Kill Creek // Scott Thomas // October 2017 // Inkshares // Goodreads
Kill Creek has been on my Horror October TBR list for two years running so I’m glad to have finally gotten round to it. I thought it would be a classic haunted house story, and in a way it was, but it was also so different to what I was expecting.
In this perfect-for-Halloween read, four famous horror writers are invited to an infamous haunted house for an unconventional all-night interview with controversial online journalist Wainwright, in what seems to be an homage to the classic film House on a Haunted Hill. But really, that’s where the similarities end.
After a lot of bickering, some ruffled feathers, and classic haunted house hi-jinks, the writers survive the night and go home. The End. Not reeeeeally. I mean they do head home, but the story is far from over.
I felt like this major twist on the classic haunted house tropes was a double-edged sword. On one hand I thought it was genius as it was the last thing I was expecting, but on the other, I felt deflated. I wanted the predictable people Vs the house story. It had been set us as such and I felt cheated.
However, that’s just me being petulant. What followed was a story in itself, one that felt new and while it held my interest, I did think it could have been condensed slightly.
Overall, Kill Creek was a surprising take on the genre, one that is certainly in need of a bit of a shake up, so I applaud Thomas for that. It’s a perfect read for All Hallow’s Eve.
If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that I only recently started listening to audio-books. I find their success very dependent on the narrator, but on the whole I like the medium as it enables me to get through some ‘reading’ whilst doing other things, which is pretty much necessary these days.
I was looking for some Horror-October suitable audios on my app when I came across two which caught my eye, and weirdly they are both turned out to be BBC radio plays, something I haven’t really listened to before either.
The first one I listened to was Spine Chillers, a collection of ghost stories by M.R James.
I’ve read some of James’ ghost stories before and quite enjoyed them so I thought this would be a great thing to listen to on an Autumn afternoon walk in the woods.
Unfortunately, because I was walking, I don’t think I was able to give it my full attention, and to be honest I found it quite difficult to figure out where one story ended and another began.
What I did really enjoy was the actual radio dramatisation aspect. The sound effects were great; there’s a lovely nostalgia in hearing the wind howl, and a window smash and picturing someone in a sound studio surrounded by props.
It might be obvious to some, but I was surprised at just how different to an audio-book it was.
“In ‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’, Professor Parkins embarks on a terrifying journey of discovery after he removes a curious artefact from the ruins of a Templar preceptory; while ‘The Tractate Middoth’ sees diligent curator David Garrett caught up in the machinations of the mysterious Dr Rant when he’s sent to retrieve an obscure manuscript from the library stacks. ‘Lost Hearts’ tells of a young boy haunted by two ghostly children, and in ‘The Rose Garden’, terrifying forces are unleashed when the Goodmans tear down their old summer house. Finally, ‘Number 13’ takes us to the Danish town of Viborg, where Dr Anderson puts himself in terrible danger as he investigates why the hotel he’s staying at does not contain a room 13.” – Goodreads
The Tractate Middoth was my favourite of the stories, unsurprisingly as it’s about a library LOL, but not particularly spooky. The Rose Garden did provide some welcome creepy moments however.
All of these tales are family-friendly, and would make a really nice alternative to watching a spooky film on Halloween. Gather around a fire with a hot drink and enjoy a ghost story or two, but don’t expect to be scared…unless you have a very low horror threshold.
The second one I picked was a dramatisation of Daphne Du Maurier’s The Birds.
I’m most familiar with the Hitchcock film – an absolute classic – but I did know a bit about the original story too, although I’ve never read it.
This was a different experience than the James collection altogether. The Birds gripped me from the get-go, and although one of the actors had a really piercing, irritating voice (sorry, but ow! My ears.!) it was great!
The tension builds very slowly, and is helped by the fact that the father is a bird-lover and at first reluctant to believe that the birds are dangerous, but of course, we know that they’re deadly.
The sound effects in this were great too, it added to the suspense and terror perfectly. A great listen for Halloween.
Welcome to the second annual flash fiction battle in which four brilliant independent horror authors will battle it out to be crowned the King or Queen of Horror, (well, Horror October at least).
Horror fans, blog friends, waifs & strays; the time has come.
All four stories based on the winning theme, ‘Master of Cemeteries’ have now been posted and it’s time for you to pick your favourite.
Which story had your skin crawling, or got you reaching for a comfort blanket? Which one made you do a jaw-drop? Or maybe one just had that extra something?
Have your say and vote for your favourite creepy quickie.
Voting ends on the 30th at 19:00 (GMT), and I will crown the winner on Halloween! All four entries are copied below in case you missed them the first time around. And if you can’t decide on a favourite you can vote for more than one story.
Please do tell us who you’ve voted for and why in the comments
#1: Holding On
by Sean Seebach
“It’s my job,” Ben said to his wife. “It has to be done.”
She tucked her face into her husband’s neck, rubbed her nose into his flannel collar, then kissed his unshaven cheek before leaving a coffee filled thermos and ham sandwich with him. The coffee would get drank. She had her doubts about the latter, noticing Ben’s flannel hanging loosely from his body. Everything had changed so quickly for them.
But she knew Ben was right. It was his job as the caretaker of Cedar Grove Cemetery to do the work that had to be done. She took a moment to gaze at the purple streaked sky before firing up the family’s 2001 Plymouth Neon, the one that fought to remain forest green against the orange colored rust, and thought about how proud she was to have Ben Taylor as her husband.
Ben picked up the plastic grocery bag his wife had left him and took a squat next to the pile of dirt where he left his spade. He unscrewed the thermos cap, poured, and sipped black coffee during the chilly October twilight.
Across the street, he heard children laughing, screaming, yelling “trick or treat!” at the top of their little lungs. Visions of toddlers dressed as dinosaurs, spacemen, princesses flashed through his mind. Huddled together in small groups, holding the hands of their Mom and Dad, only to let go once they were close to a walkway that led to the porch. Then, a full on joyous sprint, high-pitched screeching, heavy breathing, wide smiles. Plastic bags decorated with witches and castles and bats and cartoonish looking boogiemen being whipped open. More smiles as handfuls of sugary goodness fell into those bags. Bags that Mom and Dad would surely have to go through once darkness fell.
His stomach turned sour.
He picked up the sandwich his wife had left him and unwrapped it. He put it to his nose and smelled it. When was the last time he ate? Ben couldn’t remember. He hadn’t eaten in so long that Ben wasn’t sure if he even liked ham anymore, let alone sandwiches.
He took a greedy bite anyway. He chomped around for a few seconds before spitting it out. He wasn’t ready to eat. Not yet. Maybe later.
The sun fell faster and soon it would be dark. If Ben didn’t get a move on, he’d be working by the light of the lantern. This was okay by him. He wanted to hear the children a little longer.
The moon was almost visible now, a large white china plate hanging in the darkest sky imaginable. Gray, elongated clouds hovered in front of it. They were so close to each other they almost touched. Crickets began chattering to one another in the copse of trees close to where Ben was. Every now and then their chirps drowned out from the call of an owl. The children’s voices from across the street became nothing more than an echo. Ben picked up his spade and began to work.
He had done this so many times before. He tried to convince himself this was just like all the others. But he couldn’t fool what the heart knew. Trying to move on, to push through, was something he and his wife would have to learn as they lived. But Ben needed something to hang on to, something he could feel.
He took a moment to give his hands a break. They began to bleed in the cracks of his palms. He removed his flannel and wiped sweat from his face. When he exhaled he saw his breath and the cool air felt good. He straightened his back and glanced down and regarded the missing pooch from his beltline.
“Heck of a way to lose weight, Ben,” he said. “Didn’t even have to exercise.”
Then it came to him.
“Exercise.” He took a deep breath. “Running.”
Running was the word he needed to find the memory that he would…
“Hold on to forever. Bobby, you’re…”
…“Running! Look Daddies! I’m running!” Bobby is running all right. He’s running in the backyard. His arms are outstretched along with his chubby hands. He is smiling and his head is tilted back so his eyes are squinting into the sunlight. White light enhances the child’s blonde hair, mainly at the flared ends where the wind has caught them, forcing them to flap like little wings…
“Daddies, I spin.” Bobby holds his arms up. Daddy grabs a hold of Bobby’s hands and asks him if he’s ready. “Readies,” Bobby says with a nod and a grin. Daddy plants his feet into the tall, soft green grass and begins to spin. Bobby’s feet lift from the grass and into the air. Their eyes lock onto each other. In the corners of their eyes, the world is spinning in a kaleidoscope of color: green, blue, white, brown. Daddy’s worries vanish in that moment. The envelopes stamped with PAST DUE in red letters, asking the cashier to return the snack cakes and bubble bath at the register to prevent an overdraft (just the necessities on this shopping trip, Bobby. Sorry), the anxiety from watching the price screen on the fuel pump go higher and higher are all forgotten in the whirlwind…
“Daddies, look! I fall.” Bobby falls down. “Daddies! You fall…too!” Daddy also falls, right on his back. He looks over at Bobby who has his arms once again stretched out to his side. Daddy does the same. They face each other, make eye contact and smile. Together they raise their feet to the clouds then watch the sky as the dizziness slows…
Ben finds that memory in the darkest of moments, one that he will hold on to for the rest of his life, as he spills the last of the dirt onto the gravesite with the tombstone marked:
February 5, 2015-October 24, 2017
#2: The Master of Cemeteries
by Justin Bienvenue
I roam the land from the opening gates down to the last stone and rotting tree. I’ve been doing this for so long that I’ve lost count of exactly how long it’s been. You’d think this would be the same old routine and boring ass job but not for me. I own my craft, I appreciate every day and I love my job. Some take on this job and they get scared shitless because they think it’ll be “cool” but they don’t know, they don’t have a goddamn clue how to truly take this job seriously. I love this job because I don’t always work at the same place, no I travel and go where I’m needed. Sometimes I do return to places I’ve worked before, sure the land is the same but the work is different. Ghastly and inhuman some would say but righteous and spectacular for me.
I marvel at the opportunity to dig a hole six feet deep and bury a body into the fresh Earth. Sure there’s maggots, worms and other creatures and insects you’ve never even heard of in the ground below but after a while you don’t even notice em there. Sometimes I go lower than six feet I know it’s a bit unorthodox but I feel it’s a sign of appreciation and honor. Some I bury above six feet because I don’t think they were good in life so why should they have it good in death? What’s the big deal about not digging a body six feet and only digging it 2-4? Well let’s just say man’s best friend and mother nature usually show up to make sure they don’t enjoy their eternal slumber.
My first gig was over in Tucson. They had me bury a ruthless outlaw for gunning down eight people simply for looking at him wrong. Talk about talk being cheap. Well I don’t rightfully condone pointless killing but I felt if I didn’t bury this guy six feet that he was gonna rise up and bury my ass so I made sure he was given a proper burial. I’ve buried every sort of person, you name it. Outlaw, clown, lawyer, garbage man, mafioso, zoo keeper, heck even celebrities. Personally I could give two shits as to what their job was when they were alive but I know some people like to know so I throw it in. I used to be a bounty hunter part time but I didn’t see the point really. Bounty hunting became extinct and it got in the way of this job which has many, many parts to it.
I remember the first day I ever worked in New Orleans. They had me over at the St. Louis Cemetery. They told me it would be a bit different than what I may be used to but they had no idea who they were talking to. IF you don’t know, St. Louis is below sea level like most of the city so when there’s a massive storm or flood, the bodies go a washin’. I did my best fisherman and Charon impression and took them bodies out of the water and back into their crypts. Now for as long as I’d been on the job at that point I thought nothing could upset me but the cleanup I did that day would have given a slaughterhouse janitor the nightmares. There were bodies, limps, morbid looking faces and some of the grimiest, slimiest and slippery stench skin you’ve ever seen. Imagine putting Play-Doh under water and then rubbing it with olive oil and dead meat.
My job isn’t always that messy as I usually just patrol normal ones and do my usual maintenance. I do landscaping of the area, mow the open grass areas and keep the graves looking fresh and up to code. You always know if you’re at a cemetery that I’ve been to because it’s so clean and peaceful. It’s practically a garden only instead of flowers there’s gravestones so it’s pretty much a garden of the dead if you will. So in some ways I’d like to consider myself a gardener, only I don’t make stuff grow…or do I? In all seriousness I make sure no stone is turned, no grass gets weeds and no grave is unfilled. I don’t just harvest the land of the dead and dig their beds I also chisel their tombstones and layer the bricks and concrete in their crypts. Find me another person who does that and I’ll start digging my own grave. I just did it for fun one day when I got done early once and seeing as my stone was good and the family really enjoyed it I decided to add it to my repertoire.
Once I had to bury a famous pianist so I crafted a giant tombstone that looked like a piano. The family loved it but the people of the cemetery and the townspeople thought it was too much. They learned to appreciate it..after I told them I could make some for them when they died. I haven’t worked there too much since. As I said though I travel a lot going from graveyard to graveyard in hopes to make each one greater than the next one. I should have my own show on HGTV called “Flipping Graveyards” because I mean I’m that good at what I’d do.
I won’t need another job for as long as I live, heck I’ll probably still be doing this when I’m dead if they let me, you know the guy upstairs or the guy down below? I mean I am helping them..at least I think I am. If you need someone to take care of the deceased I’m the one you call. I have a list of titles on my resume; gravedigger, undertaker, mortician, gravestone carver, crypt builder, gardener, landscaper, embalmer, among many others. When you need a person to care for your loved ones I’m your woman, the master of cemeteries.
#3: In That Sleep of Death
by Stephen Kozeniewski
“You want to know the really perverse thing about The White City Devil?” Donnelly asked, the glee in his voice as he discussed his favorite serial killer almost palpable.
Vince shrugged as he shuffled to the other side of his kitchen to grab a mug for the loudmouthed undertaker’s coffee. Vince always kept some beans on hand for Donnelly’s occasional visits, but he never drank anything more powerful than tea himself. High-test upset his stomach, and he had enough trouble sleeping nights with the arthritis and everything else.
“The only thing that got him off was the sound of women screaming. That’s why he kept doing it. Imagine putting all that time and effort and money into making a jack shack for yourself because of a weird kink. Eh, but it was the 1800s, after all.”
Donnelly shrugged. Vince nodded and sat down across from his…well, he hesitated to use the word “friend,” even in his own mind, as he didn’t particularly care for the other man. “Acquaintance” seemed too remote, considering he knew more about Donnelly than almost any man alive. (Certainly, he spilled his guts to Vince often enough.) “Visitor,” perhaps was a fair splitting of the difference.
Donnelly continued describing the exploits of mass murderer H.H. Holmes for more than an hour before finally asking Vince a question about himself. In previous visits he had gone much, much longer.
“But, my God, Catapali, I have to say, I sort of get it. After all, the work I do, the work you do. Well, you’re so much closer to the metal, so to speak, than I am, digging all those damn graves. I can’t even get to sleep without a fifth of Amaretto in me. How do you sleep at night, anyway?”
Vince didn’t rush to answer. Usually if he waited long enough, Donnelly continued on with whatever he had been blathering about. This time, though, he was silent just long enough for it to seem rude if Vince didn’t respond.
Vince pointed at the little box with the speaker in his bedroom. It was visible from where they were sitting. Donnelly nodded.
“Yeah, that makes sense. That’s a good…I’ll have to try that.”
It was almost dark before the chatterbox mortician finally left, but Vince didn’t really mind. He couldn’t do any more work before dark, anyway. Not his real work, anyway. He clambered into his pickup truck and was greeted with a thump from the pine crate in the bed.
“Easy now,” he said, putting his hand through the back window and stroking the crate, as though its inhabitant could feel his soothing touch.
The thumping didn’t stop as he drove out to the gravesite. With the pulley system he had rigged up for his truck it was no trouble at all to dump the pine crate into the open grave. Getting the expensive cherry coffin from Donnelly’s funeral home up into the bed was slightly trickier, but he had done it nightly for years now and was used to it.
When Vince had first started his job, he had done the grueling work of digging a three by eight foot hole six feet deep by hand. 144 cubic feet of soil. 1100 gallons. Every speck hauled out of the ground at the end of a spade. Hours of work. Now, with his backhoe, it took him forty-five minutes, tops. Ten to cover it back up.
It was only half an hour to the abandoned dump. Using the old car compactor, Vince squished what was left of the dearly departed Mr. Squillante into a fine red paste, strewn with splintered wood and bone. Vince had occasionally considered selling Donnelly’s expensive coffins, but he had no idea what the market was for those, and, really, he didn’t need the money. He led a simple life.
Afterward, he swung by all his usual haunts: the docks, a few crack dens, the bus station. It seemed like slim pickings tonight, but he finally tracked down a skinny runaway peeing in the bushes outside of the homeless tent city downtown in Memorial Park. He brought the boy back to his caretaker’s shack before nailing him into a fresh pine box for tomorrow. By three in the morning he had finished digging all the graves for tomorrow.
Vince trudged into his bedroom, feeling every second of his sixty-seven years on this Earth. It seemed like all he ever did anymore was work his fingers to the bone, and yet no matter how tired he was he could never sleep a wink at night without his noise machine. It wasn’t a store-bought device with a pre-recorded track, though, as he had let Donnelly assume. The transmission had to be live. Always live.
He flicked it on. Instantly, his bedroom was filled with the soothing sounds of nails scratching against wood, panicked low-oxygen screams, and profanity-laden threats. Good. The prostitute he’d buried in Squillante’s stead was just reaching that point of pitch-perfect desperation. Vince yawned and felt his eyes grow heavy. Better sleep while he could. Tomorrow he’d have to do it all over again.
By Gabino Iglesias
“You look a little pale, Daniel,” said Frantz in his deep, rumbling voice. “This new task has you scared, man? If you wanna roll with us, you’re gonna see some weird stuff. And you’re gonna see a lot of blood. Either one bothers you, walk away now. I might forget about your face if you’re lucky.”
Daniel shook his head. Becoming a member of Zoe Pound was all he’d thought about since his older brother, Samuel, joined them at the age of fifteen. He wanted the money and the respect that came with being a member of the gang. He craved the brotherhood of other Haitians and Haitian-Americans. He dreamed about the power and women that would come his way if he didn’t mess up and did what he was told like a good soldier.
“I’m good, Frantz,” said Daniel, quickly making his way to the door. “Meeting the guy in a mausoleum is weird, but I’ve been in the streets long enough to see weirder. I’ll get you a new puppet tonight.”
Puppets. That’s what Frantz called the disposable bodies the bokor, the dark voodoo priest, got him for suicide missions. Daniel knew that getting a new one entailed killing a man and getting him into the hands of the bokor within a day. What he didn’t know was why he was getting this special task assigned to him after he’d botched a drug deal the previous week. Fratz had called it a rookie mistake, but the look in his eyes did not match the smile he shot at Daniel when he said id. In any case, Daniel was going to get in done. That would be a good start in terms of getting back on Frantz good side.
The victim had already been picked. The man was as predictable, loved his routine, and lived alone. Those were good things. They were also the things that were going to get him killed. Daniel knew he liked to park his car behind a local pizzeria before hitting the trails at a nearby park for his nightly run. It was a matter of waiting for him to show up. When he did, Daniel stepped out from behind a Dumpster, pressed his gun against the man’s temple, and made him get in the car and drive to Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Brownsville, a huge, neglected place that also happened to be Florida’s most important primarily African-American graveyard.
There was a lot of shaking and offering on the drive there, but Daniel ignored all of it. This was a mission he would not screw up. The man at the wheel was already dead to him, nothing more than a throwaway sack of meat and bones.
The explanation Frantz had given Daniel was incredibly accurate. The newbie gangbanger kept his gun in his hoodie and made the man walk to mausoleum near the woods that backed up against the cemetery on the far left side without an issue other than the annoying crying and pleading the man was doing, not to mention he kept snorting snot into the back of his skull like a hog with the flu.
Waiting at the threshold of the dilapidated mausoleum was a wiry, light-skinned man wearing a sleeveless white shirt. His hands, arms, chest, and neck were covered in tattoos.
“You must be Daniel,” said the man.
“Yeah, you the bokor?”
“That’d be me, young blood.”
Daniel realized the man looked anywhere between 38 and 78 years old. His face sported lines that spoke of years under the sun, of hard living and strange nights, but his body looked young and powerful, almost like that of a swimmer or lightweight boxer.
“This the puppet?” the bokor asked, jutting his jaw at the sobbing man.
“Yeah,” replied Daniel.
“Get him inside and shoot him.”
The man screamed some unintelligible promises and supplications. Daniel grabbed him by the back of the neck and pushed him into the cool, moist, smelly darkness of the mausoleum.
Two bullets went into the man’s body, both close to where Daniel thought his heart should be. He dropped down and twitched twice.
“Nice work,” said the bokor from somewhere behind Daniel.
The cold, hard blade pressed against Daniel’s neck from the back.
“The ritual works better if you start it as the person is dying. It’s easier to trap their souls in their bodies for a while that way.”
Confusion and fear kept Daniel frozen. The sound the blade made as it sliced across his neck was as unexpected as the whole situation. It was somewhat of a crunch. The taste of his own blood came quickly, the warm liquid flowing down his chest.
Daniel turned around, lifted his gun, and shot the bokor in the chest, right below his right clavicle. A dark hole appeared where the bullet disappeared into his body, but no blood came. Daniel squeezed the trigger again, aiming higher this time. A second hole opened up in the bokor’s left cheek. The wound remained as dry as the one in his chest.
“Be happy Daniel, you accomplished your task tonight. In fact, you brought Frantz two puppets instead of one. I’m sure he will appreciate the gesture.”
The bokor’s laugh echoed inside the dark mausoleum as Daniel dropped to his knees, his muscles starting to lose their strength.
“Don’t despair, Daniel,” said the bokor. “Your brother asked me to make sure you could cross over as soon as your next job is done.”
Daniel couldn’t reply with a severed throat, so he closed his eyes and felt the tears roll down his face as cold darkness embraced him.
Justin Bienvenue is an indie author and poet. He is diverse in several different genres but mainly writes horror and poetry.
He published his first book The Macabre Masterpiece: Poems of Horror and Gore in 2010 and later had it republished in 2013. He also published the Western Horror A Bloody Bloody Mess In The Wild Wild West in 2013, Like A Box of Chocolates another book of poetry in 2014 and a Crime Thriller Opium Warfare. He has also written several stories and poems which have been published in anthologies.
When not writing novels he also writes short stories and drabbles, and on his blog. He is currently promoting his latest novel while also working on Hundred Year Old Horror, a Horror Blog.
Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX.
He’s the author of ZERO SAINTS, HUNGRY DARKNESS, and GUTMOUTH. He is the book reviews editor for PANK Magazine, the TV/film editor for Entropy Magazine, and a columnist for LitReactor and CLASH Media. His reviews have appeared in Electric Literature, The Rumpus, 3AM Magazine, and many other print and online venues.
Gabino’s latest release is an anthology of crime stories inspired by the songs of Johnny Cash.
Stephen Kozeniewski (pronounced “causin’ ooze key”) lives in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star.
He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German.
He has written numerous horror novels including Braineater Jones, The Hematophages and Hunter of the Dead, and has been published in various anthologies.
Stephen’s latest release,Slashvivor! is a collaboration with none other than Stevie Kopas, the reigning champion of the Flash Fiction Battle! It was released September 1st 2017.
Influenced by Stephen King and Rod Serling, Sean Seebach has written three books: A Looking in View, Autumn Dark and Our Monsters Are Real: The Pig Man.
When Sean isn’t writing or managing a wonderful barbecue joint with amazing people, he enjoys reading, cooking, and listening to rock n’ roll. He currently lives in Ohio with his wife, daughter, and son.
I don’t usually feel the urge to write movie reviews, even though I go to the cinema about once week. After seeing this film, however, I really felt like I had to write down my thoughts because I couldn’t figure out what my thoughts were! It was one strange film.
Did I enjoy it? Not sure. Did I understand it? Probably not!
I went into this film not knowing anything about it other than seeing the trailer, and at the time of writing this, I had not read anything about it either…so were my theories correct? Read on…
Summary: A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence. [Certificate 18, 2 hr 1 min running time]
When I was working in pubs and first started getting manager shifts I started having these awful stress-dreams where people simply refused to leave at the end of the night (turns out this is a common thing in the trade). I’d go around the pub telling each group of customers that drinking time was up and they had to leave, but no one would move. I’d lock one door but more people would come through a side door and I couldn’t stop them. They would be crowding around the bar shouting for drinks and start trashing the place. AND NEVER LEAVE.
That’s exactly what watching this film was like. It was exhausting, claustrophobic, and stressful (especially for someone like me who finds people tiring at the best of times – not least when they show up uninvited and then won’t leave).
Being an Aronofsky film (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream), I knew mother! would be a bit doo-lally, but woah. I didn’t expect that amount of craziness. On the surface it seems like a confused, badly-written film, but surely there’s more to it!?
At first glance it’s a home invasion story where these bizarre, audacious people keep turning up at the house Jennifer Lawrence’s character (yep none of the characters have proper names, just to add to the pretension of it all) has built from scratch. And when they finally outstay their welcome, they refuse to leave. This gives way to the marital breakdown part of the story where the young wife (still Lawrence) will always love the older husband (Javier Bardem’s ‘Him’) more than he loves her, no matter how hard she tries. And then there’s the real horror element which is a sort of creepy living house vibe, where stains grow by themselves and walls have heartbeats. Weird.
As the film surpassed the half-way mark, it got pretty disturbingly bizarre and increasingly fantastical. It’s one of those films that you hope has a point that you’re not quite grasping, because without a point, it seems pretty terrible.
But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. I couldn’t look away, even though I wanted to. A lot.
As I said at the beginning, I’ve not read any of the reviews of interviews, so I only have my own thoughts to go on, and for what it’s worth, I came up with the following theories:
1. Aronofsky is trying to represent the hormonal, emotional and physical turmoil of pregnancy. Was the whole thing a metaphor for JL’s pregnancy-induced paranoia of never being good enough?
2. Or, it is a representation of the ego of mankind. Those who feed off the goodness of others, whom take everything and give nothing. I think I like this theory the most.
(On a side note, it could also be a dig at celebrity culture – those who crave constant attention and out-pourings of love and admiration?)
3. It is a political/ecological lesson about overpopulation, inhumanity, and environmental destruction.
It’s possible the writer/director was trying to say all of these things and that’s why it was so mad. No doubt everyone who sees it will have their own theories as well, so I think the film was a success on that level. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the need to actively find the meaning behind a film or story. And the more I think about what it could all mean, the less ridiculous the film seems. Taken at face value though, it is just that – ridiculous.
***Update: I have since read some reviews and interviews about what the hell was going on here and it turns out my theories weren’t quite what Aronofsky had in mind. But I don’t think I was that far off! This Telegraph article explains all (and has ALL THE SPOILERS FYI)
Brush the cobwebs off your costumes, because Horror October FIVE (!) is fast approaching!
If you haven’t noticed, this is all bit last minute! Sadly, due to some technical blog issues at the beginning of this month I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able do my annual month of horror, due to not being able to post, but fingers crossed everything seems to be working fine again.
I am, however, really behind schedule in planning for this years’ event so I need you all more than ever!
Last year’s horror-themed month was a massive success, mainly due to the main event – the Flash Fiction Battle (in which 1200 votes were cast for your favourite story) – so I will of course be doing much of the same this year. It really does get bigger and better every year.
I’m also looking for reviews, features, guest posts/interviews, anything goes as long as it comes under the umbrella that is horror (I use the term very loosely and hope to cater for everyone, even you scaredy cats out there 😉 )
Bloggers: Any guest posts or horror-ish reviews would be greatly appreciated and you’ll get full credit and links etc.
Authors: Do you have a spooky, dark, supernatural (etc) book on the market and want to promote it? Get in touch! I’m afraid the only thing I can’t do right now is accept any more review requests, but I’ll be happy to spotlight your book!
Welcome to to Horror October 2016’s main event: The Flash Fiction Battle
At the beginning of the month, you voted in your masses for your favourite horror story prompt, and the time has come for the participating horror writers (see above) to battle it out for the title of King or Queen of Horror (October)! The winning prompt was‘3 AM. Full Dark. One Sound’,and the only rule was a 1000 word limit.
You will be able to vote for your favourite story, but not until all the entries have been published (by the end of this week).
The Quiet Life
Author: Stephen Kozeniewski Word Count: 926 Blurb:What could possess a couple to cut out their own tongues?
My tongue sits in a Mason jar on my nightstand, suspended in denatured alcohol.
Do you think that makes me morbid? Grotesque?
Perhaps. I prefer to think it makes me sentimental. After all, he was an unwilling victim of circumstance.
I couldn’t keep him. The human voice is irresistible to them. Like a pheromone. It draws them. The creatures are strangely reliant on the sense of hearing, even to the detriment of all other senses. I’ve often seen them prowling the grounds at night. But they never try to come in the house. To them, the door may as well be an impassable mountain.
When they hear human speech, though, my God, it’s like they’re miniature tornadoes, destroying everything in their paths. It happened to the Martins across the street. This was after we’d all learned to stay silent. But the stillness must have been driving Ted Martin out of his wits. He made the mistake of playing a song.
It was Elvis singing, not Ted, but that didn’t matter to the invaders. As soon as the King’s voice was on the wind the creatures couldn’t flood the Martin household fast enough. They burrowed through brick, wood, and glass with equal vigor, a chitinous tide rolling in.
So we must do without music or television. Even a single errant noise, crying out after hitting your hand with a hammer and they’ll come.
Watching what happened to the Martins was what finally made me walk downstairs, take the scissors from the sewing nook, and hack out my own tongue. It seemed to take hours, longer because I had to suppress my cries of pain. Just scissoring and scissoring away, choking back the blood as it filled my mouth.
After a while I saw Grace had been watching me. She was sitting in the corner, her head hung like a schoolgirl’s. She’s a large girl. Obese, I guess you might say. I don’t find her especially attractive, but we’ve been sleeping together quite a bit. Mostly just to stave off the boredom.
I’d never even seen her before when this all began nine months ago. That was back when there was still panic in the streets and no one understood what drove the creatures. She turned up on my doorstep seeking refuge. Not really knowing what else to do I’d let her in. She’d been the one to suggest that we try not talking.
She has a terrible stutter and rarely opens her mouth out of fear of embarrassment. She had taken note that her habitual silence had made her all but invisible to the creatures. She’d shared the secret with me full days before the news had suggested it. But by then, of course, most everyone was already gone and of those who remained few of us had the discipline to sit silently in our homes for the rest of our lives.
Then the Martins died, and I cut my tongue out. I was standing there with the bloody scissors and Grace just stuck her out her own tongue and closed her eyes, waiting for me to do it for her. Even with her stutter she didn’t trust herself never to utter another sound.
So now we sit. Day after day. Occasionally reading. Often fucking. We’ve taken to exercising a bit, too, not unlike prison lifting to pass the time. We have conversations on the whiteboard, but neither of us have very much to say. Christ said the meek would inherit the earth. I doubt this is what He meant.
It’s late now. Nearly three o’clock in the morning. With nothing to occupy my mind during the day I’ve become a habitual insomniac. The power went out ages ago and there’s no moon or stars out tonight. I can hear them, chittering away at each other in their own strange language.
In the darkness I’m haunted by memories.
Grace is thumping around in the next room. I wonder if she’s exercising. Perhaps she’s just masturbating. Either way I consider joining her. At least it would take my mind off those damned things.
They start out like black insects, about the size of a fist. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are extraterrestrial, but sometimes I think it’s more likely they originated right here on Earth. How could space bugs have evolved to love the human voice so much?
When they hear you they swarm into your mouth. You can crush one, maybe five. But you can’t escape all of them. The “winner” devours your tongue. I suppose when they finally get me they’ll be denied that little treat, at least. Then it latches onto the stem, turning itself into a nasty little prosthetic tongue.
They must tug on your nerves or else secrete some kind of venom, because once one’s gotten in your mouth you stop acting normal. You just walk around, arms and legs wildly flailing, as though the little bugs are student drivers attempting to drive your body.
I’ve looked into the eyes of people possessed like that. You can see them suffering, unable to control their own bodies or even close their mouths over the invader. A fully conscious meat puppet. If I had more guts I would try to kill them when I see them wandering around the streets below. But I don’t want to draw any attention.
A noise pierces the darkness. How is that possible? Grace is fat enough to hide it, but didn’t she know? Damn. I should have used protection. My newborn baby is crying in the next room.
Stephen Kozeniewski lives in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where, due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star.
He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s is in German.