Del Toro

Cogitations of Questionable Significance

I (almost) lost it at the movies
Del Toro
mike_grover

Horror films by their very nature often contain scenes of explicit gore, and being a fan of them means that I've witnessed more than my share of gruesome images in the theater and at home. Some people may argue that gore in horror films is unnecessary and gratuitous, and sometimes that's true, but that's an argument for another time. Probably my first vivid memory of cinematic gore is Christopher Lee's impalement on the giant crucifix at the climax of Dracula Has Risen From The Grave, viewed on late-night television when I was perhaps 9. (Watching the film again years later, it turned out that my youthful memory of the scene was far bloodier than it really was.) A year or so later, at the tender age of 10, I saw George Romero's Night Of The Living Dead for the first time, also on late-night TV. Even though it was in black and white, the starkly violent imagery presented in the film knocked me for a loop. My mom watched the film with me; I don't think she had any idea what to expect, and she made me avert my gaze several times. I saw plenty, though, and by the time the film's grim finale rolled around, I'd had enough. In retrospect, I wish I hadn't seen the film at such a young age; it was quite a traumatic experience for me, and I didn't sleep well for at least a month. I also suspect that it essentially purged me of my capability to be scared by a movie, as nothing has ever affected me in quite the same way since. But I digress. I always digress.

Romero's milestone in explcit bloodshed was my first tentative paddle along what would ultimately become a river of cinematic gore. As I progressed through my teens and early twenties, a sort of morbid fascination took hold, and I began to compulsively seek out films that were increasingly more graphic, not just in the horror genre, but dramas like Taxi Driver and westerns like The Wild Bunch as well. In the ensuing thirty or so years since I was first shocked by Romero's masterpiece, I've seen more hideously gruesome films than I can possibly count, but almost nothing I've witnessed in a film has caused my any sort of physiologically palpable distress. I'm not saying that violence in films has never upset me - there have been plenty of times when the graphically violent injury or death of a character I was invested in has affected me deeply - but I've never actually gotten physically ill. You might jump to the conclusion that I've been desensitized to screen violence, but I've never really bought into that theory. Rather, I think I've always been aware in the back of my mind that whatever gory effect I was seeing was created, effectively or not, with foam latex and colored Karo syrup (or more recently, and almost never effectively, with CGI). The bottom line is that I knew it wasn't real, so there was no point getting upset about it. There have been a few instances where my stomach did a little flip or two - the amputation of a man's leg in Antonio Margheriti's Cannibal Apocalypse and an unfortunate woman's breast being sliced off and eaten in Umberto Lenzi's Eaten Alive (leave it to the Italians) are two examples that come to mind - but it's always been more of an "Eeeww, gross" moment than anything. I thought I was long past the point where a movie could make me feel like I actually might want to throw up. I was wrong.

Last night, my wife and I (and our daughter - don't worry, we made her look away just like my mom did) watched 127 Hours, director Danny Boyle's dramatization of the true story of Aron Ralston, a lone hiker whose arm became trapped by a huge rock in a remote area of Utah. (MILD SPOILER ALERT) After several days without rescue, Ralston (masterfully portrayed in the film by James Franco) resorted to amputating his own arm in order to free himself and survive. The film documents this astounding act of self-preservation in unflinching detail, beginning with Ralston snapping his radius and ulna one at a time and culminating in the severing of the surrounding tissue with a dull utility tool. Despite this scene, which really only lasts a few minutes, it's a beautiful and inspiring film that demonstrates how the will to survive can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, and I highly recommend it.

Let's talk some more about that arm scene, though. I have to admit that this harrowing sequence pushed me closer than I have ever come before to tossing my cookies during a film. Yes, this hardened veteran of slasher movies and Italian zombie and cannibal films, this cinephile who has witnessed countless on-screen dismemberments, decapitations, disembowelments, exploding heads, exsanguinations, shootings, throat slittings, chainsaw massacres and any other type of bodily mayhem you can imagine, finally met his match in an Oscar-nominated docudrama. It was a delayed reaction, too; it wasn't until after he finished the amputation, bound up his stump and made it out of the crevasse he'd been stuck in that I finally had to stop and take a few deep breaths. The funny thing is, you don't necessarily see all that much at any given time due to the fluid camerawork and rapid editing.

The prosthetic effects that are visible are top notch (and watching the film in the Blu-ray format meant that every vein and strand of muscle could be seen with crystal clarity), but we've already determined that gore effects alone don't usually have much of an effect on me, regardless of how well they're executed. In this case, it was the whole package: Franco's performance, Boyle's direction, the editing, the cinematography and the music (whenever the character cuts into a nerve, there's a horrible, jarring noise) all combined with the effects to make a truly horrific scene. The tipping point for me was probably envisioning myself in Ralston's place, having to make the same decision he did and ultimately going through with it. I imagine all filmmakers would like you to have some sort of empathy with the characters in their films; this one certainly succeeded in that regard. (The only empathy that was lacking was from my wife, who called me a wimp when I confessed afterward that I'd felt a little queasy.)

I did a little research after watching the film, and I found out that it had an equally strong effect on a number of viewers worldwide, including several who had seizures after blacking out; I didn't feel quite so silly after having found that out. Indeed, I'm kind of thrilled to be reminded of the intensely visceral effect that a well-made film can have, even if it didn't feel so good at the time. Most films I see these days are forgotten almost immediately, but I'm still thinking about this one, and I expect I will be for quite some time. Especially if I find myself hiking alone in Utah.
 



¡Viva el Hombre Lobo!
Del Toro
mike_grover

As you can see, this blog has been dormant for quite some time. I honestly had the best intentions of keeping it up when I started it last year, but as they say, life gets in the way. I guess I just needed something really special to motivate me to write some more, and that something has finally arrived. It's been nearly a year since Spanish horror film icon Jacinto Molina (better known as Paul Naschy) passed away, and in honor of the first anniversary of his death, the wonderful trash film blog Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies is sponsoring a Paul Naschy Blogathon. This post is my small contribution to that event.

I am, without question, a fiend for European horror films. I've been a fan of horror films in general for pretty much my entire life, but at a certain point, I came to the realization that horror films from Europe - especially those that originated in Italy and Spain - were the ones that I found the most satisfying. At first, it was a superficial attraction. The European films, more often than not, delivered the explicit gore and sex I demanded in my younger days. Well, I'm not a kid anymore, and while I still appreciate those attributes, I find that many of these films are aging remarkably well, especially in comparison to some of the pathetic excuses for horror films that we're seeing these days. I was going to say they're aging like fine wines, but let's not kid ourselves. Many of these films are unabashedly cheesy, but in spite of their inherent cheesiness, there's also a certain Old World class that elevates them above the rest of the genre, and that class was exemplified by Paul Naschy.

Naschy, best known for his multiple portrayals of "El Hombre Lobo" - the Wolfman, Waldemar Daninsky - loved horror films. Making horror films was all he really wanted to do, and remarkably, in the midst of a brutal fascist dictatorship, he was able to do just that. Paul Naschy essentially created the horror film industry in Spain, but more than that, in a way, he became the horror film industry in Spain. Many actors and directors followed in his footsteps, but none of them ever attained the iconic status that he did. His love, and more important, his respect for the genre comes through in nearly all of his films. No matter how low the budget or how crude the special effects, Naschy absolutely sold the film with his conviction.

I'm not old enough to have had the pleasure of seeing a Naschy film in the theater. If I'm not mistaken, one of the last films of his to have received a theatrical release in the United States was El Retorno del Hombre Lobo, released here as The Craving. I distinctly recall seeing ads for the film in the newspaper and getting excited, but being a boy of twelve with a fairly strict mother meant that there was no way I was going to get to see it. A few years later, with the advent of home video, I was finally able to see some of his films. At one point, I worked in a video store, and I was able to use my connections to order copies of some of his films on VHS, such as the big box releases of Human Beasts and Vengeance of the Zombies. I remember renting Rue Morgue Massacres (aka El Jorobado de la Morgue/Hunchback of the Morgue) through the mail from Video Vault and being thrilled to finally have access to this notorious shocker. The culmination of my Naschy appreciation came in recent years; it was the chance to finally see some of his films on DVD in their uncut versions and even in their original Spanish language, courtesy of the late, lamented BCI Home Video. It was a great time to be a Naschy fan. Then, the unthinkable happened.

When your heroes grow old, as they inevitably do, it's only a matter of time before they're taken from you. Still, it's a shock to lose someone like Paul Naschy. His passion for his life's work allowed us to be lulled into thinking that he would be around forever, even when his illness became readily apparent, but sadly, that was not to be. Thankfully, we still have the extraordinary legacy he left behind with his body of work, and as is evident by the outpouring of enthusiasm that this blogathon has generated, Señor Molina will not soon be forgotten.

On that note, let me just say once again,


Do you really need that?
Del Toro
mike_grover
I’m currently reading – and enjoying the hell out of – Justin Cronin's epic horror novel The Passage. (There’s somewhat of a spoiler ahead, but it might not be immediately evident.) I just got to the part in which a group of people tentatively make their way through the rubble of a devastated Las Vegas. I particularly liked this description of a ruined casino shopping mall: "Many of the stores appeared to have been ransacked – counters smashed, everything overturned – while others seemed untouched, their peculiar, useless wares – shoes no one could actually walk in, bags that were too small to carry anything – still displayed in the windows." There's something to ponder the next time you go shopping for some "must-have" luxury item. Before you plunk down that cash or plastic, think to yourself, "Will these Jimmy Choo pumps or this Prada handbag have any use or value in the event of a vampire apocalypse?"

On cursing during family films
Hecubus
mike_grover

My daughter wanted to have family movie night last night in an attempt to fend off the impending demise of the weekend. Six years old, in first grade, and she's already living for her two days a week off. I know she likes school, but she's repeatedly lamented to me about how Sunday isn't as carefree as Saturday due to the looming spectre of Monday (has she been reading Ian McEwan?). We rented Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, as we'd read the book together but missed the movie when it was in theaters. It was a lot of fun, but something peculiar happened while we were watching it as a family. During a particularly tense moment (as tense as a moment in an animated children's film can be), my wife inadvertantly let slip with an "oh, shit." Now, between my wife and I, our daughter has heard more than her share of swear words, but there was something about the incongruity of hearing one in this setting that caused it to reverberate a little louder than it normally would have. I looked over at my wife; she had her hand clasped over her mouth, fully aware that this PG-rated experience was now verging on PG-13. For my part, I wondered if the act of watching a family-friendly film is somehow negated by mom and dad sitting next to their child and cursing like sailors. Should we just skip the kids' movies altogether on the next family movie night and watch Glengarry Glen Ross?



The mystery of instant oatmeal
Del Toro
mike_grover
Can someone answer a question for me?

Every morning at roughly the same time, I pour two packets of the same brand of instant oatmeal into the same bowl, add the same amount of water and microwave it for the same amount of time, to the second. Irrespective of this crushingly monotononous parade of events, the results are usually NOT the same.

Some days, my oatmeal is too runny.

Some days, my oatmeal is too dry.

Some days, if I'm lucky, my oatmeal is just right. (Oh, those are happy days!)

Why? Is there some sort of atmospheric phenomenon that affects oatmeal, and possibly other breakfast foods as well?

I need to know.

Story problems, Toho style
Del Toro
mike_grover

I watched Ghidrah, The Three-Headed Monster with my daughter the other night (she's six). This is the 1960s film, mind you, and we watched the Japanese version. I had attempted to show her Godzilla Vs. Mothra a while back, but she fell asleep. She made it all the way through this one (granted, I fast-forwarded through some of the "boring parts" - meaning no monsters - and the scenes of people and aliens who look like people shooting at each other), and she loved it. My wife was sitting on the futon with us working on her laptop, and my daughter kept giving her a play-by-play of the monster fights. "Mommy, Mothra just climbed up on that big bird's back!" "Mommy, Godzilla's throwing rocks at the monster with three heads!" When she pointed out that Ghidrah had two eyes on each of his (her?) three heads, I took the opportunity to make this a learning experience. "If Ghidrah has three heads, and each head has two eyes, how many eyes does Ghidrah have?" See, giant monster movies are educational!

Summer's almost over, and time is running out!
Del Toro
mike_grover


In addition to working full time, I've been taking evening classes for the past several years. Many of them have been fairly involved, so even though I'm only taking one class per term, the necessary studying eats up a lot of my spare time. What this has meant, unfortunately, is that I haven't had as much time for pleasure reading as I'd like, since I've got my nose in a textbook most of the time. I did take the summer off this year, however, and as a result, I've been reading like a madman whenever I've had the chance, mostly on the way to and from work (don't panic - I take the train most of the way!). I think I've only used my MP3 player once or twice during my morning commute this summer, which is highly unusual for a big music fan like me. Here's what I've read so far (that I can remember):

JUST BEFORE SUNSET by Stephen King - A nice start to the summer, with some great stories from the master. I've always been more partial to King's short fiction, and I'm glad he's gone back to writing it. This one was set aside for a while, however, when I picked up the next book on the list. (Sorry, Steve.)

MR. GAUNT AND OTHER UNEASY ENCOUNTERS by John Langan - I discovered this by sheer accident while perusing the new release shelf at the library, John Langan's debut collection made me an instant fan. The stories in this book are some of the best horror tales I've read in a long time. I didn't mean for Langan's book to preempt King's; I was only going to take a quick peek at the first few pages of the opening story, but it hooked me like a fish, and I had to finish it, and then the next one, and so on.

THE LIVING DEAD edited by John Joseph Adams and POE edited by Ellen Datlow - After being blown away by MR. GAUNT, I picked up these two anthologies because each contained another one of John Langan's short stories, and if anything, I liked these even better than the ones in MR. GAUNT. The story in the POE anthology is a masterpiece that slowly builds to a bone-chilling climax, and the zombie story in THE LIVING DEAD contains what is easily one of the most upsetting and horrific passages I've ever read. More about these two amazing stories later.

CEMETERY DANCE by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child - What can I say? I love me some Agent Pendergast. Not the best in the series, but very entertaining nonetheless. Keep 'em coming, boys!

DEEPER by Jeff Long - Long's THE DESCENT is probably my favorite novel of all time; I've read it at least five or six times, and I decided to reread this, its sequel, in anticipation of a finale to the trilogy being released sometime in the near future. I wasn't as impressed by this one the first time, but I'm liking it better.

SUMMER OF NIGHT and A WINTER HAUNTING by Dan Simmons - I read Simmons's monster THE TERROR last summer and loved it, so I figured it was time for some more. Both of these were great horror novels, and even though the latter is somewhat of a sequel to the former, they're very different. Up there with King's best.

THE GREAT GOD PAN by Arthur Machen - I've been meaning to read this for a long time, but I finally picked it up because of King's praise of it in his author's notes in JUST BEFORE SUNSET. I'll confess that I've only read the title story so far and not the other two in this edition, but I did like it a lot, and I intend to finish it.

THE IMAGO SEQUENCE AND OTHER STORIES by Laird Barron - I emailed John Langan to praise his work, and he shot back a recommendation that I read this. I did, and subsequently found yet another favorite new author. This is really challenging stuff, but it's extraordinarily literate, evoking the same sense of doom as Lovecraft, only more acute and personal. I can't say I always understood what was happening in some of these stories, but I know they scared the shit out of me. Barron also has a superb story in the POE anthology.
 
20TH CENTURY GHOSTS by Joe Hill - I read Heart Shaped Box some time ago, and I thought it was superb, so I had been anticipating reading this short story collection that preceded it. I was surprised at how many of the stories couldn't really be classified as horror; some of them were deeply moving. I can't wait for his forthcoming second novel.

LOCKE & KEY: WELCOME TO LOVECRAFT by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez - As I mentioned a few posts back, I'm not much of a comics reader, but since this one was written by Hill, I thought I'd check it out. Very well done, and I'll definitely be checking out the subsequent issues.

COMPOSITIONS FOR THE YOUNG AND OLD by Paul G. Tremblay - Just as John Langan led me to Laird Barron, a mention on Barron's journal page lead me to Paul Tremblay. The stories in this collection are fantastic; some are grotesque and frightening, some are humorous and fun and one of them is positively heartbreaking. 

DROOD by Dan Simmons - Another whopper from Mr. Simmons, this one definitely put me behind schedule, but it was worth it. It made me want to visit 1850s London, rivers of shit and all. A wonderfully creepy and evocative story.

I have several other books I want to read before I start school again next week, but the clock is ticking! I'm reading these more or less simultaneously; hopefully, I can finish them in time:

BY BLOOD WE LIVE edited by John Joseph Adams - Another anthology (vampires this time, if you couldn't tell) with another fabulous John Langan story.
THE LITTLE SLEEP by Paul G. Tremblay - A novel about a narcoleptic private eye, it's sad and funny.
WHEN THEY CAME by Don Webb - Recommended by Laird Barron, these are wonderfully weird, Lovecraftian tales.
YOU MIGHT SLEEP...BUT YOU WILL NEVER DREAM by Nick Mamatas - Another Barron recommendation, I've just barely cracked this one.

Plus, I want to read CATCHER IN THE RYE again (my wife just read it for a class, and it brought back memories of reading it in junior high), but it ain't gonna happen, at least not right now.

So many books, so little time. Damn.


Cool bands you've never heard of - Part One
Del Toro
mike_grover


BAND NAME: The Wounded Kings
BASE OF OPERATIONS: United Kingdom
STYLE ACCORDING TO ME: Psychedelic Occult Euro-Horror Doom
LATEST RELEASE: Embrace Of The Narrow House (CD)
MY FAVORITE SONG BY THEM: Melanthos
BUY IT HERE IF YOU LIVE IN THE USA: http://www.theomegaorder.com
BUY IT HERE IF YOU LIVE SOMEWHERE ELSE: http://www.eichenwald-industries.com/store.html
DESCRIBE THEIR SOUND USING A LAME 'WHAT IF' SCENARIO: What if, in the early 1970s, Tony Iommi quit Black Sabbath and joined Goblin, and together they ingested hallucinogenic substances and composed soundtracks to trippy, Gothic European horror films?
PLEASE ELABORATE: If you're keen on the horror-inspired and drug-fueled dirges of UK doom overlords Electric Wizard but are in the mood for something slightly more mellow, if equally sinister, look no further than their countrymen (and apparent in-laws) The Wounded Kings. The title track to their debut CD Embrace Of The Narrow House, which is also the disc's opener, slowly builds from silence with a repetitive, fuzzed-out guitar riff and a funereal organ. Soon, a sample from The Premature Burial kicks in, with Ray Milland solemnly intoning about his horror of being buried alive. It's an apt beginning to a CD which keeps the listener cloaked in a suffocatingly hypnotic spell for the duration of its running time. The crisp production is very retro-sounding, especially the chantlike vocals, which are drenched in reverb. This is music you might hear if your tour bus broke down in front of a creepy medieval castle somewhere on the Continent, and you and your bell-bottom- and miniskirt-clad fellow travelers wandered the castle's halls and dungeon in a daze while being stalked by a mysterious cloaked figure wielding an executioner's axe.

http://www.myspace.com/thewoundedkings2


Punishment enough?
Del Toro
mike_grover
Well, I hadn't intended to post about another comic book movie so soon, but this is what I happened to write, so here it is. Hopefully, I'm not pigeonholing myself. (Oh wait - I need actual readers for that!)

A couple of Sundays ago, I was donating platelets at the local Red Cross, which I do fairly regularly. The procedure takes about two hours, and to pass the time, you can pick out a DVD to watch on a monitor that hangs over the donation couch. Deciding on which movie to watch is the most excruciating part of the donation process for me, even more so than the needle punctures or ripping the bandages off my hairy arms later in the day. It's not often that I have a more-or-less uninterrupted two-hour period during which I'm awake and can watch anything I want, and it frequently paralyzes me with indecision. I usually bring along a couple of DVDs of my own, but I'll still scan through the donation center's library first to make sure there's nothing there I've been dying to watch. Last time, after the usual endless deliberation, I chose Punisher: War Zone, even though I had every expectation it would be an awful, awful movie. In retrospect, it pretty much was, but I'm almost ashamed to admit that I had a hell of a good time watching it.

The Punisher, of course, is yet another comic book character who's been given his own film franchise, although this one has been more fractured than most. The story of an FBI agent who becomes a costumed vigilante after his family is wiped out by criminals was first filmed in 1989 with Swede Dolph Lundgren in the title role and Dutch actor (and Paul Verhoeven associate) Jeroen Krabbé as the head villain. Apparently, having two European leading men, one of whom could act well, was not beneficial to the film, and it faded into obscurity. They tried again in 2004, this time casting Thomas Jane as The Punisher and John Travolta as his nemesis. Apparently, the film was successful despite the fact that it was rather boring. Punisher: War Zone essentially ignores both of these earlier releases and functions as a stand-alone film, with Irish actor Ray Stevenson essaying the title role this time around.

I initially had no intention of seeing the film, but after reading a few reviews which commented on its absurdly grotesque level of violence, I figured it would at least satisfy the odd craving I'd been having for a mindless, 1980s-style action flick. Said craving was indeed satisfied, and then some. Remember the scene in Commando where Schwarzenegger slices off a bad guy's arm with a machete and we get a good look at the spurting stump? Well, the makers of Punisher: War Zone seem to have used that great moment in ultraviolent action cinema as their reference point. In fact, with its mutilation, exploding heads, limb-hacking and yes, even cannibalism, Punisher: War Zone could almost be seen as some sort of bastard child of an action movie and a George Romero zombie film (no offense, George). It seemed somehow appropriate that I was watching the spillage of so much cinematic blood while my own blood was being pumped out of my veins.

Most of the film's death scenes are way over the top, not only in terms of the gore, but their elaborate setup as well. In one scene, a bunch of bad guys were sitting around drinking wine while they negotiated the delivery of some sort of biological weapon. I found myself admiring the wine glasses, which had unusually long stems. Before I knew it, an argument had erupted, a wine glass was broken and the jagged stem was shoved through someone's neck, releasing dual jets of cascading blood. I realized at that point that the wine glasses I thought were cool had probably been specifically designed to faciliate the character's gruesome cinematic death scene. See, if they had been drinking from regular wine glasses, the stem wouldn't have been long enough to go all the way through the guy's neck, and obviously someone decided that the effect would be enhanced by making the glasses taller. That got me wondering what kind of person could come up with a product that's potentially lethal but nevertheless tastefully complements your home decor. Do any of IKEA's designers think along these lines? Will we ever see something like this in their catalog?:

HUVUDLÖS

Serving Tray/Guillotine
$24.99

Key Features
Stainless steel makes it sturdy yet stylish.
No-slip rubber surface holds items securely in place.
Razor-sharp edges slice through muscle and bone with minimal effort.

A terrifying reunion
Del Toro
mike_grover

About twenty years ago, I worked in a video rental store. It's still one of the most enjoyably mindless jobs I've ever had, even factoring in the steady ten percent or so of customers who were enraged because we expected them to pay for the tape that had been devoured by their filthy VCR ("You mean you're supposed to clean them things?"), or because we gave their reserved copy of a movie to someone else when they never showed up, or because we had the gall to charge them late fees for the tape that had been sitting on their kitchen table for two weeks, waiting for someone to muster the initiative to return it. My absolute favorite customers were the ones who had no trouble at all coming in to the store in the worst weather conditions imaginable - at least by Pacific Northwest standards - to rent movies, but when the time came to bring them back, they whined petulantly over the phone about not being able to get out of their driveway. Ah, but please forgive my wistful rambling, for this entry really isn't about my short-lived career in the video rental field.

One of my co-workers at the store was, like me, an avid reader of horror fiction, and we used to loan each other books. One day, she brought me a paperback anthology of horror stories and told me to pay special attention to the very first tale. (I seem to remember a barely suppressed and somewhat malevolent grin on her face when she said this, but it's possible it may have been rendered by my imagination in hindsight.) I read the story, and by the time I'd finished, I was quite literally stunned. The premise of the story, which is equal parts science fiction and horror, is rather fantastic, but the author sets it up brilliantly and makes it utterly believable. Just when you're completely sold on what's happening, there comes a turning point, a passage during which the author completely and utterly demolishes what you've been led to believe, startles you out of your comfort zone and pushes you, stumbling uneasily, down a very dark path. It turns out that what's really happening is far worse than you ever could have imagined, and by the end of the story, things are not looking up for the inhabitants of this planet. You're left with a sick feeling of dread as you contemplate the ghastly fate that awaits humanity.  I suppose this doesn't sound very pleasant, but if you read this kind of stuff, you know that this is how it's supposed to work. This is one of those stories that delivers what so many others only promise, and the memories of these deliciously hair-raising experiences are what impels you to keep searching for the next one, even thought that can sometimes be a daunting task.

The story had a huge impact on me, and I have always considered it one of the most frightening I've ever read. Unfortunately, with the passage of time, its title and the author's name faded from my memory, even though the story itself most assuredly did not. I tried to find it a few times over the years, with no luck. Internet searches based on the plot proved fruitless (apparently, that class I took on Internet search techniques was a waste of money). I even tried requesting several volumes of the anthology I thought it was contained in via an interlibrary loan, to no avail. Then, a few weeks ago, I spotted a thread on a message board I sometimes visit in which someone else was requesting help identifying a story they'd read. I thought "what the hell," posted my best recollection of the plot and asked if anyone was familiar with it. Within literally minutes, I had not only the title of the story and the author's name, but the name of the anthology it appeared in and a link to the story's Wikipedia article as well! (My thanks to John Sunseri for responding to my post and identifying the story.)

The anthology in question is The Best Horror Stories from the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Vol. 1, and the story that had such an effect on me is Window, by Bob Leman. If I've been deliberately vague about the plot, which involves a secret government experiment gone horribly awry, it's because I don't want to ruin it for you if you've never read it. This is one story where any spoilers truly would spoil the effect. If you consider yourself a connoisseur of weird fiction and you've never encountered this masterwork, you owe it to yourself to track it down (it has apparently been anthologized a number of times). After finally rediscovering Window and enjoying it again after so many years, I searched for more fiction by Mr. Leman. Sadly, I discovered that he died in 2006, and the sum total of his fantastic fiction - a mere fifteen stories - was collected in a 2002 book entitled Feesters in the Lake which was released in very limited quantities. I hope to acquire a copy of this book, because if the rest of Leman's work is as good as Window, reading it will be a singular experience.


?

Log in