Clowning Around in the Sewers: My Review of It

Origin stories…

They are pretty fascinating, at times.

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After all, everyone has to start somewhere, right?

Even your friendly neighborhood gunslinger has an origin story!  Turns out, he wasn’t always a cold-blooded killer, who knew?

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And hey, even I have one…so here goes nothing!

Sometime in the summer of 1988, I attended a day camp.  I was ten years old and quite impressionable (see the part about being 10 years old).  One of my counselors told me and the other impressionable kids (well, I am making assumptions that everyone was as gullible impressionable as I was, but I digress) a story about a clown that lived in the sewers and killed people, but could only be seen by kids.  Of course, I took this story quite seriously.  In fact, I spent an entire summer assiduously avoiding storm drains, and watching my back when I took a shower or even (gasp) used the bathroom in any way.  In other words, just a typical summer for a ten year old with an overactive imagination.  The clown soon become forgotten, to be replaced with thoughts of MacGyver (was that a first name or a last?  And wow, science just got hot), Quantum Leap (I aspired to build a time machine and Sam Beckett was my spirit animal) and whatever else a really nerdy, awkward, ugly duckling with limited social skills growing up in the 90’s became obsessed with.  That clown soon became a faded memory, and even quit visiting my dreams for a while (whew).

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Flash forward two years.  That extremely nerdy, awkward ugly duckling had growed up (so she thought) and had hit the big 1-2.  And became interested in all things macabre.  She was always looking for something to read, and something to watch on TV.  If either of these pissed off her parents, well, that was added bonus!

Enter a new mini series that aired over two nights on network TV.  It was based on the work of some horror writer I never heard of, Stephen King.  And it was about a clown who lived in the sewers, and happened to…you guessed it…terrorize kids!  The memories of that summer came flooding back to me, and my blood ran cold.  So of course I had to watch this mini series…

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And I was blown away by that mini series (I was 12, what else can I say).  Tim Curry brought a voice to that evil clown, and my dreams became a hoppin’ place once again.  And those kids…where was my Losers Club?  I wanted to play down in the Barrens, dammit!  One of the Losers was even a girl, and she kicked ass!

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When I found out this mini series was based on a book of the same name, It, of course I had to find the book, since I thought that movie was pretty darn good.  So the book would be worth a read, right?

I was intimidated by the size of the book.  Over a 1000 pages!  Well, I would be reading that one for months…

One week later, I finished the book.  And I loved it!  I also learned that movies rarely do books justice, but that is another post.  I had to find more books by this King guy…where had he been all my life?

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And so it begun…

My origin story as a Stephen King fan, that is.  If you are still reading this at this point and are surprised, I am not really sure what to tell you, other than, well it’s this blog, after all!

So obviously, King’s books bring back many fond memories, and I never tire of them.  And in light of my New Year’s resolution to read at least one King book a month, I am going back to my origins:  the book It.  Like the Losers, I am coming home.  I am becoming a child again, and revisiting my past, along with Bill, Ben, Bev and the rest of the gang.  Per the line of one of my favorite songs:  “Oh don’t sorrow, oh don’t weep, tonight at last I am coming home.”  And I can’t wait.

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of It, whose short title belies the depth of this story.  And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

The book begins by introducing the reader to a boy named George Denbrough.  Georgie is the younger brother of Bill Denbrough, who is 10 years old.  Georgie and Bill live in the city of Derry, Maine, where there has been a lot of rain and flooding.  The year is 1957.  One afternoon, Georgie heads out to play with a boat made out of newspaper that Bill helped him make.  The rain has receded a bit, but Georgie still loses his boat in the sewers of Derry.  Georgie becomes upset, but forgets about his boat when he sees what appear to be a pair of glowing eyes looking up at him from the sewers.  Those turn out to belong to a clown who looks like a cross between Bozo the Clown and Clarabell the clown.  Much to Georgie’s astonishment, the clown speaks to him from the sewers, and offers him a balloon.  The clown introduces himself as Bob Gray, or Pennywise the Clown.  However, the clown is not friendly, or even human.  The clown entices Georgie to lean a little closer, and attacks.  Georgie’s arm is torn off, in much the way someone might tear the wing from a fly.  Georgie dies almost immediately, leaving his older brother Bill and their parents in a state of shock.

The book then skips to the year of 1984.  We are told of another murder in Derry, this time of a young, somewhat childlike gay man named Adrian Mellon.  The murder is told in flashbacks, when the local police question the young man’s partner, Don Haggarty, and the local bullies deemed responsible for the murder.  The bullies attacked Adrian one night, targeting him because of his sexuality.  Both Don and the bullies state that a clown was also at the scene and that the clown killed Adrian.  Don also reports that thousands of balloons floated to the sky at the site of the murder.  However, the local authorities do not believe Don or the bullies, and the bullies are tried and convicted of the murder.

Several months later, in 1985, six adults receive a phone call from a man named Mike Hanlon.  The adults are scattered across the country and even the world, but all grew up in Derry, Maine.  The adults are Stan Uris, Richie Tozier, Ben Hanscom, Eddie Kraspbrak, Bill Denbrough and Beverly Marsh.  All of the adults are told by Mike Hanlon that they must return to Derry, and most begin making the preparations.  However, Stan Uris is unwilling (or perhaps unable) to face what awaits him in Derry, and commits suicide by slitting his wrists in his bathtub.  Additionally, Beverly narrowly escapes her abusive husband, Tom, who nearly kills her for daring to leave him and return to Derry.  All of the adults have hazy memories of what happened during one summer of their childhoods in Derry, but all know that they must now return to Derry.

We then learn of how those seven children spent the summer of 1958.  The books tells of how the seven meet, and form a club they call The Losers Club, as all seven children are misfits in some way or another.  All seven children are also victims of abuse from Henry Bowers, the local bully.  Additionally, six of the seven children have encountered Pennywise the Clown in some manner, and have survived to tell the tale.  Ben saw the clown as a mummy, Eddie saw the clown as a leper in an abandoned house, Bill was attacked by the clown when he picks up an old photo album belonging to his deceased brother, Beverly heard voices in the drain in her bathroom and then sees blood come from the drain that is visible only to her and the other Losers, Mike saw a giant bird that attacks him, and Stan encounters the clown in an abandoned piece of property while he is bird-watching.  Richie tells the others he did not encounter the clown on his own, but he makes a trip with Bill to the abandoned house where Eddie saw the leper.  There, Richie and Bill encounter the clown in werewolf form.  Bill shoots the werewolf with him father’s gun, and Richie also attacks it with his sneezing powder (Richie is the comedian and practical joker of the group).  The two narrowly escape the clown on Bill’s bike Silver, and realize that they are pitted against a great evil. During that summer, Ben Hanscom falls in love with Beverly.  Beverly falls in love with Bill Denbrough.

The book skips to the present and to the viewpoint of Mike Hanlon.  Mike has begun researching the history of Derry, and discovered that the town has a violent past.  Mike tells of one of these incidents, which was relayed to him by his father before his father passed away.  Mike’s father tells of The Fire at the Black Spot, which was a fire that occurred in 1937, when Will Hanlon enlisted in the military and was stationed in Derry.  The Black Spot was a night club founded by some of the African American members of Will’s unit, which was known as company E.  The fire was started by Derry’s version of the Klu Klux Klan, known as the Maine Legion of White Decency.  Nearly 80 people perished in the fire.  Will tells Mike that he saw what appeared to be a giant bird dressed as a clown flying off with some of the bodies, confirming Mike’s suspicions that the presence of Pennywise and the town’s violent history are closely related.  Mike struggle with the decision to call the rest of his friends, but thinks that his heart will tell him when the time is right.

One by one, the adult Losers (minus Stan Uris) return to Derry.  Mike arranges a reunion lunch, and the adult Losers reunite and catch up with each others’ lives.  Mike also brings his friends up to speed on the nine child murders that have occurred in Derry over the past several months, and the Losers vow to stay in Derry and fight It, although they know that their odds are not good.  At the end of the meal, the Losers receive some fortune cookies that are actually a trick of Pennywise the Clown.  Each cookie contains something that each Loser fears, such as blood, insects, etc.  The Losers leave the restaurant, and split up to visit a place in Derry outside of the Barrens that meant something to them as children.  Bill tells them that when the first encountered the monster as children, the encounter was experienced alone, and that the same will probably happen to them as adults.

True to Bill’s statement, the Losers do have individual encounters with It:  Ben sees the clown at the library, Eddie sees the clown in the form of some of his deceased classmates at the local baseball field, Beverly encounters a witch in her old apartment that resembles the witch from Hansel and Gretel and Richie encounters the clown in the form of a Paul Bunyon statue that has come to life.  Richie also remembers that he had a similar encounter as a child, but dismissed it as a dream.  Bill and Mike do not encounter Pennywise, but Bill finds his old bike, Silver, at a second-hand shop.  Bill and Mike spruce up the bike, and figure that Bill finding the bike is not coincidental.

The story switches to the perspective of Henry Bowers, the Losers’ childhood bully.  Henry currently resides at Juniper Hill Asylum.  Henry was found guilty of the child murder that occurred in the summer of 1958, along with the murder of his father.  However, the only murder actually committed by Henry was the murder of his father.  Pennywise the clown is able to communicate with Henry and convinces him to do Its bidding and kill the adult Losers.  It helps Henry escape Juniper Hill, and Henry heads to Derry to finish the job.

We also learn a bit more about the history of Derry and the violent events that appear to be connected with the child murders that occur every 27 years or so.  Mike learns of the massacre of the Bradley gang, a gang of criminals from the Midwest on the run from law enforcement.  The gang holes up in Derry, and the citizens soon dish out their own form of justice and murder every single member, even the women, while local law enforcement looks the other way.  Mike also learns that Pennywise the clown was seen at the confrontation, once again confirming how much a part of Derry the clown really is.

In the meantime, Bill and Beverly’s respective spouses are determined to find out why their partners have suddenly left town.  Beverly’s husband Tom, beats the information out of one of Beverly’s few good friends who helped her escape.  Bill’s wife Audra simply books a flight to Maine, as she is extremely worried about her husband.  Both head into Derry, not understanding what lies ahead.

The Losers reconvene at the library later that night, and begin to recall the events of the summer of 1958.  The children spent much of the summer of 1958 playing in the Barrens, a wooded area in Derry that remains mostly abandoned and forgotten.  Because of this, the Losers are able to meet and try to figure how to rid the town of Pennywise the clown and not be bothered by Henry Bowers and his friends.  The children also build an underground clubhouse in the Barrens, which offers them even more protection from Henry and any other bullies.

Mike recalls how he became a part of the club that summer.  One day, Mike is chased by Henry Bowers, as Henry lives next door to Mike, and has been taught to hate black people by his father.  Henry’s father has blamed all of his problems on Mike and his parents, so Henry makes Mike’s life miserable at any opportunity.  When Henry is chased by Mike on this particular day, he runs to an area just outside the Barrens and encounters the Losers.  The Losers defend their territory by hurling rocks at Henry and his friends, in what is termed the Apocalyptic Rock Fight.  Henry and his friends are forced to retreat but swear revenge.  Mike then becomes a part of the Losers Club, and soon learns of their encounters with Pennywise the Clown and their determination to kill It.  Mike also tells of his encounter with Pennywise, and brings one of his father’s old photo albums to show his friends.  The clown is in nearly every picture.  The clown also makes an appearance while the children look at the album, and promises to kill them all if they do not back down.

Richie recalls the smoke hole ceremony performed by the Losers that summer.  Ben reads about the ceremony in a book.  He learns that it was a ceremony performed by Native Americans, and it involved breathing in smoke, which was supposed to induce visions.  The Native Americans performed this ceremony when the tribe had unsolved problems or unanswered questions.  The Losers perform this same ceremony by burning green wood in their underground clubhouse.  However, all bow out except Mike and Ritchie, who travel back in time and witness the arrival of It in Derry several million years ago.  The boys sense that It is actually an extra-dimensional monster, and very evil.  They impart this information to the others, and continue their mission to rid Derry of the monster.

Eddie recalls that Henry Bowers broke his arm that summer, in retaliation for the rock fight.  That day, Eddie headed to the drugstore to pick some prescriptions for his mother.  The owner of the drugstore, Mr. Keane, pulls Eddie aside and tells him that he does not actually have asthma, and that his symptoms are psychosomatic.  Mr. Keane tells Eddie that this is the doing of his mother and doctor, and that his asthma medicine is simply water with a medicinal taste.  Eddie becomes upset, but knows deep down inside that Mr. Keane is right.  Henry and his friends are able to corner Eddie outside the store as he is by himself, and Eddie’s arm is broken in the scuffle.  Eddie spends a few days in the hospital and his friends attempt to visit him.  On the first attempt, his friends are driven off by his overly protective mother, who does not approve of these new friends.  The Losers are not deterred, however, and come back later that night.  They sign Eddie’s cast, and tell him that their plan is to make silver slugs that they will shoot at It with a slingshot.  The plan is for Beverly to shoot the monster with the slingshot, as her aim is the best.  Eddie also has a confrontation with his mother, telling her that he will not choose her over his friends.

Beverly recalls another encounter with It that summer, when she heads to the dump to practice shooting with the slingshot.  Beverly nearly has a run with Henry Bowers and his friends, but is able to hide herself. Henry and his friends leaves, but one of the bullies, Patrick Hockstetter, stays behind.  Patrick Hockstetter is a sociopath who keeps an abandoned refrigerator in the dump.  Patrick is using this refrigerator to trap and kill animals, which are either pets or strays that he finds.  Patrick also killed his baby brother as a young child.  Patrick becomes the next victim of Pennywise the clown, who takes the form of flying leeches, and Patrick is eaten alive.  Beverly is also attacked by the leeches, but is able to use the slingshot to hurt the monster and escape.

The Losers also recall how they made silver slugs to use a weapon against Pennywise that summer.  They gather one night at Bill’s house, and melt down a silver coin that was passed from Ben’s deceased father down to Ben.  The process is a quick one, and the Losers now have a weapon against Pennywise.  And the Losers use that weapon against Pennywise.  They confront the monster at the house on Neibolt Street.  Beverly uses the slingshot to hurt the monster, but does not kill It.  However, the monster retreats, and all is relatively peaceful for about two weeks.

The adult Losers leave the library for the night, and agree to meet at the Barrens the next morning.  Before they leave the library, their hands begin to bleed, as they swore in blood to return if It still lived.  The Losers take the blood oath again, and wonder just what they are in for.

Bill and Beverly walk back to their hotel, and Beverly talks of her father’s abuse.  Beverly also remembers one day in August, as she returned home after playing in the Barrens with her friends.  She was confronted by her father, who accused her of performing sexual acts with the boys, and physically attacked his daughter.  Beverly realized that her father was possessed by It, and ran from him. Beverly thought that she had escaped her father, but does not know that Henry Bowers and his friends are also waiting for her.  Henry and his friends were under the influence of It.  Henry also killed his father that day.

The story flashes back to 1985, as Mike Hanlon prepares to close the library for the night.  However, Mike is interrupted by Henry Bowers.  Henry attacks Mike, but Mike is able to defend himself.  Mike calls 911 and hears the voice of Pennywise the Clown and begs for someone to help him so that his wound does not become fatal.

Beverly and Bill head back to Bill’s hotel room.  They are seeking comfort and make love to each other.  As she falls asleep, Beverly once again flashes back to that day in August of 1958, when Henry and his friends chase the Losers Club down to the sewers, forcing a final confrontation with It.

In 1985, Henry is met by It, who has taken the form of his deceased friend, Belch Huggins.  It drives Henry to the hotel the adult Losers are staying at, and gives him a list of the room numbers occupied by each Loser.  Henry chooses Eddie as his first victim, and attacks Eddie.  However, Eddie fights back and kills Henry, breaking his arm again in the process.  Eddie calls Bill and the others back to his room, and they decide what to do about Henry’s body, and determine that involving anyone else in the town, including the police, will only make things worse.  The Losers also find out that Mike was attacked by Henry and is gravely wounded.  The Losers decide that they need to confront Pennywise again and that there is no other choice.  Again, they head to the Barrens and use the same entrance they used in 1958 to get to Pennywise’s lair.

In the meantime, both Audra and Tom (Bill’s wife and Beverly’s husband, respectively) have arrived in town.  Both begin to have peculiar dreams:  Audra dreams that she is Beverly, following Bill to fight Pennywise, and Tom dreams that he is Henry, chasing Beverly and the rest of the Losers in the sewers.  Both awaken and become trapped by Pennywise.  Pennywise is able to influence Tom, and Tom kidnaps Audra for It.

The story goes back and forth between 1985 and 1958, telling of the Losers’ confrontation of It in 1958 as children, and in 1985 as adults.  In 1958, Henry continues to chase the Losers into the sewers.  However, the Losers are still able to find Pennywise and his lair, and Bill enters what he calls the “deadlights”, or the true home of the monster.  With the help of a mysterious creature simply known as “The Turtle”, Bill battles Pennywise in Its true form, and believes that he has defeated the evil.  Richie pulls Bill back from the deadlights, and the Losers Club escapes from the lair, believing Pennywise to be defeated.  However, as they attempt to exit the sewers, the Losers nearly lose their way, as their bond is beginning to dissolve.  In order to keep the bond intact, Beverly makes love to all of the boys.  This act restores the bond, and the children are able to find their way out of Derry’s sewers.  Stan cuts all of the Losers hands with a coke bottle, and all seven promise to return to Derry if Pennywise is not dead.  All of Henry’s friends are killed by It, and Henry is institutionalized for the murder of his father

In 1985, Bill, Ben, Beverly and Eddie confront Pennywise once again.  Bill again faces Pennywise in the deadlights, but is accompanied by Richie.  The two fight the monster in the deadlights and defeat it.  Eddie also fights the monster in Its physical form and defeats it as well, but loses his life in the fight.  The monster’s true form is something close to a spider, and the spider has laid eggs.  Ben makes sure all the eggs are destroyed.  Bill also rescues his wife Audra,who is still alive but catatonic, and he and his friends make their way out of the sewers.  Once the Losers emerge from the sewers, they realize that Derry has nearly been destroyed by a rainstorm, which stops almost the moment Pennywise is defeated.

A few days later, the remaining members of the Losers Club leave town and return to their lives, and they are already beginning to forget each other’s names and other vital information, including the battle with Pennywise.  Beverly has fallen in love with Ben, and the two plan to head back to Nebraska, after filing a missing person’s report on Beverly’s husband Tom, who was actually killed by It.  Only Bill and the catatonic Audra remain, along with Mike, who is still in the hospital.  Bill has nearly given up hope on reviving Audra, until he gets an idea.  He takes Audra for a ride on his old bike Silver, with hopes that the magic remains in the bike.  The magic does remain, and Audra is revived, with no memory of what happened after she arrived in Derry.  Bill and Audra then return to their life.  Bill, along with everyone else, has forgotten the experience in Derry, but continues to lead a happy and productive life.


My Thoughts

Well, I will say this much:  It is a monster of a book.  And I am not just talking about the length…

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Yes, It is one scary book, with what has to be one of the most iconic horror villains in history.  Who in the free world  doesn’t recognize Pennywise the clown?

But there is so much more to this book than a clown living in the sewers…

I recognize so much of myself in this book, as a matter of fact.  I was a Loser growing up, and I still consider myself to be a Loser.  And I am proud of that, as a matter of fact.

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But I know the pain what those kids went through all too well.  In one part of the book, it is said that the kids turned into ghosts one afternoon, and no one, including their parents, seemed to know that they existed.  Well, that was not a bad description of my child, at certain points.  Often, I wondered if people even knew, or cared, if I was alive.

childhood is hell

Which brings me to my next point: Yes, that clown was scary as fuck (more on that later).  But I was more afraid of the real-life horrors that the Losers had to face.

For example, the bullying.  I was a victim of bullying as a child, and it was frightening.  Getting beat up is scary.  But perhaps what is even more frightening is having to live with the anticipation that the act of terrorism could happen at any moment, and you were powerless to do anything about it.  Or the most frightening of all:  the fact that you were alone, and no one, not the other kids and not even the other adults, would go to bat for you, and you were on your own when it came to fighting the monsters.

Henry Bowers

And then there was the abuse.  Many of Stephen King’s books deal with abuse in some form or another, and It is no different.  Child and spousal abuse are huge themes in It, and make up the tapestry of real-life horrors that many people have to deal with on a daily basis.  And I have been there.  I am a survivor of domestic violence.  Trust me, no horror story can hold a candle to living with an abuser.  My “Tom” was much like Beverly’s Tom (and father):  I didn’t know when the horror would be unleashed, and I felt like a prisoner in my own home.  And the scene when Beverly left Tom for good mirrored so much of a fight from my own first marriage, in a hotel room.  Like Beverly, I was frightened for my life, and actually thought that I would die.  And I completely understand the shame that Beverly felt, and the lies that came afterwards.  Beverly could not even admit to her closest friends (at least at first) the truth about her marriage.  It was only after things came to a full circle, so to speak, that Beverly actually admitted how abusive her husband was.  Living in an abusive marriage is much more frightening than most horror movies.  The movies have a beginning and an end, and someone usually defeats the monster.  But it is not so neat when any form of abuse is involved, and many survivors, including myself (and probably Beverly) would rather have faced a clown in the sewers with a slingshot and pair of silver bullets, than to actually face our abusers.

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And speaking of Beverly, I think I need to clear the air about something.

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Yes, I am talking about “that scene.”

I probably don’t need to explain myself, but I am talking about what is so eloquently referred to as (not my words) “the gang bang in the sewer.”  In other words, I refer to the scene near the end of the book, when Beverly has sex with all six of the boys, in order to escape the sewers and return to the light of day.

I would be lying if I said that this scene was not a little disturbing, because it is disturbing.  After all, we are talking about 11 year old children.  When I was 11 years old, I was still playing with stuffed animals and wouldn’t touch boys because they had “cooties.”  I was still very much a child, in other words.

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But, I was also about a year away from needing my first bra.  My skin had already begun to break out.  I was at least 5’4″, only a few inches from my adult height of 5’9″ and change.

In other words, I was crossing the bridge into adulthood.  And the Losers were crossing that bridge as well.  They had to behave as adults that entire summer, in dealing with a monster that their town simply refused to acknowledge.  Really, we could argue that the monster was their town.  And all seven of them recognized that fact on a fundamental level.  The Losers longed for the grown-ups to come in and take charge, but really, a grown-up “taking charge” would have just hindered their quest, since they were more adult than 99% of the adults around them.

And what do adults do, aside from being able to choose Oreo cookies as a valid breakfast option?  Well, Oreo cookies are great and all, but being an adult involves a few more choices than breakfast.  And one of those choices is who to love, and how to express that love.

Beverly

In other words, adults have sex.  In fact, having sex is probably a consolation prize for being forced to be responsible, aka working and paying bills (kidding, kidding).  But sex is one of the choices of adulthood.  And sex is often viewed as one of the major transitions from childhood to adulthood.

And this is exactly what happened during the “sewer gang bang.”  The Losers Club crossed the bridge from childhood to adulthood during that afternoon.  They had been walking the bridge that summer, but fully crossed over that day when they finally did “It.”  For Beverly in particular, it was an especially meaningful experience.  She had been receiving the message all summer from her own abusive father that sex was “dirty” and that she needed to remain “intact.”  With this act, she was finally empowered and saw the “sex act” for what it really was:  the ultimate act of love with some special people.  And it was not a repulsive or ugly.  It was just beautiful.

Ben and Beverly

Before we talk about the clown (trust me, we are getting there), I want to pay homage to another character in this book that is often overlooked.

I am talking about the town of Derry Itself (see what I did there). In all seriousness, though, no one can write the small town like The Master.

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Again, if I start to get nostalgic about small town life, all I have to do is crack open a Stephen King book.  And bam, there goes the nostalgia!

I feel like my own unnamed Indiana hometown could have been Derry’s Twinner.  Sure, we didn’t have a clown living under the sewers (I can’t entirely vouch for that, though) but the rest of the similarities were just frightening.  Such as people’s attitudes towards bullying.  Man’s inhumanity toward’s his fellow man was accepted in Derry, and it was accepted in my town.  And you had to belong.  In other words, if you were like me and spent a minute of your life outside the town, you were an outsider and subject to punishment for that act.  And there is a culture in small towns, whether it be through its local celebrities, certain stores and restaurants that cannot be found anywhere else or maybe even a “funny fellow” that always seems to show at the local celebrations mass slayings of people  that makes sense to locals, but causes anyone else to shake their heads and wonder why something so trivial can hold so much meaning.

derry connection

Ok, the clown…

Yes, we are finally there, so let’s talk about the most iconic clown…ever.

Pennywise-Ronald meme

Now, to me at least, there is something inherently creepy about clowns.  I am not really sure why this is.  Maybe it’s because they hide under all that face paint.  Or that they don’t wear regular clothes but instead wear garish colors and over-sized shoes.  And they try to make us laugh.  Now, I like to laugh…don’t get me wrong.  But when people, especially ones hiding under grease paint and wearing garish clothes that come complete with over-sized shoes try to force it on me, then the laughter becomes forced.  In fact, the laughter turns into a weapon.  And the laughter is no longer fun, but something to be feared.

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So, the clown is inherently scary.  But at the same time, the clown is also associated with childhood and fun times, like the circus.  So, a perfect lure, in other words.

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And it worked.  It fed off the fear of children.  And in order to do that, It had to lure them in somehow.  And fool those children, at least momentarily.  And what better way to do that, than to bring up happy associations, such as the circus?  And children are imaginative, and can be emotional hurricanes of sorts.  So the monster had it right:  conjure up the happy emotions, and then (literally) scare them to death, almost in the same breath.  And children, unlike adults, have fears that are easy to capitalize on.  Mummies, werewolves, witches and the rest of the usual suspects are all ripe for the picking.  And, as stated in this book, a haunt is a place where animals come to feed.  And what better place to feed for such a creature than a city full of the rich imaginations of children, providing the food needed to nourish such evil?  That is, until It’s own source of food was used against It, and It became the hunted, instead of the hunter.  And the lion was vanquished by the antelopes, proving that sometimes, even the underdogs can fight the good fight, and come out the winners.

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So that’s It!  Or maybe I mean that I am done with my review of one of The Master’s most iconic books, and a book that stays with me to this day, no matter how many times I read it!  So join me next month for February’s read and review, where we take a short detour to Derry yet again, but we are staying away from the sewers this time, since love is in the air!  That’s right, I will be reviewing and dissecting Bag of Bones, another favorite of mine!

Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin


Connections

Like most of King’s other work, It is part of the Stephen King universe, and it connected to many of his other books.  Here are some of the connections I found:

-It takes place in Derry.  Derry is a hotbed of activity in the King universe, and several other King stories take place in Derry.  These include Bag of Bones, Insomnia, Dreamcatcher and Secret Window, Secret Garden.  Derry is also mentioned in countless other stories, including Revival and The Tommyknockers.

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-Pennywise refers itself to Legion.  Legion is also mentioned in other King works, including The Storm of the Century and The Stand.

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-Ben Hanscom is said to live in Hemingford Home, Nebraska.  Hemingford Home is also the home of Mother Abagail in The Stand.

Mother Abigail

-Pennywise is similar to Dandelo, a creature encountered by Roland and Susannah in the final book of the Dark Tower series.  Both creatures feed off of human emotions, although fear and laughter appear to be the central ones.  Additionally, Dandelo owns a robot that he refers to as Stuttering Bill.  It is possible that the Losers did not completely destroy It, and that Dandelo may be one of Pennywise’s offspring.

Dandelo 1

-Dick Halloran is mentioned as a friend of Wil Hanlon.  Dick Halloran is a major character in The Shining, and also makes an appearance in Dr. Sleep.  In essence, by rescuing Wil from the fire at the Blackspot, Dick Halloran helped give birth to the Losers Club.

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-Mike Hanlon makes an appearance in the book Insomnia.

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-In the book Dreamcatcher, Jonesy sees a statue that the Losers Club has dedicated to the missing and murdered children in Derry.  However, the statue is defaced with graffiti that says “Pennywise lives”, provoking further speculation that the Losers did not completely destroy Pennywise.

Pennywise 5

-The house on Neibolt Street is similar to the house that Jake uses in The Wastelands to enter Mid-World, and even contains the same kind of wallpaper.

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-The Losers frequently refer to The Turtle.  In the book The Wastelands, Maturin the Turtle is said to be one of the Guardians of the Beam.

turtle graffiti

-Beverly references the Castle Rock Strangler.  Of course, this is the killer that Johnny Smith helps to catch in the book The Dead Zone.

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-In the novel 11/22/63, Jake Epping meets two children and teaches them how to dance the “lindy hop.”  These two children happen to be Beverly Marsh and Richie Tozier, and Jake meets them shortly after the children have confronted Pennywise in the sewers of Derry.

card-1963

 

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The X Files Renewal: Episode 1 Recap and Review

Ooooh, getting the band back together…

blues brothers band 1

There is just something about those words that just kinda makes me feel a little shivery…

Muppets band

Especially when the band involves ones of the hottest television partnerships in history:

Mulder and Scully 2

Yes, the long awaited season 10 of The X Files, otherwise known as the renewal, finally premiered last night after the real horror, aka the NFC championship game.  Well, I guess it was a horror if you happened to be rooting for Bruce Arians (or his hat, how can anyone not root for that that hat?) and his Arizona Cardinals, but I digress…

BA 1

So the much anticipated first episode of the mere six we are being teased with aired this past weekend.  Was it what I expected?  In some ways, yes.  Was I confused?  You betcha, but as a fan of this series since the first episode (yes, I was a X Phile before it was cool), that’s just par for the course.  Do I want more?  Well, of course, but again, see the previous statement.  Was I bored?  Not on your life!  Will I be tuning in again?  Now what is it about a bear defecating somewhere with trees?

So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of The X Files Renewal, episode 1, titled “My Struggle.”

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The episode begins with a voice over by Fox Mulder, who gives a summary of his work on the now defunct X Files, and how the abduction of his sister Samantha when both were children has driven him to seek the truth regarding the possibility of extra-terrestrial life, and the possible government cover-up of the existence of alien life forms and alien technology.  Mulder also mentions his partnership with Dana Scully, who aided him for a time in his quest.

We are then shown a scene in 1947.  A UFO has crashed in Roswell, New Mexico, and the scene is being investigated by the military and a scientist.  The group encounters what appears to be an alien.  The alien is shot by a man in a black coat, despite the pleas of the scientist.

The show flashes back to the present day.  Former FBI agent Dana Scully has returned to medical practice.  She receives a call from her former supervisor, Walter Skinner.  Skinner requests that Mulder and Scully meet with right-wing webcaster Tad O’Malley.  O’Malley is an admirer of the pair’s work, and an admirer of Mulder in particular.  However, Mulder has gone “off the grid”, and the only person able to reach him is Scully.  Scully convinces Mulder to meet with O’Malley, despite Mulder’s initial reluctance.

Mulder and Scully reunite in Washington D.C.  Mulder appears to be stressed over something, but is glad to see his former partner.  The agents then meet with O’Malley, who takes them for a ride in his limousine.  The group ends up at a house in rural Virginia, where they meet a young woman named Sveta.  Sveta claims to have been abducted by aliens, and impregnated multiple times.  She tells the agents that her fetuses were stolen from her, and that some of her DNA is actually alien DNA.  Scully is skeptical, but does agree to test Sveta’s DNA.

Scully meets with Sveta at the hospital, and runs several tests on her.  Sveta tells Scully that she is telepathic, and begins to tell Scully what was supposed to be private information.  Sveta reveals that Scully and Mulder were formerly a couple, but that Mulder’s struggles with depression ended the relationship.  Sveta also reveals that Mulder and Scully have a child together.  These revelations make Scully uncomfortable, and Scully appears especially uncomfortable after Sveta breaks down and tells Scully that she cannot possibly understand what it is like to be abducted against her will.

O’Malley then brings Mulder to a covert site where scientists experiment with “alien” technology.  Mulder sees an aircraft disappear before his eyes, and is told that alien technology has been around for many years.  Mulder then meets with the old man who is actually the doctor who investigated the crash at Roswell.  Mulder tells the man that he believes that he and Scully were mislead during their work on the X Files, and that man, not alien, is responsible for a massive, global conspiracy.  The old man tells Mulder that he is close to the truth, but there is still more to be revealed.  Mulder returns to his old office, and lets Skinner know that he is angry as he feels that he has been mislead over the years.

Mulder meets with Sveta again, who tells him that she did not tell him the truth when he spoke with her previously.  Sveta confirms that men experimented on her, not aliens.

O’Malley visits Scully at work.  Scully tells him that she performs surgery on children who were born without ears.  O’Malley expresses admiration, and Scully accepts a date with him.  Before she leaves, Scully receives the results for the tests on Sveta’s DNA.  She is unsatisfied with the results, and orders another test.

While on a date with O’Malley, Scully receives a frantic phone call from Mulder, who still believes that he has been mislead over the years.  Scully and O’Malley meet with Mulder, and Scully tells Mulder that he is treading on dangerous ground.  Scully also reveals that the tests did not find that Sveta possessed any alien DNA.

Several things happen, in succession.  Sveta recants her previous statements in an interview, stating that she was convinced by O’Malley to lie to the public.  Sveta then seemingly disappears when Mulder tries to speak to her again.  O’Malley’s website is shut down.  The site that contains the alien aircraft is destroyed by men dressed in military uniforms, and the scientists are murdered as well.  Sveta is then seen in a vehicle on an isolated road.  Her car is obliterated by a UFO, and Sveta is seemingly killed when her car is destroyed.

Mulder and Scully then meet again.  Scully is distressed, and tells Mulder that they must protect Sveta at all costs.  Scully confesses that she tested Sveta’s DNA again, along with her own DNA, and that both samples appear to contain alien DNA.  The agents then receive a text from Skinner, who requests to meet with them both.

The episode ends with a reveal of the presumed deceased Cigarette Smoking Man, who tells us that the X Files have been re-opened.


 

My Thoughts

Well, the band got back together.  And like I said, I do enjoy it when the band gets back together.

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In many ways, this episode was akin to coming home to visit your parents after you had been away for some time.  Everything is familiar.  And comforting.  In fact, it feels like a big hug.

But then again, your parents have the nerve to change things!  They get a new new couch.  They remove that ugly carpeting and replace it with hardwood floors (actually, that was a good thing but you get my point).  So it’s like trying to impose two pictures on each other.  A headache, in other words.

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Well, I am not sure that watching this renewal really gave me a headache (actually, that’s tax season’s job, but again, I digress).  But I did have the feeling of trying to impose an old picture on a new picture: sometimes, things lined up.  And sometimes, they didn’t.  But then again, who expects things to line up all the time?  And should they line up all the time?

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We had aliens.  So that lined up, sort of.  I did enjoy the flashback scene that actually showed the spacecraft and the alien.  That scene makes me think that we will get more than in previous seasons, and that is something I would not mind.  Geez, Chris Carter, you can be such a tease!

THE X-FILES: L-R: Mitch Pileggi, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and William B. Davis. The next mind-bending chapter of THE X-FILES debuts with a special two-night event beginning Sunday, Jan. 24 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT), following the NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, and continuing with its time period premiere on Monday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Frank Ockenfels/FOX

And then there was Mulder.  Mulder and his earnestness.  Mulder knowing that he is right, and that he needs to convince everyone around him, including Ms. Skeptical to a Fault aka Scully.  Mulder getting closer and closer to the truth, and gaining some powerful enemies in the process.

Mulder and Scully 1

But now we are told that it’s actually not aliens that are the enemy, it’s men!  This is something that does not line up.  Or does it?  No, I don’t think aliens are out of the picture, at least not completely.  And in the older episodes, men played a pretty big part in a lot of these issues.  Who was responsible for getting Scully kidnapped?  Definitely a man.  Will Mulder get some answers this time?  Or is he just doomed to repeat his quest over and over?  Only time will tell…

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And speaking of Ms. Skeptical to a Fault er Scully…

Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same, right?  Scully bordered on being bull-headed in the past, and she was pretty bull-headed in this episode as well.  Did she forget everything that she saw when she worked with Mulder on the X Files?  She saw pretty much everything known to man (and alien), but seemed to have blocked it all out, at least until the end of the episode.  Live a little, Scully…is that hard to believe that poor Sveta could have alien DNA and be telepathic too?  I think not!

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Tad O’Malley.  What are we doing with Tad O’Malley, I wonder…

Is he some kind of stand-in for these guys?

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Or is he dues ex machina?  In other words, was he just introduced to the show so that we could get the band back together?  And what of him and Scully?  I think he is just a little out of his league, actually…

I will say that this episode ended with a bang.  Or is that a cigarette?

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Yes, one of the baddest on-screen motherfuckers made his presence known in the last 30 seconds or so of this episode.

Samuel L. Jackson

Well, maybe he is not that bad a motherfucker, but he is pretty close!

You may be bad, but you will never be as bad as the Cigarette Smoking Man (CSM, for the uninitiated) smoking a cigarette via his traech.

X files renewal 1

And the CSM is someone that lines up, in some ways.  He is a villain that we all love to hate.  He is an antagonist, always in Mulder and Scully’s way, trying to stop our heroes from doing the right thing and finally getting some answers.  And that is comforting, in some way.

But then again, see the presumed deceased line.  Apparently, there is now another show with a Lazarus Pit that can resurrect anyone on demand.  Hey, it is The X Files, I can’t put anything past my favorite arch-villain!  And I am sure the tale of resurrection will be interesting, assuming that tale gets told.  Which it better, or I may have to seek out some vigilante justice of my own!

Lazarus Pit 1

Yes, there are definitely lots of questions in this review.  But then again, that is one of the things that lines up when super-imposing the pictures:  The X Files often contained more questions than answers.  And that is part of the intrigue and what kept me hooked, tuning in every week to see I could get a little closer to some answers, right along with my favorite on-screen duo.  And the present and the past do line up in that respect:  I will not stop tuning in during this run either, and I will be seeking answers in 2016, right along with Mulder and Scully.

X Files 4


 

So that’s it for My Struggle.  Join me week, as I review and dissect episode 2 of the renewal, aka Founder’s Mutation.

Tune in next week, same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin

Don’t Bug Me: My Review of Darkness Falls

I became a fan of horror at quite a young age (trust me, my parents were thrilled).  I started out with Stephen King, and he did me fine, but then I discovered a new method of delivery.

Stephen King mit Katze "Clovis", tierischer Held des Films "Schlafwandler". Der Meister des Horrors wird am Sonntag (21.09.1997) 50 Jahre. Mit 50 hat er mehr als 30 Romane veröffentlicht, ein Sachbuch, fünf Geschichtensammlungen und neun Drehbücher. dpa (zu dpa-Korr vom 17.09.1997) nur s/w

Yes, it was the horror comic.

ec comics 1

I quickly became addicted to that method of delivery for my frights, and lost more than a few hours sleep over some of those stories.  After all, these works of art contained pictures, so it was the best of both worlds:  I could read (I spent 25 hours a day doing that back in the day), but I could also get a visual representation (not always a good thing for an overly active imagination, but sleep is for wimps, I thought).  And most of these comics also had a lesson at the end.  The method was usually disgusting and creepy, but in their own weird way, horror comics, like one of my favorite childhood cartoons, did try to impart some sort of lesson at the end, usually along the lines of be a good person…or else (the “else” part was usually the creepy and disgusting part).  After, all knowing is half the battle…well, you know the rest.

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Well, a few later after my discover of the horror comic, it graced us with its presence on television, per my dad, at any rate.

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In other words, the horror comic made its small screen debut via my favorite television show at the time, The X Files.  And it was expansive:  we had guys who ate livers, a mutant parasite, people with PSI abilities, and many, many more.  Finally, the horror comic got the respect it deserved, in the form of a show which many people still continue to associate with “little green men,” although that association would not be wrong.  However, The X Files has many “non-arc” episodes, or episodes that don’t feature UFO’s, aliens or the government conspiracy to cover up the former two.  Instead, these episodes simply featured other supernatural themes, or the “the monster of the week.”  And may of them had an EC Comics feel to them:  they featured some kind of “monster”, often with a campy feel to it, they contained some kind of horror (which was not always campy, and many of them tried to impart a lesson at the end, which was often creepy, or sometimes even a little bit depressing (more on that later)).

And one of these “monster of the week” episodes that sticks out in my mind is the episode “Darkness Falls.”  This episode features a creepy monster, some campy scares and even a sort of lesson at the end. In other words, it is an on-screen horror comic, and it works beautifully.

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With that being said, here is my recap and review of “Darkness Falls.”

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

Agents Mulder and Scully are called upon to investigate the disappearance of 30 loggers from a site in Washington state.  Scully feels that the task is better left to local and state authorities, while Mulder feels that there may be a supernatural aspect to the case.

The agents meet up with a forest ranger and a representative from the logging company.  The logging company representative is anxious to find his employees, who have families that are worried about them.  The four travel to the loggers’ cabin, but are forced to abandon their vehicle, as a tire is blown out by an eco-terrorist trap.  An investigation of the loggers’ camp finds no loggers but plenty of sabotage, presumably by an eco-terrorist group.

Scully, Mulder and the forest ranger investigate the surrounding forest, and find a cocoon that contains a human body.  They return to the camp, and find that the logging company representative has captured an eco-terrorist.  The logging company representative demands that the agents arrest and try the man for murder of the logger, but Mulder wants to hear the man’s story.  The man states that some strange bugs have attacked and killed the other loggers.  He tells Scully and Mulder that these bugs only come out at night, and that the only thing that keeps them away is a light source.  The group spends the night in the cabin, but keeps the lights on.  The insects cover the cabin, but do not attack the humans inside.

The group finds a tree stump with a strange green ring at the core when they explore the woods the next day.  The eco-terrorist tells the rest of the group that the disappearances began when the loggers felled that tree, and that the loggers have been cutting down trees that were marked to be preserved.  The logging company representative becomes angry at the perceived lack of action by Mulder and Scully, and returns to the vehicles.  However, he is attacked and killed by the bugs, as he did not heed the warning and had no light source.  The eco-terrorist convinces Mulder to allow him to take the last can of gas along with his vehicle and search for his friends, promising to return for Mulder, Scully and the ranger the next day.  When the rest of the group finds out about this, they are all furious with Mulder, even Scully, as they only have about 15-20 hours worth of light before their protection against the insects runs out.  The generator stops when the sun rises.

Mulder, Scully and the forest ranger make a break the next day for the ranger’s vehicle, and are met by the eco-terrorist, who has stayed true to his word.  The eco-terrorist says that his friends did not make it and succumbed to the bugs.  He takes the rest of the group down the mountain in his vehicle, but his vehicle falls victim to his group’s traps.  The eco-terrorist leaves his vehicle and is swarmed by the insects.  Mulder, Scully and the forest ranger are also swarmed by the bugs and become trapped in cocoons.  However, a bio-hazard team, who seems well aware of the danger, shows up in the nick of time, thanks to an earlier distress signal sent by Mulder.  The three are rescued by the bio-hazard team and air-lifted away from the forest.

The surviving members of the expedition, which includes Mulder and Scully, are forced into quarantine, so that they may recover from their contact with the unknown insects.  In particular, Scully was hit hard by the insects and needs much more time to recover.  Mulder asks one of the doctors what will happen if the insects cannot be eradicated, and is told “that is not an option.”


 

My Thoughts

Mind = blown.

I remember enjoying this episode when I first saw it 20+ years ago (eek, that is a scary), but I don’t think the impact was quite as great as it was when I first watched it.  Sometimes, 20+ years is actually a good thing.

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One of my favorite things about this episode was that Mulder was…well, Mulder was Mulder!  I know that statement isn’t really earth-shattering, but let’s show some appreciation for my show boo!  The episode was unsettling and actually did have a serious undertone, but Mulder managed to lighten things up a bit, in his typical dry, almost deadpan way, like when he told Scully that it would be a nice vacation in the woods…ha!  You kill me, Mulder!  Well, no, I take that back, you are the one with the gun, after all!  But still, props to some appropriately placed humor!

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Another thing I noticed about this episode:  the beginning of the ‘ship.  Yes, we are back there again…

This was a pretty early episode, but even in this episode, you can see the chemistry between Mulder and Scully beginning its slow but still crackling burn.  Even this early on, the show was intent on teasing about Mulder and Scully:  was something going on between these two?  Where would it lead?  Would they or wouldn’t they?  And did we want them to?  This is evident at the end of the episode, when Mulder looks in on Scully as she is recovering from her ordeal after their “nice” vacation in the woods, and is told that Scully has had an especially tough go of it, and may not even survive.  The look of concern and caring on Mulder’s face as he speaks to the doctor about Scully is something that is a little more than platonic, and a great precursor of what was to come, ‘ship wise.  And I loved it!

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As I said before, this episode had quite the EC Comic book feel to it, even though it did actually have a serious message.  However, more than a few of the scenes had that almost campy, yet still kind of creepy vibe that those comics also had.

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For example, we have the cocoons that the extremely pissed off bugs used to dispose of those who got on their bad side.

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This was certainly something that I could imagine happening in one of those horror comics I read as a child.  It is a little campy, but kind of icky (aka awesome) at the same time. And when people were being attacked, I could practically see the comic book screams (Aaaahhhh, anyone?) above their heads, even though it was a television show.

And then there were the “bugs” (if that’s what they actually were) themselves.  True, it was the 90’s, and we didn’t have the special effects that we have now.  However, the bugs still managed to be creepy and (you guessed it) campy at the same time.  In other words, even the bugs had that comic book feel.

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As I said before, this particular episode does have a serious message, much like the comic books I remember from my childhood.

One thing that I have noticed in horror comics and even in horror movies is the theme of “just desserts.”  Karma, if you like.

In horror comics, people often did very bad things to other people.  Parents neglected or abused children.  People tried to cheat death in some way (the horror comic Strictly From Hunger was an example of this, and was responsible for many a sleepless night as a child).  Husbands beat up wives.  Wives cheated on husbands.  People would murder other people and try to cover that up.  And this was before any “monster” or anything supernatural came into play.

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And just how did that work out for those committing the wrongs?

Well, not very well.  Not very well at all.  Enter the karma.  And usually, that’s when the supernatural element came in:  after the “human” horror had been committed.

And I noticed that vibe in this episode.  The loggers were cutting down trees that were not supposed to be cut down.  The environmentalists were also not in the right, as they had set up booby-traps to attempt to sabotage the loggers.  As stated above, this did not work for those committing the wrongs.  All of the loggers, including the liaison, were killed by the bugs.  All of the environmentalists, even the “ally”, were also killed by the bugs.  There was even some in-fighting among Mulder, Scully and the federal ranger, and that nearly cost them their lives, if not for the well-timed arrival of a suspiciously well-informed bio-hazard team.  Just desserts, indeed.

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And the ending to this episode…like, whoa?

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Like, definitely whoa, actually.

Yes, there were survivors at the end of this episode, namely, Mulder and Scully.  But…

So.  Many.  Dead.  People.

The body count to this episode was high, that was for sure.  So many dead loggers.  And quite a few dead environmentalists as well.  And the manner of death was gruesome.

And the “bad guy” appeared to survive.  Sure, the doctor told Mulder that being unable to eradicate those insects was “not an option.”  But then again, a certain governor of Michigan made a big show of publicly drinking the water from Flint, and we know what happened there

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So did anyone really believe that those insects had actually been eradicated?  Mulder seemed a little skeptical, in fact.  And he was right to be skeptical.  Often, we are led to believe that those in authority will do the right thing.  But not even those in authority always do the right thing.  Maybe even those in authority are more likely to do the wrong thing, leaving the rest of us to reap the consequences for a long, long time.


 

Well, that’s it for Darkness Falls.  Join me next week for the reunion…the reunion of Mulder, Scully, Skinner and the rest of the gang in the much awaited (well, for me anyway) X Files renewal!

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin

People Can Be So Tasteless: My Review of Our Town

Often, when one is a fan of something, there are conflicting feelings.

On the one hand, it’s similar to being in love:  you want the whole world to know, and you tend to bore people, as you talk non-stop about your new love.

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On the other hand, you tend to be a little possessive.  Your new love is great.  Really great.  And if something is really great, like chocolate, why would you want to share?  Me, I like having my chocolate all to myself…I may love you, but I am not sharing that chocolate!

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Well, the above describes my feelings when I started watching The X Files perfectly.  I loved it!  Finally, a show dealing with the supernatural and other kooky topics that no one wanted to talk about, at least on network TV.  And it didn’t hurt that the show’s leads were smoking hot, either!

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But on the other hand, feeling like I was the only person watching it, (well, besides my dad, who actually got me into the show to begin with) made me special.  And the father-daughter bonding was nice too, since I am pretty certain I was either walking 20 feet in front of my parents, or 20 feet behind them, whenever we were seen in any remotely public place.  But we could bond over The X Files, and marvel over just how far the show went this week, what a work of genius it was really was, and that if everyone was cool like us, they would have no problem staying in on Friday nights and hanging with Mulder and Scully!

Mulder and Scully 1

But, like all loves, nothing really stay secret for long.  People began to talk about The X Files. I am not exactly sure when it became more “mainstream”, but I do remember when people began to talk.  And people began to talk for a good reason.

X Files 4

Yes, the airing of the episode Our Town marked a watershed moment, at least for me, in terms of fandom.  And for good reason:  we actually had a show, on network TV (even it was Fox, which has only begun available as a standard channel relatively recently.  Yes, I am so old that I remember when the Fox network was blacked out…good times!), that dealt with one of the most taboo topics of all time: cannibalism.  Yes, for some reason, the discussion of man eating man is not one that is considered family friendly affair!  So of course our good friend Chris Carter needed to have an episode about it.  And that episode created chatter.  For once, I could talk with my peers and teachers at school, and we could agree on something:  that episode was nasty!

And trust me, that episode has withstood the test of time:  it is still nasty!  I watched it this weekend, and I will still never look at fried chicken the same way again…again, good times!

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of Our Town.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

Our Town begins with a middle aged man and a young, attractive woman who sneak out in the woods near the town of Dudley, Arkansas, with amorous intentions.  The man has a seizure, but takes some pills for it, and follows the woman out into the woods, as she has run ahead of him.  The man loses sight of the woman, but is attacked by someone in a tribal mask with an ax.  The ax descends up the man, killing him.

The man’s name is George Kearns, who also worked as an inspector for the Chaco Chicken Plant in Dudley, Arkansas, and Agent Mulder and Agent Scully are assigned to investigate his disappearance a few weeks later.  Scully feels that the case is a waste of their time and a diversion from any “real” work, but Mulder argues that the disappearance may have a supernatural cause.

Mulder and Scully investigate place where some unusual fires have been spotted, and find the remains of a large bonfire.  They are interrupted by the local sheriff, Tom Arens, who tells the agents the fires are the result of the locals burning trash illegally.  Sheriff Arens also tells Mulder and Scully that George Kearns was a womanizer, who made himself unpopular in town because he had filed several health code violations against the plant.  The agents also interview Kearns’ wife, Doris, who appears nervous, but unconcerned over her husband’s disappearance.

The next day, Paula Gray, the young woman from the forest, prepares for her shift at the plant.  She appears irritable and nervous, dry swallowing some pills before her shift.  Mulder and Scully visit the plant and question Jess Harold, the shift manager, about George Kearns.  Harold informs the agents that no one was worried about Kearns’ report, as three other inspectors had given the plant excellent ratings. Harold also tells the agent the Kearns had a bone to pick with everyone, including the federal government.  Kearns had also filed a workers’ compensation claim against the plant, claiming that his work gave him terrible headaches.  The conversation is interrupted by Paul, who has begun to hallucinate and has taken Harold hostage, holding a knife to his neck.  Scully attempts to calm the woman, but Sheriff Arens fatally shoots her, and Paula falls into a feed grinder.

After the incident, Scully speaks to the plant doctor, Dr. Randolph.  Dr. Randolph tells her that he had treated both Paula and George for headaches and insomnia, but never made any official diagnosis on either one, as he believed that the symptoms were due to stress.  Scully asks for permission to perform an autopsy on Paula, but his told by the doctor that she will need to ask Walter Chaco, who is the owner of the plant and Paula’s grandfather and legal guardian.  Mulder and Scully speak to Mr. Chaco, who reluctantly agrees to allow Scully to perform the autopsy.

Scully examines the remains of Paula, and discovers that she was suffering from Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, and had only a few months to live.  It is also discovered that Paula was 47 years old, even though she appeared to be in her mid-twenties.  Mulder wonders if Paula and George both suffered from Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, but Scully tells him that would be statistically impossible, as the disease is hereditary and non communicable.  The conversation is interrupted yet again by a van that is wildly swerving on the road.  The van misses the agents, and crashes into the nearby river.  The driver has been exhibiting the same symptoms as George and Paula.

Scully theorizes that George Kearns was killed to keep him silent in regards to any health violations that the plant was committing, and that his body was dumped into the plant’s feed grinder to dispose of it, therefore contaminating the chickens.  Mulder disagrees with the theory, as the chicken meat is a product nation-wide, and that there should have been a nation-wide epidemic of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, as opposed to a local outbreak.

Mulder and Scully speak to the sheriff and request that the river be “dragged.”  The result is the exhumation of a large pile of human bones.  Scully examines the bones and identifies George Kearns among the remains.  Scully also notices the ends of the bones are smooth, as if they have been buffed, and that the skulls are missing.  Mulder thinks that the bones are smooth because they have been boiled, and that the townspeople practice cannibalism.  Scully says that if Mulder is right, the outbreak of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease would have been caused by the townspeople consuming the contaminated remains of George Kearns.  Mulder also notes that 87 people have disappeared from the town over the past several decades, and that all of the disappeared were “outsiders” in some way.  Mulder also thinks that Paula’s youthful appearance can be explained by the cannibalism, as many cultures practiced cannibalism in order to prolong their lifespans.

Dr. Randolph and Harold confer at the plant.  The townspeople are growing uneasy, due to the spread of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease and the presence of the FBI agents. Harold promises he will speak to Chaco, who will listen to him.

Harold speaks to Chaco, who reassures him that he can handle the problems.  Doris also pays a visit to Harold, as she has grown tired from keep the town’s secrets and is feeling guilty over her part in her husband’s death.  Chaco reassures her, and tells Doris to go home and get some rest.

Mulder and Scully discover that all the birth records at the town’s courthouse have been burned.  Mulder receives a call from Doris, who tells him she needs to speak to him.  Scully goes to meet Doris, while Mulder heads to Chaco’s house to take Chaco into custody.  However, Doris is murdered by someone in a mask before Scully arrives.

Mulder arrives at Chaco’s house and is told Chaco is not home.  Mulder discovers some interesting memorabilia at Chaco’s house, including a picture of Chaco next to a WWII fighter plan, a human skull and four shrunken heads.  Chaco appears to be the same ago as he was in the pictures of him taken during WWII, which were taken 50 years prior.  It is also revealed that Chaco spent some time in Papua New Guinea with a group of people known to practice cannibalism.  Mulder receives a call from Scully, who tells him she is at Doris’ house but cannot find Doris.  However, Chaco is hiding in the house and attacks Scully, and Scully’s phone goes silent.

Chaco arrives at a town meeting, where the townspeople are lined up to receive portions of a “stew,” with Scully as his captive.  Chaco tells the people of the town that they have lost control and should not have killed Doris.  Harold tells Chaco that he is no longer fit to be town leader, and disarms Chaco of his gun.  Chaco is then forced into a metal harness and decapitated.

Scully is then placed into a metal harness.  However, Mulder shows up just in time and shoots her would-be executioner.  None of the townspeople are arrested, as most of them flee the scene while Mulder is busy freeing Scully.  Mulder and Scully remove the mask from her would-be executioner, who is revealed to be Sheriff Arens.

The chicken plant is closed by the Arkansas authorities.  Before the plant is closed, a worker is seen emptying a bucket of chicken feed from the trough and carrying it to the chickens.  The worker reaches into the feed and finds a clump of gray hair (presumably belonging to Walter Chaco).  The worker shrugs and continues to feed the chickens.


 

My Thoughts

First of all, I would just like to congratulate myself on the timing of this re-watch, given all the jokes and memes about snacks and how some people are just poor planners

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Maybe those folks should save themselves the trouble and just pay a visit to Dudley, Arkansas…no shortage of snacks there!  The people there are always willing to have you for dinner!

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Oh wait, they want someone to bring them snacks, not to be the snacks…well, it was a worth a try, anyway!

Our Town is a disturbing, creepy and even one of the more disgusting episodes of The X Files.  And it’s also hilarious!

Yes, you heard me right…it is hilarious.  Like in so many other episodes that deal with gross and even taboo topics, Our Town contains some much needed humor.

One of my favorite funny scenes is when the agents come to the realization of what is really going on in Dudley, and realize that they have to take action.  Scully apparently got the munchies and brought in a big bucket of chicken.  And the look on her face when she drops that chicken like it’s a grenade…you couldn’t pay her to eat anywhere in Dudley after that point…I loved it!

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Believe it or not, Our Town was a episode that was also a ‘shipper’s dream…

Yes, a ‘shipper.  There, I said it…

A ‘shipper, for the uninitiated is someone who believes that your protagonists, who pretend to be just friends, keeping it strictly platonic, blah blah, should become a couple.  And, in the case of Mulder and Scully’s relationship, the ‘shippers were on to something, as the chemistry between was just unbelievable.  For years, Mulder and Scully were my favorite television “not a couple.”

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And it was episodes like Our Town that made me long for the ‘ship…

The look on Mulder’s face when Scully’s call cuts off…we know that Scully had been abducted, and was probably still dealing with the trauma from that abduction.  And Mulder was also dealing with that trauma as well.  You could practically hear his thoughts, as he raced to save Scully from those horrible people who couldn’t be bothered to bring their own snacks, as FBI agents would do just fine, thank you.  The rescue and look on Mulder’s face once he frees Scully from her captor…well, that momentarily made me long for the ‘ship that could be!

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Ok, you have read this far, so let’s get to the good stuff already!

Yes, the cannibalism.  Since you know that’s what you really want to talk about!

Cannibalism is gross.  Cannibalism is gruesome.  Cannibalism actually scares me shitless.

So, of course I have to joke about it…don’t worry, it’s all in good taste (see what I did there)!

Human flesh can be the ultimate snack, at times…

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Sometimes, you just get a taste for “long pork“…

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Or those friends (who shall remain anonymous, now that they are blog fodder) who tell you that if you get stranded on a desert island with them, they will have no qualms about resorting to cannibalism if necessary!

On a side note, boiling a ham bone to make a stock after watching this episode is not recommended.  Trust me, your mind will conjure some unpleasant images…or is that just me?

But cannibalism really does scare me to death (hence the horrible jokes).  Humans eating other humans is another taboo, ranking up there (or maybe down there) with incest.  Any movie or show that deals with cannibalism is sure to come with some sort of warning label, and for a good reason:  the thought of humans eating their own kind is just horrifying!

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If any species had to resort to cannibalism, that particular species would not survive for very long.  After all, if you can’t find a food source, then you probably don’t deserve to survive, after all.  So, like incest, cannibalism had to become taboo, to ensure survival as a species.  And the distaste for it is almost instinctive:  I remember finding out that cannibalism existed when I was around 7 or 8, and being absolutely horrified.  This caused me many a nightmare, and the subject still horrifies me to this day.

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But although cannibalism is taboo, it also seems to have a bad ass quality about it.  Several tribes throughout history have been known to consume the remains of their enemies.  Sometimes this was done because people believed that by consuming the remains of an enemy, that the powers of the enemies would be passed on to them, strengthening their powers that much more.  However, sometimes cannibalism was practiced as the ultimate act of disrespect, or the final “fuck you” to the enemies.  In other words, it wasn’t enough that the enemies were dead, they needed to be consumed as well, so that they could not be given a proper burial and safe passage to the afterlife.  Also, some people believed (like the tribe mentioned in this episode), that by practicing cannibalism, they would obtain eternal life, or at least slow the aging process.  And we are all afraid of death.  However, some are more afraid than others, and will resort to extreme tactics to avoid or at least slow down the inevitable.

Humans are at the top of the food chain (or would like to believe so, at least).  And no species want to lose that spot on the food chain.  So we take measures to make certain acts, like cannibalism, repulsive.  In other words, we make it a taboo, so that it does not become acceptable.  Mostly, it works.  But sometimes, people forgot.  And the forgetting would have consequences which were sometimes dire.  However, dire consequences are needed, lest we become, in the words Walter Chaco, “not worth saving.”

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Well, that’s a wrap for Our Town…I hope this post was in good taste (ok, I will stop now…maybe)!

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Join me next week, as we review and dissect another classic, Darkness Falls.

Tune in next week…same Bat time, same Bat channel!

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Sideshow Attractions: My Review of Humbug

For most of my life, I have considered myself a freak.  And I have accepted this fact, embraced it, even.

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However, I have spent much of my life looking for my fellow freaks…I mean, they have to be out there somewhere, right?  In fact, let me give a shout-out to my bee people…I know you’re out there somewhere!

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In fact, what if a community existed, made for just us freaks?  Sounds pretty cool, huh?

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Well, maybe.  Being able to be with your own kind is always a good thing.  However, even communities of freaks can have their drama…

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Although, on a certain TV show, that drama can escalate a bit…

Well, a lot actually…

Yes, I refer to The X Files.  More specifically, I refer to what I consider to be a classic episode:  Humbug.

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Humbug was a disturbing episode, because unlike most of the episodes of The X Files, it was actually somewhat plausible.  The premise is still a far reach, but it is actually not much of a stretch to imagine conjoined twins who have gone rogue.  The setting is something that is also attached to the “real world”:  the circus and its performers.  For me, the circus has been fascinating, and a little frightening as well.  Even though I am a freak, I can hide my “freakiness” when needed.  However, there are those who cannot hide what makes them different, and were exploited back in the day by an unnamed man.  People with genetic abnormalities are still feared by many even today, even though science has shed light on many of these conditions and taken away some of the mystery.  Still, the circus and its performers is seen as mysterious, and a backdrop for many horror themed shows, such as The X Files, American Horror Story, etc.

So, with out further ado, here is my recap and review of the freak show known as Humbug!

Oh, and as always:

Spoiler alert


 

Synopsis

Humbug begins with two boys playing in a pool one night in Gibsonton, Florida.  The brothers are interrupted by a man with a skin condition that makes the man look like he has alligator scales.  The man is actually the boys’ father, and tells the boys that they must now go inside and go to bed.  The man stays in the pool by himself  for a bit, but he is not alone, as he is attacked by an unknown intruder.  The attack proves fatal, and the man is quickly killed.

Agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder are sent by the FBI to investigate this murder, along with several others that may have been committed by the same person.  It turns out that Gibsonton is actually a town established for “circus freaks”, and that most of the inhabitants are “freaks”, or people who genetic abnormalities who have worked the sideshow circuit.  Mulder and Scully encounter several of the “freaks”, including Dr. Blockhead, who is able to endure large amounts of pain and has turned this ability into a sideshow act, and his partner, The Conundrum, who is a “geek” and able to eat anything, but never speaks.  The local sheriff is even a former sideshow freak, known as Jim Jim the Dogface Boy, due to the excess hair on his body.  The sheriff tells Mulder and Scully that he retired from the sideshow circuit once he began losing his hair, and took up a career in law enforcement instead.

Mulder and Scully are given temporary quarters in the Gulf Breeze trailer court.  There, they meet a dwarf named Mr. Nutt, who acts as the landlord, and an alcoholic named Lanny, who has a undeveloped conjoined twin named Leonard, who is kept hidden.  The agents pursue several false leads as suspects, including Mr. Nutt and even the local sheriff.  Eventually, they arrest Dr. Blockhead for the murders, who protests that he is innocent.

The agents and the local sheriff begin the process of charging Dr. Blockhead, but are interrupted because another inhabitant of the town has been murdered.  Mr. Nutt is the murder’s latest victim.  Lanny becomes distressed and the sheriff puts him into the “drunk tank” to “sleep it off.”  Mulder and Scully speak to Lanny and eventually discover that the murders are being committed by his conjoined twin Leonard.  Lanny is dying of complications due to alcoholism, and Leonard is searching for a new host.  Somehow, Leonard is able to separate himself from Lanny, and does so when Lanny is in the jail cell.  Mulder and Scully realize that Leonard has escaped again, using the window in the jail cell, and decide to pursue him.

Mulder and Scully track Leonard down to a local fun house.  However, Leonard is able to deceive the agents again, using his small size and quick movements.  The agents realize that Leonard has escaped them once again, and wonder where he is now.

In the meantime, The Human Conundrum is taking out his trash and is attacked by Leonard.  There is a struggle, and The Human Conundrum is seen laying on the ground, with his stomach somewhat distended and a contented smile on his face.

The next morning, Dr. Blockhead makes plans to leave town, as he fears that Leonard is still on the loose.  Scully reveals that Lanny passed away the previous night, due to complications from alcoholism.  The Human Conundrum sits in the passenger’s seat of the car, but appears unwell.  Mulder and Scully inquire about his condition, and The Human Conundrum remarks that it may have been something that he ate, speaking for the first time.  Dr. Blockhead and his friend then leave town, leaving behind a horrified looking Mulder and Scully.


 

My Thoughts

Oh, Humbug

So much to love about you, and I don’t know where to start!

First of all, I love the idea of a community of “freaks.”  I have always been a freak, and the idea of living among my own kind is just awesome.  Imagine encountering your kind everywhere, from the grocery store to your kid’s kindergarten teacher to even the local sheriff.  You would no longer be the one who stood out for whatever reason, so you could be known for other reasons (well, known for reasons other than being a conjoined twin who murders people, even if unintentionally.  I would think that it would be better, say, to be known being able to bake the perfect loaf of banana bread.  I am sure even The Human Conundrum would be able to appreciate a good loaf of banana bread).

I also love the homage that Humbug pays to PT Barnum, the circus and sideshows in general.  And there are more than a few of those in this particular episode…

The Fiji Mermaid for instance.  One of Barnum’s most famous “exhibits”, and Humbug referred to it multiple times.  Hey, it was even a suspect for the murders!  You know you’ve made it big when you get to be one of Mulder’s suspects!

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I also loved the carnival speak that was thrown around in this episode.

I heard the term “rube”, so of course my mind immediately went here:

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And again, the references to the classic sideshow acts, such as the Dog Faced Boy, the Alligator Man, the Bearded Lady just added another dimension to this episode. making it that much more memorable.

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So let’s talk about the cast of characters in this episode, as there are quite a few of them.

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I love the funeral scene in particular…it was a who’s who among the circus performers…it was awesome!

However, there are a couple of particular characters in this episode that stand out…

And boy, do they put the C in character!

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Yes, Dr. Blockhead, and his loyal friend, The Human Conundrum!

And no, I don’t even know where to begin with these two…

I think the best scene in this episode is when good old Dr. Blockhead tries to scare Scully, but she won’t have any of it.  She pretends to eat a bug, much to the astonishment of Dr. Blockhead.  And then, much to the astonishment of Mulder, she pulls the bug out of his ear.  What do you know, two for the price of one!

And of course, Mulder on his morning jog.  Jogging can be interesting, can’t it?  Especially when you see a guy gleefully munching on a very much alive fish?  Ah, the benefits of early morning exercise…suddenly, the small furry dogs that seem to have it in for me while I am out on my morning jog are pretty mild…wait, scratch that…those dogs scare me way more than blue tattooed guys who have the worst case of the munchies!

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Then, we have The Human Conundrum…

Boy, does he live up to that conundrum part, too!

Right up to the very end, even, when he ended up being the “hero” of the episode…

And speaking of the ending to this one…

Really, this may be one of the best endings to anything ever, let alone an episode of The X Files!

The chase of Leonard through the funhouse, after he escaped from the jail cell…this episode is not a scary one, for the most part, but Scully in the funhouse…shudder!  It was those magic mirrors…those things are pure evil, I say!

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And Leonard himself…sufficiently disgusting and gruesome.  In other words, I wholly approved!

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However, poor Leonard…where did he go?

It seems like he just got swallowed up, poor guy!  I just hunger to find out what happened to him…

In fact,the end of this episode can just leave you speechless…

Well, unless you are The Human Conundrum!

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Well, folks, that’s a wrap on Humbug!  Join me next week for my recap and review of Our Town!

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Uh no, oops, wrong town!

Join me next week, so we can discuss the episode that forced teenaged me to become a vegetarian (well, maybe)!  There, that’s better!

Tune in next week…same Bat time, same Bat channel!

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