Grim Forces at Work
From the Present to the Plague Years
Like most religions Christianity at its best can be a force for good. At its worse it can be the complete opposite. The Crusades ended over 500 years ago.
Art has come under criticism of late. There is the Charlie Hebdo business in France. Do crazed Muslims have the right to murder artists and writers just because they don't like the art or the writing? I say no. The Pope on the other hand reckons the artists and writers got what they deserved.
The horror when it comes to Charlie Hebdo came from the insanity of certain religious types. You don't like the writing and art and it offends your religion? There are less violent legal avenues to take.
If our current allotment of drugs fail including penicillin there is a possibility that we will return to the plague years of long ago. The difference being that we know cleanliness is a virtue in more ways than one and that what causes disease or what is disease can be detected and eventually eradicated.
Certainly from the plague years in Europe onward the dancing skeleton as well as the skeleton with the scythe (the grim reaper) have terrorized Europe and have been the foundation for many a clever piece of horror art as well as horror poem or horror story.
It is hard to imagine people dying by the cart load and the authorities helpless to do anything about it. You can see this in the comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail but at one time it was for real.
Today we have penicillin and other drugs. What's more, we no longer believe that bad smells are responsible for disease. With the microscope we can actually see the culprits.
In some instances having a sense of humor about plague as well as chalking it up to God's will was absolutely necessary. Otherwise one might go insane in a very short space of time.
In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels Death is a character who has a scythe and an hour glass or perhaps a life glass shaped like an hour glass. When your time is up it is up.
Death in the Discworld series of novels isn't mean or vindictive. He is just an entity doing his job. In the films based on the Discworld novels, Death appears to have a permanent grin. Alsom as described in the novels, Death's home is a very grey place because Death really doesn't understand the concept of color very well.
Terry Pratchett is no longer with us.
In the Monty Python movie, The Meaning of Life, Death doesn't take kindly to pompous English men and women. He is also not terribly fond of noisy Americans. The afterlife in this film also leaves something to be desired. Being part of an audience to a celestial variety show with lots of glitter isn't my idea of Heaven.
In the 19th century Francisco Goya was the top horror artist of the age. It is hard to get past Saturn devouring his son for pure brutality and...yes...horror. A demented creature in the act of a terrible crime still can haunt us today. The act of cannibalism still makes one shiver.
THE COMIC BOOKS
In the comic book industry of the twentieth century two horror artist stand out. One is Jack Kirby who is best remembered for his work on The Fantastic Four and also on Captain America.
He was also responsible for a whole slew of horror art in the 1950s and early 1960s culminating in The Incredible Hulk for Marvel comics.
Gene Colan did some mystery and horror art for Atlas before WW2. He was called away to the war and when he got back he resumed his work as an artist. His technique however had changed. In the '70s he was just the right artist to pen for Marvel's Tomb of Dracula. His eye of a camera technique plus the way he could give the impression of speed and power were great assets for this enterprise.
In Australia the top horror artist are Steve Carter and Antoinette Rydyr.
Steve made a name for himself with the Australian Horror comic Phantastique and then with Femosaurs.
Antoinette is possible best know for her art on Poor Bitch. Phantastique was a combination of tried and true horror coupled with twisted science fiction. Poor Bitch is a a morbid tale from the suburbs of a major city. Like American Splendor ( American art to do with the evils of modern life) it touches upon what makes us human and also what makes us vulnerable to the human predator.
Of the movie companies that have invested in horror and have reaped the rewards none is perhaps more famous in the 1930 and '40 as Universal. It was an American company that at first relied heavily on European horror tales then developed its own.
Later in the late 1950s and going into the 1970s, Hammer, a British outfit, took over as the premier movie company putting out good cinematic horror. One of the better films put out by Hammer was Twins of Evil. Another classic is Vampire Lovers.
HORROR IN THE NOVEL
If you are after dark fantasy and horror do check out Disco Evil, Ghost Dance, and Desk Job by Rod Marsden. They are works that examine the past and, to some extent, question the present.
Disco Evil deals with revenge pure but not always so simple. How long should it last and should be allowed to learn from their mistakes? And how does karma work into our existence?
Ghost Dance takes you on an extraordinary quest. A young man wishes to be rid of a curse. He must travel from Australia to Germany in order to do so. On the way there are many adventures and also misadventures.
Desk Job is my salute to Lewis Carroll but it is not without some horror. Imagine an office where the inhabitants are slowly going insane. Then imagine giant praying mantises out for revenge and, maybe, a little snack.
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