television

American Horror Story and Universe Building

We’ve been talking about the boundaries of Murphy’s metaverse in relation to AHS. What we know exists: aliens, ghosts, Satan/demonology, witchcraft, voodoo, psychics [a la Cricket, who I have to tell you I adore], there’s hints that Cricket practices hoodoo what with the saint work, or a type of voodoo, the afterlife in a variety of forms, angels, vampires of a type, zombies both voodoo and Romero style, and apparently curses of a type.

What we haven’t really seen: cryptids, Big Foot, the fae, the Wild Hunt [which has been established in American horror-lore and folklore at this point], shapeshifters, Poltergeist-style cemetery desecration and after effects, Egyptology a la old school Universal mummy stuff, Baba Yaga [though he has established at least the loa which opens up the suggestion of deities and/or cultural spirits].

I wonder where his line for ‘this is too much, everything but that’ is.

Personally I would love to see him get his claws into the Wild Hunt and I think that the way that it’s been used by modern American horror writers makes it a really solid option for this season. I don’t think it’s going to happen [I have my own theories about this season including unreliable narrators and other such themes], but I would love to see it.

There’s also a whole range of subgenres that he seems to be ignoring, either deliberately or just due to stylistic oversight or blindness-now that we’re multiple weeks in I feel safe to say that I was actually really hoping he was going with a good Southern psych/gothic horror and wouldn’t be centering so much on supernatural methods. I love supernatural horror, but I would love to see what he could do with just people messing with other people.

I feel that Murphy is also going with a lot of old school horror tropes this season, which has me torn. On one hand I can’t necessarily get upset with him for using traditional horror structures when, you know, the point of the series, but I’m a little…disappointed? when I can tell you with some certainty who’s going to die first, have them actually die, and hope to hell that the reasoning isn’t what I fear it is. However while Murphy does tend to come in like a sledge hammer he does tend to have slightly more subtlety than that-and before anyone goes too flailing on me, he really is. I’ve written over the past few seasons about his work with the mother and the oddities (the beautiful, beautiful, necessary oddities) of his women. There’s generally more going on in AHS than a lot of people seem to be willing to give him credit for-I am not going to go so far as to say that his work is feminist [it’s not. Period.] or not flawed [in a lot of ways it is. Deeply] but he honestly lets his characters have a much deeper range of expression than a lot of series would otherwise allow them. Seriously, the sheer presence of fully developed female villains who aren’t necessarily being driven by being scorned by love interests or coming out at the end as just being ‘misunderstood’ is actually a positive development in on-screen gender expression. You mean women have the same range of motives as men do?

While I’m hoping that this season holds up to the same pattern and he’s actually going somewhere with these tropes, at the same time, he’s actually sort of due a surface level season that plays the tropes straight-this is after all a series created to do just that.

2015 Fall Viewing (So Far)

Via Pixabay

Via Pixabay

American Horror Story: Hotel

You knew you were going to get at least a passing review. I will respond to the violence criticisms with this: genre placement matters. Hello bonfires, children, the Red Wedding, what goes on north of the Wall…and pretty much the entirety of Sons of Anarchy. I am not defending the violence so much as wondering if part of the issue here is that it’s carrying the horror label. Because between Game of Thrones and SoA, I’m assuming that people who complain that this is the most violent season of television ever, they haven’t seen either. I’ve seen some comments that I’m not sure I can get behind regarding the ‘realism’ of it all; to me, SoA could actually happen. Gaga’s frolicking around, not so much.

Beyond that, I’m enjoying it. I like this season, it’s a solid season…but Coven still holds my heart as my favorite season. This is a very 1980s, slasher horror season. I’m loving the running mentions to hotel horror, and I love Evan Peters character (and how adult he is; my gods, he finally looks like a grown up this season). My love of Gaga has been confirmed-I was pretty much convinced I was going to like her going in, but I also wanted to make sure that she could carry it before making a decision.

It was disconcerting to realize that I recognized everyone featured in Devil’s Night. Because while I’m heavily interested in cultural history, I’m not interested in that aspect of cultural history. I think I probably have a post in me comparing the dark mother here versus the dark mother in Coven. And yes, I miss Lang. But honestly? It’s an enjoyable season, I will be the odd reviewer that was expecting -so much more violence- from the Internet land meltdowns, but I’m not head over heels with this one, though I certainly like it more than Freak Show.

Ash Vs. The Evil Dead

I’ve been pretty open about my dislike of traditional zombie fiction. But I’ve always liked the Evil Dead franchise. So this show was a given.

This is another one with a lot of throw backs visually to 1970s and 1980s horror (they’re trying to continue the franchise, it makes sense). The effects are goofy and over the top, in a way that actually works here.

I actually like the zombies in this one. They’re actually…creepy in a silly, this shouldn’t work but does way.

Mid calls shows like this beer and popcorn entertainment. You don’t watch it for its depth. But it’s fun.

“The second first thing I need to do…is cardio…”

Clowns and Period Inappropriate Music

things that go bump in the night

I have to admit, this season’s American Horror Story has the creepiest theme/entry of the bunch. I thought that the metallic grinding noises in last season’s entry were bad. I want to watch the opening over and over-it might be the creepiest thing that I’ve seen all fall.

This is the Clive Barker season, but last week’s (I haven’t seen last night’s yet) was totally Hitchcock-all that entry needed was a wig and a butcher’s knife. I can see why people might not like the tone, but there’s a lot of parallels to this season and Barker, circa The Hellbound Heart. A LOT of parallels, and it’s gorgeous to watch.

One of the concerns that was voiced to me prior to the start of the season was that it would end up ablist and I think I can see the concern. I’m not in any position to comment on the other side of the argument-since my issues run to the mental health spectrum and chronic pain, I can’t touch this representation in a way that I was comfortable to with the Paganism in Coven. Cliffnotes: I’m kind of glad that we finally got something to balance out Charmed, since, you know, the Dark Mother and balance and all. I will say that while there’s a lot of problematic issues (same as there always is, this is AHS we’re talking about here), the characters seem to be pretty self-aware of what’s going on around them. The way that Pepper ties back to Season 2 and her comments in that season about ‘freaks in normal society’ are telling as well. I’m not saying this is a perfect representation, but the characters seem to know where they stand in the rest of society.

I do hope that the assault in the first episode theme doesn’t end up a running thing with AHS. I don’t think it’s too radical a spoiler; it takes place within the first fifteen minutes of the first episode of the season. Even with some of the person issues in my past, I’m okay the plot necessary assault-it was in Coven, I’m not sure it was in Asylum and the plot of Monster House wouldn’t exist at all without it. I’m just not sure that Freashow is carrying that forward.

I’m greatly amused with some of the characterizations in this season-there’s a fan fiction type story in an anthology about the Hellbound Heart that has a woman ending up in Hell, very, very glad to see the Cenobites. A little too glad to see the Cenobites…better to rule in Hell? That’s what I kept thinking during last week’s episode. If you can’t beat them, join them?

This season doesn’t seem to be quite as meta as the last three, but it’s there, to a point. I wish they would back off of the Browning influence slightly, I swear I’m waiting for the troupe to start screaming ‘One of us! One of us!’ Also…what the hells is up with the completely inappropriate music? It’s actually pretty damn jarring. I’m not sure what’s going on there. Either drop that music or add in something else that blatantly anachronistic.

Candle Cove

things that go bump in the night

Fair warning: as is the nature of this blog, I’m telling you the actual truth behind Candle Cove.

Since this has proven an issue in the past, consider this your warning-I will link to the text at the end of the entry, but this isn’t just a pure retelling.

Candle Cove is a creepy pasta that originated in 2009 surrounding a children’s show named Candle Cove. Candle Cove was supposedly aired in West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky some time in the 1970s. The story starts pretty benignly- a member of the Net Nostalgia forums named Skyshale033 posted a thread requesting more information the show. Most importantly, Skyshale033 wanted to know if anyone remembered the show.

Eventually another poster named mike_painter65 stepped forward and said that he remembered the show, but only vaguely. Other members entered the conversation and things started getting weird. As the posters began to describe the odd, surreal characters of the show, it became obvious that something was off about Candle Cove. The characters were all twisted in some way-things were out of proportion, the puppets moved jerkily and most oddly, the villain of the show was something with the horrifying name of the Skin-Taker.

And then…the big clincher, when we find out what was actually going on the whole time, including what our posters remember as being the last episode of the show.

I’ll save that particular shock for you.

All in all, Candle Cove, while being longer than most of the creepypastas I favor, is actually one of the most effective of the shorts.

Ironically, Staub states that Candle Cove was written without a lot time put to the project. He cites children’s media from the 1970s as his main inspiration for the piece. Whatever the inspiration, this short has made the jump straight into modern ULs and fakelore. I’ve seen Internet forums where people became aggressively insistent that yes, this show aired, and yes, a friend of a friend had a parent who saw it in the 1970s.

 

 

 

 

 

Candle Cove-on Creepypasta Wiki

Kris Staub’s site Ichor Falls

Creepy Things that Seem Real but Aren’t: Candle Cove

Interview with Broodhollow/Candle Cove’s Kris Staub

On the Suspension of Disbelief

ghost month 2014

There was mass flailing a couple of weeks ago on one of the haunting groups I follow when one of the members of a certain big name paranormal show came out and claimed that most of the ‘evidence’ was faked.

I don’t want to sound snobby, but considering Ghost Hunters has been on the air in one form or another since I was in high school-are we still considering these shows to be ‘real’?

I actually do believe in the paranormal-and I have never once looked at one of those shows as being ‘proof’ of life after death. Maybe proof in the human mind’s ability to freak itself out. But not proof of the afterlife.

So why do people watch these things? This is a question I get a lot-in some form of how does someone who’s fairly well educated still get something out of a show about a plumber chasing ghosts. You can’t possibly believe these things, can you?

Guys, it’s entertainment. I find ghost media entertaining. I like ghost stories. I don’t know why. I can understand the confusion, I really do-I really don’t get why people are into rom coms. That’s not a hit against people who like rom coms, I really just don’t get the appeal.

I think that if you were to push most people, you’d find that if they like these shows, they don’t believe in them either. It’s about pushing boundaries and exploring ‘what ifs’. It’s not about the fact that the house needing new pipes-it’s about what could be going on that still makes the universe magical.

Strange

Monster of the week shows can get old, fast, and it sometimes seems that every thing that can be done has. And every show is going to have the time loop episode, and there’s going to be some sort of moral overtone to the nature of the monster. In the case of Supernatural, the Winchester brothers have a nasty habit of coming down against anything they deem ‘pagan’-don’t get me started about both the nastiness and stupidity of a continual desire to kill pagan gods. And yet I still watch anyway. And Grimm tries to humanize the monsters; that’s not necessarily a bad stance to take, but a stance nonetheless.

One of the aspects that I like about both of the aforementioned shows, even with their own weaknesses, is that they like to go off of the path at least a little and pull from world mythology. I like shows that can show us new monsters and myths even while using the same formula and the same heroes.

This is where I fall in love with shows like Strange. Following the misadventures of the titular John Strange and his companion by fate Jude, Strange is the tale of Strange’s attempts to track down and stop various demons. However, Strange is fairly bumbling, Jude has some life problems that she has to work through due to plot elements, and the Church of England very much so does not want Strange to be in the middle of this at all.

A BBC production, Strange likes to work within the bounds of world mythology with monsters ranging from Jinn (the show’s spelling) and Celtic fae. Yes, fae, that’s me dancing in the corner because anyone who’s followed my reviews has had to deal with me wondering for years why we’re not seeing more traditional fae and less pretty pretty princess butterfly wings. Bring on the sidhe.

Produced in 2003 there is only one seven episode arch so my dancing is short-lived. However, I’ll take seven episodes of Strange over seven seasons of the Winchester brothers, if I honestly had to choose.

Hemlock Grove

I didn’t think that I enjoyed Hemlock Grove until I looked up and realized that I had been streaming the show for five hours.

The thing about Hemlock is that this show is all about women. While the storyline centers around a sort of masculine paranormal coming of age, it’s the feminine-and a type of divine feminine, yes-that pushes this show forward. The big symbol that drew me in, though certainly not the first, was the character of Shelly and the interplay that she has with the Hecate archetype. I love any show that plays up the psychopomp, even if it is interesting to see the Persephone role played by a male character; however in this case it is most certainly Roman who is stolen into hell.

Shelly is such an interesting character. Almost the prototypical monstrous, silenced female she is the one character who forces her voice. Every other character in the show is allowed his or her voice because of their social standing, but her very nature-the implication of artificiality and the apparent lack of a physical voice-strips her of the privilege of speech. It’s telling here that while it is likely that the Frankenstein trope is called after the mother of the monster/science genre, that Shelley was also one of the mothers of modern feminism-quite literally the woman who forced the silence surrounding the experiences of femininity to break.

It is also telling that it is this character who becomes Roman’s psychopomp as he begins to face the reality of hell. Being a creature who straddles the two roles she takes on the multi-faced role of the guide. In the in-between Roman is shocked to find himself both on her ground, the place that she calls her room (her habitus) and interacting with her with her own language (what becomes her own field). He is stunned because she has a rich, highly developed and nuanced interrnal dialogue even though we as the detached viewer have known that this dialogue and language has existed from the beginning of the show. In most cases I would argue that this is an accidental development but I think that perhaps in this case this would be an insult to the writing team.

The rest of the female characters are almost as interesting. It is interesting to watch a series where the one of the only main issues I have with the male characters is that these are high school students at no high school in America, but they seem almost flat by comparison to the females. The warrior, the healer, the monstrous mother (quite literally in at least two examples) this show, whether it intended to be or not, is about the dark side of femininity. I think one of the most telling exchanges within the series is with regards to a faerie caught in a jar-”Eventually she died…no one can live like that.” Echoes of Gilman?

I suppose that raises the question of whether or not this is a feminist piece. I think that perhaps my stance on that is similar to the argument surrounding that Dove ad-maybe the message is more important that the vehicle through which the message is expressed. The piece doesn’t have to be feminist, is what I’m arguing. If the message is coming through then it doesn’t matter. And in this case, Hemlock has a ton to say about gender and it’s not just saying it, it’s screaming it. I think however that as with a lot of gender in horror, people may not be entirely comfortable with that message-if only because we’re more used to gender being played with in a lighter arena. But I think Shelley would be okay with her name being invoked in this piece.