We came. We saw. We kicked its ASS!

I’m not going to do it. I promised myself I wouldn’t do it.

*lips  zipped*

……………………..  ………… ………….. *lips slowly unzipping*

It simply can’t be avoided. 

WHO YOU GONNA CALL! Why, GHOSTBUSTERS. Naturally!…okay, now that’s out of my system and am most definitely a failure at life, I cannot deny my love for Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray in this movie (and many other films). In fact, one of the most epic homage’s to Ghostbusters was in the film Zombieland. Raise your hand if you know what I’m talking about?

Bill Murray is definitely a household name. He’s been in comedies and dramas alike, some of which did fantastic and some of which…didn’t. But take Zombieland for all it’s worth. Most people will associate Bill Murray with Ghostbusters. Is that a bad thing? I don’t know. I’ve always had differing opinions on being known for one thing. I’m not talking about typecasting really, but having many movies, songs and/or books under your belt and only being known for one piece of work. I’d gladly take that. At least I would have made a thumbprint in the cookie. But I can see where it might hurt a person’s growth. Ultimately, none of the actors in this film were stunted by it.

A trio of brilliance. Dr. Peter Venkman (Murray), Dr. Raymond Stantz (Aykroyd), Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) are parapsychologists in New York City. Peter is “charming” and has a skeptic’s nose. Ray is “enthusiastic.” His passion for ghost hunting is about as strong as a child’s need to rip presents open on Christmas morning. Egon is “nerdy”…okay, that’s not totally fair, but he’s definitely the science guy of the bunch. Adding Winston (Ernie Hudson) the, “as long as there’s a paycheck in it,” one, upgrades the trio to a well rounded quartet. And one cannot discount Annie Potts as Janine Melnitz, the mother of the group. She’s terrific as the dry humored, no nonsense secretary. After being “let go” from their prestigious university positions, Peter, Ray and Egon go into business together declaring themselves Ghostbusters. Can you hear the phones ringing off the hook? It isn’t until a haunted hotel needs a discreet extermination, hello Slimer, that celebrity ensues. The Ghostbusters become household names. Business booms!….But why is there SO much business? One word: Twinkie

Dr. Egon Spengler: I’m worried, Ray. It’s getting crowded in there and all my data points to something big on the horizon.
Winston Zeddemore: What do you mean, big?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Well, let’s say this Twinkie represents the normal amount of psychokinetic energy in the New York area. Based on this morning’s sample, it would be a Twinkie… thirty-five feet long, weighing approximately six hundred pounds.

Winston Zeddemore: That’s a big Twinkie.

Meanwhile Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) is living in an apartment that just happens to be the center to another dimension. Why not, right? She’s also being pursued by Venkman. Why not, right? Soon, forces beyond anyone’s control begin to invade, mind, body and spirit. And the Ghostbusters are the only ones who have the knowledge and “expertise” to defeat said forces. Yes, that means the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.  

Bottom line is Ghostbusters works. For whatever reason, it just does. It’s a comedy about ghosts. Most people don’t associate ghosts as being funny. The characters don’t treat the paranormal as funny, they treat it with value and respect. They throw out words like proton packs, ecto goggles and PKE meters. Ancient Samarin demigod’s and god’s, Zuul, Gozerian and Vinz make cameos. All of which should be scary. I’m mean, we’re talking end of days here:

Winston Zeddemore: Hey Ray. Do you believe in God?
Dr Ray Stantz: Never met him.
Winston Zeddemore: Yeah, well, I do. And I love Jesus’s style, you know.
Dr Ray Stantz: The entire roof cap is made out of a magnesium-tungsten alloy…
Winston Zeddemore: What are you so involved with over there?
Dr Ray Stantz: These are the blueprints for structural ironwork of Dana Barret’s apartment building, and they are very, very strange.
Winston Zeddemore: Hey Ray. Do you remember something in the bible about the last days when the dead would rise from the grave?
Dr Ray Stantz: I remember Revelations 7:12…And I looked, and he opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake. And the sun became as black as sack cloth, and the moon became as blood.”
Winston Zeddemore: “And the seas boiled and the skies fell.”
Dr Ray Stantz: Judgement day.
Winston Zeddemore: Judgement day.
Dr Ray Stantz: Every ancient religion has its own myth about the end of the world.
Winston Zeddemore: Myth? Ray, has it ever occurred to you that maybe the reason we’ve been so busy lately is ’cause the dead HAVE been rising from the grave?
Dr Ray Stantz: [Pause ] How ’bout a little music?
Winston Zeddemore: Yeah.        

And yet this is a comedy. The dialogue is witty, the characters are interesting and you absolutely root for them. The best type of comedy is the kind that sneaks in some thought provoking notions underneath the laughs. Making the ghosts look like Slimer and animating an extremely large Stay Puft Marshmallow Man helps lighten the mood. But if you are anyone who understands the science and theories behind parapsychology, you’ll find many truths in this film.

What I’ve really loved about this course is the fact that horror is vast. Ghostbusters isn’t a light comedy by its subject. And it would be no laughing matter if Gozerians were real. Who’s to say they aren’t? The greatest thing about this movie is the belief in the unexplainable (or at least something that is virtually unexplainable). The quartet sticks to their guns even when they are fired, even when they are laughed at, even when they have PROOF and are still denied validation. Now, every story needs obstacles and the ghosts themselves weren’t enough. They never are. It’s our own rational thought that keeps away the impossible. But even under the blanket of comedy, Aykroyd and Ramis created an iconic story filled with bits and pieces of truth (in the field of ghost hunting) and brought ghost hunting/busters worldwide. Today we have shows the Ghosthunters, Paranormal State, Ghost Adventures. They all take a heavier tone than Ghostbusters did, but therein lies the point and the beauty. 

Even if not taken seriously by the average viewer, Ghostbusters will always find a way to incite reaction. That right there is gold for a storyteller. Good or bad, reaction is better than no reaction at all.

Shout out to Rick Moranis as the “Keymaster.” Awesome.

And the score for this film is fabulous. 5 stars!

Scrooged!

I really wanted to play a drinking game while reading Dickens’, A Christmas Carol. How many, “bah humbugs” could Ebenezer spout? Too many, let me tell you. But I must say, I find bah humbugs make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. This is a classic tale no matter the time of year. Scrooge has become an actual description in our lexicon. And we all know what someone means when they insist on calling someone else a, “Scrooge.” A term of endearment? HA! Maybe somewhat. I like to think of, “Scrooge,” as a tough cookie on the outside, but gooey on the inside. My dad is a, “Scrooge.”

I know the story well. Who doesn’t? One thing I don’t know much about is Dickens’ other works. I’ve never read anything besides, A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities. Slap me around if you must, but I’m just going to have to put him on the long list of authors I MUST read more of.  I enjoyed this story and not just because of its universal appeal. The writing style worked well for me. Sometimes (and perhaps this makes me sound daft) I have issues with classics. The vernacular, sentence structure…even metaphorical phrases can sometimes draw me out of the story. I have to re-read. To be fair, I find myself re-reading cotemporary stories at times, too. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of this book. Having knowledge of the story helped some, but even with that in the back of my mind, I let the story unfold as it was intended.

I’m also a sucker for horribly unlikable protagonists that learn the error in their ways. Ebenezer Scrooge has to be the literary character with the greatest learning curve. Nothing like a ghost or two and a glimpse into your bleak future to teach an old dog new tricks. At its root, A Christmas Carol is a cautionary tale and one that all of humanity can attest to. Time is subtle. It’s a silent killer really. We all live our lives rather ubiquitously, not stopping to assess every experience that shapes who we are or more importantly who we become.  Then it hits you one day: Who are you? How did you become who you are? Thankfully, not all of us need to be visited by ghosts in order to look at our reflections. But then again, there are those, “Marley’s,” out there how are chained to their inability to better their reflection.

Ultimately, Scrooge’s journey is uplifting. It’s never too late to change your outlook and behaviors. And if it weren’t for the ghosts there would be no motivation for Scrooge to want to change. Why change if there’s nothing holding you accountable after you die? The ghosts aren’t scary because they are ghosts, but because they represent, “life after death.”

No one wants chains weighing them down, in life or in death. They hurt, are noisy… they simply aren’t functional. We can all take heed from Ebenezer Scrooge!

Paranormal Activity–Hurry, get the camera!

Confession:

I had never seen this movie before it was assigned for this course. Call me stubborn, (or judgmental…but that might be too harsh…really…) I had NO desire to watch Paranormal Activity when it was released in 2009. I had the mindset that the universe had already experienced The Blair Witch Project and there really wasn’t much allure for me with the whole, “reality/not reality” format. Besides, Blair Witch dominated with that and nothing has ever been able to come close to that publicity stunt since. I knew that Paranormal Activity wasn’t claiming to be actual footage (like Blair), but its documentary style was enough to give the illusion. I guarantee someone somewhere thinks (might swear by the moon, the inconstant moon) that the couple and the events in the film are REAL. Oh no! Where’s Katie?!?!?!? ………………………………… Unfortunately, I didn’t care for this movie at all. I didn’t think I would like it when it came out and now having watched it, I feel content with my first impression.

Let me state that Micha Sloat is by far the most ridiculous character I have come across in a long, long time. I understand the camera thing. We had to have someone insisting upon it or else there would be no movie, at least not in the way it was envisioned. So, Micha grows attached to the camera. However, his overall obsession with filming everything was irritating. He claimed it was going to help them “fix” the activity. Tell me how exactly? Anyway, he was convinced that it would help. Just like he was convinced belittling Mr. Fredrichs, yelling manly “what ups”, and bringing a f*cking Ouija board into the mix would help. Smart guy. Definitely a keeper….can you visualize my eyes rolling right about now?

His character arc was interesting enough although I don’t think his journey was very productive. When the couple started their story, his attitude was pretty nonchalant with a dash of asshole. He slowly moved into believing that something was going on, but still refused to take it seriously. So, the big, bad man that he was, provokes! Obviously a wise choice. Suddenly his girlfriend (who was way smarter by default of fear) was being dragged out of their bedroom by an invisible force. Do we still refuse help from someone who might know something? Yep. Micha’s the man. Micha can protect his girlfriend. He does have some depth. The closer we got to the climax, the more vulnerable and insecure he became. But, I just don’t have it in me to really care that he died. In fact, the guy kinda deserved what he got.

Katie, sweet Katie. She was relatable. I wanted to be invested in her well being. I thought her logic concerning the situation was believable. I liked that they had a “psychic” come in (who wasn’t a psychic, but a medium…I digress). I liked that she wanted to contact Dr. Averies. I liked that she didn’t want to agitate the entity. I liked that she fought Micha on his behavior. But…I didn’t like how she screamed all the time and got very dramatic about everything. I liked Micha’s curiosity, but hated his attitude. I liked Katie’s belief and fight, but wasn’t really digging her reaction to the phenomenon. I was extremely upset with Micha and his influence on her, but I don’t blame her. If I was experiencing all the stuff she was and I was scared, I wouldn’t want to go it alone. I would want a friend. Sadly, Micha was an idiot. I especially liked his knowledge of bringing in a demonologist or exorcist as he referred to him. Micha, the knower of all, explained how that would just make matters worse. Perhaps, but guess what, Micha??? SO DOES BRINGING IN A OUIJA BOARD!

I understood Katie was haunted or a demon had attached on to her. She wasn’t possessed though and the activity was hit and miss since she was young. Did Mr. Demon decide it was time to get on in Katie OR did the couple make that happen? Still it would have been interesting for them to have left. Even though they were told and came to the conclusion it just wouldn’t matter. If I were being terrorized, I might try anything. And I would definitely film EVERY SINGLE ATTEMPT!….

So…it didn’t end well for our engaged to be engaged couple. Bummer. I wish I could have suspended my mind for this film. Granted, if I was living their story, I’d be pretty freaked out. I wouldn’t have done half of the things they did, but yeah…I’d be freaked out. One thing I really did like was the fact that they started experiencing phenomena during the day time. We tend to feel safe during the day and I think it added a level to the story that not many horror films explore.

I can’t say that I will watch 2 or 3. But, I am happy I finally watched this film. Now I know I don’t like it when I tell people I don’t like it.

Grave’s End

While reading this book I found myself completely fascinated with the psychology of the human brain. Elaine and her family (and friends) confessed to experiencing paranormal happenings. Thirteen years of unexplainable events some of that time spent rationalizing, some spent hopeless. Always looking for answers. But, just how does one condition herself to live with tiny balls of light, suffocating dreams, loud, abrupt noises, etc, etc??? How do we, as sane, rational, even open minded people allow such unnatural occurrences become commonplace? Especially when fueled by fear!? Elaine was afraid and usually fear does the trick. Our brains don’t fair too well when we’re scared. And I’m not saying she wasn’t truly frightened, but as I read I kept wondering why she allowed this to just go on…

I think the main thing to consider were the breaks in activity. Just like an unstable relationship, sometimes there are periods of good, smooth times. But, it never fails, the chaos will always return. I guess she was genuinely hoping that each time the events stopped they would STOP. She knew they wouldn’t though. So…why stay? Why not try harder to fix the problem? It’s not that she didn’t reach out, try to talk to others, try to learn about the phenomena, but it seemed so slow. If I was as frightened as I believe Elaine was, I can’t imagine allowing so much time to pass. So, I suppose that was a major issue for me.

Still, her story was an interesting story. I tend to believe people when they tell me they’ve had experiences. Who am I to judge and/or disagree? I wasn’t there, so how can I refute? I can’t and I won’t. I can definitely question how they reacted though.

I absolutely thought that the activity was centered around Karin. POLTERGEIST! Karin was the most interesting part in this whole story, well her and M-ow. I felt like M-ow was going to transform into Professor McGonagall at any instant! But, alas…I do think the cat was sent there or perhaps drawn there and really I would have paid more attention to that. But this is ME talking. I know a bit more about supernatural “things” than Elaine did at the time. How would she know what to look for? Back to Karin. I always felt like she wasn’t ever being completely truthful. Yeah, okay, maybe she wasn’t scared, but getting smacked in the face with a hair clip isn’t a nice, friendly thing. I’d like to go with the theory that she actually interacted with the spirits on a more intimate level than anyone else. Elaine did say Karin liked her privacy. That’s just a feeling I got.

By the end of the book, I was happy to know that Elaine wasn’t afraid anymore. I think the whole experience challenged her in way she could have never imagined. I wish she had asked more questions of Marisa and Hans. They both just came in and “did stuff”. Cleaned house, I guess. Still, why wouldn’t you ask more questions? I understand that we all have those moments in our lives where we wish we had said this or asked that. And I’m sure it was a bizarre day. STILL…I would have liked for her to inquire about the activity.

I do have to say, Elaine referenced B-movies a lot and how she was quite aware of what she should have been doing had she been in a movie. I actually think my biggest issue was that she never talked to neighbors OR went to the local library to research the house. I mean, COME ON!!! That would be the first thing I would have done! Haunted or not, there was mounds of information to be discovered.

I love true stories told from horse’s mouth. (my issue with Amityville). And I do think that most people who experience hauntings have events closer to Elaine’s than the Lutzes’. I do think this book could help someone who is afraid and unsure of what they are going through. There is a stigma attached to ghosts and hauntings in many communities, social or religious. So, I believe she achieved that. On a storytelling level, it wasn’t that bad. I got a sense of my author. I would have enjoyed different POV’s and the pacing was somewhat monotonous. She sure did like the word “respite.”

Overall, I enjoyed the read and in no way shape or form would argue her points. I wouldn’t enjoy ever being told I was crazy or making things up! She had a story to tell and I’m glad she was able to share.

So, I heard this story….true story.

Amityville.

Say the name and most people have sort of idea what it’s all about. I certainly do. I can’t tell you how many documentaries, television specials and interviews I’ve watched about this story.  I have also watched both films (none of the sequels), but never picked up the book. I wish that had been my first move. Amityville Horror: A True Story by Jay Anson threw me. I don’t know what I expected from the novel, but what I felt (even halfway through) was boredom. That wasn’t fair. I don’t blame the story or the writing, although I’ll get to the writing later. What I blame is the amount of knowledge I already had locked away in my brain. I didn’t open this book with a clean slate. I expected it to completely out shine its film counterparts and give me disturbing feelings and possible nightmares. And yet, I found myself yawning before I went to sleep at night.

Okay, so DeFeo is crazy. Whether he uses that as a defense or not, it’s not hard for me to label him with “deficiencies.” Murdering your whole family isn’t normal. But, I can’t say he wasn’t possessed by something. Who can? These are unexplainable ideas. Either way, he did what he did and that has to cause some residual energy that might not be so positive. Do I think that ghosts could have inhabited 112 Ocean Avenue? Absolutely. Like I’ve said before, ghost=energy (for me). What the Lutzes’ felt was not just negative energy. They were terrorized by EVIL. Even after a blessing by Father Mancuso, the house was not “cleared.” Still angry spirits do not make evil spirits. (so says me).

I didn’t like the fact that they stayed as long as they did in the house. Having a solid basis in reality and trying to explain occurrences that don’t match up with real world rules would be hard to get through. No wants to be told they are crazy or even believe themselves to be crazy.  And stress is powerful. Maybe it was the stress of the move. Even so, the Lutzes’ also had roots in religion. Kathy had Catholic connections and George was a Methodist and both actually dabbled in meditation. I wondered as I read, if evil spirits were attacking me and my family, if that’s what I was calling them, why, OH WHY, would I stay? Even if it was only 28 days, that’s about 20 days too long. I could understand if the Lutzes’ were scientists that believed in evolution and prayed to no one, but that wasn’t the case.

I wanted to feel scared for the family. I wanted to view them as my poor neighbors that wanted my comfort and help and most of all, reassurance that they were not going crazy. I’d like to think that’s exactly how I would react to someone confiding in me about such a taboo subject. Instead, I found myself wanting to laugh at them. Some of this feeling, I fear, came from the !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…..! I don’t think I’ve ever read anything with such vigor! The book read inconsistently for me. At times I felt like George and Kathy were telling me their story and at other times it was quite apparent that I was reading a reenactment or extreme dramatization, actors playing George and Kathy Lutz. And what a bad script they had. The dialogue was a miss and took me out of the story more often than not.

Sadly, I do feel that most of my issues came from knowing the story. Amityville is forever in our social lexicon. A legendary haunted house that will always be shrouded in mystery. What really happened? If this were all true, if what the Lutzes’ experienced was absolute, then I can see why their story would resonate. What a horrific tale. BUT, if it was a hoax, then aside from the brilliance of publicity, I have to say the story just seemed exaggerated and unfortunate.

As you may tell, I’m not really sure which I believe. And it doesn’t really matter what I believe. I still like the history of Amityville and if anything it’s intriguing. And really, what’s a story without a little allowance here or there? As long as it adds to the overall effect what’s the harm?

Oh, Where, Oh Where Can My Body Be?

I remember Alice Sebold’s, The Lovely Bones being quite the rage when I was in high school. It seemed like that blue tri-colored cover with those bold white words were in the hands of half my classmates. I never knew what the story was about then, but since that times (and with the release of the film) I had become more acquainted with the story. Still, this was my first time reading this book. Strange….I know.

The first two lines resonate. “My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.”  How could anyone resist reading the next line?!?! This books surprised me and I mean that in the sense that I wasn’t sure if I’d actually like it all that much. But, it was a fabulous read and an interesting story. I love, LOVE the POV from Susie. The ghost! Choosing the perspective of the dead is difficult, BUT it can also be the most freeing perspective. Being dead is something no one can define. It’s really an imagination free for all. Sebold followed the restrictions of the real world while also showing her readers the cornucopia of Heaven. Her Heaven, that is. Even in Heaven though, there was “structure.” However, the structure was specific to the soul. Ultimately, the soul wanted to get to “H” Heaven, but in the case of Susie ( and probably many, many other souls) Earth was more familiar. Susie also had the classic, “unfinished business” feeling attached to her.

Being pulled so abruptly from life has to feel like the worst case of jetlag EVER. And being chopped into pieces isn’t quite the same as hitting your head accidently on the corner of a table. The violence must be accounted for. Turbulence, if you will.  But, again…this is my personal opinion. No one actually knows how it feels. Sebold took this universal quandary and created a realistic theory of what Heaven is like. Where do we go when he die? What happens to us? And do we get to visit Earth?

Susie’s death changed everything. The book , on the surface, is about her death and then her journey after. But dig deep and find that it’s really about experiencing tragedy and change, and finding your way back to some resemblance of happiness.  And all of that takes time.

Time was the most apparent theme for me in the book. Time is precious. Time is short. Time is, “of the essence.” Time is necessary. Time is spent. Time is earned. Time is stagnant.

The idea is that time heals all, but really it’s what you do with your time. Everyone seems to be stuck, along with Susie, and unable to emotionally progress. Although her family and friends grow and have first time experiences that Susie never got to have, they always think of Susie. And Susie, always thinks of them. In the beginning of the novel, the “want,” or “need,” is to find Susie’s killer, but as the story unfolds, that same “want,” or “need,” is about piecing everything and everyone back together.

Life goes on. And for Susie, “H” Heaven was where she needed to allow her soul to rest.

It’s no one to me why this book became a best-seller. It’s an easy read and I say that with love. There’s a flow to it and the theme and content is intriguing. The “ghostly” POV is so great and I also respected the amount of discomfort Sebold included. Mr. Harvey was a bad, bad man and it was necessary that we got to explore him. There’s certainly despair when it comes to Mr. Harvey and his ability to “get away with murder.” And as much as I wanted him to get what he deserved (and he pretty much did), I wanted Susie to move away from Earth. Accepting death. Everyone in this novel has to learn to accept death. Another universal inevitability.

Let There Be Light: The Others

I remember when The Others came out. I didn’t see it in theaters, but instead opted to wait for DVD. There wasn’t much “hype” if you will, but I recall many people comparing it to The Sixth Sense…a non Shyamalan movie, with an extreme Shyamalan twist. I happen to enjoy M. Night and Nicole Kidman and was happy to give this film a whirl.

I hopped on board in the beginning. It was post World War II England, dark and dank…as England is. And here we have this mansion in the country, fog surrounding it like a mote. Not ominous at all. But, what of its inhabitants?

There’s Grace Stewart, the Lady of the house. Mother to Anne and Nicholas and widow (supposedly) to Charles, after he never returned from the war. She’s quite proper and Catholic. Stern and overbearing, especially for her children. And let’s be clear, they aren’t your typical children. They don’t play much or have silly conversations. They aren’t allowed outside the house. It’s all for their protection though as they both suffer from photosensitivity. In Layman’s terms, allergy to the sun.

Three servants, Mrs. Mills, Mr. Tuttle and Lydia (a mute) are hired in the first few minutes of the movie. They seem put off by Grace’s “ways,” but are servants nonetheless. They all come as a unit which I thought was interesting in an odd way. Still, they seem amiable and do their jobs, locking doors and drawing curtains closed.

Anne, the know-it-all, big sister and obstinate daughter begins to see a boy that she swears is real. It wouldn’t be all that shocking for Ann to have 10 imaginary friends if you ask me, but she only speaks of Victor. Soon she adds a man, woman and old lady to the mix. Her personality is questionable. She likes to tell her brother stories, some true, some not so true. She holds resentment towards her mother, who punishes her for her lies. I wondered for a time if Anne was telling lies.

If Anne is the know-it-all, Thomas is the impressionable kind. A “momma’s boy,” Thomas doesn’t like to be alone. He doesn’t like to be scared. His personality is abiding. He may ask a question, but once he receives the answer, he won’t ask it again. He doesn’t inquire much as long as he’s not alone. His sister’s stories frighten him and it isn’t long before Grace becomes frightened as well.

Charles, her husband miraculously returns home and the four feel at peace. Happy for his safe return, but tormented still by “intruders”. Grace begins to hear and see things and it culminates when she goes to check on Anne, but sees the “old lady” the Anne has been seeing. Grace attacks her, but quickly finds that she attacked her daughter and not the old lady. Anne retreats to her father and Charles speaks with Grace about the incident. It’s not the first time she’s attacked the children. Details are spared, of course.

Charles goes back to the war. What war, you ask? I don’t know. But, he leaves and Grace is left to protect her children and home from intruders she cannot always see. She awakes one morning to find all the curtains gone, leaving her children vulnerable to the light. Mrs. Mills and the others swear they have no clue where they have disappeared to. They refuse to help Grace look and it’s then that Grace knows they have something to do with what’s been happening. She banishes them from the house.

And so it goes…we learn that the three servants are actually dead! A gravestone slowly uncovered by Mr. Tuttle confirmed that. And the intruders? Victor, the man and woman, and old lady? Not ghosts, no sir! In fact, it’s Grace, Anne and Thomas who are the ghosts! WHAAAATTTT? Twist!

The ending was surprising and I do LOVE when I get to see a story through the eyes of the ghost. There’s plenty of theories about ghosts, residual hauntings, that say these souls aren’t aware they are dead. But, the interesting thought behind this film is the fact that these souls figure it out. They all know they are dead and they stay in the house! They stay? They don’t want to go to heaven or wherever they should go? Grace, being as religious as she was, should have “moved on….”

And so, they inhabit the house knowing that more will come and they will have to do what’s necessary to protect their house, their place of eternal rest.

Jack Torrance, Be Still My Heart

ISOLATION.

Physical Isolation works on a very basic, practical level. It allows all the dominos to be set up. One tiny wobble and it all spirals around and around until no more are left standing. Mental Isolation works on an extreme and desperate level. People want to be around other people. That’s inherent. No one really wants to experience literal, eternal isolation.

No one.

It’s why we read stories. We want to relate. We want to feel understood. This can be said for fictional characters just as plainly as it can be said for us.

A theme that might not be one that everyone agrees with is a simple one: Love. Love can make you do crazy things and LOVE is ultimately what saves Wendy.  Love for Danny, obviously, but it’s also her love for Jack. And Jack saves them both out of his own love, as does Danny. There was no lack of care in the Torrance family. There was a lack of trust. Jack not trusting Wendy, not trusting himself really. Danny not trusting his parents to stay together, not certain he could trust Tony. And Wendy, not able to trust Jack…with himself, with her or ever with Danny. The three were a unit, in it together, but never quite knowing what they were fighting for or against just simply coexisting.

Jack Torrance didn’t feel acceptance or belonging before the Overlook came into his life. He was constantly repressed, for good or for bad. Jack was never an evil man. Call it a classic Hobbs vs. Locke debate, but I don’t feel like Jack wanted to be evil. He merely wanted to be set free. Free from his restraint, from his vices. And the smarter the man the crazier the spiral J.

Wendy could have spiraled. She really should have. But the Overlook knew where the power was in that dynamic. Wendy wasn’t weak. Wendy was naïve. A naïve optimist in a sullen way. Jack had the power, but he was the weakest length. As with The Haunting of Hill House, my mind always wonders if certain people were born to die. Was Eleanor always meant to end up at Hill House, killing herself…desperate to belong (who else liked the reference by King, by the way?). Was Jack Torrance (and all 3 technically) fated to climax at the Overlook Hotel? Where Wendy found strength and bonded with her son, where Danny found understanding and courage to let go of his father and trust in Tony, aka himself, and where Jack found purpose…perhaps a lost soul from the start? The Shining begs the question: Do we always end up where we’re desired the most?

Of course if one was to try and find the cohesive element for the family it would have to be Danny. His shine keeps the unit together, maybe through guilt or fear. Perverse comfort even. Nevertheless, he binds Wendy and Jack to each other. The Overlook is like supernatural Goo-Gone. Still, in the end, Danny knows what he must do and he doesn’t fear the, “men in the white coats” anymore. He comes to peace with his ability thanks to his father and to Dick.

I have to note that in the movie version the delivery of dialogue is classic. It’s timed and almost scripted sounding. Not in a bad way, but for me it came off in a purposeful way. I always felt as if what was being said was never what was being thought. Now having read the book, I can see how brilliantly that worked in the film.

One last thing I must address is Jack’s likability. Okay, okay….the chap is CRAZY!!!! No doubt. So why is it that I want him to WIN??? When he wants to kill Wendy there’s a part of me that says, “YES! Kill the bitch!” I think that right there, that impression is something not ever easily done. I can’t relate with Jack Torrance, but I can sympathize with his plight. Perhaps it’s because sometimes certain people just give you a hankering to, “bash their brains in…”

Overall, it’s not hard to see why The Shining works. It’s real. King has a knack for taking vulnerable, empathetic personalities and molding supernatural elements around that.  I still have no idea why one would want to stay in a massive hotel, by themselves or even with their family for months and months especially in the wintertime. But, what would the story be without a little isolation, snow, maniacal ghosties and bit of shine?

echt Amerikanisch

Peter Straub’s Ghost Story was an intricately weaved story showcasing many characters with many, many secrets. The “creatures” in which the villains are based can be seen as a literal interpretation on pure, absolute evil OR they can be seen as symbolic. Those secrets that we as humans hide deep inside, praying no one will ever find. As we’ve read, places can be haunted, but what about people? Our demons never sleep, right? And even the most innocent souls must have evil inside them…lurking, biding time.

Ghost Story worked most brilliantly as a psychological thriller/suspense. I still wasn’t sure if it was horror or what I anticipate horror to be. Again, I’m not well read of as knowledgable in the genre. Perhaps I’m learning what horror truly is. I know I wasn’t really spooked or holding back any screams while the story unraveled, piece by piece. I found myself intrigued throughout the book, however if it had one specific downfall it was an enormous amount of unnecessary words, descriptions, etc. The tone and setting were established through Straub’s language, an obvious necessity. My issue was the amount of times this technique was used. For me, half the book could have been cut or at the least, edited down. Straub took his characters and unleashed them with hardly any restraint. I found myself fighting the temptation to skim (possibly skip) much more than I did with the previous two novels.

The depth of this story was its strength. Talk about world building! Straub created characters with what felt like ease. He “six degrees to Kevin Bacon-ed” them so skillfully that I almost felt as If I was watching Days of Our Lives. I feared that somewhere I would lose my mind trying to keep track of who everyone was and their relationships to each other. But I didn’t have too much trouble. Also, another interesting (and effective) technique employed by our author was the chronological jumps. We started at the end (Angie and Don), pushed into the past (Chowder Society)…pushed further into the past ( Sears’ Ghost Story)….pushed slightly into the future (John’s party) and back again to the future. Again to the past (Alma Mobley and Berkeley) once Don showed up in Milburn. Then we stayed smooth until the story played out. This could have confused the hell out of readers and believe me, I’m surprised it didn’t screw my timeline up more. Perhaps that’s the sign of a writer who simply has a clear and decisive plot in his mind. As a writer, I know plots this intricate don’t flow as effortlessly as Ghost Story’s without much prep work.  It’s truly admirable.

Where I lost my interest or faith in the book was the end. The Epilogue was lackluster. And also lost me for the first time. What Straub chose to do with his ending completely veered from the clean storytelling he had set me up to expect. Even when I had questions and confusion looming overhead, I always had clarity of character. By the end I had lost that clarity. I did not feel the triumphant thrill after Don killed the wasp and I desperately wanted to.

Ghost Story played on our weaknesses and strengths as humans. Do supernatural creatures exist on their own accord, born from forces we could never understand or defeat OR do our imaginations give these creatures life? Do they exist because we let them exist or would they be either way? Are we actually haunted by our choices in life or do we create our own personal hells?

Ghost Story fed my intellectual qualms with human nature and supernatural interferences. It delved deep into my psyche. The notion that we can never outrun our decisions in life, whether good or bad, is a fatal conundrum. While it did not make me scream, it did at times make me shiver.

To Hell and Back One More Time

My expertise is not in the horror genre. I don’t know that I can claim a genre in which I am an expertise or even well read in. I do enjoy stories that fall in to the horror genre though and always, always have. I like scary, spooky, deranged, eerie and all around victorious stories. Sure, in true horror stories, at least in my humble opinion, there is one victorious character that defeats the evil that so easily defeated all the victor’s allies. Hell House was no exception to this key component.

At the start there isn’t a clear protagonist. It’s a quartet. An ensemble of characters all tempted into their fates by the promise of payment. Sure, that wasn’t their only motivation. Barrett was focused on proving years of study and research. Edith was his dutiful partner, his support system. Florence, the eager, washed up actress perhaps trying to claim a deeper purpose for herself. And Fischer, the one soaking in denial of his true destiny.  The longer they stayed in the house, the harder it was to hide their true thoughts, intentions and feelings.

The Ego

Barrett, as a parapsychologist, was very interesting. He wasn’t refuting the nature of mediumship or psychic phenomenon, but merely working with a very scientific theory.  And perhaps a touch of ego connected with his invention of the Reversor. It’s easy to hold neutral ground when you have a scientific mind, but it’s also hardest to refute what you see with your very own eyes. He never actually stopped believing in his theory until the very end and by then he wasn’t of right mind. Belasco had taken him.

The Survivor

Edith, his wife and true friend, only wanted reassurance. What she needed was to be heard. Throughout the novel you get glimpses into her life before Hell House. She was very much repressed and defiled, if only mentally, and I never got the sense that she talked about any of it. Was it because she didn’t want to or because no one would listen? Her role in the story was to survive. Whether she acknowledged it or not, she had always been a survivor: a fighter. Edith is by far the weakest of the four, not able to honestly think for herself, just to agree with Barrett. And by the end, she is arguably the strongest.

The Key

Florence Tanner embodied confidence. Probably the most self assured of the four (although, Barrett is a close, close second), Florence had the most of herself invested in life and certainly in Hell House. She encompassed what the other four refused or ignorantly dismissed. She tapped in to the most powerful weapon: love. Fischer had warned her that she was too open and that it would be the end of her. Somewhere deep down she knew that to be a possibility, but she had the unfortunate role of martyr to which is embraced, knowingly or not. Florence cared. Some might see this as her ultimate downfall, while I see it as her ultimate prize. She was true to herself, true to her nature. We can only do what we see as best in the situation in front of us and running the other way was never a true option for Florence, or any of the others. Florence was the maternal figure, the most willing to die for the relief of others.

The Closer

Fischer is by far the most intricate component to this story. Even Belasco himself, with all this deceitful and sickening avenues of fun was no match for Fischer. And it wasn’t because Fischer was such a powerful psychic, it was because Fischer’s journey was to find himself. Did he know himself back in 1940 when he first entered Hell House? I don’t believe so. He was too self-righteous, too open, too cocky even. Of course, how can I have an accurate take on this when I didn’t witness it? I can’t, however, the Fischer we meet is the complete opposite of his so-called reputation. He’s said to be one of the most powerful mediums of his time and yet, he refuses to use his abilities. He sees no issue cohabitating with Hell House, much like the idea that a black widow will leave you alone if you leave it alone. Still, the black widow can wound you, perhaps kill you if it wants. The same can be said for you as the human though. It’s the survival instinct. The three souls entered Hell House, poking it with a stick and so what else would the house do, but poke back? Fischer understood this and thought if he stayed off to the side, he would escape without detection. Did he actually believe it? I don’t think he had a clear concept of what he was stepping into during his second stay.

Fischer was the smartest and naivest of the bunch. His faith in his ability was low, but his faith in human nature grew with each day. Somewhere in Florence, he saw himself and had the house not poked Fischer, Belasco may have continued his rue for years and years…maybe even eons more.

 

Hell House was an enjoyable read. It felt more like a horror story for me. The visuals were pungent and the underlying arcs for the characters were easy to root for. Of course it would have been nice if all four made it out alive, but that’s never the expectation for a horror story, is it?

Isn’t it always said that one gets away if only to tell the tale?