I’m not a fan of gore.

People are always surprised to hear this, usually after I tell them that horror is my favorite genre. It’s kind of funny because gore and horror go hand-in-hand in a lot of mainstream cases and in a lot of ways it’s part of what makes the genre so great. From campy to hyper realistic, to body and creature gore, there’s something for everyone. But gore has never really been appealing to me in a way that I think it appeals to a lot of horror fans. I like gore if there’s a good reason for it.

Enter the Saw franchise.

saw-movie-poster
“How much blood would you shed to stay alive?” (blogspot.mrcostumes.com)

Saw was one of those movies that everyone I knew had talked about but I had not seen until it had been out for a few years. I knew the premise- a demented man kidnaps seemingly hapless victims who have lost their way in life and makes them fight to the death to save their own skin…literally.

SEMI SPOILERS AHEAD

Jigsaw, the mastermind behind the twisted games and traps, is dying from cancer and believes everyone should appreciate what they have- even if their circumstances aren’t ideal. It was one of the first films I had seen by James WanInsidious introduced me to a new realm of terror and after that I watched The Conjuring and Dead Silence. The films are magnificent and James Wan really has a way of tapping into some deep-seeded fears that exist within my psyche. 

picsaw1
www.joblo.com

But Saw is a different kind of terror, because it traversed the territory of “torture porn” in a way that made me think harder than a typical movie of that genre ever had before. Jigsaw, though masochistic and twisted, had a reason for doing what he did to his victims. He put them between a rock and a hard place because they forgot what it means to be alive, to be a decent human being. Instead of senselessly spree killing a flock of people, he meticulously delves into the lives of each of his victims and tugs at their worst fears in order to bring out their survival instinct. I think one of the reasons why I love this film so much is because the villain and victims are almost one in the same. Everyone has a dark side, but Jigsaw knows how to make us nod our heads in agreement, even if we’re cringing while we do it.

When Gracie and I research and explore the topics of the movies that we talk about on the show, we like to take a look at what’s going on socially at the time the movie was released. Saw came out during a time when suicide and depression was finally breaching the surface and advocates for mental health were starting to destroy the stigma surrounding victims of mental health disorders and addiction. We as a nation were in the beginning stages of really talking about depression, addiction and mental health in a more approachable way and were working on ways to help people solve their problems,

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www.aminoapps.com

instead of leaving them in the dark. Saw showed us that there was more going on behind the scenes of a persons life than what we see at face value, but this film took the discussion and blew it out of the water. It was a really in your face approach to the topic, and one that was perfectly suited for the horror genre. And it got people’s attention because of the gore. So horror was making an impact and taking our fears and psychological approaches and turning them into the stuff of nightmares. If you thought that depression, addiction, marital affairs, blackmailing and stalking was scary, Saw proved that your feelings were justified.

  • Abbey Brown

Saw is currently available to watch for free on Amazon.com with your Amazon Prime membership. 

This week on Good Mourning, Nancy we decided to try something a little different. We took a leap and welcomed our very first guest on the show.

Stacy Underwood, a local Central New York fashion designer and owner of Painted Doll Designs, is a huge Stephen King fan. When I first met Stacy in college, I noticed we had a lot in common; we both loved creepy stuff, Tim Burton, and of course, the movie The Shining (1980). What I didn’t learn until later was that Stacy also loved all of Stephen Untitled designKing’s books, unlike myself.

As some of you may know, I am not a huge *Stephen King book* fan.

Before all of you crucify me, let me just say that I still appreciate what Stephen King has done for horror and what he has done to give it to the masses. I’ve also learned a lot about horror and writing from King’s books Danse Macabre and On Writing. I like Stephen King’s non-fiction because I can get behind it creatively but his fiction? Not so much.

With that said, I love most if not all of his films (yes, even the very bad but star-studded, 1992 film, Sleepwalkers).

Going back to my friend, Stacy, she loves both King’s books as well as their film adaptations. I have to admit, when I found this out, I was a bit surprised. How can you possibly love both (!?) especially when talking about Kubrick’s interpretation of King’s novel. Her argument, you can’t think of them as adaptations (more about that in the podcast episode)!

Also to my surprise, Abbey was NOT a huge fan of The Shining and has never read the book! I don’t want to speak too much on Abbey’s behalf but she mentions in the episode how when she first saw The Shining, she didn’t think it was very scary. This view was very different from mine and Stacy’s.

When I chose the The Shining for this episode, I did not think the podcast would go in the direction that it eventually goes in. I thought Stacy, Abbey, and I would be on the same page most of the time throughout the recording.

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Here’s Johnny! www.berlinale.de

What we all discovered was that we all had very different interpretations on the story, the conspiracy theories surrounding the film, and King’s original story. In my opinion, this was the perfect recipe for creating a fun and a worthy hour-long discussion on one of the most popular films of all-time between three women who love horror.

Episode 9 of Good Mourning, Nancy premieres Tuesday, September 5th on iTunes and SoundCloud.

As always, thank you for reading and listening!

  • Gracie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Listeners!

Abbey and I decided that it’s high-time we started a Patreon for Good Mourning, Nancy! We’re so, so excited! We are working hard to make an exciting and fun video to post on our Patreon page! One of the highlights of the video will be us reading some of your GMN fan mail! That’s right! We want to hear from YOU! If you want the chance to have your letter read in our video, send it to our new address:

GOOD MOURNING, NANCY

PO BOX 7185, Syracuse, NY 13261

Snail mail not your thing? That’s totally cool! Send us an email!

goodmouringnancy@gmail.com

We appreciate all of you (no, seriously) and we are very excited to get the Patreon up and running! Happy listening and we hope to hear from you soon!

  • Gracie

When Abbey and I were picking out the first batch of movies to talk about on the podcast, one of the ones I had suggested was The Slumber Party Massacre (1982). I had only seen it once before when I was home alone and making star origami like a cool kid, and I remembered thinking that it was good but not that memorable. I couldn’t remember the names of the characters (still can’t, honestly) or the bad guy’s face (he doesn’t wear a mask….) or who even wrote and directed it (understandable, right?) and the plot was also incredibly simple. It goes as follows:

A group of beautiful teen girls decide to have a slumber party. They are attacked by a madman with a power drill during the slumber party. Many die except for the final girl. The end.

Spoiler alert?

There’s no surprise kills, in-depth character development, or a twist ending. You would think the movie would completely escape my brain after watching it once but it didn’t. I still thought it was good and I couldn’t figure out why but I couldn’t get that DVD cover out of my head…. You know the one I’m talking about. If you don’t, I’ll place it here in this blog post for you to see. The DVD cover that is totally NOT suggestive AT ALL. NOPE.

SPM cover
www.screamingsoup.files.wordpress.com

The cover is a bit crude but there’s something about it right? It’s definitely intentional which made me think “Who is behind this movie? Who made this?” It seems like, on the surface, some young dudes made the movie in their spare time right?

WRONG! SO WRONG!

I finally realized why I and so many others liked The Slumber Party Massacre: It’s subtle but it’s feminist and that’s the real twist.

Emanuela Betti wrote a great article for Bitch Magazine called Slumber Party Massacre and the Male Gaze. Here’s a small piece from the article:

“Through its witty and clever humor, the movie deconstructs the prevailing sexism and masculinity in the slasher genre, offering one of the most entertaining feminist exploitation movies ever made.

Slumber Party Massacre is very women-centric: both in the characters and the women behind the scenes. The film was directed by Amy Holden Jones, one of the few female directors to delve into the exploitation genre, and written by feminist Rita Mae Brown. This fact alone should make you want to pay attention to the small details, which in this movie are actually not that small but thrown right into your face.”

When you listen to the podcast, you’ll hear us talk about the different “in your face feminist” moments but you’re also going to hear us try to get around the confusing moments as well. The ones that make you feel like “Wait, I thought this was written and directed by women? What’s with all of this objectification?”

There’s parts of the film that are definitely troubling but maybe that’s the point. Maybe those moments of objectification are meant to make us feel icky inside and to feel uncomfortable with what we see and how these women are treated in the film. The Slumber Party Massacre isn’t so much a parody on slashers but a feminist statement piece.

Maybe now we’ll all look at male dominated horror movies differently and question them a bit more.

  • Gracie

I remember when the USA version of The Ring came out when I was really young and everyone in middle school had watched it at someone’s sleepover the weekend it was released on DVD. I overheard conversations in the hallway about how my classmates had nightmares about Samara (Daveigh Chase) creeping out of their TV in the middle of the night. I brushed it off, because I was too busy loving the old go-to-horror-classics to care. I didn’t really get into modern horror until my high school years, when I started watching movies like Saw, House of 1,000 Corpses and Insidious, and I didn’t see The Ring until I

(2002) The Ring Opt 2
“When you die, you see the ring.”

was out of college. I was in my 20’s, and I wasn’t really into it the first time I saw it. It was creepy, sure, but not as scary as everyone hyped it up to be. I re-watched it and for some reason, it really clicked with me the second time around. I loved the filming, the acting was superb and I noticed little details here and there that I didn’t catch the first time. There’s so much depth and meaning to this film that I swear I could write a 50 page English paper on the topic of the themes alone in The Ring.

I think The Ring spoke to me so much more as an adult because I had developed more of an understanding of how females perfectly fit into the horror movie genre. There are so many opportunities for the women involved in this film: the cast is primarily female, (there are really only three main male characters) and we get to see the hero and the villain, along with the side characters from a female perspective. The theme that carries the entirety of the film focuses on a mother’s love for her biological child (Rachel and her son, Aiden), and is balanced out by a mother’s hate for her adopted child (Anna and Samara). It shows both sides of the coin when it comes to being a mother and struggling with the ability to raise or even conceive a child, and really sheds light on the topic in such a way that it leaves you thinking about it long after the movie has ended.

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Rachel and Aidan attending the funeral. www.horrorhomeroom.com

I don’t think it’s any surprise why the number 7 is used in the film. The whole plot goes like this: after you view a menagerie of creepy imagery (which relates to the life and death of Samara, the evil spirit in the form of a little girl) captured on a VHS tape, a countdown begins to your death. You receive a phone call and an ominous voice on the other end says two words “seven days” and so your timer starts immediately. You have seven days to show someone else the tape in order to save you from your own demise – it’s a never ending circle. A little bit of background research into numerology will tell you that seven is often used as a symbol for those who are truth seekers, for those in tune with spirituality and it is attributed to the tarot card of The Chariot, which symbolizes drive, ambition, strength and completion. All of these could easily describe Rachel (Naomi Watts).  

I think Rachel is the real reason why I fell in love with The Ring. She’s pretty much what I aspire to be- strong intelligent, successful, and straight to the point.  Rachel’s character does such a great service to women in horror that I cannot help but applaud those who were involved in the films creation, especially Naomi Watts, who did a stand up job for bringing Rachel to life. It’s not just that Rachel is a badass, though.  She’s a single mother but that doesn’t outshine her autonomous self.

She’s a single mother with ambition and a career.

This film lends single motherhood more than a nod, which is something that isn’t often seen in this genre. Because of this, I think it lead the way for films like The Babadook and even The Conjuring 2 which feature single mothers amidst a haunting trying to provide for their children. But The Ring is unique because Rachel is not sitting there wringing her

the-ring-watching-the-video Horror freak news
Rachel watches the cursed VHS. www.horrorfreaknews.com

hands and sobbing in a puddle when something happens to her or her son. She gets friggin’ going, trying everything in her power to stop something terrible from happening to Aiden. That speaks volumes about the reality of motherhood and what women are capable of. It does away with the notion that working single mothers are neglectful of their children- kind of like how The Exorcist portrays Chris, Regan’s mother. Chris is a working woman who maybe isn’t as attentive to her daughter as she could be- and she becomes helpless after Regan is possessed, so she calls upon a male priest for his guidance and to have her daughter exorcised. In the The Ring, Rachel takes the reins. She uses her drive to get her son out of danger.

If that doesn’t scream female empowerment, I don’t know what does.

 

  • Abbegail

There’s no getting around it, the story of the werewolf is a tragic one and I think the Wolf Man in many ways, is the most relatable character in Universal Studios classic monster movies due to this tragedy. The beauty of this film is that it paved the way for so many other werewolf films to follow and to this day remains one of my favorites for that reason. The cinematography, the creature effects (that transformation scene!) and acting are superb given the resources available in the 1940’s. This movie is just a lot of fun to sit down and watch but there’s a lot more to it than pure entertainment. Back to the tragedy, the Wolf Man is a symbol of the parts of ourselves we’re afraid of facing. Many of the

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John Talbot (Claude Rains) tries to kill the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.) and save Gwen (Evelyn Ankers). 

Universal Studios classic monsters and even modern monsters take on very human qualities but the Wolf Man serves as a reminder that we can’t cheat fate and we can only hide our true selves for so long before we are exposed and it isn’t always pretty when that happens.

In our podcast we often talk about how horror takes a look at whats going on socially with the world and ties it to our other fears- fear of the dark, of monsters, of what goes bump in the night and what is lurking in the shadows. If you look at the time during which this film was released, World War II was at it’s peak. There were soldiers coming to and from war who were completely changed by the images that they saw and the way life was after being drafted if they survived- and that was the

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Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man 4.bp.blogspot.com

thing, many men didn’t come home. And those that did wanted nothing to do with what they experienced in battle. Movies like The Wolf Man tapped into what was going on with America at the time in the 1940’s. Innocent young men were being drafted and sent into battle against their will- much like Larry (the main character played by Lon Chaney Jr.), who wanted nothing to do with his transformation under the full moon. He wasn’t really shooting to be attacked by a werewolf but those were the cards that life had dealt him.

Larry, although a bit of a creep to Gwen, the main female character of the movie, doesn’t mean any real harm. Please don’t get me wrong- I’m not making excuses for his behavior and I don’t think it’s appropriate to make advances on someone who is clearly not interested- but for the most part, he is pretty innocent. And he tries again and again to stop his fate from coming true. He is a reluctant werewolf and you can’t help but feel sorry for the trouble that he goes through. He is not a killer and he’s not a predator, per say. He is just trying to do the right thing and that’s why it’s so frustrating when he tries to tell the truth and no one believes him.

In her blog post “THE WOLF’S KNOCKING AT YOUR DOOR”, Shelley Venemann says it perfectly:

“I love werewolf movies. Ever since the original Wolf Man, I have loved them because werewolves occupy a unique space of their own. Not quite the undead, not quite vampirish, not necessarily a sinister or malevolent presence, just werewolves. One thing I find in a lot of cases, is that there’s also always a thread of remorse from the person who’s actually a werewolf, so it’s a thing with werewolf movies where the emotions are never straight-forward.

There’s something to be said about turning into a creature against your will with only your base emotions driving things. I think the analogy is that we all have this monster inside of us that can either involuntarily, out of necessity or maybe even survival, surface and take over who we are. I think it goes way, way back to our primal selves, and recognizing the wolves as being similar animals to us. Extremely intelligent animals, good hunters, strategic, sharp, and doing what they have to do to survive. And I think a lot of the legends and mythology around wolves are based around the fear that they’re too much like us. Certainly, you know, they talk about that in Roman times and medieval Europe, and the ultimate conclusion of that is a human making the anthropological leap over to the lupine side, hence lycanthropy. It’s very clear when you look at the past how this mythology of werewolves is a strong part of Western culture. And I love that that kind of awareness of wolves, I love that it’s been adopted by literature and turned into a genre unto itself.”

This film touches upon what it means to be human and wanting what we can’t have, while trying to defy a destiny that’s been laid out before us. Larry has such a tragic story for the entirety of the film. He moves back home to Wales after being estranged from his family for 17 years to address his brother’s death and inherit the family estate, meets a girl who is already taken and falls victim to a werewolf attack. Yes, he’s overly flirtatious and he is a bit of a playboy but he tries so hard to avoid his own fate that you can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for him. I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where we’ve

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Lon Chaney Jr. and Evelyn Ankers behind the scenes of The Wolf Man universalmonstersuniverse.com

wished there was something we could do about the events in our lives, but you’re helpless. You may even feel like a monster because there’s no one who can relate to your troubles. That is the true terror behind this film- not even the monster really, but how the monster relates to the human condition when we are at our worst. It’s the perfect metaphor for a life spiraling out of control, for someone who can’t come to grips with their identity and for those of us who hide who we really are for fear of being “murdered” or “shunned” by society. The Wolf Man is grim and doesn’t offer much hope on that front- and that’s what sets it apart in the world of horror. It doesn’t have a fairytale ending, the protagonist doesn’t ride off into the sunset with his bride. Larry is simultaneously the hero and the villain and that makes him a unique character. It is a loveably disparaging story. That’s why the Wolf Man will always have a special place in my heart.

I know. I’m such a downer.

  • Abbegail K. Brown

NOTE: There will be NO SPOILERS for the film in this blog post.

About six years ago, I decided to ‘up my horror game’ so to speak. At the time, I hadn’t seen many foreign horror films so I decided to start with Asian horror films.

However, American remakes of Asian horror films were already abundant with The Grudge (2004), Dark Water (2005), The Ring (2002), and The Uninvited (2009). I didn’t want to start with any Asian horror films that I had seen the remakes of yet. Luckily for me, I had yet to see that last one, The Uninvited, which was the remake of the Korean horror film, A Tale of Two Sisters (2003). 

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Tag line: “Every family has it’s dark secrets.” A Tale of Two Sisters poster (2003).  imgur.com/OKloB8

While searching online for the “Top 10 Asian Horror Movies” I came across some shiny gems but the one that stood out to me the most was A Tale of Two Sisters. The concept is as follows:

After their mother’s untimely death, a teen girl and her sister are sent to a mental institution. When they are finally released and returned home, they find out their emotionally distant father has remarried the definition of a fairytale stepmother. She is strict, cruel, and also very strange. Something is not right with her and something is not right with the house the sisters have returned to. What could it be?

A part of me feels bad because this blog post is so short but the conclusion to this film is so phenomenal that I absolutely cannot spoil it for you here. You must watch it.

I will say that it’s beautifully filmed, well acted, incredibly spooky, and heartbreaking. Oh and it’s also a great feminist horror film.

So, I guess I up-ed my horror game with A Tale of Two Sisters in more ways than one.

A Tale of Two Sisters passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, it normalizes periods, explores mental health, and the women in the film outnumber the men. Actually, the

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Su-mi comforts her sister, Su-yeon in A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) assests.mubi.com

men who are featured in the film don’t talk much at all. The women in the film are treated well (as well as anyone can be treated in a horror film, that is) and they run the show. The women are the villains, the heroes, and the ghosts and I think that’s the real reason why I fell in love with it the first time, and I think that will be the reason you’ll love it too.

  • Gracie

You can watch A Tale of Two Sisters on Shudder. Sign up for a FREE 7 Day Trial.

Rosemary’s Baby, a story about a woman who just wants to have the perfect life: A successful husband, a beautiful apartment in New York City, and a healthy baby. Here is

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The DVD cover of my copy of Rosemary’s Baby (1968). www.rogerebert.com

the thing, by the end of the film; she gets all of that only her life is not as perfect as she thought it would be…

Rosemary’s husband becomes successful but it is revealed that he is an abuser and a betrayer, they have a beautiful apartment but it is full of evil occultists, who pretend to be her friends, and she has a baby, but he is Adrian, the antichrist. Oh yeah, Satan raped her (hence the antichrist) so that is a huge bummer. I understand the plot is so incredible and far-fetched that for some it is almost laughable. So why is Rosemary’s Baby one of the scariest movies I have ever seen and to me in no way funny at all?

I want to be a mother but I am also scared out of my mind at the idea. Hearing stories of my friends’ and family members’ tough pregnancies and then of course watching this film gives me a heightened sense of anxiety at the idea of becoming pregnant. What if I thought something was wrong? Worse, what if my fears were true and something really was wrong? Worse than that even, what if I was too late to fix it. The very idea, even if it is irrational, is tremendously frightening mostly because I would have no way to control it. This fear of losing control does not have to relate to just pregnancy. Women have been fighting for the right to control what happens to their bodies for centuries whether it’s about birth control or abortion. In Rosemary’s Baby, it is interesting to note that most of the evil occultists are very old and very white, with the exception of the (extremely stereotypical) Asian man, mirroring the ever-present troubles we have with the patriarchy and its supporters.

The movie was released in 1968 but it takes place in 1965 and 1966 and it highlights a few major events happening throughout that time: Pope Paul the VI’s visit to New York in 1965 and the controversial Time Magazine cover and article Is God Dead? which was

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www.nerve.com

published in April of 1966. It’s never mentioned directly, but the women’s movement was in full swing during the 1960s as well. However, Rosemary appears to not be actively involved in the women’s movement and actually loves the idea of being a wife and mother and not having any career outside of that. I want to be clear and say THAT IS FINE. What is so great about feminism between women is accepting the fact that some women might actually want to stay at home and raise children if they are able. With that said, just because Rosemary wants to be a stay-at-home-mother and wife does not mean her husband and her neighbors are not treating her with disrespect because they are.

Rosemary seemingly starts the movie off doing everything right for the patriarchy (aka the cult). She is a beautiful, healthy, career-less wife who appears childlike and wears cute dresses. She consistently puts others first before herself. Suddenly, she changes and she cuts her hair short, reads books her husband and male doctor dislike, refuses to let people enter her apartment willy-nilly, sees a doctor she likes rather than the doctor her husband and neighbors like, and hosts a party with her friends who are young, hip, and supposedly forward thinking. How dare her!

Sadly, Rosemary’s outlet to knowledge and new experiences are taken from her throughout this story as she tries to rebel, especially when her husband takes away her book “All of Them Witches,” the book that would reveal everything about the hidden cult.

At the end of the film, it is finally revealed that Rosemary has given birth to a boy who

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Rosemary learns the horrible truth. www.horrorfreaknews.com

unfortunately has his father’s yellow eyes (Satan!!!). She attempts to leave but is guided back to her baby by being told that she is his mother and should take care of him. Although Rosemary seemingly gets what she desires, it is done in a controlled environment, leaving her no room to make a guiltless choice on whether to accept it or not. In the end, she has lost control over her body, her home, and her future. That is what is so frightening about Rosemary’s Baby.

  • Gracie Jarvis

My sister came home from Sound Garden (one of the staples of Syracuse- The Sound Garden is our local record, music and movie store) with a fun bag of movies one day when I was about 11-12 years old. I sifted through some of the options- Queen of the Damned, Interview with a Vampire, and House of 1,000 Corpses. I begged her to watch House of 1,000 Corpses with me. “Absolutely not.” She was responsible for me when my mom was at work, and did not want to be the source of my sleeplessness later that night. “But we can watch this one- it’s from the fifties, so it can’t be THAT scary.” She handed over the DVD that I completely looked over. The cover was an illustrated picture of Vincent Price standing among the flames of a burning building. I sighed and agreed, because an old horror movie was better than no horror movie at all.  

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House of Wax (1953) DVD cover and back. www.covers.box.sk

Much like the first time I watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, my eyes were opened to an entirely new world in a genre that I was still exploring. It was so macabre, but in a fun way (I promise I’m not a serial killer, I don’t like kidnapping people and turning them into wax figures, and I definitely don’t prowl on people under the cover of night.) I’d always known of Vincent Price from afar, as the voice of Ratigan in the Disney movie The Great Mouse Detective. He was so handsome and dapper in this move that his charm throws you off. You assume that he’s the monster, but how could he possibly be? His charm is enough to smite even the faintest hint of murder suspicion.

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Vincent Price behind the scenes in House of Wax (1953) www.derekwinnert.com

I love this movie because of the nostalgia, yes, but there is so much more than just the precious memories I have of my older sister and I watching this together as youngsters. It opened the door to a new realm of intelligent and witty macabre that set a precedent for my taste in… horror comedy. It wasn’t exactly meant to be funny at the time of it’s release- quite the opposite. The movie makers wanted something new and sensational, which is why the movie was also shown in 3D. It had comic relief in some scenes, at the expense of some female characters taking a tour of the wax museum. As he leads the crowd of visitors through his grim scenes of mayhem and murder, Professor Jarrod (played by Vincent Price) jokes about the ladies needing “smelling salts” for their weak reactions to the wax scenes of death and utter shock. I remember audibly laughing out loud as I re-watched this movie to prepare for our recording of this episode. I had forgotten how funny it really was.

 

Besides the humor, the haunting monster reveal, and beautiful design of the movie itself, there’s that recurring theme of female intuition– Sue (Phyllis Kirk), the main female lead in the movie, knows that there’s something odd about the wax figures in Professor Jarrod’s wax museum. Even though she knows that the impossible is happening, the men around her can’t wrap their heads around what’s going on. Sue is the only one who can see what is hidden in plain sight. She knows down to her core that Professor Jarrod has killed her best friend Cathy (Carolyn Jones), and used her cadaver as the base for his Joan of Arc sculpture. Everyone tries to convince Sue that perhaps she’s just a little bit scarred after witnessing the death of her closest friend. While that may be true, Sue continues to question the facade of the killing-crazed professor. As the movie progresses and Sue’s fears come to fruition, she almost loses her life to Professor Jarrod, who plans on using her lifeless body for his beloved Marie Antoinette sculpture, his most prized work. She’s rescued, thankfully, by the very men that doubted her gut feeling.

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Sue discovers Professor Jarrod’s secret in House of Wax (1953) www.dvdizzy.com

When Sue finally can’t take wondering anymore and must have solid proof of Cathy’s murder, she does a little investigating for herself. She’s by herself in the wax museum after hours and approaches the Joan of Arc figure that uncannily resembles her deceased best friend.  She climbs atop the statue and removes the jet black wig, revealing the straw-blonde hair of Cathy beneath- FINALLY a tangible piece of evidence that Sue was right all along! This victory is interrupted by the sound of Professor Jarrod’s glaring voice saying “You shouldn’t have done that, my dear,” almost as if he’s chastising a young child. Besides that emotional, terrifying realization that she’s alone in the museum with the murderer, your heart sinks for Sue- she was correct all along and there’s a possibility that no one will know, because she’ll be dead before the truth is exposed. We see this all the time in literature, movies, old folklore (Blue Beard comes to mind…), and even current news. You’ve probably experienced it yourself on more than one occasion.

 

I was at a really impressionable age when I first saw this film, so what I took away from it as a young girl has always lingered in the back of my mind- to trust my instinct. I think a lot of the time, society shapes us as young girls to ignore that feeling we get that tells us to be careful, to look closer, to think more deeply. There will be people you come across in your life that seem, well… slimy. And it’s okay to feel as though there’s something amiss, even when other people may not sense it. It also taught me to be vocal when I was uncomfortable. If Sue hadn’t said a word about what was going on or what she felt was happening, would she have lived? Most likely, Professor Jarrod would have boiled her alive with a vat of hot wax. So there’s that.

 

But it also taught me to break the rules to discover the truth. If Sue hadn’t “gone with her gut”, no one would have known about the real human bodies under the wax figures. She had to literally peel back the layers to discover what she’d known all along, and she had to go against what was socially acceptable to do so. I hope we can all take that to heart, and realize that to overcome the everyday horror we face- be it political, social, or fear of the world in general- we have to be brave and discover the truth, not only for ourselves, but for the benefit of others.

 

I know. Pretty deep, right?  

 

  • Abbegail Brown

Even though I am pretty sure Dracula (1931) was my first horror movie, the Creature, or the Gill Man as he’s more widely known, was my first real monster love. I think it was the epic title that first caught my eye. I noticed the 90’s Universal Studios VHS tape cover. The Gill Man’s bright yellow eyes were front and center with two divers, practically invisible, swimming in the background. I don’t really remember watching it for the first time but I remember loving it so much that I wanted to show my friends this super cool old movie I’d found. It was something no one else my age knew about. It was my “thing” that I could show off. I was a little 9 year old girl and I was hooked on the Gill Man!

creatureblacklagoonVHS
What my VHS tape of Creature from the Black Lagoon looked like! (www.retro-daze.org)

My deep-sea love for Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) is so incredibly strong that it’s hard for me to express it in normal words and not flowery poetry, but I will try.

In a great article from 2012 on tor.com, writer Ryan Britt sums it up perfectly in the first sentence of his essay, In and Out of the Lagoon: Why We Love the Gill Man

“Just because your protagonists in genre fiction aren’t human people, doesn’t mean we don’t feel for them.”

You can’t tell me you don’t feel something for Marlon when at the end of Finding Nemo, he suspects Nemo is dead, can you? What about Sully when he has to leave Boo at the end of Monster’s Inc.? You’re sad for him, right? How about E.T. when he’s about to leave and he tells Elliot, “I’ll be right here” pointing his finger to Elliot’s forehead. You’re going to miss E.T. too. Or, and here come the waterworks, when Dumbo’s mother is chained up and she reaches through the bars so that she can barely touch her son’s trunk and the song “Baby of Mine” begins to play. Anybody got a tissue? Holy crap. None of the characters I have mentioned (save for Boo and Elliot) are human. Still, you love them and you cry for them; you want them to be happy. You’re rooting for them the entire way.

Guess what? You find yourself doing the same for the Gill Man in the Creature from the Black Lagoon movies.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon starts with an explosion. A booming voice, heard over the images of a new planet Earth, quotes Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” What!? Creature begins the same way the Holy Bible begins, hinting that the beginning of the Gill Man’s existence is no different from any human man’s existence. Like all great human tragedies though, sometimes our purpose is clouded and we grow lonely and afraid and look for love but never find it. In one of my all time favorite movie scenes in Creature, the Gill Man, played by Ricou Browning, swims directly under an unknowing Kay, mirroring her image. I’m geeking out just thinking about it! 

mirror swim
Mirror swimming scene from Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) photo: www.jengaloves.com

The body language in this 3D, underwater scene is so beautiful, you can tell that the Gill Man thinks she is just the most wonderful thing he has ever seen. Without the use of words, we are filled with not only a sense of fear for Kay but understanding for the Gill Man. Kay (Julie Adams) rejects the Gill Man’s advances by the end and one can’t help but feel bad that he doesn’t get the girl (#teamGillMan) especially after he’s been drugged, caged, beaten and shot multiple times. In the sequel, Revenge of the Creature (1955), the Gill Man is successfully captured and sent to Ocean Harbor Oceanarium in Florida (aka Marineland) where he is poked and prodded and chained to to the bottom of his tank. This might be the reason why I never liked marine mammal parks, even as a kid. The Gill Man eventually escapes and looks for the one woman in the film, the ichthyology student, Helen (Lori Nelson). She, of course, rejects his love much like Kay. At the end of the film when she asks him to “STOP” hurting John Agar’s character, the Gill Man listens to her, which keeps Agar’s character alive. One could argue that it’s not out of love but because he was tortured into learning the word. In The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), the last of the Gill Man movies, he still doesn’t get a break. He is caught once again but this time he is greatly burned. His scaly skin is gone and his gills have melted shut. It is discovered that he has human skin underneath his scales and that he must now use his lungs to survive.  At the end of the film, he makes the conscious decision to drown himself in the water, feeling like his life is no longer worth living. 

The Creature from the Black Lagoon movies aren’t just about science and the missing link, they are about human existence and the question: “Who is the monster and who is the man?” In my opinion, the Gill Man relates to the character, Robert Neville, in the

I am legend
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Originally published in 1954. This edition was published by Orb Books in 1997 (www.goodreads.com)

book I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Robert Neville is the sole human survivor of a pandemic that happened a few years ago. A new species has emerged from the pandemic and now the entire population has a condition that resembles vampirism.  

At the end of the book, we discover, with Robert, that the new species believes that he is, in fact, the actual monster; the legend, since he is different from them and has been trying to kill them off. Such an incredibly sad and lonely tale.

So, one could argue that the Gill Man is not the monster…we are.

  • Gracie Jarvis