Friday, February 18, 2011

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

I'm in a horror-rific mood. And I'm scared of the dark but damn am I drawn to the scary. Walking contradiction.

I was loading books onto my new bookcase (hooray!) when I came across my signed copy of a book by Ray Bradbury. I met the great author along with Forest Ackerman during an instore signing at the Mystery and Imagination bookstore in Glendale (great bookstore!) .It was also very significant since it was Ackerman's birthday and he was presented with a cake. At the time, I only knew of both legends in name but nothing else.

I learned that both men are gigantic geeks. As Ackerman and Bradbury reminisce about their childhood, you can easily imagine them as young boys playing around with monsters and toys. Both men loved their monsters and enjoyed creating horror even more. Ackerman helped create the Monsters magazine and opened up his home to the public to view his horror and sci-fi collection ( I believe it was called "The Ackermansion").

Ray Bradbury is a gifted storyteller of science fiction and horror. At the signing, I could just tell that the man loved to tell stories. When I'm down and low about my own writing skills, I remember the joy in his face as he recalled stories and just tap into my own love. Very inspirational man.

Bradbury has a looooong list of works but one that has stood out for me was "Something Wicked This Way Comes". As always, I read the book before watching the movie. This is one of the few times where both the book AND the movie were amazing and scary.

It is a story of two young boys as different as night and day but still have a strong friendship. They live in a small town that is suddenly treated to an arrival of a traveling circus. The boys are naturally curious and set about poking their noses around. This isn't a normal circus. The ringleader has ulterior motives than simple entertainment.

Circus. Already you know that something bad is gonna happen. In cinema, the common formula is circus= weird, unexplainable shit is gonna happen. When a circus called "Pandemonium Circus" led by the ringleader named "Mr. Dark" come rolling around, they're not going to hand you a shiny balloon with a smile. They're baaaaaaad.

It seems like a simple story of two boys getting in trouble with the circus. Boys will be boys. But there are layer upon layer of horror. Horror of humanity and desire. The chasm between youth and elder communication. The true core of friendship and love. Ultimately it is a story between the forces of Light and Dark.

When I read the book I was hooked. The movie had me clutching my blanket. Just like "Cat People", the horror is subtle with a precised focus. The atmosphere is heavy with ill intentions and the people exude barely disguised contempt and loathing for the townspeople.

The ringleader just scared the crap out of me. He has the ability to tattoo images at will upon his body. During one scene, he speaking to the father of one of the boys and shows him an image of his son. Then the ringleader slowly closes his fist and blood begins to ooze. Geez that was freaking scary!

Plus, I think it's so bad ass that the father, a librarian, is the defender of all that is good. Go librarians!!!

While I was watching the movie, I couldn't but wonder if R.L. Stine gleaned some ideas for his stories from the movie. Stine's "Goosebumps" were similar but Bradybury was way superior in execution and content.

These kind of horror stories are the ones that I love to watch. The ones that slowly grasp your ideas of safety and twist it away. Until your blithering and quivering mess of snot and tears. Then when the horror safely passes, then you can get up and rebuild your defenses.

Hopefully it'll be stronger.

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