Hunger: Two-Sentence Horror Story

I gobbled down my first meal in days, barely chewing, expecting to feel guilty about it afterwards. But I only felt relief; besides, I never really liked my neighbours.

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

Thanks for reading my two-sentence horror story… Mmmm human flesh… Feel free to share your own in the comments!

The Walking Dead: “Something They Need” and Female Leadership

Despite initially offering some problematic portrayals of women – Lori, Andrea, and Carol – The Walking Dead has really stepped up its game in the last few seasons. Lori and Andrea were killed off, so that takes care of that; and Carol transformed from abused housewife to tough-as-nails survivor. More women eventually got added to the main cast, and they keep getting stronger and more well-rounded.

Now, Maggie, Michonne, Rosita, Tara and Sasha make up some of the best female characters on TV today. But it took until Alexandria for us to get a female leader; and soon after, she died and Rick took over. Then we met Dawn, who was in charge at the hospital. She turned out to be two-parts villain, one-part weakling who couldn’t stand up against the wrongs she knew she and her group were committing. Even more recently, we met Jadis. There’s not much yet that can be definitively said about this group, except that they are strangely modelled after a 90s sci-fi flick. Unfortunately, it’s unclear at this point if Jadis is friend or foe.

Suffice it to say, the depiction of female leadership has been questionable. Nonetheless, this week’s episode, “Something They Need” shined a spotlight on two of the season’s most significant female leaders. Natania of Oceanside, and the rising leadership of Maggie, at Hilltop. Both make very interesting case studies for the authority of women in a post-apocalyptic world.

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Image Credit: AMC

Top 9s: 9 Subtle Homages to Hitchcock You Might Have Missed in Bates Motel

Bates Motel has proved itself to be an impressively unique spin on the concepts of both the prequel and the television adaptation. Like many other film geeks, I for one was absolutely terrified to see what would be done with the iconic Hitchcock classic, Psycho. I especially wondered how they would frame it; how could a 53-year-old film about a woman-hating murderer, with a now outdated Freudian psychosis, be responsibly portrayed on television today? The idea made me so uncomfortable, that I avoided the show until its fourth season had completed.

Once I finally got the nerve to check it out, I realized this was not a simple rehashing, nor was it a thoughtless manipulation of the kill-the-pretty-girl trope that Psycho, for all its brilliance, troublingly brought about. Bates Motel is best described as a love letter to film history, and a tribute to one of its most notable pioneers. Flawlessly updated to appeal to a new audience (some of whom probably haven’t seen or do not recall its source material), Bates Motel never forgets where it comes from, or where it is. Proof of this is not only in the action-packed, plot-twist heavy, narrative – but also in the Hitchcockian cinematography, which even includes many long shots. Hidden within the narrative and cinematography are a number of obvious Psycho homages, but there are also some less obvious tributes. Here are 8 subtle nods to Hitchcock that you might have missed in seasons one through four. Beware of spoilers.

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Image Credit: A&E

Top 15s: 15 Creepy Fairytales That Could Be Horror Movies

Only in recent history have fairy tales been designated as innocent and magical childhood stories. This was in large part the doing of the Grimm brothers, who collected such tales from their homeland into the first official book of fairy tales. These original Grimm tales are much darker than the stories we recall our parents reading to us at night, and the same is true for fairy tales throughout time and all over the world. Often, these are horrific stories that are either told among adults or as cautionary tales to children who will undoubtedly have nightmares (and hopefully learn a thing or two).

Culture to culture, the stories tend to deal with very similar content. Common themes include dangerous journeys into the woods, lost children or people seeking refuge, and monsters ranging from ogres to wolves to cruel parents. You’re also pretty likely to encounter blood, body parts, cannibalism, and captivity. Many of the tales are extremely gory, and often times there are no happy endings, even for the few characters who survive. So why are we letting Disney cut away all the good stuff? These stories from around the world all have the makings of a good horror movie; or, at the very least, a disturbing campfire tale.

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Image via: Deviant Art

Ghost Stories

A single drop of rain rolled over the tip of Leigh’s nose and hit the map with a thud. Its splatter  distorted the icon for one of the many tourist attractions along the Royal Mile, which struck Leigh as appropriate. The rain had calmed, but fresh pools of it had formed in every crevice, pocket, and hole of the city. Leigh refolded the map sloppily, allowing only some of the folds to line up, and stuffed it into her back pack. An irritation was flickering inside of her and one more minute of that useless map was going to ignite it. Flinging her hood back she pulled open the heavy wooden door to the pub she had been pacing in front of for what seemed an immeasurable amount of time. The bartender gave little more than a slight glance upwards before returning her eyes to the ketchup bottles she was marrying. Leigh took a deep breath and approached her.

“I’m sorry to bother, but I’m looking for South Bridge. Can you point me in the right direction?”

The bartender raised her head, sluggishly, as if it too had been weighted down by the heavy rainfall. Without a smile, she asked, “The vaults, then?”

Leigh nodded nervously. The acknowledgement of her desire to engage in paranormal exoticism still made her uncomfortable, even after months of travel.

The bartender gave a sort of grunt, before jotting down a few quick directions on a napkin and silently sliding it towards Leigh. Before she could be thanked, she turned 180 degrees and began removing half empty whiskey bottles from the display shelf.

“Pay Becky no mind. Hospitality is not her strong suit.”

Leigh torqued her head to the right to see that the Australian accent belonged to a tanned, stout, man of about thirty. He had a cartoonish smile plastered on his face, and was gripping a half empty pint glass with both hands.

Leigh nodded graciously and headed for the door, but he called out to her to wait up. After downing what was left of his pint, he jogged towards Leigh and they exited into the cool, grey, day.

After a short walk, the two of them joined what looked very much like a rag tag team of wannabe investigators at the meet-up location. Leigh was surprised, since these tours more often tended to attract couples looking for something out of the ordinary to define their vacations.

“First time?” her companion asked. He had introduced himself as Duck on the way over.

“Here.” Leigh tried to keep her responses short and concise, purposefully revealing very little of herself.

In truth, she had been on so many ghost walks lately that the experiences were all beginning to bleed into one another. But then, she figured that pretty well described tourism as a whole. She had been in Scotland for four days now, but this was her first venture into its ghostly underground. She had been to Castlehill, the site of many historical witch burnings, but was discouraged by the vast number of unthoughtful feet trampling it; dripping ice cream into the porous cobblestone of what Leigh thought one might consider sacred ground. She left in a hurry.

“Been here three times myself.”

This caught Leigh off guard, and she felt her head cock in a very obvious, and perhaps judgemental, way.

“I know,” he replied to her reaction. “But you never know when something will happen. I’d hate to miss it.”

Leigh offered a sympathetic nod. She wasn’t sure why she was being so patronizing. Weren’t they all here for just that? To see something; feel something – to have any type of visceral experience that they could then use to obtain to a sense of knowledge about life and death. That was probably, on some level, why Leigh was there. She attributed her curiosity to a fondness for history, but ghosts aren’t really about history. Ghosts are about the the future, and our inability to understand it; our fear of it. That, Leigh thought to herself, should be the real premise of her book.

Before they entered the vaults, the tour guide offered a rehearsed spiel about the importance of understanding the risks involved. Terrible things had happened in the vaults, and those who had become trapped down there (she explained) were often filled with anger, resentment, and vengeance. As Leigh looked discreetly about her she caught flashes of discomfort in more than a few tourists eyes. Some twitched a little, others fidgeted with their fingers or tried to steady their breathing. During her paranormal travels, Leigh had discovered that most people who did these tours were secretly terrified, as though testing their personal limits. People had become so easy to read. Duck was one of the others, though. He wanted to see something. Needed to, even. He was a man seeking concrete answers, and nothing short of concrete evidence would do. Leigh, on the other hand, was looking to immerse herself in the past. Her research grant depended upon it. Ghost stories interpreted through contemporary frameworks – it would be a bestseller.

In the vaults, they listened to stories about class divides in Edinburgh, about immigration and poverty, gardyloo, and crime. A man who looked as though he’d dressed for bird-watching rather than ghost-hunting gave an audible shudder when the guide talked about grave-digging and the sale of corpses to university professors. Duck laughed more than Leigh was comfortable with, but the damp darkness of the vaults kept her rather distracted.

She took a deep breath and let herself feel it. She tuned out the sound of the guide’s theatrically hoarse voice, and made the restless excitement of the group fade behind her eyes until everything melted away. Then, there was just her… and him.

At first it was just a flicker of light, so faint she almost didn’t notice it. But as she focused, it became more clear. It was the flame of a match, migrating upwards until the glow of a cigarette revealed his face. Or, rather, an echo of his face. More real than a shadow, but less tangible than the touch of someone familiar. They caught eyes and he nodded politely from across the cave-like space. Leigh smiled, and breathed a shallow sigh of relief. He approached her and as he did so the dark engulfed them, hiding them from prying, curious, eyes.

Leigh brought her pen to her paper, still smiling, and whispered, “Hello sir. Thank you for visiting me. Please, share your story.”

The man smiled, and began his tale.

©Shyla Fairfax-Owen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 15s: 15 Gruesome Villains We Love to Hate

For generations, classic storytelling has used the convention of the gruesome villain to incite the excitement and anticipation that comes with following the protagonist into the grips of danger. While not exclusive to the horror genre, it plays to the cathartic and escapist nature of the scary or thrilling narrative. The villain can work on various levels: juxtaposing the hero to create a clear distinction of good and evil, mirroring the hero to blur the lines between right and wrong, cautioning against giving into the darker aspects of human nature, and reflecting that which we might fear about human nature and ourselves.

Film theorist Robin Wood explains that the monsters we create for our stories are really just manifestations of that which we have repressed most in our civilized society – people who look different, or act different, or who can otherwise be considered outside of the norm. It’s fair to say then that the monster represents our own fears of being out-casted. However, it is also fair to say that in this golden age of violent narratives, the monster is not just to be feared, it is to be admired. There is something utterly captivating about a charismatic villain. They can make our skin crawl, shock us, scare us; and yet, we can’t seem to look away. Here are 15 gruesome villains of which we just can’t get enough.

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image via: Screencrush

Letters to Addie

January 30,

Addie,

I guess I’ll just start with – I miss you. It’s a funny thing, mourning the loss of someone who isn’t quite gone, but certainly isn’t here. I have these momentary lapses of memory. I’ll see something that reminds me of you, or come across a meme I know would make you giggle. I’ll pull up your name on my contact list to send it your way and then I remember that you won’t see it. So, yeah, it’s a curious thing; missing you. 

But I’m getting used to it, I think. Because you’re not gone, but the digital you is gone. Everyone acts like that’s the same thing, but it’s not. That’s why I’m writing this letter to you – to the real you. I want you to know I haven’t forgotten you. And I’m not mad. That day you unplugged and left, I said some pretty shitty things. I’m sorry about that. I didn’t get it, how you could just throw away your whole life over some fear of something that you couldn’t show me. I’m stubborn like that though; I need evidence, a digital footprint – anything. I’m still like that Addie; I can’t lie and say I believe you. But I miss you, and I’m finally ready to do anything to get you back. So I’m going to find the proof Addie. I’m going to see it, and then I’m going to know you’re right. That you’re not crazy.

So I’ll start at the beginning. I remember the first thing you said. “These thoughts aren’t mine.”  You kept saying your thoughts and feelings were jumbled. You started unplugging at night to try to clear them up, but that just made things blurrier. You said it was too late for you. Well, if you’re theory is right, there’s still plenty of time for me. So I’m going to start writing down my thoughts. Pen and paper, just like you said, so they can’t access them. You must be thinking, why now? Like I said, I miss you. 

I’ll write again soon. I love you.

Darcy.

P.s. mom is fine.