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BLOT: (31 Jul 2015 - 10:26:54 AM)

Poem: "I, This Thinking Thing"

I have written a poem. One of my first poem-for-poetry's-sake since I don't know when. I've had a few incomplete bits over the past few years, but the last poem-for-poetry's sake I remember writing to completion and enjoying was "Eventually, Someone Says I Love You", nearly six years ago, which was a poem whose whole point was that the young couple-to-be never once said anything about love and seemed to be making a poor attempt at it—which of course is the greatest testament to their love—, and is one of my more beloved attempts.

This new poem grew out of three things. Its initial creation was my own feelings about my failure as a brother after Shawn died, all the ways that I could have done something proactive or reactive, though mostly all I was able to do was to feel sad and angry about the whole mess. That version of the poem would have probably been less good, and would have been something like an extended mea culpa of self-hatred with word play. The structure, below, was one that I had in mind from early on, but it would have been more hamfisted in the original. That version is unwritten, and as far as I am concerned, can stay as such.

The other two things were two conversations I had with a friend. The first was about the use of the word "I" in a number of her poems, and how I used to use the word "I" too much, and how "I" is dangerous in poetry. Not only does it take all of your existence and compress down into a single word, but it disrupts the reader: they have to either decide the poem is about them, and accept all inside, or read it as merely about the poet, which has its place but must be used carefully. Which means, of course, I wrote a poem in which "I" is essential to the structure because, you know, I am petulant about rules.

The second conversation with the friend was, in part, actually about Shawn. Along the way, I started talking about Martin Buber's I and Thou, the notion of how recognizing someone else's infinity and complexity can help you to understand your own, but I feel understanding your own infinity is a lot harder than realizing you are a complex space-time-event. It is easy to label yourself with multiple labels—nerd, librarian, friend, lover, mediocre dancer, smoker, poet, reader, swamp-rat born, etc—but kind of hard to realize that none of those labels mean anything except as the shallowest of starting conditions. We project ourselves unto the world, but often only in broad strokes, and therefore reduce the world to a pitiful cognitive dissonance. Just because we are being honest about who we think we are, does not mean we are not liars [with apologies to E.M. Cioran].

In such, the poem became a love-letter, but the "eventually, someone says I love you" unvoiced love moment is the poet getting comfortable with what "I" might mean, again. Along the way, the voice—which is of course, me, but hopefully not so much that it cannot understood by others—stops seeing itself only as a series of labels, and starts seeing itself as a relationship between others. In the end, when asking what the other person might be thinking, the only answer is a voiceless question, "...?". Communication of self becomes only an ampersand, which should probably be unvoiced in the reading-aloud of the poem.

Therefore, nearly unique to my writing, this is a love poem to myself, but also a love poem to those who have sat beside me and talked about things both silly and sublime and sultry and paltry and pathetic and sad. All of you. Hello, world, you know who are.

Due to the complexity of the line structure, I have posted this one as an image. It might not look great zoomed in, but click it and you can see it a little more full-page.

Text of poem, readable via PDF link in this blog post

You can also see "I, This Thinking Thing" as a PDF file.

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: July 2015


BLOT: (26 Jul 2015 - 09:59:35 AM)

Micro-Reviews for the Stories in Reggie Oliver's The Sea of Blood

UPDATE June 30, 2015. A Reggie Oliver fan contacted me to let me know I was incorrect when I described four of the stories as new. There are, in fact, two stories new: "The Rooms are High" and "The Trouble at Botathan". The other two I considered new were previously published: "Absalom" in The Ghost and Scholars Book of Shadows 2 and "The Druid's Rest" in Terror Tales from Wales. I am leaving the tweets alone since my idea was to not edit them, but wanted to add this note and thank the fan for correcting my error and providing previous publication information.

As I read through Reggie Oliver's The Sea of Blood—a survey anthology of many of his major tales plus a few new ones—I started out with the new stories and posted micro-reviews of them on Twitter, with the hashtag #SeaOfBlood [though obvious, it made for some odd bedfellows since many of the other tweets with that hashtag are either dedicated to the show Hannibal or to real life tragedies]. Then, after finishing those, I went back and read the "older" stories, some of which I have read before, and continued the trend. This worked well up until a dentist appointment gave me a chance to read several stories at once, and my rhythm got off, so I had several backlogged and decided to just get them all out, here, rather than over a week or so on Twitter.

Cover of book depicting skeletal woman in white walking across a sea of blood

The basic rules of the micro-review are simple. They must fit inside of a single tweet (so, 140 characters) and must include the name of the story, the hashtag #SeaOfBlood, and then whatever idea I felt best encapsulated my feelings about the story. Some are comments. Some are actual reviews. Some are other things. They are presented below in the anthology-order, which is roughly chronological order I believe. I give them to you unedited, so [sics] are appropriate, where appropriate. Those marked with "*" after their hashtag were not posted to Twitter, so therefore show up here for the first time. Footnotes are of course added after the fact, to talk about details.

A fuller review of the collection should hopefully surface in a day or two.

If I had to pick five favorites from the collection, it would be "The Dreams of Cardinal Vittrioni", "Among the Tombs", "A Donkey at the Mysteries", "Mrs. Midnight", and "Holiday from Hell". Read those five, and you will see the bits about Reggie Oliver I like the most. Of course, I do not have to pick just five, but life is arbitrary, by and large.

Weird Fiction, Reggie Oliver

1: I tweeted more details, spoiling the "1-story, 1-tweet" rule [though the review was entirely in the first, above, tweet]: "To explain, going to spoil it for you. Dude has a 'blue room' in his house that makes people real horny from 12am-3am. So he puts these virginal, waifish women in it, and then BAM...freaky sex for three hours while they can't control themselves. Eventually, has an older royal woman + this young sweet thing visiting. Puts YST in the blue room, but the RILF tricks him into torrid sex. So the ending is a little bit, 'Ha, dumbass, you plowed a fat old chick!' But damned if Oliver doesn't almost make it work."

2: There are some stories, with "The Constant Rake" being one, where the human drama is tense enough that little or no supernatural obviousnesses is required, though Oliver will then work in scenes of spookery which feel tacked-on. In some, like "Mr. Poo-Poo", it is dreamlike enough that it still works, in others, like "The Constant Rake", it actually detracts.

3: It is Ramsey Campbell to which I refer, here. While the story is definitely Oliver, it has touches of Campbell in the dialogue and the descriptions of horror.

4: achondroplasiaphobia = "fear of little people".

5: For one bit of homework, see "The Botathen Ghost" by S.R.Hawker.

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: July 2015


BLOT: (19 Jul 2015 - 03:58:30 PM)

My thoughts on Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman

There are three broad ways to read Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, all of which center on its relationship to Lee's much more beloved To Kill a Mockingbird. The first, most correct way—and also the way I suspect history will remember the book—is as a draft of the story that became Mockingbird. Watchman is rough, mechanically. Though capable of beautiful moments, and full of the style of storytelling I personally heard growing up in the same rough region of the world, it is also prone to having sentences or paragraphs repeat themselves, of interjecting constitutional law into sections that should be emotional climaxes, of cliches, and of meandering off into the specific past while the non-specific present lingers like wool gathering. In this way, it is a literary marvel, a rare glimpse into the writing process as the internalization of place's spirit with no easy answers for the person crafting it, much less the reader, and can be invaluable to other writers.

The only problem with this reading is that it is not how the publisher sold it to the public, meaning Watchman was forced to stand up in a way different than how it was crafted. It is a phenomenal rough draft, but it is undeniably unpolished.

The second way to read it, and the way I would whole-heartedly recommend against even if there is merit for it, is as an alternate universe to Mockingbird: a world with similarly named characters and places but not meant to be the same world. It will be satisfying for many to read it in this way at the moment, for it allows people to set aside Mockingbird entirely from discussions involving it, but in the end it removes the book from its process and from its potential, leaving it exposed as a lesser written tale that is more honest in many ways but much less lovable.

The third way, which is the way I read it, is to take it as a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, or perhaps a stepping-back to see a broad picture of events. This way is flawed, for sure, and requires the literary equivalent of blurring the eyes at a few inconsistencies in world building between the two, but it allows the reader to take Watchman as a monumental exegesis on the paradox of the Southern Soul (one of many examples, and perhaps unintended, is how the anti-racism book still manages to dive into broad racist tropes). It is a time when the South was so passionate about striking back at what it saw as another wave of Northern aggression that many Southerners turned on themselves and held up a falsely idealized version of the past as proof of inherent greatness, as if by convincing themselves that the War Between States was actually just about State Rights and nothing else might be proof that the South is equal to the North by way of being better. Racism is not the creation of the South, but the South has to wear it like an albatross, and this novel is partially a tale of that.

It is also partially a tale of what happens when you grow up past your own stories, a victim to their splendor, like Jean Louise "Scout" Finch had to do. Towards the beginning, she writes that the historical version of events is at odds with the truth: to her, the way a story is most fondly remembered is the way it is best told. And, towards the end, she is told that much of her displeasure at facing Atticus at odds with her image of him is because he is finally letting her see him as a human, and—ironically, since this was written before—it is like a message to those who felt betrayed by the Goodman Godlike Atticus, who once strode unscathed on a sea of Jim Crow Laws looking toward a future it would take the South decades to reach, turning out to be just a man of his time. Mockingbird is a book about worshipping fathers, while Watchman is a book about loving them.

To Kill a Mockingbird is undoubtedly the better book, and Mockingbird's Atticus is the better character, but Go Set a Watchman is a better love letter to a place. Like all passionate relationships it endures its hate and makes itself because of it. The way I understand it, there was once a plan to release Watchman as an actual sequel to Mockingbird, which would have resulted in better editing and likely a stronger focus. It is perhaps one of literature's great missed chances, like the way we will never see Herbert's own vision for the seventh book of Dune, but such is life.

On Words

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: July 2015


BLOT: (13 Jul 2015 - 09:20:30 AM)

Day in the Life #13923: I apparently only have room for one creative endeavour at a time, a mild break-up with Goodreads, and miscellany

Some days are the kind of days that require glasses of extra strong tea with extra sugar, and today is some of those days. I feel hung over and exhausted, though have no reason to feel as such, and it is mildly annoying to know that the day will likely be spent recovering from some fictional last-night that would have earned the suffering.

Speaking of fiction, I have been trying to write. I say, "try", but generally would consider myself as having successfully written a decent fictional story that manages to combine my love of meta-fiction, weird fiction, and Alabama into a workable tale. I have written stories before, rough things that often were full of error or hid their inconsistencies inside of being very short. This is the first time I sat down wanting to write something that I was sure other people would read, and could appreciate. Could talk about.

The story is called "Night Showers", and deals with a writer's investigation of an Alabama town's urban legend about twenty people committing suicide one night back in 1917. As he explores this, he starts moving on with his life, and then it gets kind of weird. The title meant something different in earlier drafts, and now is kind of kept as an artifact, but I like it. I'll include a sample of it, below.

I am giving this story "two weeks to stew" and then I will sit down and do another read through, and then I will try and find out where/how to get it published. In the interim, I have two other stories I am working on, both set in the same rough part of the world as "Night Showers", though they are unrelated to it. And those three will be a start, or a finish. Time will tell.

The downside of this is that other creative projects, such as Doug Talks Weird, have taken a back-seat. I have been scripting episodes and doing research on them, but haven't got far enough long to really record any until at least this Friday. I want to try and build up a small stockpile of possible topics, and then try and do something weekly for about 10 weeks. After that, I'll figure out where I want to go from there. I just need to sit down and get those 10 out. If I can get it episode 13, I think I can consider it a full project, especially if I can keep improving the quality throughout those 13. After that, maybe we'll look at a second season of 13. Could be fun.

Possible/Probable topics for episodes I have planned:

There might be something like a round-table via Google Hangouts thing on Lord Dunsany, and maybe I will record and discuss my talk about HPL and his science horror, and that will be a good start to the whole shebang.

Speaking of things dealing with reading, I think I am going to be having a mild break-up with Goodreads. I like the website, and will continue to keep posting stuff to it, but for the past 18-months, I have posted book-reviews and tracked my reading lists on it, and not on my own homepage. I think it is time to bring back my reading tally to my site, and to prioritize posting my book (and movie, and other) reviews, here. I'll post them to Goodreads, too, at least shorter versions of them, but this site needs some love. I've let it rot a bit.

I think that wraps it about up. I have a review/discussion of the indie horror movie Resolution coming up, maybe today. Keep an eye out for that. As for the rest, I don't know. Let's see what bubbles up, here. On to the story sample.

Me in 2015


"Night Showers" Sample

"Would your mom like me?"

"Of course, why wouldn't she?"

"Don't know, I just want to know if she would. What would she like most about me?"

Marie and I are behind The Gulp, sat down on some old deck chairs Wendy keeps out there for smoke breaks. Marie occasionally smokes—one time when I came over to hang out with her, she giddily put about half-a-pack away—but is trying to stop, seems to be embarrassed by the addiction, like she woke up one morning with it as a character flaw. She still likes to take the breaks, though, and so when I showed up to grab a coke on the way to Henshaw's for another of our long rambly talks, she asked me to join her.

"Your eyes."

"Get out, loverboy, you've been reading too many sappy paperback romances."

"You gave those to me to read, woman, and I haven't, yet. Plus, Mama likes people's eyes. You wait and see. She'll eat yours right up."

Marie smiles, but she's fidgeting enough with her fingers I get the feeling that getting her away from the table might be good to cull her cravings. We walk a pace down the road, towards the old movie theater.

"You texted saying you have been having dreams about naked girls in the woods?"

"Naked girl, singular. Let's not act like it is a syndrome. And 'girl' is wrong, would be better to say female. Sometimes, it is out in the pine trees. Sometimes out in a clearing. Sometimes in a large house, but I can hear the trees creaking in the wind outside. Each time, it starts with me waking up on the ground, laying on my back, and then standing up, and seeing her across the way. Speaking of across the way, when will Charleen's reopen? I need some cleaning supplies."

"You might want to buy them from us, because Quik-By's closed."

"Since when?"

"Since last January, had a big sale after Christmas."

"I bought photo frames from Quik-By just a week ago, talked to Charleen. Couldn't have been closed then."

"If you are talking about those tacky frames you still have in your backseat with old bridge art on them, you bought them from Wendy. I remember her giving you a deal because no one else wanted them. I think this heat is getting to you."

Antioch's sizable heat makes the town look like a sleepy little village out of a Ray Bradbury story, bright and empty. Cars stretch out on either side of the road, betraying occupants in the buildings, but the owners only rarely make an appearance, and then mostly as shapes walking in the distance—up far enough way that the sun off the sidewalk makes a mess of the air between us and them—trying to get to better places, meaning places with air conditioning. A few of the shimmering shapes turn and wave. We wave back. I am not precisely sure to whom.

"You were telling me about sex dreams."

"They are not sex dreams, you vixen. Ok, so I wake up, stand up, and there she is. Each time, she starts out as a little naked baby on a deep red blanket. As I walk towards her, and I always walk towards her, haven't once chosen not to in these dreams, she gets bigger. Older. A few feet in, she is maybe a toddler. Then school-aged. Then a teenager. Then older still, but no precise age. Turns out the blanket she was on was a dress—because now she is wearing it—and she is as white as moonlight, her hair still the color of ink. Her eyes are strikingly green, her lips a shimmering purple. Every time, she sings to me, different songs, only the songs are so quiet that I taste them more than hear the lyrics. At some point, most of the way across to her, I look down where she was and she's gone."

"Gone."

"I usually wake up. Only last night, hands came around from behind and covered my face, blocking my sight, and I could smell the honeysuckle on her fingers and feel her pressing up against me. I have her hands in mine, and though they are soft and warm and gentle, I cannot budge them. I go to talk and she giggles and shushes me, and I feel sharp teeth bite into my ears and fur press against my back, and then I woke up, like I had run a race."

"You know what this means?"

I stop to look at her. She has a look in her eyes that suggests that she has a dozen dirty jokes going on underneath. We are mostly back to The Gulp at this point, and she leans against me and kisses me. "This means you are psychic. My sheets are red, and your witch powers are trying to get into my bedroom. I don't blame them. I am hot, you know? August hot."

The fact that this is our first kiss goes unmentioned, as does the implication of her suggestion. Her break is over and I feel like I need to say something to mark the occasion.

"Turns out your suggestion to call on the old post-mistress, Mrs. Harrison, got me nowhere. She talked about her aunt, and her aunt thought it was some sort of sex-cult thing. Conversation went on too long after that. People belong to many sex cults around here?"

She winks at me and bites her lip with a little puppy dog face before going inside. Another gentle rumbling brushes up against my feet.

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: July 2015


BLOT: (15 Jun 2015 - 08:28:43 PM)

Hidden (aka Skjult) [2009 Norwegian Horror]

personas. Directed and Written by Pal Oie. Starring Kristoffer Jone, Karin Park, and Bjarte Hjelmeland.

gist. Kai Koss returns to his hometown after the death of his horribly abusive mother, and finds that the same townspeople that years ago refused to intervene to help him are now blaming him for non-specified ills. When a pair of camping youth go missing, many look to Kai as suspect number one. As he helps to delve deeper into the mystery, the extent of the abuse and the horror of one night years ago when a family is destroyed starts to catch up with him. Kai is a haunted man, and the past is a monster coming to claim him.

Hand coming out of the dirt, holding a doll mask

review. One of my first thoughts when watching this film was that it was a tragic tale about Norway's lack of lightbulbs [and the sad story about how those few that exist all flicker and fade]. A second thought was that this is a terribly by-the-books ghost/horror movie. How cliche is it? In one scene, the protagonist shuts a bathroom medicine cabinet and sees a ghost standing behind in the reflection. I shit you not. My ire at the tired tropes was somewhat mitigated, though, by the knowledge that in the six or so years since this movie was released, Blumhouse (and others) have parlayed those same tired tropes into moderately successful flicks. Hidden's biggest sin is that it is merely an ok film, neither brilliant nor abysmal. It uses the tools in its toolkit adequately, and that is damning praise. When it pushes the envelope a little—the weird events that occur in the hotel, the odd imagery in the house such as the room full of wrapped dolls, the kind-of-obvious-in-retrospect birthing-mother imagery—it does so in a way that is haunting and effective. It does this semi-rarely, and those nuggets of brilliance will be ultimately lost in scenes where a man chases a shadowy figure through foggy woods and where a person hiding from a baddie is exposed by her cellphone, which is a shame. With earnest hope, I look forward to what the writer/director goes on to do from here, because there is a chance it will be amazing.

final score. 4 (on a scale of 0 to 8), +1 for those who are into ghost films or Nordic films, -1 for those who need films to be original to care about them.

more info. Hidden/Skjult's Wikipedia entry.

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: June 2015


BLOT: (11 Jun 2015 - 08:36:14 PM)

This Batman cover looks like someone's subconcious splattered all over the page (Batman #504, volume 1)

Since I literally stayed up past my bedtime last night complaining about how people flavor information before displaying it, I'll play this one straight, and ask you to glance/look at this cover and tell me the first thing that you see...

Catwoman and AzBat...in an odd pose

That's from the first volume of Batman, issue 504 (link goes to Comixology's single issue version, which is where I got the cover image from). It is the middle of the KnightQuest story-arc (part of the broader KnightFall story-arc, which is about Bruce Wayne being replaced as Batman by Jean Paul Valley, aka Azrael (LGT Wikipedia)). It is part of AzBat's initial run-ins with Catwoman, and is supposed to be Catwoman holding AzBat down, but hell if it doesn't look like someone's subconscious splashed out all over the page.

Doesn't help that AzBat's first sighting of Catwoman led to him having real kinky wet dreams about her, something he brings up a number of times. Then she emasculates him as being an undersexed pretender. By the way, just in case you glanced at the cover and are confused, that's his arms...his plump, whippable arms.

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: June 2015


BLOT: (10 Jun 2015 - 08:51:55 PM)

Someone was wrong on the Internet

Two-ish years ago, I wrote a blog post about the Monson Motor Lodge incident, in which I attacked a Tumblr post for claiming that a group of protestors were black children out for a swim (which I felt was not only disrespectful to the protestors, but also disruptive to discussions about the St. Augustine Movement in general), and talked about not only the context of the incident but also the way that images (as well as anecdotes) can be flavored before we even see them by a caption, or a link. You can read it yourself, that link above is effectively unedited (besides to put a bumper linking back to here). Read my write-up, if you haven't, and then come back. This'll wait.

It has gone on to be one of the most read posts on this blog, read much more than the horror and weird posts, and while not everyone agrees with it [for various reasons], 99% of the discussion that has come my way has been by people interested in why I worded something the way I did or why I wrote it or what not, basically intelligent discussion and debate.

Found out, today, that someone found the blog post a couple of days back, and completely misread it, tweeting out: "when I went looking for this pic [note: not the exact one in the blog post, but of the same incident], I found this hilarious blog which tries to say that it isn't that bad in context". Note that "this hilarious blog" he is claiming hand-waves the incident includes this paragraph:

Think about what would make someone see a photo of a man pouring acid into a pool full of people, an act designed to terrify and to attack, and then try to spruce it up by saying that it was children and kind of implying that these were kids just out for a swim. And think about people who respond to the caption rather than the evidence. Finally, think about all the other parts: the large crowd and the complex history and the fact that if you look at the second, where it is a very nice beach-side place, it doesn't look like a cheap motel pool turned into a tragedy, anymore. It loses its claustrophobia but gains a truth of what the protesters were really up against: institutionalized racism from the sort of people that were probably really nice to their pets and had loving parents and good, church-going children and, more importantly, thought of themselves as morally upright citizens doing the right thing for their society.

Which is a Doug way of saying that it was, if anything, worse in context. And way more complicated.

Part of what is going on here is that the picture resurfaces every couple of months. Last year was the 50th anniversary. That link goes to a NPR post about it that is worth reading, because it includes some comments from the protestors themselves. Another recent resurgence of the pic was due to the incident where a cop pulled a gun on teenagers at a pool party, which is being linked for obvious reasons to the Monson Motor Lodge incident.

However, because the picture keeps resurfacing, people keep refinding that blog post. Though it the second paragraph it responds directly to the "June, 1964. Black children integrate the swimming pool of the Monson Motel" Tumblr caption, and despite the constant callback throughout the whole thing that "why would you say it was children to sell it?", what I've found is that people tend to skip all the context of my post and assume that I'm somehow discussing whatever caption/link they saw connected with the picture. Then, depending on said link/caption, they try to apply my "don't make monsters when history made plenty of it's own" in varied ways. In the case of the aforementioned erroneous tweeter, it seemed to assume I was somehow defending James Brock, despite that language never showing up anywhere in the post. I guess the "plenty of monsters" language was also overlooked.

Where it gets interesting is that in the end, this incident verified the post further than anything else. One of my major points is that if you tell someone what a picture means, or what a bit of history means, before sharing it with them, you have already corrupted their ability to see it as part of a larger picture. They see it through your filter, even if later they find out they disagree with you. It is a powerful trick to play, like changing soundtracks to a movie to change the emotional experience. To wit, I've now seen a few other people link to my post as somehow against the protestors instead of against people calling them children.

To clarify, in a tl;dr fashion:

Again, you don't have to agree with me, but it does help if you address what I am saying instead of your fictional account of it.

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: June 2015


BLOT: (02 Jun 2015 - 07:12:56 PM)

The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival 2014 Best Short Films DVD: thoughts and reviews

Upon spotting the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival 2014 Best Short Films DVD for sale, I went ahead and ordered it without really looking at the contents list. There is some risk involved, there, but I am a guy who loves short horror films and a guy who loves Lovecraftian media. Seemed like it would be a good idea, and it was pretty decent. Good job, past me.

There are nine proper shorts on the DVD. There are also three trailers, two promos, and a broader introduction/promo to the Film Festival and Cthulhu Con. The trailers are for the movies Exile, Feed the Light, and The Dreamlands. All three of those trailers can be seen online (just click the links). The two promos were a Festival bumper called "Dread Sign" and a music video for "No Turning Back" (LGT: said video) from the Dreams in the Witch House Rock Opera. Dug the silent-movie styling, though the back-and-forth kind of kicked me out of it.

Now we are getting to the main short films. The first (by order of how they are laid out on the DVD menu) is "The Celebrant", directed by Brian Lillie. It features a voice artist and a sound engineer recording one last poem for a Mordecai Saccades (sort of Crowley type, though apparently a tad darker) audio collection. Upon playing back the recording, though, they find another voice has snuck in, and something dark is answering the call. It is fairly simple in set up, and just about the right length for its story. You have to take a couple of plot expedients with a grain of salt, but it is pretty spooky and ends more wide-scale than your average short.

"Eyes in the Dark", directed by Alex White. This one involves an egotistical scientist explaining how his great discoveries are the byproduct of a box which answers questions asked of it, as long as the questions are big enough to be worth its time. One of the longer ones on the DVD, it backfires a tad when its big-reveals at the end fail to strike home. Might make a fair Call of Cthulhu module, but is one of the more skippable entries on the DVD.

"There's an Octopus in Your Head", by Ari Grabb. A man confronts Satan in an attempt to find out why he—the man, not Satan—likes making pancakes so much. It is an animated metal-opera that is surprisingly touching in places. It is also pretty much not Lovecraftian in the least (unless cephalods are all it takes). Still, one of my favorites from the DVD and one I'd recommend most everyone watch. You can watch a trailer of it.

"Black Sugar", by Hank Friedmann. One of the few you can currently watch online in its entirety. A group of kids find a "legal high", called Black Sugar, and decide to try it. It comes in mochi-like little munchies—read, the filmmakers had teenagers eat mochi—and biting into it takes you to a different realm of consciousness. Literally. Then bad things happen. It generated some buzz last year in some of the various online circles I frequent, but something about it, then, did not quite sit right with me. Watching it, again, I'm a much bigger convert. I quite enjoyed it this round, and would consider it one of the big standouts.

"Ikelos Below", by Thomas Nicol. Simple and weird, a dream-sequence short inspired by a dream. Has some neat visuals, but it is mostly weird for weird sake, and could be skippable (though it is fairly short).

"I Am Not Samuel Krohm", by Sébastien Chantal. A weasely little salesman for a Monsanto like company is trying his best to convince farmers in rural France to sign up for his products, and generally failing. On the way to a big talk, though, he is pulled over by a cop who mistakes him for someone else, the eponymous Samuel Krohm. This turns dark fairly fast and the salesman has to try and find out what is going on while staying alive. The longest on the DVD, I believe, and probably the meatiest in the way of actual characters (and something like development), plot, photography, and mystery. Well acted and the central tension is intriguing. It does sort of run out of places to go before it is done, but it is probably my favorite on the whole disk.

"Somnaphage, by Monsieur Soeur. Claymation short about a recluse who does not dream, and the lonely people she invites over, and the strange mask which enables her to enter the dream, and the dark thing that seems to be waiting there for all of her newfound and fleeting friends. One of the most different films in the set, sweet and sad and gorgeous. Well recommended as one of the "must watch" shorts.

"The Void", by Eric Schwartz. A quirky one towards the end of the DVD. A pair of girls go into a off-limits forest trying to find a kid who has gone missing in it (one of many). They are inspired by their favorite TV show but must face The Void, a horror of local legend. It strives to contrast the quirky sweet opening with the suddenly dark ending, but unfortunately has a too-long already-darkening middle for the contrast to sing. The world building around The Void is fairly effective, and it has charm, but did not quite come out filling whole.

"Vomica", by Andy Green and Darren Ormandy. Winner of Best Short Film. A trio of commandos in WW2 attack a Nazi research post in France to find out what is being held there. Bad things, ladies and gents. Bad things. A meaty little short, with effective use of repetition and slow reveals to help drive up the tension. The big pop at the end might be too big, but the rest of it is so well crafted it is forgivable. Not quite my favorite (almost entirely because of the too-big-pop), but I dig it quite a bit. The trailer does a good job of giving a glimpse.

Ok, those are the films. Of them, I would say that "I Am Not Samuel Krohm", "Somnaphage", and "Black Sugar" are my top three, with "There's an Octopus in Your Head" getting an honorary spot as the fourth of the three despite it's not-quite-Lovecraftian-horror-short status. "Vomica" is also another right up there. In fact, the only one that I didn't really like was "Eyes in the Dark". Even though I felt like "The Void" could have been more, it was fairly unique and watchable. That would be something like four great shorts, four fair to good ones, and only one I felt was meh.

I hope they keep this up, since finding some of the shorts would have been quite difficult otherwise.

Lovecraftian Miscellany

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: June 2015


Written by Doug Bolden

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