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The first of a number of horror entries for Halloween 2023

Friday 10/27/23

Trying to do a lot and get much in, but I did want to try and do a few horror-related entries on here in the lead-up to Halloween, if possible.

I like how in a number of horror films the monster doesn't want to be detected as such, necessarily, but they also wish to leave some clues, as if that's more sporting or they can't help themselves, because even monsters want credit. In Son of Dracula, for example, Lon Chaney's Dracula goes by Dr. Alucard. He even has it on his luggage!

I also like how the narrator of Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" says that he can't tell us what was said between Ichabod and Katrina Van Tassel after the conclusion of the party when he lingered for a private word, but then lines later he describes what Ichabod's horse had been dreaming about.

Here we have one of the very best ghost stories, and it probably involves no ghosts at all. Ichabod is beaten by how well--or cruelly--others play society's games. Katrina uses him. She has no intention of having a relationship with Ichabod, but it seems like that's what she presents to him as a possibility, something she's interested in. When his purpose is served--increasing the jealousy of Brom Bones--Ichabod is tossed aside, having served what was for her, his purpose.

Brom Bones, meanwhile, manipulates Ichabod into a full-on panic attack in the woods. Is there even a horseman? Was Brom Bones there? Three possibilities: a ghostly Hessian pursued the schoolmaster; Brom Bones impersonated one and set off after Ichabod; or there was nothing. It's a long story--12,000 words. You don't think of it as long, though. Ichabod has two main problems: one is his considerable opinion of himself, and the other is his worldly naivette.

My nephew has a birthday coming up. He's turning ten. And while this isn't strictly a Halloween item--though it's great for the spooky season--I'm going to be getting him the first volume in the Three Investigators series, The Secret of Terror Castle from 1964, and see if maybe he gets hooked as I did. I still read those books regularly now.

You could take most novels--even the ones worth reading--and reduce them to twenty pages and you wouldn't lose anything but the focus would sharpen. There's so much description to fill up the word count and not for the advancement of the story. How much of what you're reading is actually the story? I reread Dracula, but it's very repetitive. So much of the book is these guys conversationally back-slapping and tongue-bathing each other. All of these tributes to their bravery and their friendship and their bond. As I've mentioned, I always get a kick out of that little glimpse we get--via Jonathan Harker--of Dracula making a bed.

I don't really think of The Twilight Zone as Halloween-friendly fare. On the face of it, this seems strange. Certainly there are horror episodes--"The Grave," "Mirror Image," "Nick of Time." But they are not Halloween staples for me, and I bet others would feel the same way. Why is this? I think it's the science fiction element to The Twilight Zone. Even when it's not in evidence within a given episode, there's this feeling that science fiction is central to the show's identity, its thrust. Its conception.

But then we have Howard Hawks' The Thing from Another World from 1951. Classic science fiction film, and yet, it registers as horror. It's ideal for Halloween. The credits, I believe, have something to do with this. They are these kind of reach-out-and-grab you horror credits. Plus, the title is very horror--well, the Thing part is. We know a "Thing" is a monster. It's such a monster that it doesn't even have a name because it's so beyond the pale. The film has a horror look. The station is akin to a haunted house. The setting is remote, the way a castle is in a vampire story.


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