Posts Tagged ‘Lovecraft’

Part Thirteen: Mother

July 23rd, 1991. Plainfield Wisconsin

“Just a little odd.” Bloch pondered to himself how people probably thought that about him. He now sat down in his hotel room and looked over his notes. Every town has their own local weirdo, but something about this Eddie character drew him, as if they were meant to be inextricably linked. Shrunken heads, was it possible they were from the Philippines? Could the residents of Plainfield have had a ghoul in their midst that was never discovered? Quite a story it would make, a domineering religiously fanatical mother, a quiet, unassuming, isolated fellow who lived with a terrible secret. Quite a story indeed. 

The light stayed on as Robert lay in the hotel bed. He couldn’t get Gein out of his mind. He also wondered if anyone else was even staying in this hotel. Looking at the old flimsy door to the outer hallway, he was reminded of his long-deceased friend H.P. Lovecraft, and his story Shadow of Innsmouth, in which the main character stumbled across a strange New England town, and, after staying in a cheap hotel, is almost kidnapped, before narrowly escaping and learning the town’s deadly secrets. The author wished for no parallels to his current experience.

In the morning he planned to drive out to what was the Gein property, just to take a look. In the library he made note of the fire that took Gein’s life back in 1957 and of its location. If anyone questioned him, he could just say he got lost. That sheriff that saw him at the bar looked long retired, and he didn’t expect any trouble from the proper authorities. He would check it out in the morning, yeah in the morning. As his head rested on the pillow, he looked at the shower through the open door of the small dingy bathroom. Funny thing, the shower curtain was missing. He needed a good shower. As his eyes grew heavy, he thought he would wash up then get a good night sleep, then in the morning go check out that property.

The walls were glowing white and laying there in the hospital bed his mother’s skin looked a pale yellow, almost like she was already to… no, don’t even think it. She’s still there, he’s holding her weak hand in his own. He can’t believe how much smaller she looks, almost as if the cancer actually shrunk her. He’s crying again. He hates this part. She’s looking at him now, but only with her eyes as her face remains a deathlike in its motionless. He can only bring himself to say one word in that boyish voice he had so long ago. “Mother.” 

Robert hated that dream. He hadn’t had it in a long time, but tonight hit with extra potency. His whole body shook when he woke up. It’s never like in the movies where you sit straight up after a nightmare. He was still laying in his bed, but his chest heaved rapidly as he looked up at the light in his room. 

He couldn’t wait anymore. The shower remained dry as he rushed out the door. The clerk was fast asleep as he walked out to the vacant streets that were soon filled with the sound of the engine of his rental car. 

Robert guessed that back in Ed’s time this drive must have taken longer, but now in the 90’s even godforsaken places like this had paved roads. So, it didn’t take him long to reach his destination, especially since he felt pulled by some synchronistic force, as if the whole universe conspired to have him drive down this particular road on this particular night.

The former Gein property looked to be an unassuming empty field. Still, as he turned the engine key but left the car light shining, he felt an eerie sensation, as if he had found some long missing link in the chain of madness that was this soon to be ending century.

Stepping out of the car, the headlights revealed nothing special for him to see, but then he heard the sound. It was the sound or dirt flying through the air and hitting the earth. Had some ghoul still lurked in this place, was a spirit haunting these woods? At the edge of the light Bloch spotted a patch of fur, which was soon met with a pair of white fangs. Bloch bounced back at the sound of barking as two dogs were fighting in the darkness, their animalistic growling and grunting filled the night around him. As the two animals rolled into the light, he noticed they were fighting over a bone. It was a long bone, long and white, still with specks of dirt on it that were now mixing with the dogs’ saliva. Robert couldn’t help but notice how long the bone was, in fact it looked long enough to be, no, it couldn’t be, could it?

“Get out of here!” Bloch shouted as he kicked a bit of dirt towards the dogs. He surprised himself at how loud he shouted. Off in the distance, he could scarcely make out the shape of another house. A second-floor light was on, its white glow was almost like a star in the distance. He hoped he hadn’t awakened the occupant from a good night sleep, something he should be having now instead of spooking around on an abandoned property.

The dogs ran off into the trees, and Bloch’s noticed an exposed patch of earth that had been dug up by the dogs. In the dirt Bloch could see another shade of white. A set of teeth covered in dirt grinned back at him with a deathly smile. He couldn’t admit it, but he suspected as much when he saw the size of the bone the dogs were fighting over. Now, the evidence lay before him plain as day. Robert Bloch was looking at the remains of a human being.

Still, his mind couldn’t believe it, he had to feel it, to touch it with his hands. Without fear he ran to the shallow grave and scooped up the skull in his hand. Its eyes, black as the Wisconsin night, stared back at him. What truths had it to reveal? Robert felt like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, speaking to the remains of Yorick. Perhaps these were the remains of Ed Gein himself. Alas poor Gein, a fellow of infinite strangeness, he carried this town on his back a million times and is now abhorred in the townsfolk’s imagination. Here in Bloch’s hand rests the final fate of all mankind, no matter what fables he writes or what athletics he might achieve, one day all will be bones in the ground such as these. 

Bloch turned to see a second pair of circular lights shining on him, but this set of lights were moving in the darkness. The truck’s engine kept running as the driver’s side door opened, then swiftly slammed shut. Robert heard the ratchet of the shotgun before seeing Fred from the bar angrily step forward.

“What the hell are you doing out here!”

Robert’s trembling hands dropped the skull, it hit the earth below in a low thud as the truck’s engine continued roaring. “Sir, uh, we need to tell the police, there’s…”

“You aint telling the police nothing!” Good God what horror had he stumbled into? Was Robert now looking at a murderer? Bloch glanced down at the small hole in the earth and knew full well this man could shoot him and bury him out here and no one would be the wiser. Country such as this could hide violence for years and never give up its secrets. The man then shot not bullets but words at the helpless author. “What are you doing on this property!”

Robert’s hands still trembled as he held them in the air. Sweat erupted on his face, both from fear and the humid July air. “Sir I’m very sorry to trespass on your property, I was just…”

“This aint my property, it’s not your property either!” Fred shouted. “Sheriff was all riled up when I took him home, said you were writing shit down! You one of those Goddamn reporters?”

“No, no, I promise you I’m not a reporter. I’m a, I’m, I’m a friend of the Kohler family, did you know Sally Kohler?”

Now it was the armed man who bore a look of trepidation. As the shotgun barrel drew away from him Robert spoke more confidently. “I’m a friend of her family, and they asked me to look into something.” The man’s jaw fell, and the shotgun lowered to the ground. “You probably wouldn’t have known her, but she was out here a long time ago. I believe”, he looked down at the bones lying at his feet and said, “I believe she may have met Ed Gein.”

At the Bucheon Film Festival (PIFF) I saw The Whisperer in the Darkness, which is an adaptation of a short story by H. P. Lovecraft of Cthulu fame. The movie was produced by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, and is actually shot in the style of movies from the 1950’s and back. Filmed in black and white, the movie uses no CGI but instead uses puppetry and other special effects early film makers would have used. The film score and the style of acting (over acting in their speaking, etc) is also reflective of this time period. The society previously did an adaptation of Lovecraft’s most famous story, Call of Cthulu, shot as a silent film.

The movie opens with narration from main character Albert Wilmarth, professor of folklore at New England’s Miskatonic Univeristy, a fictitious University and common setting in many Lovecraft stories. After some heavy rains in Vermont, some people claim to sea bodies of strange creatures in the river that are apparently similar to creatures in local lore.

In an inventive deviation from the short story, Wilmarth has a radio debate with Charles Fort, a real life writer who investigated unknown phenomenon. Today the word Fortean is associated with strange phenomenon. After being embarrassed in the debate, we learn that Wilmarth has had a letter correspondence with one Henry Akeley, a Vermont Farmer who claims to have seen these creatures alive.

A skeptical Wilmarth travels to Vermont, where the rest of the movie takes place. Naturally he learns the horrible truth and discovers the maddening plot.

Overall it’s an effective adaptation of one of Lovecraft’s most interesting stories. Some liberties are naturally taken, for instance Lovecraft could not or simply would not write women, so this needed to be corrected. The ending is expanded upon with a nice twist.

To watch a movie today done with pre-CGI special effects that are still effective is quiet satisfying. The creatures have the classic slow reveal, seen only in parts or in shadows. The final reveal however was awkward, as we see many creatures at once and seen from a distance. (There was also a moment when a creature knocked Wilmarth down, but then walked away ignoring him, that was a little confusing.)

Lovecraftian horror is different from other types of horror, in that the fear is not based on death, but on madness. This film does try to convey that type of fear, that sense that there are hideous truths that, if discovered, would drive us insane. There were moments that were generally startling, but there could have been more. Towards the end there’s a lot of exposition, and the pacing could have been sharper to add a few more scares. Akeley’s performance at the end is creepy, except for this strange laugh he did. It was supposed to be menacing, but the audience was laughing.

The narration sounds a little awkward at times, but the leads performance is good. At times he seemed to be channeling John Ritter. One problem his arc had was that he seemed to quick to jump from skeptic to believer. This was the type of movie that could play out that conflict well.

Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos may be fictions first shared universe, predating the Marvel and DC universe of comic books, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. In the beginning there are some references to other Lovecraft stories, (Cthulu is mentioned) but most of them aren’t distracting if you don’t know them. One that is distracting relates to Wilmarth’s supervisor at the college, who warns him not to do the radio debate and to not investigate the Vermont incidents. This is a very strong character, whose apparently had some horrible encounter before, which he has physical evidence for. I’m not sure what story this was referencing, but it was a little distracting and could have been explained better.

I want to coin a phrase for this style of film making, where you purposely make it look like an old movie, but the phrase escapes me. It’s a daring experiment, this type of movie will never be a blockbuster, but it will always have an audience. I hope more movies get made in this style. 8.5/10.

**UPDATE 8/5/2013: This type of film I call a Retro-Effects Film.

I may have one more review from PIFF this week.