Last night, my wife and I attended the Charlotte Film Society’s screening of “The Endless,” the latest project from indie filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. When the closing credits rolled, we quickly agreed that in an age of sternum-rattling surround sound and blinding special effects, this film was truly something different: It pulled us in and held us with first-class writing and acting.
Think that filmmaking approach will catch on? We can only hope.
In the movie, brothers Justin and Aaron (yeah, cute!) have hit rock bottom. Years earlier, they’d enjoyed notoriety after they escaped what they described to the news media as a “UFO death cult.” But now, their notoriety has faded, and they’re barely making a living in their cleaning business. Collection agencies hound them, they can’t make friends, and the young ladies they meet aren’t interested in dating ex-death cult members. When younger brother Aaron decides he can’t stomach any more normalcy and wants to visit the old commune, Justin reluctantly agrees.
What could go wrong?
The film opens with this quote from H. P. Lovecraft: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” That quote is a nod to the profound influence Lovecraft has exerted on Benson and Moorhead. (In the closing credits, they pay special tribute to Guillermo Del Toro, another Lovecraftian storyteller.)
What makes “The Endless” stand out is its unforced but relentless buildup of details that lull and mislead. When the seemingly commonplace path you’re following suddenly twists around and scares the daylights out of you, you can only wonder how you could have been so blind. “The Endless” had an effect on me similar to “Rosemary’s Baby,” with its clever presentation of clues that could be dismissed as merely odd that suddenly add up to unspeakable terror.
Now THAT’S entertainment.
What accounts for the enduring popularity of Robert E. Howard’s most famous creation, Conan of Cimmeria? Author John C. Wright offers this perceptive analysis:
Conan is somewhat more deep and complex than the cartoon image of a brute in a bearskin loincloth found the popular imagination, with a dancing girl clutching his brawny thigh and a devil-beast dying under his bloody ax. The theme and philosophy he represents is not the product of adolescent neurosis (as certain bitter critics would have us believe) but of somber, even cynical, reflection on the age of the world, the costs of civilization, and the frailty of man.
Howard, despite his lack of formal education, was well-read and intellectually curious. The worldview behind his Conan stories is broad, well-crafted, insightful, and still worthwhile for the modern reader. Wright’s introduction is an invaluable introduction to one of the great writers of our age.
There’s an energizing crispness in the October air – and that’s not all. Regional festivals celebrating local wine, apples, and barbecue lure excited crowds with sweet, smoky aromas and music from homegrown bands. The squawking from a wedge of geese overhead reminds us it’s hunting and camping season. And Halloween is just around the corner.
My latest work, “The Great KOA Getaway,” should get you in the mood. It’s a flash story about an unlucky/lucky ranger caught in the middle of a little misunderstanding at a remote campground. I’d describe it as a mash-up of Twilight Zone and National Lampoon’s Vacation, with just a touch of Lovecraft thrown in. It’s available free (!) at The Flash Fiction Press.
I’ve always enjoyed stories that tickle your goosebumps and funny bone at the same time. And isn’t that what makes Halloween so much fun?
I hope “The Great KOA Getaway” brings a shiver and a smile to your day.
The best fiction and writing blog posts from around the ‘net, with advice and inspiration guaranteed to make you a literary cult figure. Compiled by howard.
Joanne Jeffries and Julian Yanover – Poetic WordClouds: These are the most common words in Poetry
Owen Booth – 24 Rules for Writing Short Stories
Fionn Grant – Literary Agent: Another Step Toward Writer Status
Jami Gold – What Goes into Building a Movie in Our Mind?
Aerogramme Writers’ Studio – Opportunities for Writers: June and July 2016
A.J. Humpage – Getting Your Story To Flow
Krishna Prasad – Is Poetry Dead?
Penstricken – The (Im)perfect Protagonist
H. P. Lovecraft – 11 Tips for Novice Writers
This evening, The Charlotte Film Society featured two shorts and a full-length film. My wife and I agreed the main film, Nina Forever, was an unfocused hot mess. However, the short Portal to Hell!!! was a blast.
Ex-pro wrestler Roddy Piper plays Jack, a patient, over-worked, and under-appreciated building super. Jack’s so stressed by his job that he ignores a lady who’s obviously interested in him. One day, while checking out a power loss in the old building’s creepy basement, he discovers that two elderly male tenants dressed in tighty whities have invoked none other than the dreaded Cthulhu from his undersea hideout in R’lyeh. Jack just wants to do his job, but he’s pretty sure the men’s actions violate their lease, and doesn’t hesitate to tell them.
The Old One, being who he is, strikes out from his portal and kills everyone in his reach, then wraps a tentacle around Jack and s-l-o-w-l-y drags our hero toward certain doom. But the lady who has a secret crush on Jack finds the book the old men used to summon Cthulhu. Will she find the correct spell in time? And is that spell permanent or just a temporary fix?
Great special effects, great acting, lots of laughs, and plenty of hidden treasures for Lovecraft fans.
One sad note: Roddy Piper passed away shortly before the film was nominated for the Toronto International Film Festival.
From Ancient Origins: The Frightening Discovery of the Mount Owen Claw
Nearly three decades ago, a team of archaeologists were carrying out an expedition inside a large cave system on Mount Owen in New Zealand when they stumbled across a frightening and unusual object. With little visibility in the dark cave, they wondered whether their eyes were deceiving them, as they could not fathom what lay before them—an enormous, dinosaur-like claw still intact with flesh and scaly skin. The claw was so well-preserved that it appeared to have come from something that had only died very recently.
Read the rest at Ancient Origins – if you dare.
If I’d discovered that claw, I would have set new land speed records skedaddling out of the cave.