Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sweets For The Sweet

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Candyman is a classy guy. A real gentleman. This brutal killer doesn’t get enough credit. It just goes to show that women really do prefer bad boys.
 

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Candyman (1992) was adapted from a short story called “The Forbidden” by horror master Clive Barker. Barker himself, and Director Bernard Rose brought the terrifying story of The Candyman to audiences with no intention of allowing him to fall victim to the tropes of horror films from decades past. There is very little about this film that can be considered exploitative, especially of women. That doesn’t mean he’s any less seductive, playing with Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) like a puppet before dragging her into an eternity of damnation. Candyman is a decidedly cerebral horror film, playing on themes of poverty, fate, the caste system, hate crimes, psychosis, and revenge. And the legendary Tony Todd as the man behind the hook can’t be described as anything other than epic.

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Candyman was Daniel Robitaille, the son of a slave who fell in love with a white woman and impregnated her. As punishment, her father and the townspeople cut off his hand and slathered him with honey from a beehive chanting, “Candyman,” as the bees swarmed over him. He was stung and bled to death. Now, if you stand before a mirror and call his name 5 times, The Candyman will appear and murder you with his hook for a hand in an eternal state of vengeance for the crime committed against him.

Helen Lyle is doing her thesis on urban legends and focuses on the story of The Candyman, perpetuated in the Cabrini-Green housing development in Chicago. More stupid than brave, she and her friend enter the Cabrini to ask questions and investigate the apartment of suspected Candyman victim, Ruthie Jean.

Now, here’s where I get to toy with your emotions, my little Horrorland heathens…
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The Cabrini-Green is real, and its body count is higher than all of your favorite slashers combined. That spot of land has a higher murder rate per square inch than the entire country. Is it supernatural? Is it The Candyman? Or were the people living in the squalor of the housing development that Chicago forgot, justifying the horror of their daily lives? Exterior and hallway scenes for Candyman were actually filmed on location at Cabrini-Green (finally demolished in 2010). Rose and Barker had to work out a deal with lead gang members, putting some of them in the film, to insure the safety of the cast and crew. This might be one of the reasons first choices for Candyman and Helen, Eddie Murphy and Sandra Bullock, passed. Pussies. It’s just as well. On the final day of filming, a sniper shot one of the production vans, essentially as a nice reminder never to come back. Point taken.

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Further contributing to that heavy feeling in your stomach right now, let me share with you, the story of Ruthie Mae McCoy. Ruthie was an older woman in her fifties, looking forward to finally being able to escape the Cabrini and live in nicer digs. But someone came in through the bathroom cabinet and murdered her. Police were called, but did not break the door down until two days later. Exactly why is unclear. They may have had no legitimate reason to. They may have been following orders. They may have been acutely aware that they were outnumbered in the Cabrini-Green. What was interesting about the murder was the method of entry. You see, old buildings like that one tended to have “pipe chases.” Intended for easy access to the pipes in the wall between adjacent apartment’s bathrooms, you could pop the medicine cabinets off and move between the two apartments and sometimes even go up or down to others. I don’t think they realized that as the Chicago Housing Authority thought they had bigger fish to fry, the Cabrini sank deep into the thralls of poverty and crime, forcing the unfortunate tenants to raise children in an essentially “animalistic” environment. You worried about those who were bigger and stronger and paid no mind to the weak. It was every man and woman for themselves.

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The answer is yes, you remember correctly. Two characters in Candyman share a name with Ruthie Mae McCoy: Ruthie Jean, the murder victim whose medicine cabinet Helen crawls through to investigate the stomping grounds of The Candyman urban legend; and Anne-Marie McCoy (played by Vanessa Williams of Melrose Place fame) whose child and guard dog fall victim to Candyman’s twisted game of cat and mouse with Helen. Don’t believe me? An eerily similar article to the one featured as Helen’s research in the film can be found here. And another interesting read on the subject can be found riiiiight here. Got the chills yet? Well, knock it off. Take your dress off and end your little tea party. That’s real horror. That’s when your world and ours intertwine and trust me, you don’t want to be there when it happens. People actually lived in those places never knowing if they’d make it out. And I have no doubt in my mind that such a terrifying existence still exists to this day in every major city around the world. You just don’t hear about it.

Is The Candyman a myth perpetrated by the people who live in such horror so that man’s inhumanity to man could be explained by a supernatural force of evil much greater than any man? Or was it a way of minimizing the evil of man himself? A way to cope with the egregious horror outside one’s door… by imagining a fate worse than anything seen on the nightly news (or in most of these cases, omitted from the nightly news)?

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Candyman feeds off of that belief. So when Helen’s research/stupidity leads her to a bathroom that resembles one you might encounter in a Topeka Texaco, she’s brutally attacked by a gang member increasing his street cred by calling himself Candyman. She’s lucky. She lives to identify her attacker in a lineup, further adding to her skepticism and feeding her ability to completely discredit the urban legend of The Candyman in her thesis. Big mistake, honey.
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Now you have to answer to the real thing. But Candyman is no savage. Rather than slice and dice the skeptic to revive his legend, he seduces her. And my least favorite trick of the light in film noir is so overused when this happens that my eyes got sore from rolling so much. A dreamlike swoon comes over the actress as a slit in a non-existent blind highlights only her eyes. Ugh. Deliver me from Dick Tracy. Is this Body of Evidence or what? But I digress…

I’m willing to overlook the cheesy noir in light of the integrity that Candyman offers the horror genre by ascending the clichés and exploitation in favor of subtle seduction and thought provoking themes; all while delivering all the fright and gore a horror hound desires. Candyman is a film with an air of oddity surrounding its genesis and filming, guaranteed to give you a sense of dread not only from viewing it, but if you dare to delve a little deeper into it. That’s the kind of horror that stays with you.
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It’s not about sex, it’s about connection. It’s not a rape fantasy, but it is no less violating. Candyman uses Helen. He destroys her from the inside out to where even if she can escape, there will be no rest for her. And no future. Candyman manipulates the world in which he does not exist; a quiet, refined ghost haunting the tortured souls of the living. Tony Todd is one of the most underrated actors in existence and it’s a shame that the two sequels spawned from the original Candyman were not handled with the same intelligence because he is the only reason to give them the smallest modicum of your attention. Perhaps that is the only good thing about the resurgence of remakes, prequels, and sequels that give no matter to the origins… maybe Candyman will continue. Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary. And I declare that it would be downright blasphemy for anyone other than Todd to don the hook.

As a teenager, before I fell further down the rabbit hole, Candyman was my least favorite slasher. It made me so uncomfortable and after feasting my eyes on all the greats like Freddy, Jason, and Ghostface, The Candyman bored me. However, as I’ve grown into my big girl machete, I’ve made a point to revisit a few of those “snooze-fests.” This one, especially, makes me oh so proud.


 

Sinister sweets to you,

Malice

Monday, August 18, 2014

One Grave Mistake

Hey there, Horrorland Honeys!

You know what I love more than gore? Fear. Mmmmm… Oh, there’s nothing like it in the universe. You love it, too. You know you do. You wouldn’t be alive without it. It’s part of your survival instinct. Embrace it. Use it. Get a kick out of it. Read a ghost story or watch footage of ghosts on YouTube before bed. I dare you. It’s a thrill.

I also love to see those small, low-budget and/or independent horror films-that-could utilizing this most primal of emotions become box office hits and cult favorites. And they do it without all the fan fare of big studio budgets and egotistical stars. If that doesn’t illustrate the power of fear, well I don’t know what does.

In the vein of The Blair Witch Project, I present to you Grave Encounters (2011).

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Blair Witch awakened a trend in the genre that is still going strong. The reason is most likely because horror is most effective when the line between fact and fiction is blurred. Yes, I’m sure you there in Wonderland are perfectly capable of deciphering that the spectral figures in a perpetual state of “O face” of Grave Encounters are pure smoke and mirrors. But a writer and filmmaker’s greatest asset is the ability to pull you in, even if only for the moment. It’s definitely a test of your imagination’s limits.

I got a serious kick out of Grave Encounters. No, it’s nothing new. It is recycled and hopelessly derivative of millennial horror. But the imagery and atmosphere as you follow a reality TV crew into an abandoned insane asylum is highly effective.GRAVEENCOUNTERS (3)
If you’ve ever seen an episode of Ghost Hunters, you know how watching 10 hours of footage of a deserted hallway can be more tense than the climactic scene of any Stallone action flick, hands down. How even the slightest sign of something awry can send your imagination into a tailspin and your heart straight up to your throat.

Slightly more visual than Blair Witch, Grave Encounters actually produces some creatures of the night for you to feast your eyes on, coupled with a healthy amount of jump scares. The acting is decent. The story is simple, but solid. I might not have even noticed if the acting sucked because I was too busy looking behind them into the dark corners of the Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital for something that was inevitably going to cause incontinence in the audience members at any moment. By the way, the location, characters, and reality TV show depicted in the film are entirely fictional. Remember that little tidbit, we’re gonna laugh about how it was all skewed for the sake of a sub-par twist later.

First, let’s familiarize ourselves with the men behind the O Face Ghosts: The Vicious Brothers. These guys are making some big promises to me simply by using that moniker. They are Colin Minihan and Stuart Oritz; Canadian-born filmmakers who, thus far, only have three films to their credit: Grave Encounters (2011), Grave Encounters 2 (2012), and Extraterrestrial (2014). I have not seen the latter, but I will. I’m skeptical. Grave Encounters 2 and their haircuts make it difficult to take them seriously.

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But I digress… I can’t find much on these guys right now, so we’ll reserve judgment as they continue to make contributions to Horrorland. The Vicious Brothers wrote and directed Grave Encounters which opened at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 22nd, 2011 to mixed reviews. This makes perfect sense to me. This is one of those movies that, if it were one of the first of its kind, would have been met with accolades. Its shortcomings (to me) is the fact that it is something like the 100th found footage horror movie to come out since the late 90s and doesn’t have the budget or star power to muscle its way through the masses. Also, I’m sorry, it’s the writing that is holding it back. The dialogue is trite and it, of course, had to have the required “get the camera out of my face, I’m so stressed out right now” fights. Laced with “omg, so-and-so is dead I can’t believe you’re still filming” moments. Of course, the best way to avoid these clichés is to avoid the found-footage premise in the first place. But for the sake of enjoyment for our beloved genre, let’s look at it this way: I’ve wanted to see a flick about ghost hunters on a hunt gone wrong for years and this delivered. Period. I could sit here and pick it apart technically, but what fun would that be? No, I just snuffed out all the lights, sat back in my throne and prepared to be made extremely uncomfortable in my own land.

And that’s the point, isn’t it? Even for you there, in Wonderland. Why do you watch scary movies if not to go where few dare to tread? The magic of haunting films is in the imagery. Even a disbeliever can’t take their eyes off of a creepy and unsettling image of a little girl brushing her hair on the bed of an abandoned asylum. That’s the stuff that sticks with you when it’s time to turn the lights off at night.

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So it’s unfortunate that the cult success of Grave Encounters led to the overblown Grave Encounters 2 (2012). This was your one grave mistake, guys. I don’t know if they were trying to ride the coat tails of the king of twists, Leigh Whannell, or if they were merely trying to follow the rules of the sequel stated by Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) in Scream 2, but this was just an absolute fail. And needless, at that. However, it is not always the creators of these decent genre pieces that want to build a franchise, but rather the studio heads who just smell profit. The theme of the heartless studio exec was indeed the key to the premise behind the second encounter.

With the cult success of the first film, the second begins with a smattering of YouTube horror junkies and their reviews of the first film. The final one being Alex, an aspiring filmmaker looking to uncover the conspiracy behind the first film. Here is where they take the solid story of the first film and try to convince you that the actors have gone missing for ten years. The actors. Not the characters in the first film. The actors. Okay, so if the whole thing was real, then how did you get the footage because that place swallowed those people whole? And how did no one find the soul survivor  that our new group of documentary filmmakers just happen to stumble upon? This is asinine. And it’s forced. You just poked a thousand holes in your halfway decent foray into the genre. See now look what you’ve done? You’ve gone and made Malice of Horrorland question your worth. And we were off to such a good start. Tragic.

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The only reason to spend a couple hours of your time watching the follow up to the original Grave Encounters is, again, the imagery. This one also, in true sequel fashion, offers up more blood and more gore. It won’t challenge your imagination, by any stretch, but it will challenge your critical thinking skills as you try to make sense of why they thought this would be a worthy successor.

In the meantime, I’ve put The Vicious Brothers on my list of horror hounds not to trust and only time will tell if they will live up to their handle.

 

Yours Gravely,

Malice

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Evil Cannot Be Purged

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The Purge is one of the most interesting, limitless, and thought-provoking concepts I’ve seen in American horror, as of late. So, is it really necessary to slather on the anti-American rhetoric? No. It really isn’t.

Horror always has been and always will be a genre of social commentary. Every movie, especially horror, is a product of the times in which it is created. This is a blessing and a curse. The blessing comes in the form of escapism and discussion. The curse comes in the form of filmmakers using it as a platform to spoon-feed their political beliefs to the masses. Upon viewing the first Purge film, I threw a tantrum of epic proportions that could very well have ended up on YouTube if my colleagues had their camera phones on hand at the time.

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I felt so unbelievably cheated. I mean let’s face it, horror is in the middle of a dry spell as far as the mainstream goes right now. And for someone like myself, who loves sitting alone in a dark theatre getting scared out of my wits, The Purge marketed itself as sweet release. But what it delivered was not even plausible deniability. *SPOILER ALERT* I’m sorry, but if you came into our house, killed my father, and held guns to mine and my little brother’s heads, my mother would END you. And she’s a hippie. She is a straight-up, liberal, peace-loving child of the sixties, and you would not be having tea and waiting out the night without any further violence if it were up to her at that point. You blew it. Now, I could get nit-picky about the first film and start pointing out every little hole in the plot and every extremely obvious plot device (Why does that kid feel the need to build creepy baby machines and measure his heart rate? Well, because we’re going to need the baby machine to scope shit out later and then we’re going to need to listen while dad’s heart stops beating, of course.), but if there’s one thing I’m not, it’s a “hater.” Nor am I a critic, okay, I’m Malice of Horrorland, bitch. I LOVE this shit good or bad. Instead, I’d like to point out one very important aspect of great horror filmmaking:

Subtlety.

Yes, I know, “subtlety” isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind when thinking of the horror genre. Allow me to elaborate…

night-of-the-living-dead-meathook George Romero, the Godfather of the Dead, made his name in the genre by pointing out the error in our ways, but doing so by telling a story without being preachy. Night of the Living Dead (1968) depicted the tragedy and hysteria of the Viet Nam generation. Not only that, but he put a black man in the lead (gasp!) and that man fought tooth and nail to survive the night, only to be shot in the head, dragged by meat hooks out into a pile of zombies, and burned by a lynch-mob/rescue team of red necks and government officials. WTF, right?

Dawn of the Dead (1978) is set in the capital of modern consumerism – the mall. Our survivors think they’ll have everything they’ll ever need and will defend their palace of materialism to the death, until it becomes clear that they are prisoners anyway. And the hordes of zombies overtaking the mall are none other than us doing what we do best… consuming.

Day of the Dead depicted the Military Industrial Complex, the fear that the government will stop at no end to control the uncontrollable. Domesticate us. Even when we become flesh-eating zombies.

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Land of the Dead (2005) was a clear statement on class war and the motives of the rich vs. the poor while making a very good case as to why fireworks should be legal.

Diary of the Dead (2007) shows the difficulty of taking a good “selfie” and maintaining your Facebook during the zombie apocalypse whilst daring to ask the question, Is the internet a blessing or a curse in the event of the zombie apocalypse? I don’t know, but the only legitimate reason I can think of to start a FourSquare account is the minute possibility that it can be used by my friends and family to locate my ass when shit goes down. Other than that, it’s just really a mystery to me why you think I’d give two shits where you had lunch.

Survival of the Dead (2009) tackles the same subject matter as the second season of The Walking Dead where survivors argue the humanity of the dead and whether they should be kept “alive” in case of cure. Hope vs. Despair. A very potent concept, and one that leaves me slightly confused as to why Romero called TWD a zombie “soap opera” considering the similarity of the subject matter. But I digress…

When comparing the level of social commentary of the Dead films to that of James DeMonaco’s The Purge and The Purge: Anarchy, I can’t help but say, “Hey man, slow your roll. I’m not an idiot. I see what you’re saying. I think you’re wrong. But I see what you’re saying.” A little goes a long way, but Mr. DeMonaco seems to lace almost every single line in every single scene with political sermon and anti-“conservative” viewpoints.

Ugh.

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God, this is such a great concept for a horror movie. For a franchise, even. The possibilities are endless. The situations that characters could potentially find themselves in, the violence, the gore, the pure, unadulterated evil and triumph that potentially lies at the core of the human spirit in this situation. LAWD, this is the kind of idea that horror writers kick themselves for not thinking of first. These movies are undeniably a product of the times. Wonderland is beginning to resemble Horrorland more and more these days. It’s a scary world out there. In America, alone, you literally can’t even go see a movie in a multiplex without wondering of some psychopath is going to come in, guns blazing. The times, they are a-changin’. However, the blame for a modern society completely incapable of having productive conversations without coming to blows and name-calling cannot be laid solely on any one political party, weapon, state, race, sexuality, amendment, or person. I’m sorry, it just can’t. You’re all experiencing what we here in Horrorland feed off of, and that is hysteria. All logical thought is ceased and information is measured only by how it serves the individual’s agenda. You’re sitting ducks.

So it’s not entirely unheard of for someone to raise the question: What if one night a year, all of America were to participate in a PURGE? All crime, including murder, is legal for 12 hours so that people can just get that toxic shit out of their systems if they so desire. The films present the possibility of the American utopia that “liberals” often lament of at the price of one night of debauchery.

The films are set in the not-so-distant future – the  first in 2022, and Anarchy the following year, 2023.

Unemployment is at 1%. Crime is at an all-time low. Violence barely exists. With one exception…

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In The Purge, Ethan Hawke is James Sandin, a dealer of expensive security systems designed to keep well-to-do families safe and sound during the annual Purge. As he, his wife, and their two children hunker down to prepare for what I imagine must be the longest night of the year, they see a few of their neighbors preparing weapons and getting ready to cleanse their souls of evil for the year ahead. Or so that seems to be the propaganda that is being set forth by the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA). Now, here’s where we take a nice obvious jab at the NRA and its mostly conservative members.

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Yes, because being patriotic clearly means you lust for blood all day every day. Alright, it’s whatever. Moving on, and making a long story short, the family featured in this film have a strong set of values that makes it difficult for them to understand why anyone would feel the need to participate in such a barbaric act of animalistic rage as the annual Purge. This right here… these characters and their difficult, yet normal, if not slightly sheltered lives provide the perfect yin to the Purge’s yang. Honestly, I feel like the storyline involving the government could and should remain in the peripheral for this adventure, but that’s just me.

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The family finds themselves the target of a sadistic group of clean-cut, ivy league psychopaths when James's young son disables their impressive security system to let in a pleading man with nowhere to hide. And now we all have to wonder; can this man be trusted… and should they throw him to the wolves to save themselves?

Fantastic!

This is the stuff of good horror.  

And besides that, it’s rare that a home-invasion film has such a complex and interesting concept behind it. It’s usually the opposite (The Strangers, 2008, “because you were home”; You’re Next, 2011, bored rich kids).

The horror community’s biggest complaint regarding the first film was that it was set in a single family home on a night when America in its entirety becomes a war zone. Yeah, I was extremely curious, myself. Visions of death and destruction on an astronomical level danced in my head. This concept is a writer’s wet dream.

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Enter The Purge: Anarchy.

For this year’s annual Purge, we’ll be joining a foursome of innocent folk just trying to survive the night and their guardian angel, a nameless police sergeant whose original plan was to exact revenge on the man who killed his son in a drunk driving accident.

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This is a very solid, well-done film in the style of Mad Max or perhaps, Escape From New York. Calm your tits, fright fans, I’m not putting it in the same category of cult fame, but I see where some of the production crew was getting their inspiration and it served them well. The film, like its predecessor, starts with no violence. Just a looming sense of dread and morbid curiosity. It isn’t until the lovely young couple’s car craps out and the Purge commences that we are met with some truly terrifying imagery. Terrifying because it could have been ripped from the pages of your morning newspaper.

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However, despite the solid story and interesting characters facing some very serious shit, the focus is still on spoon-feeding the writer/director James DeMonaco’s political platform. I have no problem with a violent movie that has an unmistakable anti-violence message. That’s like, half my collection. But it became so in-your-face preachy that I actually hurt my eyes from rolling them so far back into my head a couple of times.

The second installment of The Purge brings forth the agenda of the NFFA (the government) to use the Purge to target and murder the poor. Now, I see what you did there, you created a big bad for these two films to now become a franchise. I don’t buy it. You could have done that without the “government and guns are evil” storyline. I get it, okay? I don’t need the huge semi trucks and swat teams to see what you’re getting at.

Now, every good villain needs an equally strong hero, right? Why are you thinking about the Sergeant? No, forget about him. He and the other Purge cast-outs are merely pawns in the director’s game of Risk. No, we have to add a group of radicals screaming for the blood of the government officials behind this to be spilled on this night. Because what they’re doing is wrong… So kill them. Are you still with me? Are your eyes stuck in the back of your head yet?

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Well, there’s more…

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The 1% is purchasing poor people so that they can participate in the Purge without getting their designer duds dirty.

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Okay, now you’re just copying Hostel. Can we get back to the good stuff?

The good news is, we do finally get back to our core group of survivors and this is what makes the whole thing worth it. I’m not going to spoil it because I want you to see this film. However redundant the political commentary, I love a good thought-provoking film.

I do want to leave you with one sure thing, and don’t let anyone lie to you about this:

Evil is an ever-present part of your life. It cannot be “purged.” Utopia would not even be possible without the presence of Dystopia. Keep a healthy perspective when debating others. They might not be as peaceful as you are…


Love and Screams,

Malice of Horrorland

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

We Don’t Rattle

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What was once an exercise in editing is now one of a few things that actually frightened Stephen King. In his insightful book regarding the craft, On Writing, Stephen started writing the tale of 1408 with no intention of finishing it. It was merely supposed to serve the purpose of illustrating the evolution of a first draft. That is, until it took on a life of its own, as so many of King’s best work has.

In its finished form, 1408 became part of an audio collection entitled Blood and Smoke. If you get a chance to listen to this version, I highly recommend doing so in a populated and well-lit area mid-day if you have a heart condition. If not, don’t be such a bore.
The genesis of 1408, from the author’s introduction in the collection Everything’s Eventual:
I think that what scares us varies widely from one individual to the next (I’ve never been able to understand why Peruvian boomslangs give some people the creeps, for example), but this story scared me while I was working on it. But hotel rooms are just naturally creepy places, don’t you think? I mean, how many people have slept in that bed before you? How many of them were sick? How many were losing their minds? How many were perhaps thinking about reading a few final verses from the Bible in the drawer of the nightstand beside them and then hanging themselves in the closet beside the TV? Brrrr. In any case, let’s check in, shall we? Here’s your key…and you might take time to notice what those four innocent numbers add up to.
It’s just down the hall.”   
-Stephen King, Everything’s Eventual

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Mike Enslin is a writer known for chasing the supernatural. What his books don’t reveal is the fact that the man behind them does not believe a word of it. An admirable trait, I suppose, and one that allows him comfort in the most uncomfortable places. That is, until he enters room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel. Having opened in 1910, the hotel is rich in history. The history of room 1408, however, has been kept under tight enough wraps that it took a truly persistent researcher to unearth it. Mike Enslin is that man.

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The most intriguing part of the story, written or on the silver screen, is the futile attempt of Olin, the sophisticated hotelier and manager of the Dolphin, to dissuade Enslin from setting foot in the room which he has kept under lock and key since 1979 in an attempt to put an end to the inexplicable string of deaths, natural and otherwise. Would you, yourself, be persuaded not to stay in the room with a speech and plea as convincing as Olin’s that it almost feels as if Hitchcock himself is entertaining you with fiction? I wouldn’t. But I don't rattle. Enslin has his own suspicions regarding Olin’s motives and stands his ground… He will be spending the night in 1408.

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Here is where Stephen King’s short story and Mikael Håfström’s film take off in separate directions down the same road to madness.

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King’s story is a relentless razzing of your senses, hitting even before Enslin opens the door to room 1408. As you read, your body will tense, your eyes will dry out, vertigo sets in, the temperature will rise and fall, you will no doubt find yourself reading aloud or at the very least mouthing the evil taunt of the room, “This is nine! Nine! This is nine! Nine! This is ten! Ten! We have killed your friends! Every friend is now dead! This is six! Six!” And you will lose sleep, inevitably haunted by the sound of a man unraveling through erratic, fractured entries on a tape recorder.

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The film, however, is a slow burn. No less effective, and a hundred times more personal. In it, we are privy to a smattering of insights into Mike Enslin’s past and the root of his disbelief in the supernatural, or any force unseen capable of determining one’s fate. Most notable is the death of his daughter at a very young age and the demise of his happy marriage. Secondary is a vague, but obvious strained relationship between Mike and his dead father. No one has lasted longer than an hour in room 1408, as it pokes and prods at you, unearthing all the worst in you; the people and events you would rather forget. Escape becomes your number one goal. However, your options are limited.

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Is there an evil force within the walls of 1408? Or does the only evil come from within?

These are questions even King cannot and will not answer.

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You will never feel the same in a hotel room ever again.


Let’s test this theory, shall we? I invite you to stay a night in one of my favorite haunting grounds.



The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa sits in the heart of Denver, Colorado where it has operated daily since it opened in 1892. I spent some time there as the friendly voice on the other end of that phone.

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The luxury hotel is a favorite of celebrities, politicians, socialites, royals, and tortured souls seeking a place in it’s deeply rooted history. Take the tour… the nicely done, if slightly abridged tours are held Wednesdays and Saturdays. Check the website for dates and times. I say slightly abridged because there is one guest you will never hear of on a tour of the hotel.

Mrs. Louise Crawford Hill was once the queen of Denver’s social scene. Married, but rumored to be seeing a man ten years her junior, she lived on the 9th floor. Her husband died and the expectation was that she would remarry her true love, the younger man. But he ran off with a girl ten years his junior and Mrs. Louise Crawford Hill became a recluse in the Brown until her death in 1955. But that wasn’t the last we heard from Mrs. Hill. We received calls from her room, but all that could be heard was static. Renovations in her room would have rendered the line unusable in the first place. The calls continued until the tale of Mrs. Hill was dropped from the tour itinerary. I guess this was one socialite tired of hearing her name on the lips of gossips.

Her room was 904.

“…and you might take time to notice what those four innocent numbers add up to.”

This is only one of the many stories I learned of; and the many phenomena I experienced first hand in my time at this historic hotel. I simply loved listening to countless numbers of guests on the other end of that phone pleading with me for explanations as they tried to make heads or tails of the sound of children playing in the empty hallways just beyond their hotel room door in the wee hours of the morning.

Think you can handle it?



This is Horrorland. We don’t rattle.




Love & Screams,

Malice