Tag Archives: Horror

Halloween How-to No.1: How to almost die of fright this halloween


GhostWatch is the most terrifying thing I have ever seen. While it was obvious to me, twenty years after its creation, that the show is a fake, it is so hideously (gloriously?) nineties that I can’t help but sympathise with the people who thought it was real at the time of broadcast. It is genuinely horrific. I felt like I’d been for a run after, my heart was racing. It stars Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene and Craig Charles. It was written by Stephen Volk.

I checked the wiki page and apparently a scared young boy killed himself after having watched it. There were bangs in his house too. They were caused by the central heating rather than a poltergeist. He was still terrified. He’d been allowed to watch because Sarah Greene was in it and his mum thought it would be ok for him to watch because she was a children’s TV presenter. It wasn’t ok for me to watch, and I’m a good ten years older than that boy.

Michael Parkinson- The Face of Terror

Michael Parkinson- The Face of Terror

I don’t want to link to wikipedia, because for some things spoilers genuinely ruin it, and for a program that depends on suspense for its malicious horror, disaster will follow any attempt to spoil the fun.

I came home from work after a long Thursday and my boyfriend was excited about a DVD he’d got for £3 at HMV. A masterpiece of horror he’d been after for ages but had never seen properly. I sat and watched with growing skepticism. I’m a graduate of the school of Derek Acorah and Most Haunted. Showy, obviously faked, medium-ship. The initially dull, almost flippant, tone of GhostWatch is the antithesis of what I’ve grown to expect from a decent ghost hunt.

I grew bored. I ate pasta and scoffed at the strange way Michael Parkinson’s suit seemed to be slowly devouring his neck. I admired Sarah Greene’s baggy t-shirt and the half-arsed way the BBC had seen fit to decorate a supposedly haunted house for halloween. There were some antics with Craig Charles leaping from cupboards and ducking for apples. I was bored.

A fairly average suburban family start talking about their experiences with a ghost they’ve nicknamed Pipes, and that’s when the dread starts to creep in. There’s screaming and banging followed by eerie silence as Michael Parkinson and Expert Woman (whose name I’ve forgotten) watch on their huge screen from the apparent safety of the studio.

The children practically skip to the cupboard under the stairs and peer through the hole they sometimes see the ghost through. The youngest describes his face, like its half eaten, and I decide that actually, I don’t want to see. The children talk about the ghost like he’s a pet that excites and terrifies them in equal measure.

There are flashes, times when the ghost is half in your field of vision, ’til the camera pans and there’s nothing. There is the ever present menace of the idea that you might see and you really don’t want to. When it’s all over there’s the relief, but also the lingering idea that you would rather see what was going on than have it creep up on you from a dark corner.

The only ghost story to scare me in a very long time. If you knew me at all, you’d mark the significance of my lack of bitching about cinematography. Since you don’t know me: it is absent, and this is significant.

Verdict: The scariest thing ever. Actually.

 

P.S There are heaps of fascinating articles written about GhostWatch, one even by the writer himself, but I won’t post them until later on. I am very against leading to spoilers in this instance.

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A Small Halloween Request/Demand


I am very much in the process of writing up my Halloween recommendations for this year and this falls somewhere in the Halloween Venn diagram of life, but only just. I found this creation through Cleolinda (who is my internet hub, just so you all know) and felt that I should share.

Somebody, somewhere has to make this Ada Lovelace outfit for Halloween.

Given the theme of my last post, I couldn’t not share this. The nice people at takebackhalloween.com have created this guide for anybody wishing to go as the first computer programmer for Halloween. There’s also a Lise Meitner in there too, if you fancy something a little more German.

I’m not sure how they got from Halloween, a traditional festival marking the thin veil between the living and the dead, the death of the year and the world’s general descent into the darkness of winter, to Ada Lovelace, but I’m not one to complain when the result is this:

DO IT. For science.

Ada Lovelace! She's not scary in the least, but what a nice dress.

I guess they could do zombie Ada Lovelace, or Ada Lovelace as she probably looks now. That would be horrific.

 

To clarify: Non-scary costumes annoy me, except this one.

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Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley


I’m going to be transferring select posts from my old blog over to here. This is a review I originally posted on 11/6/10. I’m still working on a new rating system, so do bear with me.
I bought this book just over a year ago. The timing seemed perfect. It was just before Halloween and I was taking a fascinating class called Film, Horror and the Body which among other things rekindled my love for what a lot of people like to call “wussy” horror, and what I call gothic horror. It touched on many thoughts, caused me to develop fascinating ones of my own and led to me getting a first in my degree because I did a presentation on the awesomeness of Sigourney Weaver in Alien Ressurection and wrote a 5000 word paper on vagina-dentata. Fast forward a year, I’m reading as much as ever I was and too poor to add much to my ‘to-read’ pile. I get to this book around the same time as Halloween approaches yet again and Mark Gatiss (yes, Lucifer Box’s daddy) is doing a stupendous series of documentaries for the BBC about horror movies. Enter Frankenstein. Enter Shelley. Enter sleepless nights and escorted walks through darkened alley ways. 
Nosferatu Via. Wikipedia. Yay public domain horror ^__^
The writing, my mindset and the micro-zeitgeist of late October in the UK made this the perfect read for so many reasons. The blurb:
“Life and death appeared to me the ideal bounds which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.”
  
Frankenstein was Mary Shelley’s immensely powerful contribution to the ghost stories which she, Percy Shelley and Byron devised on wet summer in Switzerland. Its protagonist is a young student of natural philosophy, who learns the secret of imparting life to a creature constructed from relics of the dead, with horrific consequences.
Frankenstein confronts some of the most feared innovations of evolutionism: topics such as degeneracy, hereditary disease, and mankind’s status as a species of animal. The text used here is from the 1818 edition, which is a mocking expose of leaders and achievers who leave desolation in their wake, showing humanity its choice- to live co-operatively, or to die of selfishness. It is also a black comedy, and harder and wittier than the 1831 version with which we are more familiar. 
I haven’t actually read the 1831 version (I intend to) but this seems a good start in outlining the differences. Apparently the fact that Frankenstein’s lover is his cousin is deleted in the 1831 version so that they are not blood-relations. There are, I’m sure, many differences both blatant and subtle, and I will discover them on my own when I experience the more widely read version. For now though, I deal with this version. 
The narrative starts, as anybody who has seen one of the many film adaptations will know, with Robert Walton’s account of his snow-bound ship. This part is important because you get to see Frankenstein from an outsider’s perspective which makes him a more sympathetic character. Later in the book, his creation sees him as evil and he himself is tortured by the arrogance of his genius. From those perspectives he is pathetic at best. The Captain’s admiration of how educated and articulate and pleasant he is, despite his obvious troubles, reminds the reader that he is ultimately a brilliant man who made a terrible mistake. Dr Jekyll tapped me on the shoulder several times as I read.
The definite, overwhelming, message of the book is that Frankenstein’s genius runs away with him and causes all of his problems. He arrives at University having studied ancient masters of natural philosophy, only to be mocked. He is given a list of new, modern texts and “that application, which at first had been a matter of duty and resolution, now became so ardent and eager, that the stars often disappeared in the light of morning whilst I was yet engaged in my laboratory.” (Why yes, I was compelled by the beauty of the language to bookmark pages. Tyvm for asking.) It’s rather luddite in its outlook, and Shelley herself was said to be sympathetic with the luddites and their plight. As the blurb says, it’s a biting critique of those who let their power and inventiveness run away with them.
This point is made, and beautifully, by Shelley’s portrayal of the monster as a product of his circumstances. A huge section of the book is devoted to the monster’s point of view- his reaction to the beauty he sees in the world and in his own existence, as wretched as it is destined to become. His kindness and his sympathy for other human creatures is touching and childlike and very human. He does not begin his awful life as a monster. He is driven to it by the rejection of his creator and of every other human he encounters. He attaches himself to a family, hiding from them and doing vital chores for them in the night. He grows to love and trust them, and it is from them that he learns to speak and understand the world. When he eventually approaches them, they cast him out as readily as anybody else. His anger, his resentment and his thirst for companionship drive him to violence and monstrous acts. The parallel with the luddites is obvious. Their desperation is what drives them to acts of vandalism, not anything inherently violent in their make-up. Interestingly this was changed in some film adaptations where it was implied that Igor (who does not exist in the book), when sent to get a brain, accidentally picks up the one marked “insane” or “abnormal”, and what Frankenstein creates actually is a monster, and not just a very ugly human driven to evil acts by the world. It’s an important difference.
A creation of Frankenstein’s from 1910 Via. Wikipedia
 The horror element- and the one that, really seriously in real life, made me ask a person headed the same way to walk with me down a dark shortcut- was the way that Frankenstein’s mistakes haunt him in the physical manifestation of his creation. The lack of description of the parts sewn together or his actual physical features mean your brain gets to fill in its own horrifying blanks, and when Frankenstein considers disobeying the monster’s request, he will appear at a window, or in the shadows. His conscience is a reanimated corpse, following him around the world. This, more than the actual creation of the monster, is what made me act like a giant wuss. It’s chilling.
Movie Poster for the 1957 Adapatation starring Christopher Lee. Qualifies under Fair Use- scaled down copy of poster for discussion/critique. May contain nuts. Not intended as medical advice. Although you probably should try not to faint as a general rule.
This is another one of those books that had me highlighting gorgeous passages, and I loathe Shelley for having written this at 19 years of age. 
By degrees, I made the discovery of a still greater moment. I found that these people possessed a method of communicating their experience and feelings to one another by articulate sounds. I perceived that the words they spoke sometimes produced pleasure or pain, smiles or sadness, in the minds and countenances of the hearers. This was indeed a godlike science, and I ardently desired to become acquainted with it. –The Creature.
Guh. The creature is all of us, reacting to the world with disgust, fury and awe.
There are no cover reviews, for ‘tis a classic. This is quite long enough as it is. Frankenstein has become one of my favourite novels. It moved me, it terrified me and is at the same time a powerful political statement. It is the first science fiction novel, although it’s not quite as fanciful or unlikely as it was then. It was written by a 19 year old. FML.
Top Score, Full Marks, A+, 5 Stars etc etc etc.
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