The Exorcist’s opening Iraq sequence is a masterclass in visual metaphors. By using only images and sound (the brief dialogue is in Arabic), a portending evil is introduced.
The scenes taking place in an ancient arid land (you can feel the heat) slowly lull the viewer into a hypnotic trance with its stark imagery. These symbols remain in the viewer’s subconscious and are called back in later scenes: the black cloaked women in the Iraq street scene and the white cloaked nuns in the Georgetown street scene, the demon face of the women in the carriage and “old altar boy” bum in the subway, animal images and sounds, all adding layers of complexity that the viewer absorbs and feels, but perhaps doesn’t consciously understand.
Many films today would forgo this prequel setup as being ‘too slow,’ but by taking its time and showing the ancient roots of the Pazuzu, demon of the wind, and the sense that Father Merrin has dealt with its evil before, the film gains more gravity and deep symbolic meaning that lingers in the viewer’s subconscious long after the shock values of the spinning head and silly spider-walk wear off.
Often this sequence is forgotten about by the viewer when they recall the film; but the symbols are planted, priming the mind to receive the rich and layered storytelling of a film that has stood the test of time for a reason.
A blood red sky shines down on the archeological site of an ancient spiritual temple ruins.
The best depiction of a borderline personality disordered individual ever committed to screen is Glenn Close’s Alex in Fatal Attraction. This Cluster B disorder (of which women are most afflicted) is marked by poor boundaries, impulsivity, and a violent reaction to any real or perceived rejection. At first these seductive femme fatales appeal to a man’s fantasy of the no-strings attached hot affair. The borderline’s lack of boundaries and amorality are a turn-on in the bedroom, but when the man tries to return, sated, to his wife or move on to a more appropriate girl (as in the case of Mormon boy, Travis Alexander), the borderline psycho bitch just won’t let go. She may, as in the case of Jodi Arias, at first subject herself to her lover’s diminishing returns and lack of respect (he famously referred to her as his three-hole wonder), but a girl can only take so much abuse. Her already dangerously damaged ego lies coiled like a cobra ready to strike. She shows up at his house looking cute and breezy—I drove from California to Arizona, but I just happen to be in town. He lets her in—hey, what’s one more lay? I can get her out of here in time for my trip with my new “virginal” girlfriend. Sorry lover. While you were showering off her stank, petite Jodi struck, and struck hard.
In the 1999 Anthony Mingella film The Talented Mr. Ripley, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Marge (much frumpier in the book) knows something’s up with her missing boyfriend, Dickie Greenleaf’s weird friend Tom Ripley. But her Cassandra like prophesies are pooh-poohed as (hormonal) women’s intuition, but she knows. She knows!
While the Covert Narcissist must depend on the kindness of codependents (like a vulture circling wounded prey), the Charming Psychopath’s hunting grounds are much higher on the food chain, and therefore he must be in top form. Like an Olympic athlete training for the event, he prepares his body, tastes, voice, and mannerisms to blend in, ingratiate, and win at all costs. His weapons are flattery, acquiescence, sympathy and understanding. He is an expert at infiltrating, blending in, acting the part of the supportive friend, and then suddenly you realize (too late!) that you’ve let a shark in the pool. Continue reading “Great Villains Part Two”→
When your knight in shining armor slowly changes into an Orc (you never saw it coming) you may be dealing with a covert narcissist. We can all see those bombastic braggadocios of the classic narcissist blaring their horns from a mile away, but the subtle ones who appear so shy, so harmless, so needy…Ah! Beware those sneaky bastards.
They inflict abuse by establishing a honeymoon period of love bombing, mirroring back your every wish and desire—at last someone sees the real you and gives you the validation you crave—followed by a slow period of devaluation: withdrawal of affection, radio silence on your accomplishments, poison darts of thinly veiled hostility, silent but deadly farts of disapproval. You become crazy and they become stronger, their narcissistic supply tanks filled while you are left drained and confused. If you have the misfortune of having one of these in your life, the best recourse is to run as far away as possible. The problem is that by the time (sometimes years, even decades) you’ve realized you’ve been slowly cooked over a rotating spit of negativity, they’ve infiltrated your friend group and perhaps your bank accounts and you’ve been drained of all your juice. But as long as you’re able to get away and recharge, there is hope.
There are many examples of the gaslighting psychopath in film and literature. Here’s one of my favorites (whoever made this video is a genius by the way):
Charles Boyer is portrayed as a more overt villain in the classic Gaslight, even if poor Ingrid Bergman is the last one to know.
As a woman in my mid-fifties, I’ve experienced the horror expressed in this classic moment of cinematic grand dame guignol. I started a YouTube channel recently, and I admit to spending as much time on my make-up, hair, and flattering lighting as I do my “content.” Like many Virgos, I’m vain. I can relate to that famous literary Virgo, Blanche DuBois, who once bemoaned about the “hard knocks my vanity has taken,” and she was only in her thirties at the time.
Vivien Leigh still looks damn good under the bare light bulb. My God, Tennessee Williams was a genius. Check in time at the Tarantula Arms. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Back in the 1970’s, my cousin and his wife lived in a run-down trailer in a rural part of the upper county where I would sometimes babysit their kids. My cousin’s wife, a dead ringer for Michelle Pfeiffer with enviable Farrah hair, loved to read, her taste leaning toward the sleaziest horror and true crime books. I spent many hours poring through her stack of paperbacks that included tales of killer kidnappings, rape scenes involving hapless pregnant hitchhikers in vast Oregon landscapes, a teenage mom whose baby was eaten by the family dog, and a fictional work (I can only hope) involving incest that was too grammatically challenged for even my thirteen-year-old sensibilities.
One memorable babysitting episode involved me reading some trashy “novel” while my cousin’s hound dog gave birth to a litter in the chair next to me, forcing me to put down the book about a family changed into demons inside a grain silo (if anyone remembers the title I’ll be eternally grateful) and play doggie midwife. Those babysitting nights alone in the trailer seeped into my nightmares and gave me a sleazy thrill, like the times I’d stay too late at the drive-in when “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was the feature presentation, and the really creepy stuff would play after midnight. There were no trigger warnings in the 1970’s, and thus Trip With The Teacher became unfortunately seared into my teenage memory.
Reading Richard Laymon (this is my second time at the rodeo) gets me back in touch with that sick part of me that enjoys reading trash, but it also reminds me where to draw the line. I read The Cellar a few months ago, and as much as I love paperbacks from hell, the scenes from the rapist’s POV made me swear off Richard Laymon for good. But when my YouTube buddy, Peter Monn, included Laymon’s Endless Night in his popular Peter’s Book Club, I decided to give the prince of sleaze another try.
The book starts out good and scary when nubile (of course) teenager Jody’s sleepover at a friend’s house is interrupted by a crew of killers, known as the Krull, who break into the house wearing previous victims’ skins and start massacring everyone in sight. After Jody and her friend’s kid brother, Andy, manage to escape the Krull crew in a heart-stopping chase scene, the POV switches to one of the killer’s and that’s when Laymon really finds his writer’s “voice.” What follows are graphic descriptions of rapes and murders with a disturbing emphasis on the teenage victims’ suffering and lingerie. The word “panties” appears in the text a bit too often for comfort. Nipples run a close second.
I love a good, sleazy scare as much as the next horror hound, but there is something about Laymon’s work that goes too far, which is probably why he has such a loyal following.
I suppose his work gives a certain cheap thrill; I can’t say I’m a fan. Still, for the remains of this Sunday afternoon I’m reading The Endless Night till the bitter end. Then I’m taking a bath.
Postscript: I finished the book. The climax (hate to use that word) was even sleazier than I anticipated. I think I’ll pass on this author from now on.
I’ve finally recovered from last week’s whirlwind weekend at BookCon in New York City. It was my first time at BookCon, and I had a blast. I will be back. In fact, next year I hope to have a booth with my YA book series (three, maybe four books in) on display. Attending BookCon helped me to visualize that goal and break down the intimidation factor. Even when I sat in on the panel and listened to authors I admire like Cassandra Clare and James Patterson, I saw that they were just people who worked really hard to achieve their levels of success. It was inspiring to me as a writer, and I returned home feeling energized and ready to get back to work.
I was also inspired to see so many young people being excited about books. I hear a lot of griping about the proliferation of YA in the bookish community. I get that, and I have definitely felt the frustration of not being able to find good adult horror, for example, but to see teenagers clutching books and jumping up and down with excitement at the prospect of meeting their favorite authors gave this former English teacher a thrill.
My First BookCon Takeaway
Wear comfortable shoes. I was packing a few cute outfits, including a new pair of wedgie sandals, when I decided to throw in my sneakers (just in case). Well, I ended up wearing those sneakers and a pair of jeans the entire time. I must have walked twenty miles that weekend. The cute outfits and shoes I packed stayed in my suitcase.
Books are heavy. Next time bring the rolling suitcase instead of the shoulder tote and check it at the Javitt’s Center, not at the hotel on the East Side (especially when there were two parades going on that weekend).
Talk to more people. Full disclosure, I’m a bit of an introvert. Striking up conversations with strangers does not come easy to me; however, the few times I did work up the courage to talk to people I had a positive experience. I met indie writers just like me, excited to talk about their books. I must remind myself in these situations to make an effort to connect, to ask questions, and just relax.
Sign up early for workshops. I did manage to get into one workshop, which was great, but many of the events I was interested in sold out soon. This was a last minute trip for me so next year I’ll plan more carefully. There were a few things I missed just because I didn’t notice it on the schedule, like the Wattpad meet and greet. 😦
This was my first time ever attending any kind of CON, and I had such a good time I will probably be heading to the next Comic Con in my area. I found some horror comics at BookCon that I plan to devour on my living room sofa today. Happy reading!
I finally screwed my courage to the sticking place and started my BookTube/AuthorTube channel. I’m still working out the focus, lighting, audio, and awkwardness, but I started. I already have eighteen subs! Horrah! Watch, subscribe, like, and comment (if you feel like it).
While channel surfing last night looking for something “dumb but fun”, I was thrilled to see that The Craft had just started. I grabbed some popcorn (not really, I’m dieting) and sat back to enjoy one of my favorite teen flicks. Continue reading “Guilty Pleasures – The Craft”→