Suggested Audio Jukebox:
 John Carpenter “Hell Breaks Loose”
 Goblin “Suspiria”
It may come as a surprise to learn that I am somewhat easily spooked. Surely not? Could it be that the Keeper of The Crimson Quill is little more than a man-sized baby? Allow me to place down my dummy and I shall tell you all about it Grueheads. Okay you’ve got me; I fill my linens at the first whiff of consternation and had to fit a catheter before attempting to make it through Scott Derrikson’s Sinister without soaking through the sofa. I always have been easily ruffled by the macabre and many kids would have run a country mile from anything so ominous but not I; I challenged myself to endure any anguish and didn’t rest easy until I knew I had sufficient inspiration that nightmares come from. It’s hard being a sucker for punishment; but it sure does get the blood circulating so, in that respect, it’s good for the joints. Show me a small Asian child with blackened eyes and I shall fill a quart faster than a Friesian cow; suggest that a necromancer lies in wait and I shall drop eggs like an excitable rooster and cluck for dear life.
As a child growing up in the rural outskirts of 1970’s London I stood no chance. Cushing, Price, Pleasence and Lee used to take it in turns reading me bedtime stories and Hammer and Amicus had plentiful tales of terror to elaborate. In addition, Tales of The Unexpected, Sapphire & Steel and Dr Who weighed in with their own grotesque lingering imagery and, by the time I had reach a ripe age, I was a nervous wreck and frequently leapt at my own shadow. The inconvenient truth of the matter is that I have always pandered for a challenge. If something has the ability to freeze my blood then I’m the first one stroking stalagmites. It I am left unmoved then where’s the fun in that? I’d rather play ensign and run around the garden waving my arms above my head like a nincompoop than sit there solemnly, rationalizing what has just transpired before my very eyes.
Back in the days that I still believe played out entirely in black and white, when our grandfathers rode about town on Penny Farthings sporting lamb chops and David Blaine was still a rabbit in his father’s hat, illusionists contorted our realities using mirrors and deft hands. They never once revealed the trick to their addressees; consequently the crowds went home content every time. Nowadays, we have technology at our disposal and the glorious medium of film to get those heads scratching and, as a horror aficionado and speaking for my brethren, there’s no finer way to achieve such trickery. In that moment where trepidation looms large we are reunited with all five senses and totally at the mercy of our deepest fears. Some of us are freaked out by small enclosed spaces; others long shadows and creaks in the pantry. Being a visual creature; it’s all about lasting imagery for me. The first time I watched The Omen I shuffled off to bed with David Warner’s disembodied head still rotating through my cerebellum, while Mrs Baylock stabbed at it with knitting needles. If I were Lee Remick I would have thrown myself to my death too.
Suspiria did my sleep pattern no favors. Argento utilized every primary color he could find a lens for and filled his canvas with solitude and despair. That was the first horror film to truly bid farewell to the flesh as it burrowed deep and gestated long after the curtain dropped. The Italians knew exactly how to climb in our head space and for that we have Mario Bava to thank amongst numerous others. I will never forget Bava’s Shock (or Beyond The Door II as it is often referred to) and the chilly moment whereby a little boy runs towards his frantic mother, out of frame for an instant, reemerging as a gaunt lunging middle-aged man who made Donald Sutherland appear positively congenial.
The technique was more recently mirrored effectively by John R. Leonetti in Annabelle. Back then, these works fed on raw emotion and didn’t have CGI or dynamic editing wizardry to fall back on, just a bit of cut and splice. I think that ultimately it boils down to whichever generation you herald from. I was ten when Leatherface first slid that rickety door across and forty by the time he slammed it back shut. No child, not yet even aware that his winkle has a whole other purpose, can withstand that. I didn’t catch a full night’s slumber for weeks after my Texan baptism but still watched my next horror movie the following evening.
You may have heard me harp on about Sinister and that may be because I regard it as the scariest, bleakest slither of doom to emerge this side of the millennial crater. If I were Ethan Hawke I would have laid off the whiskey and welded shut the drop down attic door before I kicked off my loafers. That film disturbed me so much that I insisted on sitting in my tool shed at 4.00am, scribing my appraisal and twitching like Frankenstein’s monster as I just wasn’t ready to tackle my divan. In recent times we have had a wealth of options at our disposal. Our Eastern friends love nothing more than disturbing our psyches with folklore and stark imagery. As Sadako tantalizingly approached our screens and crawled out of that television set, digging her fleshy nails into our personal quarters and revealing…the eye; they had me right by the short and curlies and I froze in much the same manner as Ryuji. That shit’s scary right? Tell me you agree? I pray that every last one of you has chosen against becoming jaded.
Tommy Lee Wallace’s adaptation of Stephen King’s It got it bang on the money right up to its faltering final third; just like Pennywise the dancing clown, horror searches for our frailties and exposes them for all they’re worth. For some, The Blair Witch Project was little more than a half-baked home video which provoked nausea only through its erratic camera movement and Heather Donahue’s outlandish overacting. I disagree strongly on both counts as it was six weeks before I could lay on my back at bedtime for fear of a shadowy figure lurking in the darkest recesses of my room. It didn’t help that I have an illogical fear of witches; not the Hocus Pocus variety or those Eastwick bitches, I’m talking the ambiguous kind who dance around campfires wearing nothing more than their contorted smiles. Zombies, on the other hand, just don’t cut the mustard anymore. We’ve heard their hard luck stories too many times now and they procrastinate too much to ever pose a considerable threat. A dose of the rage shakes things up and I wouldn’t fancy fleeing an unruly mob of rampaging red-eyed ruffians at the dead of night however.
I’m not so much afraid of spiders as I am wary of their presence. Anything made up of over 50% legs can walk on by without fear of being shunted inside a glass and tapped out into nature but those suckers that are all carcass; they’re just another reason to religiously hoover. Apparently we consume all manner of web-slingers over the course of twelve calendar months and the sheer horror of that statistic alone keeps my sleep pixies away. If you’re foolish enough to glance at one beneath a magnifying glass then you deserve that soiled bed linen. In all my years, I’ve never come across a dashing arachnid and they all just look gnarled and bitter to me. Heaven forbid they flash you a smile; imagine receiving head from a predator…my point exactly. Ironically, they ward off all manner of other night crawlers. I applaud them for such endeavors but remain immovable when I state that these eight legged freaks have no place inside my boudoir.
I used to be afraid of dying and that one haunts most of us I’m sure. Now I’m afraid of not living and that spurs me on in all my pursuits. There’s nothing I love more than an unsolicited fright and always have although now I no longer raise my hands to my face or, if I do, my fingers are spread wider than a dime store hooker on a swivel chair. Thankfully, fear doesn’t get old when you’re Keeper. Recently I watched Adam Robitel’s The Taking of Deborah Logan and could have built a mortar palace from the bricks I shit. Blind terror is alive and well it appears and will be for as long as we allow our imaginations to elaborate on these perilous tidbits offered by guys who clearly still check under their beds each night before switching off their bed-side lamps. I’m right there, peering beneath my valance half-expecting to fend off that fucking clown from Poltergeist. If I hear a scratch on the window, I am instantly transported to Salem’s Lot, and should that rocking chair in the corner commence swaying of its own free will, then I’m the first to do this…
Some wear their hearts on their sleeves but I prefer mine lodged in my throat. Scare me witless, administer that adrenaline, chill my sanguine fluid, raise the hairs on the back of my neck and throw in some goosebumps for good measure while you’re at it, and I shall lap that shit up like the black cat I am and likely nuzzle your trouser leg. I’ll attempt not to spray; maybe just a vague puddle by the front door, but I will let you stroke my fur the wrong way. When I have been at my most fearful I have also been the most alive. When it appeared as though my world was collapsing in around my ears I was truly terrified. By embracing each inhibition and setting it free like a fart trapped in a flask; fear becomes your very best ally. It helps that we have always been acquaintances at the very least; the difference now is that we have become travel companions. It scratches my back and I reciprocate by tickling its sides. Drink it like the fuel that it is; if you scribe then do pour it into your prose and watch it swish around your ankles. Live it, breathe it, and critically fear it and take those uneasy steps into the darkness. I’ll meet you there but you won’t receive visual on my whereabouts. You’ll know me by the cold breath slinking down the back of your collar.