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Reload the Canons!

This series of articles is an attempt to play through The Canon of videogames: your Metroids, your Marios, your Zeldas, your Pokemons, that kind of thing.

Except I'm not playing the original games. Instead, I'm playing only remakes, remixes, and weird fan projects. This is the canon of games as seen through the eyes of fans, and I'm going to treat fan games as what they are: legitimate works of art in their own right that deserve our analysis and respect.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Last Bones of October

It's snowing here, for whatever freak reason. The night is settling down like a portcullis. It looks like the last true article of this season (an essay on silent horror films) is going to be delayed indefinitely--my partner in crime on that one is, unfortunately, without power, as are so many of my friends.

But, despite missing one article, I've rolled out 11 this month--not a bad number, if I do say so myself. We've covered everything from music videos to novels to games, everything from tragedy to fear to campy transgression. There is always more to be said, but rather than write a whole new topic, I thought I would wrap things up with a selection of other interesting reading and viewing materials that didn't make its way into my other articles.

You're wet.

I think you'd better... come inside.


There are several poets worth delving into a bit with horror poetry in addition to the ones described in my article. One is Anne Carson, a fairly contemporary poet who has the habit of taking a fairly mundane (in the sense of something related, at least, to normal human experience) concept and linking it to some manner of terrifying, hallucinatory vision. Take this bit from The Glass Essay:

I am my own Nude.

And Nudes have a difficult sexual destiny.   
I have watched this destiny disclose itself
in its jerky passage from girl to woman to who I am now,

from love to anger to this cold marrow,   
from fire to shelter to fire.
What is the opposite of believing in Thou—

merely not believing in Thou? No. That is too simple.   
That is to prepare a misunderstanding.   
I want to speak more clearly.

Perhaps the Nudes are the best way.   
Nude #5. Deck of cards.   
Each card is made of flesh.

The living cards are days of a woman’s life.
I see a great silver needle go flashing right through the deck once from end to   
Nude #6 I cannot remember.

Nude #7. White room whose walls,
having neither planes nor curves nor angles,
are composed of a continuous satiny white membrane

like the flesh of some interior organ of the moon.   
It is a living surface, almost wet.   
Lucency breathes in and out.

Rainbows shudder across it.
And around the walls of the room a voice goes whispering,   
Be very careful. Be very careful.
This is one of those times where I would encourage the reader not to read the poetry as symbolism. It's clear from the (much, much longer) poem that Carson is, herself, in some ways baffled by the visions appearing before her. And, after all, isn't reducing these visions by stating, "Ah yes, this represents her emotional suffering after a bad breakup!" just another way of attempting to pin down and rationalize some vast, terrifying, incomprehensible thing?

Speaking of terrifying and incomprehensible... check out this little piece of work from Ross Gay:

Love, You Got Me Good

Honeybunny, for you, I've got a mouthful
of soot. Sweetpea, for you, I always smell
like blood. Everything that touches me, Lovemuffin,
turns to salt. When I think of you
I see fire. When I dream of you
I hear footsteps on bones. When I see you
I can feel the scythe's smooth handle
in my palm. Love, you got me
standing at attention.
Clutching my heart. Polishing guns.
Love, I got a piggy bank
painted like a flag. I got a flag
in the shape of a piggy bank. For you,
Sugarfoot, I've been dancing
the waterboard. You're under
my skin, Love. Don't know
what I'd do without you,

Of the various poems I was considering for this, this is clearly one of the less terrifying. Still, it has an unnerving kind of thwack to it as you jolt from line ending to line ending, from disjunction to disjunction. It's a disturbing kind of poem. And, of course, Gay can definitely do worse. If you desperately want to feel like your soul is composed of writhing maggots, I urge you to check out his poem "Nursery". I contemplated including that here, for a brief moment. Then I reread the first few lines and decided that if I couldn't stomach reading through it a second time, I wasn't going to make all of you poor saps read it at all. "Bringing The Shovel Down" is also quite an alarming little work that starts out so innocuous seeming--very Stephen King, all things considered.

And, of course, it's always worth going back and reviewing Sylvia Plath. There are certainly enough poems about horrific death in her collected works to keep a horror fan satisfied for a long time.


These didn't exactly fit into the article on techno and horror, but I felt like they were worth mentioning anyway.

Came across this little gem while looking up videos for another upcoming article. I've never heard of the artist before, but I'm very impressed with the way the video is set up, and how the sludgy tone of the music mirrors the slow, gloomy video itself. At first it seems that the protagonist is only dimly aware of what's going on--note the way his head seems to have turned before the blood splatter in the car early on, for example. Then we see him openly observing events with a sort of detached resignation, a horrible sort of heartsick acceptance. This really sets the end of the video--which for once I won't spoil--up perfectly.

This fellow isn't a Stoker or a King protagonist. He's not going to march through Salem's Lot dedicated to eradicating his foes.

No, there's really only one option.

It's a wonderful blend of horror with overwhelming sadness.
That kid is going to be traumatized, guarantee it.

This video... what to say about this video? It almost works. It really almost does. There are some legitimately terrifying moments. But those moments work because they legitimately do remind me of my own childhood horrors. But the band absolutely must appear in the video, of course, for no real narrative or symbolic purpose, as far as I can see. And the video ends up with what is--let's be perfectly frank here--a really shitty animated sequence that screams "We Ran Out Of Money For This Video!" Come on, guys. I've watched Neon Genesis Evangelion. I know what happens when you get halfway through a story and suddenly no longer have cash. It's frustrating because they seem to transition from something that is deeply disturbing, and very in line with childhood horror, to something that resembles an adult's poor understanding of what a childhood horror might be. It Just. Doesn't. Work.

That said, the disjunction between the happy, poppy sound of the song and the terror of the video is quite nice, and I really have to admire the scene where the traumatized child actor/future serial killer wanders down a monster-infested street. There's some good stuff to work with here.

You may note that I haven't mentioned Thriller at all.

That is because dancing zombies simply aren't scary. Sorry, but it's true.

They are, however, awesome, and very in line with Transgressive and Monstrous Horror.

So here, have some Thriller.



Alright, so Thriller is actually a lot scarier than I remembered. Whoops. Uh. Moving on...


For those of you that tasted blood and want more... who want to stay the distance... who have an itch to scratch and need assistance... might I recommend, for your enjoyment, one last classic, and one modern marvel.

The first is The Dionaea House, a hypertext work that precedes and in many ways predicts the second of the offerings. I won't give too much away, but it involves a house that seems to be in two places--or more--at once, a house that has a habit of turning people into deadened shells of themselves... if it leaves anything left of them at all. Check it out. It's a distinctly alarming little tale, and part of the long tradition both of correspondence-based horror and modern haunting house stories. (Yes, haunting. You'll see what I mean.)

The second is the ongoing chronicle Marble Hornets, an alternate reality... well, not game, really... simulation, perhaps? Set up as a video log of protagonist Jay's attempt to sift through footage given to him (for burning) by his former friend Alex. What he finds on the tapes is a strange record of a stalking that slowly escalates into something far more sinister and uncanny. These videos make a lot of use of the Uncanny. They're worth checking out, if you can stand it. But be warned--they keep getting worse.

Oh, and if you really just need something to keep you awake for the entire night, check out the reply videos from totheark.

We will wait for you no more.

That's it for our celebration of Halloween, folks. I hope you've enjoyed the content. I've had a lot of fun writing it. This week I'll be taking a break to catch up both on articles and on school work (and on sleep--which means no Marble Hornets for me, I suppose).

Rejoin me in or around the seventh...

On the moon-drenched shores of Transylvania...

When together...

We'll do the Time Warp again!

As always, feel free to leave comments, complaints, or, best of all, your own interpretations, or e-mail me at . And, if you like what you've read here, share it on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Xanga, Netscape, or whatever else you crazy kids are using to surf the blogoblag these days.

Happy Halloween! Heeee eeee eee eee eeee eee!

1 comment:

  1. I'm only now getting to this blog post, but for anyone interested in watching Marble Hornets, I recommend sharing this link. It's all of it, in chronological order (of release), with the totheark videos included, that I've been keeping updated for a while.

    Sweet blog, Keeper!
    ~Dav Flamerock


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