Fan-Written ICHF: Killer Klowns

This ICHF was written by Casey, who you can find at http://riftwitch.tumblr.com/.  I may have made a few touch ups and notes here and there, but the bulk of this entry is their work!

kkfos.pngArt by Casey

Have you ever stopped and thought about just how bizarre clowns are – or more accurately, how bizarre our perception of them is? Clowns are entertainers, ordinary men and women who perform comedic skits for us, and yet as the surge of “clown sightings” in 2016 demonstrates, we tend to view them as a monster first and foremost. Every Halloween store in America is almost guaranteed to have clown monster masks and makeup right alongside the vampires, the werewolves, the pumpkins, the frankenstoids and the sexy catgirls.

What other professions can you say that about? Plagues doctors? Even those menacingly masked, cloaked figures who follow sickness, tend to actually be depicted doing their job, with the themes of sickness and devastation being an integral part of the creepy imagery. Clowns, meanwhile, you can plop right into a forest, holding a knife, and most people won’t even think anything is out of place. Yeah, clowns are creepy monster-men who stalk you through the night and eviscerate you, right?

About the only thing that can truly be compared to how we see clowns is how we see mimes. Pop culture tends to see mimes as some sort of counterpart to clowns, the hyena to clowns’ lion. Order vs chaos? And yet even then, there are noticeably more non-monster mimes than non-monster clowns in most modern fiction.

It’s thus no surprise that there are oceans of works to choose from, if we wish to analyze the clown-monster archetype. But I think that one in particular stands out above the rest in terms of capturing the essence of the archetype. The clowniest, most monstrous clown-monster movie of all time!

I refer to the 1988 cult classic, Killer Klowns From Outer Space!

Our story begins in the manner that horror movies tend to be known for: A group of teenagers are making out on a cliffside, when something falls from the sky and lands in the woods, prompting our adventurous heroes, Mike and Debbie, to investigate. You can make out whenever you want, but chasing meteorites is a rare treat! I actually really like this as a plot device, as these kids are proactive even before the stakes rise.

The film jumps straight into its own premise, revealing a massive, bizarre circus tent in all its glory. Mike and Debbie very quickly determine that they’re not in any kind of circus they’ve ever heard of, and soon encounter one of the tent’s owners, a short, clown-like creature.

The klowns are designed to give us a pretty solid idea of what they’re about right from the start. What we have are essentially white-skinned trolls of varying height, with bulbous red noses, colorful hair, a diverse array of vibrant facial markings, and baggy, festive clothing that obscures their stocky figures. These creatures are nothing like humans, and yet all the basic parts are there: Eyes, ears, noses, mouths, two arms, two legs, upright posture. Essentially, we are looking at the most elemental distillation of the clown concept, divorced from its human origins.

And this continues well beyond their designs, as the creature responds to Mike and Debbie’s intrusion by blasting them with popcorn, as opposed to anything that could actually stop them. When the teens escape into the woods, one of the klowns grabs a balloon and quickly twists it into the shape of a dog, using it to track the kids.

As the protagonists escape into the town to warn the authorities, the klowns regroup and head in, not to give chase, but to explore and cause as much havoc as they please before the real work begins.

KKFOS is not a movie that skimps on making the main characters likable, or in building the threat up, but it also doesn’t beat around the bush: The klowns are here, and they are the movie’s main attraction. While Mike and Debbie struggle to prove their story to the cops, the klowns simply wreak havoc all across the town, which leads me to the point that I think makes these characters the clowniest clown monsters of all.

The rampage is not framed or shot as a horror movie. It takes place at night, and maintains an eerie atmosphere, but the actual shenanigans are treated… well, like comic skits. We see the klowns set up their lethal pranks, we see unsuspecting townsfolk blunder into them, and we reap the schadenfreude as they succumb. No gag is repeated, no victim is quite like the others, every scenario has some sort of bizarre punchline. Not all of them are funny, but all of them follow the sort of logic one would expect a murderous entertainer to follow. Only a couple of scenes in the entire movie are actually played for straight, sincere horror, and even those still rely on the comic logic of the klowns, merely switching perspective to focus on the victims.

The klowns don’t talk, but they communicate a lot through simple body language – NOT an easy task with makeup that thick, I must add. There are several different individuals who each communicate certain quirks – The short one is sociable and upbeat, but has a vindictive streak a mile wide. The tall one is a sadistic bully who likes to deliberately lure people into a false sense of security, then strike. The skinny one is curious and spends most of his time sifting through(and utterly trashing) a convenience store, trying to figure out our technology.

Throughout the chaos, the klowns repeatedly come back to their ray guns which envelop victims in a cocoon of cotton candy, killing them either through suffocation or through the gun’s own power. While at first, this seems like just one more unexplained quirk, it soon becomes apparent that this ties into their ultimate goal: The klowns want to collect all the cocoons and take them back to their ship. Some victims, however, are taken alive, Debbie being among them.

I might also add that the raygun and popcorn cannon are some of their only unambiguously technological weapons, and even they end up having freaky, biological elements in their function. Most of their other stunts, it’s not clear how many of their tricks are technology and how many are natural abilities, nor is it made entirely clear whether each klown is capable of doing all of these things, or if each has their own special X-men klown power.

During a GLORIOUSLY gratifying scene where a corrupt sheriff is humiliated and murdered by one of the klowns, his not-so-corrupt partner discovers that the klowns, though seemingly bulletproof and impossibly strong, do have a weakness: Their fragile noses, if damaged, will cause the entire creature to spin around rapidly until it explodes in a shower of green sparks.

This is likewise never explained. Is the nose a regulator for the eldritch energies that power a klown’s various abilities? Are they really from another dimension, with the nose being their anchor? We don’t know, and we don’t need to know, because the essence of a clown is nonsense!

Oh, some things are explained, sure. As our heroes infiltrate the ship, we discover the purpose of the cotton candy cocoons, as one of the klowns enters the larder, feels several of them, before settling on one and plunging a crazy straw straight into the mass, slurping it up like a spider drinking the melted insides of a fly. The klowns did come to Earth with a purpose besides chaos for its own sake! Unfortunately, that purpose was to round up some snacks for the road.

Finally, in the third act, the teens attempt to bring some reason into this candy-coated nightmare. These creatures must have visited the planet centuries ago, and inspired what we now think of as clowns.

This raises SO VERY many more questions: Would we really find murderous monsters like this humorous, in real life? Did we create clowns as an act of defiance, mocking our oppressors? Were the klowns that previously visited us even as malevolent as these hungry bastards, or were they friendlier? Are these kids just full of shit?

These are more questions the movie knows it doesn’t need to answer. Brevity is the soul of wit, and nobody knows that better than a comedian. The klowns don’t need to be explained. We can tell right away what they’re about, and that’s what drives the story.

A clown is more than just its appearance. Its colors and proportions are outlandish, and this can add to the humor, but it’s the actions, the timing, the wit that ultimately makes them funny. By that same token, a monster clown is so much more than its appearance. Putting makeup on a snarling, feral beast might make it slightly creepier, but a true monster clown relies on comedy for its carnage.

There are many evil clowns in fiction. There are evil men who wear clown makeup to make a mockery of the horrors they inflict. There are pranksters with no regard for the damage their jokes do. There are otherworldly horrors who disguise as clowns to lure victims in close. There are demented show hosts who torment for the sake of entertaining in-universe audiences. But the Klowns are, in my opinion, the most distilled of them all, because everything about them revolves around their being comedians. We don’t know if they deliberately do what they do to amuse themselves, or if they’re simply psychologically incapable of not being funny because it’s how their species is wired. Do they choose to be clowns, or can they be nothing else? It’s such an integral part of them, it may be all of the above!

When the klowns fight, it’s with weapons that are meant for style more than effect. When they kill, it’s as a punchline to a skit. When they communicate, it’s in a language we can’t understand, because you never explain a joke. When they drive, it’s invisible mime cars. When they feed, they do it through crazy straws. When they pilot their ship, it’s in a big circus tent shaped like a top, because of course clown ships are visual puns. EVERYTHING about them revolves around the fact that they are clowns.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space is devoted 100% to following its premise to the end. Its characters are fleshed out, but they’re archetypal. Its plot is briskly paced, but ultimately simple. And its monsters are the purest expression of their name that they could possibly be. There are other clown-monster movies, but this is THE Clown-Monster movie.

Editor’s Note: You really do owe it to yourself to track this movie down and see it.  It is an absolutely unique horror-comedy experience – there is no movie quite like it.

Posted in Atomic Horror Characters, Creepy Columns, Iconic Characters of Horror Fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fan-Written ICHF: Frank Cotton

This ICHF was written by Irene Vallone, who you can find at https://irenemvallone.tumblr.com/.  I may have made a few touch ups and notes here and there, but the bulk of this entry is their work!

Hellraiser_027_-_Frank_Cotton.jpg Image borrowed from http://headhuntershorrorhouse.wikia.com/wiki/Skinless_Frank

A while back, I asked this site’s esteemed author if he ever planned on writing an ICHF entry on Pinhead, the face of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser film franchise. His response was—to my shock and horror—no, because he simply didn’t like the Hellraiser movies very much (editor’s note: I don’t personally enjoy them enough to write a proper ICHF, but I readily acknowledge they’re more than worthy of being considered iconic). I don’t begrudge him his opinion; in fact, with the exception of the first film, I pretty much agree. However, I still think that the exclusion of Hellraiser leaves (as Clive Barker himself might describe it) a gaping hole in the author’s thoughtmeat. So without further ado, let’s get to plugging.

Sorry about that. I’ve honestly even grossed myself out.

You might be saying to yourself at this point, “Wait a second, this isn’t an article about Pinhead!” That’s true. After suggesting the Pinhead entry to the site’s author, I eventually realized that, while Hellraiser deserves an ICHF entry, it shouldn’t be about Pinhead.

Why?

When people see Hellraiser for the first time, they’re often surprised by how little Pinhead actually appears in the film—probably less than 10 percent of the movie’s total runtime. Heck, he isn’t even named in the credits; the actor who portrays him, Doug Bradley, is credited only as “Lead Cenobite”! And yet, his nail-studded face has become so iconic, so frequently referenced and parodied by everything from The Simpsons to Motörhead music videos, that he’s become something of a minor cultural icon, and people misremember or assume that his role in the film is much bigger. He’s iconic, sure, but he’s not the main monster of the movie. That honor goes to Frank Cotton.

If you’ve never seen Hellraiser, you might be asking yourself “Who? I thought Pinhead was the monster.” Well… yes and no. Pinhead is a monster in that he’s a frightening and inhuman creature, but Frank Cotton is a monster in a much more concrete, almost relatable sense.

Well, that and he’s also a frightening and inhuman creature—at least for most of his screen time.

When we first see Frank, however, he’s just a man—a man who claims to have experienced every pleasure the world has to offer. His hedonistic lifestyle has burnt him out on sensation, leaving him unable to experience any pleasure at all; not even gruesome sex with his brother’s wife, Julia, is taboo enough for him to enjoy anymore. So he does what any man in that situation would do—he goes to Morocco and obtains a mystical puzzle box, which, when solved, opens a portal to another dimension and releases a squad of scarred-up leather daddies called the Cenobites, who instantly rip Frank to shreds with a bevy of hook-tipped chains.

Frank, unfortunately, doesn’t stay dead. When his brother and Julia move into the house he was squatting in when he died, a mishap involving a stray nail gives Frank the taste of blood, and he emerges in the attic as a flayed and twisted ghoul. When Julia discovers him, he convinces her to feed him more blood, letting him slowly grow back to his normal handsome self—though he never quite figures out how to make his skin grow back. The blood in question comes from hapless men whom Julia picks up in bars, luring them to her home so that Frank can mutilate them and drink their fluids.

Julia is something of a Renfield to Frank’s Dracula, enthralled to his terrifying will. However, Julia is an entirely willing servant. No magic or mysticism compels her to kill on Frank’s behalf. He simply has a dangerous charisma, a natural magnetism that pulls her out of her humdrum life. Like Frank himself, she gradually becomes emotionally dulled by the sensory heights of sex and murder. But this article isn’t about her—it’s about Frank, and it’s about the Cenobites!

When Frank’s niece Kirsty learns of his existence, his immediate response is to sexually menace her (remember what I said about him being a monster?). As she escapes him, she steals the puzzle box that caused all this trouble in the first place. Recovering from her ordeal in the hospital, she solves the box, and the Cenobites appear before her, proclaiming themselves “explorers in the furthest reaches of experience”. To these creatures, pain and pleasure are one and the same. They’ve been immersed in such heights of both for so long that they can no longer tell the difference. Therefore, in a sense, they gave Frank exactly what he asked for.

The Cenobites also self-describe as “demons to some, angels to others” (a statement that is unfortunately retconned by the many, many substandard sequels). Like Frank himself, they are figures of complete moral ambivalence, interested only in the physical. Though they express an interest in reclaiming Frank for themselves, it’s out of no apparent desire to punish or reward—just to keep their games of the flesh going for a while longer. They only want him for his body, as it were.

I don’t imagine that these themes are ones that Clive Barker just decided on out of nowhere. Barker claims to have self-identified as gay since the late 1970s, and came out publicly in the 1990s. The manner in which the film presents pleasure and pain—inextricably connected, dulling to the senses, and unconnected to morality—are not dissimilar to homophobic stereotypes of gay men as hedonistic creatures of lust and disease. Barker wrote the film during the mid-1980s, during the height of the AIDS crisis; though he lived in England at the time, and the English gay community was less affected than the American gay community by HIV/AIDS, the subject was likely on his mind nonetheless. One wonders how much the film was influenced by homophobic rhetoric, twisted into a literal truth where gender-defying creatures of madness subject their victims to deadly pleasures. (Note that I’m not making any accusations of Clive Barker, nor do I wish to unduly speculate about his personal life; this is just how I read the film, and I think it’s at least a possibility from a historical perspective.)

I won’t spoil what happens from after the Cenobites appear; if you want to see the movie’s whackadoodle climax and potentially predictable yet entertainingly wild twist ending, you’ll have to watch it yourself. Suffice it to say, however, that Frank Cotton manages to be the most ugly and terrifying presence in a film that features a features a giant floating mole-rat with fangs.

Editor’s Note: One of the reasons I held this Jam was to cover horror characters that I personally am not capable of doing justice, whether out of lack of knowledge or my own personal aesthetic biases.  Clive Barker’s fiction is an incredibly influential and important part of the genre, and while I may not personally enjoy it, I am delighted to finally have one of his characters in the ICHF gallery.

Posted in Creepy Columns, Gothic Horror Characters, Iconic Characters of Horror Fiction, Slasher Horror Characters, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fan-Written ICHF: Van Helsing

This ICHF was written by Captain Wordsmith, who you can find at https://captainwordsmith.tumblr.com/.  I may have made a few touch ups and notes here and there, but the bulk of this entry is their work!

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Art by Dan Hubsher, who you can find at HATERS GONNA HATE (hubsher.tumblr.com) and whom I heartily recommend. ~ Captain Wordsmith

You can’t talk Vampire Hunters without bringing up VH – ‘Ampire ‘Unters just don’t quite have the same bite without him.

For a man who gets little build-up (mentioned for the first time only a page before his first appearance), Van Helsing – Renaissance Man, Medicine Man and occasional eccentric – makes quite the impression; faced with what threatens to become Miss Lucy Westenra’s deathbed, The Professor introduces himself and proceeds to charm the patient, promptly wins her trust by taking her side against the well-meaning but deeply worried admirer who has served as attending physician to date (Doctor Seward, Van Helsing’s former pupil and destined to be the first of his key assistants), swiftly forms a comprehensive picture of her affliction and (crucially) is allowed to see the curious marks on her throat that will become his first clue to the True nature of N affliction that has begun to claim an innocent life and will briefly imprison an undeserving soul.

He does all this in fluent double-Dutch (English is clearly not the Professor’s second language, though given his polymath tendencies it may well be his fifth or sixth!), then proceeds to recommend that most esoteric and high-risk of medical techniques known to Victorian Medicine as the most appropriate treatment for Miss Lucy’s illness – a transfusion in the days before blood typing freed patient and doctor alike from the serious risk of fatal blood poisoning – a calculated gamble that happily restores some measure of Miss Westenra’s vitality; he then briefly withdraws to Amsterdam, his home base*1 only to return with flowers of garlic, which Van Helsing proceeds to apply to his patient with that same no-nonsense kindliness brought to the less occult elements of her treatment.

Yet despite the best efforts of others who love her and his own – so devoted he even gives of his own blood via transfusion, the third of four men willing to make such a vital contribution – the patient continues to dwindle towards a strange demise, bled so dry even her gums show white, those strange marks on her neck growing more ragged even as her teeth grow sharper and her manner more strange; the end, when it comes, claims her only a month or so before her 20th birthday and mere days (if so long) after her own beloved mother’s fatal heart attack – suffered during a home invasion under the most bizarre circumstances imaginable, when a wolf escaped from a London zoo batters it’s way through the window and the household servants are found drugged senseless.

Faced with this utter tragedy, a defeat partly due to the more eccentric elements of his treatment being sabotaged in all innocence by the late Mrs Westenra, Van Helsing suffers a fit of almost hysteric laughter while in conversation with his student and accomplice Doctor Seward, then recommends that the two of them return after the funeral party has broken up and (amongst other posthumous surgeries) sever the deceased’s head from her torso.

If it weren’t for the fact that all this happens in the pages of DRACULA (and that The Professor apparently has no previous history of mental illness), Doctor Seward would at this point be amply justified in finding a cell for Abraham Van Helsing right next to R.M. Renfield, on the understanding that he has cracked under the stress of his own failure and the pressure of shuttling between London & the Continent with a life on the line.

1* Although not necessarily his homeland – many an annotator of DRACULA has noted that the Good Professor uses a turn of phrase more German than Dutch (presumably because Mr Stoker was thoroughly conversant with neither of these languages).

Instead we, along with Doctor Seward, are finally given the insights that only now explain the throughly occult phenomena besetting Our Heroes (for John Seward the phenomena surrounding the tragic demise of Miss Lucy; for readers the lethal progression of strangeness to which we have been eyewitnesses since Young Harker drew nigh to Castle Dracula); if Modern Audiences find all this somewhat redundant it is only because Van Helsing (and through him Mr Stoker) does his work so thoroughly and so well that whole generations have grown up keenly aware of Vampires and their legend, of their powers and their unnatural thirst, of their habits and their undying depredations (or at least Bram “The Other Abraham” Stoker’s personal variant on the same).

Yet far more importantly than this, and at the root of Van Helsing’s identification as THE Iconic Vampire Hunter, we learn at last – after seeing Count Dracula thoroughly dominate lesser predators (amongst others), after witnessing the murderous cruelties he seems so effortlessly to accomplish, after watching as he quietly drives Mr Harker to the borders of sanity with some assistance from those Literally mesmerising “Weird Sisters” (most call them his Brides), as he reduces a rough-and-ready crew to that poor, solitary corpse roped to the Demeter’s steering wheel*2 and commands the very weather itself on a scale that approaches the elemental – we learn at last that not only can this apparently almighty Vampire be defied through application of the proper wards, a Vampire can be destroyed with nothing more than a sharpened stick and the exercise of human knowledge & courage.

2* Quite needlessly, as we later learn, since he apparently sails all the way from London to the Black Sea coast in a single ship without being compelled to take a life (repeating almost exactly the same journey); it seems credible to suggest that he killed the Demeter’s crew not because he needed to, but simply because he WANTED to.

All this we learn not through legends of a past age, but courtesy of Professor Abraham Van Helsing (who now reveals himself to be as conversant in the trivia of Grimoires as he is in the lore of medical textbooks) and through his actions after he confirms that not only has Miss Lucy been the victim of a Vampire but been made into one. Initially observing the Vampire Westenra as she takes the first steps of her predatory existence, the Professor (Doctor Seward observing) then takes steps to imprison her in the tomb that has become this predator’s lair, (preventing further depredations on the local children from whom she has become accustomed to drink her fill and then cast aside), before preparing for her destruction alongside those other interested parties whose help will prove so valuable for the remainder of the novel – and for whom this operation shall serve as indisputable proof of the Supernatural Threat they must combat – Doctor Seward (who at this point operates less as Scully to his Mulder and more as Watson to his Sherlock), Mr Quincey P. Morris of Texas and Arthur Holmwood, Lord Godalming (three friends who each loved Miss Lucy dearly, the last of whom was engaged to marry her).

It’s a brutal, heart-breaking business but rewarded with the knowledge that the Vampire Westenra will no longer be a prison for Miss Lucy’s mortal soul … and tempered with the understanding that whatever inflicted this condition upon their young lady will have to be run to earth and destroyed in turn, whomsoever that “known unknown” might actually be.

At this point what the reader knows and what is known to the characters finally becomes one & the same – the newlywed Harkers, returned to Old England from Eastern Europe (where Mr Harker has been recovering from a stay in the Hell of Castle Dracula), accidentally observe the Count in person as he stalks yet another victim*3, are persuaded to meet with Van Helsing and at last combine their hard-won knowledge with his own fresh intelligence. The Nemesis of Count Dracula begins to take shape from that very moment – Van Helsing can at last name his foe, can employ a network of friends drawn from across the breadth of Academia to track this name to its origin and use the long, bloody history of the Count to put flesh on the bones of what is known of that threat through personal experience (particularly the observations of Mr Harker), can begin to understand his methods, his mentality and his design … then lay plans for the utter ruin of Count Dracula and all his works, with the help of his own allies, friends & close companions, each now sworn to accomplish the Great Vampire’s destruction.

It is interesting to see that the more we learn of Count Dracula through the Professor, the more Van Helsing stands revealed as the Vampire’s antithesis; both of them foreign gentlemen of great intellectual distinction (even Renfield, confined to a lunatic asylum for an unspecified period, knows enough of Van Helsing’s pioneering work to make an informed compliment), each of them willing to go beyond the frontiers of Science as their generation understood it, each a strategist and a leader of men (though Van Helsing seems far more willing to work with Madam Mina than Count Dracula is prepared to take an interest in his “Brides”), each with a dominant personality and great power to charm, each with a history of tragedy (Dracula was a man once, before he became a Thing, and has seen his world reduced to a crumbling castle, to half-remembered memories of his past glory and the visceral thrill of fear he elicits in neighbouring peasants – Van Helsing has seen his son die painfully young and lost his wife to a madness that may well have propelled him into the study of our Human Mind, leaving the old gentleman with an apparently overpowering desire to protect women and a truly powerful commitment to the friends whom we learn are young enough to be his own children).

While the epistolary nature of DRACULA makes it difficult to say which of its Heroes is THE Hero (a common dilemma with works told from multiple points of view), it is not hard to see why cinematic adaptations of the novel have almost invariably taken Van Helsing as The Count’s particular Nemesis – quite frankly the two of them, these two strong characters with their unusual knowledge, their air of unwavering competence, their own slightly unworldly demeanours and their equal ruthlessness make perfect foils for each other (one on the hunt for a fresh Conquests, the other on a Mission of Mercy) in a way that none of the other characters can quite match.

3* It seems quite possible that the reason for Dracula’s apparent indifference to the fate of Miss Lucy was an inclination to go seeking his next “Conquest” … because Count Dracula obviously prefers to love women en mass rather than as individuals.

Yet for all Van Helsing’s genuine competencies his strengths are balanced by weaknesses vividly illustrated in his first direct efforts against the Great Vampire; whilst taking great pains to thoroughly arm his friends against that Vampire with modern firearms, talismans of faith, old-fashioned cutlery (we know that at the very least Mr Harker carried a Gurkha knife, the famous Kukri, and Mr Morris his bowie) and even collars of garlic flowers, Van Helsing at first fails to equip Mrs Harker to the same standard – despite prizing the fruits of her efforts to collate unambiguous first-hand intelligence from a confusion of sources and praising her to the skies for it, he prefers that Madam Mina not be directly involved in the team’s invasion of Dracula’s London headquarters – since Mrs Harker is, so far as we can tell, a rather petite schoolteacher it is perhaps not unfair that she operate as a staff officer “behind the lines” rather than a front-line fighter, but it was foolhardy to leave her unarmed & un-warded and completely unnecessary to deny her all knowledge of the campaign.

The most charitable construction of this unforced strategic blunder is that Van Helsing, perhaps fearing that those wards which failed to protect Miss Lucy in the end did so through their own weakness rather than through human misjudgement and sheer bad luck (interestingly Mrs Westenra was the innocent vehicle of both), preferred to throw all his energy into an offensive which was expected to distract all Count Dracula’s attention – a risk comparable to the one he ran when transfusing blood from no fewer than four donors without ever being able to determine their compatibility with the patient – the less charitable version is that he feared for Mrs Harker’s health & sanity, perhaps remembering the case of his own wife as he attempted to keep Madam Mina “safely ignorant” (though we have no idea what drove that poor lady past the bounds of reason).

Instead he left her fatally vulnerable, The Count slipped inside his enemies guard and did his appalling best to sow the seeds of their destruction by defiling Mina Harker with his curse – leaving her a sleeper agent who might potentially become another Renfield … or the latest addition to those Weird Sisters he had made out of previous victims. Van Helsing & co successfully curtailed Count Dracula’s freedom of movement even so (destroying a majority of the boxes of deconsecrated Earth that were at the roots of the Count’s power), yet they failed Madam Mina very badly indeed.

It is the mark of a Great Man to learn from his mistakes and Van Helsing learned from his unforced error – even with Mrs Harker compromised by the Count, possibly fatally compromised*4, The Professor refused to abandon her in England and was the first to accept (and gratefully accept) her idea of using the psychic link left between them by her attacker against the Count; as the Hunt for Dracula builds, Van Helsing continues to govern the efforts of the Hunters (with Madam Mina his constant guide and always with the steadfast presence of Lord Godalming, Doctor Seward, Mr Harker and Mr Morris at the front lines) as they race Count Dracula overland and actually beat the Vampire to his home country, despite Dracula’s supernatural boosts to the speed of his ship’s passage, thanks to excellent staff work from Madam Mina and the smooth running of the Orient Express.

4* Potentially fatal to far more than herself alone – Mr Harker, at least, promised to follow where she went, even along the Road to Hell.

Even faced with the realization The Count had cheated his enemy’s efforts to catch him disembarking, Van Helsing continues to prove equally resourceful – swiftly divining Dracula’s method and his course, the Professor assigns his front-line fighters to closely pursue the Vampire as the latter makes his escape along the river (supported by a troop of mercenary porters), before setting out himself with Mrs Harker to “cut the loop” (using a shorter overland route to arrive at Castle Dracula before the Count can reach his stronghold, intending to deny that Vampire his base of operations and the assistance of his almost-equally fearsome “Brides”); in the end this race between Darkness & Light proves to be a close-run thing, with the power of the “Weird Sisters” only barely kept at bay and Madam Mina only barely drawing herself back from their Corrupting influence – the Professor & his ally lose their horses to the “Brides” and with them all hope of escape, leaving these two mere mortals stranded in Count Dracula’s home country under the very shadow of his stronghold and right in the crosshairs of his most dangerous creations – almost alone at the very fountainhead of his enemies strength, an ageing scholar who cannot quite trust his closest ally, it is at this point in the text that Abraham Van Helsing begins to turn the tables and start staking out his claim to be the Greatest Vampire Hunter in fiction.

Unwilling to further risk the “Weird Sister’s” potentially overpowering Influence on Mina Harker, a very long way from his closest back-up and all too close to his Enemy’s most dangerous creations (each lurking at the very roots of her Power), The Good Professor proceeds to demonstrate why you DO NOT £^€& with A. Van Helsing without any safe word, soloing Castle Dracula like a Nintendo Belmont and racking up the highest “Kill Count” of any character in the novel who doesn’t happen to be The Count himself in the process – leaving three very old, mesmerisingly potent vampires shorter by a head and The Count’s very stronghold utterly useless to him as a refuge.

All this in a single day of “Butcher Work” and all without a single iota of certainty at daybreak that he would survive to see nightfall; while Van Helsing will not kill Count Dracula with his own hands, it will be his work that makes it impossible for The Count to find any refuge from the younger Hunters who will end his immortal existence after hand-to-hand combat with his Daylight Guards.

In DRACULA Bram Stoker makes Heroism business for an ensemble of Heroes, each of whom plays their part large or small – Van Helsing does not strike the first blow against Dracula (credit to the visibly mild-mannered Jonathan Harker, who does his best to brain The Count with a shovel and leaves that monster with a scar he will carry for the remainder of the novel) or the second (credit again to Mister Harker, who has learned his wife was assaulted while he lay in the same bed and therefore charges her assailant slashing like the Grim Reaper at harvest time when later offered the opportunity) nor is he even the one to strike the final blow (credit again to the indefatigable Mister Harker, who clearly deserves far more credit than he ever receives, though he will happily share Joint Credit with Quincey Morris – the latter having pinned down Dracula just in time to deny the Count a sunset boost to his powers); yet throughout the campaign against Dracula and all his works, it has been Van Helsing who has guided Our Heroes, Van Helsing who governed their strategies and Van Helsing who, in every respect, acted as the Officer Commanding their endeavors.

More to the point it is Van Helsing, first and foremost, who through his studies and by his actions offers the first conclusive proof that not only can Vampires be stopped they can be stopped PERMANENTLY – more to the point he makes it explicitly clear that no matter how Powerful a vampire may be, the powers of that creature have sharp limits … and that the physical, mental & technological powers available to Humanity suffer no such curtailment.

It’s a thoroughly empowering message and one worth hearing again & again – Monsters have Great Power to end lives, Human Beings have Great Power to Save Lives.

As the original bearer of such a message, it’s no wonder the Good Professor has become such an Icon of Horror Fiction and while this reputation owes more than a little to the iconic performances of the late, great Peter Cushing (perfectly described elsewhere as “The Sherlock Holmes of vampire slaying”), the literary Van Helsing is far from a lightweight despite being a much more amateur vampire hunter AND quite as blatantly eccentric as any incarnation of DOCTOR WHO … possibly even a little more loopy than that, if possible (even The Doctor very seldom has to start laughing so he won’t start screaming).

Despite a lingering tendency in certain quarters to dismiss Vampire Hunters as lightweights trying to knock down the Heavyweight Champion of the World (visible as early as NOSFERATU in 1922, where the Vampire successfully unleashes his plague upon the living and is only stopped by what amounts to an act of suicide but achieving it’s pinnacle in Polanski’s FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS) and the somewhat more recent tendency to depict Vampire Hunters as the REAL Villains – arguably traceable to the late Fred Saberhagen’s THE DRACULA TAPE of 1975 and most definitely attributable to the Hollywood Vampire’s increasing identification as sex-symbols, rather than the sexual predator we see in DRACULA – any fan of Horror Fiction worth their salt knows that no matter how powerful a Vampire may be, Mankind has the armory to kill it and can summon the courage to face it.

You can thank Van Helsing for that (also for Werewolf Hugh Jackman, the gift that keeps on giving!).

Editor’s Note: Van Helsing, like Dracula himself, is one of those characters that honestly needs multiple ICHFs, because they change so much in adaptation and their adaptations have made just as big a mark as their original incarnations.

Posted in Creepy Columns, Gothic Horror Characters, Iconic Characters of Horror Fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fan-Written ICHF: The Tingler

This ICHF was written by Scatha, who you can find at https://www.deviantart.com/scatha-the-worm.  I may have made a few touch ups and notes here and there, but the bulk of this entry is their work!

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Image borrowed from https://www.etsy.com/listing/516055384/the-tingler-lifesize-prop-replica

I know this movie isn’t actually that scary.  My sister actually laughed at it the first time we saw it, and she was 10.  For some reason, though, it terrified me enough that it’s still on the corner of my mind, and honestly, the concept is sort of frightening!  

The Tingler is, well, it’s a movie.  It’s supposed to be a horror movie so I’ll treat it that way, even though the title monster is about as impressive and expressive as a dollar store dildo.

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“That’s uncalled for.” (image provided by Scatha)

I’m going to have to explain this movie a little more than some ICHF entries-mostly because I don’t know if anyone reading this has seen it and also to spare anyone reading this from having to.

The Tingler itself is sort of an interesting concept-a monster that curls up in the base of the spine of every human, who grows stronger as the human host gets frightened.  If the fear builds long enough, the Tingler will crush the spine of the host, and burst out of them to crawl off and feed on the fear of other people. Screaming, or ‘releasing the fear,’ weakens the Tingler so it never really grows large enough to do anything normally.  This limits the effectiveness of the Tingler as a monster, normally, but the movie makes it plenty horrifying, even if the monster isn’t scary itself.

We are treated to scenes of a mute, deaf woman being tormented in her room, unable to leave, almost supernatural things happening to terrify her.  She ends up dying of fright, since she is unable to scream…..

We find out that this lady is Martha Wiggins, the wife of theatre owner Oliver Wiggins, who only ever shows silent films.  His friend, Dr. Warren Chapin, who was the first person to figure out the existence of the Tingler, performs an autopsy. During the autopsy, Chapin removes the Tingler from Martha’s spine, and keeps it in a wire cage, which is the best place to keep anything.  Nothing has ever escaped a wire cage in a horror movie.  He also elects to keep it in his house.

Like an idiot.

This goes wrong almost immediately, of course.  First, his wife tries to use it to murder him, because she’s a massive bitch.  Out of a hosts body, a Tingler is actually incredibly strong-strong enough to kill a grown man easily.  Luckily that fails and he recaptures it, and then, as you do, the doctor tries to kill it.

Turns out, though, you can’t actually kill a Tingler that has left it’s host-you can only neutralize it by returning it to the original host.  We also find out that Oliver is just as big an asshole as Chapins wife-he used his wifes many phobias to terrify her to death so he could steal all of her money and run off into the night.  The Tingler gets loose once more as the two argue, fleeing into the theatre below and frightening the movie goers. Chapin, realizing this, runs into the theatre to instruct everyone to scream.  The Tingler is finally weakened enough to grab and put back into Martha’s body. Chapin leaves to call the cops on Wiggins, but they turn out to not be needed as Martha’s body sits up on her gurney, staring at Oliver as he begins to silently scream.

As a character, the Tingler isn’t the most interesting of monsters.  The film itself was also a bit lackluster, though the use of black and white with only sporadic color, specifically a shot of a blood filled tub in the Martha torture scenes, is honestly very visually interesting.  The concept of the Tingler has silently terrified me for years, though, so it was pretty successful that way. Having something growing in me the more frightened I become until I just drop dead if I can’t scream is sort of an awful thought, even if that monster was portrayed by what frankly looks like a goddamn rubber centipede from the shitty toy shelves at Walmart.

All in all, The Tingler isn’t exactly the best movie, but I dunno about you, after seeing it, I scream if I’m scared.  Just, you know, in case.

Editor’s Note: Fun fact – when this movie was in theaters, they actually rigged seats in the audience to vibrate, making audience members think the Tingler was crawling up their spines.  The audience was then encouraged to “scream for their life.”  We don’t do cool shit like that in movies anymore and it makes me sad.

Posted in Atomic Horror Characters, Creepy Columns, Iconic Characters of Horror Fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Fan-Written ICHF: Castlevania’s Dracula

This entry was written by AkityMH, who you can find at https://www.deviantart.com/akitymh.  I may have made a few touch ups and notes here and there, but the bulk of this entry is their work!

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Image borrowed from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dracula_(Castlevania)

Let’s step back a few decades back to when we had eight bit games, and various companies used old and new concepts for their merchandise. Back in the 80’s, all sorts of games came and went. Most were side scrolling action games, but would you believe(and I know you readers do) that one was a massive accumulation of all things classic horror?

Yep, Castlevania.

Back in 1986 is when it began. The game was simple: fight your way through the ghouls and horrors of the night until you reached the epitome of all horror icons: Vlad Tepes of Wallachia, The Impaler, Son of the Dragon, Dracula. A figure that stands tall like a shadow darker than night, peering down with crimson eyes and peerless to all.

Since then, Castlevania has attained a number of entries in the video game industry. With each game that came along with advancements of telling story in video games, we have come to learn more about the character that is Dracula. This Dracula, however, isn’t quite the same creature and character that is commonly recognized in most media. Dracula has had so many incarnations, and many are very much the same. There are exceptions, but my personal taste of Dracula based media isn’t the most stellar.

But I do know a bit about this Dracula and what he is about, why, and his relationship with the Belmonts. For reference sake though, this Dracula is quite similar to the original Bram Stoker’s Dracula. So much so that at least one game that I know has the Bram Stoker characters, and Bram Stoker’s storylines are somewhat canon to these games. So a lot of what I have to say has probably been said before. I’ll still go about it all the same, though.

Most Dracula incarnations usually portray this very suave and almost seductive individual who just has his own agenda. At least to my knowledge. It isn’t so grand, but it is horrifying depending on exactly what Dracula desires. Not this one, though. This Dracula is a individual who grew and harbored an exceptional misanthropic creature who sees all of Humanity as pitiful vermin.

But it was not always that way.

In this story, Dracula was once a man known as Mathias Cronqvist, a man who once fought alongside the Belmont’s ancestor, Leon Belmont. During his time away, Mathias lost his wife to a illness, driving him to insanity with grief to the point of devising a plan to defy the very will of God himself and his rules of life and death.

Mathias desired to show he was far more powerful than the Divine Being, and so by manipulating his friend in Leon, became a vampire out of spite for the world that he put his faith in.

This began a long, long feud with the Belmonts who despite suffering every bit as much, refused to give into the evils that Mathias became prey too. As the Belmonts continued their family, Mathias, eventually adopting the name of Dracula, forever would return to the world and continue his beliefs against God and mankind.

This theme is followed in the games. Dracula hates mankind… He hates them a lot. Though, with the creation of a certain animated adaptation, we learn more in depth about this, and in the end we sympathize with him.

Dracula one day is approached by a woman by the name of Lisa who is well educated and seeks to be a doctor of the highest skill in order to help her fellow man. As a result she is persecuted even before meeting Dracula, who at first is skeptical of her motivations, but as time goes on, falls in love with her and starts a family with her.

This is all taken away, however… Not by the nature of the world, but rather, mankind. When her strong medical ways become noticed, the Church steps in and accuses her of witchcraft, and burn her alive at the stake.

As a result, Dracula relives his past pain… and declares war against all mankind that lives within the borders of Wallachia. As punishment, he raises a mass army of evil and begins slaughtering every human in his way no matter their age or gender.

I’ll get to the point: Dracula is what anyone could become… He is resentful of the world of man from its religion to its apparent self destructive ways, as them being afraid of what they do not understand and horribly murdering people. He sees all mankind, the thing he once was and threw away out of anger and pain, as irredeemable creatures. The one good person he loved was taken, again and this time forcefully, and so destructs into a souless immortal monster.

But we can see why. People can be good, but can also be evil. But when hurt or terrified beyond any conscious reason, can be horrible. It’s a burning fire that feeds itself, until someone like Dracula is born, who embraces those horrible things and does even worse after he has suffered enough that he can’t take it.

This reflects with the Belmonts who, at least in the animated series, also see the evils that mankind do for one reason or another. They, however, hold onto their humanity and ideals. The Belmonts are even treated by Europe’s people as the same as Dracula. They fear the Belmonts and their ways to fight monsters and the undead as they don’t understand, but the Belmont’s refuse to step down because of it.

The cycle of hate is a non stop theme with a lot of horrors. Monsters are not always just killer things with a body count. They sometimes and often do reflect our own flaws and mistakes. Horror as a whole always reflects our fears as a race of sentient creatures. Sometimes our biggest fear is ourselves, and what we giving into wild emotion and allowing pain to warp us into later down the line.

Dracula, at least in this series, is one such good example of that. If I suspect, even the original Dracula by Bram Stoker portrays this. Even Hellsing, pretty much in the same universe as the original book, gives us a Dracula/Alucard who became a monster for such reasons.

For those who eat up horror movies, I highly recommend looking a few layers deeper. There is a lot to be understood from monsters such as Dracula.

Posted in Creepy Columns, Gothic Horror Characters, Iconic Characters of Horror Fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Fan-Written ICHF: Angel

This entry was written by AkityMH, who you can find at https://www.deviantart.com/akitymh.  I may have made a few touch ups and notes here and there, but the bulk of this entry is their work!

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In the year 1974, world known writer Peter Benchley wrote a book and probably was the very first book that had a killer shark as its monster. As far as I can do quick referencing on, this is the very first shark based piece of media in terms of a horror film or book. No one could have guessed the juggernaut that was to come in decades prior to our own that idolizes the sheer majesty of what is popularly known as the world’s most perfect predators that have been around since long before dinosaurs, or even the ancestors of dinosaurs for that matter.

About a year later the movie adaptation hit the silver screen, and forever more changed the world. Like, literally, the movie sparked a huge hype for shark fishing and culling. The movie was very convincing and made everyone afraid to take a bath in their own house, but it’s that same imagination that strikes primal fear into the heart of man to which gave rise to many, many, many, many…. I would dare think there is close to a hundred shark based movies alone.

As time went on, shark education rocketed the animals into a much better position. However, the idea of a fin breaking the water surface forever remained a unchanged image our our minds.

Ever since the movie jaws, Shark based media has utterly exploded into a proverbial supernova of colors from good, to mediocre, to just plain bad, to a celebration of just how bad a shark movie can be. It’s a spectacular mess… Shark movies are about as numerous as the sharks in the ocean as we near the end of the late twenty-teens.

But in the last fear of 2018 and a slew of horrible, horrible shark movies, a legit decent movie came out of a very good shark horror novel at long last. The Meg.

But now, symbolically, let’s step back many, many years when the shark movie formula was still primitive and new, hosting a serious fear before we got some outrageous movies. For the movie in story, it’s been well over a three MYA or so, if not a only a few hundred thousand years… for us in real life, it’s been two decades. The Meg is the movie adaptation of the Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, written by writer Steve Alten and was about the first book I actually picked up and actually read back in 5th grade. Back then, shark based horror was still a bit sparse, so it really stood out among other novels. Too my knowledge, it was also the first book and the very first story that took the prehistoric monster shark known as Carcharodon megalodon and made it a starring monster for horror movies to come for better… or most likely worse.

Since then, there have been an absolute ton Megalodon movies. By this point in 2018, Megalodon movies are pretty well known alongside the shark itself.With the rising popularity of what seemed like an actual monstrous sized shark, more and more movies began to use the extinct species for their plot points of a runaway beast that still lives even after it’s time has long gone. Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, probably started that.

Let’s get a brief overview of the story though, back where this all began with this particular species of now very well known shark species.

The story goes that some odd years ago in the first book, the man known as Jonas Taylor was on a dive in the Marianas Trench on a top secret mission on behalf of the United States Navy.. While down there, he sees a mysterious and horrifying sight of a massive shark of glowing alabaster emerging from the volcanic clouds of deep sea vents to attack the mini sub. In a panic, Jonas rises the submarine faster than it should, resulting in deaths of everyone in the submersible besides himself.. When he recites his story and reason to those on the surface, Jonas is discredited and thought to have suffered a paranoid based delusion, and his career as a deep sea diver is ruined forever, as well as leaving him with some trauma.

We cut to years later and he is speaking aloud to a crowd about his theories how a long extinct species of shark may still yet be living at the deepest trench on the planet by source of the volcanic vents creating a tropical, sunless environment that is rich enough to support a small population of these sharks in this deep trench.

Now something about this book and the books following… there is a heavy mix of Science Fiction and Horror. Less horror as the series actually goes on, but the first one is a ringer and the horror element is strong. Horror would preside in every book though by some regard.

Now as you could probably guess, Jonas is dragged back one day to the Marianas Trench on behalf of a friend no less. His task is to dive down and check a Seismic Detecting Device to help predict earthquakes by the named if UNIS. One such machine was damaged, and not only just, but also crushed into a mangled heap of machinery.

After coaxing and thinking about it, he goes down to help retrieve the device and face past demons. Thus begins a long, bloody and horrible series of events that ends up forever haunting him and his family and friends for the next couple of decades.

Now I will say this… If you seen any shark based media, you seen a lot of this. In fact, this book is not far off from the movie Jaws in many ways. There is a shark, albeit a massive near sixty foot long female, running amok in the Pacific Ocean, and there is a race to either kill or capture it.

What sets it apart though from movies like Jaws and the Megalodon based movies to come out of Hollywood’s discount downtown area is that the sharks and characters of this particular book and its sequels have more personality. More so the shark than the humans, because other shark movies have given us decent, good human characters prior.

No, it is the sharks of these books that make this series stand tall among many others. I can promise that nearly any other Megalodon movie, or any shark movie, will use its killer creature just to tally up bodies and have no real character other than a brainless, thoughtless, unrealistic killing machine. To an extent, that holds true here, but there is so much more to the Megalodon that escapes the Marianas Trench than a killing machine.

They have evolved to new heights. As a result of living in a deep sea, sunless environment, their bodies now are leucistic, all white and glow faintly to attract prey in the depths. They can sense various things from miles and miles away, hundreds even if it’s another shark or a whale. They retain their size of course, and their immense jaw strength. Their bodies have slowed down to compensate for a lack of prey. As a result, rising to warm, prey rich waters full of blubbery whales sets off our prehistoric beast into a frenzy. Relentlessly it chases whale pods, making many whales run to shallow waters and beaching themselves in a panic. Boats of all sizes are attacked and sunk, people die as a result of this.

And it just gets worse. People run in with all sorts of ways to try and capture or kill our runaway monster, and as a result more people die yet. Everything we known about sharks in real life is applied to these sharks in one powerful package.

And that is a common theme that is present in all of these books. Its very much like a Kaiju flick, a well done japanese giant monster movie. These creatures are insanely violent, and very efficient in surviving and hunting what they are supposed to hunt. They are not entirely to blame. They are not evil. It is when mankind dove into their last bastion of on all of Earth and drawn them out into a world they don’t belong in anymore. Almost every bit of damage that is done is when people were just in the way of something too big and too aggressive, and should have known better.

That’s something that the lead character, Jonas,  learns first hand.

That reasoning somewhat gets shot in the foot in later entries, and many other parties in the book just want the sharks dead from the start or want to benefit from them. This series of books may have Kaiju story formula, but the rest has a strong western angle. Few actually just wish the sharks were never discovered or returned home.

The character Jonas, through the books series, has a lot of development too. I’m not too good at articulating, and it has been some time since I read the books, so I can’t say too much other than Jonas learns quickly things should be a certain way. Either the sharks shouldn’t be drawn from the trench, or at the very least contained as in several cases the main characters do exactly that: contain the sharks in massive aquariums.

Such as that of Angel, our main star of sorts of the series who has a name and has most screen time.

Yeah, for this entry to be about one individual shark, I sure haven’t talked about her, have I? It’s hard to talk about such a prominent character, though, when that character is literally only named at the start of the second book. That’s because everything Angel does is more or less what her mother did, the Meg in the first book, but would go on to be even more than her parent.

Angel raises the stakes of these sharks tremendously. As a result of being born at the surface of the ocean near California and raised on a steady diet in captivity, she becomes a healthy adult at nearly eighty feet in length, exceeding any previous estimations of just how large these sharks could become.

It is from Angel that we get most of our information of just how powerful, smart and well adapted our monster of the books really are. She is trained well to an acoustic system at feeding time, recognizes humans, and is known to watch people through the glass intently as she passes by the underground observation room.

Angel is so driven, so damn strong, that she naturally breaks out from her seaside home in California and begins making a mad dash for home at the Marianas Trench and causing havoc along the way for mankind and anything she can hunt down. Once more, and much to the fear of those concerned for the environment, hundreds of whales beach themselves trying to flee from their long forgotten predator. It’s even suggested that one Megalodon, or the return of the species, could radically change whale migrations as a whole and change the ocean’s ecosystems.  

That’s how serious just one or few sharks is. As the series go on, other sharks do appear either as a mate, one of Angels offspring, or as we learn later, the sharks ability to reproduce without mating at all via parthenogenesis. They will even devour each other without so much as blinking an eye.

The series really takes the whole “sharks are nature’s perfect creatures” to the extreme. They ain’t even afraid to inbreed and form social groups as we see later on depending on their situation. This, again, works for the hellish, harsh world that is the Marianas Trench, alongside some other prehistoric surprises… But in the world where the ocean is frequented by mankind, is another story of a creature of a bygone era lost in time.

Never once do these sharks seek out humans specifically. They don’t go for revenge, or plot… They just survive as best they can in a world that demanded one to adapt or die. And adapt they did.

As a whole, though, it seems the consequences are made specifically for humanity. As these sharks can reproduce on their own, outmatch anything humans generally throw at them, and threaten to make a new balance that makes traversing the ocean much more dangerous than it ever needs to be. Either by, again, going to look for the sharks, near their prey, or any place they call home. They are best to be left alone in their natural environment.

As the books go on though, these themes falter slightly, but it retains that fault of people are invading into places they don’t need to be as as result there are consequences. The characters, namely Jonas and his family, go from being part of the problem, to cutting off the problem, to being haunted and forced back into the same problem, right until Jonas himself and his family are aging and a new generation of Man and Sharks are starting the cycle all over again as slowly but surely, these sharks are starting to return one at a time to the Pacific Ocean with a new set of people that may or may not be doomed to repeat the mistakes of trifling with forces that they should not deal with.

Yeah, the books are… getting up there with numbers and getting dragged out… But I will let possible readers of this article make the decision or not to read the series. There is a good horror story with the first book, and even the second.

Behind some squicky stuff and a bit of bad writing, there’s good stuff, even when those flaws keep returning with the blunt force of a bat to the head. Even Godzilla movies went on a bit longer until things ran thin. Even the later books are kinda stupid fun like some of the worse giant monster movies, and are even complete with giant monster fights as Angel and her species has a slew of many contemporaries.

Angel would be the star and face of the series, being our main Maid Monster of Honor, and would be up front as the books monster through three books and would remain named for ones after. And even though her stardom comes and goes, other leviathans come to fill the role who are stronger, smarter, and cooperate at a terrifying level that makes them a deadlier.

And as of this year, the six book is released and a seventh is on the way. To top it off, Steve Alten’s other writing of The Loch, a very similar story, attached itself to this series. I could easily go on about that one and its sequel as well… but I would ramble and be a salty writer on that subject.

So there it is. A decent, good shark book and its sequels that deserves to be well known by all at the least. Much like a few good few horror movies, the continuation skews off the beaten path, but what good story hasn’t had its rainy day in the end…

Editor’s Note: Well it’s taken a while, but we finally have a giant shark in the ICHF gallery.

Posted in Atomic Horror Characters, Creepy Columns, Iconic Characters of Horror Fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fan-Written ICHF: Kira Yoshikage

This ICHF was written by Sir K, who you can find at https://www.deviantart.com/sirkaijuofvaudeville.  I may have made a few touch ups and notes here and there, but the bulk of this entry is their work!

kira.jpg Image borrowed from http://jojo.wikia.com/wiki/Yoshikage_Kira

To anyone with a passing anime interest, it is HIGHLY unlikely they associate Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure with the word horror. With the sole-exception of being traumatized by the overly overmuscled and Escher-girls esq. posing by its cast of male characters, that is.

However, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure from its roots has always had a heavy horror influence worn on its sleeve. Part 1, Phantom Blood, is very much inspired by Victorian Gothic Horror romps, with Jack the Ripper as villain of the week and a complete fucking MONSTER of a vampire as its central antagonist and whose shadow has hung over the series and is one of the most popular anime villains bar none.

However, we are not hear to talk about Dio Brando.

Phantom Blood’s horror moments, while prevalent (Dio Brando’s rise to power is INCREDIBLY angering to Dolores Umbridge levels of hate), do not stand out enough against the insane adrenaline of solar-powered kung fu and late 80’s anime influences.   However, that would change as Jojo progressed throughout its life and story arcs came and went until we are met with the late 90’s as the 4th arc of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure hit comic pages and one many people consider one of the best of the best of the series (that is until Pt. 7).

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 4, Diamond is Unbreakable is at its core a horror story that takes place and carves at a place that many readers of Weekly Shonen Jump would find painfully familiar, Suburban Japan, and namely the creeping horror and existential dread that exists the underneath of a seemingly ordinary town.

Not all is well in the town of Morioh. The amount of missing people, specifically women, is triple the national average. And strange anomalous events happen all over the town. And urban legends such as a street that if you walk down and turn to look back you are dragged off to hell or worse.

And at the center of this is a man who really simply wants a quiet life.

A quiet life he spends by murdering women, disintegrating their bodies and taking their disembodied hands as his girlfriend.

And has done so for decades without getting caught.

This is Kira Yoshikage.

Kira Yoshikage is my personal favorite of the Jojo villains, surpassing the more famous Dio Brando who every other villain up until Pt. 7 and beyond has a close connection to in some way (Kars made the vampire mask which made Dio, Diavolo found the stand-arrows which created stand-users, and Pucci is a follower of Dio) Kira is a character who has seemingly no connection to Dio. And his goals and ambitions aren’t world-shattering in any way.

Kira Yoshikage is a cut and dry Serial Killer.

Kira is the ultimate villain of the arc he’s in and he’s not even mentioned or felt until half-way through the story, where our heroes come across the ghost of a girl  (and her dog) who lives inside the aforementioned alley where if you turn around you get dragged off to hell. She has a sickening gash across her back which still drips with blood and her dogs neck likewise drips with blood, the wounds they were killed by. The girl, one Reimi Sugimoto, has remained in this hallway in a state of purgatory watching for decades since her death as she witnessed dozens upon dozens of women pass through, all having been killed by the man who killed her and done so with a frightening regularity and efficiency he lacked when he first killed her.

With Reimi, she was a body that was found. With the others since, there had been none.

Later in the anime, and the first scene we see of him in the manga proper, we see Kira as a bystander who accidentally hits one of our protagonists when they walk across the street without looking. He pays them no mind as they apologize profusely and drives off. His features are incredibly muted, both here and the anime with very drab unassuming clothes and looks like a background character that the author really didn’t care about. Which is contrasted by the usually hard angular features and distinct visual outfits and flaire that most Jojo characters share.

But then we’re given an extended scene of him talking to his ‘girlfriend’ as he takes her home. Which again, we only ever see her hand. When they arrive at his residence, it is then as he takes her out of the car we see that it was a dismembered hand the entire hand. He comments to ‘her’ as if its actually still the women the hand once belonged too and expresses concern that ‘she’ isn’t wearing the imported watch he bought ‘her’ which is in the woman’s old purse. When the hand drips blood on to the seat he forces it to clean up the mess to where it expresses signs of rigor mortis. He fumes that it was probably time to ‘dump’ her and pick up another but for now he was going to finish their date as he and the hand (which is now supporting the purse) walk into his home, which is an old closed off traditional Japanese type home.

This is foreshadowed as well in the recent anime, it really plays up Kira’s presence and the foreboding horror of ‘there is something really horribly wrong with this town’ with its opening scene. In which we’re met to a regular morning as a woman (we only ever see her hand) making breakfast as a peppy radio announcer waxes lyrical of the wonderful morning the town of Morioh is having. Which when Breakfast is done, the music begins to change as it pans out to reveal the woman was a disembodied hand the whole fucking time. Her killer unseen but likely the one who was using the hand to make breakfast with.

Kira Yoshikage is a man who was born with a problem, like most serial killers. He has no real ambition outside of answering his urges. He leads a decent-paying job, turns down every promotion he’s given and when he partakes in any competition he intentionally holds himself back to place in a middling rank such as third or second. All done as an effort so not to bring attention to himself and so he can lead as stress-free life as he can possibly want. He is a man who cannot handle stress, like, at all, and goes so far as to chew his fingers to bloody pulp when such stress is placed upon him. Otherwise Kira is a charismatic, well-loved member of his community and workplace but so, so unassuming and quiet that no would expect him to do any sort of crime nonetheless serial murder.

This trait in of itself is one that is actually a recurring theme among some of the most notorious serial killers in actual history, such as the likes of Ted Bundy, who himself appeared and won a televised blind-dating game show during the height of his murders. Utterly unassuming and incredibly charismatic, the kind of person if you saw in a line up, you would never expect to being a sexually driven serial killer.

Kira likewise probably draws a lot of inspirations from real world Japanese serial killers that happened and were brought to light during the late 80’s and 90’s including Tsutomu Miyazaki, Hiroaki Hidaka, and Issei Sagawa amongst others. He is a microcosm of Japanese xenophobia and paranoia of the late 90’s in the wake of its economic bubble finally popping and the the promise of a bright future for many Japanese looked grim, compounded by the horrors of a more interconnected world.

Kira in terms of Japanese villains is terrifying on numerous fronts due to how much Japanese social values he has learned to exploit. On the surface he is a model japanese citizen and model worker who works day in, day out without complaint without ever asking a raise or promotion. The ideal corporate worker. Likewise he makes it a point to not stand out or raise a commotion which in turn allows him to exploit the society he was born in.

However, a slasher is made by many things. Such as a signature weapon. A Kira’s is as distinct and unique to him and him alone as any other. I talk of course, about Killer Queen.

To people not familiar with Jojo, yes it is named after the Queen song. Like a lot of Jojo is named after band names (Dio Brando anyone?). You come to accept and embrace it in the long run, it’s all apart of the ride. Kind of a theme with him in particular. Killer Queen is a psionic entity or extension of Kira’s soul, an entity called a “Stand”.

Stands in Jojo were introduced in the previous arc, Stardust Crusaders, and were a game-changer and what drove Jojo to become anime meme status. Stands cannot be perceived by regular people and only seen by other people who also have Stands. Each Stand is unique to the user and varies in ability, power and capacity.

So imagine if you will, if you had a serial killer on the loose with a murder weapon that could not be seen nonetheless traced, how could you catch him or bring him to justice. Heck, how do you even find such a person?

Kira makes the most of that conundrum in the full breadth of its horror.

Kira’s stand, Killer Queen has the ability to turn anything it touches into a bomb which includes even people. And due to how Stands work,one that no one can hear, nor see the explosion or the remains of who is vaporized by the explosion. Anything from a quarter to a doorknob to a person’s body to even pressurized air bubbles can be turned into lethal mines.

One that no one can see.

However, Killer Queen has another trick up its sleeve. By giving up the bombing capacity of Killer Queen temporarily, he can release a secondary stand, a nigh indestructible heat-seeking drone called Sheer Heart attack, which when it reaches a specific heat source it detonates into an devastating explosion relative to the source of it heat it targets. Allowing Kira to remove threats from miles away without any means of tracing it back to Kira.

Kira however is ultimately brought low by one thing he did not expect. Kira did not know others like him existed or that they could perceive Killer Queen. Kira Yoshikage would have carried on to his old age killing indiscriminately and ensuring many, many more women would never return home if not for that single fact.

The thing with Stands and Stand Users is that they are subconsciously drawn towards one another, be it fate or some other supernatural force. Stand Users without knowing why end up gathering in close vicinity to one another. And in the town of Morioh in the wake of Dio Brando’s passing at the end of Stardust Crusaders years prior slowly drew more and more people with that ability to that town.

This included other serial killers, would-be felons, as well as children of people with stands (who in turn were also born with the same ability) as such it was only a matter of time when Kira Yoshikage’s hidden reign of terror would come to a collision course with a group of teenagers with the same psionic forces he was blessed by, ones that were already aware of him by pleadings of the ghost of one of his previous victims.

When in a random act of chance is uncovered by a younger supporting character (who is the audiences first true reveal of Kira and his ability set) which he summarily tracks down and tragically vaporizes, his act is up and his lack of experience with stands, such as the knowledge only people with Stands can see them leads the others track him down however, Kira’s cunning allows him to evade capture and take the guise and face of another man he had murdered (using the Stand of another person in the series) allowing him to seemingly get away scot-free to lead a new life.

However, when investigating his home, another puzzle to Kira’s history is shown. What is Jason without a loving mother?  There is another ghost haunting Morioh, one with a stand of his own. Yoshihiro Kira, Kira’s father.

Yoshihiro is a tragic figure in of his own right in that he and his wife had tried desperately to have a child for years and only managed to do so at an unusually old age. Likewise, he realized Kira’s tendencies early, however Yoshihiro in his blind love for his child covered for him and helped a young Yoshikage hide his evidence. And likewise…provide Kira with the key to never leaving evidence again.

In this arc, we are shown the origin of most stands, a set of enigmatic arrows forged out of a meteorite. And by shooting someone with this arrow it either straight up kills them or if their will is strong enough they emerge unharmed with the ability of their own. However this can apply to many things which includes Rats (there was a small arc where the main protagonists had to destroy sentient rats who were shot with the arrow. Said rats turned people into meat-cakes/blobs so they can feed off of them it was a heavily censored episode when it aired in Japan)

However…

If someone else with a Stand is shot with the arrow… something else happens. It awakens new abilities.

Which one of the most tense anime or manga arcs ensure when Kira gains such ability. And what better Queen song to end on than with another one Bites the Dust.

Spoilers ahead for those who want to read or watch themselves.

Upon Kira taking over another man’s identity, said man’s child, despite being distant to his father, picks up immediately that something is not right with dear old dad. And when tailing him, finds Kira unable to control his urges and engages in the murder of a young couple. Kira however notices him and later, in a fit of rage, accidentally murders the boy.

The gig up, Kira in desperation, the Arrow (held on to the ghost of Kira’s dad) pierces him almost on instinct granting him a new power.

The next day, the boy, Hayato wakes up in bed. Unsure what happened. There he sees Kira in a much more groomed looked and one much more confidant. Hayato on his way to school is intercepted by a fan-favorite character and totally not authorial self-insert, Rohan Kishibe. Rohan has the ability to read people’s memories and experiences by turning their face into a storybook (and then he can write commands into their book face and they have to do it) however then he uncovers something odd: Hayato’s “memories’ are instead showing what is going to happen instead of what happened. Such as it suddenly raining or lightning striking onto buildings at specific times.

Rohan keeps reading and… spoils his own death, so to speak. Upon Rohan reading that Hayato knew that his ‘father’ was Kira Yoshikage he turns the page to read:
“Rohan Kishibe was also killed. By Kira, who had matured.”

What happens next is out from under the page, a small Killer Queen crawls out. And no matter what is done it zooms in closer and closer. Killer Queen was not physical but in reality already inside Rohan’s eye.

The switch for the ‘third bomb’ of Killer Queen had activated.

Rohan was now its catalyst as he is murdered in front of Hayato.

Then suddenly, Hayato is taken back to when he awoke that morning. Traumatized by what he had saw. He intentionally avoided Rohan this time around… but fate refused to change as Rohan still died.

Bites the Dust is a bomb which reverses time back to a designated point, a bomb which activates whenever someone uncovers Kira’s identity. And the only person who could do anything about it was a small boy who couldn’t even perceive these powers.

A groundhog day loop where in each loop we see more and more of the cast fall victim to this including the main characters. However, Hayato in several ballsy moves which would in a horror movie make him a beloved horror protagonist, manages to outsmart Kira. That I won’t spoil as it is REALLY FUCKING SATISFYING and leads to one of my favorite anime confrontations of all time as well as one of the most tense sequences I’ve seen in the medium. The fact that Jojo characters do not have plot-armor really help in this instance and the lead up, leading to a feeling akin to a final showdown with Slashers across the genre as the severely wounded protagonist, Hayato and nearly-dead friend have to fend and outsmart an incredibly cunning murderer as both parties use every trick up their sleeve to destroy the other.

I will not spoil the ending however, but I will say it is one that is incredibly satisfying for all involved and uses a Chekhov’s Gun that was present in the season since before Kira’s introduction.

Kira Yoshikage however is just a microcosm of the mystery and horror presented by the fourth part of Jojo. There are many other urban-horror scenarios and intriguing takes on Japanese horror and the Urban Legend craze of the late 1990’s.  Diamond is Unbreakable despite its shounen battle action trappings is at its core a horror-mystery story set in very familiar place, which when we’re exposed to the mystery is incredibly terrifying with any number of mysterious and paranormal entities about.

Morioh Town is a set-piece character in its own right, however, as we go through the series and the creepy or mystery monster are revealed we are instead met with a diverse and quirky cast of characters who make up this town and represent the true heart of the story. Of which seeing them all come together to combat the true, human evil that has been haunting their town is something I deeply appreciate.

Morioh is home to much more that. Its home to a weird looking stone who couples like the confess around (who totally isn’t the still living remains of another serial murderer), a cape which bounces back people who jump off back to the ground with a ‘boing boing’ sound, a strange haunted house with a weird looking man with with his silly son and a cat that looks like a flower, a strange book called “Enigma” which people say speaks at the local library, a strange man who lives in a radio-tower, an italian chef whose cooking can cure illnesses and fix whatever ails you, a haunted alleyway and more in this strange slice of urban Japan. As well as the history and tragedy of dozens of families who due to the evil of one man, whose loved ones never returned home. Forever waiting for those they love to come home, but never will, without closure.

Kira Yoshikage is a very real human horror personified. A send up of Slashers both fictional and serial killers real. Mixed in with a distinctly Japanese outlook and infused up with the bullshit of a psychic battle manga.

Diamond is Unbreakable is not the first time Jojo has forayed into horror, nor would it be the last. The series started with a simple gothic horror tale of a young boy fending off his evil adopted brother who was also a vampire and the influences of horror have hence hung over the series since.

However before we leave, as Michael Myers has showcased…. every Slasher needs their leitmotif or theme, and Kira also has one of his own:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yGGNohmAT0

Editor’s Note: Fuck, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure really lives up to its title, doesn’t it?

Posted in Creepy Columns, Gothic Horror Characters, Iconic Characters of Horror Fiction, Slasher Horror Characters, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment