Apr 30, 2014
Apr 29, 2014
I never saw the ocean until I was nineteen, and if I ever see it again, it will be too damn soon. I was a child, coming out of the train, fresh from Amarillo, into San Diego and all her glory. The sight of it, all that water and the blind crushing power of the surf, filled me with dread. I’d seen water before, lakes, plenty big, but that was nothing like this. I don’t think I can describe what it was like that first time, and furthermore, I’m not sure I care too.
You can imagine the state I was in when a few weeks later they gave me a rifle and put me on a boat. When I stopped vomiting up everything that I ate, I decided that I might not kill myself after all. Not being able to see the land, and that ceaseless chaotic, rocking of the waves; I remember thinking that the war had to be a step up from this. Kids can be so stupid.
I had such a giddy sense of glee when I saw the island, and its solid banks. They transferred us to a smaller boat in the middle of the night, just our undersized company with our rucksacks and rifles. We just took a ride right into it, just because they asked us to. The lieutenants herded us into our platoons on the decks and briefed us: the island had been lost. That was exactly how he put it. Somehow, in the grand plan for the Pacific, this one tiny speck of earth, only recently discovered and unmapped, had gotten lost in the shuffle. A singularly perfect clerical error was all it took. It was extremely unlikely, he stressed, that the Japanese had gotten a hold of it, being so far east and south of their current borders, but a recent fly-over reported what looked like an airfield in the central plateau.
We hit the beach in the middle of the night. I’d heard talk of landings before, and I’m not ashamed to say that I was scared shitless. I don’t know quite what I expected, but it wasn’t we got, that thick, heavy silence. Behind the lapping of the waves and the wind in the trees, there was… nothing. No birds, no insects, just deathly stillness.
Another hundred yards deeper into the eerie tranquility of the jungle, we stopped in a small clearing for the officers to reconvene, and it was obvious even they were spooked. I wasn’t a bright kid, but I knew enough to know that something was very wrong. It was like the whole island was dead. I remember I could only smell the sea, despite the red blossoms dangling from the trees.
It wasn’t an airfield, on top of the plateau. I can’t tell you what it was, because I’ve never seen anything like it, and I don’t think anyone ever will. It was sort of like the Aztec pyramids, but turned upside down, so that it sank, like giant steps, into the earth. You’d get the basic idea of it, but that somehow fails to capture the profound unearthliness of the structure.
There was no sign of individual pieces in the masonry. It appeared to have been carved out of a single immense block of black rock into a sharp and geometric shape. It was slick and perfectly smooth like obsidian, but it had no shine to it. It swallowed up even the moonlight, so that it was impossible to see how deep it went, or even focus your eyes on any one part of it, like it was one giant blind spot.
Our platoon drew the honor of investigating the lower levels, so we descended the stairs as the rest of the company surrounded the plateau. We took the stairs slowly and carefully, after the first man to touch one of the right angle edges cut his hand on it.
At odd intervals down the steps, there were several small stone rooms: simple, empty, hollow cubes of stone with one opening, facing the pit in the center. There was no door that we could see, and with the opening being four feet off the ground, you’d have to put your hands on that black razor sharp edge to climb into it.
We circled the descending floors, shining our lights into each of the small structures. They contained the same featureless black walls and nothing else; no dust, leaves, or foliage from the jungle. The whole monument was immaculate, as if the place was just built, but that couldn’t be right. The whole structure felt incalculably old to me, somehow.
Down near the bottom, you could see that it simply sloped away into a darkness that swallowed the flashlights. We tossed first a button, and then a shell casing down into the pit. We waited in the unearthly silence, but no sounds returned. No one spoke. We simply turned away from the yawning abyss and continued our sweep of the bottom rung and the last of the small structures.
The body in the back corner was almost invisible at first in the thick shadows, but the long spill of drying blood reflected the light of our flashlights, and it led right to him. He was coiled tight, arms around his thighs, and his face tucked into his knees. You could see that he was badly cut. His clothes opened in ragged bloody tatters to reveal the pale skin and bone beneath it. He may have been dressed in a Japanese uniform, but it had been reduced to ribbons. I only had a few seconds to look at him before we heard the first shots.
It echoed in the still jungle, swallowed almost instantly by the blanket of quiet. By the time we reached the top, the rest of the company had vanished. There were shell casings on the ground and the hot smell of gunpowder in the air, but they were gone. The trees were deathly quiet around us, and there wasn't a trace of the nearly fifty other men that had come ashore with us. I could taste bile rising in my throat as panic threatened to cripple me. I felt crushed between the yawning pit and razor edges on one side and the dead jungle and the pounding ocean on the other. The silence rang in my ears and I struggled to still myself.
They were just inside the jungle, waiting for us. They came out from between the trees with all the sound of a moth, simply sliding into our view.
I can try to tell you what I saw, the same as I did to the army doc on the hospital ship when I first woke up (and half a dozen other various officers over the following months), and you’ll have the same reaction they did; that I was a dumb country rube suffering from heatstroke and trauma. That I was crazy.
You know me. You know I’m not crazy. And I remember every second of that night with crystal clarity.
The thing, the first one that caught my eye, was wearing the skin of a Japanese soldier, all mottled with the belly distended from rot. The head drooped, useless and obscene on the shoulders, tongue swollen and eyes cloudy. I could see where it was coming apart at the ill-defined joints, with ragged holes in the drying flesh. At the bottom of each of these raw pits was blackness, deeper than the stones of the buildings; a darkness that seemed to churn and froth like an angry cloud.
The thing moved suddenly, the head snapping and rolling backwards as it dashed toward us. I had my rifle clasped tightly in my hands, but it simply didn’t occur to me to fire. All I could do was gape silently at the macabre sight bearing down on us, and think absurdly of my mother’s marionettes.
A gun went off beside me, and I turned to see a dozen more of the horrors darting silently in on us. Among them were a few more rotting and swollen forms, but the majority wore the same uniforms as us, and were pale, fresh, and soaked in blood. More bullets zipped through the air, and I saw the grisly things hit again and again, but they never slowed. I caught a glimpse of the First Sergeant’s vacant, glassy eyes as his head dangled limp from his shoulders. I saw the great ragged wound in his back and the shuddering darkness that inhabited his corpse when he leapt just past me without a sound, landing like a graceful predator onto the soldier beside me. The others around me began to drop in a silent dance of kinetic energy and blurred motion
I was on the track team in high school, and it could have got me to college. I didn’t need an invitation. I just ran. I ran blind through the jungle, bouncing off of tree trunks. I ran until I saw the ocean, and it struck a new ringing note of terror in me. I don’t remember actually deciding to swim, but when I turned back to the tree line, I saw one of the white and bloody things emerge, running on all fours, the hands splayed wide and the back contorted and cracked in an impossible angle.
To this day, the mere thought of the ocean still brings on a cold sweat, but that night I let it embrace me. I let the tide drag me out to sea, if only to bring momentary relief from the impossible monolith and terrors on the island. The days I spent drifting offshore and blistering in the sun were a welcome release from the silent island.
I never saw the war. They sent me home as soon as I recovered.
It was comforting in a way, when I thought no one believed me. It allowed me to believe that it never happened, that it was a product of my mind. However, as I got older, I’ve found that it is pointless to lie to anyone, especially yourself. I know what I saw.
Someone else believed me, too. I’ve seen maps of where they tested the hydrogen bombs in the South Pacific.
Apr 28, 2014
One storyline, which ran the week before Halloween in 1989 (Oct 23 to Oct 28), is unique among Garfield strips in that it is not meant to be humorous. It depicts Garfield awakening in a future in which the house is abandoned and he no longer exists. In tone and imagery the storyline for this series of strips is very similar to the animation segment for Valse Triste from Allegro non troppo, which depicts a ghostly cat roaming around the ruins of the home it once inhabited. In Garfield’s Twentieth Anniversary Collection, in which the strips are reprinted, Jim Davis discusses the genesis for this series:
During a writing session for Halloween, I got the idea for this decidedly different series of strips. I wanted to scare people. And what do people fear most? Why, being alone. We carried out the concept to its logical conclusion and got a lot of responses from readers. Reaction ranged from 'Right on!' to 'This isn't a trend, is it?'
Apr 27, 2014
What was the last theatrically released torture movie to crash and burn? Was it Captivity? Hostel 2? I honestly can't say/remember, as that was a brief detour for the horror genre that I absolutely detested. The Saws, the Hostels, the ass-eating Human Centipedes - all the direct-to-video rip-offs that soon followed; they were all an absolute waste of time, money, resources, and in some (but few) cases, talent. Only so many horror films can be released per year by a major or mini-studio. And for every film released that involved someone being strapped to a table or wheelchair while their organs were removed, that was one film that could have eschewed that easy, go-for-the-throat mentality and instead tried to earn its audience's discomfort and fear. I'm not against the torture movement; in theory, an engaging story with well-rounded characters can surpass any gimmick or technique, and that goes for the torture movement. It's just...that hasn't really come along yet.
Though Derek (Michael Thomson) is separated from his wife, Stacy (Allira Jaques), and his business is failing, at least he still has his beautiful little daughter, Georgia. That is, until she goes missing one night and is eventually found brutally murdered on the beach. Derek does not take it well, scream-blaming his ex for not having fixed Georgia's bedroom window, and lying around having conversations with the voice of his daughter that resides entirely within his head. He hears disembodied sounds of her laughter behind closed doors and seeing hallucinations of her in the tub, as if she never left. In an attempt to reconvene with everyday-life, Derek goes back to work and even attends a party thrown by his brother, Tom (Christian Radford). It's there when he discovers the first "clue" - the first indication of what really happened to Georgia. This revelation sets Derek on a path of revenge, which includes heavy research into the act of torture. The individual responsible for Georgia's death is going to know Derek's anguish, one exacting slice at a time.
The first half of writer/director Chris Sun's Daddy's Little Girl is a drama/thriller, which depends entirely on Thomson's performance to hook the audience and get them to feel what he is feeling. And we do: we feel his sadness, guilt, and anger; it's easy to empathize with someone who endures what Derek has endured. Thematically, we've sorta been here before, with Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left (of which I am not a fan, though I do laud Dennis Iliadis' redo - don't punch me!), but where that was a one-by-one revenge killing spree, the latter half of Daddy's Little Girl is nearly one long, non-stop torture sequence. Were it not for Fangoria Magazine's screaming warning across the film's marketing materials, I never would have guessed that this is where we would have ended up.
Other reviews I've read for Daddy's Little Girl show a lack of patience with the film's first half, and almost awe for the "brutal" and boundary-pushing second. What does it say about me that I preferred the first? Why did I find the first half engaging and dramatic, but instantly bored the minute the "villain" was strapped down to the table having his digits removed one by one? Because maybe once we've reached that point in any film that includes this subject matter, there's nowhere else to go. All we can do is sit back and see our "hero" become just as vicious as the killer. Because at what point do the "good" become as bad or worse than the villain? You know, that whole thing.
Perhaps I'm not the best person to review something like this - it would be tantamount to me reviewing the new Pussy Riot album, or a scholarly volume about the collected works of Jane Austen. I'm, frankly, not particularly interested in these things, so how could I provide a fair evaluation?
If you're into this sort of thing, the low-budget independent approach is refreshing and well handled. Thomson's performance - when either mourning or manic - really is fantastic. Even the musical score, usually the least dependable when it comes to low budget genre stuff, is emotional, stirring, and involving.
Did you enjoy the Saws, the Hostels, and all their imitators strictly for the sheer carnage? If so, that alone makes Daddy's Little Girl nearly a sure thing. After a while, there are only so many things you can cut off a human body, and while Daddy's Little Girl cuts off all those same things, it does it better than its inspirations that came before.
Apr 26, 2014
Apr 25, 2014
During the summer of 2003, events in the northeastern United States involving a strange, humanlike creature sparked brief local media interest before an apparent blackout was enacted. Little or no information was left intact, as most online and written accounts of the creature were mysteriously destroyed.
Primarily focused in rural New York state, self proclaimed witnesses told stories of their enounters with a creature of unkown origin. Emotions ranged from extremely traumatic levels of fright and discomfort, to an almost childlike sense of playfulness and curiosity. While their published versions are no longer on record, the memories remained powerful. Several of the involved parties began looking for answers that year.
In early 2006, the collaboration had accumulated nearly two dozen documents dating between the 12th century and present day, spanning 4 continents. In almost all cases, the stories were identical. I've been in contact with a member of this group and was able to get some excerpts from their upcoming book.
A Suicide Note: 1964"As I prepare to take my life, I feel it necessary to assuage any guilt or pain I have introduced through this act. It is not the fault of anyone other than him. For once I awoke and felt his presence. And once I awoke and saw his form. Once again I awoke and heard his voice, and looked into his eyes. I cannot sleep without fear of what I might next awake to experience. I cannot ever wake. Goodbye."
Found in the same wooden box were two empty envelopes addressed to William and Rose, and one loose personal letter with no envelope:"Dearest Linnie,
I have prayed for you. He spoke your name."
A Journal Entry (translated from Spanish): 1880I have experienced the greatest terror. I have experienced the greatest terror. I have experienced the greatest terror. I see his eyes when I close mine. They are hollow. Black. They saw me and pierced me. His wet hand. I will not sleep. His voice (unintelligible text).
A Mariner's Log: 1691He came to me in my sleep. From the foot of my bed I felt a sensation. He took everything. We must return to England. We shall not return here again, at the request of the Rake.
From a Witness: 2006Three years ago, I had just returned from a trip from Niagara Falls with my family for the 4th of July. We were all very exhausted after a long day of driving, so my husband and I put the kids right to bed and called it a night.
At about 4am, I woke up thinking my husband had gotten up to use the restroom. I used the moment to steal back the sheets, only to wake him in the process. I appologized and told him I thought he got out of bed. When he turned to face me, he gasped and pulled his feet up from the end of the bed so quickly his knee almost knocked me out of the bed. He then grabbed me and said nothing.
After adjusting to the dark for a half second, I was able to see what caused the strange reaction. At the foot of the bed, sitting and facing away from us, there was what appeared to be a naked man, or a large hairless dog of some sort. It's body position was disturbing and unnatural, as if it had been hit by a car or something. For some reason, I was not instantly frightened by it, but more concerned as to its condition. At this point I was somewhat under the assumption that we were supposed to help him.
My husband was peering over his arm and knee, tucked into the fetal position, occasionally glancing at me before returning to the creature.
In a flurry of motion, the creature scrambled around the side of the bed, and then crawled quickly in a flailing sort of motion right along the bed until it was less than a foot from my husband's face. The creature was completely silent for about 30 seconds (or probably closer to 5, it just seemed like a while) just looking at my husband. The creature then placed its hand on his knee and ran into the hallway, leading to the kids' rooms. I screamed and ran for the lightswitch, planning to stop him before he hurt my children. When I got to the hallway, the light from the bedroom was enough to see it crouching and hunched over about 20 feet away. He turned around and looked directly at me, covered in blood. I flipped the switch on the wall and saw my daughter Clara.
The creature ran down the stairs while my husband and I rushed to help our daughter. She was very badly injured and spoke only once more in her short life. She said "He is the Rake".
My husband drove his car into a lake that night, while rushing our daughter to the hospital. He did not survive.
Being a small town, news got around pretty quickly. The police were helpful at first, and the local newspaper took a lot of interest as well. However, the story was never published and the local television news never followed up, either.
For several months, my son Justin and I stayed in a hotel near my parents' house. After we decided to return home, I began looking for answers myself. I eventually located a man in the next town over who had a similar story. We got in contact and began talking about our experiences. He knew of two other people in New York who had seen the creature we now referred to as the Rake.
It took the four of us about two solid years of hunting on the Internet and writing letters to come up with a small collection of what we believe to be accounts of the Rake. None of them gave any details, history or follow up. One journal had an entry involving the creature in its first 3 pages, and never mentioned it again. A ship's log explained nothing of the encounter, saying only that they were told to leave by the Rake. That was the last entry in the log.
There were, however, many instances where the creature's visit was one of a series of visits with the same person. Multiple people also mentioned being spoken to, my daughter included. This led us to wonder if the Rake had visited any of us before our last encounter.
I set up a digital recorder near my bed and left it running all night, every night, for two weeks. I would tediously scan through the sounds of me rolling around in my bed each day when I woke up. By the end of the second week, I was quite used to the occasional sound of sleep while blurring through the recording at 8 times the normal speed. (This still took almost an hour every day)
On the first day of the third week, I thought I heard something different. What I found was a shrill voice. It was the Rake. I can't listen to it long enough to even begin to transcribe it. I haven't let anyone listen to it yet. All I know is that I've heard it before, and I now believe that it spoke when it was sitting in front of my husband. I don't remember hearing anything at the time, but for some reason, the voice on the recorder immediately brings me back to that moment.
The thoughts that must have gone through my daughter's head make me very upset.
I have not seen the Rake since he ruined my life, but I know that he has been in my room while I slept.
I fear that one night, I'll wake up to see him staring at me.