Sunday, February 19, 2006

Continuing My Classic Horror Journey


Hello, I finished I Am Legend by Matheson. It was really good. Neville is a very interesting protagonist. You really want to root for him that he will survive. I don't want to spoil you, but the ending will definitely hit you like a one-two punch. I definitely wanted a different one. Nevertheless it was one of the best short stories I have ever read. I finished I am Legend more than a year ago. It had such an effect on my psyche that I had to put the book down. Let me tell you a secret. I am a bit of a whimp when it comes to horror. Yet like the worst masochist, I adore horror. I love being scared and that feeling of unsettledness that settles in your stomach like a heavy meal. Anyway, I felt like I wanted to finish it, because I really liked Matheson's writing. And I paid a lot of money for the book ;)
I pulled it out this summer after the big move and read some more. There were some excellently written stories, all deeply disturbing. One of the most effecting is one where a henpecked young woman under her mother's thumb buys a Zuni doll for her boyfriend that her mother has forced her to break up with. The Zuni warrior comes to life and tries to kill her. She manages to survive but her mind is possessed by the Zuni doll and she calls her mother over to visit. The story ends with her jabbing a knife into the floor in the same motion the Zuni doll lives. The end is particularly disconcerting because you know that a horrendous fate awaits her mother. Another story was a little too unsettling. It's set in the future after wars and people have barely managed to keep a semblance of normal life. A sheltered suburban girl meets a dangerous crowd in college. They go to the city to a club where there is a unique show. A woman who has become effectively a zombie from a drug that she overdosed on. That scene was really hard to read because the horror is knowing that this was a normal girl who was changed by this drug she abused. And the other element of horror rests in the fact that the young, sheltered woman is about to walk down the same path. That was not my favorite story. Another story features a man who goes to the funeral parlor to plan his wife's service and arrangement. It ends with him going home to kill his wife. Very unsettling. As I have described, some of the stories are quite disturbing, some horrific, and some humorous. I loved the story in the funeral parlor where a vampire wants a funeral and he invites a host of ghoulish creatures. And the witch and this other character has a fight. Of course the werewolf has to go because he is called by the moon to hunt. It was really funny. I also loved the one where the guy has been hexed by a witch doctor in Africa and his fiance calls her anthropologist friend who studied witch doctors to save him. It was really really good-my second favorite after I am Legend. I think it be great as a movie short. Probably the most disturbing story was the one with a man who has anger issues. His anger has possessed his house, for lack of a better description. He is a frustrated writer who cannot write and has allowed bitterness to kill him slowly. Strange things happen to him at home, rungs slip, pencils jab him, he bangs his knee everytime he sits down at the table. His wife has decided to leave him and he cannot ask her to stay, although he loves here. His friend at the university where he works who is a scientist warns him about the house but he doesn't listen. He manages to get fired by yelling at a student and goes home. His wife is there and asks him to tell her to stay, he runs her off, and the house takes his revenge. This story comes across like a Greek tragedy. You can see the path that the character is taking but you are helpless to stop it. This is the side aspect of horror. The horror lies not necessarily in the supernatural elements but the poor choices the characters make. I can see why Matheson is cited as an influence by Stephen King. He definitely has a feel for the horrific in various forms.

HP Lovecraft's volume The Thing at the Doorstep and other stories is really good so far. Lovecraft has quite an imagination. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward was surprisingly a real page turner. It is about the possessing of an inquisitive youth by his nefarious wizard ancestor. It is written almost like a report and you are the reader. You believe initally that the hero is Charles Dexter Ward but it turns out to be his doctor and old family friend. He shows truly brave actions to save the young man from himself and his horrid ancestor. Despite not understanding most of the words used and the intricate writing style, this story really sucked me in. I'm glad that Lovecraft leaves a lot to our imagination. That's actually more scary. I also really enjoyed Beyond The Wall of Sleep and Pickmen's Model too. Beyond the Wall of Sleep features a psychiatrist who is intrigued by the case of a hill-dwelling man who is seemingly possessed by an otherworld entity. The story is disturbing but very poetically written. Pickmen's Model was so clever. It's told by a man who is relating his experiences with a painter to another fellow. This painter makes the most disgusting and bizarre imagery that repels most people. The narrator continually asserts his open-mindedness until he comes to the knowledge that the horrendous paintings the artist makes are a glimpse of reality. It totally freaks out the narrator, and when you read the story, you share in his horror. The Tomb is also a good story. The narrator is a German naval officer, and is about the most unlikable protagonist imaginable. He watches his whole crew succomb to a supernatural force and denies to the end the power of it, until he rationalizes his own demise. You don't really mourn him. Not after all the atrocities he commits within the course of the story. Instead you want to say good riddance. But at the same time, you're wondering what calls him to his demise, and it does the rest of his crew. The door is open but you don't get to walk through. You just watch the narrator leave. I am about to start The Dunwich Horror which I am looking forward to reading. I also like how the editor ST Joshi posts footnotes as reference to what Lovecraft is talking about as far as references to other stories and places and historical figures. I must add that it was necessary to look up a lot of words as I was reading. Also with the Matheson volume as well.

I'll post when I finish this intriguing and enlightening volume.

1 Comments:

At 7:31 PM, Blogger packerbear said...

Matheson is a writer who's influenced me as well. I've read numerous writings of his and he is'nt just good, he's one of, if not, the best. I am Legend is one I haven't yet read, but will now. If you haven't read his short story collection or Stir of Echoes, then those are a must, especially Stir of Echoes-It's different then the movie

 

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