Exorcists Take Over

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I always wanted to read The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. I wanted to know how scenes from the movie looked in written word. How did he use vocabulary to express the sights and sounds and smells? When I found an audio version, read by the author himself no less, I snatched it!

I will tell you that there is no other way to delve into a book about demon possession other than with an audio version. I got chills from the places of the text where the demon speaks. At one or two points I felt like I should pull my earbuds out and douse them in holy water! Weirdly, this book became my soundtrack as I trained for a 10K and anticipating the next installment served as wonderful motivation to get that next workout in.

As I was deep in the midst of my unique routine, I heard that FOX was making a television series based on The Exorcist. I was very curious to find out how the writers of the television series would develop their storylines. On the premier evening, I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch. My men were out at an overnight campout, and I was alone with my girls. It might sound weird, but it was the first time I found myself without my spouse overnight since my home security system, a large German Shepherd named Carmen, passed away. What if I freaked myself out and in turn scared my girls? As is true most times, my need to know won out.

I tucked them into the family room with a Disney movie and crept up the stairs to my room. I wanted to turn the volume low on the TV, I didn’t want them to overhear it, but it was stormy out, and the wind was howling through the eaves of the house. I adjusted the volume so I could hear and hoped the sound wouldn’t carry over the happy sounds of Disney.

The opening scenes with the lone priest walking through a ghetto, dark things scurrying in the shadows, and screams in the night had me expecting to go through the house turning on all the lights. Just when I thought I was going to be fine, the final scenes from the attic rolled across the screen. It takes a lot to scare me, and I was not disappointed!

It would have been easy for this show to be a rip-off of the movie, but it forged its own path into terror. As the story went on it got deeper, twistier, and scarier. The way the story intertwined with Blatty’s original tale was brilliant

Towards the end of the season, Ben Daniel’s character, Father Marcus, said the most profound line to ever be uttered on television, IMHO. Satan’s allies were torturing him, and all he had to do to make it stop was join them. He refused. The head baddy expressed his disbelief that Father Marcus would rather die for the Church that had excommunicated him than be a part of the evil that would welcome him. To this Marcus replied, “I’m not dying for the bloody Church, I’m dying for Him.”

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There is something terribly appealing about a character who reveals that his principles are deeper than you thought. He walks the talk to the bitter end, a man of integrity who knows where his true devotion lies.

These tales intrigue me, and maybe many of you, because they are scary to be sure, but deeper. Not just shock and jumps. They explore the ancient human question of what faith is and how hard it can be to hang on to that faith. It challenges us to ponder what exactly is it that we have faith in? And why. It begs the question, what is the purpose of suffering? They show us the power of mercy, sacrifice, and service to others. Most importantly, they tell us that we are not powerless against evil. Contact with evil will change us, but we can fight back. There is hope that we can overcome it.

William Peter Blatty passed away on January 12, 2016. I’m glad I got to hear his classic novel read with his intended character inflections and tone. It was fantastic. I let his word usage wash over my brain, I hope something stuck!

bookcoverexorcismJust when I was about to move on from this theme of possession that organically emerged in my life, my library app told me that a new addition to the collection might interest me. My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix. I loved HorrStor by this same author, so of course, I borrowed it! Not as chilling as the tales above but still good. I was a teen in the early 80’s like the characters, and it brought back some delicious (can you say TCBY) and cringe-worthy memories. It’s a coming of age story with the added challenge of a terrifying chain of demon-inspired chaos. Check it out!

I’m still open to this theme of possession! I’d like to read some Indie authors on the subject. I’m taking suggestions! I just watched Hostage to the Devil, a documentary about real-life exorcist Father Malachi Martin, and so now I think I’ll have to read his book by the same title.

What have I learned from all this? Well, if you happen to see someone you love speaking with an imaginary friend, acting strangely, and speaking in strange voices…you might need a Father Marcus. Or maybe…just maybe…they are a writer!

Until next time Never Turn Off the Lights!

Instagram June Gloom Horror Challenge

As a new writer, I was told by people in the know that I had to build a social media platform for my books. It’s a challenging endeavor because I am an introvert at heart, but I have “met” some interesting and cool folks on this journey. Many of the interactions have been positive and fun. I’m having a good time!

For instance, during the entire month of June on Instagram I played along with the June Gloom Horror Challenge (#junegloomhorrorchallenge) started by @zachattack_thedesigner. The challenge was to post a horror movie for a specific category every day for the entire month of June. I rediscovered some enjoyable flicks and found some new ones to check out. It was so much fun that I thought I would share my posts from that challenge with you. Follow me on Instagram @joyyehle to share in the insta-fun!

Day 1. Fav Cabin Based Horror Movie: Evil Dead
Day 2. Fav Road Trip Based Horror Movie: Penny Dreadful
Day 3. Fav College Based Horror Movie: The Quiet Ones
Day 4. Fav Hotel Based Horror Movie: The Shining (of course!)
Day 5. Fav Space Based Horror Movie: Event Horizon
Day 6. Fav Devil Based Horror Movie: The Ninth Gate
Day 7. Fav Haunting Based Horror Movie: The Haunting (1966)
Day 8. Fav Boat/Ship Based Horror Movie: Below
Day 9. Fav Sea Based Horror Movie: Open Water
Day 10. Fav Jungle Based Horror Movie: Predator (get to the chopper!)
Day 11. Fav Forrest Based Horror Movie: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Day 12. Fav Island Based Horror Movie: Shutter Island
Day 13. Fav Swamp Based Horror Movie: The Skeleton Key
Day 14. Fav Natural Disaster Based Horror Movie: Knowing (cheesy, but it was the best I could come up with)
Day 15. Fav Found Footage Based Horror Movie: The Blair Witch Project
Day 16. Fav Airplane Based Horror Movie: Twilight Zone: Nightmare at 20,000 feet (not technically a movie, but it’s my feed, so my rules)
Day 17. Fav Religion Based Horror Movie: The Remaining
Day 18. Fav School Based Horror Movie: The Craft
Day 19. Fav Diner Based Horror Movie: Legion
Day 20. Fav Farm Based Horror Movie: Signs 
Day 21. Fav Lake Based Horror Movie: Neverlake
Day 22. Fav Based on a True Story Horror Movie: The Conjuring
Day 23. Fav Spring Break Based Horror Movie: Turistas
Day 24. Fav Crazy Girl Based Horror Movie: Excision
Day 25. Fav Hospital Based Horror Movie: Gothika
Day 26. Fav Alien Based Horror Movie: Alien
Day 27. Fav Family Based Horror Movie: Insidious
Day 28. Fav Camping Based Horror Movie: The Frozen
Day 29. Fav 1 Stupid Mistake Horror Movie: An American Werewolf in London (stay off the moors at night, you fools)
Day 30. What’s your favorite scary movie: Halloween

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I hope I helped you discover something new or reminded you of a good flick to rewatch. Do you agree with my choices or do you have a better one? What would you choose?

Horrifying Mother’s Day!

The day we set aside to celebrate moms is here. Motherhood is usually portrayed as a noble and saintly pursuit, which it is, most of the time. But anyone who has done it for more than two minutes knows it’s not always rainbows and unicorns. It can be a thankless and overwhelming job. But society expects moms to persevere through the tough times, their unconditional love for their offspring propelling them onward.

But there is another side to mothering we rarely see portrayed. A darker side that no one talks about and rarely admits to. Like many uncomfortable aspects of society, horror and thrillers are the perfect vehicle for dragging these facets of being a mom out into the open. So in the spirit of Norma Bates, here are some equally horrifying mommies you may want to check out.

Coraline.svgThe Other Mother, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, book and movie. So, she wanted to pluck out Coraline’s eyes and sew on buttons instead, probably how she planned on stealing her soul. So, she wanted to keep Coraline a prisoner. So, she kept the souls of other children imprisoned, is that so bad? A beldam from a parallel universe has to find love somewhere.

voorheesPamela Voorhees, Victor Miller; Sean S. Cunningham; Ron Kurz; Friday the 13th. Some mothers live out one of motherhood’s worst fear, the death of a child. For Pamela, the pain of losing her son, Jason, was compounded by the fact the death was, in part, due to the negligence of others. A little revenge, of course, is better than a long-drawn-out lawsuit, right? So what if all the people she killed had nothing to do with it. Perhaps it was her evil blood sacrifices that led to the resurrection of Jason so he could carry on the family business of murder for many, many more films.

mommyMommy, Wes Craven, The People Under the Stairs. The acting credits simply call this character, Woman. Wes Craven was inspired to write this after seeing a news story where a reported break-in uncovered children locked away in the house, prisoners of their own parents. In Craven’s version, a twisted incestuous couple kidnap several children in an attempt to raise a boy in addition to their daughter, Alice. Kids can be naughty and a disappointment but Mommy knows how to handle them. She had Daddy cut off their tongues, gouge out their eyes and force them to live in the cellar. Although, one boy escapes into the walls. A home invasion reveals their dirty little secrets. Poor Mommy, it’s stressful to have kids misbehaving in the basement and one in the wall doing his business God-knows-where!

babadookAmelia, Jennifer Kent, The Babadook. Perhaps one of the most uncomfortable mother/child relationships, the mother who feels resentment and enmity toward her own offspring. I saw this at The Stanley Film Festival last year and it was the best screening I attended. I thought the ending could have been better, but the way the story evolves is mesmerizing. Amelia’s son, Sam, is an annoying and troubled little guy for certain, but Amelia shows more affection towards the dog than Sam, poor dog. She blames Sam for his father’s death, he was killed in an accident driving Amelia to the hospital to have Sam.  Sam finds a spooky book about the Babadook, a boogie-man like monster that begins to torment them. However, it is soon apparent that Amelia is a bigger danger to Sam than the spook. I think this story works because it touches on a secret of motherhood. That’s right, mothers don’t always feel loving toward their little ones.

Stephen King.

Stephen King.

Margaret White, Stephen King,  Carrie, book and movie. Margaret is particularly scary for her use of religion as her vehicle for abuse. The way some abusers might wield a leather belt, she uses Bible verses to inflict damage to her daughter’s very soul. She thought she was raising Carrie to be a Godly woman, but she created a monster. Carrie never stood a chance. Unfortunately, neither did anyone who crossed her. Nice parenting, Margaret.

Mother, Stephen King, Revival. I’m thankful that I didn’t have to spend too much time with her. The little she is written about was more than enough. She doesn’t want to show motherly love. No, she wants to enslave you, for eternity. I’m not sure what or whom Mother is a mother of, but you don’t want any of that. It’s a good incentive to stay healthy and live a long life if she is all that is waiting in the afterlife.

Hopefully, you didn’t recognize your mother in any of the women (I’m not sure if Mother from Revival is a woman) described above. If you did, send her your therapy bill for Mother’s Day, otherwise tell your mom you love her.

To all of us who do our best every day to raise our kids and never ever act like any of the moms mentioned here (well, at least not all the time) Happy  Mother’s Day!

The Stanley Film Fest – That’s a Wrap

After a few moments of trying to debunk the shadow moving across the headboard I finally shrugged it off as a large bird flying by. If I had known about the picture of the grand stairway I may have thought differently, but ignorance is bliss.

We headed out to catch our first screening (Rigor Mortis, pretty good martial-arts-ghost story) then we rode the shuttle into town to find some dinner, we were starving since we skipped lunch. We ended up at our go to place in Estes Park, The Wapiti, where they serve your beer in cowboy boot shaped mugs, awesome right?

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We checked out the horror trivia game at The Wheel Bar and then we checked out what was happening at the historic Park Theatre. This theater was built in 1913 and is the oldest working movie theater in the United States and several screenings were taking place there as well as the theater at the hotel and the modern Reel Mountain Theaters. The quaint little town of Estes Park depends economically on tourism, this area was hit pretty hard by flood waters last year and many businesses are still recovering. If you are nearby or passing by, head up for a day of shopping and sight seeing, they could use our support.

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Park Theatre, Estes Park, CO

We made our way back up to the hotel and had some time before the special-secret screening so I made my sweet husband creep around the hotel taking random photos. I didn’t see any anomalies in these photos but feel free to look again for me. The Hall of Owners looked particularly odd in the falling light of dusk.

The hallways are long and narrow. The lighting adds to a creepy vibe.

The hallways are long and narrow. The lighting adds to a creepy vibe.

Hall of Owners

Hall of Owners

Hall of Owners

Hall of Owners

Mrs. Stanley

Mrs. Stanley

Looking up the stairs to the second and third floors.

Looking up the stairs to the second and third floors.

Looking down the stairs, slightly disorienting.

Looking down the stairs, slightly disorienting.

Stairs to bell tower on the third floor. If you climb these you will feel a nanny who is still there watching the children on this floor pull you down.

Stairs to bell tower on the third floor. If you climb these you will feel a nanny who is still there watching the children on this floor pull you down.

 

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The original elevator. In King's story the elevator was operated by phantom party-goers.

The original elevator. In King’s story the elevator was operated by phantom party-goers.

Room 217 where Stephen King stayed.

Room 217 where Stephen King stayed.

We made our way to the Whiskey Bar and had ourselves a very coconutty Redrum Punch in a tip of the hat to the The Shining. Unfortunately, unlike Jack Torrance, our money was good there, good enough for an other round! But now I can say we had drinks with Elijah Wood, well at least in the same room.

Drinks with Elijah, sort of.

Drinks with Elijah, sort of, that’s him back there in the dark sweater.

By now it was dark outside and we headed over to the theater on the grounds to see the super secret screening. It was Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno that is slated for release in September. If you like gory-tense-thrills and an ending you didn’t see coming, this movie is for you. I gave it thumbs up.

The Stanley Hotel at night.

The Stanley Hotel at night.

There was a horror immersion game going on with these weird clues popping up  here and there.

Game Clue

Game Clue

I wish I could report that we had a terrible and terrifying night but I slept like a baby. Maybe even the best sleep I have had in months. In fact, nothing at the Stanley ever felt scary or sinister.

The next  morning we hung out in the lodge to drink coffee, we were a bit late for breakfast because we got stuck watching Room 237, a documentary about Kubrick’s version of The Shining. I have to watch it again, the documentary and the movie.

I don’t know who their decorator is at the Lodge, but I loved it. Okay maybe not the cow-hide chairs but everything else is perfect. I left there with visions of redecorating dancing in my head.

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The screenings we saw were all pretty good. I’m always looking for a movie to scare myself with and some of these were very well done. We didn’t get to see everything we wanted but what we did see was well worth it. The Australian flick, The Babadook, was like every fear I have had as a mother and all my kids’ childhood fears rolled into one. Loved it!

The last thing we did before we left was the Stanley Tour. It was especially fun because our guide was dressed like a zombie as were many festival goers. There had been a fun zombie parade earlier in the day. There was a wedding going on and I felt kind of sorry that there would likely be some zombies in the background of some of the photos, the bride did not seem particularly amused. It made me think about The Shining. Stephen King wrote about the time periods lapsing over each other at his fictional Overlook Hotel and that day with an impeccably dressed wedding party and zombies lulling around it felt that way.

A friendly zombie waiting for coffee.

A friendly zombie waiting for coffee.

Our tour guide told us about her own ghostly encounter in the tunnel, not scary really, just one of the “workmen” saying good night to her as she passed through on her way to the dormitories after work. She told us that she feels the ghosts at The Stanley are just coming back to a place they had very good memories of, nothing sinister. I could see that actually. I left there with some pretty good feelings myself.

My hubby in the underground tunnels.

My hubby in the underground tunnels.

We had a really relaxing and fun time and the weather could not have been more perfect. My only complaint, the chairs in the theater at the hotel were a bit too unforgiving for a long sit. On Saturday night I saw a woman come in with her pillows from the hotel, smart girl. I’m not sure if my husband is, but I’m looking forward to maybe going back next year. I want to take another photo of the main staircase.

Until next time Never Turn Off the Lights.

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All We Really Need to Know is Learned From Zombie Shows

There aren’t many television shows that I watch regularly, actually there are only two that I can think of. The top of my “to watch” list has to be AMC’s The Walking Dead. I discovered it on Netflix and binge watched until I caught up to start watching on Sunday nights. It’s not really the zombies that make this show compelling, it’s the relationships, the struggles, and the moral dilemmas posed to the living. I saw a comment on a board by a fan that said the title did not refer to the zombies or walkers as they are called, but the survivors of this harsh new reality. I never watched this show when it first started because I thought that an entire series based on zombies would be boring. I mean how many ways can you tell the zombie story? The dead rise, the living try to survive and find a cure.

When well done, the zombie story may follow that recipe but it’s the individual ingredients that make the flesh eater vs the living interesting in ways that can be surprising. As far as the genre goes, it is definitely not for everyone. However, there is an abundance to choose from: comedy, high drama, action, all out gore, and more. Here are my 5 top Zombie themed venues of entertainment and what we might possibly be able to learn from them.

1. George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead

This classic spawned one of the best known movie lines, “they’re coming to get you, Barbra!” It may be black and white but to me that just adds to the creepiness. It’s based in era that is not exactly postapocalyptic but more of a bizarre “outbreak”. It’s not just a gory zombie tale but a commentary on prejudices we carry and inter-human-social relations. The ending will leave you gasping.

Night of the Living Dead is a 1968 American independent horror film directed by George A. Romero

Night of the Living Dead is a 1968 American independent horror film directed by George A. Romero

2. AMC’s The Walking Dead

Based on the graphic novels of Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. The issues of humanity and what is it, how do you hang on to it, and why should you hang on to it, are raised on a weekly basis. One of the advantages of having a long running serial is that people have more time to get invested in the characters and ask themselves, what would I do in that situation? This series is unpredictable as they have not shied away from killing main characters, you’ll have to watch to find out which ones.

The living fight to remain alive and human.

The living fight to remain alive and human.

3. Shaun of the Dead

“Let’s get to the pub.” Our hero, Shaun, makes lists of things to do to survive that changes throughout the ordeal but the best plan ends with getting to the pub. At one point he has to add the name of someone who has become a zombie and notes they need to be killed, sorry. This dark comedy shows us that we are all “zombies” in our modern self-absorbed world.

4. World War Z

This big money blockbuster features fast-moving zombies that act like a swarm of insects in their efforts to feed. I wasn’t sure I would like this one as I kind of felt it was an attempt to just jump on the zombie bandwagon but I was pleasantly surprised. The Israeli soldier character, Segen, played by Daniella Kertesz, has stuck with me as a picture of resilience and downright “badassness”. It speaks to our fears of collapsing economies and disease that may strike from afar, perhaps even our fear of a too inter-connected world. It was spun from a book by the same name, World War Z, An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks.

Isreali Soldier Segen in Action

Israeli Soldier Segen in Action

 

5. Zombieland

Similar to Shaun, this dark comedy speaks to the ‘unconnectedness’ of modern life. It’s rather gory but the mix of characters keeps you interested, not to mention, it’s funny. The main character counts down his list of personal rules for survival throughout the story. I think we can apply all of Columbus’ rules to our lives, not just the apocalypse. For instance, rule one: cardio.

I think the zombie genre will be going strong for some time as evidenced by the still popular movies, new and old. Almost everywhere you look there are zombie-fests, zombie-runs, and zombie-crawls. Here in my small town they hosted a zombie-prom at the library not too long ago, I’m sure some citizens were baffled. There are emerging venues of telling the reanimated dead story from new perspectives, The Returned and Resurrection are the latest examples.

Zombies may have come to represent what we as modern people fear most: incurable disease, economic collapse, war, environmental threat, and death. Zombies are the ultimate “other”.

Forget about my usual advice about Never Turn Off the Lights. Zombies (as well as the fears listed above) don’t care about the light. They are the most dangerous and deep-seated fears because we can do little, if anything, to prevent them from coming when they are set in motion and there is literally nowhere to hide. Maybe, as these movies show us, the best we can do is stick together and: 1. cardio; 2. keep fighting (even if you have to cut off your hand); 3. (a.k.a. 32) enjoy the little things; and finally, 4. get to the pub.

Possession Movies with Real Life Beginnings

There is a new horror film slated for release tomorrow, Devil’s Due. You may not have heard of the movie but maybe you heard about or have seen the viral marketing for this movie.

Funny, yet disturbing.

This movie is based on fictional characters but there are several well known possession movies that are based on allegedly true stories. Probably the best known of these is The Exorcist, based on the story of Roland Doe (not his real name), a 13-year-old boy who in 1949 underwent a month long exorcism ritual conducted by two Jesuit priests, Fathers William Bowdern and Walter Halloran. In the movie version it is a young girl who is overtaken by an evil entity after playing with a Ouija Board. Roland’s ordeal also began with a Ouija board. Several manifestations were inflicted on the boy, writing would spontaneously appear on Roland’s skin, he spoke in a guttural voice, he had an aversion to sacred objects, he was vulgar with the priests and even tried to urinate on them. Finally, according to Tom Leonard of the Daily Mail, the boy shouted out “Satan, I am St. Michael! I command you to leave this body now!” He went limp and announced “He is gone!” He acted normally and has never had a relapse since that moment, prompting some to say the boy was faking the whole thing.

A possession movie I found most interesting was the 2012 release The Possession. Usually it seems the Catholics have the corner market on exorcisms but this story has a Jewish slant. The movie is loosely based on the book The Dibbuk Box by Jason Haxton. In the movie a young girl buys the Dibbuk box at a yard sale and becomes possessed by the evil spirit from Jewish folklore that was trapped inside when she opens the box. In real life the box was first purchased at an Estate sale and later on eBay, finally coming to Jason Haxton. The box has a history of strange and tragic occurrences happening to those in possession or vicinity of the box. Haxton still owns the box and says it is in a safe place, whatever that means. Apparently some strange things happened on the set of The Possession even though the crew and cast turned down Haxton’s offer to give them the actual Dibbuk box. Several times lights inexplicably exploded and phantom gusts of wind would billow on the set. When shooting wrapped up all the props, including the movie version of the Dibbuk box, were put into storage. A short time later the storage unit burned to the ground with no explanation.

Demonic possession is discussed in the Bible numerous times and many religions hold the belief that spirits can possess the living. Dr. William B. Bradshaw, Ph.D, a demonologist, wrote Sinister Among Us as a layman’s primer into demonology. Dr. Bradshaw holds his Ph.D. in demonology has spent decades studying the subject. While he concedes that mental disease, physical maladies, and human choice are usually at the root of these cases he believes that there is a struggle between good and evil. As he points out in his book, possession is not always head-spinning, levitating, pea soup shooting obvious and can strike in the most unlikely place. Which makes the prospect even more unsettling.

Sinister Among Us by William B. Bradshaw

Sinister Among Us by William B. Bradshaw

Unfortunately, my usual advice of never turn off the lights probably won’t help in this situation. Unless you are an unbeliever, then you should be fine, right?