Sunday, April 8, 2012

Our Sponsor of the Day: Letter H

To mark the start of week 2, I want to add a little extra for today. A little piece of trivia from the horror archives:

The first horror movie ever to be filmed was "The Haunted Castle" (Le Manoir du Diable) in 1896. This french jewel featured vampires, casted only two actors, and lasted a whopping 3 minutes. With you, the first horror/vampire film ever made.

And back to our usual programming...


Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Directed by John McNaughton.

Plot: Loosely based on the story of confessed murderer Henry Lee Lucas, the film follows Henry (Michael Rooker) as he selects innocent victims--occasionally with his roommate Otis (Tom Towles)--and kills them, capturing their murder on videotape.

Review: This is an extremely violent, not glamorized version of the life of a serial killer. Not for anyone indeed, it has been debated ever since its debut in different international festivals. Among its defenders are those who justify its brutality because of its uncompromising honesty in a world genre where most horror films cheapen death by trivializing it. Against those content the ones who consider it to be a reality we know of but that we don't need to watch to understand. The MPAA refused to rate the movie AT ALL and so it stands today, unrated. It is a thought-provoking film, very well written, with amazing performances but beware, I once heard a person say she wished she could un-watch this film as she had changed forever after seeing it.


My first selection was House of Leaves; the very complex, very debated, experimental Danielewiski horror book, but given its nature, I know it won't appeal to everyone, so I added another YA Post-apocalyptic story to the mix. Here you have both:

1. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewiski.
    Published by Random House in 2000.

    Blurb: The story focuses on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story -- of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.

    Review: Danielewski's claim to fame is the fact that "House of Leaves" is really two novels in one. What binds them together is the Nabokovian trick of running one narrative in footnotes to the other. The horror story part of it is a tour-de-force where Zampano, a blind Angelino recluse, dies, leaving behind the notes to a manuscript that's an account of a film called The Navidson Report. In the Report, Pulitzer Prize-winning news photographer Will Navidson and his girlfriend move with their two children to a house in an unnamed Virginia town in an attempt to save their relationship. One day, Will discovers that the interior of the house measures more than its exterior and, more ominously, a closet appears in a hallway. Will then contacts a explorer, Holloway Roberts, who mounts an expedition with his two-man crew. They discover a vast stairway and countless halls where the constantly changing building drives Holloway into a murderous frenzy. 

    What could very well represent the fall of the story, its patch-like structure, works in favor of the viscerally frightening experience, enhancing the horror of the tale. The second story, unfolding in footnotes, is that of Johnny Truant, the man who discovered Zampano's body and took his papers. He tracks down and beds most of the women who assisted Zampano in preparing his manuscript. Soon Johnny is crippled by panic attacks bringing him close to psychosis. 

     This novel is what Dali's body of work would be it it were made of books. Surrealist in the extreme, it has as many detractors as followers, but where so much is said by others, the only way to know the truth is to read it for yourself and create your own opinion. 

2. How I live Now by Meg Rosoff.
    Published by Random House Children's Books in 2006.

    Blurb: Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy. As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

    Review: This multiple-award-winning book touches deep themes like the horrors of war and anorexia. Most of the reviews you'll find talk about the story being focused for young readers, but that doesn't mean adult reader won't enjoy it. It can take at tomes on elements of magical realism, like in Daisy's near psychic connection with Edmond and the scenes of her idyllic life in the English countryside, and then evolves into vivid realism as the protagonist is faces the horrors of starvation, exhaustion, and murder. Truly a story not to miss.


Elizabeth Twist said...

The Haunted Castle was awesome. Thank you for sharing that. In some ways, horror movies haven't changed a bit since then.

I tried to read House of Leaves. I was at a particularly paranoid stage in my life, and my reading time was limited to just-before-sleep, and it freaked me out. Normally I like being freaked out, but something about the footnotes was a little too convincing, I guess? I was in the middle of a dying academic career then too, and I'd read so many footnotes. I guess I was in the habit of believing them.

A-Z @ Elizabeth Twist

Kyra Lennon said...

Ha, The Haunted Castle is pretty impressive for something that is so old!

mooderino said...

I just saw House of Leaves prominently displayed in my library last week. I considered picking it up but it was a huge book and looked like it would take up too much time. Maybe next month...

Moody Writing
The Funnily Enough

Sharkbytes said...

I'm not a big horror fan, but I think we saw Henry. The Haunted Castle is cool. I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge blogs this month.

Gina said...

Happy monday to all. So good to see you around!

Elizabeth, I'm glad you liked The Haunted Castle. It is funny how our most basic fears never change, thus making some horror themes staple. About your experience with House of Leaves, I know how important it is to read the right book at the right time. Sometimes a fictional story or character can rub you wrong when put into a specific context. Maybe you can try it again and will find it more enjoyable. Hope things are working a lot better for you these days.

Kyra, I know! I love how these old movies have great stories and convey the feeling without resorting to huge special effects like nowadays. Thanks for stopping by.

Moderino, don't let House of Leave's apparent size scare you. Since a good portion of it is written in footnotes and pretends to be the diary of a madman, some of the pages have as few as a simple word in them. In spite of its size, House of Leaves is a quick read that demands a lot of attention to detail but few words per page. Thanks for commenting!

Thanks for visiting Sharkbites, I hope you're having fun with the challenge.

Nicki Elson said...

Egads, I couldn't finish watching Henry -- way, way too real feeling. I did like that first horror film though, would it be wrong to call it cute?

Guuye said...

Aargh, I keep having nightmares and I just visited your blog before going to bed! I might have to start writing horror myself. Sorry,I can't watch the video, I get too scared these days. You know the feeling you love it but scared at the same time? That. Thank you for stopping by my blog. I will come back to read other posts if they are not too scary. :(

Gina said...

Hi Nicki, I think cute would be appropriate. I think even Mephistopheles would feel happy with that. Thanks for commenting.

Guuye, ha! I'm sorry to give you nightmares, though I also feel a keen sense of accomplishment with it. Sorry again. My posts aren't always scary, so I hope you'll be back for my less scary side. Thanks for your visit!

Kela McClelland said...

Glad you stopped by my blog, I like yours. Now I have more books to add to my TBR, so thanks for that-I think, lol. My TBR is so long already, but House of Leaves sounds interesting.

Looking forward to reading more of you posts :)

Margo Berendsen said...

How I Live Now sounds like something I need to add to my to-read list. Thanks for sharing these examples - gotta love that the first horror movie ever made had vampires- grin.

Rhia Roberts said...

My hubby thinks I'm strange but I can't watch horror. When I was very young I remember going downstairs for something late in the evening and my parents were watching a horror movie. There were children in nightgowns playing ring-a-ring-a-Rosie outside at night and the look on their faces has given me nightmares ever since.
Rhia from Five Minute Piece for Inspiration

Lilia Tombs said...

The Haunted Castle is fantastic! I really love George Melies' short films; they're all so wonderfully bizarre.

'House of Leaves' sounds like an intriguing book. Thanks for the suggestion!

Great A-Z posts so far :)

Gina said...

Hi Kela, thanks to you for coming by. I hope you find yourself pleasantly surprised by the books you found here.

Margo, it's very nice when I realize some of the things I'm doing are interesting for others as well. Thanks for commenting.

LOL Rhia! I know how a movie at the wrong time can leave a deep mark. I use to have nightmares all the time caused by all the horror books, movies, and mags I read but still I always come back for more. To be honest, I find my attitude a lot stranger than yours. The logic idea is to distance yourself from what is scaring you. I think I need a psychiatrist, then again, since I'm not dangerous, why bother? Thanks for commenting!

Lilia, I'm looking for more George Melies' films as I write this. Great tip. Thanks!

Deniz Bevan said...

I had never seen The Haunted Castle before! Thanks for sharing it.

Gina said...

Hi Deniz, thanks for stopping by. Being that Haunted Castle is the same length than your average trailer, I thought it'd be cool to actually have a complete story shown and it has proven to be quite popular. It is fun to be witness to a small piece of history, I guess. =)