The Birth of Dark Discussions
By Philip Perron
If you miss your favorite ESPN show, go get it on a podcast. If you want to hear news from some of the biggest news agencies in the world, you can get it through a podcast and listen to it a day later. Podcasting has been a spectacular if not largely known medium that provides programming for those folks who prefer to listen to their favorite topics when they want and wherever they want.
Though satellite radio has been a great phenomenon where folks are able to listen to an eclectic mix of shows on books, movies, sports, news, finance, and even cooking, niche audiences still may not be fulfilled with what they really want to listen to. What about themes such as video games, gardening, or even something as specific as horror movies? This is where podcasting really has promise. Not only is it free, it requires nothing more than an audio digital device, a laptop, or even a smart phone.
As an avid fan of the arts, specifically books and movies, I was always visiting websites to read about the production of Martin Scorcese’s latest film or the progress of the next Stephen King novel. Then one day I came across an audio review on the film Cloverfield as well as an audio round table discussion about the film No Country for Old Men. Afterwards, I saw that these audio files were also being streamed from Apple’s iTune’s store for free.
Getting programs on my little iPod was a convenient way to listen to programs I wanted to listen to while doing my daily walks in the woods or working out or commuting to work. And with the wide variety of programming available I was able to search for shows discussing upcoming books and movies. And yet even more specifically books and movies within the horror and techno genres.
The interesting thing was that many of the podcasts I listened to were done by amateurs or simply people who did them for fun. Their shows were filled on topics they were passionate about. The discussions were probably the same ones they’d be talking about over a round of beers. They weren’t making any money, they weren’t making any inroads towards a more promising career, they were doing it simply because they loved talking about their focused topic.
Early 2011, I figured I could do it myself. While grabbing burgers with a few guys, I noticed our discussions focused around either sports or genre fiction which included horror, science fiction, fantasy, thriller, techno-thriller, and mystery. And having added a number of genre themed podcasts as part of my weekly listen to-do list, I did my research and started putting together the idea. What resulted was a genre themed topical podcast entitled Dark Discussions Podcast.
Finding two wonderful folks online through various genre themed forums, myself along with Eric Webster, of Ann Arbor, Michigan and Michael Dunleavy, of Port Jervis, New York came together and put together a weekly show on topics that anyone from the New England Horror Writer’s group would be familiar with. Not to be tagged as specifically horror, the tag line “Your place for the discussion of horror film, fiction, and all that’s fantastic” seemed to fit.
The podcast basically focused at first on themed discussions or specific movies. Topics such as a retrospective of the director and screenwriter Frank Darabont as well as the franchise of the Planet of the Apes were some of the early weekly episodes. But also films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and John Huston’s Moby Dick have been a focus. It’s true, we are no experts but our perspectives as fans of genre fiction were as well thought out as some of the genre websites and magazines available. And at the worst, we provide another voice on both obscure works and genre classics.
Some of the inventive ways the podcast has expanded were by being contacted by some folks for reviews and promotion. Horror Realm, a convention every September in Pittsburgh, emailed and offered the podcast passes to their convention. M.J. Preston, the author of The Equinox, asked if we’d be interested in a free copy of his novel to review. However, it was co-host Michael Dunleavy who really got it. While attending Horror Realm 2011 as press, he not only interviewed the film stars of some of horror fans favorite films, but he started interviewing the vendors and independent talent. What resulted was Dark Discussions Podcast helping out folks who need promotion of some really fantastic works that anyone who enjoys horror should know about.
This is where Dark Discussions Podcast in a sense merges with the NEHW group. After Horror Realm 2011, Dark Discussions contacted the folks at both the Rock and Shock and Anthocon conventions and received press passes to attend and promote their events. This is where our podcast became what some would call an unofficial promoter of the folks we met specifically at Anthocon and therefore NEHW. We interviewed such NEHW members as Charles Day, Gregory Norris, and Inanna Arthen. Small presses as Evil Jester Press and By Light Unseen Media, which had tables at Anthocon were also focused on.
So after a year and a half, the podcast keeps going. The listenership grows. And topics as wide ranging as modern novels as Scott Sigler’s Infected and independent cinema as Simon Rumley’s Red, White, and Blue are featured. As an inspiring writer, I know the work folks go through juggling their everyday lives with writing. With Horror Realm come and gone and Rock and Shock and Anthocon coming up, Dark Discussions looks forward to seeing everyone and helping you promote your new and wonderful works. As an inspiring writer, I know the work folks go through juggling their everyday lives with writing.
Life Lessons from Southfork
by Stacey Longo
I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve watched the new Dallas series. In fact, I got a sneak peek of the first seven episodes and wrote a review of the show (read it here!) See, my sister made me watch the old Dallas when I was about nine years old, and she must have made me keep watching it up until I was 18 and it went off the air. Seeing my old friends Bobby, Lucy, Ray, Sue Ellen, and J.R. on the new show made me realize how much I’ve missed them. So many of the life lessons I abide by today came from watching Dallas. For instance …
1. If you’re going to shoot someone, make sure they’re dead when you’re finished.
2. Sure, you can use your pretty face to marry money, but deep down, you’ll always be Digger Barnes’s daughter.
3. That little old lady may look sweet, but you don’t know if she’s bludgeoned her husband to death with a frozen leg of lamb, then cooked it up and served it to the police investigating the crime. (Wait. That might be a life lesson from Alfred Hitchcock.)
4. Don’t sleep with the hired help. That hot ranch hand might turn out to be your uncle.
5. It’s probably not a good idea to start getting drunk at 8 AM. But since I’m not married to J.R. Ewing, who am I to judge?
6. Sometimes, when you think your life has turned to crap, it actually all turns out to be a bad dream.
So take it from me: tune in to the latest antics of J.R., Bobby, and Sue Ellen. You just might learn something useful!
This entry originally appeared on author Stacey Longo’s website.
Horror Director Talks about His First Movie
by Jason Harris
England said that this is his version of “a backwoods slasher movie.”
“I wanted to do something that was faithful to all the films that had come before it, but also tries to stand on its own two feet.”
He drew inspiration from several different places, including things that had happened to him and from the local legends he was aware of in Arkansas, where he filmed Madison County.
The idea for England’s movie came to him when he was 14, he said. He wrote the script back in 2009 and the movie was released last year.
“The idea for Madison County had been sitting in my brain for years before I ever sat down to put it on paper.”
He is planning a follow-up to his $75,000 first movie, and this time he will give audiences more of prolific serial killer Damien Ewell’s history.
“I always planned for Madison County to be part of a much bigger picture. I don’t want to beat people over the head with exposition, but I’ll definitely hint at information about his origins,” England said about his movie.
His serial killer is not a supernatural being under that mask, he said.
“He’s 100 percent a human being. If you cut him, he bleeds. If you hit him with a shovel, he goes down. Under the pig head, he’s just a man.”
It took him under two years from the written word to filming. He had gone through almost 10 different producers and teams of producers before the finished product came to be.
“A lot of promises were made and never made good on, so I eventually went off and made a little experimental movie called Hostile Encounter in November of 2009.”
His experimental short inspired producer Daniel Dunn to find financing for film to make “a bigger film which was ultimately Madison County.”
There are many movies that have inspired England.
“My favorite movie of all time is Scream. I like a lot of really weird movies. Everything from The Sound of Music to Last House on the Left to American Pie. It’s hard to pinpoint where my brain gets inspiration from.”
Along with favorite movies, he has some favorite directors that include Alfred Hitchcock, Wes Craven, Quentin Tarantino, and David Fincher. He also likes Tim Burton’s older stuff.
He is currently working on a few projects, the Hitchcockian thriller Roadside and a psychological-horror-sex-thriller called Contracted. He also attached to direct a studio film, which he couldn’t talk about.
“I’m kind of a workaholic.”
This article also appears on the DVD Snapshot website. Click here to check out other interviews, dvd reviews, and contests.
VOYANTS: The Promise of Violence in Seeing and Being Seen
by Bracken MacLeod
What I apprehend immediately when I hear the branches crackling behind me is not that there is someone there; it is that I am vulnerable, that I have a body which can be hurt, that I occupy a place and that I cannot in any case escape from the space in which I am without defense—in short, that I am seen. – Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness
Every story I read or write involves a promise. It is the pledge that an author makes to the audience that they will be rewarded for their faith in the story. In romance, the promise is love. Mysteries guarantee the satisfaction of the unraveling of a puzzle. In horror, the promise that the writer makes to the reader is the he or she will evoke fear.
I understand the attraction of “subtle” and “atmospheric” tales; well done (and how I love them when they’re well done), they can produce a wholly satisfying sense of fearful dread. But I’d also say that even in atmospheric horror, the dread the reader feels is the result of the promise of what is being subtly revealed. And that pledge is exactly the same as it is for extreme horror. The deepest root of fear is the threat of violence. Just because someone doesn’t have whip welts on their back don’t think there hasn’t been violence. That is to say, all horror assures violence of some kind: physical, psychological, spiritual, etc. Without it, what have you got? A ghost isn’t scary merely because it is a ghost. Neither is a man holding a knife. Both must offer something to the reader to evoke fear.
To expand on an example given by Alfred Hitchcock, a bomb underneath a table is more terrifying if the people in the café carry on their conversations unaware of its presence while we, the viewers, know it is there. But the bomb is only frightening in the first place if three conditions are met. First, we must understand the underlying concept of a bomb. Since most of us possess an understanding of a bomb’s only purpose (destruction), we can leap into the conceptual future and imagine the result of the ticking timer reaching zero. The second condition is the story-teller’s willingness to make us believe that the device might actually go off. If we know the bomb’s a dud or the hero will always defuse it at the last second, it is simply not scary. Finally, and most importantly, is our ability to put ourselves in the place of people in that setting—to be present at the table with violence and death. Fear exists is the moment of transformation from the known to the lived—bridging the gulf between academically understanding danger exists and being in danger. Thus, the sine qua non of good horror, as I see it, is the transformation of the reader from subject (i.e., conscious observer) to object (i.e., victim).
In a horror story we want the babysitter to hide because we are vicariously experiencing events from her perspective. As long as she remains an observer hidden from view behind slatted closet doors, the tension dissipates and we relax. Until she is discovered. The scariest scene to me in John Carpenter’s Halloween (to stray again from the written word for a moment) is when Laurie Strode believes she has defeated the Shape and collapses in the doorway of the bedroom from which she has just escaped. Behind her, perfectly silent, Michael Myers sits up and turns his head toward her … and keeps going all the way toward us. In this subtle breaking of the fourth wall, Carpenter assures us that being seen is the onset of violence.
Let me give a more concrete example. My wife and I are what I like to call shoe-leather tourists. That is, we like to see the cities we visit on foot, moving between neighborhoods without mediating our experience from behind the barrier of a cab or a rental car window. On a trip several years ago to Salvador, Bahia (Brazil), however, we were told that we could we not walk the neighborhoods between the hotel and the historic district without endangering ourselves. The hotel concierge assured us also, once at our destination, that we should stay on the main thoroughfares. As long as we could see shop signs, he explained, we were reasonably safe. Wander down a side street, however, and we would again be taking unnecessary risks with our well-being.
Taking his advice, we stuck to the main streets. But it is impossible to move in a city without at least passing those side streets. And it’s just as impossible (for us, anyway) not to look up them, curious what wonders or terrors await. Passing by a narrow alley in Cidade Alta, the Upper City, we paused. Half way down the alley, three men vigorously kicked and beat a fourth who lay motionless on the ground. It was a sobering experience until one of the men administering the thrashing looked up from the object of his wrath and made eye contact with me. Then the promise was made and it became a terrifying experience as I became an object in the gaze of another.
Reflecting upon that moment, I came to understand in a visceral way (the known becoming the lived) the existential horror of a shift of perception. Years later and thousands of miles away, those men are still present with me. I’d had a direct experience dreading the shifting gaze of The Other. What was scariest about Salvador wasn’t its reputation for violence, but rather the actual in-context promise of it. The difference between being and not being a body in an alley for me was merely a matter of shifting observations and the promise of what may follow upon.
That experience, has helped me truly understand the blurring of lines between the observer and the observed and between voyeurism and engagement. Emotional and psychological detachment from someone else’s suffering—what Michel Foucault would call the “medical gaze,” the dehumanizing separation of the patient’s body from the patient’s identity—is anathema to good story telling and the frequent problem with all bad story-telling, extreme or atmospheric horror or in between. The beating heart of fear is found at the point where the wall between knowing and experiencing comes crashing down, leaving the observer exposed.
And it all begins with a look. I promise.
 The observer who identifies with the monster is either missing the point or is in it for a different kind of titillation.
 To finish the tale, we fled and found a sympathetic policeman with a smattering of English (not an easy task on either count) as quickly as we could, doing our best to describe what we saw and where we saw it before going on with our vacation.