Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Horror of Being Out of Control

I watched an eposide of "Law and Order" this weekend. It dealt with a girl who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, who stopped taking her meds and left a wake of carnage in her path.

Do you know anyone with a mental illness? The real kind - where they hurt themselves or suffer from paranoia or have mood swings from really great highs to really bad lows. The kind of illness where they should be under a doctor's care or on medication. That to me is a great horror. The feeling of being out of control. If you have ever made a trip to Toronto you have likely seen someone like this on the streets - the people who are arguing with someone but there is no one standing beside them. This is often something called bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally and usually shows up between the ages of 15 and 25. The exact cause is unknown, but it occurs more often in relatives of people with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder results from disturbances in the areas of the brain that regulate mood. During manic periods, a person with bipolar disorder may be overly impulsive and energetic, with an exaggerated sense of self, the depressed phase beings overwhelming feelings of anxiety, low self-worth and suicidal thoughts.

For the most part this can be balanced with medicine but people who take these medicines will often say that the cure is worse then the illness.

I would not even begin to guess at what that must be like and am grateful that I do not have to know it first hand.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Let’s Talk Some More About Phobias

I do have a fascination with people’s responses/reactions or fear to what they perceive as danger. For many these fears translate into phobias where the fear is either irrational or excessive. In other words, their reaction is an abnormally fearful reaction to a danger that is neither real or is greatly exaggerated. I find this particularly interesting when it comes to watching people's reactions to horror or violence.

Phobias affect people of all ages, from all walks of life and in every part of the world. Statistics tracked by the American Psychiatric Institute for Research and Education report that in any given year, 7.8% of American adults have phobias. They are the most common psychiatric illness among women of all ages and are the second most common illness among men older than 25.

Phobias are emotional and physical reactions to feared objects or situations. Symptoms of a phobia typically include:

 Feelings of panic, dread, horror, or terror
 Recognition that the fear goes beyond normal boundaries and the actual threat of the danger
 Reactions that are automatic and uncontrollable, often taking over the person’s thoughts
 Rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, trembling and an overwhelming desire to flee the situations.

Phobias are divided into categories according to the cause of the reaction and avoidance.

AGORAPHOBIA is the fear of being alone in any place or situation where it seems escape would be difficult or help unavailable. Some people can become so disabled they literally will not leave their homes. Interestingly, two-thirds of those with agoraphobia are women.

SOCIAL PHOBIA’s are categorized as people who fear being watched or humiliated while doing something in front of others. The activity involves is usually very mundane, like eating a meal. The most common social phobia is the fear of speaking in public.

SPECIFIC PHOBIA, as the name suggests deals with people who have a specific phobia reflected by an irrational fear of a specific object or situation, like spiders or of being in closed in spaces.

Any phobia that interferes with daily living should be treated and can be treated either with therapy or mediations.

So embrace those phobias and live it up.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"Scary Poppins?"

Incredible what film editing can do these days. Take a movie like Mary Poppins – I think we all know it. It’s the story of the loving magical nanny who comes to bring some fun back into children’s lives when they need it most. Well someone has done an incredible job of pulling together bits and pieces of the movie and turning it into a “trailer” for the movie only its presented as a Horror flick rather than a family fun movie. It completely loses it’s warm and fuzzy feeling and leaves you feeling just a little bit disturbed.

Have a look and see what I mean.

A Different Kind of Horror - Betrayal

There has been so much in the news these last few months about the melt-down of the financial markets. Governments are bailing out large companies who you would never have guessed in a million years would be in need of a helping hand but that is the "horror" of present day financial affairs.

A couple of items caught my attention this morning on my way out the door to school.

Bernie Madoff. Some of you may have heard of him. He is a former investment advisor, charged with the loss of $50 billion dollars (yes billion) of wealthy people's money in one of the biggest Ponzi schemes ever conceived. A Ponzi scheme is an illegal investment operation that pays returns to investors out of money paid by subsequent investors rather than from profit. Not only did he rob from his friends and wealthy business clients but he "lost" $3-million (U.S) of his sister's cash in the Ponzi scheme. And yet the man is still out on bail living in a $10 million dollar apartment in New York City.

Also heard a story about an Indiana businessman whose financial-management companies were under investigation who its alleged bailed out of his small plane and let it crash in what appears to have been an elaborate attempt to fake his own death. He let the plane crash near some homes and he was lucky no one was killed.

People's lives have become so complicated and desperate because people they trusted with their life savings have betrayed them. Betrayal is the worst kind of human horror.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Hostel Part II (The kind of terror that makes you jump)

For sheer “jump out of your skin” terror Hostel Part II delivers. This is a great video rental.

Plot: Beginning where Hostel ended, Paxton, now in seclusion with his girlfriend Stephanie, disregards her plea to report his friends' deaths. In the morning, Stephanie discovers Paxton's decapitated body in the kitchen being licked by a kitten. In Slovakia, a mysterious package is delivered to Sasha, the owner of the entire money-for-murder business that begins in the “Hostel”. In Italy, art students Beth, Whitney and Lorna are convinced by Axelle, a model they were drawing, to join her on a spa vacation. The party travels to a small Slovak village and checks into the local hostel and retires to their rooms, allowing the desk clerk time to upload their passport photos to an online auction website, where American businessman Todd bids on and wins Whitney and Beth for himself and his best friend Stuart.

What follows is a nightmare for the girls.

The Silence of the Lambs

Silence of the Lambs, another favorite film.

Plot: Young FBI agent Clarice Starling is assigned to help find a missing woman to save her from a psychopathic serial killer who skins his victims. Clarice attempts to gain a better insight into the twisted mind of the killer by talking to another psychopath Hannibal Lecter, who used to be a respected psychiatrist. FBI agent Jack Crawford believes that Lecter who is also a very powerful and clever mind manipulator have the answers to their questions to help locate the killer. Clarice must first try and gain Lecter's confidence before he is to give away any information.


Stephen King - The Author

As writers of horror go, Stephen King is probably one of the most famous names. His novels and movies have been read and seen by millions of us. For me personally his early novels are his best. Simple and straight forward terror.

Stephen Edwin King was born in Portland, Maine September 21, 1947, the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his parents separated when Stephen was a toddler, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father's family lived, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother moved the children back to, Maine, for good.

Stephen attended school in Durham, Maine, graduating in 1966. At University, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He graduated from the University of Maine in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach at the high school level. While most of his friends were drafted to serve in the Vietnam war he never served in the army as he was found unfit for duty due to high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.

He and Tabitha Spruce married in January of 1971. He met Tabitha in the library at the University of Maine, where they both worked as students. As Stephen was unable to find a job right away as a teacher, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and Tabitha’s student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from Stephen’s short story sale to men's magazines.

In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching high school English classes at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.

His big break came in the spring of 1973, when Doubleday accepted the novel Carrie for publication. On Mother's Day of that year, Stephen learned from his editor at Doubleday, that a major paperback sale would provide him with the means to leave teaching and write full-time.

At the end of the summer of 1973, the Kings moved their growing family (1 girl and 2 boys) to southern Maine. Stephen wrote his next-published novel, originally titled Second Coming and then Jerusalem's Lot, before it became 'Salem's Lot, there.

Carrie was published in the spring of 1974. That same fall, the Kings left Maine for Boulder, Colorado. They lived there for a little less than a year, during which Stephen wrote The Shining, set in Colorado. Returning to Maine in the summer of 1975 the Kings purchased a home in the Lakes Region of western Maine. At that house, Stephen finished writing The Stand, much of which also is set in Boulder along with The Dead Zone.’

Maine is now home. Mr. King is working on a new novel entitled Under the Dome, it’s a reworking of an unfinished novel he tried writing twice before and its set to be published sometime this year.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Night of the Living Dead - The Original

What piece of horror art or entertainment changed the genre of horror films?


I think without question it ushered in an era of graphic horror even more than any of the gore flicks that preceded it did. It was graphic and grim and realistic. The zombie rules it established have been so widely copied in films that followed.

The plot is simple. Set in a rural Pennsylvainia farmhouse and battling constant attacks from dead locals who have been brought back to life by mysterious radiation, human nature is put to the test.

This movie is fantastic. There are still very few great horror films out there, simply because they do not display true human nature under terrifying circumstances. Night of the Living Dead is a beautifully created film that has earned its place in both film and horror history.

Poetry and Horror

One area of the horror genre that I have not yet touched is poetry. I confess that poetry is not my most favourite type of reading but I do have a few favourites that if read in the proper setting and letting your imagination soar can bring the same terror that a good movie or story brings.

Edgar Allan Poe was an American poet and short story writer. In the world of literature he is credited with contributing to the early appearance of science fiction in writing. He died at 40 years of age and lived a life that seemed to fit effortlessly with his ghoulish writing. The following is probably his best known work and should be read when you are alone, by the light of a single lamp – for proper affect.

The Raven ( first published in 1845)

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!