Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Others Contrasted with The Wind in The Rose Bush

**This post contains spoilers about the short story "The Wind in the Rose Bush" and the movie The Others**

Someone has died.  And someone is lying about it.

In a very general sort of way, this short description applies to both stories.  What's interesting, worth taking note of (in my humble opinion anyway) is the dichotomy between the liars.  Let me explain

In "The Wind in the Rose Bush", Mrs. Dent seems to be secretive, but in my own reading I felt no threat of harm from her.  I interpreted her behavior as uncertainty about having her husband's dead ex-wife's sister in her home.  After a while, it was clear something had happened to the girl, but again, until the end it was not altogether obvious that Mrs. Dent was a danger to anyone.

In The Others however, the three servants are instantly under suspicion.  The second I saw them approaching that giant house in all black, I knew something was up and that they shouldn't be trusted.  They are constantly whispering amongst themselves about the people of the house, and filling the children's minds with terrifying truths.  Everything they do is secretive and sketchy.  They dress in dark colors most of the time, they show up for a job that hasn't been posted in the paper yet, they know the house inside and's all just too much Gothic horror tension to ignore.

What I find intriguing about this situation brings to mind the idea of "Never judge a book by its cover". In the end, Mrs. Dent ends up being the cause of young Agnes' death, while the servants are there to warn the family of their new situation and take care of them in the land of the dead.

Both stories involve the idea of a mother who led to the deaths of her children.  But there's a dichotomy there as well.  Mrs. Dent neglected her husband's child that she clearly never cared about, leading to Agnes' eventual death.  Grace killed her children in a fit of psychosis because she believed the world was too cruel for them.  In the same vein, Mrs. Dent lied about Agnes to cover her own ass, while the servants lied in the best interests of the family.

This idea brings up an interesting question about hauntings.  Who should be feared more?  The ghosts or the people who made them that way?

If you'd like to find out for yourself:
"The Wind in the Rose Bush"can be read online for free I believe, it was available the last time I checked
The Others was tricky, but I did it, so it can be found online!

The Haunting of Hill House: Book and Movie Adaptation

**This post contains spoilers about story The Haunting of Hill House as well as the movie The Haunting**

I am obligated to begin this post with my excitement over the fact that the creepy wife caretaker of the house is played by the woman who plays Mrs. Hess in Home Alone 3.  This holds absolutely no bearing over the movie or story, in fact her character's only purpose is to give this rousing speech.

I've just always hoped and dreamed she'd be cast in some creepy role because (no offense) she has the face for it.  Anyway, just wanted to share that with you.  You're welcome

This movie, while actually pretty good and definitely recommended for a bit of a cheap scare, is starkly different from the book in a couple of important ways.  The main difference being the reason the group is at the house in the first place.  Dr. Marrow brings the three participants, Nell, Theo, and Luke to the house under the guise of an insomnia study, but he in fact is conducting his own research (unethical and off the grid research) about group fear.  He intends to plant a few seeds using ghost stories about the house, and then watch what unfolds.  That diabolical bastard.

Two other differences that are the portrayals of both Nell and the house as characters.  The house is trickier.  We'll start there.

Instead of being ambiguous and unknown, the movie takes the hauntings and turns them into something much more real.  The backstory goes like this.  Hugh Crain, mill magnate and builder of the house, wanted nothing more in life than a large family with lots of kids running around.  Hence the ginormous, completely excessive house.  But all attempts were unsuccessful with all his children dying in childbirth.  His wife eventually passed away as well, leaving him alone.  It is eventually discovered, by Nell (the only one who believes in the hauntings enough to delve deeper into what's causing them) that Crain took a second wife, Carolyn.  And the cliches  Carolyn is revealed to be Nell's great-great-grandmother or some variation of that.  Nell has been brought to the house for a purpose.  There are ghosts there, hundreds of them.  Hundreds of dead children, taken by Crain from his mills and killed, trapping their spirits there with him forever and giving him the family he always wanted, at least kind of.  Long story short (not really that short, my bad) the manifestations in the house have two sources: the children communicating with Nell and Hugh Crain trying to drive her away.  Giving the house a face, literally, took away some of the horror of the situation and gave the movie an almost Haunted Mansion feel.

Given this new information/plot twist, Nell's role changes accordingly.  Instead of a hysterical, psychotic mess, she becomes a savior for the children.  I mean that literally, check this out.

Sorry about the quality.  I searched high and low for a screenshot of this, but in the end I just had to take one myself.  It gets the point across I think

Beginning with the very first haunting, when a child's ghost appears in her pillow calling out to her, Nell is calm about the whole situation.  Even before knowing their intent, she fears no harm and is in fact driven to find out what the message is from these pre-pubescent phantoms.

Seriously, she rolls over, wakes up to this and SMILES.  I kid you not (pun intended.  Get it?  Cuz the ghosts are kids.  Moving on)

Nell's backstory is important.  She had cared for her ill mother most of her life, but now that her mother was gone, her sister and brother-in-law were selling the apartment she had lived in with her mother.  It's ok though, they offered her a place to she could take care of their obnoxious kid and do all the cooking and cleaning for them.  No wonder she ran away to some creepy old house.  Anyway, Nell had been a caretaker all her life, and when her mother died, she lost herself.  Finding these lost children who needed her was exactly what she needed.  In fact, as the house is falling down around them and the rest of the group urges her to leave, she refuses, stating, "I'm exactly where I'm wanted."

This is where it gets interesting.  Instead of the meek, nervous Nell of the book, we get a fighter.  As the group tries to leave, Crain prevents them, intending to kill them all.  She cries out and tells him she won't let him hurt them.  She literally fights back when a stone griffin comes to life in an effort to stop them.  The love she had for the children of the house, and her friends, gave her a reason, gave her something to fight for.

I'm obligated to end this post with my anger and disappointment over the movie's complete disregard and utter ruin of my favorite part of the book, one of the few parts that actually scared me.  There was a lot of potential the filmmakers had to work with and in some ways I feel like they squandered it.  But I would still recommend it.  If you'd like to accept my recommendation:
You can get the book online (I found a copy for less than $10 on Amazon!)
The movie can be rented for 48 hours through Amazon Instant Streaming for $2.99

Sleep tight tonight, dear readers

Water Ghosts and The Ring

**This post contains spoilers about the book, Water Ghosts, and the movies The Ring and The Ring 2**

In Shawna Ryan's Water Ghosts, a town of Chinese immigrants in America is visited by three women who have sailed there on a boat.  One of the women, Ming Wai, is the wife of a man from the town, Richard, the other two are not claimed.  As the men in the town clammer all over themselves to court the two, and Richard slowly gets weaker, the story reveals the three women are all dead.  They must have died in water somewhere, as they are now water ghosts.  They can reclaim their earthly lives, but only if they are able to drown someone to take their place.

I have to say, Ming Wai's devouring of Richard's life reminded me of Beloved and Sethe, but what I was really reminded of was the movie The Ring.  While the movie is much more intense with its purpose being to scare the living daylights out of a person, the idea is quite similar.  Both feature a ghost who perished in the water, and wants something that's just out of reach.

Samara, the creepy ghost girl in The Ring, died in a well (*gasp* not another well!) after her adopted mother pushed her in, still alive.  Not only that, but her birthmother tried to drown her in a fountain when she was just a baby.  This girl does not have a friendly relationship with water, or mothers for that matter.  By the end of the movie, Rachel, our main character, has figured all this out.  She's even found the well, and brought the body out for a proper burial.  What she doesn't realize, is that what Samara wanted wasn't peace, it was a mother.  Queue the sequel!

Samara's birthmom, by the way.  Real piece of work

Once Samara's soul has been released from the well prison, she attempts to take possession of Rachel's young son Aiden.  She wants to take his place as her child, to finally have a real mother.  She almost does it too, with Aiden getting weaker and weaker, only being able to communicate with Rachel when she's asleep.  The only way to stop Samara is to trap her back in the well.  Send her back to the water.  Sound familiar?  (cough, cough If you're not familiar with the book, the other two unnamed women are unsuccessful in swapping lives and end up re-drowning[?] cough, cough).

Being "sent back" is a big idea, especially in the second movie.  Samara's birthmother attempts to drown her, and later explains as can be heard in the trailer, that children have to be sent back and their mothers have to oblige.  Which makes it rather interesting that Samara is killed by pushing her into a well, a popular Gothic symbol that represents the womb.  Not only was she sent back to the land of the dead (where her birthmom supposes children come from) but she was also metaphorically sent back to where she began, in a womb.

Oh my goodness, breakthrough!  Ming Wai makes it back into the land of the living, and ends her story with the idea of possibly bearing a child.  Samara was just pushed into a womb well.  She can be reincarnated as Ming Wai's future child!  That'd be karma gold.  Alright, you'll have to forgive me, it's late and I had far too much candy at the movies earlier.  Moving on.

In both stories there is an antagonist whose goal is to gain possession of something they didn't have before or wanted to regain possession of.  Ming Wai wants her life back.  Samara would settle for a proper mother figure.  Either way, the desperation felt by water ghosts who died before their time or whose lives were taken from them leads them to fight their way back.  They seem to have unusual scope and unnatural powers, perhaps fueled by their anger and desire for revenge.  This idea is also present in What Lies Beneath, as well as The Changeling.  Both are worth checking out, even though I haven't gone into them here (trust me, you don't want to read the novel I could write if I talked about them ALL).  So, the lesson for today kids, don't murder anyone in water.  They will become stronger than you and scarier than you and then you will die.  Most likely in a horrific way.  Well, have a good day!

If you're interested in anything touched on in this post:
Water Ghosts can be picked up at your local bookstore or online (hint! I found a copy as cheap as 6 bucks on Amazon!)
The Ring can be streamed through Amazon Instant Video for $9.99
What Lies Beneath can also be streamed through Amazon for $9.99
The Changeling is a bit harder because of its age.  With the Internet however, it's definitely not impossible
Same with The Ring 2, If I'm able to find it, so can you.  I believe in you dear reader!

The Following and Edgar Allen Poe

**There are probably spoilers in here somewhere about the TV show The Following.  As an avid watcher of the show, it's hard to keep track of what's a spoiler to someone who doesn't know what I know**

You might be asking yourself, "Hey, is that a mostly naked women with excerpts from Poe written all over her mostly naked body?"  If you are, congratulations, you're right!  If you weren't, don't worry, that most likely means you still have your sanity.  Basically, if you didn't know already and didn't watch the very informative trailer I provided up yonder ^^, the premise of the show is the threat of serial killer Joe Carroll.  This guy.

His justification of murder is none other than Poe himself.  He kills because, as he puts it, "what could be more beautiful than the death of a beautiful woman?".  He is a professor, in more ways than one.  He teaches (taught, depending on your current place in the season) at a university, but he also teaches his "followers".  He has formed a cult of serial killers, and he teaches them his theory that Poe believed in the insanity of art, that it had to be felt in order to elevate one's soul.  He gets really into it too.  His right hand man takes his nickname from "The Fall of the House of Usher", Roderick.  They even have these cool masks to commit crimes and throw confetti in!

Apparently they like making wall art as well

They scrawl "Nevermore" on walls in blood, according to Kevin Bacon, to "symbolize the finality of death".  They cut out the eyes of some of their victims, taken from the symbolism of eyes in "The Black Cat" and "The Telltale Heart".  The eyes are the identity, the windows to a person's soul.  But beyond that, the image and idea of Poe is manipulated to provide a driving plot behind the show.  In my opinion, it was a gimmick to make their show different.  Instead of having a serial killer who just kills to kill which is terrifying enough, let's give him some weird twisted motivation.  

But instead of honoring pain and loss and grieving, which Poe was quite familiar with and dealt with through most of his life, they turn it around and use his words to be the basis of absolute depravity and superflous violence.  To me, watching the show, sometimes it seems as though they forget that they made the whole point of everything Poe and his works and he'll be mentioned for 2.5 seconds just to bring him back up again, but they don't really integrate him into the framework of the show.  Then again, the writers of the show may actually be geniuses depending on how you look at it.  I think it's safe to say that serial killers are not quite right in the cranium, with Joe Carroll not being an exception.  Perhaps the idea is that his warped mind sees Poe in a way that it's not meant to come across, different than your average person would see it.  He distorts what it means to fuel his cult and their motives.  Which provides an interesting angle, since Poe's personal sanity is widely debated, but he never killed anyone (although apparently there are idiots out there who don't actually know that).

With a major plot point being Joe's desire to "write a sequel" to Ryan's book about him, it'll be interesting to see how Poe works into that through the rest of the season.  If you're interested in going on this journey, the five most recent episodes can be watched on Hulu.  As for the first part of the season I'm not entirely sure, but in this day and age of the Internet, I'm sure everyone can figure something out.