Sunday, April 4, 2021

Easter 2021: The Dawn is Coming

 So I was talking with a friend of mine this morning about how grief isn't linear in the way we understand time. It's not like the loss hurts, then hurts less, then less, then doesn't hurt and we're all better THE END. People think it goes like that, and yeah,  after time the pain might not stab you in the face as hard every day, but it's still just as strong, it just looks different, so we don't recognize it the same way. Like at first, you eat a donut and you burst into tears because OMG THEY USED TO EAT DONUTS TOO!!! And you cry, and it hits you in waves every time you do something you used to do with that person, and now you have to do it alone. But after time, instead of the horrible pain, you'll feel a smile come to your face because you'll be eating a donut and you'll remember that time you ate donuts and got sprinkles stuck to your nose and you laughed and all that love you felt for that person will be in your heart, and it didn't go anywhere, it's just as strong, but it's different, because now instead of just being sad the person isn't there, you're grateful they were there at all. Because that's the thing, grief isn't just pain, it's LOVE, and the love is still there, and sometimes it hurts like hell because you miss what's gone, and sometimes it makes you smile because you realize how lucky you are that you got to experience that love.

So I'm saying all this, or trying to say it, and I'm trying to give examples of things you might do that someday may bring a smile to your face, because they remind you of that person and that love, and those things are important to you, even if you don't always remember WHY, because those things remind you of that person and that love.

And I stopped short, one hand in my hair unraveling my braid, and stood there like I'd just run into a wall, because I was remembering those small things I do in my life that bring me comfort, even if they look weird to other people because they don't understand, like watching horror movies to comfort myself when I'm sad, or always standing in my tiny kitchen when I'm drinking with friends, even if it's the smallest room in my house...and then, in mid-sentence, I realized for the first time WHY I always stand in the kitchen when I'm drinking with friends, and it never occurred to me until just now, and I said "Oh my God" out loud.

Back in 2008, I had friends over to my apartment which was still relatively new to me back then, and we were hanging out, and one of the guys kept picking on my friend Mike, saying "dude, you're so gay," because that's like, the worst insult ever, dude. So Mike got up and walked into the kitchen and I got tired of the rowdy bunch so I went into the kitchen to check on Mike,  and he was standing in the corner by the fridge, chugging vodka from the bottle, and I asked if he was ok, and he looked at me with haunted eyes and asked "how does he know? How does he know I'm gay?"

And we stood there for awhile, passing the bottle back and forth, and I had no wise words of advice, because I was still struggling with my demons, too. But we stood there together drinking, and we felt less alone. Michael killed himself later in that year, and I tell this story sometimes because he was my friend and I loved him, and it's an important memory to me, but I swear to God, I never even thought about why I always stand in the kitchen and drink when I'm drinking with friends, but that's why. Because it reminds me of friendship and how I'm not alone.

It amuses me to no end that I would stop dead in the middle of a story about how we live with grief because I was shocked to finally realize one of the ways I deal with grief that I never understood until now. I enjoy being my own object lesson, thank you very much. But this hits home for me even more now, because it's Easter, and the Easter story has always resonated with me because of the way people handled the grief over Jesus's death. 

Sometimes it seems like we read these stories of people weeping at the tomb and we think how silly they are, they didn't understand Jesus's message, they didn't "get it." But all I see are sad people missing their friend. In the book of John chapter 20, Mary goes to the tomb to get Jesus's body, because that's what you did back then when someone died, and she's shocked to see the stone rolled away from the tomb and see that it's empty, and she doesn't know where Jesus is. In verse 11, she's standing there weeping, because Jesus is gone and now these things you do when someone dies, these tangible things that help you remember the person who is gone, she can't do them because the body is gone, and her heart is breaking all over again. 

In verse 13, angels appear and ask her why she's crying, and my heart is ripped out when she says "they have taken my lord away, and I don't know where they have put him." Then Jesus himself appears, but she doesn't recognize him, and she is desperate, so she begs "sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where he us, and I will get him," and my heart gets stomped even harder. Then Jesus reveals who he is, and she is overjoyed, and she runs to tell the good news, and that is beautiful and amazing,  but the older I get the more I appreciate that sorrow that came before the joy. That fear that all was lost. Those small tangible things Mary was going to do to take joy in Jesus and remember him.

That's how grief is to me. In the beginning,  it's the small, tangible things we can do that help us remember the person we lost. And it's sorrow, and weeping, and pain. Then over time, the small, tangible things might make us smile, or bring warmth to our hearts, and we might not even realize why. Like me standing in the kitchen to drink with friends. It just feels RIGHT, and I can't always explain why. It's because those people we love, they are never really gone, because their memory and their love remains, and there are pieces of that love in every place they went, and that love brings us comfort and joy. That's the good news that Jesus shared. That all is not lost, it's not hopeless, it not over. Death has been overcome. We can have joy, but the weeping has to come before the joy. Because that weeping is one of the ways we show how much we love the people we've lost. Someday the mourning might turn to dancing and the tears might turn to a smile, but the love is always there. 

I want to close with this, because I've loved this song ever since before I could talk, and I think a part of me knew even back then that this was a really DEEP THOUGHT for a children's movie, but "The Last Unicorn" sums it up this way:


🎶When the first breath of winter

Through the flowers is icing

And you look to the north
And a pale moon is rising
And it seems like all is dying
And would leave the world to mourn
In the distance hear her laughter
Of the Last Unicorn

I'm alive, I'm alive🎶

It may feel like all is dying, and will leave the world to mourn, but grief is still love, and hope is still alive. And the dawn is coming.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Robert Dunbar Speaks the Truth, Yo

 So this is a funny post to me. Back in 2007 when I sought out author Robert Dunbar's book "The Pines," it was because I had heard his book was horrible and violent and awful, and it was, and back then I thought life was terrible, and this was all we had to hope for, so I read it. And gave me what I thought I wanted. Horror and gore and pain.

See, the book is all about a woman who has a mentally disabled son, and her life is horrible and hopeless,  but slowly she begins to discover there may be something more, and beyond the horror there may be hope. And young 20s me, I rejected it. I told people there was nothing there but gore and pain. But parts of the story niggled at my mind. So when a second part to the story was released, "The Shore," I  read it. And my heart swelled.  Because here, in the midst of all the horror, lay some hope. Finally! And I was afraid, but I was hopeful! And then, months later,  came the third book in the trilogy, "The Streets, "and I was afraid (for good reason) but here lay even more hope! And I wanted to share it!

Because here is the bare truth, unedited. Horror has always given me hope. From when I was 10 years old and I saw a movie where people on a cruise ship were fighting Jason Voorhees, and I knew people would always strike out against evil, I knew good would always try to win. And maybe the 8th movie in the "Jason Voorhees" saga was terrible,  but maybe it gave me hope and that's ok because the bad might be all around us, but we can still strike out against the evil. And that might seem stupid, and the small good things are tiny against the big, flashy evil that is Jason Voorhees,  but we can still fight. Even if it is small, some good is better than nothing.

So 10 year old me, she had lots of non-movie  related reasons to give up. But she still had hope. Found in the middle of the horror. 

So here comes 30 year old me, who has a college degree and a lot of reasons to ignore the horrors of her past, and a lot of reasons why these books by Robert Dunbar shouldn't be considered "literature, " and here  I could trail off into oblivion, but here we also find hope...even the characters who are doomed to darkness and to death, here even the woman from the opening sequences is given a voice as the evil sucks her soul into darkness and to death, here we see her sink into nothing, but she still has something to say. And we know her story mattered. Because she was a person and maybe even our stories which fade into darkness and to death might matter. Because we are people too. 

I may not gave the bravery yet, to write about the woman in the book "The Shore," who is abused and beat down but still transforms into some sort of powerful, because even horrific abuse can't hold her down and silence her forever, but soon I will tell her story,  and soon her power will overcome darkness and death  and I thank God for the power I have, and the power you have, to fight against the evil, even as you sit in the darkness and wait for the sunrise. The night is dark, but the dawn is coming.  In Jesus's name,  amen. 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Pet Sematary: Do You Get It?

 So I watched the "Pet Sematary" remake, and then I read all the other reviews online, and I started to understand that our different reactions to the movie might be part of a bigger misunderstanding about the whole story. Who knows.

So when I was a kid, "Stephen King" was the name that represented " horror and everything bad" with the world. My whole chdhood,  my mom told me could never read Stephen King books until I was old enough to "understand them." At some point that became when I was 12 years old, so soon after my 12th birthday,  I asked her if I could read a Stephen King book, and she sighed, and said yes, as long as it wasn't her nemesis "The Shining." She had seen the movie, and that was too perverse for her.  So I ran to the horror section the library, and the only title I recognized on the shelf was "Cujo," so I went to check that book out, but it turned out someone had just turned in the book "Pet Sematary," so I asked the librarian which book was better, and she told me "Pet Sematary" was her favorite,  so I decided to check that out instead.  So that was the first book I read of Stephen King's. "Pet Sematary."

The funny thing is,  the first time I read that novel, my reaction was what every publicist would want: that the book was scary and terrifying. Because it was. But the thing is, I read the book like 2 years later (I was a kid trapped at home, I didn't have much to do) and the second time I read the book through, I discovered the secret. The book isn't scary, it's SAD. Like totally depressing,  in a soul-crushing way. 

This main character tries to start a family, and it gets hard and scary, because the world is totally dangerous for kids, so he moves to a place where life is supposed to be better,  but death follows him, but then he discovers that maybe death can be overcome, so he tries to beat death, but death and evil corrupts everything he loves until he has no choice but to surrender to the evil in the hope he can turn it around.  And that's how the book ends. With him trying to turn the evil around,  but we know it probably won't work. 

So here comes the remake movie, and almost from the beginning it takes a different path from the one the original movie takes, so it goes in a different direction,  but it ends in the same way the original ends. And maybe that's the problem. See, I'm not the same 12 year old who read the original novel back in the day.  I'm over 20 years older than that. I've lived through a lot. So I can see different ways out that probably 12 year old me couldn't see. But still...the ending of the remake of the movie resonates with me in a way that a way the original might not. Because...I can see death triumphing over life. Depressing,  right?

Maybe it doesn't feel right,  but it seems wrong to condemn a movie just because it ends the horrific way i always feared the original would. To darkness and to death. This is how the book is heading, and that movie,  with the "car door unlock sound" that it ends with, seems fitting in a way the original movie failed to capture. Everything will be corrupted. Here it comes. Maybe the original movie didn't have the guts to say it,  but here it is. The end of everything. To darkness and to death.

The part of me that tries to believe that things can be good wants to argue with this. Say not all hope is lost,  things can still turn around. But part of me holds fast,  because it remembers a time when no one listened to me because I was "crazy." I used to try and tell my family that things were wrong, things were broken,  and everything was going to sink into darkness and to death if we didn't turn things around...and it all came to naught. Because it turns out,  everyone would rather I disappear than listen to what I was saying.  So either I had to disappear or leave...so I chose to leave, and I lost the only family I had known.

The trick of being the only person who sees the bad in the midst of everyone who insists everything is fine is that you spend the rest of your life worried that everything might be ending even when everything might be ok. And it's ok. You're not broken. You've just been gifted with the curse that you see the terrible truth that no one else wants to see.

So when the ending of this movie comes, are you surprised? I wasn't surprised,  but I  felt like my stomach had been punched,  and I felt the horror that I think the original movie was supposed to give me, and I couldn't be mad.

This story is horror, no matter what form it takes. Boo. Just like  a 12 year old who doesn't know what she's getting herself into,  let's approach this story and say "damn, you got it right." The real horror. Whether we want to see it or not.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

2021 So What have we Learned so Far

 One thing that has been made abundantly clear for me throughout my life as a lover of horror is that people don't get it. They don't understand why I'm drawn to the horrible and the grotesque and the evil that walks among us unknown, until it shows itself, and then when it shows itself in movies, those movies are condemned.

Seriously, it's caused many an argument. One time I was talking about the movie "I Spit on Your Grave," which has an infamous almost half hour rape scene in it, and someone asked me why I still said the movie is worth seeing. And I said  "well, rape is horrific, and if it's going to be portrayed in a movie, i want them to show it is horrific, and not some sanitized Hollywood bullshit." He told me this made no sense. I don't blame him, because a lot of people would agree with him.

So I promised to make this big blog post about the book "The Shore" by Robert Dunbar, and I promise I totally meant to follow through with that, but I got to this part early in the book where a woman is treated let's say "badly," and even though I guessed back then what might be happening,  and I can confirm now is actually what might be going on, it hit me in the gut. 

It hurts to have a male character telling a female character who is tied up that she,"makes him" do this, because it rings too true to real things that have really happened to me. 

But isn't that the whole point? These books, "The Pines," "The Shore,"and "The Streets" are important because they show an aspect of life that isn't shown often in our world, and it hurts because our lives have necessitated that we tell lies about ourselves for so long that we've forgotten who we are and where we came from. Maybe these books are a step forward in telling the truth about our lives, no matter how painful it may be. I pray this is the truth, and I promise to put on my big girl panties and try to face the truth. Because it is important 

In Jesus's name,  amen.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

2020 October Horror Challenge #101: "Halloween (2018)"

 





I've loved John Carpenter's "Halloween" my whole life. It feels like home to me, trick-or-treating, eating candy, telling ghost stories with friends, and being afraid of what lurks in the shadows. That movie is the essence of Halloween to me. I like most of the sequels, I even like the remake, and when I heard about this new, revamped version, I was excited to watch it, too. I'm hoping it captures at least some of the magic of the original movie. Michael Myers is and will always be the boogeyman, after all.

In this movie,  it's been 40 years since Laurie Strode survived the vicious Massacre on Halloween night, where Michael Myers killed all her friends and almost killed her too. Laurie Strode still has scars from that attack long ago, both physical and emotional. She's had a rough life, a few divorces, lost custody of her daughter, has a rocky relationship with her granddaughter. Her life is kind of a mess, but at least she's alive. Unfortunately, Michael Myers,  who has been in a catatonic state in an institution since the murders, but when a patient transfer goes haywire, Michael escapes, and he's on his way to finish Laurie once and for all. Little does he know, she's expecting him and she has her own plans to send him to hell once and for all.

I'm going to sound like the hugest nerd in the world, but I loved the opening credits of this movie. That haunting theme music, the smashed jack-o-lantern slowly regenerating itself, seeing the actors I  was excited to watch in the movie ahead (Jamie Lee Curtis of course, and Judy Greer too! I love her! She plays Laurie'sdaughter Karen) That definitely put me in the mood to watch the movie. This movie pretends none of the sequels happened, and it's just picking up after the events of the first movie, so the confusing,  twisty timeline is simplified. I like how one teenager asks another if Laurie Strode was Michael Myers ' sister and she sarcastically replies "no, someone made that up." HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Good one.

I kinda feel bad for Laurie Strode in this movie. I'm sure that she's annoying with her constant fear of the boogeyman, and Judy Greer plays her long-suffering daughter who's sick of her mom's alcoholism and general fear of the world, and I empathize, but I still feel bad for Laurie. If you think about it and someone killed all your friends when you were a teenager and you saw him get stabbed, shot, and fall out of a second story window, you'd be messed up too. I would be terrified of a killer who seemingly can't be killed. Yeah, living your life in fear is a bad idea, but still, I can empathize.

There are some great scenes in this movie. There's a stalk and  slash sequence in a bathroom that rocks, there's a great part where Laurie's granddaughters friend is babysitting and Michael has other bloody plans. I love everything about this scene. The babysitter's fun banter with the kid she's babysitting reminds me of Laurie and Tommy's in the original movie, and it made me connect with the character, which was nice (though I'm kinda pissed...if a kid says there's a man in his room and you promise to look but you don't even bother to look in the closet, you're a dumbass).

It's cool to see the role reversals in this movie. In the original,  Laurie was the shy, quiet girl who loved babysitting, but in this movie, her granddaughter is the one out partying while her friend stays in and babysits. Karen may have hated her mom's fear and paranoia growing up, but when her own daughter Allison is missing, she's the one losing her mind and screaming at cops while her mom has to calm her down. And no one can replace Donald Pleasance,  but Haluk Biligner, who plays Michael's psychiatrist in this movie, comes pretty close. His voice sounds so much like Donald Pleasance that I had to do a double take more than once. Plus his character is great in this movie too. I love that twisted obsession he has with Michael Myers (very reminiscent of Dr. Loomis). The scenes of Michael stalking the streets of a small town are great, the final home invasion showdown is cool (I love that nod to the original where Michael falls off the roof then you look back and he's gone...apparently he's not the only one with that ability) and overall I just really enjoyed this movie. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

2020 October Horror Challenge #100: "The Stepford Wives (1975)"

 




This movie is based on a book written by Ira Levin. So was "Rosemary's Baby," and when I watched that movie, it sucker punched me out of nowhere and haunted me for days. After that happened,  I turned into a big baby and chickened out of ever watching this movie, so the DVD has been sitting on my shelf for like 14 years. The thing is, I know everything that's going to happen in this movie, I've had the whole plot spoiled for me over the years, but I also knew everything that was going to happen in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" too, and look how that turned out. I've managed to conquer my fears and watch some other movies I was afraid to watch this year for the horror challenge, so here goes.

I'm sure you know what this movie is about. A woman named Joanna played by Katharine Ross, moves with her husband and children to a small town to get away from the city. There's something weird about the town though. The men are a tight-knit group who seem to be keeping secrets, and most of the wives seem vapid and subservient to their husbands. The only real friend Joanna can find is Bobbie, played by Paula Prentiss, who is another new transplant to the town of Stepford who agrees that the town is a little creepy. They begin digging into the town's history trying to find answers, and what they discover is horrifying. 

So it's obvious that this movie has feminist overtones. The men of Stepford have boorish,  outdated views on how women should behave, and their vision of the ideal wife is obedient to her husband, has no real interests of her own, and lives to serve her man. Needless to say, this doesn't go over well with the new wives who move to Stepford and want to have lives of their own that don't revolve around pleasing their husbands.

The thing is, Joanna is kind of a jerk. She's on her husband's case a lot and wants to argue with him a lot, and I get how that can be annoying,  but that's just what having a relationship with another human is like. You're going to butt heads, disagree, compromise. Would you really want to trade that in for a marriage to an obedient little robot who agrees with everything you say? I wouldn't,  and I would hope most people wouldn't want that either. Movies like this where people want to control their spouse just get under my skin, so the whole movie experience is uncomfortable for me (that's why they call it horror though, I guess). This kind of movie will always be more horrific for me. I can watch a million monsters rip people's heads off, but give me a movie like this and I want to cover my eyes and cower in fear.

The scariest part about watching this movie is watching Joanna grow more and more terrified as time passes because she sees the way the women in town act, she sees her friends change from women with personality to robotic, obedient little drones, and she knows that it's going to happen to her soon, and there's nothing she can do to save herself. Her husband who used to love her now wants to order her around like she's a pet, and she doesn't  know what's happening or how to stop it. When Joanna is confronting her former friend Bobbie trying to get her to admit that she's changed, or snap her out of whatever trance she seems to be in, and she's crying, yelling "when I cut myself I bleed, do YOU bleed?" It's pretty terrifying. And the fact that her husband gives in and agrees to whatever horrible plan the town has, I want to punch him in the face. I want a partner, not a robot, and it makes me sick that people would settle for anything less. So yeah, this movie is scary, and it makes me sick to my stomach,  but in a good way that let's me know it's done its job well.

2020 October Horror Challenge #99: "Summer of Fear(1978)"

 





I'm glad I wasn't just imagining this movie. I could swear to God "Summer of Fear" was a young adult novel by the author Lois Duncan (she also wrote "I Know  what you did Last Summer") but then I thought that might just be in my head, since I only vaguely remembered the title of this book, then Amazon recommended this movie to me, and I looked it up online, and yep, Lois Duncan book. This is also an early Wes Craven horror movie that would probably have been a Lifetime movie of the week if it hadn't come out years before Lifetime movies existed. I figured since this was a Wes Craven movie, I would enjoy it, so I gave it a shot.

In this movie, a young woman named Rachel's life is turned upside down when her cousin Julia comes to stay with her family after the mysterious death of her parents. Strange things start happening, and it almost seems like Rachel is cursed all of a sudden. More and more strange occurrences happen, and soon Rachel begins to suspect that befcousin isn't as innocent as she appears. Eventually, Rachel begins to suspect that Julia is using witchcraft to control people and get what she wants.

The thing about Lois Duncan is that she flies under the radar a lot because she's this sweet lady who doesn't have cussing in her books and she seems to write "horror lite" so you underestimate  her, think her books aren't going to be that bad, and then she punches you in the face and throws you off a bridge, and you're in the water trying not to drown and wondering what the hell happened. "Daughters of Eve" is a book she wrote that is legitimately terrifying, and "Stranger with My Face" still creeps into my nightmares from time to time, and I read that over twenty years ago. I don't know how she does it, but somehow,  someway, she weaves a story in a way that it sticks with you, and wiggles its way into your mind and pushes buttons you didn't even know existed. 

This movie is a good example of that storytelling. There are these little details that are freaky in a way that I never expected. Like Julia is jealous because Rachel has a horse she loves, so Rachel puts a curse on the horse, hoping it will die, just to hurt Rachel. That's mean and cruel (seriously,  who does that? If you want to hurt people that's bad enough, but to harm a poor animal just to hurt someone who loves it?) The story also plays on the fear of being the only person who sees the evil in someone,  while everyone else loves that person. It's horrible feeling powerless and watching people around you get hurt when there's nothing you can do to stop it.

This movie deals with some themes that are common to Duncan's books. Envying someone's life so much that you try to take over their life, supernatural forces intruding onto everyday life, the banality of evil. Linda Blair plays Rachel in this movie (damn, she always gets hurt by supernatural forces) and she does a good job playing an innocent girl who's trying to keep evil from hurting the people she loves. Lee Purcell plays Julia, and she pulls off the creepy interloper role very well. The movie is cheesyand silly in places, but it works pretty well. I'm glad I watched it.