Turn out the lights, Trump and his bigoted bastards are about to burn this fucker to the ground. Goodbye America, it was nice knowing you.
It’s been almost one year since I posted on this blog, though I have been writing on others, and continuing to write in general. However, in honor of it almost being Halloween, I thought I’d share some trivia from one of my favorite horror franchises, Hellraiser.
First the title of this post, Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave, was the working title for the film before it was changed to Hellraiser. Speaking of names, the lead Cenobite is not actually named Pinhead – this was the name given to the character by the cast and crew, and it stuck, but the actual name of the character, as revealed in Clive Barker’s recent The Scarlet Gospels is Hell Priest. In addition, the Hell Priest’s human name, Elliott Spencer, is shared by both the real life spouse of comedian Stephen Fry and is also (spelled differently) a character from the TV show Leverage. No relation, of course!
The box in the movies is the Lament Configuration, also known as the Lemarchand Box. Lemarchand is an evil man who made his boxes (and other contraptions) out of human bone and fat under the direction of a Cenobite called the Baron according to Barker’s original novella, The Hellbound Heart, but he’s portrayed as nothing more than a pawn in the fourth film in the series, Hellraiser: Bloodlines. It’s this break from the established mythos that caused a lot of fans to dislike the fourth film. It also makes very little sense in the context of the other films, especially Hellraiser II: Hellbound, where many puzzle boxes are seen. If Lemarchand was merely a pawn who was killed soon after delivering the box, why are there more? Who made them, and why?
Speaking of bad continuations of the movies, the ninth film, Hellraiser: Revelations, was created not to really make any money but instead to simply hold onto film rights. It was shown in only one theater, and released on video. It’s the only Hellraiser movie without Douglas Bradley as the Hell Priest.
In terms of horror movie tropes, Kirsty from the first two movies is a perfect example of a “Final Girl”, the lone survivor that turns from victim to warrior by the end of the film. Tiffany, the puzzle solving young girl from the second movie, is also a “Final Girl”. Oddly, it’s clear that Tiffany was meant to be much younger than the actress chosen to play her, making Kirsty and Tiffany look like peers instead of Kirsty being much older and taking on the “motherly” role as intended.
Finally, as a little bit of trivia about the second film, there was a version that had a much larger role for Kirsty’s father. The movie hints at this, as Kirsty tries to find her father once she’s in the maze of hell, but instead runs into Frank. In the original script, she would have rescued her father and Tiffany, and they would have essentially been a family at the end, with the evil stepmother, Julia, becoming the new antagonist in a third sequel, but both the actor who played Kirsty’s father did not return and Julia’s actress did not want to make another sequel. In addition, “Pinhead” had become incredibly popular, and it was decided he would be the returning villain.
I don’t intend to discuss this much, but here are my thoughts on the current controversy known as #Gamergate.
#Gamergate, for those who haven’t heard of it, is a campaign being carried out by folks in the gaming community that is supposed to be about ethics in game journalism. On the opposite side are people who claim that the Gamergaters, or GG side, is at its core nothing but misogynists who want to bully and threaten women.
At first I didn’t know much of anything about the nascent Gamergate movement, a name coined by actor Adam Baldwin. What I did see were about five articles, all released on or about the same day at five different gaming sites, that essentially told me that all gamers were angry young white guys living in their moms’ basements and that “gaming culture” was so very, very over. The fact that all of the articles sounded very similar was fishy, and indeed there was a coordinated effort to write these. They were, I’d later learn, a reaction to the harassment some women had gotten at the hands of the GG trolls, but one first read they sounded like a manifesto by game journalists against their very audience, including me.
But when I first read the articles, I was angry. Some of them made the point that they weren’t talking about every gamer. They were, they claimed, using “gamer” as a catch all for the angry mod that was threatening these women with vile, disgusting postings on twitter and other internet sites. However, those “this probably doesn’t apply to you if you’re not a douchenozzle” warnings weren’t exactly front and center in the articles, and a couple were completely missing them. People have defended them as reactions, not meant to be attacks, but coming into it cold not knowing anything about this, they felt pretty damned much like attacks. More importantly, they instantly broke any trust I had in those sites – if they hated me, then why should I listen or believe them?
So I poked into the Gamergate propaganda, and it sounded legit. There was an indie game developer, Zoe Quinn, who supposedly slept with a reporter for a good review. Wow, that’s bad! It also didn’t actually happen, but I didn’t know that. It’s also alleged that she had a relationship with two or three judges in an independent game contest, where her game, which is a text based choose-your-own-adventure clone revolving around depression, won cash prizes. That part I still am not clear on, nor her involvement in sinking a feminist game contest she didn’t like…but the truth is, none of it matters. I really don’t care about indie games at all, and so what if she fucked her way to the top…lots of people do, and it’s none of my business. However, stung by the nasty articles and looking for a justification, these half-truths and lies sounded good.
Then there was Anita Sarkeesian, a webcaster who reviews games to show where they treat women badly. I can honestly say I disagree with a lot of her conclusions, especially when she said killing women in the most recent Hitman game was misogynistic…no mission requires you to do so, and you can kill the men too…so…huh? But that’s just someone expressing their opinion poorly. It again doesn’t really matter to me. She might be a money grubbing pundit looking to cash in, but who cares? So are a lot of people.
For the record, both Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian may be totally awesome folks. They seem like they could be, but I don’t know them personally. They may be terrible people. Truth is, it doesn’t matter…because they weren’t the problem in the first place.
Both Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian were attacked by GG folks. They had death and rape threats aimed at them and their family, had their contact info leaked to the public, and basically had their lives ruined. While I didn’t look past that, I did sort of counter it with the fact that it was only a small number of folks making those threats, they were being outted by GG supporters, and death threats on the internet are a dime a dozen. What didn’t occur to me is that the battling over these women had nothing to do with the gaming sites that had pissed me off in the first place.
Not, that is, until I did my own checking. Sure enough, Kotaku, the main site involved in the Zoe Quinn scandal, had posted that they reviewed their ethics policy, and yep, there were problems. They eliminated the policy that allowed journalists to donate to games they would later review, and made sure no reviewer with a personal connection to a game developer would review that developers games. Ok, cool…that’s the win GG should have been celebrating! Only they didn’t even acknowledge it. Nor did they acknowledge that after the initial salvo of “death of gamers” articles, most of the sites had walked back their comments some, sometimes grudgingly, and often while pointing to the threats some of the GG people were making, but they did indeed admit there were ethics problems, it probably did deserve a conversation, and yeah, they were probably kind of dicks for their onslaught of articles. Woo hoo, victory! We can all shake hands and get down to the work of discussing how ethical bias should or shouldn’t appear in gaming journalism, right?
Well…no. See, the GG side hasn’t even noticed that they have, in essence, won. They got the sites involved to admit that maybe it’s not such a good idea to have reporters in bed with developers…sometimes literally. And that maybe opinion pieces shouldn’t be posted as if they were facts. And maybe it’s ok to criticize a female pundit for her opinions without being labeled a misogynist just because you disagree with her. All of that ground’s been given up already. All that’s left is whether it’s ok to harass and threaten women for either making mistakes or speaking up about their opinions…and honestly that’s not something GG will win, because it’s NOT ok. It’s NEVER ok.
So my brief infatuation with GG died on the vine as I realized these folks were too stupid or too angry to see they had already won. No gaming site is going to dare publish pieces with a perceived conflict of interest now…the national media is all over this, and even they agree that there are issues with gaming journalism ethics. They usually admit it in a throw away sentence before diving into whatever fresh hell GG has unleashed on some women who doesn’t deserve it, but they HAVE admitted it. Well done, GG, you won! You got what you wanted! Now…stop. Seriously…stop. It’s over. The movement is just about hating women now, no matter how much you want to say it isn’t. Your goals were achieved, your victory declared grudgingly and piecemeal, but declared nonetheless. Let it go.
And that’s why I am opposed to Gamergate. They got done what needed to be done, but they just won’t or can’t see it through the rage. When you get media sources to concede your basic point, you’ve won. When the rest of the article is about how you’ve forced women to leave their homes in fear for their lives, you’ve lost.
Earlier today it was announced via a lovely video featuring Laura Palmer and the theme music that Twin Peaks will be returning to television after about 25 years.
The new series will air on Showtime and is currently nine episodes long, all written and directed by David Lynch and Mark Frost. We don’t know if any of the actors will return, but if you recall, in the original Twin Peaks Laura Palmer told Agent Cooper that she would see him in 25 years.
The new series is set to air in 2016.
Halloween 2014 is rapidly approaching, and this year I think it’s time I did the logical thing and cosplay as someone I actually look like…
…yes, I’m going to do my rendition of Kevin Smith as Silent Bob. Specifically, Silent Bob from Mallrats. I have the coat, shoes, shorts and shirt. I need a black baseball cap, which should be easy, and I think I’ll try to find a Batman gun just for the fun of having it as a prop so people will know which movie I’m cosplaying.
A friend of mine recently rekindled my love of Hellraiser, Clive Barker’s most well known creation. We’re still three years shy of the thirtieth anniversary, and there’s a remake in the works that Barker himself is involved in, but I just wanted to mention my absolute love for this film and its sequel, Hellraiser II, and explain what it is that makes me love this.
To be clear, I’m going to really only be talking about the original Hellraiser movie, not the sequels and not The Hellbound Heart, which was the inspiration for the movie.
Hellraiser is, in many ways, the perfect 80s horror movie. It has sex, monsters with personality, a young girl as the hero, and plenty of disturbing imagery. The 80s were, as I’ve mentioned before, a great era for horror films. There were so many new and original story ideas, and the Cenobites of Hellraiser were among the most original. They are neither evil nor good, but are “Explorers… in the further regions of experience. Demons to some, angels to others.” It’s no mistake that their outfits are clearly inspired by BDSM fetishwear. There is a completely sexual tone to their torments, the idea that when you go far enough, pain and pleasure are the same thing. And that is the best part of the Cenobites – they get into your head and mess with all the little gears and levers you’d rather no one knew about.
However, while I could probably write a book on how awesome the Cenobites are (and Pinhead in particular, or “Lead Cenobite” as he’s known in the movie’s credits), I want to talk instead about the real villain of the movie, Uncle Frank. Frank Cotton is literally the definition of a slimeball. Brother to Larry, he seduced and had sex with Larry’s fiance, Julia, the night before her wedding on top of her wedding dress! Now I’m not excusing Julia here, she is clearly also evil, but it’s at least implied that Frank came on very strongly and was at least a little bit threatening to her, going so far as to cut her chamois with his switchblade. Frank is, in fact, an incredibly selfish hedonist. He sought out the puzzle box because he had reached the limits of experience of earthly pleasures. Think about that for a second, and all the nasty, disgusting things Frank must have done before finally reaching the box.
Frank’s resurrection, facilitated by the blood of his brother, is one of the most disturbing movie scenes ever shot. Frank is left as monstrous on the outside as on the inside. There’s really no boundaries to his evil – he gets Julia to kill men for him, he even gets her to help kill Larry so he can have Larry’s skin, and he even tries to sexually assault Kirsty, his own niece (while pretending to be her dad!). He doesn’t even really care when he kills Julia, but then he never saw her as much more than a useful tool anyway.
Meanwhile, the average moviegoer is hiding their eyes when the Cenobites show up. While I can’t quite classify them as the heroes here – they do after all try to take Kirsty back to hell with them even after she made good on her part of the deal to get Frank back for them – they are still definitely not the villains. That’s Frank and Julia. That’s what I love about this film, the supposed bad guys, the scary folks in black leather with chains and blades, and the ones who ultimately save Kirsty from Frank and Julia. It’s an interesting look at how what you consider to be evil may not be, and it may not be anything you even understand at all.
It’s that Lovecraftian twist of the Cenobites, the way they simply can’t be comprehended by those who are not like them, and their desire to make more people like them, that appeals to me. There seems to be more to them, a layer under the surface, as if there are many dark secrets hidden within them that the movie only brushes against. What else does Pinhead know? What has he seen? What can he really do? These are left unanswered, even in the second film, and it’s my opinion they went too far in explaining Pinhead and the Cenobites in the horrible sequels that followed. Not knowing who they are, what they are about…that’s what makes the Cenobites so effective.They are a secret, a riddle, a…puzzle…
And we all know what happens when you go solving puzzles…
My high school, like most in the American Midwest, revolved around the seasons; not fall, winter, and spring, but rather football, basketball, and baseball. The high school sat on a plot of land donated to the school district, about three miles outside of town, one two low, flat hills. There was the football field beside the main building, a practice field behind that, and a baseball diamond built into the small valley between the hills. A practice baseball diamond, along with a fishing pond and a cross country track that literally ran through a forest across country, was located on the far back hilltop. The main football field and the baseball diamond were kept clean and well maintained – they were big money makers for the school, and both school funds and booster contributions kept them in perfect working condition.
The practice fields, however, were only given cursory cleanings and maintenance. The practice football field got a good rolling once a year, usually just before school started, and lines were marked off only once. The baseball practice field was maintained by the players themselves, who would sweep for rocks and mark the base lines with cans of white spray paint. The bases were shapeless canvas bags, covered in sewn up scars, that were kept in a locked shed near the field. The only permanent structures on the baseball practice field were the chain-link backstop and the two dugouts, which were little more than lean-tos with benches bolted into concrete bases. They often collected trash and dead leaves, and the groundskeepers only rarely blew out the detritus with their large leaf blowers.
Because the practice field sat at a higher elevation than the school itself, it was a perfect place for kids to sneak off to if they wanted to sneak a smoke or make out during school hours. There were well known hidden paths near the edge of the building where kids could stealthily slip away through the woods and up the hill to the upper field. The school administrators weren’t blind or stupid; they would send teachers to do quick sweeps during lunch time to catch any students on the hill, but the kids also knew that so long as there was a lookout, they would have plenty of warning that a teacher was headed up the gravel path to the practice field. After school, students were allowed to hang out on the hill all they wanted until six or seven o’clock, when the school was officially closed and all practices were over.
There were, as you would expect, two dugouts for the practice field. The one closest to the school, the home team dugout, faced roughly northward while the other, the visitor’s dugout, faced eastward. This meant the visitor’s dugout got very dark very quickly, especially in the fall when classes were just starting. Normally a dark, secluded place like that would be perfect for teenage groping sessions, but most kids left that dugout alone and congregated in the other or near the small set of bleachers that had been set up behind the backstop so people could watch the practices. Even during practice games, the team assigned to the visitor’s dugout would usually mill about or just barely stay within the dark enclosure.
One of my best friends was one the baseball team, and during our senior year I hung out a lot with him at the practice field. I didn’t have much else to do, and in the fall there were no scheduled practices, so it was just him testing his swing, or sometimes grabbing a pick-up game with some of the other kids after school. He’d been on the team for all four years, and one day while we were sitting in the bleachers doing homework, I asked him why no one liked the visitor’s dugout. I figured it must smell bad or maybe the bench was all punky and ready to collapse. A strange look crossed his face. “You mean you don’t know?” he asked. I shook my head.
He proceeded to tell me the tale of the visitor’s dugout, which I will relate to you. I want to be fair here – this was a story passed from student to student, and was nearly twenty years old when I first heard it, so there’s every possibility that the facts were distorted. I looked at our local library to corroborate some of the story, but never found anything. Then again, maybe I wouldn’t have, if the story is to be believed.
The story begins in 1971, about ten years after the school was first built. Back then, there was no fancy baseball diamond down in the valley, and the practice field was the only baseball field on school grounds. There had been, my friend claimed, larger bleachers and a concession stand back then, which had later been moved to the football field to serve as the visitor’s stands when the new diamond was built in the early 80s. The dugouts were about the same, though much cleaner and nicer. They were still the destination for high school lovebirds wanting to neck during school hours.
One particular set of lovebirds was Henry and Mable. Henry was eighteen, held back a year for poor grades, the son of a pig farmer and something of a troublemaker in town. Mable was thirteen, a freshman, and daughter of a sheriff’s deputy. Besides the obvious age difference, Henry and Mable also were from two very different worlds. He was a farm boy, she was a town girl. He liked to work on cars and race them on the back country roads, she was straight-A student and member of the student council. Something brought them together, though, and while they tried to keep their romance a secret, most of the kids in school apparently knew about it. They would sneak off to the baseball diamond almost every afternoon, and rumors started to float through the halls that they did a lot more than just make out in the visitor’s dugout. Someone claimed they found a used rubber up there after Henry and Mable had had a heavy petting session, and the news raced like wildfire through the school.
That’s when Mable’s father was made aware that his daughter was maybe doing something she shouldn’t with an eighteen year old boy. The deputy was called into the school by the vice principal, informed of the rumors, and then took his daughter home for the day to have a talk with her. She didn’t return to school for two weeks, at which point she returned with her left arm in a sling and the shadow of a rapidly fading bruise over her left eye. However, by then, far worse had happened to Henry.
The legend goes that the deputy took his daughter home that day, left her with her mother, and then returned to the school to have words with Henry. Word had reached the your lover that his girlfriend’s father was on his way to play a two-fisted melody on his face and it would be a good idea to be somewhere else. The only problem was, Henry hadn’t driven to school that day. His Mustang was in his dad’s barn, the engine pulled out waiting for Henry to make more modifications. He had ridden the bus to school and planned to ride it home, but he needed to hide out for a while until he could hopefully slip past the angry deputy and get safely home. It probably would have worked had Mable not spilled her guts out to her angry father on the drive home. The deputy knew exactly where to find the cowering Casanova.
The deputy found Henry at the visitor’s dugout. Maybe things wouldn’t have gotten out of hand if the deputy hadn’t made Henry empty his pockets, revealing a wrinkled condom wrapper. Maybe Henry could have talked his way out of it had he been a little smarter, or if the couple hadn’t been hiding their relationship so long, or if his hand hadn’t lingered too long on the large pocket knife he also had in his pocket. He tossed it aside, but the deputy had clearly read the simple equation Henry had run through his mind, and the red rage that filled his face exploded into violence. The deputy rushed Henry, grabbed the boy by the throat and began to beat his face in. Henry wasn’t a small young man by any account, but he was so stunned, so scared that the angry father was going to pull out his gun and shoot, that he just stood there for a moment taking the assault without uttering a word.
By the time Henry’s primal self-protection instincts kicked in, it was too late. The deputy slammed his head down against the edge of the bench and something inside the boy’s skull crunched sickly, like the sound of graham crackers breaking. He went limp as a rag doll, but it was several minutes more before the deputy realized the boy was dead. The red haze of rage fading from his eyes, Mable’s father was shocked to see the blood trickling from Henry’s nose, ears, and mouth. Knowing he’d just committed murder, the deputy quickly grabbed the discarded knife, carefully opened it without leaving finger prints, and pressed it into Henry’s hand. Then he withdrew his service pistol, thumbed back the trigger, and squeezed two rounds into the dead boy’s head, turning all evidence of the beating into little more than ground hamburger.
When school officials rushed out to see what happened, the deputy, shaken by what he’d done but having had time to rehearse his performance, claimed that Henry rushed at him with a knife drawn. He had killed the boy in self-defense, and his overall demeanor of regret was etched perfectly into his face. There’s no way to know, but I like to think that he really did regret killing the boy, and so perhaps it wasn’t all an act. Henry was buried three days later. Mable’s father wasn’t even investigated for the shooting, but he and his wife eventually moved away after Mable graduated.
Now, a story about the tragic slaying of a young man would already stigmatize the dugout, but it’s what started happening afterwards that made people avoid it. It seemed that Henry didn’t exactly know he was dead, and his spirit remained in the dugout, appearing as a bloody, raw-headed specter whenever two teenage lovers decided to use the secluded dugout for a tryst. He first appeared five years after his murder, by which point the story of Henry and Mable had passed into the sort of legend all schools harbor, shared from classmate to classmate in hushed whispers. When the ghost showed up, people began to believe the story was true.
The legend itself, I later learned, had different versions, including one where it was a jealous boyfriend of Mable who discovered she and Henry were having an affair and killed the boy, or perhaps it was the female teacher who had fallen in love with Henry and couldn’t live without him, so she killed him in the dugout after learning he favored Mable over her. In any case, the consistent factor in all the stories was that Henry had been killed in the dugout and his spirit continued to haunt it.
After my friend told me this story, I sat many afternoons watching the dugout, wondering if I could catch a glimpse of Henry’s ghost. I never did see him, but I did witness more than a few new students deciding the visitor’s dugout was a good place to hang out, only to leave soon afterward with pale looks and shivering shoulders. Eventually, a few years after I graduated, the school tore down the practice field, completely leveled it and built a brand new, much nicer field on top of it, with dugouts on completely different sides. I have to wonder if any kids who play first base, which is situated about where the old dugout had been, have ever had Henry stop by and say hello.