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Horror. It's a particular fetish of mine; not in the latex-and-leather sense, but in the thing that calls back to me certain feelings of wonder and amazement that I can trace back to the early days of my childhood when I managed to somehow get a hold of some EC Comics that were still on sale in a store while my family was on vacation. I was young: maybe six or seven years old, and I was scared enough that I had nightmares for a very long time afterwards.

Yet I was fascinated, and that fascination has never really left.

When I imagine horror scenes in my mind, they are heavily influenced by elements of the EC Comics artwork.

Larry, Moe, and Curly of the Dead.

Old cemeteries always have tilted tombstones in my mind. I've never actually seen a cemetery with either tilted tombstones or one that has the stones this small yet thick, but this is the kind of image that comes into my mind.

And trees with dead branches and spanish moss hanging from them. AGain, trilted tombstones, and even a tilted fence. Horror abhors the perpendicular-- it gives an air of something long neglected.

Long, white hair, the rotted-off nose, and the clothing in shreds. Big earmarks. Speaking of which, it also seems that the dead always have ears. That was actually an important lesson that I didn't learn until quite late.

Except apparently dead things that live underwater have no ears.
Also note the gooey strands between the shell and the creature.

Severed limbs, and not simply cut off, but torn off are always good. Not anatomically correct, but still good. Big hairy arm, so the guy must have been pretty burly, yet whatever took him got him so quickly that he didn't even let go of the ring. There is a whole story in this one cover that is phenomenal.
Love the Stomach Upset? sign in the background.

The hanged man. Not exceptionally gory, but the composition is phenomenal, and just how high is that bloody ceiling? I love to set up shots like this when I get a chance. Strong perspective, usually helped along by a wide-angle lens.

And of course, beautiful scantily-clad women. Preferably being threatened or held captive, and in contrast with bones or creatures of ugliness and decay.

Probably my favorite zombie movie is Return of the Living Dead. It's not a Romero dead film, it's Dan O'Bannon, and it's modef a comedy, but it still has the scariest zombies evar, and primarily because the art direction was done by William Stout, who is an unabashed fan of EC comics.

(EDIT: broken image links, go to http://www.retrocrush.com/archive/rotld/index.html instead)

My favoritest zombie ever, the table zombie, which was a cable puppet that was evidently a really quick build, like over a weekend. Phenomenal. The eyes are a giveaway (way too blue to be real), and the nose-hole just isn't there, but there is something absolutely compelling about a half-creature being animated and communicating... the scene is chilling. And it's a freakin' comedy.

(Trivia bit: the actor who played the TarMan zombie in ROLD was Alan Trautman, who started out as a mime. He was also the puppeteer for the bunny "Mr. Floppy" in the TV show Unhappily Ever After, though he's not credited in the IMDB for some odd reason.)

I think the things that frightened me the most and have stuck in my head are the creatures that come back from the dead, with chunks of flesh rotted away and showing the bones, impossible pieces for something that is alive. Living skeletons are scary too, so somewhere in the space between a skeleton and a Romero zombie, something that couldn't be a person in a costume.

I was reminded of this last night while watching some extra bits on Land of the Dead. There is a female zombie that captured my attention in the movie because she has a hole in her right cheek where you can see through to her jaw, and as she moves her mouth, it moves like a real jaw. I always thought this was a digital effect, but leave it be to the folks at KNB, they did it as a practical, and I got to see how it was actually put together. Simple, but effective, and I love stuff like that.

All of this is kind of whirling about in the back of my mind as being fodder for a horror movie. I have individual shots in mind, individual scenes in place. I know how I want it to look. What I don't have is the story behind it, and that makes me really hesitant.

While I could make a movie that was nothing really more than a collection of spooky images (it would probably be shot as a trailer ala Grayson), I'd still like to have something more complete, if for no other reason than to understand the motivation behind some of the main character's choices. It bothers me that I don't have that level of attachment or involvement with my main character-- she's pretty much a cutout, just reacting to stuff that happens to her rather than doing anything about it. A lot like Barbara in the original Night of the Living Dead, come to think of it. Not my favorite character.

At the same time, we're talking a short film here. Grayson is six minutes, and has a hell of a lot of impact in that time. I'm thinking a max of seven minutes, and ideally no dialogue (part of the seven minute film challenge), though I'd be willing to cop into dialogue if it would help me get a handle on the story.

Then again, am I asking too much? Realistically, it's a forum for me to play with some visual ideas, to pull of some iconic imagery and see if I can take what I have in my mind and get it on the screen, to play with illusion and visual effects. I'd really like it to be entertaining to watch, and for that I need some cohesion and story.

And probably character and redemption.

This shit is hard.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 27th, 2006 09:54 pm (UTC)
(the last 6 images are b0rken for me.)

Mostly, the old cemetaries I've seen hold up well. This one is in Salem, Mass:

But, there are a couple that are listing a bit in this photo:

But yeah, usually the old headstones are more slender than the comics would have us believe.

Mar. 27th, 2006 10:22 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the image links are broken. Crap.


has all the relevant images anyway.

I love the graveyard pix-- true gothick gravestones, and the blackening of the old coal soot bonding with the stone is fabulous. I can do that extremely well with paint, and the 'stones are fairly easy to make from extruded styrofoam. Two inch is just about right.

Of course, around here there are very few graveyards that trace back a couple of hundred years. Most of the modern monstrosities are freaking huge. Lakewood Cemetery has some way cool mausolea, but they are serious bitches about taking pictures or anything remotely like admiring the architecture. I suppose it's because you have to perpetually lease the plots-- if you stop paying, they disinter the body. It's a little freaky: back on the "hidden" south side there is an old carataker's shed and a pile of old headstones from the disinterred ex-tenants. You can only get to it from the bird sanctuary, and it's a bit of a walk, and hidden if you're not looking for it.

I wonder if I could get away with setting the movie in Arkham? Then I could play with the gothick style headstones which are hella easier to make (as well as cheaper and easier to store).
Mar. 27th, 2006 10:39 pm (UTC)
spooky images
Are you familiar w/ the paintings of Mr. Lehrman?

Mar. 27th, 2006 11:09 pm (UTC)
Re: spooky images
Yes, though they tend not to inspire me as much as some others do. There is a certain iconic nature to the victorian mansion and the Mansard roof style-- I think Psycho may have started a lot of that-- and it carries over. Yet there is an element of whimsy that kind of takes me out of the whole thing. I'm not sure whether it's the color palette, or the more impressionist style.

I'm much more noir. :)
Mar. 27th, 2006 11:17 pm (UTC)
Me, I like Wimsey (& whimsey). ;-)
Mar. 27th, 2006 11:25 pm (UTC)
the dead always have ears.

really? that's fascinating. I wonder why.
Mar. 28th, 2006 12:11 am (UTC)
I think it's a humanizing aspect.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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