August 30, 2008

MicroHorror Featured Pick -- "Hide"

Each week you'll find a new 666-words-or-less story from MicroHorror showcased here on Hermitosis. Hopefully this mysterious vignette by D. Hall will cast a shadow over any lakeside holiday plans you're entertaining:

by D. Hall


Sun high and warm, cicadas hum and hiss. The heavy, heavy air is stirred by light breeze like a breath between two pages, like air inside a bottle. The surface of a pond reflects a bird’s eye reflecting ripples, reflecting flitting shadows. Below the surface dead leaves and pond-weed and mud. Only insects and birds are here, only empty nests and the threat of other voices.

He’s not here, says nothing, watching the forest watch you. Behind branches and leaves, needles and old, dry rot–he could be there. Step, step, the stones cry out for stepping, for slipping, for scratching and for gashes. Again, the breeze comes and its hand along with it, pushing trees aside and they bend and curve. Branches part, another branch appears, the tunnel opening and shutting like an eye with too many lids. Did you see him there, his hands up to you and white?

Your hands now, not the wind and not his, and they push aside branches and briars and other things that grab and other eyes that peer. Who should lay their legs across the trail, knobby knees upturned and scabbed and hard as wood? Your feet protest. He’s there again. His back is to you, and his neck is smeared with dirt. Bugs hum now, and the wind hums as well. Your blood hums in your veins. Birds’ eyes or your eyes now push on the inside of your skull. Can you see it now? His step turn step turn, arms up, fingers wide, eyes closed mouth open and spilling, and hot heavy heat on you and sweat too. He is there now, by the pond. You can see the mud on his neck, and the hair there too, and the points of shoulder blades through his shirt.

An insect’s wings by your ear, the rigid vibration of papery lift. Wind and hands and voices and hard black eyes. His breath again, the smell of pond water. Limp leaves give way to an empty bank and no footprints in the mud. Only you by the pond and the shimmering heat of summer, while beneath the surface fingers of white-green flit.

Copyright: © 2008 D. Hall

INTERVIEW - Sean Branney Says The Whisperer Approaches

I've been anticipating the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society's new film, an adaptation of The Whisperer In Darkness, for quite some time. In this week's column at AMC I was able to speak to the film's director, Sean Branney, about the challenges of creating a truly faithful adaptation. The film is still a ways off, but in the meantime I strongly urge you curiosity seekers to add their 1920's-style silent film The Call of Cthulhu to your Netflix queue. And here are a few extra words from Branney...

On other Lovecraftian films he enjoys:

"Personally I’m a fan of John Carpenter’s The Thing. For a movie that’s not explicitly Lovecraftian, I really love it. Carpenter is a Lovecraft fan, but that movie has a lot of things in it that work really well to create the feeling that comes across in his stories."

On what he'd do with a Dreamworks-esque budget:

"I would love to shoot In the Mountains of Madness, but shoot it in a 1930’s style with a big budget, so that we could have real ships and shoot on location in the snow and ice. We could create a 1930’s epic the way DeMille or someone would have -- an analog experience and not a digital one."

August 28, 2008

INTERVIEW - Lennon Parham Invites You to "Nights In White Satin"

Repeat-viewings of Lennon Parham's show She Tried To Be Normal at the UCB theatre will leave no audience-member unaltered. Playing an entire pageant of strangely endearing hopeless rejects -- including an aging Solid Gold dancer wannabe, an insecure casanova, and a country-western singer who faked her death to escape an abusive husband -- Parham transforms herself so effectively that a few days after the show, I still somehow failed to recognize her when I saw that Onion newscast about the Iron Man trailer. It was at the point in her show when she performed Ronee Blakley's monologue from The Nightmare on Elm Street (and not during the impromptu lap-dance I received from Sandy Michaelson, pictured at left) that I knew I had to talk to Parham about her own origin story, as well as Fred Krueger's.

Lennon Parham will present her show in New York on September 3rd and 29th, and at the Los Angeles UCB on Sept. 11th and 17th.


TB: Have you noticed a difference between LA and NewYork audiences?

LP: I can’t say I was paying quite as much attention during my show because I was so worried about nailing it. It was cool to have what my friends refer to as “pure laughter,” people enjoying it who have no reason to, who are not predisposed to like it because they’re not my friends. It was brand new for them.

TB: Your Nightmare on Elm Street monologue was my favorite part of the show. Can you tell me how it came about? (And is this some sort of audition for the remake they’re filming? Maybe you should start sending letters to those producers.)

LP: I was not aware that they’re remaking it... Usually that works, right? Sending a letter? And I can include a snapshot of me in a bikini in my kitchen! And a VHS of the scene from my show.

I used to do a show called Fillet of Film. They would show short films and in between them actors would re-enact various films from the past. A scene from The Abyss… a scene from Sling Blade… It gave us opportunities to do things we normally don’t do in the theatre. I didn’t wind up doing (this monologue) for that show, but I really liked it and wanted to use it; I just think it’s really funny. So I tried to figure out how to put it in my show, and for the longest time I kept wondering, “Is this funny??” It’s the least laugh-out-loud funny piece, but I really get a lot of enjoyment from creeping everybody out... It’s been interesting because for some people, it’s their favorite part. There are a lot of guys in their 20’s and 30’s who know it’s from the movie and get really excited and want to talk about it afterward. Which is pretty cool, because if you don’t recognize what I’m doing, you think it’s just another of my crazy monologues.

TB: If you had to spend five hours on an airplane sitting next to one of these characters, which one would you choose?

LP: Five hours? Maybe Kitty O'Sullivan, the country music singer... I think she’d be fascinating to talk to. Though probably Raphael would let me lean on his shoulder.

TB: Does your Solid Gold-wannabe Sandy Michaelson hint at some subconscious dread that you’ll still be performing this show 30 years from now?

LP: I haven’t thought about that! I do consider her to be sort of my essence. You know, like in that movie The Dark Crystal? I think she is sort of my core, what I would consider the perfect comedy. She has elements of everything that I love and think is funny: the darkness and the sadness, and circling around something that’s clearly never going to happen. Sandy came out of an incident in which me and a roommate of mine were bored and dancing around the living room, and she told me, “You look like a Solid Gold reject dancer!” I kept that in my mind for many years, and when I got to New York I took a character development class, and I thought, I have to do this character.

TB: So a lot of these scenes are the result of really long creative processes. What about Raphael?

LP: Raphael was actually a real dude who hit on me at a bar. I was working, I was actually writing Sandy Michaelson, and he came up to me and wouldn’t leave me alone. It must have been about four years ago, because I remember he asked me who I was going to vote for. He said, “I’m European, so I can’t vote,” and wouldn’t leave me alone. And then I went home that night and wrote down everything that he said, and began with that.

TB: The title of your show is She Tried To Be Normal. How hard did you try?

LP: I think I’ve always known I was pretty weird. I tried pretty hard though! At least until I got to college, and then I was like, “Oh. Okay. Not everybody is this kind of person.” I grew up in the suburbs of Atalanta, and there’s a model of behaviour that I knew I definitely didn’t fit into. But I did try... I was on the prom committee! But nobody wanted to have “Nights In White Satin” as our prom theme. I thought it would have been really dramatic -- do you know that song, the part where he’s just wailing “I love you,” over and over again? I guess that was too much for fifteen-year-olds. They decided on “Dream a Little Dream.”

August 24, 2008

Seen Between Fingers -- Cronenberg Claims Another Cobbler

For this new regular feature, wimp and noted horror non-enthusiast Chris Kelly will be reporting back with his first-impressions of memorable scary movies. Hellraiser didn't seem to affect him much, so I was starting to doubt his sensitivity. Time to bring in the big guns:

To provide a bit of context for this review: just before the movie began, I popped a rhubarb cobbler into the oven. My idea of a good film involves the preparation and consumption of baked goods.

Cronenberg’s The Fly started with its fair share of hurdles to jump. As with Hellraiser, it had the misfortune of being made in the 1980s, a time when, like a proud-maned lion, one's power was asserted through the overall size of one’s hair. As well, it is a remake of a classic and an icon in its own right, and I thus already possessed knowledge of the general plot and several key scenes. With these supposed disadvantages in mind, I hit play on my DVD player, secure in the belief that I could happily consume a warm dessert during the next hour and a half.

The opening scenes upheld my lowered expectations. Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum, all styling mousse and shoulder pads, launched onto the screen without introduction, chatting benignly for only moments before jetting off to his apartment. In a modern-day fiction (or fact, for that matter), a woman brought to a strange man’s back-alley residence would escape with a torn dress and an STD if she escaped at all. In this movie, she got a breakthrough news story. Then again, the reveal of Goldblum’s scientific discovery was no reveal at all to the audience, so this haste was forgiven.

From here, the movie slowed. I’ll admit to having to put my fork down momentarily when they accidentally inverted the babboon. But that was over quickly, and otherwise I was mostly looking at a lazily-paced romance between our two stars, with John Getz as an imbalanced ex-lover thrown in to raise the level of conflict just beyond benign. Even when the long-anticipated teleportation finally occurred, I was provided not with the shock of a fly-headed man-menace, but a new, leanly muscled Jeff Goldblum. I can totally eat cobbler while watching him do gymnastics.

Here’s where things began to get dicey for me. Goldblum’s physique came loaded with an intensely erratic new mind, and his beady-eyed mood swings were beginning to unsettle me. His initial physical improvements were rapidly undermined as well. It seemed only vaguely unwelcome, though: I know lots of people with blotchy skin and back hair. Then, just when I was wondering what adult onset acne had to do with insect DNA, his ear fell right off into his hand. He, Geena Davis, and I shared a moment of stunned silence; they then conversed in a contained panic while I noticed for the first time how gory cooked rhubarb looks. Bit by bit, Brundlefly began to rip off his human vestiges, and bit by bit I began to regret having eaten at all that entire day.

I was granted a brief respite during Geena Davis’ pregnancy scare (mostly, I was shocked by how frankly the script tackled the subject of abortion, but that’s a topic for another review). I'd already heard about her maggot dream, so while it was gross, it wasn’t unexpected. What I didn’t see coming was Jeff Goldblum’s Kool-Aid Man impersonation, but the initial shock of his entrance wore off quickly. (Do flies do that, by the way? Shouldn’t he have just rammed against the glass over and over and over and over again?) Still, I was reluctant to pick my cobbler back up.

That’s when the final scene showed up and ruined my whole day. Oh dear God, he’s vomiting acid onto that man’s hand. Still! He’s still doing it! And now his foot! Listen to the screams! Will this never end? OH SHIT HE’S FALLING APART! WHAT THE FUCK IS INSIDE OF HIM? THAT’S HIDEOUS!! JESUS CHRIST! UN-COBBLER!!! ABORT!!! ABORT!!!

Seriously, that was messed up. Props to whoever designed the effects for the last ten minutes of the film, because they accomplished the impossible and made me wish that I was watching someone pull off his own fingernails again instead. The amount of creative awfulness packed into that finale clearly demonstrates why you horror fans have given The Fly its place in the pantheon must-see movies. Even I can understand the attraction. I’d recommend it to anyone with an empty stomach.

Next week: Hellbound: Hellraiser II

August 22, 2008

INTERVIEW - Barbara Ehrenreich and the High Price of Optimism

2001's Nickel and Dimed focused on America's hardworking poor; This year Barbara Ehrenreich declared open season on a far wider spectrum of issues with This Land Is Their Land: Reports From a Divided Nation, a portrait of nation-wide inequality. This week I was lucky enough to ask Ehrenreich a few questions about the toll taken on an otherwise reasonable person by a career spanning four decades of social criticism. She may not have much optimism left, but I'd still nominate her for "Nonfiction Author Most Likely To Survive a Cormac McCarthy-esque Apocalypse..."


TB: Your writing career has spanned some very dark political times. Is it a struggle to balance your anger and your optimism?

BE: I don't think I do balance anger and optimism: I'm just not optimistic. I look at the economy and think we're headed for a depression. Then I look at the world -- at global warming, shrinking resources, mounting hunger, etc. -- and think we're headed for extinction. Of course there is the possibility that a depression would help solve the world's environmental crisis -- if you can call that a reason for optimism.

TB: Many writers find that keeping up with news becomes almost obsessive. Do you set limits on how involved you get, how many hours you work? How do you stay plugged in without getting sucked in?

BE: I read the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Nation, The Progressive, snatches of Huffington Post, and quick hits of CNN and MSNBC (especially when I'm on the treadmill at the gym.) Is that obsessive? But there's no reason to get sucked in too much, because whatever's dominating the news cycle this week will probably be gone next week.

TB: What's it like to look back at books you wrote decades ago and seeing which of your conclusions or concerns wound up being borne out by history?

BE: I don't re-read my own books, and I avoid making predictions, so this isn't likely to happen. My concerns, though, don't seem to go away. To give just one example, I was writing about the need for universal health insurance 30 years ago. That's kind of depressing.

TB: It's become more common for people to marry in order to share one partner's health benefits. Do sanctity-of-marriage conservatives, in your knowledge, condemn heterosexual couples that this?

BE: I think they've pretty much given up on love as a basis for marriage. Look at the conservative emphasis on marriage as a solution to poverty, as represented by the Bush administration's "marriage promotion" efforts. This is not about romance, it's about increasing the household income by adding a wage-earning male. The next step would be to encourage women to divorce men who lose their jobs.

MicroHorror Featured Pick -- "Good Samaritan"

Last Thursday we kicked off a new feature in which one 666-words-or-less story from MicroHorror will be showcased here every week. I actually found this week's pick by Thomas Wiloch rather touching... which is why I should never be a parent. Enjoy:

"Good Samaritan"
by Thomas Wiloch


I try so hard to be helpful. But the life of a Good Samaritan is a difficult one. Just this morning I nailed bird wings to the children’s backs so they could fly to school. But the children complained about the blood all over their clothing, and about how the nails were too long and had pierced their hearts and lungs. Not one of them used the wings to fly to school. Not one of them thanked me for trying to improve their lives.

But I’m an optimist. I always believe that “things will get better.” I believe in the power of helping others.

Tomorrow I will gather the children before me and apologize to them for the damage I caused. I will make it up to them. At no cost, I will nail satellite dishes to their heads so they can communicate telepathically among themselves.

They doubtless will have much to discuss.

Copyright: © 2008 Thomas Wiloch

August 19, 2008

INTERVIEW - Steve Niles Has Long-Term Designs on Making Us Jump

Author and comic creator Steve Niles seems to have made it his personal business to broaden the spectrum of the scary movies that make it to the big screen. The film based on his 30 Days of Night was only the beginning -- here's my roundup of what you're going to be seeing from him in the next few years. In the meantime, while going over his Wikipedia page together we discovered a screenplay credit for a film he's never even heard of; I deleted it for him, but someone keeps adding it back -- I say he should just let it go and then sue for royalties later.

Here are a few extra notes from our talk, regarding Steve's favorite movies...

On the honor of writing John Carpenter's next film:

"If there’s anyone who’s inspired me, it’s certainly John Carpenter... I love his stuff, starting with Dark Star, which I just watched again this week. The Thing definitely made me think that Arctic settings were scary as hell, I think it’s a great way to cut people off. 30 Days of Night is essentially I Am Legend, Night of the Living Dead, and The Thing all rolled into one; those are my three favorite stories! I don’t think it’s surprising I ended up doing anything I ended up doing."

On the "subliminal messages" in William Friedkin's The Exorcist tapping into the fears of the times:

"That’s when everyone was convinced that, you know, every liquor ad had penises hidden in the ice... People believed there were backward messages on heavy metal albums, and it's like, 'These bands could barely write music forward, do you really think they can do this stuff backwards?' Subliminal advertising was like the Bigfoot of the time, it was really on people’s minds, and the filmmakers just played into it. I remember all the rumors that people on the set were being killed, that it was a haunted the site, and that either God or the devil didn’t want it made, and Friedkin and those guys just fed on that. In the end, you’re just trying to scare people, any excuse to get ‘em, to make them afraid, is fair game.

August 18, 2008

Today's Obsessions...

McSweeney's "Selections From H.P. Lovecraft's Brief Tenure As a Whitman's Sampler Copywriter..."

Sorry Joan, expectations for Rocky Horror continue to dwindle...

Yearbook Yourself.
Or, what you'd look like if someone time-traveled from the past to make a mask out of your face-skin...

What is it about Heath Ledger that makes The Dark Knight slash (NSFW-ish) seem much more accessible?

Seen Between Fingers -- Chris Kelly Is Man Enough For Hellraiser

For this new regular feature, wimp and noted horror non-enthusiast Chris Kelly will be reporting back with his first-impressions of memorable scary movies. We're talking about a guy who kept his eyes covered during much of Pan's Labyrinth (leaving just enough room between his fingers to see the subtitles) so if there are films you'd like to see inflicted on this tender soul, please leave them in the comments. Click below to read:

I am not the target audience for horror films. A gentle soul at heart, I prefer for stories to end happily and for others to experience as little discomfort as possible. I am afraid of needles, intolerant of pain, and squeamish at the sight of blood. Paper-cuts incapacitate me; scary movies are likely to cause permanent emotional scarring.

It was thus with some confusion that I ended my viewing of Hellraiser with little discernable distress. I’ll give credit where credit is due: that opening is no picnic. Eschewing all pretense of plot and character, our film-making team went straight for hooks and dismemberment, offering twisted death to a hirsute stranger. Hands were quickly clasped over eyes.

When my fingers parted, however, I was greeted not with a horrifying movie, but a horrible one. The plot, doubling back to explain the doom dealt to he of the buff torso and Kenny Loggins beard (Sean Chapman), quickly collapses on itself. Our lead actress Clare Higgins, who is sharper and colder than fan-favorite Pinhead by a country mile, is unconvincingly portrayed as an irresistible seductress. Almost all of the human men in this film strive to have sex with her, despite her frigid cragginess. There’s also the mysterious puzzle box, which is the plot’s keystone and its central problem. Its powers are numerous and frequently relied on, but never fully explained. Then again, this tool’s function is apparently so obvious that a teenager on the verge of a nervous breakdown can wield it masterfully without instruction, so maybe I’m the dumb one here.

In the end, the parts of the movie that scared me the most were given short shrift. The Cenobites, which exist as Hellraiser’s most memorable legacy, prove to be its least effective offerings. Their initial visual presence certainly earns a visceral reaction, but their actions seldom back the costume. Beyond a vacant description of their desire to explore the limits of pleasure and pain, they seem to do little more than linger in moody lighting and occasionally throw hooks at people (a trick that was creepier out of context in the beginning than at the movie’s climax). I was more frightened by the concept of an undead refugee from beyond willing to murder his own brother or niece for the love of his icepick of a sister-in-law, but this psychological awfulness took a backseat to showier, less compelling setpieces.

I recognize that I’m coming at this movie twenty years too late. The Cenobites have been referenced too often to shock with their appearance any longer, and their torture techniques have been rendered tame by a new generation of Saw ripoffs. 1987’s styles and production values make it difficult to take anything in the film too seriously; it’s tough to watch our anti-heroine murder her victim with a hammer without feeling that her choice of eyeshadow is still the more serious crime.

Clive Barker, it seems, understands that two decades have taken the teeth out of his most revered screen work. Reports indicate that he and a new production team would like a second chance to scare the pants off of me in 2009, when a remake is scheduled to be released. If this column proves to have lasting appeal, I’m sure I’ll be shipped off to a local theater in a pair of absorbent undergarments, forced to see the story’s potential fully realized. There’s a foul nightmare hidden just below the surface of the original, and while I don’t expect the remake to be applauded by either fans or critics, I do expect it to deprive me of a weekend’s worth of sleep.

August 15, 2008

INTERVIEW - Author Lon Milo Duquette Puts the Term "Occultist" Out to Pasture

The face of modern occultism has gotten a lot friendlier thanks to authors like Lon Milo Duquette, who adopted the persona of an eccentric rabbi to write The Chicken Qabalah, a slapstick guide to serious mystical traditions. His new book, Enochian Vision Magick, guides readers through the prolific work of Elizabethan mystics Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelley.

Despite being charged with the care of two extremely high-maintenance cats while his wife is on vacation, Duquette was happy to offer a few observations on what non-occultists can learn from Aleister Crowley, and on the fabulous life of a career magician (spoiler: the hourly pay isn't as great as you might think).


TB: How do you think perceptions of "occultism" have shifted during your lifetime?

LMD: "Occultism" used to conjure images right out of 1930s B pictures (The Mummy comes to mind). Occultism demanded a turban or a fez, and it was all rather shady. Then in the ‘70s and ‘80s -- with the resurgence of interest in the magick of the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley -- came at least the pretense of a certain scholarly legitimacy to the term (this side-by-side with the colorful and not always flattering excesses of the magical subculture).

Even though I've always been comfortable calling myself an occultist, I'm ready to retire the term altogether. Today most people just hear the "cult" in occultism. Do you hear Wayne Dyer or Deepak Chopra calling their stuff occultism? But they are offering classic occult teachings. I vote that we put the words "occult" and "occultism" out to pasture with the other words that once had profound and noble meanings, like "liberalism" and "conservatism" and "socialism."

TB: Do you enjoy any occult-flavored films?

LMD: For the most part, films that try to be overtly occult in nature and style embarrass me. Real-life magick is infinitely more boring and terrifying/mundane and dramatic/tragic and funny/subtle and profound than anything that could be easily captured on film or (more importantly) sold to a film maker or studio. I prefer films that offer me useful insights on the nature of reality and consciousness; Groundhog Day, in my opinion, is the finest comment on the complex nature of the evolution of individual consciousness and what we think of when we use the term "reincarnation." Like Water for Chocolate was perhaps the greatest comment on sex magick ever filmed.

TB: Has being publicly known as a magician resulted in any drawbacks?

LMD: If you're asking if I've ever been persecuted or discriminated against because I make no secret that I'm a practicing magician, the answer is no -- at least nothing has ever come to my attention. If anything, my visibility in this very small universe of interest has opened (and continues to open) many doors of opportunity. For that I am grateful… how many people get a chance to share their thoughts with others who will continue to read them long after one has passed on? It's also helping me in some small measure keep a roof over my head. This may offend some magical purists who think I'm making millions of dollars writing occult books; I'm sorry to disabuse those who may believe this… even with 14 titles in print I don't even make enough royalties each year to reach the U.S. poverty level for my family. I once computed the per-hour compensation for writing one of my books came to less than 68 cents an hour (and that is for royalties paid over period of 5 years).

TB: Even our most instructive books are still infused with humor and personality. Is the dryness and seriousness of other texts an impediment to your enjoyment or appreciation of them?

LMD: Hell yes, it is! That's why I so enjoy Crowley. He keeps me awake by making me look for those 'in' jokes and sarcasms.

I write the way I think... the way I talk to people. It's the only way I can do it. I hear the words as the pour through my fingers to the keyboard. If they don't fall naturally in place as I 'hear' them spoken, then I rewrite them until they do. Corny as it is, my Chicken Qabalah is perhaps the best example of my live teaching style. In my opinion the highest wisdom can only be delivered to the deepest levels of our understanding through humor. I worship Mark Twain, Will Rogers, and George Carlin.

TB: In The Chicken Qabalah you seemed to anticipate some hostility concerning your use of a Jewish, and even rabbinic, voice. Did this ever manifest?

LMD: No. It never did. There have been a few snobby reviews but no one has ever been truly hostile.

TB: What component of Crowley's thought is most valuable for audiences who would't consider themselves magical?

LMD: The simple "truth" that underlies the magical formula of the New Aeon. Without getting magical at all, that simple truth is realized because of a mutation in human consciousness whereby we all now accept the new reality that our Sun is on all the time. Is it that simple? Yes! We all identify with the Sun (whether we are aware of that fact or not). Now that we know that the Sun stays on all the time, deep down inside we now know that we stay on all the time. The Sun does not die. We do not die.

This new reality spills over into how we view ourselves individually in society. Deep down inside we now know that the individual is the basic unit of society... not the family, not the tribe, not the state, not the nation, not the church... each one of us is an individual Sun (not a planet... not a moon or any other satellite) and the only way for us to now make ourselves proper family members, tribe members, and citizens of our state, nation and church is to first find out who we are and what our duty is to ourselves in this life.

TB: Regarding your new book... Enochian magic seems loaded with grids, tables, linguistic nuances, and formulas that I think many magicians find intimidating in their complexity. How do you combat this reaction as an author and teacher?

LMD: By explaining it to others the way I need to explain it to myself.

TB: When it comes to writing about the results of your own personal magical experiments, you've walked an admirably fine line between candor and restraint. To what extent do you think it's really possible to communicate or "share" those experiences via writing?

LMD: I've given it my best shot. I think the best one can do is tell things as you see them, share your own interpretation and doubts and let the reader chew on that.

August 14, 2008

MicroHorror Featured Pick -- "Best Laid Plans"

MicroHorror publishes terrifying works of extremely short fiction -- 666 words or fewer, to be exact. If you think it sounds easy, why not submit your own? Starting today I'll be featuring a weekly stand-out selection for your enjoyment (or extreme distaste, depending).

I'm kicking off this feature with Oonah V. Joslin's excellent story, equal parts impact and economy:

"Best Laid Plans"
by Oonah V. Joslin


Aunt Augusta’s wedding dress was peach and cream like her complexion. The high buttoned Edwardian-style collar was fastened by means of pearls and the tailored sleeves were similarly pinned close to her arms from elbow to wrist. A ruff of gossamer lace covered her delicate hands to the fingers and the bouquet of saffron and white lilies dropped like a frond of elderflowers from her left hand over the full skirt: cream clouds of satin, overlaid with a cobweb of the same lace peachy, seeded with pearls that danced like daisy chains on a spring day. The bodice betrayed no sign of breasts. It crumpled inwards where it should point out and the tiny waist required either the slenderest of figures or the boniest of corsets. Her right hand barely brushed the polished wood of the wrought iron of the banister. She had the appearance of an elegant phantom teetering on the brink of existence, standing tall at the top of the sweeping flight of stairs.

The place was just as I’d imagined it. I remembered the photograph well. But this was no photograph for I was here, in the hallway of what used to be our ancestral home and was now considered to be a very fine wedding venue. And she was there too, not quite in the flesh, as beneath that dress and veiled head, I saw only bone and I already knew there was no future in those hollow eyes. It struck me that I should run but my legs refused the call. The maĆ®tre d’ beside me saw nothing at all and continued to talk about dates and times and guests. All at once the figure lurched and toppled, just as I’d been told she had all those years ago, breaking her neck, and a plume of ice-gray dust replaced her broken ghost upon the floor.

I was offered some water. I turned and fled.

I would marry Nick at the church of his choice, in the town hall, at the football ground if that’s what he wanted and I would never set foot in that house again. Such romantic notions are of no importance. I’d cancel that wedding dress too. I rushed home to his arms. I wouldn’t tell him where I’d been. It was a silly idea and I was cured. I would go straight in and upstairs and kiss him and tell him I loved him and that I was sorry for being such a silly, stubborn bitch.

The key turned in the lock but the door would not open. “Nick,” I shouted. “Nick?… Nick? What’s behind the door?”


Copyright: © 2008 Oonah V. Joslin

August 12, 2008

INTERVIEW - Joan Jett Is the Fox I've Been Waiting For

I remember hearing back in 2000 that Joan Jett would be in the new Rocky Horror revival on Broadway. There was that tingle of rightness, even though my own knowledge of Jett didn't extend past her big hits. Over the years since, I've become completely re-acquainted with her work and her persona, so getting to speak to her on the subject of the announced Rocky Horror Picture Show remake that MTV is determined to produce was a strange, perception-shattering experience. After all, Jett has been rocking hard for three solid decades now, with periodic sabbaticals from the public eye. I was expecting her to speak out really negatively about the new film like most fans have been doing. As usual, I'm glad to be surprised...

August 5, 2008

INTERVIEW - Leslie Bibb Finds Herself On the Winning Team

When interviewing someone, I never know what I have on my hands until they're already full. I'd watched a couple of Leslie Bibb's television interviews to prepare for our talk, but I still was really bowled over by her effortless ability to talk with intelligence and humor on virtually any subject -- and we covered quite a lot of them, even though it was before ten AM (her time, at least) and we were still both in our pajamas.

In addition to her thoughts on her recent horror projects The Midnight Meat Train and Trick 'r Treat, Leslie told me about the charity that she has helped organize called Friends of El Faro, which supports an orphanage in Mexico. This past weekend she led a kickball team to victory and won a $15,000 donation to this charity from French Connection -- but her interest in this cause is far deeper than the occasional gala event. She told me about her trips to El Faro. "I know it sounds a little Sally Struthers," said Leslie, "But I sponsor two kids, and our group is the main provider for the orphanage. I say to everyone, they may not have parents, but they have us. They have food, and they have education, and they now know that an adult can love you and touch you and it doesn't have to be a terrible thing." Wow. I told her that if she'd simply said all that to the opposing team, they probably would've defaulted on the spot.

INTERVIEW - Watch Out For Lynda Barry's Sudden Ankle-Grabbing Power

Did Lynda Barry want to tell me about her favorite horror movies? And how! I'm a longtime fan of her comic strip Ernie Pook's Comeek, and her new book What It Is is not to be missed-- but it was her ghastly, sickening, totally amazing novel Cruddy that compelled me to seek out her opinion on all things horrific and eyeball-sucking. It should come as no surprise that she was so generous and thoughtful she was with her answers, but her opinions are so incredibly refreshing that I can't get over it. Here's the article on AMC with her Top Ten, and here are her additional thoughts on the matter at hand:

More on the movie Carrie:

"I know that when I identify with the monster I have a much better time watching the movie. I like riding around in their heads and seeing things from their point of view, which is what is so great about Carrie. That might have been the gateway movie for me in terms of learning how to be a monster. The story is made so we do see things from her point of view and even when she’s locking all the gym doors and starting the room on fire and killing everyone, it’s kind of hard to blame her for it. It’s sad that she has to die, but it’s nice that she can still suddenly reach up through the ground and grab people’s ankles. That’s another power I wouldn’t mind having. I know that part was a dream sequence but to me it still counts. If I were making Carrie 2 it would be all about her sudden ankle grabbing power and other things that she could do by shooting up through dirt unexpectedly.

"The other thing that is revolutionary about that movie is she kills her own mother. What’s interesting is that De Palma does it with flying knives which is great except for the extra crucifixion sauce he pours on the scene. When I read the book I was really surprised to find that Stephen King has Carrie kill her mom in a very gentle way. I think she just makes her mom stop breathing and her mom slowly passes out and that’s it. I screamed when I read that part, not from horror but from disappointment. I just couldn’t believe Stephen King let Carrie’s mom off so easy."

On the joy of writing Cruddy:

"I can’t actually watch movies that have every squeamish detail in them. I can read books with lots of squeam-action, and I can listen to people tell me about such things, but I can’t stand to watch those things portrayed on film. The weird part about writing Cruddy was that because it was a story being told by a character, it was actually more like listening to a story than it was thinking up a story. I was very surprised to find a part of me had no hesitation about the bloodiest most violent fly covered scenes. Until I wrote Cruddy I kind of thought I was a sweet hippy with just twirly peace signs, infinity signs and ankhs in my mind. I was pretty surprised by that book and how much I loved the time I when I was writing it and really missed it when it was over."

On modern film making:

"The thing that I think has had the biggest most disruptive effect in modern film making is the constantly moving camera and fast cuts. It gives me shaken baby syndrome, like someone on speed is just whipping me around by the head."

On her favorite monster-maker:

"The person I could listen to all day long when he talks about monsters is Guillermo Del Toro. His is the only commentary I’ve ever watched that was as good as the movie itself. If you haven’t watched Pan’s Labyrinth with his commentary on, may I recommend it? That’s a guy who gets monsters and doesn’t ruin a film by talking over it. He also keeps a pretty still camera. It moves a bit, but he lets you look, really look at things."