Sigh. As soon as I finally got in the right spirit, the spookiest day of the year was already over again. However, the leaves are still tumbling down, darkness falls earlier, and snow is yet to be sighted here in Zurich – so let’s preserve the spooky autumn spirit for a while longer until Christmas comes around. Therefore, since I missed my Halloween post last week, I’ll suggest a book of short stories, some spooky records, and a movie for you to check out.
Poppy Z. Brite – Wormwood
Wormwood is a collection of 12 short stories by horror writer Poppy Z. Brite and was published in 1994. First off, my review is biased. I love Poppy. Her stories are gruesome and disturbing, but the world she creates is alluring and her language often almost poetic. If you don’t believe me, let Dan Simmons tell you: “Poppy Z. Brite combines the sensibilities of a poet with the unflinching eye of a surgeon… Brite’s vision is disturbingly dark, deliciously erotic, sweetly savage, and uniquely her own.”
Need an example?
“His eyes had taken on the color of the night sky over Chinatown. One look into them and I knew tonight would be a hideous adventure that might never end. He had that wild empty glare he got sometimes, like his soul had gone out to party and left him behind and he was determined to catch up with it. Once when he had gotten that glare in New Orleans, we woke up three days later in a motel room that reeked of ash and sour vomit, wearing nothing but dirty underwear and beaded Mardi Gras masks.” (Poppy Z. Brite – Xenophobia)
“’To the treasures and the pleasures of the grave,’ said my friend Louis, and raised his goblet of absinthe to me in drunken benediction. ‘To the funeral lilies,’ I replied, ‘and to the calm pale bones.’ I drank deeply from my own glass. The absinthe cauterized my throat with its flavor, part pepper, part licorice, part rot.” (Poppy Z. Brite – His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood)
Wormwood is a good way to get to know Brite’s work. The stories are around 20 pages each and feature everything from ghosts to psychokinesis, grave robbery, the only zombie story I have ever liked, Freak Shows, a stage stunt gone horribly wrong, or an afternoon of weirdness in New York. Not all of the stories are equally brilliant, but with Brite I never have the feeling that I am merely re-reading something I’ve seen described in a similar way before. Her words and characters have a way of sticking with you. However, Simmons was right when he compared her to a surgeon: her prose is ruthless; she will let neither her characters nor her readers off without drawing some blood. So if you’re easily disgusted or freaked out, this is maybe not for you.
AFI – All Hallow’s EP (Nitro, 1999) and The Art Of Drowning (Nitro, 2000)
Perfect for the season, AFI (A Fire Inside)’s 1999 EP gives you three original autumn-themed songs plus a cover of the Misfits song Halloween. This is AFI in their hardcore / punk kind of phase, so the songs are fast-paced and at times ferocious.
1. Fall Children
3. The Boy Who Destroyed The World
However, lyrically the EP already paves the way for their fifth album, The Art of Drowning, which was released a year later and is considered a milestone in their career and named by many fans as their favorite album, even to date. From the opening line “If you can’t stand upon the water I will see you on the ocean floor” (The Lost Souls) to the haunting, slow melody of the closing track Morningstar, the album is a nicely balanced between fast and angry tracks (Smile) and slower, sometimes darkly romantic pieces (Ever And A Day; 6 to 8). Themes like dreaming, drowning (not just literally), and to an extent storytelling feature prominently in the lyrics. As a Tim Burton fan, another bonus for me is the Beetlejuice quote in The Despair Factor: “My life is a dark room. One. Big. Dark. Room.” Plus, the album features my maybe favorite AFI song: The Days of the Phoenix. To me, that show (named after a venue the band often played at before they moved on to bigger arenas) epitomizes the feeling of being at a small show, losing oneself in the music, hearing what’s new in the community, just enjoying a night away from the sometimes-drudge of ordinary life.
So, if you’ve been longing for some music that is not autotuned and overproduced but rather the honest sound of a guitar, a bass, a drumset, and a voice with a story to tell – go for it.
The Lost Boys (Joel Schumacher, 1987)
Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.
In this hit ’80s hybrid of the horror movie and the teen flick, a single mom and her two sons become involved with a pack of vampires when they move into an offbeat Northern California town. Lucy (Dianne Wiest) and her sons, Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim), move to Santa Carla to live with Lucy’s lovable but curmudgeonly father (Barnard Hughes). Lucy gets a job from video-store owner Max (Edward Herrmann), then begins dating him, while Sam hangs out with Edward and Alan Frog (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander), a pair of vampire-obsessed comic-shop clerks. Soon Michael falls in with some actual vampires after becoming enamored of one of their victims: Star (Jami Gertz), a gypsy-like vixen who is trying to hold on to her humanity even though vampire leader David (Kiefer Sutherland) wants to play Peter Pan to her Wendy. When Michael visits the cavernous hangout of David and his cronies and unwittingly drinks from a wine bottle full of vampiric blood, he becomes an unwilling member of the bloodsucker biker gang. Soon, it’s up to Sam and the Frog brothers to destroy David and his ilk without killing Michael and Star. Shot on location in the coastal California town of Santa Cruz and directed by Hollywood pro Joel Schumacher, The Lost Boys became a pop-culture phenomenon thanks to its attractive young stars, offbeat soundtrack, and hip, clever marketing campaign. The film’s tagline — “Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.” — perfectly captured its knowing mixture of attitude and gore. The effects team who transformed Sutherland and company into snarling bloodsuckers would go on to provide equally gruesome effects for Blade, another revisionist vampire flick, more than a decade later. ~ Brian J. Dillard, Rovi
What I love about it? It doesn’t take itself too seriously, it has a great sense of humor, and an awesome soundtrack. I’m not going to pretend that it’s extremely profound and will make you question your position in life – this is a movie for a night with friends, cracking up in front of the screen and eating popcorn. But it’s got something. It takes you back to a time when MTV was new and showed actual music rather than episodes of Laguna Beach and Jersey Shore. It shows you a world without cell phones or the internet, where you had to actually leave the house to make friends and hang out at the old amusement park or the beach. It’s about family loyalty and wanting to blend in with your group of friends. It’s about having to rely on comic books as your folklore-guide to killing vampires and stealing holy water during a church service to save your big bro. Maybe it’s best not to say all too much about it all and just tell you to watch it. It’s only about 90 minutes long, after all.
So, what do you guys&girls think? Have your read / heard / seen any of this? Or do you have other spooky recommendations to preserve the Halloween spirit? I’d love to get some comments, even if they only lament my poor skills as a reviewer 😉