It’s Halloween, so what better time to talk to you all about the masks or mask-like uses of make-up that annoy, upset or absolutely terrify me.
One of my earliest memories is of a television commercial promoting an Alice Cooper concert in Dallas. I must have been three or four at the time. I was absolutely terrified by his appearance, with the heavy eyeliner that appeared to be running down his face, the wild hair, the marks around his mouth that might have been blood for all I knew – our old television was in black and white.
My parents decided that the best way to help me overcome my fear of this horrible man on the TV was to force me to watch it every time it came on. My father would prevent me from running from the room when it aired, holding me there and telling me over and over that it was just a television commercial, it was just a man in make-up, that none of it could hurt me. It didn’t work. I screamed and cried and still he and my mother persisted, convinced they could reason with a frightened child. I had similar reactions to KISS, mostly Gene Simmons.
Interestingly, I am not particularly unnerved by clowns. I look at a clown, and I know it’s some asshole wearing a bunch of make-up and a wig and maybe some stupid clothes. I know what the intent is behind clown make-up – to delight or terrify. When I know the intent, it’s hard to be afraid, and that is where my parents, as well meaning as they were at the time, missed the mark. I didn’t need to know that it was a commercial and couldn’t hurt me. I needed to know why the man was dressed that way, what his intent was, what he planned to do in that get-up. And of course I could not express this so young and of course my parents had no idea what was at play in my terror. Variations of not knowing the reason behind the disguise fuels my adult uneasiness around masks, I think, though surely there are other explanations, from Jungian collective unconsciousness ruling my response to just plain jitters.
There are a lot of explanations as to why it is that people wear masks and costumes at Halloween and I am loath to discuss them because to do so means I have to cover every potential reason going back to early recorded history or someone will show up and leave a very long comment schooling me on Samhain-this and Pope-Boniface-that and how it’s racist for a white woman even to say Dia de los Muertos, let alone discuss the purpose behind sugar skull make-up. But this is a time of the year that makes a woman who finds the purpose behind masks very important somewhat uneasy. And perversely, because it makes me uneasy, I expose myself to it in ways that make me even more unnerved. But I can’t seem to avoid it, and since I can’t stop poking at this canker sore in my psyche, I’ve decided to drag you all down with me.
Because I’ve had a number of people land on this site looking for what happened to MrsMisanthropy over on YouTube, I wanted to share that she’s back! I have no idea what happened to cause her to shut down her channel initially but she’s been busy uploading all her old content over the last few weeks. Here’s her new URL: https://www.youtube.com/user/prefevetler/videos.
She’s also linked to two other accounts associated with her videos that may be serving as back-up in case she ever loses content on YouTube again. Over on Vimeo, she’s Atrocity Exhibition (a suitably Oddbookian name to be sure) and she’s MrsMisanthropy on Google+. Several people had found a Google+ account for “MrsMisanthropy” but there was not enough content to know if it was her or not (and again, no idea if MrsMisanthropy is really female but I think of her as a women and will until told otherwise). Bookmark the other links in case she leaves again. I will update my links to her videos sometime today.
While she was gone, I spent time looking for other fan video makers whose musical and cinematic tastes were interesting and I found several. For now I feel I must share one specific video-maker and the films behind his fan videos because one of his videos triggered a month long endeavor that I feared was going to be a godless one. I feared I would not be able to find the originals behind the clips used in Piperbrigadista’s fan video for “Synthetic Potion” by a band called Noir for Rachel.
As I was sifting through the videos on this channel, I was immediately drawn into this one because there is something about the woman’s face that makes me want to keep looking at her. She appears as if she was confronting a voyeur, or maybe just a run of the mill Peeping Tom. Her face is so serious and beautiful in a manner that reminds me of Ingrid Bergman and Sophia Lauren. So I watched and listened and became entranced by the song and even more so by the video.
The song reminds me of what would happen if you crossed early Duran Duran with early Cure and made it all instrumental. I loved the song “Synthetic Potion” so much that I did something I’ve never done before – I bought an album off Band Camp. The album, entitled Witches, is a righteous purchase.
The video created a strange obsession in me to run to ground the movie these clips were taken from. The scene beginning at 1:05, ending at 1:48, was incredibly compelling. The woman was not confronting a voyeur, but if she was, the experience became something else entirely for her. She sees this disheveled looking man standing outside the window of her home as she is wearing a dressing gown and underwear. After looking at him for a moment, she reveals her lingerie-clad body to him and waits for his reaction.
The woman in this scene conveys so much with her eyes, mouth and a simple tilt of her head. Before she opens her dressing gown, she steels herself up. She raises her chin and takes a small step back, never taking her eyes off the man. She waits for his response. Seconds pass, and you see a bit of trepidation pass over her face and she begins to list very slightly as she stands. She takes another small step back and tilts her head in what looks the beginning of a shrug, an expression of disappointment and rejection. Then before she completes the dismissal, he steps forward and she does too, leaning toward him. Her expression only changes a bit but that bit is expansive in its depth. Her lips show a minor, almost imperceptible sneer of power, her eyes focus on him with even more intensity as he touches the glass. She’s received the reaction she wants and she wanted this reaction because she wants him at least as much as he may want her.
It was so compelling that I spent a month trying to find this film. And I finally ran it to ground but only after hours spent searching.
I’ve been consuming a lot of media on YouTube lately, mainly in the form of various “creepypasta” channels. Various people with good or interesting voices read short stories and vignettes written for online readers – Reddit’s nosleep is a good source of creepypastas – and sometimes put in appropriate sound effects. I listen to hours and hours of such readings as I sew or iron or do repetitive tasks that don’t need my full attention to perform. It reminds me a bit of old radio serials – I wonder if my grandmother did the same, listening to assorted radio dramas as she ironed or cleaned the bathroom.
Creepypastas are fun but ultimately most are pleasant diversions as opposed to something that inspires me to write about them, but the last few months I’ve found myself combing through a couple of accounts that have proven to be far creepier than story recitations that have creepiness as an actual goal. Of course, both accounts aren’t shying away from presenting unpleasant, upsetting or gross content but when it’s not the goal and it happens sort of organically, it’s all the more interesting, I think.
I used to have dreams about Lemmy Kilmister that were Christ-like in nature. In the dreams he was always a force of moral and chaotic good, leading me to sound decisions and peace of mind. I can’t really explain why I assigned to him this sort of leadership role in my subconscious and it probably doesn’t matter. He and Christopher Walken have both been Jesus-like figures to me, Christ mixed with Loki. We all have our personal gods, and, if we dont, we should.
It seems impossible that this cigarette-cured, whiskey-soaked, womanizing rock god could possibly be dead. Surely he will rise again in some way. Until he does, check out this documentary about him, worth watching not only because it’s about Lemmy but also because the scene with Scott Ian’s reaction to Lemmy going commando in cut-off Daisy Dukes is the sort of thing you need to see. He was larger than life, badder than bad, yet had no problem with his balls falling out of his shorts. It’s hilarious, but it’s also a sign of a man who was so badass he couldn’t be bothered with social niceties like underpants. Such matters were beneath him. As well they should have been. Better to live balls-out than to become neutered and self-conscious.
God, I really loved him. “That’s the way I like it baby, I don’t wanna live forever!”
I’m a woman who enjoys the holidays despite being somewhat anti-capitalist, and, though I love a wholly just society, I tire of all the extraordinary analyses of why Thanksgiving is “problematic.” Columbus was a madman and there’s nothing I can do about it now. There were pioneers, now we’re all here, some of us are queer, get used to it (and over it)!
As I prepare dishes to take to a family celebration tomorrow, I will use the mental space I receive from performing repetitive tasks to plan Yule gifts I need to make or acquire. I’ll think about where we need to put the tree this year since Boo Radley is what cat experts would call “a complete disaster.” Boo will be frightened of the tree and will become so startled he will leap up into the air, crap at the apex of his ascent, and his poop will hit the ground before he does. Alternately, a strange madness will overtake him and he will race up the tree toward the ceiling, loosening every ornament as he goes, destroying hours of decorating. He will then become afraid of the tree again and this cycle will repeat itself until New Year’s Day. And let us not even speak of Grendel and the Infestation of Two and what they can do to a fully decorated tree in under three minutes of concentrated mayhem. I often feel that had we let wolves into the house it would have been more hygienic and less chaotic.
But as I fret about all the piles of glittery cat yak that are my yuletide fate and the chores I must do before 12/25, I am also thinking about those who have come and gone, the people whose lives were spent in service to their families, who spread joy to their loved ones. Who sacrificed for those they loved. My grandparents, my mother, my step-grandmother, Mr OTC’s grandparents and his step-father. These people served their countries on the home and war fronts. They raised their children to be independent and ethical. They worked jobs for decades, in some cases using skills that were forgotten for a while only to be rediscovered when we realized complete modernity wasn’t quite the utopia we had hoped.
We’ll never have a utopia. Philosophy always beckons, reality always fails. In the meantime we just need to remember those who sacrificed for us, all those people now consigned to a history that is often remembered with mawkish sentimentality or demonized as a whole. In the middle is the truth, and it’s something to be proud of.
What’s our sacrifice? Or rather, what’s mine? I don’t know yet. I don’t think we ever know, most of us, because sacrifice is seldom dramatic. It’s the scope of a life lived in service to others and to ourselves. I have no idea if the scope of my life will be remembered or if it is worthy of remembrance.
But as I ponder historical and familial sacrifice, there are pies to be baked, and I’m going to enjoy baking them and hope that others enjoy eating them. And Tony, if you are reading this, yes, there will be rice krispies treats. Lots of them. Let’s be thankful for that, if nothing else.
I’m going to do my best to post a lot before Halloween because indulging in creepiness is one of the things I do best. I have so many creepy books, favorite creepy movies, and creepy sites to share that it would be a shame not to take advantage of this time of the year and write about all the eerie weirdness rattling around in my head.
This entry came about in my typical circuitous “getting lost on the Internet” method of gathering information. I wanted to discuss some really disturbing, dark songs about child predators, and had a specific song in mind, two songs, actually, about a predator assaulting a child and the child seeking revenge, but couldn’t remember the name of the songs or the band that performed them. In my attempts to run the song to ground, I fell into a YouTube hole that completely distracted me from my original goal. I’ll eventually discuss songs about child predation but not today because I found mystery wondering how many songs there are that are inspired by Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM. (By the way, the band I was originally searching for is G.G.F.H. and the songs are “Little Missy” and “Missy’s Revenge” and while the songs are still outre and upsetting, they aren’t as viscerally disgusting as they were to me when I heard them years ago. I fear I am becoming jaded…)
Discussing Art Bell’s influence on music is really apropos for me this time of year because I always listen to his Ghost to Ghost episodes right before Halloween. I was putting together a playlist earlier this month but when I was searching for G.G.F.H.’s body of work, I found a title that piqued my interest and it turned out to have an Art Bell sample (the Venetian Snares song I discuss below – that is the song that linked me from child exploitation to Art Bell). After listening to the song with the Coast to Coast AM sample, I decided to see how many songs I could find that were influenced by Art Bell in some manner. Art Bell is interesting and somewhat weird in his own right, a man whose life has taken several unexpected turns, and he has been a personal hero of mine ever since he sued Ted Gunderson (who is hopefully right this very minute encountering the Satan he insisted was lurking in every daycare and influencing every politician since Washington) for slandering him as a pedophile.
Art no longer hosts Coast to Coast AM (and while George Noory is okay enough, he lacks a certain edge, I think, that Art brought to the table) but his long tenure on the AM and online radio program featured many bizarre and memorable shows. One of the most memorable was the night a man who claimed he was a former Area 51 employee called into the show in a panic, revealing that the US government was being duped by inhuman creatures posing as aliens from outer space, and that these creatures meant mankind harm. He claimed to be on the run from the federal government and sounded to be completely unhinged by the gravity of his discovery. In the middle of the phone call, something happened to the satellite and at least 50 separate radio stations went dead for around half an hour. Understandably, this caused Art and his listeners to freak out, assuming that indeed the feds were tracking the frightened caller and had interfered with his attempt to share his story. The man behind the Area 51 call eventually called back to Coast to Coast and explained it was indeed a hoax but that he had no idea what had happened in regards to the satellite failure. That, evidently, was just a coincidence. There are some who still believe the Area 51 caller was real and that the later call revealing the hoax is the real hoax, but that is the nature of conspiracy. This episode is called either the “Area 51 Caller” or “The Frantic Caller.”
However real or fake the Area 51 call may have been, it’s now a part of Area 51 lore and anyone who has much interest in fringe or conspiracy culture has likely heard of it. It’s definitely influenced some musicians, famous and obscure. One of the more famous bands to sample the Area 51 call is Tool, in the song “Faaip de Oiad” from the album, Lateralus Faaip de Oiad means “the voice of God” in “Enochian” (the supposed angelic language recorded and likely invented by John Dee and Edward Kelley) – Maynard Keenan is a sort of Renaissance man of the weird and I think he runs a winery now, of all things.
“Faaip de Oiad” doesn’t freak me out the way it does many Tool fans. I think that’s because I’ve heard the source material too many times, and had heard it many times before ever hearing this song. But I can see how this would be jarring or alarming to someone who might not know the source of the jangled, frightened man talking in the middle of the song. I link to this particular video because it has the “lyrics” in the upload notes section.
Most death metal is dead to me these days. When I was younger I could tolerate indecipherable growls because the genre was still new and interesting enough to offset my neurotic desire to understand what was being sung. Though some of the bands were understandable to me, like Hypocrisy, Opeth and Amon Amarth, for me the growls were more of an instrument than actual vocals. These days not so much. The genre has suffered a sort of recursive plague wherein all the bands seem to blend together to me and the growls no longer seem like a deliberate attempt to evoke chaos and darkness as much as they seem aggressively derivative. Worse, much of the content in death metal has taken on a cartoonish slant, so bludgeoning and over-the-top that it no longer seems outre but rather seems ridiculous bordering on tiresome. I find myself listening to more melodic death metal, which means I also find myself listening to folk metal and, god help me, prog rock hybrids.
All of this exposition hopefully explains why I haven’t been paying attention to death metal and how the band Job for a Cowboy and, more specifically, their video for “Tarnished Gluttony” are just now coming to my attention. I need to listen to more of the band’s songs to see what I think of them as a whole but I was really impressed with “Tarnished Gluttony” as a song and especially as a video. The singer(s?)’s vocals are completely unintelligible to me but there is a theatricality to the music that renders a lack of understanding far less important. The growls verge into screams that harked back to the days when black metal didn’t fill me with despair. But before I praise the band’s style overmuch, I need to track down more of their body of work. Until then, let’s discuss this video.
Warning: This video is violent, gory, and features the death of a child.
I watch this video every night before going to sleep because I’m sort of obsessed with it. It’s almost like a bedtime story, and given how much an homage it is to Lovecraft, it’s a creepy story, too, though no creepier than anything Perrault wrote as a fairy tale.
When I first discovered this video I watched it several times in a row and then forced Mr OTC to watch it too (and he actually enjoyed it, no small praise for a song when a man is mostly into old country, zydeco, and, inexplicably, the Talking Heads). We both have read Lovecraft but of the two of us Mr OTC is the far bigger Lovecraft fan and it took him a couple of goes before he had a handle on what was happening.
Of course now it is clear that a Lovecraftian Deep One sired a child with a human, and that child appears fully human (though in the literature Deep Ones could maintain a completely human appearance until they reached adolescence and sometimes even later). It seems as if the Deep One is sacrificing his human child to Dagon, returning the boy to the sea. And the only reason I even wanted to find out what exactly was happening in this video was because of the nuanced and emotional acting skills of Morten Klode, the actor who portrayed the adult Deep One.
His grimaces and hesitations show he is not a particularly willing participant in this sacrifice. His tender stroking of the boy’s cheek shows affection for this child – this isn’t some random kid a Lovecraftian horror is killing to appease an Old One. His rushed hurry to begin once he realizes the child may be awakening shows he has no wish to cause this child pain. His anguished scream at 4:01, after the sacrifice has begun – it was deeply affecting the first time I saw it.
But there are some seriously creepy elements to this video. The undressing of a small, unconscious child in the woods is unnerving. And of course eviscerating said child is difficult content. The most unsettling part of this video for me was when the Deep One licked the needle before he began to stitch up the child’s abdomen. Anyone who has sewn much knows that sometimes a blunt needle or pin needs lubrication before it can penetrate certain cloth. It’s unlikely that this needle needed any help with the first stitch into the child’s stomach but that lick of a blunt needle or pin is often the reflexive action of a person well-accustomed to old-fashioned diapers using safety pins. A quick lick of the pin ensures it goes through the thick flannel quickly and there’s less chance of pricking a squirming child. You don’t see that too much these days with prefolds and velcro tabs and the like and I am very likely assigning a motive to this action that is not part of the directorial intent but for me this small action was fatherly, showing a man who had, at some point in the past, cared for this little boy, a man who knew his way around the more visceral elements of child-rearing taken to an extreme. And the way he blankly threw the needle away. Just the numb disgust and misery written all over his face. It was a mild devastation when he tossed that needle into the leaves.
It’s remarkable when a music video engages in such attention to detail, and all the more remarkable when it is a death metal video engaging in such nuance. I’ve become accustomed to the aforementioned club-across-the-face approach of songs and videos like Cattle Decapitation’s “Forced Gender Reassignment.” (Jesus Christ, this link is NSFW and NSFL). I get and sort of approve of the intent behind the song and video but if I want to assault my psyche that way I can just watch Human Centipede II: The Full Sequence and at least then I know what the hell everyone is saying.
(For the record I had to look up the lyrics for “Tarnished Gluttony” and the song is kind of up my alley, lyrically, but the video is not related to the song’s content in any manner that seems obvious to me.)
Morten Klode reminds me of someone. I don’t know who but his face is damnably familiar to me. As I saw him acting in this video my mind was clicking away in the background as I tried to determine where I had seen him before. I looked him up and he has only three credits on his IMDb page and I’ve only seen one of them, this video. Yet each time I watch it a feeling of familiarity washes over me. I hope Klode finds himself with more work in the future. You don’t expect to find acting chops of this caliber in a music video – I’m actually rather surprised to see that he doesn’t already have a feature-length film under his belt.
Any other videos or bands you think will impress me this much? If so, let me know. And let me know what you think of this video (and if you have any work for which Morten Klode would be a good fit, hire him – we need to see more of this man in film!).
Wes Craven died this evening. Evidently he had brain cancer. He was 76, which still seems far too young for him to die.
Everyone knows him from the Nightmare on Elm Street films. The first in the series was quite good, but eventually Freddy Krueger became too campy, the intensity of the horror lost among cringe-inducing puns.
Less acclaimed but, in my opinion, far superior to the Elm Street series was People Under the Stairs. That film managed to include just about every hot button that comes up in horror films – sick secluded family, racist abuse, incest, child abuse, among them – and combined them all into a film so creepy that, were it not for the fashions involved, still seems very modern in its approach to real horror.
Mostly I will remember Wes Craven for being the architect of a film that absolutely destroyed me when I first saw it. In Last House on the Left, an update of Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, Mari and Phyllis are waylaid during their attempts to find drugs before a concert. Their abductors take them into the woods to torture, rape and eventually murder them. Their murderers end up needing assistance from Mari’s family and Mari’s parents realize the people in their home killed their child and seek violent revenge.
There is a scene in this film where Mari, after she has been raped and mutilated, walks into a lake to clean herself. Once she is out into the lake, her captors shoot her to death and she begins to float, her long hair clinging to the surface of the water, spreading out in a corona around her. Of all the horrible images and acts in this film, that image of Mari in the water is the one that stays with me and there’s no wonder why. Young women floating dead in water is an image that has been with us for centuries. Ophelia instantly comes to mind. So does the Lady of Shallot, though she was in a boat. Most relevant for me is L’Inconnue de la Seine, a beautiful young woman found dead in the Seine in the late 1880s. Her death mask became a collector’s piece and her image now graces all Resusci Annie mannequins used to train people to perform CPR. She was considered an example of perfect female beauty. Her story was told over and over in literature and art and I’ve linked her with Mari in my mind, two lost young girls, killed vilely but washed clean.
Though dubbed an exploitation film, Last House on the Left appalled 1972 moviegoers with its audacious and all-too-real violence, but the movie was far more than just a vehicle for splatter and gore. It tugged at the primal needs of mankind to protect the young and vulnerable among us, and reminded us how quickly the suburban family can become atavistic killers when their own are threatened or harmed. It taps into the very fairy tales that make up our earliest introductions to literature, telling us of little children lured into the woods and those foolhardy enough to walk into danger on their own. In so many ways the film harked back to the gruesome violence of the early, unsanitized Grimm tales that we’d forgotten after so many Disney reinterpretations, tropes that we glossed over because we felt we were far too civilized to share with our children the real danger of following breadcrumbs, or, in Mari and Phyllis’s case, knocking on the witch’s door.
Wes Craven was a genius who understood the primal violence that threatens us and how easily we shed our modernity and squeamishness when we need to protect those we love or seek vengeance against those who harm us.
Wes was also a man who understood so well the tropes of the genre he helped create that he seamlessly subverted them in the Scream series, an almost intolerably self-aware and clever look at how we again all learned the danger of going into the woods – horror movies showed us the danger – but we end up in the woods nonetheless. Knowing rules saved few from the knife.
There is so much more that can be said about Wes Craven but I am going to leave it alone now, and perhaps watch The Serpent and the Rainbow again this week. God speed, Mr Craven.