Monthly Archives: December 2014

From Leatherface to Norman Bates: Films Inspired by Ed Gein

Ed Gein

Once you’ve seen them, the images never leave you. Who can take a shower in a motel room without thinking of Psycho? Or the scenes from The Silence of the Lambs where “Buffalo Bill” torments his abductee in the well? Or the infamous scene from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre where Leatherface hangs a woman on a meathook…

The basis for all of these characters was a real life psychotic character that even the great Alfred Hitchcock himself could invent: Ed Gein, of Plainfield, Wisconsin. He was a hermit, murderer, and grave robber who essentially established the basis for the fabled  crazed, backwoods hick, who is completely cut-off from mainstream society, and likes to play with dead things.

In 1957, police drove up to Ed’s old, desolate farmhouse, suspecting he might have had something to do with the disappearance of the local hardware store owner. They didn’t find Ed right away, but they did find a body … and various parts of other bodies. The mother of one of the deputies was hanging upside down from one of the beams. Her head was missing. Nearby was a bowl made out of a human skull. A box contained four human noses and a heart. Their last discovery was a suit made entirely of human skin. More female parts confirmed the fact that Ed Gein was a killer, and a ghastly one at that.

Gein had been psychologically abused by an alcoholic father who passed away during Gein’s youth, and a mother who was a religious zealot, who demonized his sexuality and poisoned her son’s perception of women.

Novelist Robert Bloch was living in Wisconsin at the time of Gein’s arrest, and was inspired to pen the novel Psycho, which provided the basis for the Alfred… Continue reading

Exploring “These Lonely Places”

Exploring ‘These Lonely Places”

by Tony Hicks

Filmmaker and storyteller Guillermo Del Toro has referred to monsters, in multiple interviews, as ‘great symbols of power’ BookCover6x9_BW_240typelayerssecondary updated– and they are. Within the context of a story, a specific moment, at a special place or certain time, monsters can symbolize a great many other things as well; the things we love, the things we fear, the things we want. In “These Lonely Places,” the first collection by R.K. Kombrinck, our own Kelley explores the implications of several different beings – ghosts, devils, cryptids, and other, more nameless horrors – upon the lives of very real people. These points of intervention, wherein mythic, arcane forces collide with those of the typical human experience, are the Lonely Places in question, where ‘people seldom venture, and the living feel unwelcome.’

The very first story, the shortest in the book, is the efficient “Late Night Laundry.” In less than 500 words, several motifs are established and, more-or-less, maintained throughout the course of the book. One is Mr. Kombrinck’s inclination to twist a mundane situation into an impossibly horrific one, often with a breathless enthusiasm for bombarding his characters with nightmares made flesh. Another motif, on the other hand, is a strong sense of restraint, as well as a deft handle on the powers of suggestion. Kelley seems to have a rather precise idea of what he wants to shove into the spotlight, and exactly what he chooses to stay hidden from the reader. These are crucial decisions for a writer (horror or otherwise) to make, and Kelley is skilled at selecting the best strategy for his desired effect.

The second entry is “The 16th Floor,” a good story that serves well to open the first half of the collection. Sort of… Continue reading

The Nightmare Playbook – Five Fearful Horror Tropes

Generic, textbook plots are often overplayed in large Hollywood horror films. Easily recognizable tropes are ones that we can predict simply from the title of the movie or within the first few minutes of the film. Typically, there are a few graphic torture scenes – with the pretty girl surviving, of course – someone possessed by a demonic spirit, or maybe a few zombies, all documented on a shaky handheld camera. Many horror movies all run down familiar paths at one point or another. Despite their similarities, they manage to keep attracting diverse audiences worldwide. Why do we keep returning to scary movies, even if we can predict their outcome?

These films give us a safe space in which to explore some of our darker fears and fantasies – just as romantic dreams might come true in a harmless rom-com, our nightmares need a place to play as well. Thus, the horror industry was born.

Let’s explore 5 common themes that run through the genre.

Explicit Graphic Death/Torture Scenes

Midnight Meat Train Massacre

Many horror aficionados choose to watch these types of films simply for their graphic depiction of death and torture scenes. There’s nothing quite like seeing someone cut off their own foot, like Dr. Gordon must do in the original Saw, and of course the campy, we-know-this-is-too-much films like The Midnight Meat Trainor Cannibal Holocaust. These films test us, daring viewers to look upon and enjoy some of the worst acts humanity is capable of. Gory and fleshy, they exploit our revulsions and feed upon our darkest voyeuristic desires.

The Pretty Girl Survives, or, “The Final Girl”

jamie-lee-curtis-halloween

More than just an overplayed cliche, this trope comments on depictions of women both in horror and within Hollywood more broadly. Typical of “slasher” films where characters are knocked off… Continue reading