August Horrorshow

I think I'll do something a little differently this year, and keep track of what ghost stories and horror tales I consume. I'll write it up as I go and post it at the end of the month. (And now August is over, so I'm posting it.)

Watching:

Stranger Things, Netflix series, August 4-5 - Excellent TV, but not as scary as I'd expected. Young geeky boy in a small town in Indiana in the early 80s goes missing. Young girl with no hair turns up around the same time and can do strange things. People at the local vaguely-named government facility are freaking out and wearing containment suits. Creepiness ensues. Highlights include a Christmas light talking board, the totally awesome girl, the also awesome big sister, and lots and lots of D&D and Tolkien references. 8 out of 10, would watch again. Still, not as creepy as I wanted it to be. Not sure if that's me or the show.

The Babadook, movie, August 5 - This is the one I didn't get to before August ended last year. Australian horror movie. A widowed mother and her sx-year-old son are struggling in so many ways. One of them is that the boy not only believes in monsters, but is convinced that he has to protect other people from them. So he builds shoulder-mounted catapults and dart-loaded crossbows. And takes them to school. Weird kid, obviously has some problems. Then one day he finds a pop-up book called Mr. Babadook in the house and asks his mother to read it with him. It tells about the really quite scary Mr. Babadook who, if you let him in, will make you want to die. If you don't believe in him, though, he only gets stronger... Boy believes, mom does not. Bad shit goes down, and there at the end there's a really interesting POV shift. I liked it a lot. The mom was good, the kid was good, the Babadook was an awesome monster and I want to adopt him. I was not as scared as I expected to be, even though I watched with my finger on the pause button. I'm really starting to think something's changed in me since last year.

The Witch, movie, August 12. In Puritan New England, a family is banished from their town for having a variant view of the Bible. In the wilderness, things start to go wrong. A blight destroys their crops. While the eldest daughter is playing peek-a-boo with the (unbaptized, because of the whole banishment thing, this is a plot point) baby, and between one moment and the next, he's simply gone. Next, the young twins start playing with the black goat, talking to him, and refusing to obey their elder sister. The eldest boy goes missing in the woods overnight, and returns desperately ill, possibly bewitched. The children are convinced there's a witch in the woods. Good movie, very good, but not scary.

The Possession, movie, August 12. A girl whose parents are recently divorced finds a dybbuk box, a chest used to imprison an evil Jewish spirit. Somehow, she manages to open the puzzlebox. Black moths, broken glass, white eyes, floating kid, convulsions, creepy voices. For a change, Jewish and not Christian folklore, including a Jewish exorcism (which I have no way of knowing how accurate it was). OK, this one was scary. I got through it only hitting pause once, though, and that was for other reasons. Big moths are going to freak me out for a while, and I suspect I'll be having that dream where I lose all my teeth sometime soon.

The Shrine, movie, August 20. A reporter, against her boss's explicit instructions, takes an intern and her photographer boyfriend to Albania to investigate the disappearance of a young backpacker -- and five others over the past fifty years. Outside a small village, they find a strange cloud of dense fog hovering in and above the trees. Inevitably, they try to explore, and see something really disturbing: a statue of a demon that moves and bleeds from the eyes. The villagers, of course, have already tried to run them off once before, and now begin hunting them. There's a whole thing with an eyeless spiked mask and a sledgehammer and creepy priests. By far the goriest movie I've seen so far this month, and the one with the most jump scares, but I wasn't particularly impressed with it.

The Lost Boys, movie, August 20. The cheeseball 80s classic vampire movie. I don't like vampire fiction, but even I'll watch this, since my wife wanted to. Silly, not scary, but I'm counting it. Monsters.

Horns, August 23, movie. Despite the Halloween release date and the marketing, this turns out not to be a horror movie. It is, however, excellent. Ig Perrish is being prosecuted for his girlfriend's death, but maintains his innocence. Even his family believes he did it, although they continue to support him as best they can. After a drunken night, though, he wakes up to find he's sprouted horns, and people keep telling him their darkest truths. Though horrified, he resolves to use this power to find his girlfriend's killer. The most horrifying -- not scary, not spooky, not frightening, but horrifying -- thing about the movie is people being very, very human. The things they tell Ig are often disturbing. There's a great deal of Devil imagery in the movie, but it's very much Luciferian, the Devil as Lightbringer, bearer of truth and enlightenment, rather than demonic. If I'd had a clearer idea of what it was about, I wouldn't have included it in the month's movies, but it was very good. Also, lots of snakes.

The Others, movie, August 25. SPOILERS FOR A 15 YEAR OLD MOVIE. If you ain't seen it, I can't help you except to say go watch it. This is an old favorite of mine, from long before I watched horror at all. It's a ghost story, and I've always loved ghost stories. But more than that, it's a story about ghosts. Because it's inside-out. That's the twist. Not the way The Sixth Sense does it, though. This is a story about ghost who, yes, don't know they're dead, but also ghosts who DO know they're dead, and are there to help ease the newly-dead into things. It's about being haunted by fear, and by the living. It's terrific and creepy and brings you to a slow realization of the truth, rather than springing it on you suddenly.

It Follows, movie, August 28. I still contend that this is a horror movi about Empousa. Last year I watched this in August, and it terrified me. I watched with my finger on the pause button, and it took me four hours to watch an hour and forty minute film, because I kept having to stop and go do something else. This year it's creepy but not frightening. I'm thinking more and more that this lack of fear is because a) I've been listening to and reading more horror, and b) I've been doing work with monsters more and more. So I'm going to test myself. On August 31st, I'm going to watch The Shining, which is famously scary, a movie I thought I would never be able to watch, but both a masterpiece and something I think I might enjoy. It'll be good to finally understand all the references, at least. We'll see what happens. I'd like to give myself one good scare this month.

The Shining, movie, August 29. Disturbing as fuck. Creepy. Really good. Not going to leave me afraid of the dark. (It didn't, but it did get into my dreams the next night.)

Listening:

The No Sleep Podcast, which is readings of stories from the Nosleep subreddit, which is a place for people to post their on horror short stories. Some of it isn't all that great, but a lot of it is excellent, and haunts me at night. I listen to it often on the bus on my way to and from school, and I'm working my way through the seven season backlog.

Reading:

Spook Lights by Eden Royce, short story collection. Excellent little set of Southern Gothic Horror, written by a Black woman and with a particularly Black Southern taste to it. Gullah boo-hags, root workers, hoodoo, mysterious sea-nymphs, and more. Delicious.

This House Is Haunted by John Boyne, novel. A ghost story in the Victorian English tradition, and set in that era. A classic setup. A young woman suddenly finds herself alone in the world when her father dies. She takes a job as a governess, without even an interview. When she arrives at the manor, however, all is not as it should be. The master and mistress of the house are entirely absent, as are most of the servants a great house should have. She has to prepare her own food and that of the two children in her care, even. The children themselves are, of course, more than a little strange, but she's quite taken with them. Stranger and stranger things keep happening. She's nearly pushed in front of a train, unseen hands grab at her, a window that's always been very securely unopenable suddenly gives way and she's nearly flung out. There seem to be not one, but two ghosts in the house, one determined to destroy her, and one trying to keep her safe. A very good, though not perfect, read. Eerie, and very much in the vein of the Susan Hill books I was reading last August.

Creepypastas! I love good creepypasta soooo much. There's plenty of crap out there, but here are some of the ones I enjoyed.