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.