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its interesting (or so I'm siittn' here a-hopin') that Stephen King didnt make the grade here. and thats justified i think. films like The Shining were grand and beautiful of course, no question, but that grandeur owes more to Kubrick's colorful visions and Nicholson's foamingly psychotic extremities than to the novels that inspired them. Carrie was not a horror story in book or film except to remind us that we distort people when we bully them, and really who isnt bullied by someone at some time? and i kept asking myself, just where do you go to get a bucket of pigs blood? fresh? . i admire King and enjoy reading him, but i cant really say that he ever scares me. -thats true also of Poe. I came away from the Cask of Amontillado dazzled but with no particular dread of the interior of any brick walls, and The Pit and the Pendulum was like a guided tour of Poe's ever intricately ingenious inner hellworld, but it didnt pull me into its ornate reality. too distant, too historically specific and extreme. (do you remember how the P and the P ended? the Inquisition was overthrown and the hero pulled out from under the giant swinging blade at the last moment. Poe chickened out of course you did remember that, right?) and as for Poe movies? fergit about it! rest in peace Vincent Price. you were too obviously a nice guy inside to be really very scary. -this is also true of almost all of the long venerable list of vampire movies. perhaps the best, certainly the most lavish was not Interview but Coppola's version of Dracula , with Kianu Reeve and Tom Waits of all people. it made clear that the Vamps are really always about sex and romance, not just scariness. except of course, in that love is scary.-and as for this kind of imprecise blurring of the appraisals between so many films and their preceding novels, it offers us yet another focus point for our amateur critic's lenses here. -perhaps the most frightened i have ever been by reading was with the supposedly non-fiction Communion , largely because it was indeed claiming to be all true. Whitley has been waffling and oblique about that claim ever since his books ceased to be best sellers but im still checking my bedside for inobtrusive grey visitors just before i fall asleep. but then the following movie with Christopher Walken was, in technical terms crap. -i doubt if there was much of a script at all, much less any real literature preceding the Blair Witch Project or Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Night of the Living Dead . yet each of them drew us into their own dreary and haunting worlds in unforgettable ways. -now and then it occurs to me that there is a fascinating line to be drawn between scary nightmarish and sickening . -all the perennial slasher blood and guts movies are startling and scary enough at the viewing, but they dont really get inside us in any lasting ways. but then the Human Centipede had no real gore or shocks at all jumping out of the screen and yet the utterly nauseating story it told will always be grinning at me from some unfortunately uneraseable niche of my poor wounded viewer's cranium. and as for bad dreams, the only movie i remember causing them in me was a fairly simple sci-fi called Invaders from Mars . something about their stiff, pudgy, reddish bodies trotting so stolidly along through all those tunnels under the ground, the huge alien head with snakelike tentacles in a glass dome, the way the ground bubbled when they used their ray guns to melt it under people and the woo-woo siren sound it made, plus the perfect child's bad dream of finding the adults all around them changed and secret and now untrustworthy that was excellent bed wetting material for me for quite a good long while. funny thing about evil, about scary let me tell you about the one time i really did meet a ghost. no kidding. my friend had just opened a new business in a really old brick building in the downtown of our little village here in New Mexico. nothing scary or odd about it. it had been a laundry for a long time before. one day i walked to the very back of the well lighted rooms all alone and i felt a distinct swipe at the back of my neck, i ducked and ran back, really scared and i knew, that is i could feel, Something just tried to get me. i was way too embarassed to say anything to anyone. i thought it was just me being silly, but i avoided that area from then on. then one day a woman came up to me from back in there and asked if i would mind going in to pick up something she had just left in that room. when i asked her why she needed my help, she said Im not going back in there with very big eyes. i looked at her and i knew we both understood. there really was something evil, present and active in there. this happened again and again until one day the owner was cleaning a brick ledge high up out of sight in that room and he found an old knife, a butcher knife, wrapped in a red rag with the words Happy Jack carved into it. he took it to the local river and threw it in and from that day we have had no complaints. old ladies and young kids walk through there with no problems and when i go back in and stand there, listening very carefully with the hairs on the back of my neck, i hear nothing. but i admit i dont linger in there for very long real evil is not fun. if you know it you dont seek it. no Ouija boards for those who know. -and heres the point imagine the stupidest person you can not just mentally but spiritually stupid, casually cruel, greedy, selfish, bragging without cause, laughing but humorless, unclean, sexist, racist, a simpleton, a user, a liar, stinking, dull eyed, a person youd give anything never to have to spend any time with. thats what evil really is. thats what i felt reaching for me in that room. real evil stinks. it has no glamour, no romance. no sexiness about it. real evil has bad breath. -and so there is a built in limit to all this discussion of the awful things portrayed in books and films, they are limited because they are fiction. the real scariest stories are about ted bundy and john wayne gacy and the nazis at Buchenwald and the Kurds at Sarayevo and the Japanese at Nanking i stop myself there now because the list goes on and on. and its making is still in progress and i would leave so many out. OK just one more the 911 boxcutter boys would make a great book, perhaps an amazing movie except for one thing who could stand to turn the pages? who could ever get past that smell? ..{thanks Kayla for giving me something to respond to.} read me at open.salon.com/blog/jusboutded

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