My latest video on my YouTube channel, where I discuss and break down the first season of Stranger Things!
My latest video on my YouTube channel, where I discuss and break down the first season of Stranger Things!
So, guys and ghouls, it is that time of year again…
Well, yes it is football season, but that was not what I was referring too. I mean, do you think I want to be scared into a change pants? Come on, now!
Well, actually I do. And watching Indianapolis Colts football is one way to be scared, although many other emotions tend to be involved, which include extreme anger, exhilaration, puzzlement, denial, bargaining and resignation.
But, there are lots of other things that I can watch, other than Colts football, if I don’t want to experience the different stages of grief in a four hour setting (NFL math is funny that way: one hour of football somehow turns into four hours yelling myself horse (you are welcome for that one) in front of my TV.)
In other words: horror movies. Horror movies everywhere…
At this time of year, I feel that autumn is right around the corner. And this starts right after Labor Day, when the Christmas merchandise at the stores is on display!
And to counter the sight of Christmas decorations when the temperature is still at least 90 F, there is only one thing we can do…
That’s right, watch some horror movies. Or maybe lots of horror movies. All right, a metric shit ton of horror movies!
And so many movies to choose from.
Or, we don’t have to limit ourselves to movies. There are plenty of good, horror themed shows not titled American Horror Story to chose from. And most are available via the miracle of the 21st century otherwise known as Neflix. Cable schmable, right?
Now, one thing about horror movies: they seem to have an audience. And no, not necessarily horror junkies.
Let’s face it: most horror movies are geared towards white males. That is often who your horror movie protagonist is, with a few exceptions, like Night of the Living Dead, which was decades ahead of its time for featuring an African American guy as its protagonist.
And it’s not to say that those movies are not good movies. In fact, movies like Phantasm (I dare you to cross The Tall Man, boooyyyy!), The Shining, Horns and many others are either classics, or on their way to becoming classics. And I have no problem with that, they are great movies and deserve their accolades.
But, I feel like I am missing something when I watch certain movies. In fact, I feel like I may be missing at least half of something…
That’s right, where are my ladies? I mean, we make up half the population, right? So where are we? Where are we in one of my favorite movie genres?
Well, it turns out that if take the time (after all, rushing us is bad, on so many levels, haha) and look, you can find us ladies in horror movies. And some bad ass ones at that!
In recent years, we have become even easier to find in the horror, genre and science fiction categories. After all, Game of Thrones, anyone? Plenty of kick ass women there!
And The Master and The Master 2.0 have gotten in on the act, as both Stephen King and Joe Hill have managed to write convincing female characters, who have an identity beyond the wife or girlfriend of the guy who winds up kicking ass.
So, if you look, we are there in horror movies. Sometimes we get horribly victimized. Sometimes we victimize others. But other times, we throw down some serious shade, and you do not want to meet us in a dark alley!
With that being said, here is my list of top 10 women in horror (both on television and film.) Keep in mind that this is my opinion only, and could be subject to change at any moment…
And, as always:
Well, I may be a little biased with this statement, but I will say it anyway:
And as soon as we have enough freckles, we plan to take over the world!
Okay, I am kidding (you hope.)
But this entry on my list has earned her spot on it. And yes, she just happens to be a ginger.
Guys and ghouls, I bring to you…Sally!
Now, Sally may literally owe her existence to a man. However, do not underestimate her, as she is tough, smart and resourceful.
After all, a chic who clearly knows her poisons. Who would want to cross her?
Sally is a love interest in the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas (and one half of one of one my favorite onscreen couples ever), but to me, she is so much more than that.
For most of her life, Sally is held in captivity by her creator. She understands that that she may be selling herself short, and she works to build a life for herself beyond captivity, and to connect with the outside world in a meaningful way.
Sally also brings a message of self-acceptance. After all, she literally falls apart, but that doesn’t stop her from picking herself back up and continuing on with her life. That message of self-acceptance is one that Jack Skellington badly needs to hear, as he finally accepts that it is okay to be the Pumpkin King, and leave “Sandy Claws” to those who are better qualified for that job.
Is it a Halloween movie? Is it a Christmas movie? It’s an existential crisis! But an awesome existential crisis!
9. Mrs. Vorhees (Friday the 13th)
Every movie needs a good guy (or bad girl.) This is especially true of horror movies. After all, where would we be without The Tall Man, Pennywise the Clown, Reverend Kane, along with many other bad guys that make these movies memorable?
Well, we can add Mrs. Vorhees to that list as well.
When I bring up Friday the 13th, most people think of the guy in the hockey mask. I then have to gently remind him that he is the protagonist in the 19 or so sequels that the franchise has generated, along with the awesomely bad crossover where Jason and Freddy meet…spoiler alert: they don’t meet for Netflix and chill!
So, let’s go back to the beginning.
In other words, the infamous Camp Crystal Lake. And a few horny teenagers. And of course, the campers.
And…the camp’s cook?
Yes, the camp’s cook. And the mother to Jason Vorhees, who (supposedly) drowned due to the horny camp counselors not doing their job, due to fact of being…well…horny.
Again, Jason is a non-factor in the first film of the franchise. We do see the “Jason half” of Mrs. Vorhees personality, as she rationalizes killing teenagers, but Mrs. Vorhees is responsible for all the blood and guts. All. The. Blood. And. Guts.
All of it!
I personally love a lady vs. lady show down. There is something much more fierce about those, and so primal.
Well, I got my wish when I watched Friday the 13th, in one of the most epic onscreen lady vs. lady show downs in the history of film and television!
It doesn’t get much better than that, folks!
When I watched Deadpool, I found it amusing that the title character seemed to be self-aware. He knew he was in a movie, and made reference to that fact throughout the movie. It was good for plenty of yuks!
The movie Scream also uses the concept of “self aware”, and perhaps one of the best uses of that concept.
After all, Scream constantly makes references to horror movies throughout the movie.
In fact, in the opening scene, the killer begins by asking trivia questions (see the above entry.) And that is just the beginning.
Scream pokes fun at the horror genre. A lot. After, we now all know to never say, “I’ll be right back?” Or to drink or have sex in a horror movie, as those acts also mean certain death.
However, underneath the humor, Scream is still a horror movie. With a protagonist who kicks ass.
And oh yeah, this protagonist just happens to be a girl!
Sidney’s plight is something that is all too familiar: her mother was raped and murdered. The murderer was supposedly caught and put in jail, but Sidney is struggling to come to terms with her mother’s death, and the repressed emotions that come with the trauma.
And then people start getting killed. Sidney is still struggling with her trauma, and is now unsure of who she can trust. Sidney is also now unsure that she did correctly identify her mother’s killer, and fears that she may have put the wrong man in jail.
Throughout the movie, Sidney shows herself to be a fighter. From the reporter who will not stop harassing her to her friend and boyfriend who turn out to to be the killers, Sidney proves that she is resilient, and a force to be reckoned with.
Processing trauma and coming out on the other side is difficult, but is rewarding when it is finally accomplished. The character of Sidney Prescott is a wonderful example of this.
Often, I joke (well, sort of) that I am in a relationship with…my bed.
Hi, my name is Leah, and if I don’t get my sleep, I will cut a bitch!
In other words, my bed is a refuge, as is my sleep.
Well, sleep usually is. Although sometimes I am given to having nightmares…
But I am lucky in the fact that my nightmares, no matter how real they seem (that one featuring the Tall Man and strange Lovecraftian creatures was certainly a doozy), are just dreams in the end.
They can’t hurt me.
The subject of this particular entry, however, was not so lucky.
Falling asleep became dangerous for her, so no refuge for her.
I mean, she dozed off in class and nearly got killed for it. Makes the detention one would normally expect seem kind of mild, right?
However, Nancy sleeps on it (see what I did there) and decides to do something about the evil creature who has been tormenting her and her friends in their dreams.
First, she recruits her boyfriend, Glenn, to help her catch Freddy. But when that doesn’t work, she doesn’t give up, and instead persuades her father to help trap Freddy.
Nancy just will not take no for an answer, and will stop at nothing to destroy Freddy Kreuger for good (or at least until the next sequel, at any rate.)
She will not go down without a fight, and I have always loved her for it.
Freddy Kreuger may be one of my favorite horror movie villains of all time, but let’s face it, without Nancy, he would be nothing. And that is not just because he needs dreams from teenagers so that he can exist.
The fact that my favorite horror villain has to face off against a woman is just icing on the cake. Wait, I take that back. Nancy is the cake, icing and all.
Now, I often tell people that high school was hell for me. And it was.
I spent most of my time isolated. And being isolated was actually the good part. When I was “only isolated,” I considered myself to be lucky, as least I wasn’t being tormented.
The lesser of the two evils, I suppose…
But what was that saying that I heard way back when, about a guy with no shoes who meets a guy with no feet and gets some kind of new perspective?
In other words, I should be lucky that my school was not built on a Hellmouth, right?
Isolation and bullying is one thing. We can talk about the lesser of two evils and so forth…
In fact, you may just piss one of those Big Bads off by referring to him/her/it as “lesser.” And that would be dangerous indeed.
And in the midst of all this…well…Hell, we have Willow Rosenberg.
Now, Willow may be a classic “sidekick” to Buffy, who had the fortune (or is it misfortune?) of moving to Sunnydale, CA, where her destiny as The Slayer awaited her, but make no mistake about it: Willow is also a bad ass herself.
As a result, one of the most fascinating character arcs in television history emerged.
How often do you see someone go from high school computer nerd, to fledgling witch, to full fledged witch, all the while never losing her integrity, making the arc seem so natural?
Oh, and Willow also came out as a lesbian somewhere in there too, making her one of the first major characters in a TV show to be openly gay. And it was all so natural too. When Willow finally coupled up with Tara, it seemed so right, and to be true love, as opposed to some kind of fetish. Her friends accepted her as gay, and nothing really changed between them…I loved it!
Oh, and any time I think any of my break ups were bad (along with my high school experience), I just think what was done to poor Willow in the name of entertainment for the masses. I think this is where that term ugly cry comes into play.
Yeah, see above…
I will say it once and I will say it again: High school, aka government babysitting is overrated at best. At worst, it is Hell. And the high school in question does not even need to be built on a Hellmouth to suck. High schools do that quite well on their own, thankyouverymuch.
And again, my high school experienced sucked. It sucked bunches. My best memory, other than finally graduating, was getting a 100% on a calculus test.
The teacher must have though I was a freak…
Well, I am a freak. But I actually think my freakage is pretty mild, compared to this particular entry.
Meet Carrie White.
On one hand, Carrie is your typical high school reject. At best, the other students ignore her, and she is invisible to pretty much everyone.
But the at worst part is just horrible. Getting pelted by tampons, while you are having your first period at age 17 and thinking you are dying…well, I think I would trade going to high school on the Hellmouth for that one!
However, on the other hand, Carrie is not your typical high school reject. For one thing, she has a religious fanatic for a mother at home, who shames her for getting her period, getting asked to prom, and pretty much shames her daughter for existing.
Carrie also possesses telekinetic powers. And this turns out to be bad news for everyone. When a high school prank goes horribly wrong, and Carrie is humiliated at prom, everyone is at the brunt of Carrie’s revenge.
Carrie’s powers are unleashed, and the results are epic, to say the least.
I have always said that the villains in this movie are Margaret White, along with Carrie’s cruel classmates. Carrie is the most innocent among all the characters. How could you expect her not to finally retaliate, after the happiest night in her tormented life is ruined?
I shed more than a few tears when Carrie died (see the part above about the ugly cry.)
And for the record, my high school classmates should be lucky that I did not possess telekinetic powers…
“Well, I’ve read through that handbook for the recently deceased. It says: ‘live people ignore the strange and unusual”. I myself am strange and unusual.”
Oh, the above quote…
When I first heard it, there were so many emotions to process…
Happiness was one of them, of course.
And, believe it or not, relief was one of them as well.
I may have fallen in love a little that day, with a fictional character. I have a bad habit of doing that, it seems.
Of course, I am speaking of Lydia Deetz.
As a 90’s kid, “Goth” was a thing.
We all had them in at least one class.
The kids who wore all black, even in the summertime.
Often, they loved horror.
They had an affinity for creepy things.
Their taste in music was cutting edge, to say the least. Nine Inch Nails, anyone?
Lydia Deetz started the Goth culture.
She rocked the all black and pale-face make-up before it was cool (I mean, I was pale-face before it was cool, but no make-up needed here. Gotta love being a soul stealing ginger, AmIrite?)
In case I have not made this clear, I was not a kid who fit in. In fact, I didn’t really belong anywhere.
Growing up, I felt like a ghost. Sometimes I wondered if I was actually dead, and everyone knew it but me and forgot to tell me.
And like Lydia, I lived in a world of my creation. I loved to read and write, and create art.
Those interests don’t exactly make one’s phone ring off the hook on Friday night, but I tried to remain true to myself.
That was the thing I admired most about Lydia: she remained true to herself.
She preferred the company of ghosts over people (well, I preferred the company of animals, but close enough, right?)
Things that repelled most people attracted Lydia (to this day, my parents still think I am some kind of literary leper for loving Stephen King.)
Being different is a good thing. But often, it is lonely.
Characters like Lydia Deetz remind us of how awesome different is, and make the journey a little less lonely.
“She’s our friend and she’s crazy!”
Stranger Things is my show and it’s awesome!
Now, no matter what else happens in 2016 (and we still have the presidential election to get through, so the season finale is still a bit far away), we can at say, “At least we had Stranger Things.”
And there so many things to love about Stranger Things.
It is a tribute to all things 80’s.
It is a gold mine for Stephen King fans. The story line of people with PSI abilities is classic King (Firestarter, anyone?), not to mention the fact that The Master’s name is lovingly brought up in an episode.
I could go on and on, actually. Lots of reasons to love Stranger Things…
At least eleven, I would say…
Oh, right. Eleven. The subject of this entry!
If you told me that the show Stranger Things centered on the subject of four friends (who are boys) and their entrance into adulthood, along with the loss of innocence they experience, you would be correct.
On the surface, that is what Stranger Things is about (along with a monster christened Mr. Tulip-Head and his band of merry slugs.) That statement would not be incorrect.
But, like the books written by a certain famous writer, Stranger Things is so much more than that.
Enter Eleven, everyone’s favorite waffle loving, bald-headed escapee from an evil government lab run by the creep known as Dr. Pedophile.
And oh yeah, Eleven possesses PSI abilities, along with being on the run from “Papa” (shudder.)
At first, Eleven serves as kind of homing beacon, to help Mike and his friends try to find their missing friend Will, whose disappearance just happens to coincide with Eleven’s appearance.
However, the boys, especially Mike, grow to like Eleven on her own merits. A friendship develops, and Eleven becomes fiercely protective of her new friends (see the opening sentence to this entry.)
Through their friendship with Eleven, the boys mature, and also come to the realization that the world is not a safe place, nor is it always a fair place. Eleven brings out the best in Mike, who begins to fall in love with her.
The realization that the world is not a safe or fair place comes in the final episode, when Eleven (seemingly) sacrifices herself to the alternate dimension known as the Upside-Down, when she battles the monster that was responsible for kidnapping Will.
Out of all the characters on the show, Eleven proves herself to the most selfless of the bunch, who takes the meaning of friendship to a new level, when she sacrifices herself for another child who she does not even know. She also proves herself to be a tough fighter, in her journeys to the Upside-Down and her battle with the extra-dimensional monster.
And a fierce protector of Eggo Waffles everywhere. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT mess with that girl’s waffles, if you know what’s good for you!
I love Eva Green…
Oh, how I love Eva Green!
Eva Green is the bomb.com!
Did I mention that I love Eva Green?
Okay, just wanted to make my point clear.
And the reason I fell in love with Eva Green was her portrayal of Vanessa Ives on the show Penny Dreadful.
I have problems. I really do. Sometimes they feel like they number around 99, although I am really not sure if a bitch accounts for more than a few (although my crazy dog could be put into that bitch category.)
But then, I can go watch the period horror/drama known as Penny Dreadful, and I get some perspective.
In other, my problems are pretty damn mild. Or maybe even non-existent, really.
After all, I don’t have the Devil Himself after me.
Or Dracula, for that matter.
I may have guys hit on me and give me unwanted attention, but at least they aren’t evil incarnate.
(On a side note, no one has ever seen my ex and Lucifer in the same room together. Fun fact of the day!)
Nor am I harassed by a coven of witches who are willing to hand me over to at least one of the above.
Oh, and I don’t live in Victorian London, where women are limited to only a couple of roles, and if they don’t fit in, then well, that’s just too bad, isn’t it?
I have just described a day in the life of Vanessa Ives, the main character of the show Penny Dreadful. Yikes much?
But somehow, despite all of the horrors she has to endure throughout her life (both supernatural and non-supernatural), Vanessa Ives is able to maintain a kind of grace that one rarely sees even in people who have not been cursed by an unknown evil force.
Vanessa makes everyone around her better. Her influence is something to behold, as she brings out the best even in those who may not be the best humanity has to offer (Victor Frankenstein and Sir Malcolm being prime examples of this.)
Caliban, in particular, benefits from his friendship with Vanessa. Even before he became “The Creature,” Caliban was in danger of his losing his humanity due to his employment with the Banning Clinic. However, when he is forced to care for Vanessa, he begins to see his patients as individuals, as opposed to numbers, and realizes that his employer is in the wrong in its treatment of its patients, and that he can no longer work for them.
(Another side note: anyone who watches the episode A Blade of Grass without tearing up at least a little bit has ice water instead of blood in his/her veins, and we cannot be friends.)
Even after Caliban is transformed into The Creature, Vanessa extends her friendship to him, reminding Caliban that he is more than a corpse stitched together and brought back to life as a science experiment.
Vanessa’s character serves to make the ending even more poignant, as she sacrifices herself so that others may live.
Vanessa’s friends mourn her death, but it is clear that she lives on in each of them, as her influence continues, even after her death.
And now, for my number 1 woman in horror…
I give you…
OK, let’s get one thing straight…
That’s Dr. Scully to you!
Now, in case it wasn’t clear, I was a nerd growing up.
I liked math and science.
I read books on theoretical physics for fun.
A wild day for me consisted of visiting the library and finding five books. OR SIX BOOKS. SIX BOOKS!
So, as you can imagine, my social calendar was clear until approximately February 30th, 2087. Although these days, I’m a little more booked, because that calendar is clear until May 32nd 2072, although if you need something, I may be able to shuffle things around and pencil you in.
But, in the fall of 1993, things began to look up. Well, a little bit, at least.
For that is when we had the debut of The X Files.
Before I watched The X Files, I did not see a lot of representation of women in my world, aka the world of nerd. Now, this did not necessarily bother me much, at least on a conscious level.
However, deep inside, I knew that something was missing, I could not tell you what, but I knew that my world was lacking.
But then Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully made their entrance to the screen.
And right away, it became evident of what my world was missing.
You see, the world of horror and general nerdiness had been waiting for a woman like Scully. Finally, she arrived.
And she did not disappoint.
Scully was smart (see the opening sentence to this entry.)
Not only was Scully smart, she could throw down some serious shade. And usually, she was wearing heels of at least three inches while doing that.
And her autopsies were so cool! They almost made me want to go to medical school, just so I could throw around medical jargon like that. Almost.
Scully also kept her partner Mulder grounded. Mulder could get a little nutty at times with his (literally) out of this world theories, but Scully was able to reign him in, and was the yin to yang. They made a great team.
I loved seeing her storm in with those heels, pointing her gun and flashing her FBI badge. Sometimes her efforts backfired, and Scully would end up in a dire predicament as well. But many times, Scully was able to get Mulder out whatever predicament he found himself in, and the two could go on to kick ass for another episode.
Scully also faced the same sexism many of us in the “real world” have to face on regular basis. Sometimes people were reluctant to respect her, or would ignore her in favor of her male partner. But Scully always handled that so well, and could silence her naysayers with a single look or sentence. And I loved her for it.
And I have one thing to say: Representation matters. I am someone who has spent her life feeling invisible and ignored. And its not fun. I do not wish that on anyone.
But when we create characters such as Dana Scully, the world becomes a little brighter. And a little less lonely.
At last, someone gets us. And the journey becomes exciting, At last, we begin to see the hope.
Well, that’s it for my top 10 ladies in horror.
I am sure I missed a few, but compiling this list was not an easy task. So a shout out to any I may have left out: You are not forgotten!
So, if you don’t feel like being horrified by Indianapolis Colts football, pop in one of these movies, or tune in to Netflix and watch one of these shows.
At the very least, you can kill a few hours. Or maybe, just maybe, you can appreciate one of these films or TV shows in a new light, after seeing some kick ass ladies!
So, it’s summertime.
Not only is it hot, but the offerings on television are a bit scant, so to speak.
Although, really, I was craving a dose of the 80’s.
But The Goldbergs are also on vacation. And I needed something new and fresh, and none of the 80’s movies or TV shows in my collection were cutting it!
But luckily, Netflix decided to oblige me…
I heard that there was new show out. It could satisfy that 80’s craving…check.
I’m a huge fan of horror and it was scary…check.
It paid homage to some writer guy I am obsessed with…check.
Oh, and it was actually well-acted and directed…check.
In other words, I am referring to the Netflix show known as Stranger Things.
Yes, I jumped on the Stranger Things bandwagon!
No I didn’t get a t-shirt, but it was one hell (or is it upside down?) of a ride!
Now, I didn’t binge. Despite my love for this show, it still is a fine wine that needed to be savored.
So I forced myself to slow down.
In other words, I finished watching the show in about a week. And I still felt that I rushed it a bit, since there was so much good stuff to savor!
Like the 80’s aspect of it…nostalgia rules!
The Stephen King references…The Master himself even earned a direct reference…but I know he won’t let the fame get to his head!
And this show was scary…I had to hide my eyes and grip my poor dog really hard watching some parts…good thing dogs are tolerant of their human slaves, even when the human slaves are watching scary stuff on TV!
In other words, there are so many reasons to love Stranger Things. The show really does have a little something for everyone, and is so well done.
So, I deemed this show worthy of a post on this little old blog. And I narrowed down the number of reasons to love this show…
Wait for it…
(See what I did there? You are welcome!)
So, here is my list of 11 reasons as to why Stranger Things is an awesome show. It may be a bit redundant in parts, but I feel each reason earned its place on the list and is worthy of discussion.
Time to break down and discuss this show, so buckle in for the ride!
And, as always:
It is scary
Some of you may be scratching your heads, and wondering if Captain Obvious has taken over this blog. And I don’t begrudge you for that thought. After all, this show is billed as being in the horror category, so of course it’s scary, right?
Well, not necessarily. Both the big and small screen are filled with all kinds of abominations these days that call themselves horror. And when I refer to them as abominations, that does not necessarily mean they are the good kind of abomination…
So, let’s break it down and discuss it.
When I watched Stranger Things, I felt warm and fuzzy at times. After all, nostalgia, right? And I laughed. I mean who wouldn’t laugh? After all, Dustin’s antics, floating Eggo waffles and Steve’s hair…all of those are pretty chuckle-worthy, in my opinion.
And, as quickly as I felt the warm and fuzzy, or went into a mad fit of giggling over a Dustin one-liner, I found myself holding on to my dog for dear life (like I said, she’s tolerant) and trying not to be scared into a change of pants. The show was that effective.
First of all, there was the concept of the Upside Down. An alternate dimension that sucks in a little kid. forcing him to communicate using Christmas lights? One of man’s greatest fears is the fear of the unknown. And an alternate dimension fits that category perfectly, as that would be one of the few frontiers left.
Nancy is briefly sucked into that alternate dimension, and seeing it through her eyes was just frightening. No wonder she needed a little company that night. I don’t think I would ever sleep again!
There is also The Monster. Although the politically correct name for him (it?) is Mr. Tulip-Head. So I shall refer to him by his proper name in this post, so no tentacles are ruffled!
And Mr. Tulip-Head is not one to be trifled with, yo!
Not only is he an extra-dimensional monster that is a predator (you could say that the town of Hawkins was his haunt, as in haunt meaning a place where animals feed), he seems to force slug-like creatures down people’s throats, in an attempt to either kill them, or perhaps an attempt to reproduce…
I tell you, if Will has a mini Mr. Tulip-Head come busting out of him, per the infamous scene in the movie Alien…well, I won’t be surprised at all! And you can say you heard it here first!
Did anyone else think sushi when Will puked up that tentacle, by the way?
Ok, so that was just me then…
Well, nevermind, I guess…
It is Nerd Heaven
From the opening scene of Stranger Things, the tone is set. The audience realizes that it will be treated to a…
I know, something nerdy making it on to this blog? Can you imagine!?
At the beginning of the first episode, the boys are playing Dungeons and Dragons. And using all the technical terms, like Demi-Gorgon. And trust me folks, it only gets nerdier.
Obviously, we have Mike, Will and the rest of the gang. Right from the beginning, the writers of the show let us know that they are the nerds among their peer group. This title includes the good grades, unusual hobbies (D&D and membership in the audio-visual club), and the other, not positive attributes of nerdiness, such as the empty social calendar and merciless bullying.
Not only is D&D present throughout the series (as a useful metaphor, no doubt), there are so many little details that made my nerdy heart go pitter-patter.
We have the teacher that has a hot date with a pretty girl explaining the special effects in a horror movie. Who needs brawn and muscles when you have a guy that can give a technical break down of the special effects in a scary movie to put your mind at ease?
There is the sensory deprivation chamber. I loved how the boys, Hop and Joyce speculated on how to create one, and then hit upon the idea of using salt water. It added some credibility to the series, although I think I will skip making one in an attempt to visit another dimension, as this one without Mr. Tulip-head is just fine, thank you!
I also loved it when the guys talked to the science teacher (the same expert on special effects in movies), about the existence of other dimension, and how to access those dimensions. As a teenager, I read tons of books on physics, along with science fiction and fantasy novels covering that same topic (A Wrinkle in Time is a favorite of mine) and it is a subject of endless fascination for me, even in adulthood. So to see it addressed on this show (the analogy with the acrobat and flea on the tightrope is an excellent) gave me goosebumps. And goosebumps of the good variety.
If I actually had a friend group as a child, I hope that group would have contained a Dustin, a Mike, a Will and a Lucas. After all, nerd power!
It has strong feminist leanings
The formula looks something like this: a scary monster (or serial killer) is on the loose, somehow. There are all kinds of hints, but both the teenagers and adults ignore the warning signs. The teenagers are left to their own devices. In other words, teenagers of the opposite sex gather together, and “own devices” turns out to mean “having sex.” So most of the teens pair off, and conveniently find fully furnished bedrooms. And then they have sex. Well, except for a couple of virtuous kids, who are either uncomfortable with the idea of dating before marriage, or the nerdy guy (or girl, but usually a guy) who is rejected by the beautiful member of the opposite sex for either the jock or cheerleader.
Apparently, nothing angers a movie villain more than sexually active teenagers. And the kinkiness of the sex involved is directly proportional to how quickly (and even how gruesomely) the teenagers get dispatched. It is then up to the virtuous guy or girl to face the killer, and defeat the killer, who just won’t stay dead, even after being riddled with a large number of bullets that would take down any non horror movie villain.
Or something like that, at any rate. Formulaic, in other words.
Now, Stranger Things may be a tribute to the 80’s and all things horror, but one thing it is not is formulaic. This includes its treatment of the teenage girl. In fact, Stranger Things stands the formula on its head, and can be argued to make a strong feminist statement by doing so.
Well, no. Although my friends and family may argue otherwise, but you can’t miss what you never had, right?
And yes, Stranger Things does make a strong feminist statement, and here’s why.
Nancy becomes involved with Steve, and sneaks out to a party, lying to her parents and convincing poor Barb to cover for her. Pretty typical teen behavior, in other words.
Not surprisingly, Nancy and Steve have sex. The other couple at the party has sex. And poor Barb is left to her own devices.
Standard horror fare, in other words.
But then, we veer away from the standard horror. Nancy survives her first time, although Steve behaves in a pretty boorish manner (in other words, a teenage boy.) Barb, however, does not survive that night, as she is attacked by Mr. Tulip-Head. Apparently, Mr. Tulip-Head did not get the memo from Jason or Michael Myers, and does not attack the teenagers engaged in premarital sex. Rather, he behaves like a typical predator, and attacks the isolated member of the herd, aka Barb.
It takes a bit, but Nancy realizes that Barb is missing. She confesses her lie to her mother and speaks to the police, naturally leaving out that she and Steve had sex that night. I mean, it’s not like her sex life is anybody’s business but hers, right?
Furthermore, Nancy lets her mother know this, in no uncertain terms. Yes, she had sex and Barb is now missing. But the two are NOT related, nor should they be seen as related. Because, you know, becoming sexually active and an extra-dimensional monster that had been unleashed due to the irresponsible actions of a shady operation in town are NOT related, so let’s focus on the important thing here: now two children are missing, and maybe our town is in danger, so let’s do something before more people turn up missing?
In other words, quit punishing women for being sexual! Being sexual should not lead to death! And a women’s sex life is no one’s business but her own! Yeah, go Stranger Things!
Plus, Nancy kicks ass anyway. She threw down some serious shade against Mr. Tulip-Head, and they boys just kind of followed her lead.
In other words, I can’t give Nancy enough love.
It is 80’s heaven
And let me count the ways…
Where do I even start? This show just has so much 80’s…
We have the decor in the houses. Someone took some great care to make sure that the houses looked like something you would see back in 1983, from the wall paper down to the carpeting. So there’s that.
We get 80’s music. The Clash? How much more 80’s can you get?
And movie references. Don’t forget those. Joyce surprising Will with tickets to go see Poltergeist. And then Will disappearing, in much the same manner as Carol Anne Freeling. It’s true that Joyce developed an obsession with all things electronic and not the TV, but the concept is still the same.
I saw elements of The Goonies and Stand by Me. In fact, the story arc of Mike and his friends is kind of similar to these two movies: plucky misfit kids have a crazy adventure together and test their friendship in the process. Well, just add in extra-dimensional monsters and shady government operatives. But still not too far off.
The television that happened to be playing an episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe…squee!
Throw in a little John Hughes as well. The girl must choose between two guys: one is kind of a lovable meathead, and the other is artistic and introspective, and the sworn enemy of the aforementioned meathead…
Then there is the character of Hop, who had a kind of Indiana Jones vibe…swoon…
So much nostalgia.
I grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s (I am 38, for all you nosy folk), and when I watched Stranger Things, I was (at least momentarily), transported back to my childhood, and was reminded of a time in my life when things were a little less complicated.
And no, I am not looking back with rose-colored glasses. That’s 3 D glasses I am using, thank you very much!
Now excuse me, I have to go find some leggings that coordinate with my banana clip…battling extra-dimensional monsters will just have to wait!
The nods to different types of horror
Well, we just talked about how the show is scary. So of course, since it is a show in the horror category, right?
Captain obvious strikes again!
Actually, this reason is more in regards to the fact of how the show paid homage to so many different types of horror.
First of all, we have the 1980’s horror aspect. When I watched, I was reminded of all the 80’s classics: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and the Halloween movies. Those movies had teenagers or young adults as their protagonists, just like Stranger Things.
One of the main points of the show was the fear of the unknown. Again, I was reminded of John Carpenter (The Thing.) The premise of The Thing is a life form that is not understood, just like Mr. Tulip-Head in Stranger Things. That creature is definitely not understood, nor would understanding be a good thing (although it may result in one being forced to ingest slugs.)
I was also reminded of the movie Alien, which (again) deals with the fear of the unknown. And has a strong female protagonist. Nancy and Ellen Riply…now that would be a dangerous combo!
And I was also reminded of H.P. Lovecraft…
Yes, a show that is a mix of Stephen King’s It and The Goonies also has some nods to Lovecraft…who knew?
The idea that Will had been touched by the unknown (after he pukes up a slug and seems to be back in the Upside-Down momentarily) and forever changed is also something that is distinctively Lovecraftian. One of the running themes in Lovecraft’s stories is that knowledge is not necessarily always a good thing, and Will experiencing life in another dimension was not necessarily a good thing. In fact, I think that experience will have some pretty severe repercussions, but only time (and a second season) will tell.
In fact, I found the end of this season to be pretty unsettling, as the camera shots and the shots of the stars in the sky seemed to imply that someone (or something) had its eye on Will, his friends, Nancy, Jonathan and the whole town of Hawkins, Indiana. And that someone or something was not friendly. Not friendly at all.
It is a HUGE homage to Stephen King
While we are on the subject of horror and scary things…
This reason may be a bit redundant.
After all, Stephen King is a horror writer. And he is scary. He is even tied into the 1980’s (It, Pet Sematary, Cujo and Firestarter are all 80’s books.) He even ties into the feminist part, since he is also capable of writing strong female characters.
But, he is The Master. And The Master deserves his own entry. Not to mention the fact that there are aspects to this show that are distinctly Stephen King.
We do have one character specifically asking another character if she has read a Stephen King book. Hey, if you are going to drop a bunch of King Easter eggs, you may as well admit it, right?
The fact that Eleven’s mother was drugged in order to enhance latent PSI abilities is a direct reference to the book (and movie) Firestarter. In Firestarter, a man and woman are drugged as part of an experiment. The man and woman fall in love, marry and have a child. The child is gifted (or perhaps cursed) with the ability to start fires with her mind. This is similar to Eleven’s situation, in that her mother was drugged, and then gave birth to a child with PSI abilities (aka Eleven.)
Plus, I am pretty sure that Hawkins Laboratory is actually an operative of The Shop…
People, especially children, with extraordinary abilities, are a major theme in King’s work. The Shining, Carrie, Everything’s Eventual, Dr. Sleep and Firestarter are just some examples. In fact, in the Dark Tower series, people with these abilities even have a name: Breakers. And Eleven definitely classifies as a Breaker. Don’t worry, I won’t tell the Low Men!
Traveling between realities is also a huge theme in King’s work. In fact, this also has a specific name: going Todash. And the space in between realities is called the Todash space, and monsters lurk in the Todash space. When Eleven was in the blackness and first encountered that monster…I would say that was a pretty good representation of Todash space!
In King’s books, there are doors that lead to realities. They are known as “thinnies,” and allow travel to different worlds and even different time periods. Eleven was able to use her PSI abilities to make one of these doors. And, as far as we know, that door still exists at Hawkins Laboratory, with the potential for more creatures (The Mist comes to mind) to cross over to the Stranger Things level of The Tower…
Yeah, I said it. I gave Stranger Things its own level on The Dark Tower. So if Roland and his ka-tet, or perhaps Danny Torrance, end up employing the services of a certain girl with a fondness for Eggo waffles…well, you heard it from me first, folks!
It gives an honest portrayal of small town life
I am someone who grew up in a small town, so I feel qualified to write about this topic. And it is something that has come up in many a blog post, mainly in the Stephen King related posts, as small towns are as vital to a Stephen King novel as kids with PSI abilities, homicidal clowns and rabid St. Bernards.
I have discovered that the only people who really understand the small town are those who have spent time in the small town (like Stephen King, obviously.)
You have one extreme that sees the environment as charming, quaint, maybe even bucolic. Can kids really go missing in a small town? You can leave your doors unlocked, right? The locals are charming!
Then, there is the other extreme: people who see the small town populated by the likes of the Peacock family, with no access to modern technology (what plumbing?) and just a general ignorance of the outside world, period.
The truth is that small towns are complex. Stephen King hits on this in books like Needful Things, It, ‘Salem’s Lot and many, many others. Stranger Things also hits on this, and in only eight episodes. I am sure that this theme will be discussed more in (hopefully) upcoming seasons as well.
On the the one hand, there is a sense of community in a town like Hawkins, Indiana. People rally together to comfort Joyce and help search for Will when it is believed that he is still alive. People are at ease with each other, because if they don’t know you, they probably went to school with one of your parents. Or worked with your best friend at the local factory.
But small towns have a sense of ugliness about them too. I can personally testify to this. And Mike and his friends can as well. The bullies hurl a racial slur at Lucas early on. Steve is able to spread rumors and ruin Nancy’s “reputation” fairly quickly. The lack of concern for Barb after she disappears is downright disturbing. People quickly assume that Barb is a runaway, and no effort is made on her behalf. And that is part of small town life: the people in the town do not want to believe that something may be amiss, and will try to cover it up.
So how long have the inhabitants of Hawkins Laboratory suspected, at least somewhere deep down, that something was amiss in their town? Obviously, Dr. Brenner (who will be referred to in this blog as Dr. Pedophile, due to his disgusting nature) has been performing unethical experiments for a long time. At the very least, these experiments produced poor Eleven, and a woman in a vegetative state (likely the mother of Eleven.)
But Eleven is the 11th. The 11th of what? Are there others like her? If so, what happened to them? And what do the people living in the town know? What other skeletons will emerge?
The show has been renewed for a second season, so I am sure we will be finding out a lot more about Hawkins, Indiana, and its secrets.
Now, all of the characters are fabulous. Let me just get that out there, less I ruffle the tentacles of Mr. Tulip-Head, and any other monsters that resemble flora gone terribly wrong!
Along with Old Tulip-Head, I have much love for the characters in this show. Even the bad guys, like Dr. Pedophile. They are well drawn-out and believable, even when they are behaving in ways that may make one scratch his or her head (talking to you, Sheriff Hop.)
But there is one character that deserves his own entry.
So, without any further ado…let me introduce Dustin!
And if you don’t love Dustin, then you are definitely in the same category as people who kick puppies and listen to Nickelback!
Ok, I may be joking. About the kicking puppies bit, anyway.
On the surface, Dustin is lovable. Actually, everything about him is lovable, from his love of chocolate pudding, to his smile and even that speech impediment!
But, there is much more to Dustin than his ability to track down chocolate pudding and that charming smile of his.
Dustin is the glue that holds his group of friends together. It is true that Mike is the brains, and Lucas is a fighter.
However, if it weren’t for Dustin, the group may have fallen apart. Mike and Lucas were constantly at odds with each other, especially when Eleven was added to the fold. In fact, things got physical, and Lucas was thrown in the air by Eleven for his troubles.
But due to Dustin’s insightful nature (he did understand that he could not have the same place in Mike’s life, because he didn’t come into it until fourth grade), Lucas and Mike were able to come to an agreement and reconcile. Dustin played the mediator, getting each side to compromise with each other, so that they did not compromise their mission: saving Will from what was literally Hell.
Dustin has been compared to Vern Tessio, a character in the movie Stand By Me. Superficially, there is something to that, as both Vern and Dustin provide comic relief and are the easy going friends who try to keep the peace.
But as a wise man pointed out: Dustin would never forget where he left his pennies.
This is Dustin. He’s our friend and essential to keeping us from killing each other so that we don’t leave our other friend some place that is not on any map!
Much of Stranger Things is about friendships, and the relationships the characters have with each other.
Obviously, we have Mike, Will, Lucas and Dustin. The OF, or Original Friendship, if you will. When Will goes missing, Mike will stop at nothing to find Will so that his group can be whole again.
Then, there is Eleven. Mike and Eleven seem to bond immediately, and Eleven slowly becomes something more than a human flashlight to Mike, even though he is still desperate to find his missing friend.
In fact, it could be argued that Eleven’s presence makes all the boys better people, although this is especially true for Mike, whose relationship with Eleven opens his eyes, and causes him to grow up a little.
We also have Nancy and Barb. Barb starts off as Nancy’s friend who is willing to do anything for her, including lying to her parents so that she can sneak out and spend time with Steven. However, Barb disappears into the Upside-Down, a seeming victim of the Mr. Tulip-Head. Like Will, Nancy is forced to grow up, as she searches for Barb, and encounters the callous reaction of law enforcement and even her parents, who refuse to believe that Barb is anything other than a teenage runaway.
There is the relationship between Nancy and Jonathan. Jonathan is frantically searching for his brother, and Nancy is frantically searching for her friend. The two bond in their mutual tragedy and work together to defeat the evil that is trying to destroy their town. Nancy develops a respect for Jonathan, viewing him as a person, rather than the “weird kid” that her peers see him as. Jonathan also develops a respect for Nancy, and seems to feel something more than friendship for her, even though Nancy reconciles with Steve.
Steve also bonds with Jonathan, and seems to genuinely feel remorse for the bullying. However, that friendship seems to be tentative at best, given that both men have feelings for Nancy.
In other words, people had “frenemies,” even back in the ancient times!
It tackles taboo topics
It is no secret that horror and “taboo” topics are linked. Almost every horror movie features sex of some kind (Friday the 13th and its approximately 725 sequels are a great example of this.) Candyman is another movie that deals with taboo topics, because it addresses racism.
And don’t even get me started on Stephen King, The King of Taboo Topics (pun intended.) King books run the gamut, from domestic violence, to bullying, to substance abuse and even to the death of a child. When “real-world” issues are included alongside the supernatural ones, the the story becomes that much more believable.
Stranger Things is no different, in that it also deals with taboo topics. The show begins with every parent’s worst nightmare: the disappearance of a child. And it only gets more taboo from there.
Early on in the series, we witness the bullying that Mike and his friends endure. Lucas is treated to a racial epithet. Dustin is harassed due to his speech impediment. And it gets worse, as the bullies make some disparaging remarks about Will’s supposed death, when they are supposed to be mourning the loss of their classmate.
Mike is not the only character who experiences bullying. Jonathan is also harassed for being different, and this harassment is experienced at the hands of Steve. Steve is also insensitive to the disappearance of Will, and to the disappearance of Barb, the best friend of the girl he claims to love.
We have the character of Sheriff Hopper. Hop’s character is a walking bundle of taboos, actually.
First of all, Hop is a substance abuser. He is an alcoholic, much like Jack Torrance in The Shining. Not surprisingly, he is also a womanizer, using sex and alcohol to escape his demons.
Hop has also experienced the ultimate tragedy: he has lost a child. Not surprisingly, this experience has shaped him into the man that he is. The loss cost him his marriage, and his ex wife has moved on and started a new family. Hop attempts to do this, but struggles mightily. However, when he meets Eleven and spends time in the Upside Down so that he can rescue Will, Hop is able to begin healing. It could even be said that Will and Eleven are surrogate children of Hop.
Often, subjects are “taboo” and therefore frightening because we choose to keep them in the dark. But when the light is turned on, the monsters are no longer as formidable as they once were.
Now, I know that I said I had made this list with no particular order in mind. But, like Maury Povich might say, this post has determined that to be a lie!
There is one aspect of Stranger Things that deserves her own entry, and should be in the spotlight, at least for a minute.
I mean, after all, it would be an Upside Down kind of logic if I didn’t pay her homage, right?
So, without any further ado…
Here is my favorite thing about Stranger Things!
Yes, in case you have not figured it out, I am talking about our favorite telekinetic, Eggo waffle loving, mouth breather hater with a cute buzz cut adolescent, aka Eleven!
Eleven is bad ass. I can’t think of any other way to put it.
She is here to kick ass and eat Eggo waffles, and she’s almost out of waffles!
In all seriousness, I just love Eleven. How can you not? People who hate Eleven are like people that listen to Nickelback!
Eleven is one tough chick.
She started out as an experiment. She doesn’t know her real parents. The only parental figure that she’s ever known is a creepy scientist, known as Dr. Pedophile for the purposes of this blog.
And to Dr. Pedophile, she is nothing but his lab experiment, to be used as how he sees fit. And he uses her to open gateways that should never be opened, and to explore what should remain unknown. When she escapes, his concern is not for her as a person, but as his test subject that someone else may access.
Eleven is forced to face things that would frighten people three times her age to death. Yet, she somehow does it, in the name of helping a boy that she has never met.
She is also fiercely loyal to her friends, although she has only known Mike, Lucas and Dustin for a short time. She makes the bully pee his pants…that is true friendship right there!
Even though Eleven has been raised in a lab, she still manages to exhibit the most humanity of anyone on the show. Nearly everyone on the show has an agenda: Mike and his friends want to find Will, Hop wants to expose Hawkins Laboratory, Nancy is looking for revenge for Barb. But not Eleven. The only thing Eleven is looking for (besides waffles) is love and acceptance. And she does manage to find that, if only for a short time.
However, Eleven’s happiness is tragically cut short, when she makes the ultimate sacrifice: she battles an extra-dimensional monster, and seemingly sacrifices herself so that her friends may live.
Often, bad ass can come in small packages. And Eleven is a lot of bad ass in one small package. But sometimes, small packages have the most give, just like Eleven.
So, there you have it. Eleven reasons why I love Stranger Things. Sure, maybe I missed a few, but I think I got most of them. Hopefully, I don’t incur the ire of Mr. Tulip-Head and his merry band of slugs1
This is Stranger Things. Its my show and it’s crazy…crazy awesome, that it is!
So, if you haven’t watched this show, I have given you eleven reasons to make sure that Netflix subscription is up to date…
So flop down on your couch, and prepare for one epic binge session!
So, it’s that time of year again…
Yes, Halloween is drawing upon us…
The season for scary stuff!
But there is a good remedy for when your football team is so embarrassing that the local Fox syndicate switches from the Colts game to the game played by the other not scary good team (the Washington Redskins, as a matter of fact)…
Yes, a little therapy from The Master!
Football team got ya down? Go read some Stephen King, and be reminded as to what is really scary! Suddenly, two interceptions thrown by your darling quarterback (sorry Andrew, you know I still got love for ya) seems pretty tame!
Yes, Stephen King is scary.
Well, his writing, at any rate. He doesn’t look too threatening in that picture, but one never knows.
Stephen King is many things, and I have spent an incredible amount of time on this blog (who knew) addressing those things. Most importantly, he is a great writer. He has the ability to even appeal to the non-horror fan (well, the one who will give him a chance, anyway). He creates characters that readers get attached to (and kills them off and seems almost gleeful about it, but I digress). He is also the Everyman, giving the reader realistic scenarios, and then casually placing in the horror and/or fantastical element, making the story that much more believable.
But, I would like to get back to fundamentals for a moment, if I may. Stephen King writes scary stories. This may sound like Captain Obvious tooting his horn, but the man is able to frighten folks. And frighten folks badly. It could be the fact that seemingly “good” characters often go “bad”, at the drop of a hat. Or maybe it’s the element of realism that makes it seem a certain room in a hotel really could be bad news. Or maybe because he makes great villains, including evil clowns, that haunt the dreams of many a 90’s kid.
Whatever the reason, people find Stephen King books frightening. And many enjoy being frightened. Some people skydive (eek). Some watch Indianapolis Colts football (eeek, maybe I should skydive instead). Some people enjoy drag racing.
And then there are the stalwart, the steadfast, the bold (you know, like me?)…we read Stephen King for our fear fix! After all, gotta get the good old adrenaline rush somehow, right?
And a King book will give you that and then some! In fact, many King books may just scare you into a change of pants!
With that being said, here is my list of the top 10 scariest books of all time. Please note, this is my opinion only, and not to be taken as gospel…
Oh, and as always:
10) Rose Madder
As I have stated before, one of King’s strengths as a writer of horror is the human horror. Sometimes (well actually, a lot of times), men are beasts to their fellow man…
The villain in the book Rose Madder is human. Well, in appearance at least. However, on the inside, Norman Daniels does not pass for human. Not even remotely.
Norman Daniels savagely abuses his wife Rosie, for the nearly 14 years of their marriage. To boot, he is racist. And uses his position as a police officer to grossly abuse his power and literally get away with murder. It is only a mere drop of blood on the sheets that awakens Rosie one morning, when she runs away from her hellhole of a marriage and attempts to begin a new life, free of the horrific abuse. But, as can be expected, Norman does not take Rosie’s flight lightly, and leaves behind a trail of bodies in his quest for revenge and his hunt for Rosie. It takes a magical painting set in the world of our friendly neighborhood gunslinger for Norman’s trail of blood to be halted. Even then, the death count is enormous, and Rosie is barely able to cope with the events.
There is a line in the book that where Rosie thinks that after surviving her horror of a marriage to Norman, anything else is pretty cut rate. As a survivor of an abusive marriage, I would have to agree with that assessment. When you are married to an abuser, you don’t need to Stephen King or scary movies to get your fear fix. An argument with your spouse will give you that fix in spades.
Stephen King has cited HP Lovecraft as an enormous influence. This is evident in his novel From a Buick 8, which tells the story of a mysterious vehicle that becomes the charge of a police department in a small town in Pennsylvania.
It quickly becomes evident to one of the officers of that police department that the “vehicle” is not actually a vehicle at all, but rather an object from another dimension beyond human understanding. The vehicle becomes the center of many odd occurrences, and the police department struggles to do damage control. However, the vehicle is responsible for the disappearance of at least one person and the death of the department’s mascot, a dog named Mr. Dillon. There is even a confrontation of sorts with one of the creatures from the unknown dimension. The images King paints are disturbing, especially when he references the fact that our world may be as frightening or even more frightening to those creatures as their world is to us.
What is perhaps most disturbing about this novel is the fact that the “vehicle” very nearly traps a young man who is the son of a fallen police officer, and sees the “vehicle” as his one remaining connection to his father. The young man is saved by timely intervention from another officer, but barely. Sometimes, a person with an obsession is the most frightening of all.
Revival is another novel that deals with our fear of the unknown. More specifically, Revival deals with the last of the unknown frontiers: death, and what may happen once we die.
Revival is also a morality play, much like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. If we have the means to find out what happens after death, should we? And what will be the consequences if we intervene in matters that we (probably) have no business intervening in?
The consequences for Jamie Morton and his friend Charles Jacobs are not pretty. Jamie Morton first met Charles when he was a child, and Charles was the pastor in his rural hometown. However, tragedy strikes Charles Jacobs, and he is forced to leave town after a disastrous sermon that comes to be known as “The Terrible Sermon.” The experience shakes Jamie’s religious beliefs to the core, and Jamie is never quite the same afterwards.
Charles is also shaken to the core by this tragedy, and quickly becomes a man obsessed. Charles discovers what he refers to as “the secret electricity”, and believes that this mysterious force will allow him to find out what happens after death. Jamie refers to Charles as his “fifth business” throughout the book, and encounters him by chance when he is an adult. Jamie is addicted to heroin, and Charles is able to use his “secret electricity” to cure Jamie of his addiction. Jamie feels that he owes Charles a debt, and agrees to help him conduct what turns out to be his final experiment: using the “secret electricity” to find out what happens when we die.
And it turns out that sometimes ignorance is bliss. As stated before, the consequences are not pretty for Jamie and Charles, and Jamie’s “cure” for his heroin addiction has come at an enormous price. The ending is disturbing, reinforcing the belief that at least sometimes, not knowing is the best option of all.
Yes, I know that this entry actually consists of two books. However, I am considering one work for my purposes, since both books mirror each other, with one being written by Stephen King, and the other being a posthumous script from the poor, beleaguered Richard Bachman, who died an untimely death due to cancer of the pseudonym.
Both Desperation and The Regulators are also tied together by one of King’s uber-villains, Tak. Tak may not be as creepy as Randall Flagg or Pennywise the Clown (at least to some), but he is able to hold his own in the King universe. Tak is frightening because he is able to drain people almost like human batteries (mostly), and discards them in the same manner. However, there is one human that Tak cannot drain, and that is Seth Garin (the autistic boy in The Regulators). What Tak does to Seth is perhaps even more frightening: he uses Seth body to manipulate his surroundings, causing the suicide of Seth’s uncle, exploiting Seth’s aunt and killing many people in Seth’s neighborhood. Ultimately, Tak is beaten, but at the cost of Seth’s life and many others.
Desperation and The Regulators are not only frightening because of the entity Tak, but also because they deal with a theme that many of us can relate to: isolation. Desperation begins with a couple who becomes stranded in a small, seemingly abandoned desert town after they experience vehicle trouble. In The Regulators, Seth and his aunt are isolated due to Seth’s handicap and Tak’s effort to alienate Seth’s family from those who might help them. Isolation is a big theme in many King books, and once again it adds that element of realism to the story to make it that much more frightening.
6) The Stand
It is no secret that horror and fantasy are closely related. In fact, one could almost say that horror is fantasy taken to the next, darker step. From the Orcs in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, to the witches in SA Hunt’s Malus Domestica, to the Others in the Game of Thrones series, many works that are considered to be fantasy and not horror certainly contain some frightening elements.
The Stand is another book that toes the line between dark fantasy and horror. On one hand, there are reluctant heroes (Larry, Stu and Nick). But on the other hand, there is an evil wizard figure (Randall Flagg). The evil wizard tends to be a common archetype in fantasy stories (Sauron is a good example). But Flagg is something beyond the ordinary evil wizard (if such a thing exists). Flagg invades the dreams of the survivors of a great plague that has wiped out most of Earth’s population. Frannie Goldsmith is one of those survivors. Frannie is pregnant, and dreams of being chased by The Dark Man (Flagg), who has a coat hanger in his hand. Nick Andros and Tom Cullen, two other survivors who are a deaf-mute man and mildly mentally handicapped man respectively, encounter Flagg’s presence when they seek shelter from a tornado that may have been sent by Flagg to dispose of them. Mother Abagail, who is Flagg’s counterpart on the side of the White, encounters Flagg when she is gathering food for her charges. Flagg has transformed to a weasel, the one creature that frightens the old woman. Mother Abagail is nearly beaten by Flagg, but is still able to best him the end.
The Stand is one of King’s best books, blending both elements of fantasy and horror to make it a truly frightening, yet fantastical read.
5) Black House
Black House is another novel (co-written by Peter Straub) that may be considered part of the fantasy genre, along with its predecessor, The Talisman. However, it is Black House (much like The Stand) that toes the line between fantasy and horror.
One of the reasons Black House is so frightening is because it contains a human villain that is unfortunately all too realistic. There is a supernatural villain, a creature known as Mr. Munshun, and King’s ultimate uber-villain, the Crimson King, is also alluded to in the book. However, the human villain, Charles Burnside, is another person that is human in appearance only. Charles Burnside appears to be a senile man suffering from the indignities of dementia and living out his final days in peace in an unsuspecting nursing home. However, the reader learns that Burnside is actually a serial killer who targets children. Burnside has made a grisly contract with Mr. Munshun and the Crimson King: he allows Mr. Munshun to possess his body so that he may murder children, in exchange for seeking out children PSI abilities who Munshan and the Crimson King can use for their evil purposes. Charles Burnside and Mr. Munshun are eventually defeated, but not before Burnside has murdered several children and left a small town nearly paralyzed in fear.
Charles Burnside is another one of King’s chilling examples of man’s inhumanity to man.
4) ‘Salem’s Lot
If I mentioned ‘Salem’s Lot to you, and you responded with “vampire story”, you would be correct…
But, wait…there’s more!
‘Salem’s Lot is indeed a book about vampires. And those vampires are scary. The head vampire is killed but his TEETH are still alive and bit Ben Mears…so the vampires in this book are indeed gruesome.
But, like most r
eally everything single thing he has ever written of King’s work, ‘Salem’s Lot is much more than a vampire story. Much, much more, in fact.
‘Salem’s Lot is a story about a small town, and how the small town succumbs to the vampire plague. There is clinical language and some medical terms included when the “patients” are diagnosed, and that just adds another level of gruesomeness to what is already frightening. Also, the description of how quickly the people in the town are either transformed to vampires or killed in some awful manner is quite disturbing, given how attached the reader gets to these characters and the town itself.
However, ‘Salem’s Lot is also a haunted story. Most of the action centers around the Marsten House, which is the local haunted house. We learn some of the history of the house through Ben Mears, who believes he saw the ghost of the former owner as a child. The house was a site for many terrible deeds that involved children, and King is able to weave this seamlessly into the vampire tale, thus adding an extra dimension of terror to an already scary story.
Note: Nowhere is it mentioned in ‘Salem’s Lot that vampires sparkle!
3) The Shining
The Shining is another King work where there is more than meets the eye. Perhaps the most famous, or perhaps infamous (thank you, Stanley Kubrik), of all King’s work. On the surface, the story is another haunted house story (well, haunted hotel actually). The ghosts wreak havoc on the Torrance family, and there are some truly scary moments involving the supernatural aspect of the story (the blood from the walls, the dead woman in the bathtub and a ghostly New’s Year Eve party all come to mind, along with several others).
However, what many people may fail to realize is that The Shining is also frightening because it tells the story of the disintegration of the family unit. Humans are social animals, and to most of us, the family is the most important unit of all. The Torrance family feels the same. Danny loves his parents, even they (especially his father, Jack) have failed him on many occasions. Wendy and Jack Torrance love Danny, and each other as well. Jack wants to do nothing more to provide for his family, which is why he takes a job that is less than ideal, given his education and his addiction to alcohol. But that family unit slowly begins to dissolve even at the beginning of the story. However, we are led to believe that maybe there is hope for this family, as they make an effort to draw together and achieve a fresh start. Tragically, this is not the case, as Jack ultimately succumbs to his demons, and Wendy and Danny barely escape with their lives.
Again, Stephen King is a master at including that element of realism in his stories, making them that much more believable and terrifying.
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
We all have fears. When you are an adult, they may be more abstract, such as fear of failure, financial worries, fear of divorce and so forth. But children’s fears are pretty concrete: most fear things such as movie monsters, vampires, spiders and so forth. So what if there was a monster out there that could take the form of whatever a child feared most, and literally scare them to death? And maybe this monster needs to only be visible to kids (since adult fears are too abstract to capitalize on) and live under the sewers, where It can quietly do its dirty work?
Enter Pennywise the Clown!
And yes, Pennywise the Clown makes the novel It terrifying. He is a clown that lives under the sewers…first strike. He can take on the form of ANYTHING that one fears…strike two. And Pennywise is an extra dimensional monster…I know, not really giving that clown a good character reference, am I?
However, as frightening as Pennywise is (which is at a level 19, at least), there are so many other aspects to this book that nearly beat out the clown that lives in the sewers. It deals with spousal abuse, child abuse and bullying. The Losers Club spends most of that terrible summer in a lot of danger, but much of that danger is NOT supernatural. The children face bullying from the local town bully, and must constantly watch their backs. The adults in town do not care about either the danger under the sewers (even though most can’t see it, nearly everyone is aware of its presence). Nor do the adults care about the bullies, even though they are as aware of the bullies as they are of the monster under the sewers. The lone female Loser, Beverly Marsh, is being abused by her father, and the abuse is becoming increasingly sexual in nature. Other children are abused or neglected. It seems that no one is safe from the town of Derry, and if one is not killed by Pennywise, his/her parent or spouse will step in and do the job instead.
Childhood is hell. There is no other way to put it. And It capitalizes on that concept, showing us just how much more hellish it is for some than others.
And now, for what I believe to be the scariest Stephen King book of all time…
Yes, Pet Sematary has made the top of the list, and I consider it to be King’s scariest book of all time for a multitude of reasons. So let’s talk about those reasons.
First of all, the concept of Pet Sematary is really scary. An ancient Native American burial ground, poisoned by the spirit of a Wendigo that has the ability to re-animate dead animals that come back as zombies, which teaches kids that “sometimes dead is better.” Can anything get scarier than that? I have read a lot of stories about the Wendigo too. and the Wendigo is one of the creepiest entities I have ever come across. So, yes, very disturbing right there…
But the burial ground is not only for animals. No, the burial ground can be used for humans too, so yay?
Well, not really. When humans are buried at the site, they do not come back right either. And the problems are way more serious than a nasty smell or the need to hunt more rodents than usual. The Wendigo is able to possess the body of the human, and render its subject with knowledge that he/she should not have. And this knowledge is not pleasant. Most of the knowledge is of the hateful variety: affairs and other dastardly deeds that were better off to remain secret. The Wendigo is not benevolent, and has malice towards the living.
However, to me, the scariest thing about Pet Sematary is that I relate to Louis Creed. The only evil in the book is the Wendigo spirit. Gage Creed is not evil, he is the victim of a terrible tragedy, in both life and death. Jud Crandall is not evil, he is a kind man who was only trying to help his friend. Rachel Creed is not evil, she is only a protective mother who has an (understandable) fear of death. Church the cat is not even evil, he is simply a beloved pet who also became an unfortunate victim of circumstances.
Most of all, Louis Creed is not evil. He is a loving father who (again, understandably) became mad with grief, and was willing to do anything to bring his son back and make his family whole again. He believes that he has found a way to do that, and that he can also use science to combat any problems. Sadly, he is proven horribly wrong, condemning himself and his family to an eternity of damnation. But if I were Lewis, and placed in his tragic situation, who is to say that I would not do the same thing? I am close to someone who has lost a child, and the pain is unbearable. You will do anything to stop it, even if it is something that may have dire consequences later on down the line.
So if I knew there was a possibility that I could bring back a deceased loved one, who is to say that I wouldn’t? I would be thinking about my loved one, not about any consequences. And that is frightening to me: to be that mad with grief that I would be willing to ignore Nature, and get involved with matters that I really have no business being involved with. And grief is frightening in that way: the pain blinds us, so we cannot see what is in front of us that may actually be worse than the grief.
Ghosts are scary…
Vampires are scary…
Haunted hotels are scary…
Heck, Indianapolis Colts football is scary!
But what is the scariest thing of all?
That’s right, someone who has never experienced the awesomeness that is a Stephen King book!
Why should Christmas get all the fun? It is also allowable to give gifts on Halloween, so do your part, and give someone who has never had this experience the greatest Halloween gift of all: a Stephen King book!
What. The. Fuck.
Or is it what the fucking fuck? Or maybe what the actual fuck?
Yes, I am talking about True Detective. More accurately, the second episode of the second season. To say this episode ended on a cliffhanger would be the understatement of the century (or at least of this month).
This show is all about suspense but this episode took that concept to another level, and wow. Just wow. Not sure what to say other than wow, but let me try…
With that being said, here is my recap and review of True Detective, seasn 2, episode 2.
And as always:
The episode begins with Frank Semyone awakening from a nightmare. Frank then tells his wife of an incident in his childhood, where his parents locked him in a basement for a few days with no food or water. Frank recalls that he was attacked by rats and forced to kill the rats with his bare hands. Frank also wonders if he maybe still actually in that basement, and everything thereafter is actually just a dream.
Ani, Paul and Ray come together to discuss the autopsy of Ben Caspere, the city official who was found murdered in the previous episode. We learn that Caspere’s eyes were burned off with hydrochloric acid, and that his genitals were shot off.
Ani and Frank begin to chase leads in Caspere’s murder. They review Caspere’s appointment book, and speak to his therapist. The therapist recognizes Ani by her last name, and states that he knew her father. Ani replies that she is the only person among the girls she grew up with in her father’s commune to have a normal life; two committed suicide and the other two are in jail.
We also learn that Caspere owed Frank several million dollars before his death, as Frank had given Caspere all of his liquid assets to invest in a land deal that never came to fruition. Frank begins to panic, and places pressure on Ray to solve the murder as quickly as possible, so that he can recover his money. Frank also poses as a witness, and has his people beat a man who owes him money.
Ray also begins to come unhinged. He meets his ex-wife at his son’s school, and is refused visitation of his son by his ex-wife. Ray’s ex states that she no longer wants their son to spend time with his father, and threatens Ray with supervised visitation. Ray nearly breaks down in tears, and tells his ex that he will burn the city down for his son, if that is what needs to be done. Ray’s ex also threatens him with a paternity test, implying that her son may not actually be Ray’s son.
Paul travels to see his troubled mother, who almost acts like Paul’s jealous lover. Paul then breaks up with his girlfriend, as she feels she does not know the man inside. Paul is upset, but pays a visit to what appears to be a club that caters to gay men, and appears to have interest in the patrons.
Ray speaks to the mayor of Vinci, who states he wants the case solved, although the mayor does not seem serious. Ani and Ray again chase leads, with Ani driving the car. The conversation between Ray and Ani is awkward, but Ray admits most of the rumors about him are probably true. In particular, Ray admits that his ex-wife was a rape victim, and that he is probably responsible for the death of her rapist. Ani reveals that she feels the constant need to fight (and to keep a knife on her at all times) because she is one of the few women on the police force. Ray also tells Ani that he thinks that there are people out there who do not want them to solve this murder case, as solving the case may expose some truths in regards to the city of Vinci, which has always been mysteriously prosperous.
Frank and Ray meet in a club. Frank tells Ray that Caspere actually owns another house, which should also be investigated. Ray’s exhaustion is apparent to everyone, including the cocktail waitresses employed by the club.
Ray pays a visit to Caspere’s second home. However, his investigation is cut short when he is shot by a masked man a few minutes after he enters the house.
Before I get into anything else in regards to this episode (and believe me, there is plenty to get into in regards to this round), I would like to give a shout out to the theme song.
Yes, you heard that right. The theme song. Mostly, I fast forward through those, via the magic of DVR. But this theme song is actually worth listening too, as it is a Leonard Cohen song! And Leonard Cohen and this show are a match made in heaven (or is it hell, considering how dark both can be?) Whatever the case is, the choice of a Leonard Cohen intro song is brilliant, and I commend whoever made that choice.
See the first paragraph of this post. Yes, this episode was eventful, and not just the cliffhanger of the ending. I saw a few turning points to the story, so let’s attempt to break some of them down.
First of all, I thought the opening scene was brilliant. And it made me think back to my childhood art classes!
Seriously, covering a balloon with a sticky newspaper concoction, popping the balloon and painting what was left was really fun!
In all seriousness, the opening scene accomplished a lot. For one, it was creepy. There were no visuals, as we had to rely on the storytelling of Frank, but the story still managed to be creepy. Actually, when aren’t rats creepy? I immediately thought of a story by HP Lovecraft. And we know this show has (in the previous season, at least) made a few references to HP Lovecraft. Probably this is just coincidental, but maybe not…
I also loved the “papier mache” reference, and the musing that perhaps we are all just dreaming, and that like papier mache, life is fragile and can fall apart at any moment…quite beautiful, really. That one would have made Rust Cohle proud.
And then there is the matter of Paul. At first, I thought he was a pretty boy. And he still is a pretty boy (Taylor Kitsch is easy on the eyes!) but his character seems to be a bit more complex than that. Complex as in a guy who is questioning his sexual identity but is still a pretty boy. And did I mention that he may have some major mommy issues?
Somehow the singer of Jessie’s Girl is really creepy and unsettling. I don’t know how Rick Springfield has accomplished this, but a) he needs to keep it up and b) we need to see more of this character! And I have a funny feeling that we will see more of this character, as the connection to Ani feels a bit too coincidental. Is it too much of a stretch to imagine that the good Dr. Pitlor is somehow involved in the murder? Maybe not, but I am sure we will find out soon.
Ok, enough of the pleasantries. We all know what really needs to be discussed today. And that would be Ray Velcoro, although I may start calling him the Schrodinger’s Cat of the series…
However, the show (in just two episodes, to boot) has spent a lot of time and energy developing the character of Ray Velcoro, especially with this episode. The beat down of the bully and bully’s father was epic enough, but this episode added to the emotional landscape. Ray is not a nice guy, but he is still somehow sympathetic. I really did tear up a little during the scene with his ex wife, as that scene revealed the love that Ray has for his son, even though the boy may not be related to him in a biological sense. Ray is also a sharp detective, and I could practically see him putting the pieces together, especially when he tells Ani that he believes that there are people who do not want this murder solved. It would also be interesting to see just who set up that shooting: was it Frank, Ray’s true boss, or someone else? Could Ray’s earlier statement have been clairvoyant? Fascinating questions, and I can’t wait to delve into the next episode and hopefully get some answers.
Well, that is it for this week’s dissection of True Detective. Tune in next week, where we open Schroedinger’s box, and find out the true state of
the cat Ray Velcoro!
Have you ever got sucked into something, whether it be a book, a movie or TV show, so much that you forget to do stuff? And I’m not talking about forgetting minor details, like forgetting to do the dishes one night…
No, more like forgetting to do the dishes for three nights. Or forgetting to cook dinner. Or forgetting that you need to eat dinner, for that matter.
Yes, there have been a few TV shows and books that have caused me to neglect my real life, because….well, because the world in those shows and books was just so much darn cooler than my real life!
I can also add the show True Detective to this list. I had heard good things about the show on some fan site or another, and had birthday money to burn. So I bought the series, and began to watch it almost immediately.
And never regretted spending money on that series. I never regretted one single dime. In fact, I was so impressed that I bought my dad the series for his Christmas present. And the man who can take years to watch a single season of any show had finished watching it by January 15th, and sent me a text message saying how impressed he was.
So yes, the first season of True Detective was impressive. It was really impressive. In fact, the only bad thing I could say about it was that it wasn’t returning for a second season…
Well, our beloved Marty and Rust were not returning for a second season. True Detective is an anthology show, where none of the seasons are related to each other. In other words, each season will have different characters, a different setting and even a different mode of storytelling. We get to start over from scratch, so to speak.
So, it was a bit of a bummer…I loved Rust Cohle so! And I loved the setting, and the tie ins to HP Lovecraft. That setting in particular just made all the events on the show that much more plausible. But we get to start over with a new cast and a new story line…kind of like a new school year, where your slate is clean and all things are possible!
Well, I’m not sure about the slate being clean…with this show, that slate is more like another dirty slate, but a different kind of dirt. After all, we are dealing with murder, corruption, sex, crooked cops, bullies and sex, if I didn’t mention that part before.
So, lets get ready to look at our new slate…here is my recap and review of True Detective, season 2, episode 1!
The show begins with a man dropping his son off at school. The son is obviously troubled, but the man tries to reassure his son that all will be well at school. The man is revealed to be a cop by the name of Ray Velcoro. Ray learns that a city manager, Ben Caspere, has disappeared, and is assigned to investigate the case. Ray searches the man’s apartment, but only finds evidence of an interesting sex life.
The story switches over to the perspective of Paul Woodrugh, a California motorcycle cop. Paul is falsely accused of soliciting sex from a woman he pulls over and is placed on administrative leave by his superiors. Paul also enjoys riding his motorcycle at high speeds on the California highways.
We are then introduced to Ani Bezzerides, who is a detective for Ventura county. Ani investigates what she thinks to be an illegal porn business that her sister is involved in, but can find no cause to arrest anyone. Later, Ani and her partner investigate a missing person report, which leads them to a commune, where Ani’s father is a leader. Ani and her partner question her father and other employees about the missing woman, but don’t turn up any leads. Ani also argues with her father about her sister, whom she feels is on the wrong path.
Frank Seymone is then introduced. Frank is an entrepreneur with ties to organized crime. Frank is also tied to Ben Caspere, who is a business partner of his. Frank and Ben are involved in a project to build a new system of transportation for the city of Vinci. Frank is also tied to Ray, in that Ray takes care of some of Frank’s nasty business. For example, Ray brutally beats a reporter who tries to publish an article that Frank dislikes. Ray and Frank are shown to have extremely close ties, but it appears Ray is conflicted about the relationship.
Ray learns that his son is being bullied at school. Ray finds out the name of the child and his parents, and pays them a visit. Ray then threatens the child, making him promise to leave Ray’s son alone, and then beats the child’s father in front of the child. Afterwards, Ray flees the scene, leaving the child’s mother to assist her husband and son.
The episode ends with the discovery of the body of Ben Caspere. The corpse is discovered by Paul, was was out on one of his motorcycle rides. Ani and Ray are also called to the scene, signalling the beginning of a murder investigation.
For the record, I am trying my best to not compare the second season of True Detective to the first season of the season. Trying really hard…
But I can’t help it, I’m human. And when I watched the show, I did see some things that reminded me exactly what show I was watching. For example, I did notice the lighting. The first season showed shots of dim lighting, and so does this season. This is a trick that works to the show’s advantage (in both seasons) and effectively sets the mood.
Speaking of mood, this show is one of the moodiest I have ever watched…I would hate to see what color its mood ring would turn, if the show wore one. The lighting, the music (you can’t get much moodier when you have a Leonard Cohen song as a theme song), the ariel shots of the highways…to me, all of the above are supposed to make the viewer feel unsettled. And if unsettled is what the writers, directors and producers were going for, then they should consider themselves successful, as the vibe I got was dark and downright creepy.
Another interesting thing about season 2 of True Detective is that one of the main characters is female. The female characters in season 1 were not central characters, and were either used to add twists to the relationship between Marty and Rust, or were victims of the serial killer. The viewer only saw these characters through the eyes of Marty and Rust, and these characters were never fully developed. However, this is not the case this season.
Regina George Ani is a character who is not (hopefully) used for the advancement of the male characters in the story. I am already fascinated by her…she may have some daddy issues! And her sister, what is going on with that, and how will that tie in to this murder mystery? And why is she so at odds with what appears to be everyone? These questions have sparked my interest, and the only way (maybe) to find out is to keep watching!
And let’s talk about Ray Velcoro. Like I said before, I am trying not to compare this season to last season, but sometimes even I fail. But I just have this funny feeling that Ray Velcoro may be this season’s Rust Cohle. We didn’t actually see a lot of Ray in the first episode, but I think it was enough to know that he will be this season’s most intriguing character. Who beats up the father of his son’s bully, right in front of the bully (although naming your kid Aspin should get you beat up, I mean really?! Really?!) And working for the mob…I almost thought we were in Gotham for a minute! Ray seems so angry and so heartless…he has no problem hurting anyone, even a kid (although said kid was a bully but still). I am intrigued to find out why Ray is the way he is (like I was intrigued with Rust last season), and I have a feeling the back story will be an interesting one.
My only complaint thus far is the character of Frank Seymone. Vince Vaughn is a fine actor, but seems to be struggling a bit in this role. The character comes off as a little two dimensional, and a character like his deserves justice. However, I have only watched one episode. There will be seven more episodes, and I am optimistic that his character will be developed more in future episodes.
So that’s it for this week’s recap and review of True Detective. Tune in next week to explore more in the world of corruption, crooked cops, high speed motorcycle chases and murdered city officials, when we dissect episode 2!
Today is June 19th.
Well, duh. Water is wet, the sun sets in the west…all that good stuff. Its just another day for most…
Well, except if you are an avid reader of this blog (yeah, avid…work with me here, ok?)
And you guys know who you are…
Mention a certain number between 18 and 20…do I have your attention?
Mar Barses? Got your attention, huh?
Or you really like roses. Or maybe its turtles that you really like. Or…well, I could go on and on, actually…
So in case it wasn’t clear yet, I am talking about a certain niche fan base…
Yes, fans of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. The rest of the world may not know who we are, but we recognize each other at first sight. Maybe you have a Dark Tower related t-shirt that you wear sometimes. Or maybe you have a Dark Tower related tattoo. The rest of the world will either ignore the shirt (at worst), or make a comment in passing (at best).
But we know who we are. And our obsession may be odd to most (you know, like devoting a blog almost entirely to Stephen King and his magnum opus…who does that?), but finding others who share our obsession is priceless, and something that not even MasterCard can buy!
And we are one devoted fan base. In fact, there is a particular number that is almost reverential in the world of The Dark Tower series…
Yes, the number 19. Its pretty significant to the series as a whole, for some reason…
Seems that the master suffered a bad accident on June 19th, 1999. Stephen King went out one day for a walk, and nearly came back home in a body bag.
And this accident had a big effect. It affected not just King and his family, but this Constant Readers as well. See, King’s magnum opus, The Dark Tower, was unfinished at the time of the accident. And many feared that it would remain unfinished. Fortunately, that is not the case, as Sai King made what can only be called a miraculous recovery, and churned out the last three books of the series over the next few years, and is still writing new books to this day, and is probably even writing a new book as we speak.
But this accident was a big thing. And its effect on Sai King was enormous. It inspired him to finish the Dark Tower series (a terrible thing to be an inspiration, but an inspiration, nonetheless). In fact, the accident became a major plot point in the series…
Yes, King wrote his own accident into his books. And…gasp…he even incorporated himself into the series!
Stephen King is a character in the Dark Tower series. And his accident is a plot point. A major plot point, in fact. An this has been controversial, to say the least…
In talking to some other fans who have read the series, some have got this impression upon reading about the character of Stephen King and how his accident had the ability to affect the existence of our universe and all of the other universes contained in the multi-verse:
Well, its a metaphor, at any rate…
Many think that King including himself in his series was arrogant, or simply ridiculous. And having his own character rescue him and give his life for him? Crazy, right?
Well, no. I don’t think that King’s inclusion of himself in his series was arrogant, nor do I think that King being rescued by his characters is crazy. In fact, this could not be further from the truth.
When Sai King was hit by that van, we nearly lost one of the greatest writers that this world has ever known. To boot, this great writer is purely American as well, and is responsible for the invention of the modern horror tale. HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe were great writers, but King was able to take the horror story, and make it into something readers could relate to. ‘Salem’s Lot was the first modern vampire tale. And then there is The Shining, the first modern ghost story. Jack Torrance may be one of the most famous villains in any story or movie, but who hasn’t felt like him at some point in his/her life, struggling to provide for family, and wanting to do the best he/she could for the ones that mattered the most? And that is what makes that particular novel so frightening: the setting (an isolated hotel) and the themes (family, addiction, domestic abuse, etc) are so realistic and reel in the reader, so it is not so difficult to believe that there may be ghosts around the corner and that fire hoses could actually come to life and attack us, and that if we are smart, we won’t look over our shoulder, and instead we will make a mad dash down the hall, and dive into the bed, under the covers, into what we hope is relative safety?
And then there are the Dark Tower books. To paraphrase King himself, the Jupiter of his solar system, or his greatest work. And these are the books that contain all of King’s other works. In other words, everything in King’s universe is connected, from the crazy obsessed fan girl who hobbles her favorite writer, to the gang of kids who battles the evil clown in the sewers, to the gunslingers who strive to protect the Tower itself, the nexus of all existence.
The thought of the series not being finished must have been on King’s mind, and must have been a frightening one. In fact, he may have felt that he was letting someone down. His fans. Or maybe his characters, actually…
Yes, his characters. If something happened to Stephen King, how would Roland continue his quest? The quest that originated from the mind and heart of King himself…
Some say that we all write our own stories. The Dark Tower series was a big part of King’s own story, as he had spent so many years writing it, and incorporating it into his other works. The Tower was a part of King, and King was a part of the Tower. So it would make sense that he felt the need to include himself in the story, as it was (and still is) so intertwined with his life. Often reality and fiction blur, and King’s inclusion of himself in his books is a great example of this.
As an artist myself (I dabble in writing, drawing and painting), I can tell you that my art has saved me many times. I have gone through divorce, job loss and many other stressful life events, and my art was the one constant in my life, and I honestly don’t know what I would have done without it. And I am sure that this is true for King as well: his art has kept him grounded, and the thought of finishing his magnum opus, the Dark Tower series, may have played a part in his recovery. In other words, he was saved by the characters he created, and what better way to pay homage to that lovely idea than to include it as a plot point in the Dark Tower series?
In the world of Dark Tower fan-dom, “going 19” is a phrase used to describe a situation where everything is going wrong and things are FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Repair for the uninitiated). It is used in a somewhat joking manner, but many take this somewhat literally. But to me, that phrase could not be more wrong.
To me, 19 is a number that is a symbol of hope. On a day that many would describe as “just another day”, we nearly lost one of the greatest writers this world has ever seen. However, whether by sheer luck, sheer determination or possibly even the intervention of some other force, this writer continued to live. And he was able to finish his magnum opus, and provide us with a series of books that has united people, sparked some lively debate and has provided countless hours of joy and entertainment to so many Constant Readers.
And I will end this post with a quote from another inhabitant of the Stephen King universe. I can’t think of a more appropriate quote to sum up my feelings on this day:
I remember reading a long time ago, that Mark Twain, when he was 16, made a statement that his father was the dumbest man alive. But when he talked to his father when he was 20, it was amazing how much the old man had learned in four years.
This is not to say I ever thought my parents were stupid. In fact, they were smart when I was 16 and they are smart now as I am going on 37 (love you Mom and Dad, thanks for the Christmas hookup…hahaha).
Seriously, though. I read the Stephen King book Lisey’s Story about 8 years ago. I trashed it at the time. I thought it was awful and that King should have indeed, stayed retired from writing (love you Mr. King, thanks for all the book hookups…hahaha).
However, I have been making it a point to re-read certain books (not just King either) that I either loved or hated many years ago, to see what perspective my almost 37 year old self would have. Lisey’s Story was one book on my list. And I am glad that I took the time to read this work again with fresh eyes. My almost 37 year old self had a completely different view of things than silly, daft 28 year old me. And now wants to give silly, daft 28 year old me a good smack on the head for not taking the time to appreciate the finer things in life, like craft beer and Lisey’s Story.
Lisey’s Story is a complex novel that defies categorization, like much of King’s work. On one hand, it is a horror story. It does have monsters and some scary imagery. However, Lisey’s Story is a little more than a horror story. In his typical fashion, King also deals with “real world” topics, such as child abuse, marriage and fans that love a little too much. King is able to weave these topics into a story that also contains major elements of both horror and fantasy, and also make a good story with characters that we wind up emotionally invested in, along with settings that are both familiar and alien.
The book starts out with Lisey (Lisa) Landon attempting to sort and clean her late husband Scott’s study. In life, Scott had been a wildly successful writer, credited with several best selling novels. She also has to deal with some persistent admirers of his work, who want her to donate his unfinished work, as they are convinced that there is actually a book (or maybe two) buried in there, ready for posthumous publication, which would make someone rich. We also learn that Scott was relatively young when he passed away, and that Lisey is still processing his death, as Scott has only passed away 26 months prior. It is all ordinary and mundane…but not for long.
At the beginning of the book, we are also introduced to Lisey’s family. Lisey is the youngest of four children, all of whom are girls. King focuses on her relationship with all three siblings, but gives particular focus to Lisey’s sister Amanda. Amanda suffers from mental illness and is almost considered a “black sheep” in her family. We learn that Amanda is a “cutter”. In other words, she is given to self mutilation. She also appears to suffer from bouts of extreme depression. Lisey is tasked with keeping watch over Amanda, as she and Scott became very rich due to the success of his novels and can afford the best care. Lisey also seems to share a certain rapport with Amanda, and if often able to reach her when no one else can.
As the book progresses, we learn that Scott’s fans are an insistent bunch. In particular, Lisey is harassed by a man calling himself “Zach McCool.” As if that were not enough, Amanda experiences a severe decline in her mental health, becomes catatonic and needs to be hospitalized. This is very stressful for Lisey, and causes her to recall her years of marriage to Scott, and some interesting experiences.
Lisey begins to recall her years of marriage to Scott. We learn about how they met. We learn about their struggles and successes. We also learn that Scott was no ordinary man. This is where the supernatural part of the story comes into play. Scott (akin to many King characters), was possessed of extraordinary abilities. One of them was his writing ability. The other was his ability to transport himself to another world entirely. Scott nicknamed this world “Boo’ya Moon.”
We also learn that Scott suffered a horrendous childhood. Mental illness was rampant in his family. He grew up with a father who constantly abused Scott and his older brother Paul. Scott sought refuge in his relationship with Paul, who sent him on what they called “bool hunts” or a kind of scavenger hunt that consisted of riddles. Paul would then reward Scott with some small prize. Scott also sought refuge in the world of Boo’ya Moon. Scott used the world of Boo’ya Moon to escape (often with Paul) the horrible abuse brought on by his father. Scott also used the powers of Boo’ya Moon to heal the injuries that he and Paul suffered at the hands of his father. Scott’s childhood is somewhat bearable for a time, but only for so long. When Paul is ten years old, he succumbs to the insanity that runs in Scott’s family. Some sufferers become comatose and some sufferers turn into violent, non-human killing machines. Unfortunately, Paul becomes one of the latter varieties. He becomes a creature who does not recognize right from wrong, let alone his family members. He is unable to speak but instead communicates in animal like sounds. He also sets out to kill anything and anyone in his path. Unfortunately, this includes Scott and his father. The two attempt to restrain Paul and try to find a way to cure of the insanity. Unfortunately, there is no cure. Scott’s father euthanizes Paul in the same manner someone would euthanize a rabid dog that attacked a child. Scott then transports himself and his brother to Boo’ya Moon, in the hopes that he can possibly cure his brother. It turns out that he cannot, and Scott buries his brother in that other world.
Lisey notices that Scott is unusual even when they are dating. Scott is able to heal himself very quickly from a self inflicted, very nasty cut on his hand. Lisey notices that Scott appears to vanish, but chalks it up to a hallucination. Scott then demonstrates that he is in fact able to vanish, when he takes Lisey to Boo’ya Moon with him, proving that his abilities and the place are real. Lisey also learns that Scott has demons. As in actual demons, in the form of an otherwordly creature Scott calls the “long boy” or the “piebald creature.” This is the creature that would ultimately be responsible for Scott’s death. However, Boo’ya Moon brings mostly good things to their marriage. When Scott is shot by a deranged fan at a public speaking event, he is able to harness the powers of Boo’ya Moon and save himself from certain death. He is able to use those powers many times, although he does pay the ultimate price in the end.
We also learn that Boo’ya Moon seems to be a refuge of sorts for mentally ill people who have fallen comatose. Lisey learns this when Scott slips into catatonia about 8 years prior to his death. She must use Scott’s abilities (which have transferred to her) to make the journey to Boo’ya Moon and bring Scott back. She is successful, and Scott and Lisey enjoy a few more happy years together, and Lisey basically represses any memory of Boo’ya Moon and the strange incidents.
Lisey learns that Scott has basically left her a “bool hunt” upon his death. Lisey must learn how to harness the powers of Boo’ya Moon on her own, as Amanda’s health depends on it. And only the powers of Boo’ya Moon will rescue her from the rage what is turning out to be a very insistent, deranged fan. With a little help from her dead husband, and a lot of strength that she did not know she possessed, Lisey is able to rescue her comatose sister and dispatch of her late husband’s deranged fan, although she literally inherits Scott’s “long boy.” The book ends with a final trip to Boo’ya Moon, where Lisey discovers the prize at the end of the “bool hunt”: her husband’s accounting of what happened to his deranged father. Lisey reads Scott’s final words, and is able to put Scott to rest, along with the “long boy” (somewhat). She able to final clean out his study and donate his last work to the appropriate people, and achieves peace in her life and also with her family.
This time around, I felt there was a lot to love about Lisey’s Story. One of my favorite parts of the story was the detailing of Scott and Lisey’s relationship. King gives us intimate knowledge of Scott and Lisey’s marriage, which makes us become invested in the characters. When Lisey “inherits” Scott’s demons (the “long boy”), I saw that as a metaphor for taking on the burdens of a loved one, in much the same manner as Sam taking the Ring from Frodo in Lord of the Rings and carrying the burden, so that Frodo may achieve some peace. Lisey does take on many of Scott’s burdens (his demons, his troubled childhood, etc) but does so out of pure love for her husband. This gives great insight into both characters, especially Lisey, showing that she is more than just Scott’s wife, but actually his gatekeeper.
Stephen King often writes about mental illness. Lisey’s Story is a great example of his ability to deal with mental illness in a compassionate way. In particular, King does an excellent job of his depiction of Lisey’s sister Amanda. Amanda does not start off as a sympathetic character. She is seen as more of annoyance. However, this quickly changes, as King shows us the relationship between Amanda and Lisey. We slowly come to like Amanda on her own merits, as opposed to the fact that she is Lisey’s sister. We come to see Amanda as a fiercely loyal protector of Lisey, willing to do anything to protect her sister. Amanda also travels with Lisey to Boo’ya Moon, never doubting its existence and completely deferring to her sister so that both of their lives may be saved. Amanda is never shown as strong despite her “deficiencies.” Rather, her perceived deficiencies turn out to be assets.
While this was not a scary book, there were definitely elements of horror. For example, Scott describes Boo’ya Moon in detail. We are told that is a good place by day, but extremely dangerous at night. We are also told to never eat any of the fruit of Boo’yah Moon once night falls. Scott also describes the creatures that inhabit Boo’ya, calling them “laughers”. We also learn about Scott’s accidental trip to Boo’ya Moon at night, and his description confirms it is indeed a horrible place when the moon rises.
However, the most terrifying part of the novel to me was the “pie-bald creature” or “long boy.” At first I was reminded of the Purple People Eater…
But later I started thinking more in terms of Lovecraft and his horrifying creatures, and the closest I could come to seeing it in my mind’s eye was an image of a monstrous worm. Regardless, King’s description of the monster was very scary. We are told that the creature is also not necessarily limited to Boo’ya Moon, as Lisey begins to see it on reflective surfaces such as mirrors and drinking glasses, and begins to fear for her sanity and her life. It is implied that the monster has Lisey’s “scent” in much the same way a bloodhound can find a scent from a piece of old clothing and is therefore in its “thoughts.” Scott’s final bool hunt does bring some form of closure to this, but we are still left with the impression that Lisey’s trip to Boo’ya Moon and confrontation with this creature will have some disturbing long term consequences.
All monsters aside, King again displays his ability to juxtapose supernatural elements with familiar, everyday problems. As mentioned before, this book spends much time discussing mental illness, with its descriptions of Amanda, Scott’s father and Scott himself. King also dives into the issue of child abuse and the failures of adults to do right by their children. The descriptions of the abuse endured by Scott and his brother when they were children are horrifying, but also heart-breaking. Scott’s account of the murder of his brother and later his father are also harrowing, leaving us sad for what he endured as a child. As in his other works, King’s description of non-supernatural horrors add an element of realism to the story, reminding us that it is perfectly possible that there is a world not far from our own, where eating the fruit at night could kill us and that sometimes looking in mirrors is a task better not undertaken if we are smart.
Stephen King, its amazing how much you learned in eight years. Thank you for making this book so much smarter. And thank you for opening my eyes, yet again.
As most Constant Readers know, all of Stephen’s King books are connected and are part of a much larger universe. Lisey’s Story is no exception. I have listed the connections I found below:
-Andy Clutterbuck and Norris Ridgewick are mentioned multiple times in the book. Ridgewick and Clutterbuck appear as characters in the novel Needful Things.
-Scott Landon talks of “booming” or transporting to another world. The ability to teleport to other worlds is similar to Sheemie’s ability in The Dark Tower series.
-The effects of the insanity suffered by Scott and his family appear similar to the effects of the “secret electricity” discussed in Revival.
-The effects of The Pulse in Cell are also similar to the effects of the “secret electricity” and are similar to the insanity suffered by Scott’s family. This makes for an interesting connection between Cell, Lisey’s Story and Revival.
-The description of another world close to ours is similar to the description of the parallel world that is discussed in Revival.
-The “mother” creature in Revival is also somewhat similar to the “piebald creature” in Lisey’s Story.
-Scott describes “orbs of light” around the lake in Boo’ya Moon that are similar to balloons. This immediately brings to mind the balloons in the book It.
-A recurring theme in Lisey’s Story is the “bool.” I understood that the bool was a riddle, kind of similar to a scavenger hunt. Of course, readers of the Dark Tower series will remember that Blaine the Monorail, a character in that series, was very fond of riddles.
And if I may go deep into nerdy territory for a moment here (given the name of the blog, no one should be surprised at this). I believe that the term “bool” may actually be derived from the term “Boolean logic.” Boolean logic is a special kind of mathematics and has to do with logic. Logic is very important in computer science and is used widely in many other areas. Since Blaine was a sentient monorail created by computer programming, this is an extremely interesting parallel to the Dark Tower series, even if it is a bit indirect.
Oh, Stephen King. I have an on and off again relationship with him for the past 25 years (although more on in the past 10 years). I have read nearly everything written by him. And with a few exceptions, I have been mostly spellbound by his work (horror and non-horror alike).
I will admit that over the past 10 years, King’s work has been…mixed. Mixed is the best word I can come up with. Under The Dome readily comes to mind. Dreamcatcher does as well. But then there is 11/22/63, arguably one of the best books (not just best King book but one of the best pieces of literature) written in at least the past 5 years, if not one of best post 2000 books, period.
And now we have Revival, the latest book in the King canon. And I will state right now that I have NO mixed feelings about this piece of work. I finished this book two days after uploading it to my Tablet (instant gratification is just grand) and while I am not ready to place it in my top 5 or even top 10, it deserves a high ranking. It was beautifully written, with a lot of wonderfully, creepy disturbing imagery. The build up to the ending…I have no words to give it justice.
Revival takes place solely in the King universe. Make no mistake about this. However, there are some distinct differences with this book, as compared to his other work.
This book centers around two men. It is narrated by Jamie Morton, who is well into middle age when he pulls us into the story. We start out by going back to Jamie’s childhood in the early 1960’s. This is reminiscent of much of King’s work, as he has written about childhood and the post WW II era, pre Vietnam era extensively in previous works. We learn that Jamie is the youngest of five children in a family struggling to be middle class or better. Family is another huge theme in much of King’s work here, and we are not disappointed here. The portrait of Jamie’s family is drawn lovingly and painstakingly. We learn that Jamie has, for the most part, a close knit family. The narrator describes the tender kisses given to him by his older sister, and how he can sometimes still feel those same kisses today. And we read about the bickering between siblings, between children and parents and between the two parents. But all the while, the love is still there and never leaves, much like photographs that fade over time, but still retain their images from faraway places and times.
The second man that this book centers around is Charles Jacobs. Or Reverend Charles Jacobs may be more accurate. Jacobs is the new preacher in town. He is youthful and handsome. He has a beautiful young wife and a little boy. All the girls have crushes on Reverend Jacobs. All the boys have crushes on his wife, Patty. His son Morrie is fawned over and the recipient of much adoration. Reverend Jacobs is able to connect with the youth of the small town and make Thursday night Bible study bearable (although still more of a chore than anything). Church attendance increases. Not dramatically, but Reverend Jacobs is able to make a connection with the small town of Harlow, and more find their way to Sunday services, where the reverend’s sermons touch something in them.
In fact, Reverend Jacobs is electric. In fact, the only negative about Jacobs (if you could call it that) is his obsession with electricity. He spends a lot of time experimenting with electricity and even makes it part of his sermons. But he brings in people. The collection plates begin to fill up. So how can this ever be a problem? It’s harmless, right?
Reverend Jacobs is the town’s preacher for about three years. All is well. But, as it often is in many of King’s books, things go wrong. In the time it took me to upload my copy of Revival on to my Tablet, the veil of nice and normal drops, and tragedy strikes.
Jacobs’ wife and son are killed in a horrible car accident one day. It is tragic and senseless. King often reminds us that bad things happen to good people all too often, and this is no different. Reverend Jacobs is beside himself in shock and grief. And Jamie, his family and the rest of the town are also left reeling, and have to attempt to help Jacobs pick up the pieces. But there is no comfort for Jacobs.
Reverend Jacobs spends many weeks in mourning. Jamie and his family (especially his mother), attempt to provide what solace they can but are only a tiny band aid on a hemorrhage. Jacobs does attempt to resume his duties with the church. However, this ends in disaster, as the reverend denounces his faith in front of his entire congregation. Jamie and his family are in the audience that day. The sermon becomes known as The Terrible Sermon. After the Terrible Sermon, Jacobs is effectively chased out of the town, a disgrace to the good citizens of Harlow and the church. Jamie and his family, along with the rest of the town attempt to resume normal lives, in the aftermath of the Terrible Sermon. But the ghost of that Sunday morning remains, and is never forgotten.
Next, we learn more about Jamie and his later years. We learn that he also denounces his faith, although he does attend church as a child to appease his mother. We also learn that Jamie finds his talent for music and joins a band in high school, which is the first of many bands. We learn about Jamie’s first love, and how he cuts his long hair so he can pass his driver’s test. We experience trials and triumph along with Jamie. It is all quite ordinary, but King makes it special.
We also learn that Jamie and his family are not immune to tragedy. His mother passes away from ovarian cancer while Jamie is still a young man. His father and brother also pass away from natural causes. Most tragically of all, Jamie’s older sister is shot by her abusive, estranged husband, while she stays late one day at the school where she is employed. And Jamie descends into tragedy of his own. We learn that he becomes addicted to heroin in his mid 30’s, after a motorcycle accident.
Jamie becomes a lost soul. He is addicted to heroin and nothing is more important than his next fix. He drifts from town to town, failing to set down any roots. He plays in bands, but his addiction ends up costing him employment. But a chance meeting in OK with a person from his past changes all of that.
One night, Jamie attends a state fair. There happens to be a revival show. The man behind the show is none other than Charles Jacobs. Jacobs has turned his obsession with electricity into a career, and makes his living as a performer on the county fair circuit. Luckily for Jamie (who is suffering from his addiction and a terrible case of the flu at this point), Jacobs takes him under his wing. He allows Jamie to recuperate under his care, and we learn more of the former reverend’s activities over the years.
Jacobs reveals that he has continued to experiment with electricity. And we learn that he has been experimenting with the “secret” electricity’s healing powers. He offers a “cure” to Jamie, in the form of mild electrical shocks, to cure his addiction to heroin. Jamie reluctantly agrees. The reverend then uses his “secret electricity” on Jamie, in an attempt to cure him. That attempt appears to be successful. Jamie has no desire to touch heroin. He begins to feel like his old self. Sure, there are some side effects. He wakes up in the middle of the night with the compulsion to stab him in the vein with whatever objects happen to be around. Luckily, there are no sharp objects, so it’s a just a small price to pay to be cured of a crippling addiction.
The former reverend further assists Jamie by finding him gainful employment. This employment is through a man who owes Jacobs a favor. Jamie relocates to Colorado and spends many years working in a music studio. Things are mostly good, although he suffers from the occasional nightmare and the previously mentioned “side effect.” But still, it’s a small price to pay for the ability to live a mostly normal life. Memory of the former reverend is always in the back of his mind, however. He never forgets what he experienced under the care of Charles Jacobs.
As mentioned before, Jamie’s boss is someone who owes Jacobs a favor. We learn that his boss is another one of Jacobs’ “cures.” He suffered from sudden hearing loss, amongst other health issues. He encounters Jacobs in a pawn shop in Detroit, and Jacobs again uses his “secret electricity” to cure the man of ailments, enabling him to also lead a relatively normal life. Again, the “cure” was worth it. The man may suffer from some odd visions, but that is a small price to pay for regaining one’s hearing.
Jamie and his boss learn that Jacobs has become a televangelist who boasts that he can heal people through the power of prayer. Most of these “cures” are obviously faked. But there are some people actually who are actually “cured.” It turns out that Jacobs is still using his “secret electricity” to cure people of various ailments, ranging from muscular dystrophy to blindness. This becomes a lucrative business, as his followers are devoted and will willingly part with their money. And some are even willing to do favors for him, as we learn later.
Jamie and his boss attend one of Jacobs’ shows. Jamie’s boss experiences some disturbing visions, and wants nothing more to do with Jacobs. Jamie begins to research Jacobs’ cures, and learns that some suffer from disturbing side effects, such as being compelled to eat dirt. However, other “cures” experience more side disturbing side effects, such as suicide. Jamie receives a call from Jacobs, reminding that he owes Jacobs a favor, and that he will need to be ready when the time comes.
Finally, Jamie receives a letter in the mail. Jacobs manipulates him into assisting with an experiment to cure a woman of cancer. This woman just happens to Jamie’s first love. She is suffering from terminal lung cancer, but Jacobs is able to “cure” her, with Jamie’s assistance. He then reminds Jamie that he is due one final favor, and again, Jamie needs to be ready when the time comes.
It turns out that the Jacobs final experiment involves the final frontier: death. More specifically, what happens when we die? What is waiting on the other side? Jacobs has a need to find out, possibly because he never really accepted the loss of his wife and son. Or he wants to prove something to the church that cast him out, that is something that no religion could imagine.
In the last 50 pages, we learn of Jacobs’ final experiment and the after effects. King puts his foot on the accelerator and we rush towards the conclusion of the story. The final is experiment is horrifying and also tragic. Again, Jamie suffers more loss. He has gained an understanding, and this understanding is not something that betters him, his former minister or anyone else. In fact, no one is made better and this includes all of Jacobs’ “cures.” The novel concludes and the ending is not a happy one. The ending leaves more questions than answers, along with the general feeling that sometimes, seeking understanding of our universe is not for the best. That, in fact, ignorance is really is bliss.
This was not a scary book. There were no rabid dogs trapping people in vehicles. No clowns that live in sewers. Not a haunted hotel in sight. No vampires turning a sleepy small town into a ghost town.
However, this book was disturbing. It was unsettling. The last sentence of the book chilled me to the core, and I really had a lot of trouble sleeping that night. I know that I will be thinking of this book for a long time.
Stephen King often writes about ordinary people experiencing extraordinary events. What many forget about is how well he can portray the ordinary. The descriptions of Jamie, his family and his small town are painstakingly and lovingly crafted. I may have had chills at the end of the book, but I also had chills when I read of Jamie’s first kiss and the loss of his virginity. The descriptions were so vivid. Sometimes I felt more like I was looking at these events from a real person’s eyes, as opposed to reading about them. And that is the mark of some excellent writing.
King can also make the ordinary into something unsettling. When Jamie returns from assisting Jacobs with his final experiment, he drops in on his family. He visits with his infant great niece. Previously, his great niece had cried because she was sad her uncle was leaving. But this time, she can sense that her uncle has been touched by forces that humans are not meant to interact with, and will have nothing to do with him. She screams until he finally leaves, sensing that something is not right. This is just one of the losses Jamie will suffer, and King does a great job foreshadowing with that scene.
I also loved how King paid homage to writers such as H.P. Lovecraft and Mary Shelley in this book. The parallels between Charles Jacobs and Victor Frankenstein are obvious. King’s descriptions of creatures beyond bring to mind such works as Lovecraft’s “Colour Out of Space” and his Cthulu mythos. However, King manages to remind us, time and time again, that this takes place squarely in the Stephen King universe, thus making this work solely his.
There is no ambiguity with this book. And any doubts about King’s ability as a writer (and not just a horror writer) are put to rest with this work. We hop in the car with King, and are so busy enjoying the ride, that when King puts his foot on the accelerator and drives off the cliff, we hardly notice because the drive and the scenery have been that enjoyable.
Just for fun, I will list the connections I have found to King’s other work in Revival. This is by no means a complete list, and I am sure there are other connections I may have missed.
–Castle Rock is mentioned multiple times. Anyone familiar with King’s work will recognize Castle Rock as being the central location in many King novels, including The Dark Half, Needful Things and The Dead Zone.
-The term “rubes” is used several times. This is a common carney term used to refer to ordinary folks but it is used multiple times in Dr. Sleep when the vampires are discussing humankind.
-It is worth mentioning that since there is a connection to Dr. Sleep, there is also a connection to NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. NOS4A2 is connected to Dr. Sleep via Charlie Manx (the villain in N0S4A2) so this makes a connection to Revival, although it is indirect.
-Jamie is from Harlow, Maine. Harlow is mentioned in the short story The Body.
-The phrase “life is a wheel” is used several times. In the Dark Tower series, the phrase “ka is a wheel” is quite common (ka being something akin to fate).
-Jamie’s boss refers to “the world beyond our world”. This brings the To Dash space in the Dark Tower series to mind.
-A door covered in ivy is referenced in Revival. This brings to mind the doors to other worlds in the Dark Tower series.
-Jamie’s boss sees giant ant-like creatures only visible to him. This brings to mind the To Dash monsters in the Dark Tower series. It also brings to mind the insect-like creatures seen by Ralph and Lois in Insomnia.
-There is an ant-like creature referred to as “the mother.” This is reminiscent of Pennywise from It, as it is stated several times that Pennywise is an extra dimensional creature that is also female and has the ability to reproduce.