IT

I saw the remake of IT. And something interesting happened afterward. I wasn't traumatized. Let me explain. I'm not a fan of horror. But I've watched a lot of it. Curiosity killed the cat. Nightmare on Elm Street freaked me out because Freddy attacked during our most vulnerable moment, in our sleep. Poltergeist, the original, scared the crap out of me because of the imagery and because the logic seemed right on. Build over a burial ground, piss off the the buried. Duh! One of my favorite movies, Alien, messed me up. I saw this when I was in grade school. Every lump I felt in my chest, every stomach ache I had meant that I was impregnated. Luckily for me I never gave birth to a chestburster. That would not feel good.

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Then the horror movie that fucked me up the most was Seven. After watching the film, I dreaded the coming night for three weeks. The dark made me relive my fear I felt in the theater. The funny thing was that the imagery of the murders weren't godawful disturbing, especially compared to what we see today. What was disturbing were the images created in my mind. All of the murders except for the last one happened off screen. All we saw were the results, the dead bodies and the mechanisms of death involved. Our minds couldn't help but fill in what had taken place, what had transpired into the resulting crime scene. I still shiver thinking about it.

During those weeks of fear I couldn't close my eyes when I washed my face in the shower. If Kevin Spacey was gonna get me, he'd have to get me with me looking. Ok. That's weird.

However, after watching IT, I was able to take a shower and wash my face with my eyes closed. Yay, me. I realized that I wasn't horrified. Or traumatized. I slept like a baby. Probably because my maturity level isn't too far above a child's.

Being a storyteller, I naturally wondered what was wrong with me. Why was I not scared?

I feel the film tried too hard when it came to the scary images. The clown was weird, the scariest thing in the movie. What worked was the contrast of IT's smile to IT's eyes that were highly focused, as if hunting IT's prey, as IT's lips dripped with drool. But when the other characters saw IT, their version of their fear manifested in different ways. And here is where the filmmaker seemed to have tried too hard to make what we saw scary.

One of the kids avoided looking at a painting of a misshapen women in his father's office. And when that woman came to life, as expected, the real life version looked like the painting. Maybe more menacing, but not scarier. In a way the monster was revealed before revealing the monster. What was scary was the anticipation of when these horrific things would appear. But once on screen, any fear that I had vanished. However, the audience I attended the movie consisted of mainly teenagers, and they gasped and screamed with pleasure. Maybe I am growing up.

A friend of mine had read a novel. I don't know the name, and I wish I did. But there was a scene where the serial killer had offed the whole family. Only the daughter was still hiding under her(?) bed. The serial killer slowly entered the room. He circled the bed and stopped at the foot of it. His shoes stood inches from her face. Blood from his knife dripped, tapping the carpet. We're left wondering if the killer knew she was under the bed. She must have been going mad. Who's blood was that? Her mom's? We knew the girl had no option except to force herself to keep calm and quiet and hope that he leaves. The blood stain grew with each drip. She heard the rustling of his clothes. He was kneeling. And he gazed under the bed and dragged her out by her hair. Her fate was sealed.

The horror in that scene starts from the beginning and goes well beyond the end. We don't need to see the girl getting sliced up. Our minds does the heavy lifting. The author has to show the dead body, of course, so there's no ambiguity. But that's an intense scene because we're imagining ourselves going through that. For me I'd shit my pants. So wearing clean underwear wouldn't be beneficial.

The point is to create the horror within the mind through storytelling, not rely solely on the images. Doing so removes the work our minds are keen on doing anyway.

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There's a saying: We fear the unknown.

That's why the dark can be menacing. Things can be hidden beyond our sight. Things that can follow us. Haunt us. Devour us.

That was one of the most intriguing things about Alien. When the astronauts entered the ship, they found an alien pilot that seemed to be fused to the pilot's chair. An odd sight. A small hole on the alien's abdomen looked like something exploded from the inside, a frightening clue. But to what? Then one of the astronauts, Kane, goes down a level and was surrounded by a field of massive egg-shaped things. Shining a light on one awakened it. The lips opened to reveal what looked like chicken breast. Again, the audience did not know what it was nor were there any trailers to spoil that fateful moment. Kane leaned over the opening, and a spider-like creature leaped out...the facehugger.

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But when we see Kane again, we're left wondering why his helmet was filled with a substance that resembled poached egg? Even when the crew cut the helmet off, all they revealed was the facehugger in full view. The only reasonable question was what the fuck was that thing doing? Every step of the way, a question was answered only to reveal another and more sinister question.

But with Alien Covenant, the unknown was known. What we wanted to explore was why the engineers created the xenomorphs, and why they wanted to kill the humans on Earth. Those were the questions asked at the end of the film Promethius, the precursor to Covenant. There was mystery there. Everyone in the blogosphere was talking about it. But with one fell swoop, Ridley Scott avoided delving into that mystery with a one-minute flashback. Then he ruins the xenomorph further by revealing who created them, which throws logic out of the window by ignoring the mythology already created by the prior Alien films.

Okay. I sorta went off track.

Point is, we fear the unknown. By going overboard on the CGI, the filmmaker missed the mark, not by a horrific amount. And when a horror flick resorts to sudden blasts of sound and music to shock the audience, then I'm pretty much taken out of the story. Again, we fear the unknown.

The Enemy of My Enemy is an Enenima Waiting to Happen

I tried my best to write with characters who can at some level be able to read each other. Everyone has this capability. The guy on LIE TO ME can do it uncannily. I’d love to be at that level, but then I might not be a storyteller. Or a storyteller of fantasy, which chose me. So maybe I would. Who knows? I definitely don’t.

Is there a blinding light behind me?

Is there a blinding light behind me?

Giving this ability to characters lays down a layer of depth that we expect in real life but don’t necessarily notice. It grounds the characters as real people. And since two of my main characters have gone through a lot, married, with three children, they should be able to read/expect things from each other. That grounds their marriage, gives life to their relationship because similar things appear in our own: Her wanting to change something in him, him not paying complete attention to her, her telling him what to do, him taking her for granted, her doing seemingly illogical things to get his attention, him accusing her of that time of the month.

What you say?

What you say?

I’d recently joined a writing group to help get out of my own thinking, and in reading another’s work, I found that he did a great job writing about a new couple on a first date reading each other. With the newness and nervousness, misinterpretations are always common: Does she like me? Do I look OK? Can a girl like her like a guy like me? The kernel of all romances, I suppose.

Question becomes, can an author write about dating and relationships if they’ve never been in one? I ask this because in acting, life experiences can help the actor own the lines. What I mean by that is when they recite their lines, they’re not really reciting, they are saying those lines and meaning them. Acting proverb:  Say what you mean, and mean what you say.  You’ve seen bad acting. You don’t have to be an actor to see it. It’s a human thing. And you’ve seen great acting, I mean really great acting. Judy Dench comes to mind.

Same thing when writing about real people. I know, my book is a fantasy. But it’s a book for humans, so it’s about the human condition no matter the containers I use to express those emotions. If I’m going to try and ground these people, I have to be more aware of what it is that grounds characters than non-writers, or what I like to term, my audience. I don’t want to use the word hypersensitive, but maybe highly analytical.

I think you might need some Pepto-Bismol

I think you might need some Pepto-Bismol

Take the scene from ALIEN right before the chestbuster makes its glorious appearance.  Facehugger had come off.  Actor John Hurt (ironic isn't it?) is about to have some indigestion.  He wakes, starving.  Everyone is at the dinner table, plating their food.  I remember Hurt's character chewing on a noodle, eating hungrily, and my stomach gurgled.  I thought to myself, man, I'm hungry and that looks kinda good.  Grounded.  Few moments later, Ridley Scott makes movie history, scaring the shit out of me.  Not literally.  OK.  A pebble.

Thanks to my best friend who turned me onto his amazing people-reading skills, I’ve spent the past decade reaching out with my Jedi mind. Yes, that’s right, I’m an amateur people reader, not a purple people eater.  Though, I've never seen purple people.  What I’ve found is that people reveal themselves without knowing they’re revealing themselves, and you can gleam a lot of information just by watching and listening to how their friends treat them.

A word of caution: Don’t over analyze and do it for fun. Taking it too seriously can reduce the amount of friends you have, which is probably why I’m typing this article alone in a coffee shop. Hmm.  Anyways...

A friend of mine got upset because I was Facebook chatting with a female mutual friend of ours. I asked if he liked her and he said no. So what’s the problem? His answer: He didn’t like me talking to her when he was planning something with her. He knows that if he liked someone, I would never cock block his game.  Since he wasn't interested in her, I didn't see what the issue was.

Rock on crack

Rock on crack

A rift cracked through our friendship. I felt like a gossip girl in junior high who got bent over and rammed. Not really, but my ego wanted to feel bad about it.  But in my mind, I'd written him off.

Two weeks stroll by and he contacted me.  We talked over the phone, which surprised me, and tried to mend things. I asked him what he'd been up to, and he told me he went to a play with a group of women.  He named them off, most of whom I did not know.  I've always been in long term relationships so I don't have a lot of women to parade in front of anyone let alone him.  Then he told me of a conference he went to. Operative word: of. Not about. Exclaimed he ran into someone and I immediately knew who it was.

A few months ago he and I went on a hike and met a girl.  I told him I liked her but wasn't in a place to ask her out.  And, yes, it was her he ran into, which I found out later he contacted before meeting up with her. I didn’t think anything of it. I had no claim on her. And, no, I don’t think of women as property. Just belongings. But an overwhelming feeling came over me as I was driving over an overbuilt overpass. He did this on purpose. He stated long ago he had no interest in her, so why now? I never called him on it, there’s no reason to. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer. But his intention of one-upping me came pretty loud and clear.

As I finish this article, with one less friend, there’s a certain sadness that swirls around. Not because I’ve decided for myself he’s not a good friend, but that in my need of male friendship, I allowed myself to be his. Dammit, I can read people! I should have read this! Alas, no. Good life experience, and I truly mean that. Thank you my non-friend acquaintance dude.

Pot Holes

It was Bigfoot!

It was Bigfoot!

There are few things that could ruin a leisure drive. We’re not really concerned about traffic because we ain’t not going no wheres. I know. Bad grammar. Fresh air, people watching, feeling the freedom of driving, not being tethered to anything, maybe enjoying a cool drink, spending time talking to the love of your life, listening to her laugh, sigh, breath all add to the serenity of a leisurely drive.

Bam. Pot hole.

When we read a book, listen to a story, or watch a movie we’re in a similar mindset. We want drama, action, passion, adventure with none of the consequences. We may be invested in the characters, but we would never want to put ourselves in their shoes. Escapism.

Bam. Plot hole. OK. Nothing to worry about. Just like on our drive, one or two maybe three pot holes won’t ruin our enjoyment. But a dozen deep holes later, our experience will not only be marred, but we’ll not likely drive down that street again.

Ouch

Ouch

Prometheus has gotten so much flack for its story and plot holes that it has ignited the web. Just google Prometheus and plot holes and the result may surprise you.

There’s a special place in my heart for Alien. Not literally of course.

Hard Boiled

Hard Boiled

My 7th grade English teacher gave us a book report assignment and I had gotten my hands on the Alien novelette. She said she knew Dan O’Bannon, who authored the Alien screenplay, and were personal friends with him. I asked how, but I’d forgotten her answer. I know…bad, bad, bad. She asked if I wanted to write a letter to him and I said hellz yeah! Well, I just said yeah.

Then she asked my friend and I if we wanted to watch it after class. My friend was also a fan, but neither of us had seen the flick. We agreed and met with my teacher and watched Alien for the first time. The scene that everyone remembers and knows had left us speechless, scared shitless, where to this day any phantom lump in my chest or stomach ache brought fears of being infected with a chest buster. Fortunately for me it was nothing. Whew.

Dan O’Bannon graciously answered my letter and it’s something that I’ve been grateful for to this day.

Plot holes are to be expected in a story written by humans. It’s difficult to account for everything and have certain things not coincide. If we look at Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, there exist societal classes. We see this with Ron representing the poorer class, while Draco represents the higher, noble wizarding family. But if there’s magic, why doesn’t one just whip their wand and create money? We don’t find out till later in the books that magic in Harry’s world can’t create wealth and food. Since we in the "real” world live in classes, we accept classes in Rowling’s story without questioning it. So our experience isn’t ruined.

Do I have a zit?
Do I have a zit?

But when I, and apparently the rest of the world, watched Prometheus, the major plot holes became the focus of our disgust with the film. And it’s these inconsistencies that ruin the serene drive that we all paid good money for.

Many on the net tried to defend the plot holes. Some made sense. For example, the moon in Alien was labeled as LV-426, but the crew of Prometheus lands on LV-223. Prometheus the movie was the prequel to Alien. But the mystery of where those chest busters came from started on LV-426 and is where so much havoc resided during the sequel, Aliens. Many called this a plot hole. Since the ending of Prometheus left much to be desired, it also may have indicated to us that this is indeed not LV-426. OK. I just geeked out there.

This same person also said this is science fiction. We’re supposed to suspend logic. No. We’re supposed to suspend our disbelief. Like the existence of sound in space, gravity in a spaceship, or an alien growing in our bodies as big as our arms without us knowing.

So here's a small plot hole. I credit this to Red Letter Media review. One of the world building scenes where Guy Pierce plays an old guy hologram (get it?) looks at actual individuals who he calls to the stage, then continues to look at them when those individuals are on stage. Either that was a mistake by the filmmaker, or that is some gawd dayem advanced holographic AI.

This sun tan lotion better work. I'm pale as a ghost

This sun tan lotion better work. I'm pale as a ghost

The first scene is also questionable. If the Engineer killed himself to seed planet Earth, supposedly, then why did the dinosaurs evolve first? Did writers forget about the over hundred million years those big lizards ruled the planet? Well, it could be argued the Engineer seeded the planet after the dinosaurs died off. Then how do you explain the vast different number of lines of the genus homo? Like homo erectus, homo neanderthalensis, and the slew of other homos? Don’t laugh.

Sure, a species could evolve into divergent lines due to geographic barriers, food limitations, etc. But somehow homo sapiens made it, which coincidentally look pretty much like the Engineer. If I were to seed a planet with my DNA, I’d make damn sure it’s that exact form that evolves.

I don’t want to list all plot holes. They’re all documented. Here’s one place where you can find some: http://www.movieplotholes.com/prometheus.html

As storytellers, we try to minimize plot holes. I’m not sure if it’s possible to get rid of them all, especially when you’re writing sci-fi/fantasy. Just look at the Bible. But we should be able to at least get rid of the major ones and not ruin the experience of our audience.