Things that Go Bump in the Night…

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Everyone is afraid of something…whether it is walking alone down a dark street at midnight or losing one’s job. These fears are real and tangible. They are depressing and often out of our control.

Perhaps this is why we gravitate to horror so readily. The monsters in a novel or movie aren’t usually real. Pennywise is not going to pop out of the sewer. Dracula is not going to swoop into your bedroom window. But the thought of these iconic creatures in our lives gives us a scare we can control–we can put It down, or pause Dracula if it gets to be too much. Campfire stories fade with the light of dawn.

When I was a kid, I would rush home for Dark Shadows. I was so in love with Barnabas Collins. Of course, fifteen years later when I watched it again in reruns, it was so cheesy and badly filmed I just laughed, but it was one of my first introductions to the horror genre. (And I still think Jonathan Frid was amazing–though Barnabas was almost his only role.) Did the camp of the series impress itself in my head even then? Is that why I like to write humorous horror most of all? Maybe.

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave was the first time I remember feeling all tingly over a vampire. He was so sexy and masculine…to the ten-year-old watching it on the couch at a friend’s house. There is just something so alluring about a cape…

So, horror can affect us in many ways. It isn’t always terrifying. It can be compelling, or attractive as well. And, while vampires and werewolves might be things of legend, I find some of the scariest horror deals with people who could live next door.

For example, Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes trilogy. Especially the first book. This story could happen tomorrow down the road. Similar stories have happened. And the only monster here is just an evil man.

This flavor of horror is almost too real. We can dismiss the supernatural as unlikely to interfere with our lives. We can’t dismiss the evil that men do so easily…

What scares you? Do you like monsters better or the wickedness of the world? What do you recommend watching or reading if someone likes to be scared in a way they can control?

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RIEVIEW: American Horror Story

AHS Title

Welcome to the first of the Friday RieViews. Today, I am going to talk about one of my favorite fascinations, American Horror Story. For those of you who haven’t stepped into the world of AHS, it is an anthology horror series that has been running for nine seasons and shows no sign of stopping…at least for now. IMDB has placeholders through 2022.

Starting from the top, here is the list of seasons as aired:

Murder House set in a haunted house (retroactively given a name to match the others).
Asylum — run by nuns with pasts to overcome filled with patients who don’t belong.
Coven — a group of young witches learning to harness their powers in New Orleans.
Freak Show — a group of carnival freaks dealing with the world’s perceptions of them.
HotelCalifornia hotel patterned after the Murder Castle whose owner has a secret.
Roanokereality show about the goings-on at an old house filled with restless spirits.
Cult — dealing with reactions to the 2016 election and its aftermath.
Apocalypseit’s the end of the world as we know it.
1984Summer camp shenanigans with serial killers.

I’ll give you my opinion of them from best to worst at the end of the review.

This series is fascinating for a lot of reasons. For one, it harks back to the early days of television when there were stables of stars in anthology series. It’s kind of cool to watch familiar faces in new roles from one year to the next. It’s given a lot of those stars a chance to show their chops. And given some of them mental exhaustion along the way.

Let’s list some pros and cons to the series.

PROS:

  1. The aforementioned stable of characters. I love seeing the same actors year after year. I keep waiting for them to show up in the season. It was disappointing not to see Evan Peters or Sarah Paulson this year, but after the time they’d put in, I can see needing a break. Evan has a new series coming up, and, then there’s the X-Men… Sarah is also doing a new series. I do hope we may see them pop in here and there in the future. And I have to mention that Denis O’Hare’s Liz Taylor was one of my favorite characters of all time. Plus, it is worth noting that Hotel gave Lady Gaga the acting creds that helped land  A Star is Born. The cast is full of brilliance–Kathy Bates; Emma Roberts; Billie Lourd; Jessica Lange; Joan Collins; Zachary Quinto…and many more–too many to list them all.
  2. The pop-culture references. I love the Easter-eggs–like in Apocalypse when one of the witches tells BD Wong he might have seen her on a police procedural…
  3. The self-references. Several seasons have featured locations or characters from previous seasons. It adds a sense of continuity to the whole story arc.
  4. The costuming is usually period-appropriate and fun.
  5. It has some of the best music ever.

CONS:

  1. Sometimes they seem to be struggling for a season’s plot hook. Not all of them are successful in my opinion.
  2. The trend of the last few seasons to split the story and have more than one arc going on. It waters things down a bit in my opinion. Especially when it jumps back and forth in time.
  3. The way they deal with ghosts. Both that the spirits are locked into one location and not allowed to move on and that they interact with human beings like they aren’t dead. It’s cool when they don’t know they are dead, but when they do and still act like they aren’t, it can get old.

Those are just my thoughts, of course. Yours may differ, and that’s cool.

Now, I promised I’d tell you how I rank the seasons–again, this is all my opinion, and yours can be quite different. From best to worst, having just watched them all again, I would list them like this:

BEST:

Freak Show  — I love the way the characters are dealt with. Respectful and thoughtful.
Hotel — Lots of intriguing characters and interesting concepts in this one.
Murder House — Cool characters, nice dynamics.
1984 — Starts with a fun send-up of slasher films…but splits off to silliness.
Apocalypse — Nice tie-backs to previous seasons.
Asylum — Despite Joseph Fiennes and Zachary Quinto, it falls a bit flat to me.
Coven — The witches aren’t treated with as much respect as I would have liked.
Cult — This one edges toward ridiculous. Yes, there were people upset in 2016, but…
Roanoke — Definite least favorite. Premise dumb. Split between TV show’s seasons awful.

WORST

 

What do you like about the show? Or hate about it? Let’s discuss it in the comments. 🙂

That’s it for this week’s RieView.

And don’t forget–Overheard in Hell is free till Sunday, July 12. 2020.

Horror Poetry

By Candlelight            Overheard in Hell cover-FINAL

I love horror. It’s kind of addicting in a way. There are so many flavors of it. Bruce and Roxanne are silly fun, Skellyman is an attempt at gritty, serious horror. My scattered short stories run the gamut from silly to serious. But I have a deep fondness for poetry above all else, and I have two collections of dark fantasy and horror poetry, By Candlelight and Overheard in Hell.

Exploring these subjects with the economy of words demanded by poetry is a real challenge and one that I love to give myself. One of my inspirations and mentors was the late Charlee Jacobs. If you haven’t read her poetry, it is award-winning and amazing. Her encouragement has made horror one of my favorite genres.

Writing poetry is a cathartic experience. From the rigorous structure of a haiku:

Bones rattle at night
Under the full witches’ moon
As the dead rise up.

To full unstructured free verse like this:

Roll the Bones

Sit you down
Across the fire
Take a chance –
roll the bones.

Shamanistic seeds
Of power
Mystic runes –
roll the bones.

Fortune found in
Etched impression
Fueled by fever –
roll the bones.

Wisps of magic
Twists of fate
Now or later –
roll the bones.

Cast from hands
That tremble badly
Heart a-pumping –
roll the bones.

Death or birth
Fame or loss
All revealed by
one last toss –

Roll the bones.

What is your favorite style of poetry? Do you prefer rhyming or free verse? Share a bit in the comments! I’d love to see your poetry too.

And, in honor of my birthday Saturday (because I am a halfling at heart) Overheard in Hell is free on Kindle until Sunday, July 12, 2020. Have some poetry for summer!

Welcome to the Home!

RVHome

 

Well, I’ve gone and done it. As if two daily blogs weren’t enough, I decided to start one for my horror antics as well. 

I will be talking about Bruce and Roxanne (it is their house, after all) and linking to my Ladies of Horror pieces, my horror short stories, and Skellyman…and my horror poetry…

Plus, I plan on exploring the history of horror and monsters, RieViewing other people’s books and movies. Adding bar-be-que tips and recipes…

The possibilities are endless.

Of course, that’s a lot of territory to cover…so I think that I will change things up a bit. I will be focusing on one blog a day and RieViews on Friday starting next week. (And that includes “Here’s the Clean” so maybe I will finally get some housecleaning done!)

I haven’t decided on the order of days yet, and I may rotate all of them but Fridays. We’ll see. For now, here are some of my credentials for doing a horror blog in the first place. 🙂

 

        

         

        By Candlelight  By Candlelight 

  (only available on Audible ATM)