Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: "Melancholia" and the Infinite Sadness





"Life is only on Earth. And not for long."
--Justine


Lars von Trier is not an "in-between" director. You will either end up loving his films, or hating them to death. No one has ever finished a Lars von Trier film and said "Hmm, that was okay." You either say "Wow! That was something special!" or "Holy fucking SHIT, what a piece of SHIT film. If I ever meet that guy on the street, I will punch him the throat and then step on BOTH of his feet."

His previous film, "Anti-Christ", is a perfect example of this. If you haven't seen it, I'll sum it up briefly: It's fucking batshit insane. 

Okay, I guess there's more to it than that. But I won't go too much into that film. All you need to know is one of the very first shots of the film involves an extreme close up of a penis penetrating a vagina in a shower, and one of the last scenes of the film involves an extreme close up of a woman performing genital mutilation on herself. Right now you might be saying "Oh my god, I will never see that movie." 

Fair enough. But don't let that scare you away from "Melancholia", von Trier's latest opus to misery. 

After "Anti-Christ", I was expecting this film to be FAR more crazy and extreme. It wasn't. In fact, by von Trier standards, this movie is actually pretty tame. Well, tame for him at least--since it is about the literal end of the world.

And, as you can probably guess from the title, it is also about depression. 



I myself suffer from depression, and I can honestly say this film contains probably the most accurate portrayals of the infliction I've ever seen. 

Depression is hard to pin-down. If you try to explain it to someone who has--miraculously--never really suffered from it, they don't quite grasp it.

"Well, cheer up!" they might say. "Things aren't THAT bad!"

That's not the kind of depression we're talking about here. This isn't the type of depression you get when you lose your car keys, or your favorite sports team loses, or your burn the meatloaf. This is the type of depression that creeps up on you, slowly, like a thief in the night. It comes from no where. And it can be brought on by nothing. 

There doesn't have to be a trigger; no underlying, horrible even to set you off. One minute you are perfectly fine, and then the next minute, you feel as if the very sky itself is pressing down on the top of your head, and the simple act of moving your body is near impossible.

Von Trier understands this--he suffers from depression himself--and that is why he is so successful at capturing the malady. 

The depression in "Melancholia" presents itself in the character of Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst. I've never been a big fan of Ms. Dunst; she always strikes me as if she's, well, "acting." She always seems in on the fact that she is playing a character, and she seems even smug about it. 

None of that happens here. This is, without a doubt, her finest performance to date. Yes, even better than "Bring it On" and "Small Soldiers"...ahem...

The first half of the film involves Justine's wedding day to Michael, played by Alexander Skarsgard, who I am told is on the show "True Blood", or as I like to call it, "Porn for Women."



The wedding is nothing short of extravagant, being held at a huge mansion that belongs to Justine's sister Claire (the always fantastic Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her husband John (Jack Bauer himself, Kiefer Sutherland). 

By all accounts, this should be one of the happiest days of Justine's life. And when we first meet her, it really does seem as if she is having a wonderful time; and she really does seem to love Michael.

All that slowly changes. Justine notices a red light high up in the sky before entering the wedding party, and begins to fall apart. Her mother Gaby (played with delicious spitefulness by Charlotte Rampling) is clearly not happy to be there, and gives a mean, devastating toast.  Her father (the seemingly constantly drunk John Hurt) seems oblivious, and apparently has three girlfriends.  Claire tries desperately to keep the wedding running smoothly (along with the wedding planner, played by Udo Kier in a scene-stelling, brief role). 

But Justine is disintegrating before our eyes. She loses all interest in the wedding, and, before the night is over, she loses all interest in her new husband--who leaves with his parents, seemingly ending the marriage just as it began.

This part of the film is all set up. It's introducing us to the characters (most of whom aren't even in the rest of the movie), and it's showing us just what kind of person Justine is. At a casual glance, one could make the assumption that she is just a total bitch. Maybe on some level that is true, but there is more beneath the surface. There is an underlining, uncontrollable sadness that she tries--unsuccessfully--to stave off. 



The second half of the film focuses more on Gainsbourg's Claire, and this is the real meat of the story.

We learn that a planet named Melancholia (who the hell would name a planet that?) has been discovered, and is heading on a possible collision course with Earth. 

Claire is very worried, but her husband John and her son Leo seem thrilled. John assures Claire that Melancholia will NOT hit Earth; it'll fly by, and all will be well.

Along with the danger of the arrival of Melancholia comes the danger of the arrival of Justine, who comes to live with Claire and John. The first few days she's there, she is near catatonic. Her depression has overwhelmed her so much that she can't even get out of bed, and when Claire tries to give her a bath, she collapses on the floor, sobbing.

The closer Melancholia gets, however, the more lively Justine becomes. 

In one particularly eerie scene, Claire catches Justine laying nude in the woods, bathing in the spooky blue light of Melancholia as it approaches.



Immanent doom is all but certain. Justine is positive that Melancholia WILL hit Earth, and she's perfectly fine with that.

Eventually the story whittles the characters down to Justine, Claire and Claire's son Leo, the three of them representing three different viewpoints of impending doom.

Claire represents the fearful viewpoint; Justine represents acceptance; and the boy Leo represents a sort of blind faith that no matter what, everything is going to be okay. The last shot of the film involves these three characters sitting in a circle--Claire sobbing, Justine calm, and Leo with his eyes closed, smiling and feeling secure.

This is not a movie for everyone. As you can tell from the title alone, this isn't the feel-good movie of the year.



But "Melancholia"--like the planet that bares its namesake--is hauntingly beautiful. It's one of von Trier's most accessible works--despite it's slow-pace and doom and gloom subject matter. The performances are beyond stellar. As mentioned before, Dunst does her finest work ever here. Charlotte Gainsbourg is always good, so it's no surprise that she's fantastic as Claire; she is essentially the most "feeling" character in the whole film. Kiefer Sutherland is very good too; it's nice to see him play this kind of role for a change, and prove that he is still a pretty good actor, even when he's not roaming the night with his gang of 80's teen vampires.

You will not leave the theater feeling happy, but you will leave the theater feeling SOMETHING. And for people with depression, feeling something--ANYTHING; good OR bad--is sometimes better than nothing at all.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Coffin


Two days shy of her sixteenth birthday, Mae caught the fever. It had been spreading through Hawthorne County faster than a brush fire, and everyone—especially people like Mae’s family, who were poor farm folk and could not afford the best medicines—was terrified.

Mae, being a bit too headstrong for her own good, had laughed at her Pa’s over-protectiveness.

“I’ll be fine!” she had insisted. But one night the fever walloped her like a horse kick to the head, and she was in such pain that even crying for help sent terrible agony shooting through her body. Her limbs ached and burned, and she was so hot to the touch that you’d near scald yourself if you felt her forehead.

Pa sent for Dr. Crawford, but the doctor lived almost twenty miles away from the farm. Mae was delirious—she insisted she saw shadowy figures in the bedroom, and once she swore she heard her mother singing to her, even though her mother had been dead for almost five years.

Pa wept at Mae’s bedside, and begged her to fight—to not leave him. Mae had tried to smile, to reassure him, but her pain was too intense, and she lost consciousness. Strange fever dreams took hold of her; dreams filled with slithering things from the darkness, and horrible blood-streaked faces with screaming mouths.

Mae awoke with a start, and an overwhelming feeling of confusion took hold of her. She no longer felt sick; in fact she felt better than she had in her whole life—rejuvenated. And while she was positive she had opened her eyes, she saw nothing—total darkness. Even when all the lamps in the house had been blown out, there was always a little light somewhere—from the moonlight shining in. But this was total, impenetrable darkness.

I’ve gone blind! she thought with sickening panic. The fever has made me blind!

She was laying flat on her back, and she quickly tried to sit up, and only banged her head against something solid above her. Mae cried out in pain, clutching her forehead and moaning. Confused, she reached her hands up into the darkness and felt rough, solid wood a few inches above her. Her heart began racing in confusion and fear. She reached down and felt her own clothing, and could tell from the material she was wearing her finest dress—the dress she only wore to church, or on those rare occasion when Pa would take the horse and cart into town.

The realization came screaming through her body: she was in a coffin. She had been buried—alive!

“NO!” Mae screamed, and began pounding on the lid of her coffin. She beat at it with her fists until her hands went numb. “Somebody help! I’m not dead! I’M NOT DEAD!”

She began to cry and hyperventilate. How long could she last like this—buried six feet beneath the earth? Already she could feel the air growing thick, and her lungs were struggling to take it all in.

“PLEASE!” Mae sobbed, kicking at the coffin lid now. “Please, somebody! I’m still alive!”

Mae paused, because she heard a sound, and it was like sweet music to her ears: digging. Someone above was digging into the grave. She was saved! They had realized their mistake, and were rushing to dig her up!

“Yes!” Mae cried with joy. “I’m here! Please, hurry!”

The digging sound increased. She heard the dirt being shifted; heard the sounds getting closer and closer.

Mae closed her eyes, smiling and weeping, relieved that she was going to be rescued from her premature burial. There were scraping sounds at the coffin lid now—the shovel was inches away!

“Oh, thank you, God!” Mae cried. A splintering, cracking sound followed her words—the coffin lid was being broken open. And it was then that her relief began to turn back into panic. No light was flooding into the coffin; neither from moon or sun. If the lid had been broken open, surely some sort of light would be coming in. And the air wasn’t changing either—there was no blast of fresh air; only the stale air scented with wet earth.

Mae tried to say something, and then let out a scream. She felt something crawling on her body. In fact, she felt several things crawling over her. A wisp of matted, dirty hair brushed against the bare skin of her hand, and Mae began to shriek in terror as she realized who her “rescuers” were: rats had found her coffin, and were ready to feast.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Witch Brains: A Romance


The cat was in love with the servant girl.

Of course, he hadn’t always been a cat. He had once been a boy named Edward, on the cusp of 16, full of hope for his life, working in his father’s cobbler shop. Then as misfortune would have it, the boy had come across a witch’s cabin in the deep dark forest, and the Witch had turned him into a sleek black cat. This was bad enough, but to add insult to injury, he could not leave her cabin. The spell held him captive within the crumbling walls.

The Witch was a terrible old crone, with two glass eyes and a mouth full of rusty nails. She had feathers coming out of the back of her head, giant spiders for hands, and what little hair she had on her tiny head was comprised of squirming maggots.

But the Witch also had a servant girl under her spell. The girl was beautiful; fair haired and fair skinned, with eyes that shimmered like reflecting pools. All day and all night she did back-breaking chores for the Witch. And the cat who was once a boy named Edward would sit perched atop a book-shelf made up entirely of femur bones, and watch her—and his heart would swoon.

The girl never spoke; this was part of her enchantment—or so said the tea kettle, who had once been a tax collector named Brutus.

“If only I could get away from here,” Edward sighed.  “And take her with me.”

“It’s hopeless, lad,” said the tea kettle.

“He’s right,” agreed the taxidermy boar’s head that was mounted on the wall. “Best not to think of such things.”

One fall evening, a wagon came cluttering through the woods, and out of the wagon stepped a particularly ridiculous looking man. He stroked his huge beard and demanded an audience with the owner of the cabin.

The Witch came out, her broom in hand, her glass eyes gleaming. Edward slunk along the ground and peeked his head out to watch.

“I am a salesman,” the man said in a bawdy, theatrical voice. “Specializing in potions and tonics. Would you care to see my wares?”

“I would not,” the Witch barked. “Get away from my property, lest I turn you into a field mouse.”

The ridiculous man laughed. “You think too highly of your powers, woman.”

The Witch pointed her broom at the man and spoke words in her own dead, guttural language. A bolt of lightning exploded from the handle of the broom and struck the man dead-center, but the man didn’t flinch. He rolled his eyes.

“You may have your magics, Witch,” he said. “But mine are made of stronger stuff.”

The Witch snorted and spat on the ground, and her glob of black phlegm turned into a hoard of cockroaches that scattered into the brush.

“Be gone with you,” the Witch said, and stomped back into her cabin. She disappeared into a back room, cursing the man.

Edward hopped up onto a windowsill and called to the man. The man approached.

“What can I do for you, talking cat?” the man asked, lighting a humongous pipe. The smoke that rose out of the pipe took on the shape of a crow, and flapped it’s smoky wings and flew away into the autumn wind.

“I’m not really a cat,” Edward said. “I was once a boy; the Witch put a spell on me! Can you help me break it?”

“Sorry, lad,” the ridiculous looking man said. “I’m afraid the only way to break a witch’s enchantment is to kill the witch, and eat her brains.”

Edward stuck out his cat-tongue in disgust.

“It’s the only way, young master,” the man said. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I must be off. I have potions to sell.”

The man climbed onto his wagon, gave the horse reigns and tug, and was gone.

The thought of killing the Witch was not an all together unpleasant thought to Edward—but eating her brains? But in his once-human heart he knew that it would be worth it if it meant breaking his spell--and the spell of the servant girl. They could go away together--far far away from this place. And maybe she could love him.

But there was the problem of how he would kill the Witch. He was only a cat, after all. The most he could do is give her a few scratches and bites before she kicked him across the room.

Then an idea came to him. He crawled down into the basement, where the beautiful servant girl was asleep in her giant cage. Edward called to her, waking her. She looked at him with her beautiful eyes.

“I know you can not speak, but you can listen,” Edward said. “I know a way we can break our enchantments.”  And he told her all the gory details.

The next day, the Witch ordered the beautiful servant girl to go out and chop some wood, for the nights were getting colder. Now was their chance—instead of chopping the wood, the servant girl took the ax and in one fell swoop lopped the witch’s head clean off. It struck the floor and rolled into a wall. The glass eyes in the head shattered into shards, and the witch’s black-colored blood oozed out in a viscous puddle.

“Quickly!” Edward cried. “The brains!”

The servant girl took a cleaver and hacked the top of the witch’s head open, spilling her runny green brains. Edward hopped down from his perch and gagged. The brains smelled awful, but he knew it was the only way. He gobbled up a good portion of them, trying hard not to vomit at their taste—which was a little like moldy bread mixed with whale blubber.

His cat body began to shake and shiver, and in an instant he was returned to his true, human form.

“It worked!” he cried. “You next!”

The servant girl hesitated.

“I know it’s disgusting, but it’s the only way!” Edward said, wiping brain-residue off his lips.

The servant girl picked up a handful of the brains and began to eat them. Edward smiled, eager to have the spell broken so he could finally hear her voice. He imagined it would sound as sweet and pretty as she looked.

The servant girl began to shake. There was a blinding flash of light, which caused Edward to shield his eyes for a moment. When he looked back, he let out an anguished cry. The servant girl had been transformed into a large, gray, filthy rat—its tail cut down to a nub and its mouth foaming.

Which is what she had always been before the Witch enchanted her.


Monday, October 31, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cause I can thrill you more than any ghoul would dare to try


Darkness falls across the land
The midnite hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y'awl's neighborhood
And whosoever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpse's shell
The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom
And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Horror Movie Countdown to Halloween: Lost Highway


In honor of Halloween Week, I am listing some of my favorite creep-o movies. I tried not to pick the obvious choices to add a little diversity from all the other Halloween movie lists...








Lost Highway






David Lynch’s Lost Highway is something of a test-run for his film Mulholland Drive; they both explore similar, nightmare-ish themes and storylines involving duel identities. But there’s something infinitely more disturbing and creepy about Lost Highway.

Lynch later said he realized that when he was writing the film he was subconsciously channeling the O.J. Simpson murders/trial, and that’s one way to look at things: shocking murders involving “famous” people and the mysteries behind them.



Bill Pullman, here at his Bill Pullmaniest, plays a noise-jazz musician named Fred Madison. He’s married to Renee, played by Patricia Arquette, who seems like she’s on tranquilizers during the whole film. They live in a very creepy, very modernistic house (which is actually David Lynch’s own house) with few windows and really deep, dark corners.  One day, they find a videotape on their doorstep. They watch it, and it reveals that someone has been filming their house. They think nothing of this at first—until more tapes show up, showing that whoever is filming their house is also going IN their house, and filming them while they sleep.

This is creepy enough already, but Lynch piles on their creepiness as Fred and Renee go to a party and Fred encounters the character known as The Mystery Man, played by Robert  Blake who later in real-life had his own very public O.J. Simpson-like murder trial. Blake is delightfully disturbing in the role, and his pale-white make-up aids in this. After a great/scary scene where the Mystery Man hands Fred a giant old cell phone and tells him to call his own house, where the Mystery Man ANSWERS the phone and then the one at the party and the one at the house laugh in stereo, things REALLY start going downhill for Fred, because Renee turns up dead and Fred is convicted of her murder.




 He has no memory of the murder,  but all that is moot anyway because one night Fred morphs into rebel teen Pete Dayton, played (terribly) by Balthazar Getty.

From here we try to figure out what the FUCK is going on, as Pete, formerly Fred, gets out of jail and starts having an affair with a woman named Alice, also played by Arquette. The Mystery Man pops up some more, and Robert Loggia steals nearly the whole film as whacked-out mobster Mr. Eddy—who , in keeping with the duel personality angle—might also be someone named Dick Laurent—who we are told at the beginning of the movie is dead.



Lost Highway doesn’t really make a lick of sense. Sure, you can try to figure things out, and probably get pretty close to solving the puzzle—but it doesn’t matter. The fact that things are so strange, and so out-of-left field aid in making the movie extra, extra creepy. It’s not really considered one, but this is a straight-up horror movie. Almost every scene drips with weird, sleazy menace. None of the characters seem to have souls, and also Gary Busey is in this movie, so that right there is a sign of how fucked-up things are.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Horror Movie Countdown to Halloween: Lake Mungo



In honor of Halloween Week, I am listing some of my favorite creep-o movies. I tried not to pick the obvious choices to add a little diversity from all the other Halloween movie lists...




Lake Mungo




When was the last time a horror movie made you feel something; not just yell out in shock, or cringe in grossness, or roll your eyes at how fucking stupid the movie was--I'm talking about actually feeling something real.

Lake Mungo is that type of horror movie.

I suppose the term "horror movie" could be used loosely to describe Lake Mungo; this isn't a movie that is trying to terrify you or make you jump in your seat. This is a movie that is a surprisingly touching, heartfelt exploration on the horror of grief and loss. But there's more to it than that.

Let's get this out of the way first: Yes, this is a "found footage" or "mockumentary" type horror movie. Like them or not, they are here to stay. Just this past weekend Paranormal Activity 3 made 1 Bajillion Trillion Dollars (sources needed), so found footage movies aren't going away any time soon.



But please, if you are one of those people who says "UGH, i hate those type of movies! Blair Witch and shit!", I implore you to give this movie a chance.

Lake Mungo takes place in Australia, and is about the death of Alice Palmer and the mysteries that surround her life, death...and after-life.

Alice is a happy seeming 16 year old who goes on a swimming trip with her family one day, and drowns. We're never told exactly how she drowned, because her family doesn't know. She was there one moment, and then the next, she was gone.



As is to be expected, the Palmer family is devastated. Mother June actually begins taking long walks late at night and breaking into people's houses. Father Russell internalizes everything and doesn't show emotion, and Alice's teenage brother Mathew begins experimenting with video-making. And it's through Mathew's new-found obsessive hobby that the family begins to suspect that while Alice may be dead, she might not be gone.

To tell you more would spoil things. What you might think is  going to be a simple ghost story turns into an expose on the nature of keeping secrets. As one of Alice's friends says during an interview, "Alice kept secrets. She kept the fact that she kept secrets a secret."  



I was raised on horror movies. At a young age I was watching movies that, quite frankly, I probably shouldn't have been watching. I suppose my 20+ years of horror film watching has numbed me a bit to being scared.

This movie scared me.

Lake Mungo seeps under your skin. It's like a cold draft in your house that slowly begins to increase to the point where it chills the very marrow of your bones. An overwhelming feeling of dread accompanies the film, and also sadness.

The more time we spend with the Palmer family, the more we like them. The performances in this movie are fantastic, because no one here seems like an actor. They all seem like real people--and they also seem like a real family.



As the film slowly unravels the details of Alice's life, I actually found myself feeling sad that she died so young. Then I had to remind myself that there is no Alice, it was just an actress playing a part. But the movie sucks you in, and you begin to forget that this is all fiction.

I can not stress this enough: If you like horror movies, and are longing for a break from terrible, generic bullshit, WATCH THIS MOVIE. It's on Netflix Instant RIGHT NOW, so if you have Netflix GO WATCH IT. 

And keep watching during the end credits--the images revealed during them will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up in fear.






Monday, October 24, 2011

Horror Movie Countdown to Halloween: Inside


In honor of Halloween Week, I am listing some of my favorite creep-o movies. I tried not to pick the obvious choices to add a little diversity from all the other Halloween movie lists...


Inside (À l'intérieur)

I like a gory movie as much as the next horror fan, but when horror movies rely solely on their gore-factor (cough cough Saw/Hostel cough cough), they tend to be shitty--at least in my opinion.

One exception to this rule, however, is the French film Inside. To put it bluntly, this movie is insane.



It tells the story of Sarah, who is very pregnant, and not too excited about motherhood. You see, four months ago Sarah and her husband were in a car accident, and her husband was killed. 

Now, she's all alone on a rainy Christmas Eve, moping about and looking gorgeous the way young French women do.

And then all hell breaks loose. 

A mysterious woman, played fantastically by Beatrice Dalle, shows up seemingly from nowhere. She has only one thing on her mind: getting Sarah's baby. And the only way to do that is to cut it from her belly.



Inside reaches such an astounding level of gore and violence that it becomes something of a pitch-black comedy. Just how violent is this movie going to get? you ask yourself. And the movie just keeps on hitting you, again and again.

For some strange reason, this all works. It shouldn't. In theory, such a movie should be dumb and void of any real value. But Inside is so masterfully made, and the stakes are presented in such a elevated way that you can't help but be enthralled. 



This is not a movie for everyone, but if you have a strong stomach and a great interested in being disturbed / creeped out, you will appreciate this absolutely bat-shit insane movie.



Saturday, October 22, 2011

Soundtrack Saturday: Insidious

I loved Insidious. I think it's one of the best horror movies in years. And the soundtrack by Joseph Bishara is creep-tastic.

So please help yourself to some spooky goodness and listen to the opening title music. And if you haven't seen the movie yet, do so ASAP.

Click the pic to listen:

 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'll Tumblr For You

In case you just can't get enough of me and my shenanigans, I now have a tumblr:

The Boy with the Thorn in His Side

Check it out, fiends.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

White Stag


The minute Mary saw the thing, she knew it was wrong. 

There was nothing outwardly ominous about it—it was, after all, a small porcelain statue shaped like a white stag. But the feeling of dread that lurched up in Mary’s stomach when she laid eyes on it was impossible to deny. She didn’t like the thing; in fact, she downright hated it.

And of course, her daughter Sarah was instantly drawn to it. Mary and her daughter had gone out for a drive on a warm Sunday morning, and had happened upon a very large yard sale taking place in front of a huge, old Victorian home.

There must have been hundreds of items, and there were half a dozen people mingling about—taking it all in. But out of the hundreds of random items, Sarah had gone right for the white stag. It was sitting on top of a small bookshelf, which was also for sale.

“Mommy, look at THIS!” Sarah had exclaimed, as if she had discovered something remarkable. Sarah held the statue up in her tiny hands and beamed.

“Put that down, honey,” Mary said, trying not to look as worried as she felt. “You don’t want to drop it and break it.”

“Oh, I don’t think that would happen,” came a sand-papery voice. Mary started, turning on her heels. An old man in a red cardigan sweater stood behind her. He wore dark mirrored sunglasses, and his face was grizzled with white beard stubble. 

“Is…is this your yard sale?” Mary said, forcing a smile.

“Sure is,” said the man, grinning with large, rotting teeth. 

“This thing is so cool!” Sarah said, turning the statue over in her hands. “It’s a deer!”

“It’s a stag, actually, little lady,” said the old man. “A white stag, point of fact.”

“Cool!” Sarah exclaimed. Mary looked down at the stag; looked at its blank, sculpted face and its black painted-on eyes. She shuddered involuntarily. What was she being so silly about? It was just a stupid statue—why feel so afraid of the thing?

But she was afraid, and she wanted to grab Sarah by the hand and pull her away.

“How much is it?” Sarah asked.

“Sarah, manners please,” Mary said. It was the only thing she could think to say. What she really wanted to say was “PUT THAT THING DOWN, and come with me THIS INSTANT.”

“Oh, for you, little lady,” the old man said. “One dollar.”

“Oh wow! Can we buy it, Mom?” Sarah said, smiling up at Mary. 

Say no, Mary thought. Say no way. Tell her to put that thing down and get in your car and get out of here…

The old man was smiling politely. He had a pleasant, warm smile—when he wasn’t showing those stained teeth. Mary looked from him to Sarah and then back again.

“Sure,” Mary forced herself to say. She paid for the statue, and they left. The whole ride home, Mary kept casting nervous glances at the white stag, and the white stag looked back with those empty black eyes.

At home, Mary told her husband Tom how nervous she felt about the statue. Tom laughed.

“It’s just a statue, hon,” he said. “Nothing to be afraid of.”

“There’s just something about it…it makes me SO nervous and I can’t say why,” Mary said. The next few months, Mary found her entire world turned upside down. She had been living what she considered an idyllic life—things were near perfect. Then, Tom was in a terrible accident at work. He was the foreman of a profitable steel mill—but the accident was so bad that the doctors said he would never walk again. He lost his job, and his health care benefits were revoked—making the medical bills near impossible. 

Mary’s mother, who had been in wonderful health for her age, suddenly died of a massive heart attack. Only a few weeks later, Mary’s father died of the same exact cause. 

Sarah was doing terribly in school---likely because of the family tragedies going on, the school guidance consoler had said. But she was failing her classes, and getting into fights with other students almost daily. Sarah had once been a sweet, innocent girl; now she came home from school with black eyes and bloody knuckles. It got so bad that she had actually broken the arm of another girl she got into a fight with, and had been expelled. 

Just when things couldn’t get any worse, the company where Mary worked was downsized, and she lost her job—and her health benefits, which were helping to pay for Tom’s medical bills.

Friends would try to help the best they could, and they would all offer their sincere condolences for all the bad luck the family was experiencing. But Mary knew in her broken heart that it wasn’t bad luck—it was the white stag. All the trouble had started the day after she had bought the statue. The entire time, the statue had been sitting on a coffee table, looking blankly at them as their lives crumbled.

As insane as she knew it was, Mary felt that if she got rid of that statue things would be good again. 

First, she threw it out in the garbage. She even watched the trash men dump the can into their truck, and saw the statue crushed. But the very next day, it was back on the coffee table in perfect condition. Next, she tried burying the statue in the park. But again, the next day, it was back where she left it. No matter what she tried—even smashing the thing with a hammer at one point—the statue would always be back in its place the next day.

She tried to find the old mans house where she had bought the statue, but she could never locate it. It was as if the entire house had vanished.

And then, an idea came to her.

“I think I’ll have a yard sale,” she told one of her friends. “We have a lot of old junk laying around here, and heaven knows we can use the extra money.”

So Mary had set up a yard sale on the front lawn, placing random items around the ground with stickers on them listing the price. And in a place of great prominence, she put the white stag. Before the sun had started to set, a woman and her daughter arrived. The daughter, who was the same age as Sarah, went right for the statue.

“Can we buy it, Mom? Can we?” the girl said. Mary saw the look of terror on the mothers face, but Mary’s own face betrayed no emotion.

“H-how much is it?” the mother asked, swallowing. 

Mary smiled--flashing her large, rotting teeth.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sexy Zombie Girls

If there's one thing we as a people can get behind this Halloween season, it's obviously sexy zombie girls. 











Friday, October 14, 2011

Beautiful Ghost


They said you could see her after midnight—if you really wanted to find her, that is.

No one remembered her real name; it became lost over time. But everyone in town knew the story. She was sixteen years old during the Civil War, and she helped care for the wounded—on both the Union and Confederacy sides. Her mercy did not discriminate, and she was loved by all. A beautiful girl, with fire-red hair and light freckles dotting her cheeks, and eyes that resembled two deep, blue pools.

But those were bloody times, and sorrow found her. She had the misfortune of falling in love with a Confederate soldier, and he with her. Their love was forbidden by her father, but she disobeyed him, and it cost her dearly. She was falsely accused of being a spy and giving secrets to the Confederates. And the girl who showed everyone mercy was granted no mercy of her own. She was found guilty, and hanged until dead.

And she did not rest easily. 

Ever since then, rumors have persisted that if you wandered over to the field where the ancient oak tree from which she was hung still stood, you might see her ghost. And if you did, it was a bad omen. Someone close to you would die, because her unjust execution had robbed her spirit of any of the tender mercy she possessed in life.

Or so they said. 

I'd never put much stock in these stories. That summer, I was seventeen years old, and was so hung up with finishing school and my almost crushing love for a girl named Alice who was in one of my classes, that ghosts and old legends were the furthest thing from my mind. But Alice rejected me—she was in love with someone else.

Feeling heartbroken and down on my luck, I took a late night walk to clear my thoughts. I spent almost the whole walk looking down at my shoes, unaware of where I was going and not really caring.

Before I knew it, it was well after midnight, and I was in that legendary field, right beneath that infamous tree. It had been a warm summer night, but the air was suddenly chilly. I shivered, and felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. 

And then I saw her. 

She came out of a beam of moonlight, her dress swaying in a breeze that was not there, her hair bright red like fire, and floating about her head as if she were submerged in water. And I could see the rope marks burned into her throat. She was beautiful, the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I was enthralled with her, and at the same moment I was terrified. She whispered something to me, but I could not hear what it was. She smiled with sweet lips, and then she was gone. 

My whole body shook, and I felt suddenly exhausted, as if I had been sprinting for miles. My mind struggled to convince me that what I had seen had not been real—could not be real. But I knew I had seen it. And I knew that meant someone close to me would die. I was terrified—who would it be? One of my friends? My parents? I spent the next few weeks in terror, waiting to receive a phone call telling me that someone I held dear had met with a tragic end. But it never came. Weeks turned into months, and months turned into years, and the memory of that beautiful ghost faded away.

Returning home from college one Christmas, I happened to run into Alice—my high school crush. We began dating, and after graduating college we married. Occasionally I would have haunting dreams where the beautiful ghost would come to me, whispering her secret that I couldn't hear. But the dreams would fade. And time would march on. And I would forget.

Alice became pregnant, and we were both thrilled. She was as eager to be a mother as I was to be a father. The doctor told us he could inform us of the baby’s gender, but we wanted to wait—to keep it a surprise.

The pregnancy was going smoothly, and we were prepared for our lives to change for the better.

And then yesterday, I received a phone call at my office. It was from a state trooper. Alice had been in a terrible car accident after a tractor-trailer had derailed on the highway. She had been killed instantly.

I wept madly for my wife and unborn child. And last night, I went to bed, my heart aching, my body weary. And I dreamed I was 17 again, back in that field by the tree on that moonlit night. And the beautiful ghost came to me, whispering her secret.

Only this time I heard what she said:

"Daughter."



Monday, October 10, 2011

Brick Apartment Building, 1935


His Hands
rough and red
tiny individual dark hairs
on thick knuckles gnawed nails

Hands that reached for her in the darkness.
They were both loving and cruel.
They stroked her hair and blackened her eyes.
When he died
in his sleep that August night
she took the cleaver
from the kitchen
and lopped those hands off.

She buried them in a shoe box
in the small fenced
in patch of grass
that was the backyard
under a red moon.

When Spring came
tulips bloomed
along with five roses
with thick thorny stems.


Recorded spoken-word version of the poem, with music by Luke Willis: