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To John Baltisberger A Rose by Any Other Name is Biollante

Godzilla vs. Biollante, Toho

If you’re a frequent reader on anything on Madness Heart’s blog, John Baltisberger is a familiar name. If you aren’t a frequent flyer around here, Baltisberger is a writer and poet who has published three books: The Configuration Discordant, Inhuman Error, and Artifice of Flesh. He also hosts two podcasts: Madness Heart Radio and Wandering Monster. As a huge kaiju fan, Baltisberger talks with us about Biollante.

The easy answer as to what Biollante is would be a kaiju rosebush. The description Baltisberger gives her is that Biollante is a “vegetation” kaiju. “The story is that a scientist whose daughter was killed by Godzilla is working on using G-cells (that’s Godzilla’s regenerative DNA) to genetically modify a rose bush. This rose bush becomes possessed with the scientist’s daughter. And then morphs into a Kaiju that tries to fight off Godzilla,” he says. It is this backstory of the creation of Biollante that makes Baltisberger love her.

This monster only appears in one film: Godzilla vs. Biollante. Baltisberger believes that this movie is not one of the better Godzilla films, and he certainly doesn’t think the battle between the titular monsters is very good. However, he loves the costume design. “The Monster design is also completely out of this world, it’s in my opinion one of the best looking Kaiju to ever be produced, in any era of film making,” Baltisberger says. Some critics of the Biollante costume design compares the creature to Audrey II from The Little Shop of Horrors. Baltisberger uses the word “flippant” for this description of the creature and says this of the design, “she’s more of a mix of a Godzilla-Esque Alligator and some dangerous plant life.” He definitely says that Biollante is not a “rosebush with teeth,” but “LOOKS dangerous.”

In her only movie appearance, Biollante loses to Godzilla, but she also appears in several video games and comic books. Baltisberger has little love for the video games and feels the monster is underserved by them. On the other hand, the comic books allow Biollante to shine as a kaiju. Baltisberger points to one particular book that serves the monster well: Godzilla: Cataclysm. The storyline finds Biollante attempting to replenish the plant-life on earth after Godzilla destroys it all. “Biollante is almost presented as the savior of the world,” he says.

Although plant-based kaiju are uncommon, Baltisberger does not believe that Biollante would fit well into the world of other vegetation creatures like triffids or the Thing. He says that he would like to see this monster in the world of Swamp Thing. “[It] would tickle me pink,” he says of the crossover idea. Some might even say that flower monsters are not scary. Baltisberger says that in many video games some of most dangerous characters are plant-based. When talking about Biollante, it’s a giant plant monster, which should alter anyone’s perception about the danger it poses.

Right now, Baltisberger has several book projects “peeking their heads out from around the corner for publication at the moment.” You can follow him on social media at @kaijupoet or his personal website here.

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Querus Abuttu Terrifies us with the Raven Mocker

Querus Abuttu, who also goes by “Q”, is a writer with a long history of forensic nursing and military service. Much of this experience ends up in her writings. Her alter ego, is the Director of Forensic Nursing in Healthcare for the government. This alone sounds like a novel. Q, as I will call her for this article, took time to talk about a monster that currently has her interest, the Raven Mocker.

The Raven Mocker is a monster from Cherokee folklore. It is truly terrifying. Q describes it like this, “The Raven Mocker, or as the Cherokee called it, the Kâ’lanû Ahkyeli’skï, is a type of witch or demon that kills a human and is able to take the years that the human would have had and add those years to its own life.” Although the
description of what the Raven Mocker looks like varies from legend to legend there is a running theme in all of them, which is “tormenting their prey, consuming the victim’s heart and taking the victim’s remaining years life.” Only a very powerful shaman can even see the monster when it is feeding because it’s invisible when it eats. Any other time, the Raven Mocker may look like a member of the community. Of recognizing the monster, Q says, “One visible sign is that the person is very old, having stolen years from other people and adding [them to its own life]. It makes sounds like the wind when it is near, and before an attack, it can issue a cry like that of a crow or raven.”

Q says that the Raven Mocker caught her imagination because many everyday things steal our “hearts” today. The Cherokee legend personifies those things that kill us slowly. “I think I’m much like any writer who enjoys writing about monsters. I see the legend/mythos and compare it to our society today . . . Monsters we create are often physical synonyms, if you will, to problems we diagnose in our communities,” she says.

Part of the Raven Mocker “mythos” is that it feeds on the sick. Even though it seems that this monster should only terrify those who are ill, Q believes that the story would motivate everyone to stay healthy. “[T]he sick and the old who are not healthy and are often a weakness to the tribe, and a tribe cannot afford to be weak,” she says. Also, Q
adds that getting rid of evil from the community benefits the entire tribe.

Q has conducted a lot of research on this creature recently because parts of the legend are integral to the plot of a novel she is working on. In her story, which she describes as being in the “juvenile phase,” a town in rural Virginia has been flooded in by weeks of rain. They are cut off from the rest of world, which is the perfect opportunity for a crow demon to rise and wreak havoc. I won’t give too much more away, but needless to say, the story sounds terrifically horrifying.

Drawing from real life is an important component of writing for Q. Living in Virginia, a state with a history of the Cherokee, she says she was glad to have discovered the Raven Mocker legend while writing the first few chapters of her work in progress, which she calls Necrow. “The Raven Mocker was a legend a fellow writer and mentor told me about when I was having her critique some of my early chapters of Necrow before I even knew of the legend,” she says. Since the story was in the early stages, according to Q, the legend fit in nicely and added another layer to the plot.

In researching about the Raven Mocker, Q found a few books and songs to help in her create her monsters. “[T]here’s not a lot out there. There are no films that I can point to utilizing this creature legend. There are some fiction novels and myth/legend books on Amazon that exist—and it has become more popular in novels over the past ten years or so,” she says, and recommends, “Some of the music and lyrics I’ve used for inspiration in this novel is from the Plague Physicians ‘The Raven Mocker’ album and from Spook ‘Raven Mocker’ album. For reading, I recommend, Myths of the Cherokee: And Sacred formulas of the Cherokees by James Mooney, and The First Raven Mocker: The Cherokee Chronicles by Courtney Miller.”

Necrow is still in the writing phase, so you can’t run out and buy it yet, but you can check out all things Querus Abuttu (at least writing-wise) here.

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Lynne Hansen Continues Talking About Zombies

Last week, horror artist, Lynne Hansen, talked with us about her love of zombies. She discussed her favorite movies and how she fulfilled a life-long dream of becoming a zombie in a B-movie, which moved her to make the award-winning zombie short film, Chomp. This week she’ll discuss other things zombie.

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Horror Artist, Lynne Hansen, Always Wanted to be a Zombie

Lynne Hansen describes herself as a “horror artist who specializes in book covers.” The cover art business is keeping her busy right now. She says that she has over 40 cover commissions in “queue.” It was really great that she was able to break away to talk about her favorite monsters: zombies.

“I don’t think there’s anything scarier than having someone who looks like your husband, sister, or best friend not be them, you know?” Hansen says of zombies. To her, this aspect of the creatures is a “betrayal” of the “most basic level” of human interaction. However, she also describes zombies as “just plain fun!” It may seem strange to place such grotesque and ravaging monsters as zombie in the category of fun, but Hansen explains, “They’re a great vehicle for mixing humor and horror, and I think when you can do that, the scary gets scarier and the funny gets funnier.” She calls it a “roller coaster ride,” which itself is, of course, scary and fun at the same time.

Although Hansen believes that she would not survive a zombie apocalypse, she always wanted to play a zombie in a B-movie. “I’d tried several times, but the projects didn’t work out–until I got the opportunity to play both a zombie victim and a resurrected zombie in a short film called Soulless being made for the 30 Day Zombie Film Challenge in Tampa,” she relays. This movie was directed by a woman, Monique Guggino, on no budget, but Hansen thoroughly enjoyed making it. “I was so inspired that when I came home from shooting, still covered in zombie makeup, I declared to my husband that I was going to do a film for the 30 Day Zombie Film Challenge, too.” So, she did. “I wrote the first draft of the script in a day,” she says.

Working with a cast and crew of friends and “friends of friends,” Hansen directed, produced, and edited what would become the short, comedic zombie film Chomp. The film missed the deadline for the 30 Day Zombie Film Challenge but premiered at the Halloween Horror Picture Show. Since that time, Chomp, which is about a sixty-something-year-old woman who kidnaps a college student, after mistaking him for a zombie, has played at over 70 film festivals in 13 countries and has been nominated for over 30 awards. It won Best of the Fest at the Geekfest Film Festival and Best Horror Comedy at the Nightmares Film Festival. Of these accomplishments, Hansen says, “I’m still stunned by the response my little labor of love zombie film received, and will forever be indebted to my amazing team and all the kind folks all over the world who screened our film and helped us find our fans.”

While talking about her own zombie film, Hansen says that her favorite zombie movie is Shaun of the Dead. According to her, the film is “clever, funny, great characters, memorable lines, amazing music, and best of all, zombies that walked that fine line between funny and genuinely scary.” She also loves the original and remake of Dawn of the Dead. “They both had strong ensemble casts, memorable zombies, and lovely pacing that gave us both quiet and loud moments.” Of course, Hansen mentions Return of the Living Dead. She says of this horror-comedy classic, “[It] gave us our first fast zombies and their now infamous love of brains. And again, some bad-ass music and great humor.”

Hansen states that her favorite zombie novel is The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell. The novel is about a little girl who grows up in a world after a zombie apocalypse. “It’s the only life she’s ever known, so while the adults who remember the time before huddle in their little fortresses, she doesn’t live in fear. To her, the world of the zombie apocalypse is beautiful,” Hansen says of the novel. She goes on to describe the prose as “lush” and the story as “lyrical.” Once she came to the end, “I flipped to the beginning and read it again a second time because I didn’t want it to be over.”

Although you might not want this interview to be over, Hansen discussed so much about her love of zombies that I decided to split it. While you wait for next weeks installment, go check out Hansen’s work at: http://www.LynneHansenArt.com

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Screenwriter and Author Sheldon Higdon Discusses Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Award-winning screenwriter, Sheldon Higdon considers himself a “wannabe zombie” and a
“superhero in training.” In reality, he’s a working writer, husband, and father. He currently has over 40 short-stories, poems, and non-fiction pieces published. He is going to talk about the classic monster/monsters, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

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Mystery Writer Victoria Thompson Talks Frankenstein’s Creature Part 2

Last week, mystery writer, Victoria Thompson, talked about Frankenstein’s creature. The discussion primarily focused on the literary take of the creature. This week will look at Thompson’s take on movie-versions of Frankenstein’s Creation.

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Independent Director, John M. Ware Talks Zombies

It has been a while since I posted anything. I apologize, but I ran out of interviews, and some people let me down. Enough of that. Enough of that. It’s a new year, and here are hopefully some new, more frequent posts.

Recently, I ran into John M. Ware. If you are a fan of the Syfy Channel, the name might be familiar to you. He wrote, directed, and starred in Thr33 Days Dead, which was broadcast on the network. The making of the movie was also featured in the Syfy series Town of the Living Dead. He agreed to participate in one of my little interviews about zombies.

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It’s Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus

Halloween is this week, so I’m going to write about my love of a particular Halloween movie. I am not alone in my love for this film. Since its release over 25 years ago, it has become a beloved “cult” classic. The movie is, of course, Hocus Pocus

Hocus Pocus is not a horror movie, although it does deal with a horrific part of America’s past, the Salem Witch Trails. The Sanderson Sisters also lure children to their cottage to eat their life force, and of course, Winnie brings Billy Butcherson back from the dead as a zombie. It’s all in light-hearted fun.  

This movie, more than a traditional scary Halloween movie, captures the childhood feeling of Halloween. It has all the tropes of the holiday. Kids run amuck, amuck, amuck seeking candy wherever they can find it. Witches roam the streets and night skies. Zombies chase after the living, and black cats cross paths. Every year, I watch the movie, and I remember how it was to go trick or treating and worry about witches behind every dark pine tree. (I grew up in the country so there weren’t street corners.) 

Hocus Pocus gives those of us, who remember it coming out, the first time a moment to reflect on how great childhood was in 1980s and 1990s. It gives us the ability to relive that moment one more time. Like the sugar treats horded in a plastic pumpkin, the movie needs to be taken in moderation. Too much of a good thing can be a major problem. That is why, despite the dozens of airings the movie gets on cable, I watch it only once per year on Halloween night. It’s my Reese’s cup at the bottom of the trick or treat bag. 

 Here’s to the Sanderson’s Sister, to Max and Dani, to Binx the cat, and good, old Billy Butcherson. Happy Halloween

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Marianne Halbert Goes Over the Deep End for the Gillman

Marianne Halbert is a horror writer from Indiana, the scariest state in the Union if you’re trying to get anywhere on the interstate because of the constant construction. Her most recent collection of short stories, Cold Comforts, was released in July. Cold Comforts has been called “a piquant mixture of the whimsical and the terrifying.” In this blog interview, Halbert discusses her favorite classic monster, Gillman from TheCreature from the Black Lagoon.   

Halbert says her favorite horror is the kind that “breaks your heart.” She puts The Creature from the Black Lagoon into this category. For her the Gillman “manifests” longing and loneliness “that will break your heart.” This puts the movie and the monster squarely into the horror that Halbert likes the best.   

For her, the Gillman isn’t a traditional Universal Monster, although he is considered the last of the legendary line of creatures from that studio. Halbert says that he isn’t a creature that started off human, but a natural creature. “He just is and has always been the other,” she says.   

The Gillman is the last of his kind and only becomes violent to protect his habitat. He is an actual creature that has been forgotten by time. Only when he is forced to react to the human invaders into his world does the Gillman become anything close to a monster.   

The true monster of the film is Dr. Mark Williams. While all the other characters seem to have a genuine scientific curiosity or are sympathetic toward the creature, Dr. Williams is exploitive only worrying about “the money and fame.”   

The takeaway from The Creature from the Black Lagoon can be similar to other “monster” stories about natural creatures. The animal is not the inherent monster. Humans provoke the monstrousness out of them. Halbert feels like The Creature from the Black Lagoon is similar to King Kong or even Beauty and the Beast. “To switch it up and make this a Gill Man removes him even more from other beings that we might feel we share a closer genetic link with (like cavemen, apes, and Bigfoot). It also creates an additional element of challenge and suspense when we have to go into his underwater lair where he has the upper fin,” Halbert says. This might be what has made it a classic.