A New Angle

From now on, The Horror Seeker will continue with a different perspective.

Don’t get me wrong, the quest for the anatomy of horror will continue. I will continue to seek for great and interesting aspects in the world of the macabre and grotesque.

However, instead of just random reviews or analyses, I will narrow it down to aesthetic aspects. I will focus on poetic notions in horror; philosophical discussions about certain topics; or interesting artwork or visual imagery dedicated to the realm of darkness.

Now, let the quest continue.

/The Horror Seeker

“We make up horrors to help us cope with real ones.” – Stephen King

Immaturity and Ignorance

Last night, I was browsing through a Swedish community about movies.

Just out of curiosity, I’m sitting there, inspecting the reviews of horror movies, both exceptionally good and rightfully bad. Movies I really liked – for example The Woman in Black, Sinister, The Sixth Sense, which are movies based on atmosphere more than meaningless gore – gets one-sentence reviews like (and tell me if you have never heard these ones before):

“O my gaawd this sucked!” (…) “Nothing ever happens.. and I was like soo asleep!” (…) “Not even gory!!!!” (…) “I’m like 10 years old and this didn’t scared me at all!” (…) “I knewed who the killer was after the first ten minutes!” (…) “lol cock haha biatch!”

I consider this as two things:

  • Immaturity
  • Ignorance

A horror movie without a single drop of blood is an achievement. And judging a horror movie because of lack of it is just plain lazy. Gore has lot of entertainment value when handled correctly, and movies based solely on bloodshed can proudly present themselves as either “splatter” or “slasher.”

Atmosphere is the key element in the world of horror. Shadows and darkness, sense of horrible uncertainty, sounds that shouldn’t possibly be heard – concepts often used shallowly. Literature is mastering this better, but sometimes the horror movie industry understands its potential and key element. Sometimes a movie maker strives to present a story that captures the imagination, the dangers unseen, paranoia and anguish: yes, to be blunt, the key element.

And then they get bad reviews because they manifest what horror was originally about in the first place.

Ignorance, thy name is lazy imagination.

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A Happy New Year With Blood and Darkness!

Every new year is a fresh start with new opportunities.

And my quest for horror continues.

I hope 2014 will be a good year for the world of horror. I hope that all my followers, and any potential visitors on The Horror Seeker, will have a marvelous and macabre year ahead of you.

Also, I have the goal to expand this blog, to make it more esthetically pleasing to the eye, write more posts on a regular basis, and to dwell deeper in the realm of the macabre and grotesque. I encourage you to write comments on any progress, or if you have any criticism.

In other words, I look forward to 2014 and I wish you all the best of luck in your lives, and hope to “meet” you again, “and that you will enjoy your stay in my beautiful land.”

/The Horror Seeker

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An Abominable Christmas To All of You!

This is not a day for analyses or reviews.

Instead, I want to share the Christmas spirit with all of you today. Nothing more, nothing less.

And in my mind comes the poem “Festival”, not to be mistaken by the short story The Festival by the same author.

So, along with the wish that everyone is going to have a fantastic Christmas, I am giving the word to Howard Phillips Lovecraft:

 There is snow on the ground,
            And the valleys are cold,
      And a midnight profound
            Blackly squats o’er the wold;
But a light on the hilltops half-seen hints of feastings unhallow’d and old.

      There is death in the clouds,
            There is fear in the night,
      For the dead in their shrouds
            Hail the sun’s turning flight,
And chant wild in the woods as they dance round a Yule-altar fungous and white.

      To no gale of earth’s kind
            Sways the forest of oak,
      Where the sick boughs entwin’d
            By mad mistletoes choke,
For these pow’rs are the pow’rs of the dark, from the graves of the lost Druid-folk.

      And mayst thou to such deeds
            Be an abbot and priest,
      Singing cannibal greeds
            At each devil-wrought feast,
And to all the incredulous world shewing dimly the sign of the beast.

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4. Final Analysis of Psycho

Norman Bates, the “Psycho”, is a product of our times.

Essentially, that’s what Robert Bloch’s trilogy is all about.

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I’ll admit it. They are, basically, mystery novels. The plot circulates around a serial killer. Bloody acts of violence occur. Sounds like nothing like you haven’t heard before. In Psycho, the fact that Norman Bates actually is the murderer is revealed after the plot twist ending. When the novel was first published it may have come as a surprise to many readers, but after decades of popularity, we all know this. In Psycho II, we are getting uncertain whether Norman Bates is the one actually carrying on with the murders. The confusion is getting even stronger in Psycho House. Here, the mystery is definitely not solved until the last ten or twenty pages.

However, after reading the trilogy for the first time, I feel they are so much more than a series of mystery novels. In 1959, Robert Bloch created a complex serial killer with a demented personality, a result of years of abuse and torment. Alfred Hitchcock immortalized him in hos blockbuster movie. Since then, Bates has received a life on his own in all kinds of media. Unfortunately, the novel sequels has fallen into obscurity. I feel it is a damned shame.

In the novels, the greed and the hypocrisy in society are central themes. In the first book, it is hinted that the uncaring world of mental hospitals and doctors are something to be avoided; sickness doesn’t make you responsible for your actions, no matter how brutal. In the sequels, Bloch is focusing on human greed and almost compulsive lust for money and fame. Media, and the possibility for success which it advocates, can transform a person into something ugly, diminishing all sense for morality.

And in the center: Norman Bates.

Just like in reality, he is a product. When he starts his murders he is a mystery, but after his incarceration he becomes an institution. He becomes a macabre inspiration for people wishing for quick fame. Even in the fictional world, he creates a franchise that gloats over people’s suffering and death. He helps to create an even more selfish society, filled with greedy and unmoral people.

Robert Bloch doesn’t even present alternatives, or gives us any hope. In the ending of Psycho House, one character even argues that evil is the dominating factor around us. The world of the Psycho novels is a dark one to explore. And I am fascinated by it. And if you get the opportunity to read this trilogy, I hope you will too. Robert Bloch deserves that kind of attention.

“The idea in PSYCHO, and in many of my so-called ‘psychological thrillers’ is a simple and obvious one: Don’t take candy from stranger.”– Interview with Robert Bloch by Randall D. Larson

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3. Psycho House (The Last Novel)

This is the point where it’s meaningless to even mention the third movie. No similarities, the plot developments are completely separate, and they are focusing on totally different themes. Psycho House from 1990 stand on its own.

The story is set almost ten years after the events of Psycho II. Writer Amy Haines is going to write a book about Norman Bates. Her research takes her to the town Fairvale, the place of the original murders. Here, the Bates Motel and the mother’s house has become a tourist attraction, a recreation of the murder scenes, complete with automatic knife-wielding wax figures. Days before the opening day, a teenage girl is found murdered at the site…

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The name Norman Bates has become even more notorious, with a sense of awe and mystery surrounding it. When the murders starts in Fairvale once more, questions arise about Norman Bate’s legacy. With everything that has happened in the previous books, the events in Psycho House explores even further the impact infamous serial killers have in this society. It explores the danger of killer copycats, the hostilities in this dark world, peoples’ craving for media attention, and the fear of the past. It’s not so much about Norman Bates the person, but Norman Bates the legend, and the society that keeps people like him “alive” in media, popular culture, and profit-making institutions. The man responsible for the tourist attraction muses in the book:

“Theme parks”, that’s what they call such places now. With the right kind of luck it could end up with something like Disneyland or Universal Tours. And the big money wasn’t just from admissions. The real name of the game was concessions. Jesus, think how much you could take in just from the beer franchise alone!

This cynical quote illustrates the presentation of greed that circulates in this book. Even the main character Amy Haines strives for profit and money, although she does have the intention of presenting facts and clear up any misconceptions in the Bates case.

To sum it up, Psycho House finishes the trilogy with a murder mystery, set in a town wrapped in fear and greed, followed by the legacy of a legendary murderer. A dark world is presented to us by Robert Bloch, but portrayed in a cynical manner, with a witty writing style and a curious character gallery.

Not the closure I would expect.

But an intriguing one.