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How Not to Horror Addendum: Premises

In a previous piece here at Madness Heart Press (“How Not to Horror”), I pointed out a few pitfalls that a creative person embarking on a horror project should avoid. I suggested that people not trust the industry to have their best interests (or, indeed, those of readers/viewers) at heart. I also pointed out that a cool plot or good set location is not enough, on its own, to breathe life into a story. This week, I’d like to add another entry to my list of traps to avoid, this one the inverse, in a way, of my last one. It turns out that acting, directing, and even writing aren’t enough to save a story – a premise – that is just plain lame.

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House Shark: Don’t Knock It!

I feel that I need to start by revisiting the sentiment from my first blog. These types of movies are not everyone’s cup of briny tea. It takes a person with an ample sense of humor and lowered expectations to enjoy a “so bad it’s good” sharksploitation film. I am always baffled by the one star reviews for these. Who the hell thinks that House Shark is going to be a benchmark for cinematic achievement? Lighten up. 

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4th Grader Wishes Every Day Was Friday the 13th

Hahaha kehkehkeh … Can you hear it in your head—the theme of death from Friday the 13th? If you can’t, I know someone who can, Walt G. He’s a fourth grader, so I’m leaving his last name off for privacy purposes. Despite being so young,  Walt loves the Friday the 13th movies and particularly loves the villain, Jason Voorhees.  

I decided to talk to Walt for my blog, because it’s not every day that you run into a kid who every Friday insists on wearing a TGIF Tshirt featuring an infamous hockey mask. Recently he’s added a new shirt still featuring the hockey mask but emblazed with the words Killin’ It. He said that his teachers are very worried about him wearing the shirts. “I’m not going to do anything like Jason,” Walt said.  

He also said that none of his friends and fellow students get weirded out by it either. It seems to be part of his charm. Jason isn’t his only creepy obsession. Walt has recently started enjoying the video game Five Nights at Freddy’s, which is about possessed animatronic animals at a shuttered children’s restaurant. He assured me that it’s as creepy as it sounds, but it doesn’t bother him too much in daylight.  

Walt admitted that at night he’s like any other kid. In the darkness, the real monsters might be lurking, and he doesn’t want anything to do with that. “I’ve woke up at like 3 a.m. before. It’s not my thing,” he said.  

With his apprehension about late night hours, I asked him why he liked Jason so much. Walt replied, “He wears a hockey mask.” I pointed out that he wore a sack over his head in one movie that only had a single eyehole cut out. “That’s okay too,” he said.  

Like so many people who love the slasher movie franchises, Walt has a favorite kill. “I remember these people were camping. Jason grabbed them up in their sleeping bags and slammed them against a tree.” He was a little excited talking about that scene. 

In the course of the interview, it came out that Walt has difficulty tying his shoes and goes around with them untied a lot. Of course this makes tripping a very likely possibility. When asked if he was aware that tripping and falling down was the number one way that Jason got you in the movies, he laughed and shook his head, appearing unafraid of that scenario.  

Walt isn’t a fan of all scary movies, however. The recent version of It didn’t sit well with him, and he stopped watching it after only a few minutes of encountering the new Pennywise. The night before our interview, he’d been introduced to Aliens. He said that he liked that movie okay, but it wasn’t Friday the 13th.  

So if you are ever worried that kids these days can’t appreciate the classics, don’t be. Kids like Walt are out there, loving the modern classic monsters and getting into things like Five Nights at Freddy’s, which promises to be a great segue into the love of horror.  

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A Few Words in Appreciation of ‘the Evil Dead’

I’m not usually an autobiography guy. I think that most autobiographies are pretty useless compared to objective biographies crafted by dispassionate third parties. In fact, I’ve only ever read one or two that I would vouch for – but I will recommend one exception strenuously to anyone who will listen. I speak, of course, of Bruce Campbell’s 2002 memoir If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor. In it, Campbell writes about his love of film, his early days with writer/director Sam Raimi, and – quite memorably – about the arduous process of making Campbell and Raimi’s best-known, best-loved films: the Evil Dead trilogy.

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Scott Johnson Still Haunts This Blog

Last week’s post was with author, Scott A. Johnson. He talked about why ghosts are his favorite monsters. This week’s blog will continue with Johnson discussing ghost stories and haunted house tales. In the way of a brief re-introduction to this author, Johnson has published 14 novels, three true ghost story books, a chapbook, and a short story collection. His latest novel: Shy Grove: A Ghost Story received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly

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The Mayfly

Consider the mayfly. Don’t worry, it won’t bite. It can’t. Mayflies, you see, live such a short time that they are born without mouths – indeed, without digestive systems of any kind. They hatch, they mate, and then they die, all in a single day (although the larval stage of the mayfly – called a nymph – lives much longer). Seen from one perspective, that’s a tragic fate, a cruel joke of an existence. Seen another way, however, mayflies are an example of two seemingly contradictory forces of nature held in balance and tension: the incredible, explosive variety of organic life, and life’s fleeting and impermanent nature. Generation upon generation of mayfly have repeated a simple DNA loop over and over until it has been worn smooth, adapted perfectly to its environment but also fragile: a flame of incredible beauty flaring to life in the darkness, only to be snuffed out once more.

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