Monday, March 9, 2020

Quick Sips - The Dark #58

Art by chainat
March brings a look back at old horror movies at The Dark Magazine, with two original stories that deal with the roles present in those classic films. The Monster. The Villain. The Assistant. The Henchman. The piece examines what those roles mean, both to the people who lived and acted them, and to more modern audiences. And while some of the elements of those films are revealed to be the messy and often problematic pulp that many see them as, there are elements that stand up even today. Diamonds in the rough that polish to a shine. And ways of looking back that also look forward in interesting and freeing ways. So grab some popcorn and try not to jump at the scary bits as I get to the reviews!

“The All-Night Horror Show” by Orrin Grey (2434 words)

No Spoilers: Markos Koszjan was once Zander Markos, the monster of the silver screen. The old legend, fallen now into something like retirement, alone with his memories and his memorabilia. And on Halloween, when a pair of me come to his house with some violent intentions, it’s fear and it’s the old feelings that come back to him, and wake him up. The piece is slow and flits between perspectives, drawing together a story that could be horrific for its more mundane human elements, but which deepens with the speculative turn, and the deeper darkness that emerges. It’s creepy but also almost invigorating, a bit of stage magic that turns out to be anything but.
Keywords: Halloween, Movies, Monsters, CW- Home Invasions
Review: I’m not a huge movie buff, so I don’t have the strongest of connections to “classic” horror. But I do like the mood the story sets all the same, focusing on the physicality of being a monster in “the old days” of monster movies. When the special effects weren’t exactly what they are today and when Markos was seen as frightening for his physique, for his foreignness, and for something about him that just spoke that way. An old man now, a lot of that magic has faded. But on Halloween night I think some of that old magic just might be ready for an encore. I really liked the way the story built up the situation, the two men planning robbery and maybe worse, Markos unsuspecting, perhaps unprotected. And for me the story becomes about the power that he still has, the reserves and the tricks still left up his sleeve. The story reveals that he’s hiding some secrets, that he’s not the frail old man that he seems to be. And part of that is that he’s become something more than an actor, something more than a character even. He’s entered into something like the collective unconscious, has been forever tied to the very idea of a monster, because his work is that foundational, that important. He still is the monster, and it’s made him something different from strictly human. He’s part idea, part shadow, part nightmare. So that even so many years later people who know nothing about him still use his likeness, still know that he means monster even when they don’t fully understand the why of it. And it’s a neat little twist, turning away from the more human terror of home invasion and turning the tables on the invaders, facing them with the inadequacy of their challenge and the reminder that, especially on Halloween, there is still an awful lot of power left to the “classics” of the horror genres. A great read!

“Escaping Dr. Markoff” by Gabriela Santiago (4316 words)

No Spoilers: This story pairs well with the previous one in that it’s also about movies, and specifically about old movies, about black and white, about the roles that those films carved out. And while the last story focused on the monster, this one looks at a different character--the assistant. The female assistant in love with a mad scientist who does not appreciate her nor return her affection. Only this assistant isn’t content to remain in her role, and seems to have a power to rewind, to relive, and to change things. To try and shape a new kind of narrative out of the one that was assigned, and find better ways to find joy, fulfillment, and purpose. It’s a strange piece, told in the second person, but it’s also a lot of fun and rather sexy.
Keywords: Movies, Science!, Scripts, Roles, Queer MC
Review: I really like how this story complicates the old roles of horror, allowing a character type who is always treated badly and gives her the power over things, allows her to try out different options. Normally she’s killed off, the victim of her own misguided love for a man who is a gigantic asshole. She’s there for the irony and the contrast between her and the heroine, the virgin, the pure Daughter character. She’s complicit in the villain’s evil and she’s willing to do just about anything to get him. Only as the piece moves she questions that, sees that it’s pointless and, worse still, not even desirable. Dr. Markoff might be the only character with a name, but as the piece moves and shifts it becomes more and more obvious that he’s not the character anyone should be paying attention to. His pain might be center, his genius might be loudest, but the piece reveals him to be an abusive and manipulative jackass, and I love that the Assistant gets to rewrite the script, gets to have her fun, having sex with different people, seeking a way that will free her from the prison of the role she’s stuck playing. And it’s something of a trippy piece for all that, constantly moving forward and back, editing it all together, sometimes multiple times, finding that the end of the movie really isn’t the end, that these characters can forge their own paths that allow for queerness, that allow for joy, that don’t bury them all, that don’t wash everything away into heteronormativity. And it’s fun! And sexy! In ways that fit into the narrative and twist it, rescue it, make it something new, something that’s refreshing while still using the same toys of classic horror movies. And I love the ways that it pokes fun of itself while also remaining serious and earnest and just all around good. A fantastic read!


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