Horror Writers Association Blog

“No Place to Go for Halloween” By James Dorr


And what did you see at the movies on Halloween? For me, with a screen time beginning at 11:59 last night at the IU Cinema, the midnight showing for All Hallow’s Eve was a strange one, the 1977 Japanese film HAUSU. And yes, it means “house.” It’s an “evil house” movie, but with a big difference. This one combines the expected tropes with a weird undercurrent of surrealism, including cartoons, a demon cat, telegraphed punches — all clearly intentional — even slapstick humor in a tale of seven schoolgirls’ summer outing at the home of one of the girls’ maiden aunt. EAn aunt she hadn’t seen since her grandmother’s funeral years in the past.

So began a post on my blog for Halloween in 2015. I live in a college town and that year Halloween fell on a Saturday, allowing the Indiana University Cinema to offer a special horror Friday night “midnight” showing, the movie itself thus actually screened on October 31. And it wasn’t some run of the mill gore flick either. To quote the program notes in part: “Too absurd to be genuinely terrifying, yet too nightmarish to be merely comic, House seems like it was beamed to Earth from another planet. Or perhaps the mind of a child: the director Nobuhiko Obayashi fashioned the script after the eccentric musings of his 11-year-old daughter, then employed all the tricks in his analog arsenal (mattes, animation, and collage) to make them a visually astonishing, raucous reality.  Contains graphic content, including violence and nudity.” To which I added, if you don’t mind wackiness with your surrealism, nor mind an ending that masks its horror with sweetness and sadness — and even a philosophic note on the persistence of love — I recommend Hausu.

The point I was making was that if, like me, one doesn’t have children and/or is too old to go trick-or-treating oneself, and the party scene is no longer that attractive, there are still things one can do to make Halloween a special experience, possibly stretching to more than just one night.  The only thing is, you may have to search for them.

For instance last year, 2016, an independent movie group called Ryder Films decided to make Halloween last a full week, beginning on Sunday, a week before, with a triple feature of Arsenic and Old Lace, The Exorcist, and a brand new Korean film The Wailing at a downtown theater, followed the next Sunday just before Halloween (on a Monday that year) at an off-campus tavern with the Hammer movie Horror of Dracula and, for those who may have missed it, The Wailing again. But that wasn’t all. To add to the show, Ryder added a reading performance between the first two films of Angela Carter’s “The Company of Wolves,” a darkly interpreted version of the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood,” and, the next week, a between-films reading by me of a story-chapter, “Raising the Dead,” from my then-forthcoming Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth (and billed by Ryder, I can’t resist adding, as “a tale of necromancy, dark fantasy, airships, and doomed love”).

And that wasn’t all either. Thursday, October 27, offered an almost otherworldly lead into the weekend with a 100-year commemoration of Cabaret Voltaire. Say what? In the sponsors’ words: “On 5 February 1916, in the back room of a small bar in Zurich, a group of artists launched a nightclub which changed the course of modern art. Cabaret Voltaire was the home of Dada, a movement that revolutionized European culture and led to seismic global shifts in art, literature, music, film. Like Punk, Dada survives as an attitude, a rejection of aesthetic convention and authority. A hundred years later, The Burroughs Century Ltd. and the Wounded Galaxies Festival are creating a one-night-only homage: a feast of the senseless.” This was at a local downtown nightclub and included, as well, movies as a sort of background/ accompaniment, some old, some just filmed, but all experimental. Added were musical and spoken word performances, as well as costumes — some quite creative — worn by onlookers (mine, less creative, was of a Zurich bourgeois who has come for an evening of entertainment). And then the next night the local Writers Guild, of which I’m a member, presented a reading performance of the opening act of local playwright D. L. Mabbott’s The Unfinished, with (picking up again from my blog) two readers who also performed the night before, Joan Hawkins and Anthony Brewer, and two who didn’t, Shayne Laughter and me. Or, quoting Shayne, “[f]ree, tonight, at The Back Door! I’m reading with Joan Hawkins — we are two lovely ladies in the organ harvesting biz, Tony Brewer is the burglar who sees too much, and James Dorr is the Inspector who . . .  well. We could call this a 21st-century Arsenic and Old Lace, with more sex and stabbing.”

So what of Halloween 2017? I haven’t the slightest idea as I write this, in still mid-September, what the end of October will have to offer, but I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open. Judging from the past few years (2014, for instance, brought an IU Cinema Saturday afternoon matinee — one day after Halloween that year — with 1935’s The Raven with Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, and Mad Love, a remake of 1924’s silent The Hands of Orlac as well as Peter Lorre’s first American movie, followed that evening with the much more recent Belgian-French The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears), I’m sure there’ll be something in touch with the season, as well as otherwise off the beaten track.


TODAY’S GIVEAWAY:  James Dorr is giving away three PDF copies of his novel-in-stories, Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth.  Comment below or email membership@horror.orgf with the subject HH Contest Entry for a chance to win.

James Dorr’s latest book is a novel-in-stories published in June 2017 by Elder Signs Press, Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth. Born in Florida, raised in the New York City area, in college in Boston, and currently living in the Midwest, Dorr is a short story writer and poet specializing in dark fantasy and horror, with forays into mystery and science fiction. His The Tears of Isis was a 2014 Bram Stoker Award® finalist for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection, while other books include Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance, Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret, and his all poetry Vamps (A Retrospective). He has also been a technical writer, an editor on a regional magazine, a full time non-fiction freelancer, and a semi-professional musician, and currently harbors a Goth cat named Triana.

Dorr invites readers to visit his blog at http://jamesdorrwriter.wordpress.com for the latest information, as well as visit his Amazon Author Page.


Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth

It had been a time when the world needed legends, those years so long past now. Because there was something else legends could offer, or so the Poet believed. He didn’t know quite what–ghouls were not skilled at imagination. Their world was a concrete one, one of stone and flesh. Struggle and survival. Survival predicated on others’ deaths.

Far in the future, when our sun grows ever larger, scorching the earth. When seas become poisonous and men are needed to guard the crypts from the scavengers of the dead. A ghoul-poet will share stories of love and loss, death and resurrection. Tombs is a beautifully written examination of the human condition of life, love, and death, through the prism of a dystopian apocalypse.

Excerpt from Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth

Angar indeed had no plan as he trudged south, burdened as he was, trailing what he thought might be Tashik’s corpse’s path. For he was not clever. He was not learned, as those of the schools were, the scions of rich patrons who could afford study. Yet, as a poor man must, he would do what he could.

He had never been outside by day before, not as some wealthy went, chadored and day-masked to taste its dangers for pure pleasure of the thrill, scurrying back to the awninged shade of the city’s main streets, its wealthier quarters, before the sun rose too high. Before the mists that swept from the river dissolved in the morning wind, blowing from north at first, then from the west as the day grew hotter. Nor were there even awnings where he progressed, through the poor sectors where city amenities grew ever more thin. Where buildings grew smaller and shabby-exteriored until, in some parts, it was hard to distinguish these from the Old City’s ruins themselves.

Yet he did not pass alone through these poor sectors, for there were some there worse off than even he. Or even those members of Tashik’s family who, after all, did the thing that they did, taking her carcass south, because they had to — because of their poverty, the things they had not — and now were bereft even of their daughter despite their shame of her.

For these were the homeless, the ones Angar passed now, the ones with no day-quarters — not even ruins as ghouls cowered beneath, nor even basements as were used by corpses of some of the poorest in Angar’s own sector, for these were all taken. But rather, in some cases, only a narrow straw in recompense for a lifetime of service within the New City, and with it permission to use it to breathe through beneath the water of some public fountain, thus using its coolness to survive through the day until, at twilight, they must rise again so that others might use it for washing or cooking.

And yet other cases as Angar proceeded south, worse off than even these, shuffling, bent-over men decked in sunhats accreted with trash, with cardboard and wastepaper, shards and cast-off cloths dangling about them as portable house-garments that they wore with them, to sleep and eat in. And always shuffling, always in some motion lest they fall over, or be taken in the wind, leaving them thus naked.

To bake as corpses might, within the cruel sun’s glare.

And from this, Angar formed somewhat of a plan. To use the stage cloth in Barak’s pack to build a tent from, with ropes and prop-poles to keep it erect, to thus at least keep Tashik’s body cool until the day drew closed. And, finding at last that selfsame corpse dropped as if it were trash itself on the cracked stone of a small, weed-choked plaza that overlooked the stream, facing the ghoul-ruins, more of his plan formed.

But not all at once yet.

2 comments on ““No Place to Go for Halloween” By James Dorr

  1. Film festivals are a wonderful idea for celebrating Halloween. I am fortunate to have a cinema art house close by, so I’m hoping to catch Halloween on the big screen. It really is a treat to see an older film in the theater. Thanks James!

  2. It’s great to hear that you have such a strong local horror scene! I need to get out there and see what opportunities are around us.

    Thanks for sharing!

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