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Posts by Nathan Sturm

The Disused Fane: Go Into the Light

Horror Rises from the Tomb seance

One of the best parts (there are many) from the Spanish flick Horror Rises from the Tomb (1973) is an early scene in which the protagonists, all of whom are bored rich people, attend a séance. They want to get in touch with their ancestors; it's not like they have anything better to do with their time. They succeed. Unfortunately for them, the film already opened with a prologue set in the Middle Ages in which a certain nobleman and his mistress are executed for practicing witchcraft. Naturally, it is these two individuals who manifest themselves at the séance, and naturally, this inspires the one guy to take everyone up to the old ancestral castle to start digging for things in the crypts. It doesn't turn out well.(read more...)

The Disused Fane: I Am Become Death

Dawn of the Dead: Roger the zombie

It has become almost mandatory in any movie involving zombies or zombie-like creatures... the scene in which one of the protagonists confronts a friend or family member who isn't quite the same anymore. Can he perform his duty to civilization by pulling the trigger, or will he end up like them? Is it right to kill a loved one who has become one of the undead (or an alien pod-person, or a plague-infected mutant, or whatever)? (read more...)

The Disused Fane: Never Meant for the World of the Living

Old Hag in Room 237 in The Shining

For my money, The Shining (1980) is the scariest movie ever made, and the book is frightening as well. There are numerous reasons for this, but one of the main ones is that damn woman in Room 237 (217 in the book). When Danny foolishly enters the room, the film cuts away, and later it is left ambiguous who put those marks on his neck. The film does this to heighten the psychological tension that results from Wendy's suspicion of Jack. The book, however, is pretty unambiguous. Danny sees a dead, decaying woman rising from the bathtub and stumbles away in terror; huddled against a wall, he closes his eyes and reminds himself that she will go away in a little while, like a dream, when he opens his eyes; and that ghosts, the residues left by the dead, can't actually hurt living people. And then fingers begin to close around his throat... (read more...)

The Disused Fane: Night and Day of the Dead

Pumpkins in Trick 'r' Treat (2008)

One Halloween night when I was a teenager a friend and I decided to walk to the cemetery a quarter mile from my mom's apartment and wander around. It was pretty spooky. The cemetery in question was huge, with a dead gnarled tree near the entrance, and odd little stone steps - we imagined that they were perhaps gateways to Hell - leading from the pathways to the fields where hundreds of gravestones sprawled. One almost expected to see Colin Clive and Dwight Frye skulking about with shovel and lantern. Another friend of ours had declined to come. He was quite religious, and what we were doing he found both offensive and frightening, regarding it disrespectful of the dead and vaguely "evil" as well. As the two of us got increasingly creeped out I suggested that we should have forced the third guy to come with us - if we were attacked by angry specters, I said, we could have ritualistically sacrificed him to placate them.(read more...)

The Disused Fane: Who's Next?

Tales from the Crypt poster

"DEATH LIVES," states the trailer for Tales from the Crypt (1972), and with its pervasive images of skulls and corpses, one is inclined to agree. Revisiting this film I am struck by how morbid and vicious it really is. It deals not just with the fear of life's end, but with the fear of what comes after life's end. From their earliest days horror films and stories have dealt with death. The imagery of decay is repulsive, and the finality of loss (Grandma isn't coming back, ever) is terrifying. We all must die. How are we to accept this? The management of this terror has been one of mankind's greatest tasks, and frequently it has fallen to one of mankind's oldest institutions: religion.

(read more...)

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