnny could barely contain his excitement as he stole quietly toward the living room, which contained both the family tree and the fireplace. That’s where he knew he would find Santa. Reaching the end of the hallway, he poked his head around the corner for a first peak.

Krampus1

Without warning, a dark, hairy, claw-like hand grabbed him by the shoulders, pulling him around the corner in one fluid motion. The boy gasped, but before he could even utter a sound one of the hands covered his mouth, making any cries for help impossible. Johnny struggled, but it was to no avail. Still, he couldn’t see just who or what was holding him fast.

He heard a hissing sound just before his captor spun him around without removing the hand from his mouth. His blood ran cold as he gazed at the creature holding him in place. No, this wasn’t Santa Claus, whom he’d been hoping to spy upon just moments before. Instead, he found himself staring into the face of a most hideous thing. The creature before him was tall and furry with a long snake-like tongue dangling from its mouth. Its ears were large and pointed; two curved horns grew out of its head. Attached to the body’s backside was a long, pointed tail. Overall, the monster’s body appeared somewhat man-like, but Johnny knew this was no man. The creature holding him seemed more like the Devil than any man he’d ever seen.

Pure terror gripped at him as the creature opened the top of a large wooden basket before placing Johnny inside and once again closing the lid. The boy screamed at the top of his lungs, calling to his parents for help– calling to Santa, but it seemed that no one could hear his anguished cries.

His abductor strapped the basket to his shoulders before ascending the chimney to the roof where a sled awaited him. He gave a push with his left foot and the sled lifted off on the snow-laden breeze toward a destination only known to him.

Some hours later, the mysterious being approached a shadowy, misty castle that stood upon a mountaintop populated by twisted, deformed trees. The large door at its entrance creaked open at his approach and closed shut again once he was safely inside. After disembarking from the sled, the creature removed the basket from his shoulders and opened the lid, allowing Johnny to climb out.

The boy’s eyes opened wide in disbelief as he looked around the large, gloomy, torch-lit hall. He could hear the cries of other children, both male and female. Their moans seemed pained and anguished.

“Where have you taken me?” Johnny asked, crying. “I want to go home.”

“Home, so you can steal your sister’s dolls?” The creature asked. “Home, where you delight in her pain and her tears? I think not. This is your home now, and as you can hear, there are lots of other children here to play with. We’re going to have lots of fun watching you learn what meanness really is.”

The frightening being’s tongue dripped saliva as he hissed once again while continuing to look down at the terrified boy.

“Merry Christmas, Johnny! Welcome to your new home: The Castle of Gruss Vom Krampus!”

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Movie Review: The Phantom Carriage

MoviePosterPCby A.D. Vick

Three or four months ago, I had just discovered the Russian funeral-doom band known as Ankhagram. As is customary at such times, I listened to a selection of the group’s musical offerings on YouTube. At some point I chose a video entitled Song to Say Goodbye. As the mournful music began, a scene from what could only have been a silent film appeared on my computer screen.

A man sits at his desk smoking a cigarette pensively. Without warning, he opens a desk draw and removes a pistol. The scene changes and a ghostly figure wearing a hood and long robe appears. The figure walks through the solid doors and gazes upon the lifeless body of the suicide victim lying on the floor. The sorrowful figure lifts the dead man’s spirit out of his body and carries it outside, where he places it in the back of a phantasmal carriage led by a horse. Thus began my interest in a 1921 Swedish film called The Phantom Carriage.

The production, which both starred and was directed by Victor Sjostrom, opens with Syster Edit (Astrid Holm), a Salvation Army worker, lying in her death bed. She makes one final request of her friend and co-worker, Syster Maria (Lisa Lundholm), asking that she attempt to find a certain David Holm (Victor Sjostrom) and bring him to her one last time.

Meanwhile, Mr. Holm is sitting in the darkness of a nearby cemetery getting drunk with a couple of friends. It’s New Year’s Eve and as the midnight hour approaches, Holm decides to tell his companions a ghost story about a former friend named Georges, who had imparted some valuable information one New Year’s Eve.

On that night Georges had told his companions that whoever dies on New Year’s Eve must drive the cart of death, a task for which the driver would be greeted only by sorrow and despair. “The last soul to die each year,” Georges had told him, “the one to give up the ghost, at the stroke of midnight, is destined to be death’s driver during the coming year.” Georges himself, Holm added, had passed from this world on the previous New Year’s Eve.

As Holm finishes his story, Gustafsson, another associate of Syster Edit, discovers him in the cemetery. The drunk man refuses to accompany Gustafsson back to Syster Edit’s death bed and the gentleman has no choice but to leave without him. Holm’s companions however, attempt to convince him that he must go to honor the dying lady. Holm’s reluctance continues and a fight ensues. The struggle ends when one of the men strikes a blow to the defiant man’s head with a bottle. Holm falls to the ground—his body limp. The men gaze upward to see that the hands a nearby clock have just arrived at 12:00 midnight. Horrified, the two scatter. Shortly after, the ghost of David Holm rises from his limp body only to confront the death cart and it’s driver, his old friend Georges.

The Phantom Carriage is a film about selfishness and redemption. Through the use of flashback, a narrative style almost unused at the time, David Holm is revealed as a man of vile character, a rude drunkard who has exposed the kindhearted Syster Edit as well as his own wife to the ravages of consumption (tuberculosis) without a care. In a style somewhat reminiscent of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Georges attempts to show Holm, who must now relieve him as the driver of the carriage, the error of his ways. When the ghostly drunkard sees his distraught wife, Anna, preparing to take her own life as well as those of their children, he pleads with Georges to intervene. The death cart driver sadly informs him that he has no power over the living.

The Phantom Carriage, which was based on a novel entitled Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness by the Nobel Prize winning author Selma Lagerlof, is regarded as a vital piece of the Swedish film legacy. The production is highly regarded for its special effects and its unique style of narration. It is also an early example in the evolution of horror films.

For those who would like to watch the movie, it’s available on YouTube, as is an official trailer. That said, the Ankhagram video that first attracted this reviewer to the film serves as an excellent trailer in and of itself. And, if you enjoy doom metal, you’ll be in for a real treat.

Free Fiction Friday: A Very Special Christmas Eve by A.D. Vick

krampus2

Johnny and his little sister Stacy went to bed earlier than usual that night, but they didn’t mind. It was Christmas Eve after all, and what child isn’t willing to sacrifice a bit of play time when he or she knows that turning in early might just hasten the arrival of Saint Nick? The last thing they did before retiring to their rooms was to watch their mom place a cup of hot tea and a small plate of chocolate cookies on the counter for Santa. “The jolly old elf travels all over the world through the cold and snow every Christmas Eve to deliver toys to good little girls and boys,” she would often tell them. Both children took her at her word because…well, didn’t they receive the toys they asked for the last couple of years?

During the year Mom would often warn her children that Santa only brought presents to youngsters who behaved. Stacy generally tried her best to do what was right, never forgetting her mother’s warning. She felt confidant that, after having asked Santa for some new dolls, that he would deliver the goods as he always had. The one thing she couldn’t understand though, is why her marionettes would disappear during the weeks and months that followed Christmas. She knew that she loved them and took good care of them; yet, they would sometimes simply vanish from her room. Whenever she complained about these events to her parents, they generally brushed off her concerns dismissively, telling her that she simply needed to stop leaving her things outside where other kids or the neighborhood dogs could run off with them.

Johnny, being a couple of years older than his sister, really didn’t buy into his mother’s warnings that Santa only brought toys to children who behaved. Johnny had a secret. He knew what was happening to Stacy’s dolls because he would sometimes sneak into her room while she was out in the yard playing with her girlfriends. He would then take them out to the nearby creek; and after pretending to drown them, would gouge their eyes out with his pocket knife before cutting off their heads and tossing them into a nearby trash can. Upon his return home from these occasional escapades, he delighted in hearing his parents chastise his teary-eyed sister for once again neglecting to take care of her things.

The boy had a mean streak when it came to girls and his sweet sister Stacy was not exempt from his hurtful machinations. Still, he felt confidant that Santa would once again bring him toys this Christmas Eve.

Stacy climbed under the covers of her comfortable bed; and with visions of sugar plums and new dollies dancing in her head, she fell into a peaceful slumber. Johnny on the other hand, decided to remain awake. He would listen until he could be sure that his parents had gone to bed. Then, he’d lie in wait for Santa, determined to catch a glimpse of him.

Within an hour the sounds from the TV ceased and Johnny heard, amid his parent’s playful banter, the door to their bedroom close shut. He quietly climbed out of bed and gazed out the window, searching for any signs of Santa’s sleigh or his reindeer. The snow, still falling on a gentle breeze, made the neighbor’s colorful light display across the street seem all the more authentic. It’s really Christmas, he thought to himself. Santa should be here with my presents any time now! 

His thoughts were distracted by a sudden pitter patter on the roof followed by the sound of footsteps. Johnny could barely contain his excitement as he stole quietly toward the living room, which contained both the family tree and the fireplace. That’s where he knew he would find Santa. Reaching the end of the hallway, he poked his head around the corner for a first peak.

Krampus1

Without warning, a dark, hairy, claw-like hand  grabbed him by the shoulders, pulling him around the corner in one fluid motion. The boy gasped, but before he could even utter a sound one of the hands covered his mouth, making any cries for help impossible. Johnny struggled, but it was to no avail. Still, he couldn’t see just who or what was holding him fast.

He heard a hissing sound just before his captor spun him around without removing the hand from his mouth. His blood ran cold as he gazed at the creature holding him in place. No, this wasn’t Santa Claus, whom he’d been hoping to spy upon just moments before. Instead, he found himself staring into the face of a most hideous thing. The creature before him was tall and furry with a long snake-like tongue dangling from its mouth. Its ears were large and pointed; two curved horns grew out of its head. Attached to the body’s backside was a long, pointed tail. Overall, the monster’s body appeared somewhat man-like, but Johnny knew this was no man. The creature holding him seemed more like the Devil than any man he’d ever seen.

Pure terror gripped at him as the creature opened the top of a large wooden basket before placing Johnny inside and once again closing the lid. The boy screamed at the top of his lungs, calling to his parents for help– calling to Santa, but it seemed that no one could hear his anguished cries.

His abductor strapped the basket to his shoulders before ascending the chimney to the roof where a sled awaited him. He gave a push with his left foot and the sled lifted off on the snow-laden breeze toward a destination only known to him.

Some hours later, the mysterious being approached a shadowy, misty castle that stood upon a mountain top populated by twisted, deformed trees. The large door at its entrance creaked open at his approach and closed shut again once he was safely inside. After disembarking from the sled, the creature removed the basket from his shoulders and opened the lid, allowing Johnny to climb out.

The boy’s eyes opened wide in disbelief as he looked around the large, gloomy, torch-lit hall. He could hear the cries of other children, both male and female. Their moans seemed pained and anguished.

“Where have you taken me?” Johnny asked, crying. “I want to go home.”

“Home, so you can steal your sister’s dolls?” The creature asked. “Home, where you delight in her pain and her tears? I think not. This is your home now, and as you can hear, there are lots of other children here to play with. We’re going to have lots of fun watching you learn what meanness really is.”

The frightening being’s tongue dripped saliva as he hissed once again while continuing to look down at the terrified boy.

“Merry Christmas, Johnny! Welcome to your new home: The Castle of Gruss Vom Krampus!”