Posts Tagged ‘the masque of the red death’

We’re a week’s journey into the October Country and it’s finally starting to look like fall. The leaves are changing. All the summer crops  have been harvested — the stalks are yellowing in the yields. Here on the Bay, it’s oyster season, and the local towns host shucking contests at their fall festivals. There’s a crispness to the air. Sweater weather. Hot cider weather. Halloween.

31 Days of Halloween got off to a solid (if somewhat quiet) start this week. I began my daily reading with an assortment from the grandfather of horror, Edgar Allan Poe. I read all of them aloud — how do you resist reading Poe aloud?

My reading list, by day:

10/1 “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Every 8th grader’s introduction to the notion of an unreliable narrator, although, trust me, it holds up. My favorite line will always be, “It was a low, dull, quick sound — much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton.” 

10/2 Poetry Day! “The Raven,” “The Bells,” “The Conqueror Worm,” “Annabel Lee,” and “Lenore.” Of course, I can’t read “Annabel Lee” without also thinking of Lolita, but that’s hardly a tragedy.

10/3 “A Cask of Amontillado.” If the pronunciation of the titular sherry troubles you as much as it did me, rest assured. You can use the Spanish “ll” (y) or the Italian and still be correct. One of my absolute favorites — vendetta, catacombs, and wine. “‘For the love of God, Montresor!’

10/4 “The Masque of the Red Death.” Poe stuck it to the 1% way before we occupied anything. Not that anyone’s left to enjoy the sense of poetic justice: “And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.”

10/5 “The Pit and the Pendulum.” Poe’s tale of Inquisitorial horror, but more than that, a lesson in patience and pacing. By the time the pendulum appears, the reader is already twitching with claustrophobia and nerves. When it actually descends — well. “Down — certainly, relentlessly down!”

10/6 “The Oval Portrait.” The frame (pun not intended) story for this one has always fascinated me. The narrator’s servant, Pedro, brings his injured master to a gloomy looking chateau. But we quickly forget our wounded hero’s plight as he uncovers the history of the disturbingly perfect portrait in his room, which has origins straight out of Nathaniel Hawthorne. “And he would not see that the tints which he spread upon the canvas were drawn from the cheeks of her who sate beside him.”

10/7 “The Fall of the House of Usher.” What better symbol for the decline of the landed class than the decaying mansion belonging to the Ushers? Classic case of hereditary insanity and prematurely burying your sister. Oops. “Our glances, however, rested not long upon the dead — for we could not regard her unawed.”

Check out Project Gutenberg for all your Poe needs. Or enter my All Hallows Read giveaway for a chance to win a copy of his selected works.

This week’s movie watching ranged from the very contemporary to black & white classics to pure camp.

The Cabin in the Woods. Successfully livetweeted at @julialivetweets. If you love the Evil Dead trilogy, meta-horror, and Richard Jenkins, this is the movie for you.

House of Wax (1953). Vincent Price for the win! Based on the horror-comedy, The Mystery of the House of Wax, and lately remade in 2005, this film is clearly the best of the wax-museum-is-really-full-of-dipped-dead-people plot. Price’s transformation from artist to monster is old school horror at its best.

The Haunting (1963). Based on Shirley Jackson’s novel, The Haunting of Hill House, this adaptation most closely follows its source material and embodies the notion that cinema of terror is all about the unseen and unexplained. The voiceovers get a little irritating, but that’s the best way for us to understand Nell’s unhinging, as it were.

28 Days Later. Danny Boyle’s utterly brilliant not-really-zombies zombie movie. Even a decade later, still sharp and relevant as ever. ’nuff said.

The Blair Witch Project. Ah, Blair Witch. Adolescent staple. Oft-parodied grandmother of the shaky hand-cam found footage genre. I’ve never liked the movie so much as what it aspired to — again, the notion of the unseen being more frightening than the seen. But, unfortunately, we can see too easily where our protagonists fail and so feel quite safe. But, still, it’s a nice exercise in 90s nostalgia.

The Fog (1980). Would you believe I’d only ever seen the crappy remake? Tragic, I know. But it didn’t take much to convert me. This is Carpenter in his prime we’re talking about. And I loved seeing Jamie Lee Curtis as the feisty hitchhiker, Elizabeth. Also, Janet Leigh. Also, angry leper ghosts.

Poe Double Feature: Tales of Terror and The Masque of the Red Death. Good Poe adaptations are about as common as . . . well, sane Poe narrators. Much as I love Vincent Price, I don’t recommend either of these. Ever. Unless camp will save your life. Then go for it.

This week I’m going to continue  reading classic horror, including Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw.” For our viewing pleasure, we’ll have Dracula (1931)Frankenstein (1931), and other greats of the silver screen. Keep an eye out for ghost story prompts/discussions and other 31 Days of Halloween treats.

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