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Monday, September 12, 2011

WHY HORROR?_MARK TWAIN, STEPHEN KING, AND I WERE PLAYING POKER.

Mark Twain, Stephen King, and I were playing poker in Meilori’s.

“Why horror?,” frowned the ghost of Mark Twain.

King frowned back. “You mean why did I choose to write horror?”

“No,” snorted Mark. “The size of those stacks of chips in front of you tells me that. Why is horror so danged popular now?”

King sighed, “Not all of it is. Most of the horror movies fall flat these days.”

“Why do you think that is?,” I asked.

Mark cackled, “Plain as day, son. It’s a case of the cat who sat on the hot stove never sitting on a hot stove anymore. ‘Course he won’t sit on a cold one either! They learned the wrong lessons from the successful horror films.”

King nodded. “Exploding blood bags, expensive CGI, and fancy make-up jobs won’t scare anybody over the age of 14.”

Mark winked at me. “And that’s three years younger than you have to be to get into one of those danged R rated horror movies to begin with!”

King said, “No, for a horror movie to work, it has to tap into our subconscious mind, find the things so terrible we can’t even bring ourselves to put them into words, and startle us with glimpses of them from the shadows.”

“Not directly?,” I asked.

Mark chuckled at me. “Course not. Very few of us are able to look straight into the eyes of the Gorgon, son.”

“Symbols work best,” nodded King. “The best horror stories work on a symbolic level to help us understand our fears. Not face them. If you can’t face your fears, then you’re not quite sane.”

I made a face. “A lot of folks say the imaginative reader who gobbles up horror stories isn’t sane.”

Mark Twain shook his head. “No, they are more, not less, sane, Roland. They know that today apparently absolutely anything can happen, that we mortals are so very fragile, and that we walk among monsters.”

King nodded again. “The serial killers do walk among us :

cancer, heart disease, the drunk driver. Ask a policeman. He’ll tell you that in every city block, no matter how high the income level, there is a meth user or lab.”

King rubbed his chin. “The imaginative see more than those with mental myopia.”

Twain frowned at his chewed-up cigar.

“Why, son, most of the world is more than content to read PEOPLE, howl at AMERICAN IDOL, and parrot their parent’s political opinions. That is not a useful life. That’s the life of a June bug that just happens to have opposable thumbs and can count to ten.”

King drummed his fingers on the table. “The imaginative mind takes refuge in make-believe terrors so that the real ones everyone else is ignoring don’t overwhelm them.

I said, “They go into the darkness of the movie theater, hoping to have a nightmare … because the horrors of the world outside look ever so much better when the nightmare ends.”

King’s eyes grew deeper. “But every nightmare is a solitary experience, a real world suddenly tilted on its ear vision. Hollywood should remember that.”

Mark lit up another cigar. “What I love about horror is its sheer democracy!”

I frowned. “Democracy?”

He slapped the polished oak table top.

“How can you not love horror where THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, which cost only $100,000, can scare the bejabbers out of the whole world, grossing $250 million!

Why, son, that’s pure democracy in action. Then, you add PARANORMAL ACTIVITY to the mix. Why, Roland, that’s close to angelic anarchy!”

King frowned at his hand and folded. “SAW III and up were hyped up and phony. The movie equivalent to Thanksgiving Day Parade floats. Now, BLAIR and PARANORMAL, the damn things looked and felt real. Shaky and unexpected like your nightmares.”

Mark smiled wide. “Those movie studio heads think horror is easy. T’aint anything close to easy. But it is mysterious,”

“Like catching lightning in a bottle,” suggested King. “Or like a good joke : re-visit the punch line too many times, and it wears thin.”

King shook his head. "Sam Rami tried it with DRAG ME TO HELL, but laughs predominated over the horror. To get the right mix of the two, you have to go back to his EVIL DEAD II."

Twain snorted, "Like THE DESCENT. I, myself, preferred the director's DOG SOLDIERS where heart was there as well as the horror."

He saw my arched eyebrow and chortled, "Hell, son, ghosts watch movies, too."

Mark chuckled as I folded, too, and he began raking in the chips.

“Hollywood churns out the same fodder over and over again. But, son, no matter how hard you churn water, you ain’t ever going to get butter!”

I made a face again. “Which is why we get all those not-scary, straight-to-video horror movies.”

King stared off into the darkness which somehow seemed thicker suddenly. “The truly effective horror stories reduce us to the mental age of ten again.”

His face went ashen. “Ah, Roland, where did everybody suddenly go?”

I looked around. All was darkness. Mark Twain’s seat was empty. All was a hollow silence. I tried to see beyond our table.

Only a living blackness surrounded us.

I jerked. A shuffling of dragging feet. It drew closer and closer to our table.

A low moaning breathed out of the darkness : “No. No. No!”

Stephen King tried to swallow and couldn’t. The shuffling was only inches away.

“Why can’t we see what’s making that shuffling?,” I asked.

“It’s right on top of us,” rasped King.

“Boo!,” shouted the suddenly appearing Mark Twain, a tray of ice tea in his hands.

He winked at the two of us jumping in our chairs. “Gotcha! Figured since I fleeced you at poker, I at least owed you something cool to drink.”

He cackled a laugh. “I wanted it a surprise so I dropped that blanket of night all around you. But wouldn’t you know? I almost tripped myself up in that danged fog!”

King took a cold tumbler of ice tea with shaky fingers. “So help me, Clemens, if you weren’t already dead, I’d kill you!”

He glared at me, but I just shrugged, “Hey, this is Meilori’s. You got off easy.”

{Be sure and read Stephen King's latest : MILE 81!

Mr. Stephen King also wants it to be known that this is a fictional account ... he positively, absolutely did not lose that poker game!}

***

10 comments:

  1. Leave it to Sam Clemens to scare the crap out of Steven King. Plus they both named some really good movies they liked.
    But I do agree with them, Hollywood will run a good thing into the ground. They never know when to move on.

    Pamela Jo

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  2. Since you mostly play with dead people I was a little worried about Stephen's health there for bit :-)

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  3. Good morning. I liked Sarah's comment above. You do like to play with dead people. As far as horror goes, it's not secret I like to tinker with it, but today's horror has become nothing more than gore. Let's drop some blood here or a chunk of meat there. The greatest fear a person can face is psychologica, probably why I enjoy King's work. :) Have a great one!

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  4. True horror leaves an after-taste. That to me is the definition of horror.

    The aftertaste has in movies degraded to disgust. I watched Saw I and can't watch the others -- too gory.

    My cousin, for instance, said he read a book that scared him so bad he slept with a gun under his pillow.

    I think reality-horror is the thing that works best for me. I like to write and read about tangible situations and tangible things. My current piece has some creepiness in it. It isn't a horror, per se, but it will have some after-taste lingering situations that may make you check your shoes and sheets before you stick your feet in them.

    To me, that sort of after-effect, that's horror, when you change the way someone behaves based on your writing.

    - Eric

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  5. Pamela Jo :
    Sam's favorite story as a young boy was "The Golden Arm." I won't ruin his retelling of it. And yes, Hollywood has never run into a good idea that it hasn't strangled with over-use!

    Sarah :
    Dead people mostly play with me -- and sometimes it's darn inconvenient since those times I am played out! LOL. Thanks for visiting and commenting. I always look forward to your visits, Roland

    Laila :
    Wait til you see Mr. King's, Mark Twain's, and my discussion on the zombie phenomenon! Hemingway even turns up ... with a box of shells for my .44 magnum!

    You are so right. Horror is more than gore. The something blurred looking at you through your bedroom window is always more scary than when seen clear. Usually. Which is why like Eric's friend, I sleep with my .44 close to my air mattress! LOL.

    Eric :
    Thanks for the kind words you left on my trailer at Facebook and for your disclaimer advice which I took ... in a fashion.

    I have never seen any of the Hostel or Saw franchise movies. Having been a victim of torture, I do not enjoy seeing it done to others.

    And you are right, horror is best served with the sauce of reality clinging to it. Like you said, the best horror changes the way we live. No more showers after PSYCHO and no going to the beach after JAWS!! LOL. Roland

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  6. Thank you for the King interview. You always have such great videos, Roland.

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  7. ...now that's entertainment!

    One request however...on my visit to Meilori's, I'm claiming the seat King decided on. Not so much for who he is,(well okay, maybe a little,) but for the fact that he's still alive and well after sharing a conversation with the dead ;)

    El

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  8. Thanks, Lydia :
    I just try to entertain and educate my friends the best I can. Your blog holds a high standard to live up to. Roland

    Elliot :
    Your visit to Meilori's will be memorable ... survivable, now that's another thing. LOL. Roland

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  9. Cool there is actually some good points on this post some of my friends might find this relevant, will send them a link, many thanks...

    Pet Sitting Mckinney

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  10. Pet Sitting McKinney :
    All the good points come from Stephen King. Ouch! The ghost of Mark Twain just kicked me. And him, too. Thanks for putting up a link. Hemingway teaches me on why we keep on today, Roland

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