Monday, July 14, 2014

On the PG-13 of Madness

Of late, there has been much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over Guillermo Del Toro’s announcement that he is in talks, again, over filming an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness as a PG-13 film. The big uproar, as usual when that particular combination of letters and numbers is uttered in conjunction with a horror film, seems to be over whether or not the film will be neutered. Of course it fucking won’t, but that isn’t the real problem with it anyways.

If you’ve read the book, it comes across fairly tame. Even those autopsies Guillermo mentions in interviews are clinical and detached. There isn’t anything shocking because that isn’t how Lovecraft wrote. The massive sex and gore we saw in adaptations were added entirely by the people adapting the stories. If filmed as written, they would come across as PG-13 without a flinch. Hell, his characters don’t even curse.

The real problem, as I’ve mentioned before, is that no one in their right mind would film any of his stories as they were written because they would make horrendous films. His stories are dry, insular and detached and usually hinge more on reading about the past than the actions of the present. They make for some interesting reading, but not good viewing.

That’s why Stuart Gordon added so much raunchy sex and over the top gore to his filmic approaches to Lovecraft, as well as a shit ton of humor and absurdity. The different medium requires different approaches. Sure, the HPLHS did a great job with The Call of Cthulhu, but only for people that like watching dry, black and white and silent films with a small budget.

The financially successful Lovecraft adaptations were b-grade grindhouse fun. The faithful adaptations were doomed to failure, at least from a money point of view. This will never be the type of story that will attract blockbuster numbers. But I’m okay with that. I’d rather just read the damn book, anyways.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Now, You Have Your Answer

To read anyone's sincerely written horror is to view secret manifestos. Having to stick out our diseased tongues to see the dust there. If we open those mouths far enough, you will spy the blood between our teeth. We grind them together daily, nightly. Sometimes we spit it in the sink, usually it is our favorite ink. Writing horror doesn't evoke hell. It invokes survival from it, expiation of sins revelations jealously guarded against burning by those electing themselves the Guardians of Light. The Downfall of these guardians comes with coveting the sense of (ghoulish) rapture their short-sighted passions will never permit them.

-“Essay III: Decay”, Charlee Jacob

I've been reading Charlee Jacob's The Myth of Falling (which you can and should buy here), where I got the above quote. I can't think of a better explanation for that age-old, really frigging annoying question that regularly comes up when people find out you write, read or voraciously devour horror fiction. Harlan Ellison, the great and mighty, declaimed even the name of the genre because nobody wants to feel that emotion.

Of fucking course nobody WANTS to feel horror, or experience it in any way. We would all rather cozy up in a nice comfortable bed with a plate of cookies and milk, our favorite puppy at our feet (or kitty at our side, if you prefer) and some wonderful, warm person cuddled up next to us. But sometimes, many times, way damn too many times, we have no choice.

And maybe we need some help processing it. Maybe we need to know it is not just us. Maybe we need to see it through a different lens to understand. Maybe we just need to lance the boil and let what was hiding beneath the skin come out into the open air.

When it comes to writing, nothing brings out stronger emotions than extreme horror. To write on subjects of rape and child abuse is, at least in my case, to dredge up the worst things of which I am too personally familiar. I don't intend to exploit broken bodies or shattered souls. This work depresses me, forcing me to re-experience that which I've fought to put behind me. But memories have a way of not letting you hide them, as it is generally better to face your fears in order to conquer them. To create a cathartic path through to bridge the nightmares with... or you can live in denial, and through a rigidly puritanical delusion, cause other victims to undergo more suffering.

That which is never spoken of becomes a dirty little secret. Nobody wants to get involved, except possibly to isolate the victims, making them more outside of the group of self-professed 'normals' than the original crimes against them did.