I was driving from Indiana PA to Erie one night not a few weeks ago, my mind enmeshed in rapid succession of thoughts. It was dark outside, and I noticed little except for fleeting, flickering glimpses of surreal roadside images, ambiguous shadow outlines in the night, as my car coasted across 422, and then across 1-79, headed north. My CD player has been broken for months, so I was flipping through the channels, trying to settle on a song even vaguely satisfying, a melody that didn’t wink out into a barrage of static thirty seconds after I found it. Reliable radio stations are difficult to come by in some parts of Western Pennsylvania.
Occasionally, I stumble on an idea that really excites me. This would be a fortuitous occurrence to combat mid-day lethargy, but for better or worse, I’ve become perhaps irrevocably nocturnal. As such, it’s two in the morning, and re-reading sections of Paradise Lost for the upcoming candidacy exam has yielded a level of excitement about pondering the nature of evil – indeed, writing an essay completely committed to the topic of evil, which seems appropriate for a horror blog. And the excitement is difficult to contain. Really, I’m not exaggerating. I even thought maybe dissecting literary depictions of evil would be good fodder for a doctoral dissertation, which brought further almost uncomfortable fervor. So, I started pacing around frantically, then I decided to settle on the couch for a ten-minute meditation, to calm down and focus. I have learned, especially under the right circumstances, that I am a person who feels very strong emotions. In any case, the idea tonight is to harness those emotions into a writing product, one of my atypical miscellaneous essays for this blog, a piece of writing not tied to one particular work of art. Who knows – such meanderings may even help me shape the dissertation I need to start writing in about two years. As usual, then, I’m using whoever might be misguided enough to read my thoughts for my own academic purposes. To that end, thanks for your time. Continue reading “3 A.M. Thoughts on Evil”
I have a self-imposed challenge as an avid horror viewer: I must find an exorcism movie that truly terrifies me. Huddled with a group of giggling 12-year-olds when I was in seventh grade, I watched in near-disbelief while Regan spewed unthinkable profanity and did immodest things with a crucifix in The Exorcist. Assuredly, I was not old enough to watch the movie without being flung into a shock-provoked state of uncomfortable laughing fits (a twelve year old is hardly mature enough to take those scenes seriously), but something about that reaction seems significant when I reflect upon exorcism films almost 20 years later: Namely, the film was shocking, unorthodox, compelling – and indisputably ground-breaking for the era – but The Exorcist, along with, I think, every other exorcism film I’ve ever watched, has never really scared me. I find them interesting, and essential from the standpoint of someone who makes it a (humble, wage-less) second-living to know and review horror fare (albeit for a small number of readers), but for some reason I’ve always found ghosts a lot scarier. Don’t get me wrong: conceptually, the devil is terrifying (to the extent that I believe he exists, at least), but films rarely do justice to the horror of the demonic. The Vatican Tapes, a fairly average film, was no exception to this trend. If you like exorcism movies, it may be worth seeing, at least for comparative purposes. But, there was a small, hopeful part of me thought I might feel afraid during The Vatican Tapes. As it turns out, I did not. Read my discussion below (which, admittedly, has some spoilers) to find out why.
I waited in anticipation for The Witch. I don’t know what to liken the anticipation to, except to say that it must be a milder version of the excitement I felt for major holidays when I was younger. Maybe I was almost as excited to see The Witch as I was for the second half of season six of The Walking Dead to arrive. I mean, come on, a horror film that won “Best Director” at the Sundance film festival? How rare that someone manages to combine truly artistic, original filmmaking with the horror genre. And then there’s that trailer that appeared in the theaters and online, in which a girl is playing peek-a-boo with a baby, only to open her eyes and find that the baby has disappeared. Good film-making. Witches. Disappearing babies. What else could a self-avowed horror addict request? Continue reading “The Witch is Back”
Tonight, after a dinner at the Public House, Michael and I headed to Erie’s Warner Theater on 8th street to watch Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho on the big screen while the Erie Chamber Orchestra sat under the screen, playing the score. The experience was phenomenal. Watching musicians play the opening score while credits splashed across the screen was so exhilarating I got chills. Of course, one pivotal musical moment happens during the infamous shower scene, but the music was similarly arresting when the last remains of Marian’s car sink under the swamp, and when “Mrs. Bates” turns around, and we see her “in the flesh.” (Or, if I may, in the lack of flesh). In fact, I never realized how beautiful Psycho’s score was until I saw it produced by a live orchestra. Continue reading “We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes: Examining Evil, Psychosis, and Human Error in Psycho and Other Films”