Their house was always draped in shadows from the bushy black trees huddled
around it, and when a blustery wind or breeze swirled past, it sounded like the
wails of howling ghosts. They’d always shunned visitors of any kind, but this
night was different, the sacred ritual called Hallows Eve, when they’d finally
unlock their bolted front door. They’d been dreaming about it all year, a nocturnal reverie that was finally
here. A blood red sun had just died outside, and a shimmering full moon
was carving its way into the sky. Their front yard was mostly craggy black
dirt, but tonight that was the look people preferred. Pumpkins glowed with
fiery eyes and skeletons dangled from all the trees. Gravestones were scattered
about, crooked and crumbling, smelling of death. Every year, for far longer than it was safe to admit, they’d made their home a
Halloween house. They’d moved around a lot, but it was the one constant they’d
clung to wherever they’d lived, a creepy calling card to summon visitors on this
sacred night. Outside, giggling voices could already be heard, tiny ghouls and goblins
clutching bags that would soon be filled with sugary treats. This was always a
part of their dreams too, the excited flurry of padding feet, the chorus of high
pitched laughter and squeals, all of it coming their
way. They hobbled down the stairs in their
candle-lit house, holding wrinkled old hands, their ancient
hearts thumping. They hadn’t talked about it, but they both knew this
might be their last Halloween, and their shared sadness was darker than
anything else. Their memories were all they had left of the way it used to be,
way back in the forgotten past when fear and horror were real. There had always been monsters, but they’d had the good sense to stay where
they belonged, hiding in the darkness and shadows until it was time to strike.
But when you spend so much time hiding, you eventually lose your claim to be
real, and that’s when all the myths and legends about their existence came into
being. Make-believe stories replaced the terrifying reality of what was really
there. And now this was all they had left, just a single October eve
when giggling children mimicked them for sugary treats. They’d spent the last hour putting on their costumes too, the bland and boring
human disguises they wore only when absolutely necessary. Covering up their
true form was a shameful process, but the world had become a very different
place, and that’s what hurt most of all. The world had forgotten what a glorious creation a real monster was, a crusty
and wicked apparition with misbegotten parts. A real monster had blood red eyes
and spewed hot billows of ashen black smoke. But at least for tonight, they could imagine a different world that existed
only in the howling nightscape of their dreams. They could pretend they didn’t
have to hide anymore and were free to roam the human world as they
pleased. And that’s what they did, as the giggling make-believe monsters banged their
fists on their grimy front door. When they peered outside into the night, there
were more scary creatures than horrible humans, and that warmed their black
hearts. They looked like a tired old couple who should have stayed in bed on this
Halloween night. Their hair was grey and stringy, their clothes dirty and drab,
smelling faintly like smoke. But they handed out candy with their wrinkled old
hands, because they didn’t want to miss the best part of the night. If this was
going to be their last Halloween, they wanted it to be extra special. They
waited until the very end, when there were just a few children left padding up
to their door without any parents. Because the best part of Halloween was always when they squeaked the door open
and showed one of the giggling make-believe monsters what a real monster was.
is without a doubt the greatest drive-in movie of all time, even though
drive-ins are pretty much gone. But someone should find an abandoned drive-in
somewhere and restore it, just so people
can watch this movie.I’d love to be in
a car on a hot summer
night, the smell of exhaust swirling through the air, and watch
this movie glowing on one of those giant screens.I’d crank up the volume and strap myself in
for two hours of amazing movie mayhem.
What this movie does so well is strip
away all the clutter and only focus on the hardcore essentials, because action
fans don’t like anything slowing things down. This is a road trip movie where
the only law is to keep going faster and faster, because a fiery death is charging
through the gloom right behind you. Every
element is riveting and raw, stripped down to its most essential core.
There’s the brooding anti-hero with a
haunted past, a beautiful but disfigured heroine with her own anger issues, and
a messianic bad guy with a rictus grin that’s even worse than the Joker’s, all
of it taking place in a post-apocalyptic landscape that’s a ravaged warning
about what will happen if we don’t take care of our planet in the proper way.
This warning is posed in the same brutal terms. If we screw things up, then the
search for the staples needed to survive – food, water, gas – will be all
that’s left of life itself.
The color palette is stripped away too,
everything is parched and grimy, dirty and decayed, except for the pristine
whiteness of the young women who represent hope for a different kind of
future.This is the plot, stripped down
too, to transport this fertile cargo away from the hell of the monstrous Citadel
to a remembered oasis.
It’s a chase movie, but one that’s a
visual onslaught in the best possible way of over-the-top action and roaring
high speed warfare, a kind of Cirque du Soleil demolition derby.It’s a delirious mash-up of extreme sports
and road kill horror, all of it pumped up by a wild banshee rock star strapped
to the front of a barreling big rig slashing at his flame throwing guitar. The
dialogue has been whittled down to the bone, because there’s nothing to say
that a howling shotgun can’t say a whole lot better.
But there’s also a message that action
fans are always wary of, but this is a good one we haven’t seen as vividly
before.The real kick-ass heroes in the
movie aren’t the usual suspects, but some new recruits.The gruff muscled guy does his part, and the
tough chick too, but it’s the seemingly fragile young waifs, a bad boy kid, and
a gang of old women on motorcycles who step up and deliver the firepower and
courage needed at the end.And I think
this is the message of the movie, to blow up the way action movies have always
been done, and show there’s a little bit of madness in all of us.
Horror short stories are my favorite things to write. The best are literary story bombs that go deep and dark without
wasting a lot of time. They usually start off quiet, but when the
bomb goes off it’s not like anything else in literature, a
heart-pounding ride that will only end when boundaries are
broken. They celebrate the mysterious and unknown, exposing
in eerily subtle or brutally stark ways, that life isn’t always
neat and tidy. And that’s always a good lesson to keep in mind,
because horror stories remind us the cosmos we live in is infinitely more
complex than that.
But what horror stories do best, is connect us in an intensely visceral way to what we love. It’s only when you fear you’re going to lose something, do you suddenly realize how important it
is. Horror stories scare us, but they also remind us to cherish
what we have, because it can always be snatched away.
At their essence, horror stories are a warning to always be careful and
not assume what you know is the final, unshakable truth.
Because nothing is ever final, there is always change and new mysteries
ahead. Horror stories are the literary eye-opener that wants you to
see what can’t be seen. The monster or bogey-man is just
a metaphor for the uncertainty of life. Horror stories
don’t coddle easy assumptions, they blow them up, then shine a
flashlight on the shadowy, unknown landscape that lies ahead.
The other thing I love is the language, because it’s usually a soaring departure from the everyday. When describing unknown horrors
and mysteries, writers have to kick up their descriptive game
and use language that’s as stunning and unexpected as the macabre wonders they’re revealing. Horror writers tend to
use language in a more varied and vivid way, creeping into
their reader’s inner world, word by word, then unleashing their
of the stuff I write wants to scare the reader or
viewer in some way, or at least rattle their comfort zone.It’sabout revealing what’s unknown in the world, both the real and unreal, because we can never be sure which
is which. Great horror and dark fiction stories scare us in
a way that forces us to confront how far we’re willing to go, and
that can be pretty damn scary too.
brings me to the movie ALIEN, because it illustrates a
couple of key elements that make for a great horror story.
first is that it comes at you from an unexpected place. In this case it’s movie’s genre, which is
science fiction.While there have been a few great science fiction
horror movies, like John Carpenter’s THE THING, they rarely go for the full-out visceral thrills of a horror story.But ALIEN did with a kind of searing exuberance that was something brand
Theads for the movie proclaimed – In space no one can hear you scream – and that’s another key
element.In a great horror story there shouldalways be a moment when there’s a feeling of overwhelming helplessness, when
the characters suddenly realize the forces they are facing
are profoundly evil and heartless, with no help on the
way.The fact that the alien creature was a virtually unstoppable killing machine made it
the futuristic incarnate of a more traditional
horror villain like Michael Myers in the HALLOWEEN movies.
element the movie utilized was incorporating the fear of the unknown.The crew of the spaceship Nostromo is summoned by a distress call to a nearby
planet.When they land, they see decayed evidence of alien life
forms (spectacular designs by H.R. Giger) that are both
colossal and macabre in an otherworldly way.
the real scares begin when they discover an eerie pod field, and one of the crew members is attacked by a face hugging alien creature. When they get back to the ship the creature
is detached, and that’s when one of the great moments in scary movie history explosively happens.Another unknown alien creature suddenly erupts through the crew member’s stomach and scuttles away.
scene is great because it’s the birth of something new we haven’t seen before, and that’s what
horror is all about. And what made it even better was the primal
terror of being physically invaded by something
unknown.Horror is always scariest the closer it gets, and the slimy
alien creature splattered out from the place where we feel
the most vulnerable, our own
flesh and blood.
that, the movie takes us on a thrill ride that honored another horror convention. The dark and twisting passageways of the creaky spaceship were not that different from the shadowy hallways of a haunted house.The trapped crew desperately tries to survive against the
terrifyingpossibility that the deadly alien monster can leap
out at anytime.
movie ends with a twist that’s another element to keep in mind.We learn that the Company the spaceshipworks for wants the protect the brutal alien creature
for its own despicable ends.The reason this is so frightening is because there always the possibility that the scariest creature
of all is us.