Some of Balladeer’s Blog’s readers have let me know that they feel I did not do as many blog posts about horror as I usually do during October. I’m all about you readers, so here’s a horror film review to help make up for it.
IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994) – Directed by John Carpenter and written by Michael De Luca, this movie was an unabashed valentine to H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King’s imitations of Lovecraft, and The King in Yellow by Robert W Chambers. The King in Yellow, of course, is the 1895 book previously reviewed here at Balladeer’s Blog, and which Lovecraft admitted was an influence on his own works.
The story is about the title “king”, or more precisely about a stage play about that monarch. Everyone who reads the play The King in Yellow goes insane, causing worldwide chaos. Some of the King’s minions enter into our dimension to do his evil bidding, but unlike Lovecraft’s tentacled, enormous Old Ones, the monstrous servitors of the King in Yellow are humanoid in size and form.
That out of the way, let’s take it from the top. My LEAST favorite element of this otherwise excellent movie is the way it opens up. We are shown a crazed John Trent (Sam Neill) being committed to an insane asylum. Dialogue makes it clear that he’s just one of many people going mad in a worldwide epidemic of violent insanity. Even some of the staff at the insane asylum seem like they’re not all there anymore.
Soon, Trent is visited in his padded cell, where he has used a black crayon to cover his body and the padded walls with crucifixes for protection. His visitor is Dr Wrenn, played by David Warner, the panicked, crucifix-surrounded man from The Omen, now talking to the panicked, crucifix-surrounded Sam Neill in this film. (I admit that’s a sly touch in keeping with the style of the movie. It even has echoes of the victim in Equinox fixating on his protective crucifix.) Continue reading
HAPPY HALLOWEEN FROM BALLADEER’S BLOG! Here’s a look at some of the neglected monsters I’ve covered over the years. These horrific figures deserve as much love as the better known characters like Dracula, Frankenstein, the Crying Woman and many others.
First Appearance: The Squaw Hollow Sensation (1879)
Cryptid Category: Aztec mummy
Lore: Around the year 800 AD an Aztec scholar named Sethos drank the Draught of the Everlasting Covenant and went into a state of suspended animation. In 1879 mining operations uncovered the tomb where he was hidden away.
A scientist of the era mastered the technique of reviving Sethos and successfully restored him to full life. Sethos’ body was hideously mummified but intact except for a gaping hole in his skull in the middle of his forehead from the experiment to revive him. Continue reading
Halloween month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog! Recently I examined three neglected Gothic horror stories. Here are three more that deserve more attention than they generally receive.
DON’T BELIEVE SOURCES THAT TRY TO PASS THIS OFF AS A TRUE STORY.
THE SQUAW HOLLOW SENSATION (1879) – Author unknown. This macabre tale from America should be as well-known as works like The House of the Seven Gables or The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The Squaw Hollow Sensation deals with an Aztec mummy and was first published in serialized form in the California newspaper The Mountain Democrat in 1879.
The story was originally presented as if it actually happened but as it becomes more grisly and fantastic the reader realizes it’s fictional. When gold mining uncovers an Aztec tomb in California an obsessed scientist conducts macabre experiments to try to revive Sethos, one of the entombed mummies. Some things are better left alone, however as we learn in a tale that includes wandering Aztec ghosts, twisted experimentation on the bodies of Sethos’ fellow mummies and a catalogue of atrocities. Continue reading
THE KING IN YELLOW
If you’re like me you’re sick to death of the flood of vampire and zombie stories in recent decades. It’s gotten unbelievably monotonous. When it comes to Goths in particular you just want to shake them and scream “There’s more to Gothic horror than just vampires!”
In that spirit and in keeping with my blog’s overall theme here’s a look at an 1895 work of Gothic horror that is among my favorite Halloween reading material, The King in Yellow by Robert W Chambers. This unjustly neglected book was praised by H.P. Lovecraft himself and has been called America’s most influential volume of horror between Poe and the moderns.
The King in Yellow is a collection of short stories in which a published but unperformed play, also titled The King in Yellow, brings madness and death to anyone who reads it. Daring to peruse the pages of this damnable drama also makes the reader susceptible to attacks from the sinister minions of the eponymous King, who rules over his own private Hell like Freddy Krueger rules over the Dream Dimension. Here, then, are the Continue reading