HALLOWEEN’ING Day 28: “Cold” (Static-X)

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halloween'ing 2017
I first heard the song “Cold” as part of the movie Queen Of The Damned. It’s played during the part where Lestat is playing around with a couple of groupies’ heads before he eats them. It’s one of the highlights of an otherwise passable vampire film (in and of itself; as an adaptation…well, that’s not the point of this article, really). I soon came to find out that this song was re-purposed for the film, and the original was done by cyber nu-metal group Static-X.

Coming off of their 2001 release Machine, “Cold” is chilling enough as it is, a nice neo-Gothic metal ode to vampires. However, it’s the video that really makes this a staple in my Halloween music mix: A disheveled looking Wayne Static inside a remote house that’s heavily fortified and barricaded, preparing for a showdown with vampires once the sun goes down. It’s very much an homage to Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, and is awesome in its own right.

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HALLOWEEN’ING Day 18: Hell House (Richard Matheson)

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halloween'ing 2017
richard matheson hell house
In 1971, the author that brought us such 20th Century horror classics as I Am Legend, The Shrinking Man and A Stir of Echoes, published a haunted house novel titled Hell House. This was made into the film The Legend Of Hell House a couple of years later, but obviously the focus right now is on the novel. Mostly because I’ve only read the novel, and haven’t seen the movie yet.

So, four people–a physicist and his wife, a spiritualist and a medium) are hired to spend a week in December by a dying millionaire to investigate if the titular house is as haunted as the legends claim it is. The medium is a survivor of a previous investigation at the same house years prior; the spiritualist wants to give the malevolent spirits a big hug to make them not evil anymore, and the physicist is something of an open-minded skeptic, planning on using SCIENCE! to prove whether or not ghosts exist. Wackiness ensues, and not everyone gets out unscathed…or alive, for that matter.

Hell House is listed by many horror fiction authors as one of their favorite horror novels, a list that includes one Stephen King (you may have heard of him). After reading it, I have to say that Hell House is one of the best haunted house horror thrillers I’ve had the pleasure of reading. It plays with your head, and leaves you unsettled. This is one to read with the lights down and a fire going, most definitely.

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Book Review: HELL HOUSE

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Book Review HELL HOUSERichard Matheson
Tor
1971

For over twenty years, Belasco House has stood empty. Regarded as the Mount Everest of haunted houses, it is a venerable mansion whose shadowed walls have witnessed scenes of almost unimaginable horror and depravity. Two previous expeditions to investigate its secrets met with disaster, the participants destroyed by murder, suicide, or insanity. Now a new investigation has been mounted, bringing four strangers to the forbidding mansion, determined to probe Belasco House for the ultimate secrets of life and death. Each has his or her own reason for daring the unknown torments and temptations of the mansion, but can any soul survive what lurks within the most haunted house on Earth?

One of the books that seems to be on everybody’s list of Top (ENTER NUMBER HERE) List of Horror Novels, not only from regular horror literary geeks, but from some of the bigger names in horror fiction. Notably, I read Stephen King refer to it as “one of the most brain-freezingly frightening haunted house novels of the 20th Century…”. That carries a bit of weight for me, as far as recommendations on what to snuggle up with on a dark and chilly night, to tantalize my imagination. Which also had the adverse effect of being a bit daunting to actually pick up and read. Not because it would be “too scary”, but like every other thing I’m hesitant to read, what if it turns out to be not as good as my brain hyped it up to be?

Fortunately, that didn’t stop me from picking up a copy of Hell House and reading it. My copy, with the cover art itself in the upper part of this review, is one of the many reprints that have been made of this, in case you’re some how curious about things like what was on the cover printing. I wouldn’t know why, but I’m sure there are people like that out there. Anyway…

As far as haunted house stories go, I have to admit that I agree that Hell House is one of the better ones written. If you’re familiar with Richard Matheson’s style of writing, then you know that he doesn’t necessarily write straight horror stories. He has said as much himself. They are horror, yes, but there’s also a heavy dose of science fiction that ties it down a bit more to earth rather than the supernatural. That isn’t to say there wasn’t a lot to cause my skin to crawl and want to turn on more than just one lamp while reading this, mind you. Such is Matheson’s style.

The story of Hell House involves a very old, very rich man hiring four people in different specified areas of research to investigate an old mansion that is rumored to be the site of many depraved orgies and debaucheries and death, and is now considered one of the most famous of haunted houses in the world. The old man wants to find out, once and for all, whether the nicknamed Hell House really is haunted, and if so by what, or if there’s actually a rational scientific reason behind the failed investigations done decades prior. To this end, he has hired a scientist and his wife to assist, a spiritualist, and a survivor of a previous investigation into the house that ended in a deadly disaster, who is tormented by his psychic abilities. Together they will stay inside the house for several days, attempting to determine if there really is something sinister behind the building’s facade, or if it’s something else with foundationally speaking. See what I did, there? I made architectural jokes. Yeah, whatever. Anyway, things start going wacky pretty much on the first day they arrive at the house, and everyone struggles to keep from going mad while sorting out the mystery behind the house itself. Or, you know, try not to die doing so.

This being written in the very early 1970s, there’s a bit more of, shall we say, an adult orientation to the story. And by that, I mean there’s a rather violent scene featuring necrophilia at one point, as well as some squeamish descriptions of possession and poltergeist manifestations going on. Add in some rather effective dark Gothic imagery with the house, and you really do have a spine-chilling supernaturally-tinged Gothic ghost story mystery that doesn’t end on a very up note.

I understand that there’s a movie adaptation made of this. I haven’t seen the movie, or even sought it out. But, I am glad I got around to reading Hell House, and seeing why everyone seems to hold it in high esteem. Recommended reading, my fellow horror hounds.

Book Review: A STIR OF ECHOES

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richard matheson - stir of echoesRichard Matheson
Tor
1958

The day it all started – a hot, August Saturday – I’d gotten off work a little after twelve.

Tom Wallace lived an ordinary life, until a chance event awakened psychic abilities he never knew he possessed. Now he’s hearing the private thoughts of the people around him – and learning shocking secrets he never wanted to know. But as Tom’s existence becomes a waking nightmare, greater jolts are in store when he becomes the unwilling recipient of a compelling message from beyond the grave!

You may be familiar with the movie Stir Of Echoes. That was the other movie about someone who could see dead people that was released in 1999. Only, that time it was Kevin Bacon. What you may not know is that the movie was based on a novel of the same name written by the guy who wrote the book I Am Legend.

I came across a mass paperback copy of A Stir Of Echoes at (where else?) Half Price Books, and it was a copy that was clearly reprinted to cash in on the movie that was to be released. After reading it, I realized then and there that, like the afore-mentioned I Am Legend, the late, great Richard Matheson’s work gets maybe a cursory glance from Hollywood when making them for the big screen. But, this isn’t a review of what the differences between the book and the movie are. I’ll leave that one up to The Dom’s Lost In Adaptation series.

A Stir Of Echoes tells the tale of one Tom Wallace, who is your ordinary suburbanite in the late 1950s–wife, kid, house, socialite neighbors, et-cetera, et-cetera. One evening, during a rather dull social gathering at the neighbors, he’s subjected to a bit of fun hypnosis experimentation, he suddenly finds himself in possession of some strange heightened senses…as he catches glimpses of a mysterious and ghostly woman clad in black, and seems to have some sort of clairvoyant ESP, meaning he can hear dead people, too. It’s one up on that 6th Sense kid. Soon thereafter, while trying to keep from having a psychotic meltdown (which tends to happen when you start seeing and hearing things that aren’t there), he finds himself an unwilling participant in a murder mystery, which leads him to see the darker side of his neighbors…

A Stir Of Echoes is a nifty bit of modern Gothic literature, a 20th Century ghost story that builds on the mood of paranoia and horror in a very palpable manner. Mind you, the story is set in the 1950s because it was written in the 1950s; but I think the period setting lends to the build up of the plot. It’s not without its slow parts, but its rather brief length makes them rather negligible.

Overall, A Stir Of Echoes was another reinforcement of why I admire the writer’s style so much. Indeed, he has influenced a number of other authors and movie directors I admire, so it’s really a no-brainer. A Stir Of Echoes is a nicely understated supernatural thriller that I would recommend checking into sometime.