Friday, November 30, 2012

Psycho Quiz

A trivia game in honor of the recent release of Hitchcock. (The questions pertain to the original, 1960 version of Psycho.)

1.How much money does Marion steal from Mr. Cassidy?

2.Who plays the character of Caroline in the film?

3.What (fictional) California town is Marion headed toward when she stops off at the Bates Motel?

4.How many cabins does the Bates Motel have?

5.What alias does Marion use when signing the guest register?

6.Where does Sam Loomis usually sleep at night?

7.What kind of animal does Norman prefer to stuff?

8.Psycho is credited as the first film to show what household item on-screen?

9.What does the guard bring to Norman as he sits in the holding cell?

10.By the end of the film, how many people has Norman killed?


8-10 Correct: Congratulations--you are positively psychotic!
5-7 Correct: You're about as sharp as Arbogast.
0-4 Correct: For shame!  Go hit the showers.

Correct answers appear in the Comments section of this post.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Make vs. Remake: Psycho


It's been a while since I did one of these posts, and Macabre Republic wasn't around in 1998 when Gus Van Sant helmed the ostensible shot-for-shot remake, so I thought what the hell...

For any newcomers, the scoring for Make vs. Remake works on a 10-point-divvy system.  Think of 10 gold coins placed on the opposing arms of a scale (e.g., a "7-3" score would tilt the scales
toward the original, or a "2-8" would weigh in much more favorably for the remake).

So let's compare:

*The most obvious difference between the 1960 and 1998 versions is that the latter is filmed in color.  This choice gives the remake a more modern feel (the film is actually set in the year 1998), but simultaneously dilutes the atmosphere of Gothic horror and noir crime (two genres that wilfully lurk in the shadows).  On the positive side, color does allow Van Sant to accentuate the garishness of the Bates Motel.

*Vince Vaughn's turn as iconic psycho Norman Bates is one of the more underrated performances of the past quarter-century of cinema.  He adds plenty to the role, with his recurrent nervous giggle and his eccentric manner of chomping on his candy.  Vaughn cuts a more menacing figure than the effete Anthony Perkins, and those dark bags under his eyes give him a wonderfully haunted look. 

*Conversely, Anne Hecht is woefully miscast as Marion Crane.  She has very expressive eyes, but with her slender physique and chopped hairstyle, the actress lacks the feminine allure that Janet Leigh exuded.

*The shower scene.  Nothing will ever be able to match the original for sheer shock value; those shrill violin notes working in sync with the knife-stabs struck a primal chord in mid-20th Century filmgoers.  But Hitchcock took a very stylized approach, and if there is one negative that can be said about the scene, it is that Leigh's responses (vs. Hecht's) to the violent assault don't seem very natural.  The remake also enjoys a more striking contrast between the whiteness of the bathroom and the red blood splashed across it (one of the reasons Hitchcock allegedly chose to film in black-and-white was that he felt the shower scene would prove too gory otherwise).  And that white fright-wig that "Mrs. Bates" sports in the remake?  Disturbingly ghastly.

*The Arbogast slashing in the remake, though, fails to stand up to the original.  The splicing of random images (of a sprawling, masked woman and of a cow in the middle of a highway) proved more jarring and confusing than symbolic.  Here's an instance where Van Sant should have stuck more closely to the original's script.

*Finally, the climactic scene in which Mother's corpse is discovered and Norman appears in drag does unfold more realistically in the remake (vs. the tableau of a contorted Perkins silently shrieking as he's seized from behind).  The struggle to subdue Norman is more protracted--and more rewarding, when Julianne Moore (as Lila Crane) gets in a decisive, sister-avenging lick.  Bonus points for the bird-enclosing diorama that Mother sits facing (which adds a creepy, Silence-of-the-Lambs-type vibe) and that nasty spider scurrying across Mrs. Bates's face.

For the first time in the history of this feature, we have a split vote (or, more accurately: a double vote).  The original packed a series of startling surprises for its audience, and that fact alone sets it above anything that followed in its wake.  So I would give a 6-4 score in favor of the Hitchcock classic.  But for a younger generation seeing the Van Sant offering fresh, with no prior experience of the 1960 version, the remake is remarkably effective (and, in retrospect, a more polished piece of filmmaking).  With this in mind, I would also flip the the numbers and score 4-6 in slight favor of the '98 Psycho.

What are your thoughts on these two films?  Feel free to chime in below in the Comments section of this post.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dead Lines

Episode 7, "When the Dead Come Knocking," was a knockout in terms of action and suspense.  And it didn't miss a beat when it comes to terrific dialogue:

Merle: Tell me where he's at.  I'm sure T-Dog would like to bury the hatchet.  Let bygones be bygones.
Glenn: He didn't make it.
Merle: Well, I hope he went slow.

Michonne: Wasn't this place overrun?
Beth: It was.
Michonne: And you cleared it out all by yourselves? Just the few?
Beth [mutedly]: There were others.

Merle [unleashing a walker on Glenn]: Suit yourself.  You're a pretty big snack for this fella.  But you know what they say: he's going to be hungry again in an hour.

Milton: These are cues that will hopefully linger in his unconscious
mind even after he's died.
Andrea: There is no unconscious mind, Milton.  When they turn, they become monsters.  That's all.  Whoever they once gone.

The Governor: You just tell us where they are, and we'll bring them here.  You'll be safe, I promise....No?  Fine, let's try something else.  Stand up, please.  Stand up.  Take off your shirt.
Maggie: No.
The Governor: Take off your shirt, or I'll bring Glenn's hand in here.

Daryl [upon spotting the moldering dog in the hermit's cabin]: I guess Lassie went home.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dark Passages: Psycho

In honor of this weekend's (limited) release of the film Hitchcock, the following Dark Passage is drawn from Robert Bloch's novel Psycho.  As the book opens, Norman Bates sits in his parlor doing some leisure reading--about the Inca-warrior practice of trans-forming enemy bodies into musical instruments.  In retrospect, the scene demonstrates Bloch's skillful foreshadowing (the information Norman reads no doubt appeals to him, and not just as an amateur taxidermist).  The fact that Norman imagines the primitive ritual in such horrific detail also serves as an early example of how much more gruesome Bloch's narrative is than the one that subsequently played on-screen:
Norman smiled, then allowed himself the luxury of a comfortable shiver.  Grotesque but effective--it certainly must have been!  Imagine flaying a man--alive, probably--and then stretching his belly to use it as a drum! How did they actually go about doing that, curing and preserving the flesh of the corpse to prevent decay?  For that matter, what kind of mentality did it take to conceive of such an idea in the first place?
It wasn't the most appetizing notion in the world, but when Norman half-closed his eyes, he could almost see the scene: this throng of painted, naked warriors wriggling and swaying in unison under a sun-drenched, savage sky, and the old crone crouching before them, throbbing out a relentless rhythm on the swollen, distended body of a cadaver.  The contorted mouth of the corpse would be forced open, probably fixed in a gaping grimace by clamps of bone, and form it the sound emerged.  Beating from the belly, rising through the shrunken inner orifices, forced up through the withered windpipe to emerge amplified and in full force from the dead throat.  (11-12)

Work Cited

Bloch, Robert.  Psycho.  1959.  New York: Tor, 1989.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Beelzebub Tweets

BLZ, Bub

[For previous tweets, click here.]

Down Below, we like our turkey like our sinners: slow roasted.
--9:37 A.M., November 22nd

"The Yattering and Jack": it could have been a Thanksgiving classic. If only Barker had opted for a happy ending.
--6:56 A.M., November 22nd

Wow, nearly a half-century now since JFK bit the bullet. Seems like just yesterday I was looking over ______'s shoulder on the grassy knoll.
--12:02 A.M., November 22nd

So Obama got re-elected, big deal. Voters, how about putting the Black Man in the White House in 2016?
--3:31 P.M., November 15th

A beach-eroding hurricane named Sandy? That's about as ironic as a nudist named Don, a mute dubbed Gabby, or anyone called Christian.
--9:25 P.M., November 4th

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Awesomely Haunted

The seasonal colors are rapidly turning from black and orange to red and green, but if you're not quite ready yet to give up on Halloween--or if you're the type who is already anticipating next October--then the 2012 documentary The American Scream (available for Instant Viewing on Netflix) is a must-watch.  Director Michael Stephenson profiles a group of small-town yet big-spirited residents whose elaborate decorating activities border between passion and obsession.  The American Scream not only traces how such people go about creating their scary displays, but also why they are so determined in their decorating and what effect their efforts have on their everyday lives.  As entertaining as it is fascinating, this documentary just might inspire holiday-lovers to emigrate to Fairhaven, Massachusetts--either to bask in the Halloween scenery or to see if they can keep up with the home-haunting Joneses.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dead Lines

Michonne wielded a wicked sword last night, and the episode
"Hounded" featured some equally sharp dialogue:

Merle (laughingly, to the other members of the Michonne-hunting party): Look at this.  She sent us a biter-gram, yo.

The Governor (to Andrea): You know, you can join in [with the other residents of Woodbury].  They don't bite.  It's kind of the whole idea of the place.

The Governor: You don't have to be ashamed about liking the fight.  Or fighting the fight.  [beat]  I love it.  It's not the only thing, but nowadays it's part of being alive.  Really alive.  Most of the people don't have it, what it takes to see the whole story.  Being able to live with it, to use it.  That's why there's a helluva lot more of them than us.
Andrea: Us?
The Governor: Yeah....'Cause you have it, Andrea.  You made it.  So enjoy it.

Merle: Now we're gonna go for a little drive.
Glenn: We're not going back to our camp.
Merle: No, we're going somewhere else.

Rick (to the voice of Lori on the telephone): I made a deal with myself.  I will keep you alive. I find a place, I will fix this, and then...I couldn't open that door, I couldn't risk it.  I was going to keep you alive, Carl, the baby, and then....I thought there'd be time.  There's never time.  But I loved you.  I-I love you.  I couldn't put it back together.  I should've said it.  I should've said it.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I'm Not Sam (Book Review)

I'm Not Sam By Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee (Sinister Grin Press, 2012)

"Right.  That's what we're after.  Realistic and over-the-top, both at once," says narrator Patrick Burke (a nominal nod to author Kealan Patrick Burke) at one point, and the lines serve as an apt description of the latest collaboration between Ketchum and McKee.  The co-writers begin with an intriguing premise and then extrapolate it to some extreme ends.  After a night of passionate sex, Patrick's beloved wife Sam wakes up suffering from a strange case of "selective memory loss and age regression": her personality has been replaced by that of a six- or seven-year-old girl named Lily.

The narrative instantly hooks the reader and pulls him/her along in search of an explanation for this uncanny development.  Most likely the abrupt changeover can be traced to a severe psycho-logical disturbance--either on the part of Sam or Patrick (who's
hardly the most reliable of narrators).  But there's also the possibility of some macabre doppelganger action transpiring (not coincidentally, a "Stephen Bachmann" is mentioned early on): Patrick, a graphic novelist, has just finished illustrating a scene where a character called Samantha has her own brains blown out by a shotgun blast.

Ketchum and McKee wring some darkly comic moments from the scenario (e.g., Lily unabashedly picking her nose in public; Patrick dreading arousal as Lily bounces innocently on his lap), but the authors are also careful to dramatize Patrick's confusion, embarrassment, anger, and sense of abandonment.  The relationship between Patrick and the juvenile but adult-bodied Lily is certainly a complex one, leading to some poignant interactions, such as when Patrick pushes the woman-child on a swing: "It's a curious feeling.  It's like I'm playing two roles here at the same time, parent or playmate to the kid who shouts higher, higher--but then in our quieter moments it's also romantic, like we're a pair of new lovers again, doing the kinds of silly kid-things that lovers do."

The horror here does not work in the same savage vein as the authors' previous effort (The Woman); instead the novella haunts readers with the prospect of the sudden loss/debilitation of a loved one, and shows the severe psychological toll the situation takes on Patrick.  I'm Not Sam can also be easily read as a modern Gothic (note the remote, woodland setting of the Burkes' home), as it demonstrates the terrible and extensive shadow the past can cast over present lives.

A short story ("Who's Lily?") furnishes an immediate sequel, shifting the angle of perspective and ultimately revealing the underlying cause for Sam's predicament.  Ketchum also provides an introduction to the two narratives, one that is indispensable for the author's discussion of filmic and narrative structures alone.  Add these bookending pieces to the titular novella, and I'm Not Sam forms a slim yet emphatically entertaining volume that Ketchum/
McKee fans will not want to miss.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Atrophiad" (flash fiction)

The following piece of flash fiction appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of Shroud: The Quarterly Journal of Dark Fiction and Art.

Harvested from the far villages, this year's crop of entrants terribles stands waiting inside the ceremonial circle located deep within the weald.  Their presence soon draws the Arbiter, who hobbles on cloven hooves before the row of naked humans.  The verdant tree branches hanging overhead mime a communal laureling of the five gathered representatives, yet each entrant knows full well there can be but one victor here this Solstice Night.
First to demonstrate his blight is a tall, bronze-skinned male.  He lifts his hands and gnaws through the silver filament twined around and around his bent fingers.  Even after the binds are severed, the digits remain tightly spiralled; the rigid, sequent coils look like the cross sections of some flesh-toned seashell. With his thumbs goat-horning outward, the entrant presents his ultra-arthritic mitts. 
"For you," he chants to the sorely unimpressed Arbiter.
The adjacent entrant--a raven-locked teen--stands with his head tilted so far back the Adam's apple bulges like a blunt arrowhead from his throat.  Still, it's the horizontally-planed face that proves most noteworthy here.  Two rounded chunks of granite press down onto the young man's eyes, plugging the sockets.  Sensing the Arbiter's scrutiny, the entrant reaches up and plucks off the perpetual weights.  He then tugs back his lids to display a pair of concave orbs that promptly leak gummy ochre tears.  "For you," the stone-blind figure calls out to his presumed audience.
The next exhibitor does not actually stand before the Arbiter; instead she sits with her small-mounded chest thrust out and her legs twisted and tucked into a lotus position.  Atop her lap the bare feet have plumped goutily from the impoverished circulation.  The scrawniness of the legs themselves forms a stark contrast with the taut musculature of the upper body.  Using arms grown powerful from the burden of conveyance, the woman proceeds to unknot her lower extremities.  Limbs practically boneless with limpness plop to the ground, acting as if they have long since renounced their God-given ability to support and transport.  Grimacing as she's attacked by the sizzling stings of unnumbing, the entrant proclaims her obligatory "For you."
Nodding approvingly, the halted Arbiter continues its inspection.  The subsequent entrant stands with his legs splayed and his hands laced behind his back.  Such posture provides an unobstructed view of the gray bivalve shell clamped onto the man's scrotum.  Just above, what could have been a mighty shaft has been reduced to a shrunken nub, a stemless brown mushroom.  Impotence seemingly permeates the entrant's adult body, judging from the smooth-skinned chin, the flat, hairless chest, the bamboo-chute girth of the upper arms.  "For you," the near-eunuch cries out in a voice no deeper than his predecessor's.
The Arbiter inwardly revels at the stiffening competition, but then reddens in fury when it reaches the final entrant.  Could the humans have been so imprudent, so irreverent, as to submit a plain impostor?  An unsuffering fraud?  This elderly male appears to have been wilted by nothing more than natural aging.  But as a feral growl scales the Arbiter's throat, the entrant's mouth yawns wide, unveiling a masochistic marvel.  The man's tongue, skewered with myriad spicules, has shriveled like a salted slug.  Fishbelly-colored scar tissue shrouds his palette and inner cheeks.  His severely-receded gums expose a set of sallow, peg-like teeth that wobble from the faintest breath.  The Arbiter imagines the havoc such lingual impalement must have wreaked on the man's diet, the malnutrition in turn exacerbating his condition.  A deliciously vicious circle...
The entrant does not voice the ritual phrase.  Likely cannot, and, in any event, need not.  The Arbiter has seen enough, and makes an instant decision.  Decreeing via an expert slash of its razored claw, the Arbiter awards the last entrant  a quick death and an eternal fame.  Then the runners-up are summarily dispatched--sent slouching back to their respective villages, where their appearance will chide backsliding populaces into more painstaking observance.
Whither such devotion leads, the Arbiter waits eagerly to find.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dead Lines

Last night's episode (during which a practically-catatonic Rick goes on a zombie-killing spree) didn't boast the level of dramatic dialogue that The Walking Dead usually features, but "Say the Word" did contain some choice verbiage:

The Governor (to the Woodbury masses): Hey, the first time we gathered there was nine of us holed up in an apartment with Spam and Saltine crackers.  Well, look at us now. [chuckles]  We've built a place we can call home.  It may be held together with duct tape and string, but it works.  It's ours.  I'll take it.  So today, we celebrate how far we've come.  And we remember those we've lost.  We raise a us!

The Governor: We've all got our secrets, hmmph?
Michonne: Like Penny.
The Governor: You know about Penny?  Then you know I loved her.
Michonne: I bet you say that to all the girls.

Merle: How'd it go [with Michonne]?
The Governor: She's all personality, that one.

Hershel: He [T-Dog] got bit closing the gate.  If he hadn't done that...
Glenn: It could've been Maggie.  It's wrong, but I'd trade any number of people for one of ours any day.

Michonne: Are you coming or not?
Andrea: Don't do this.  Don't give me an ultimatum.  Not after everything.
Michonne: Are you coming or not?  [walks off when Andrea fails to answer]  You'd just slow me down, anyway.

The Governor: We're reducing these things, you know, controlling them.  We're shining a light on the monster under the bed.  It's fun.  It makes people feel better about the whole thing.
Andrea: It's a slippery slope.  You're teaching them that walkers aren't dangerous.
The Governor: We're teaching them not to be afraid.

Rick (answering an inexplicably ringing telephone at episode's end): Hello?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

American Epitaphs

[For submission guidelines, click here.]

Here they are, twisted citizens: the first batch of accepted epigraphs (i.e. imagined tombstone inscriptions written from a pseudo-posthumous viewpoint):


--submitted by Nathan Pettigrew, from Clearwater, Florida


--submitted by Margaret Glover, from Plaistow, New Hampshire


--submitted by Daniel Pointer, from Kansas City, Missouri


--submitted by Kurt Gottschalk, from New York City


--submitted by Matthew Wilson, from Wolverhampton, UK


--submitted by me

Saturday, November 10, 2012

QuickList: 5 Reasons to Visit Mockingbird Lane

I didn't have high hopes when I first learned that The Munsters was being retooled as the edgier Mockingbird Lane (nor did I have much faith that Jerry O'Connell would be able to fill Fred Gwynne's big black boots).  Having finally caught the pilot, though, I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised.  Here are a handful of reasons to applaud the aired-as-a-Halloween-special episode:

*1313.  More modern and ornate than dusty and cobwebbed, the mansion on the eponymous block still conveyed a strong Gothic vibe (its warm, autumnal colors also created a fine Halloween aura).  I loved the property's gruesome backstory (three words:
"Hobo Murder House").

*Jigsaw PhysiqueNot just another Universal knockoff, this Herman--with his necklace of scars and literal zippers on his torso--embodies the patchwork nature of the Frankenstein monster.  The shots of staples popping out of Herman's faltering heart were were especially effective.

*Grand(pa) Entrance.  Both Grandpa and Lily make spectacular arrivals at their new home when they exit their respective shipping crates.  The only viewers who won't marvel at this scene are those who have phobias about rats and spiders.

*Izzard King.  Eddie Izzard simply kills it as the Munster patriarch/mad scientist/legendary Count Dracula.  His character is the perfect index of the show's direction--the skewing of its humor towards drollery rather than campiness (e.g. when Herman complains that Grandpa ate a lion while naked, Grandpa retorts:
"The lion was naked.  It seemed polite.").

*See Spot Roar.  Mockingbird Lane pulls the Munster pet out of the shadows and into the light of moon-shined night.  Viewers get to see Spot in his full, fire-breathing glory, and the episode ends with the suggestion that the creature would play a more prominent role in future storylines.

Mockingbird Lane obviously hearkens back to The Munsters, but it's almost unfair to compare the two (different emphasis, different era, different budget and special-fx technologies).  The reboot is abundantly gory, but splashes plenty of charm in with the chum.  Here's hoping that the execs at NBC don't act like a mob of angry villagers and instead decide to let the show live on as a weekly series.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Short Story Spotlight: "Quiet House"

If you've been following this blog, you know that Halloween Season usually extends into the first week of November.  But that's especially the case this year, thanks to the terrible blow delivered by Hurricane Sandy.  So, for those who've had their holiday celebrations postponed, here's something that might help rekindle the Halloween spirit:

"Quiet House" by Norman Prentiss

This is a story that takes the normally innocuous phrase "trick or treat" to heart.  Jeremy, a seventh grader, has at last reached the age where he can go out on Halloween night sans parents.  And all October long, he looks forward to getting to experience the Myrick House, a neighborhood home legendary for its decorations.  But two days before the big night, the Myricks' property is cleared of its yard-haunting paraphernalia, and a sign is posted stating that this is now  a "Quiet Zone" due to a death in the family.  Jeremy is bitterly disappointed, and decides to prank the Myricks.  Unfortunately, his peevish act has some macabre repercussions, and Jeremy will soon come to rue the nasty trick he plays.

Such synopsis might make this sound like a latter-day Tale from the Crypt, but "Quiet House" is no simple E.C. sketch of ghoulish retribution.  Prentiss's writing transcends the formulaic; the author depicts Jeremy as a three-dimensional character rather than a mere cipher, and is careful to establish the various impetuses for the boy's outburst of juvenile spite.  The climactic scene in which Jeremy suffers for his dirty deed is likewise skillfully handled, and proves a more haunting variation on the hoary vengeance-from-beyond-the-grave motif.  If there's one drawback to the piece, it's that the dialogue of Jeremy's three-years-older stepbrother (who is charged with conveying a lot of exposition) at times rings false, but that ultimately doesn't diminish the impact of the horrific story that the stepbrother (and in a larger sense, Prentiss) is sharing.  All told, "Quiet House" is bound to elicit loud praise from readers who seek both psychological realism and a touch of supernatural weirdness in their Halloween fiction.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Dead Lines

Not since Sophia shambled out of the barn has The Walking Dead been so tear-jerking (I should've known that an episode entitled
"Killer Within" would be rife with fatality).  No surprise, though, that the dialogue was as sharp as the death scenes were emotionally grueling.  Some examples:

Oscar: These were good guys.  Good guys that'd had our backs against the really bad dudes in the joint, like Tomas and Andrew.  Now we've all made mistakes to get in here, chief.  And I'm not going to pretend to be a saint, but believe me, we've paid our due.  Enough that we would rather hit that road than go back in that shithole.

Rick: They'll just be looking for a chance to grab our weapons.  Do you want to go back to sleeping with one eye open?
T-Dog: I never stopped.

Merle: How come we never hooked up?
Andrea: You called me a whore.  And a rug-muncher.
Merle: Got a way with words, don't I?

Andrea: Truth is, I don't know what I'm looking for.  For the longest time, it was all about survival.  Nothing else mattered.  So much so, I don't know what matters now.
The Governor: Pay off the car.  Work fifty hours a week.  Get married.  Buy a house.  That was survival for me not too long ago.
Andrea: A lot has changed.
The Governor: The scenery has.  The landscape.  But the way we think...

Lori: [To Carl] You gotta do what's right, baby.  Promise me you'll always do what's right.  It's so easy to do the wrong thing in this world.  So, so if it feels wrong, don't do it, alright?  If it feels easy, don't do it.  [crying harder]  Don't let the world spoil you.  You're so good.  My sweet boy.  You're the best thing I ever did.  I love you.  I love you.  My sweet, sweet boy.  I love you....Okay.  Okay now.  Okay.  [groans]  Maggie, when this is over, you're gonna have to-- [Maggie shakes her head in refusal].  You have to do it.  It can't be Rick.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Got a kick out of this photo I saw on Huffington Post today:

Kudos for cleverness here with these homemade Halloween costumes that recreate the climax of the Fincher film.
The parodic ensemble put me in mind of that terrific spoof starring William Shatner(s):

Friday, November 2, 2012

Beelzebub Tweets

BLZ, Bub

[For previous tweets, click here.]

All hail risque Halloween costumes.  The sluttier the outfit, the easier the inlet.
--9:34 P.M., October 31st

Heartfelt thanks to all the fundamentalist Xians who staged Hell Houses this year.  As the saying goes, any publicity is good publicity.
--12:10 A.M., October 31st

Ahh, Devil's Night in Detroit.  Remember, citizens, the words of the beloved Ray Bradbury: It's a pleasure to burn.
--5:41 P.M., October 30th

Contest: commit this year's sickest, most sadistic prank (the winner will receive his/her special award Down Below).
--2:58 P.M., October 30th

Sulphur, suppurated wounds, fear-sweat, and feces: if ol' Scratch ever published a scratch-and-sniff book.
--3:30 P.M., October 27th

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pick Six with Norman Partridge

If there were a Halloween Hall of Fame, Norman Partridge no doubt would be a first-year inductee.  He provided an instant classic for holiday readers in 2006 with his Bram Stoker Award-winning novel Dark Harvest (which was also chosen as one of the 100 Best Books of that year by Publishers Weekly).  His various Halloween narratives (including a novelette-length prequel to Dark Harvest) are collected in Johnny Halloween: Tales of the Dark SeasonAnother seasonal treat is in store with the forthcoming publication of his book Oktober Shadows by Cemetery DanceBe sure to check out both the author's website and his blog American Frankenstein (the inspiration, by the way, for my own formation of Macabre Republic).

Mr. Partridge is the latest participant in the "Pick Six with __" feature here in the Land of the Red, Black, and Blue.  For those newcomers to the Republic: the feature is a variation on a traditional interview; in this case, the subject gets to choose any six questions--from a list of about 40--to answer, at whatever length.  So without further ado, here's a cool six pack to help stave off any Halloween hangover:

1.What is your favorite Halloween memory?

I'd have to open up my treat sack and toss in all the Halloweens I remember as a kid growing up in the Sixties.  For me, that was the holiday's golden age.  Every kid in the neighborhood hit the streets, and the doorbells didn't stop ringing all night long.

One year my truck-driver dad showed up on the big afternoon with cases of Crackerjack stacked in the back of his pickup.  My mom took one look at all those boxes and thought he'd blown the mortgage for the month.  All he said was: "Don't worry about it, Ev...they fell off a truck."  Anyway, the front hall was piled high with Crackerjack when I left the house that night to trick or treat.  We lived on a hill, but word got out.  All the Crackerjack was gone by the time I got home, and my dad was handing out change from my piggy bank.  I always have to laugh remembering that, though I didn't think it was particularly funny at the time.

2.What, to you, is the scariest place in your hometown?

I grew up in Vallejo, California.  The spot that really sticks out for me is Lake Herman Road, in particular the stretch of country two-lane that leads to the place where the Zodiac Killer murdered two teenagers.  When I was a teenager myself, we'd cruise out there in the middle of the night, kill the headlights and the engine, kill the radio, and let the car drift in neutral until someone freaked out.  Usually it didn't take very long.  Something lingers there.

3.Which person in your life has had the biggest influence on your writing career?

If we're talking writers, probably Stephen King and Joe R. Lansdale.  Other than that, I'd say my dad.  He was a born storyteller, and the first yarns I remember are the ones he spun in the backyard on summer evenings--especially the weird stories about a house with bloody footprints and the Green Man, which came from his boyhood in Pennsylvania.  I still remember the excitement I felt hearing those tales for the first time, and I try to recapture a little of that when writing my own stories.  I want to get the reader's blood pumping.

4.If you could change one thing about your writing career, what would it be?

I'd type "The End" more often.  Right now, that's my goal.

5.Three episodes you always try to catch whenever a Twilight Zone marathon airs?

I could probably give you ten, but here are three that come to mind:

"The Passerby": Serling's meditation on the Civil War, with a faded Southern belle and a wounded Confederate passing a dark evening together.  The ending always gets me.  Line for line, one of Serling's best episodes.

"The Grave": A weird western with Lee Marvin, Strother Martin, James Best, and Lee Van Cleef.  What's not to like?  Plus, it reminds me of those stories my dad told in the backyard when I was a kid.

"Nick of Time": A husband and a wife encounter a fortune-telling machine in a diner just south of Nowhere, U.S.A.  This episode is my favorite example of what made Twilight Zone special.  There are no special effects--just a great story, smart dialogue, and a cast that delivers (i.e. William Shatner as the desperate male lead?  I'm sold!).

6.What was your favorite horror movie monster when growing up (and today, if different)?

I'll stick with the Universal gang, and probably always will.  My favorite is the Wolfman (a.k.a. Lawrence Talbot).  And Kharis.  What can I say?  The cursed guys speak to me.