100 Days of Horror welcomes you to ... SATANFEST 2013

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"Y'all know me, know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish! Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow ya whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', and down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back the tourists, that'll put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant! I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's too many captains on this island. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Eleven - "Bubba Ho Tep!"

Hey everyone. It's a very special blog today, folks ...

Oh my gad, when is this thang gonna end already?!

Oh yeah, like three months from now ...

I almost bailed (again) this whole project yesterday - I had one hell of a time bringing myself to watch "Beast of Yucca Flats," because even though I sort of enjoy bad B-Movies, that one was just awful. But watch I did, and almost passed out in the process. I hope those of you who attempted to watch it managed to stay awake past the first five minutes.

Anyway, I came across a recent discussion between two friends on Faceboook regarding deja vu and the paranormal and had to add my two cents. And while I am a non-believer when it comes to the existence of God, I do have some thoughts on the nature of so-called "paranormal experiences." Because proof of the soul doesn't necessarily mean proof of god in my book. A soul could simply be a side effect of consciousness and self-awareness, for all we know.

So this discussion forced me to recall an experience I had a few years back at our first apartment in Oxford, when my son Elijah was somewhere between 2 and 4.

The apartment is on Third Street above the Chinese restaurant and is an old building that has been around since at least the turn of the century. We lived in the front apartment that faced out on Third Street. It was a ghetto-ass apartment to say the least, but it was under $600 and we were just a young family starting out on our own, so we took what we could get.

At the time, I was heavily into screenwriting and spent my mornings before work and evenings before bed working on a variety of stories. I did this at an ancient PC tucked away in the corner of the oversized living room. It was in a corner by a window and I would often sit there and stare at the Oxford Hotel while formulating my scenes and dialogue in my head. These sessions were fueled by my homemade espresso in the morning and by Heinekin at night.

One morning I was alone in the apartment, my wife having left for work and taken Elijah and his brother to the baby sitters. Since moving in, we'd experienced a series of strange noises that sounded like footsteps coming down the halls, or the occasional thump! like a book had fallen over on the shelf, but upon inspection no source of the noise could be found.

I disregarded many of these incidents; we weren't the only people in the building after all, and it was pretty damn old to boot. And since I was well past my paranoid prime, where such noises would have had me clutching the covers in fear, I dismissed them without much thought at all.

What I could not dismiss, however, was the fact that our toddler son spent a considerable amount of time talking to empty chairs and staring blissfully at the upper corners in his bedroom.

I have always been of the mind that, as a child's brain (and subsequently his sense of self-awareness) develops, they lose the ability to perceive things that adults just simply cannot, barring special circumstances. As the language center develops and ideas become more concrete than abstract, the mind becomes preoccupied with Gaia and reality and that "extra-sensory" ability disappears. So his talking to corners and laughing when he was alone was off-putting at times but I also believed it was an inherent trait - and one he would likely lose over time.

And then there was the photo: Elijah sitting happily in a papasan chair, posed for a picture. And beside him, the distinct outline of what appeared to be a child, his knees drawn up, right arm hugging them to his chest, his chin resting on his knees. You could make out several features, including what looked remarkably like a face.

This was odd, but again my child seemed to be interacting enjoyably with this "entity" (for lack of a better word) so it didn't bother me to have it around. If it was responsible for the noises, I was fine with that. It's just noise. And Elijah seemed to perceive and bond with this thing, so I was not bothered in the least.

Until the morning in question, that is.

Like I said, I was alone and working on a screenplay about two lovers reunited after a crime spree. I was stuck on a scene and was wondering how to proceed when I hear a relatively loud noise coming from down the hall. It sounded like the window in the kitchen slamming shut.

But when I got there, the window was wide open and there seemed to be no reasonable source for the noise.

Whatever. I was busy, damn it. I went back to my chair and resumed staring out the window and sipping my French Roast espresso.

I was about to turn back to the computer and start typing when I thought I saw movement out of the corner of my left eye, in the direction of the hallway. I turned and saw a blanket from my bed now lying in the hallway, partially spilling into the living room.

Had that blanket always been there? I was sure it had been: I had a habit of dragging blankets around with me - something I've done since I was a kid. But did I drag one with me this morning? I just couldn't recall.

I didn't think twice about the blanket - I was ready to start creating again.

As I started typing in the codes to format a paragraph of dialogue, I had the distinct awareness that something was standing right beside me.

I didn't turn immediately to look, because I didn't quite believe it. I shook my head and resumed typing but after a few seconds the feeling was back, stronger than ever. And now, again from the corner of my eye, I swear I could see that same ghostly outline we'd spied in the picture.

Suddenly, I was in a panic. Cold sweat popped onto my brow and I had trouble both breathing and swallowing. My throat worked as I tried to gulp down air, and I was dimly aware that in my research long ago, I'd read that the presence of a spirit was often heralded by a feeling of "mortal dread."

That summed up my feelings perfectly at that very moment.

For the life of me, I could not force myself to turn my head. I just had to look, I kept telling myself. Even if there IS something there, this is an opportunity. But nothing I said to myself could bring me to look. Nothing.

Now I was really scared. My right leg was bouncing up and down a mile a minute and I started to develop a sort of tunnel vision as a result of my lapsed breathing. And the whole time, that unshakable sensation that something child-sized was sitting inches from my left elbow.

At that point, I was fearful that I would pass out. I really started to struggle with my sanity, and I was now telling myself, "This is all in your head, dude. You're just overreacting, it's your imagination, it's caffeine, it's the strong-ass herb you been smoking. It's anything but what you think it is. So relax already. Knock it off."

Seconds later, I had the distinct impression that the presence (or whatever it was) had left. Or, as I remember thinking at the time, it had "withdrawn." Whatever words you use to describe it, I was now able to move my head. In fact, I whipped it around so fast my glasses flew off my face.

Everything to my left was as it had been, including the blanket. And there was nothing else. No outline, no presence. But I was certainly left with that feeling of utter horror.

I jumped up immediately and rushed to my bedroom. Since I was at the tail-end of my flirtation with Wicca, I still had plenty of "magickal supplies" at my disposal. I quickly grabbed a censor, a charcoal block and a glass bottle filled with frankincense and put them to use, walking around my apartment in a clockwise fashion, swinging my censor, leaving billows of scented clouds in my wake, all the while chanting some form of prayer or spell (is there a difference?) under my breath. I honestly don't remember what I was chanting, but it was likely something I was making up on the spot. I was also fully concentrating on this experience I'd just had and was making it clear that my intentions now were to show this thing just what boundaries are. You can stay here, I thought, but you stay the hell away from me.

Looking back later that day, I thought to myself that maybe this spirit or ghost or emotional residue or what have you was probably just lonely. It was one of the first times Elijah had been to preschool, instead of lingering around the house all day with my wife, and maybe this thing simply wanted its playmate back. And in its loneliness, reached out to someone who was only dimly aware of its presence and couldn't give it the feedback it had come to enjoy from my son. I never sense malevolence, so to speak, but its close proximity disturbed me on a deep, deep level. One that I think most average humans would experience in similar circumstances - a reaction to something so odd, so foreign, that our minds and bodies have no idea how to react.

And after? After there was nothing of note. Nothing I can vividly recall anyway. Either my hastily performed purification ceremony had worked or the entity retreated on its own, but it was shortly after the incident when I noticed Elijah no longer talked to corners or laughed alone in his room. It could be that he now had a new baby brother to occupy his mind. It could be that his mind had progressed to the point that he no longer retained those abilities I believe some, if not most children, possess.

Or it could be I was stoned, overdosed on caffeine and just out of my head.

Call it what you will.

Here's today's movie - the inimitable "Bubba Ho Tep."

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002): Directed by Don Coscorelli. Starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis.

The Skinny: This was virtually an instant cult classic, simply because it stars the greatest actor of our time … Bruce Campbell. Campbell stars as The King himself, Elvis Aaron Presley, who it turns out is not dead but living in a retirement home in Texas. It seems The King swapped places with an early Elvis impersonator in an effort to get away from the limelight. When the man dies and an explosion wipes away all proof, however, there is no way for the real Elvis to prove his identity, and has spent the intervening years convalescing and waiting for death. Meanwhile, a mysterious mummy who sucks your soul out through your ass is killing residents one by one, and it’s up to Campbell and veteran actor Ossie Davis (as a black JFK) to save the day.

What’s Good: Bruce Campbell, that’s what’s good. Hail to the King, baby. No actually this is an entertaining and funny movie that views as a meditation on aging and sanity, as no one believes the aged heroes’ stories of the ass-sucking mummy. Coscorelli (or “Phantasm” fame) keeps the story paced with intercut background on how Elvis wound up in this high and lonesome place, while Campbell gives the performance of his career as the elderly King trying to make good on a lifetime of mistakes.

What’s Bad: Well, just about any Coscorelli film suffers from his gonzo approach to filmmaking. Scenes sometimes aren’t given the time to resolve naturally, as the director seems in a hurry to get you to the next joke or the next death or the next flashback scene. But if you overlook these minor problems, then what you’re left with is an absurd yet enjoyable movie featuring some real acting talent. It isn’t quite “horrific,” unless you consider the fact that a disgusting mummy in leather cowboy boots has to wrap his dessicated lips around your sphincter in order to kill you … well, I dunno about you but I’m uncomfortable with the whole thing.

Why We Love It: I already told you why: Bruce-fucking-Campbell. His Presley could be the best screen interpretation of the King ever. He gets the surlyness and the cockiness without dissolving into straight imitation, and also gives the King a retrospective edge that I personally believe the Real McCoy was lacking.

Memorable Stuff: Any moment with Campbell in his inner monologue is priceless (“I was dreamin'. Dreamin' my dick was out and I was checkin' to see if that infected bump on the head of it had filled with pus again. If it had, I was gonna name it after my ex-wife 'cilla and bust it by jackin' off.), and again his voicing is perfect. In fact, the whole reason for watching this movie is to watch Campbell ham it up with Davis (who claims to be the real JFK, dyed black by Lyndon Johnson to hie his identity). Also, the ending somehow comes across as both heartwarming and ridiculous at the same time – pretty much like every Coscorelli production.