Christmas Shopping Horrors

Sorry, I have been so erratic lately but, once the REF was gone, Christmas appeared right around the corner! However, despite its stresses and strains, this year’s season of good-tidings has proved fascinating, horror-wise.

I’m not saying that I am now cool or anything, but, Great God, kids have changed. This year, when I asked friends and family what their kids wanted for Christmas, the responses that I got were repeatedly about things that harked back to my own (and once unpopular) fannish enthusiasms.

Most kids today, it seems, are into The Hunger Games, which looks pretty much like 1970s exploitation films (and their more mainstream Hollywood companions). In a futuristic world, kids are forced to battle it out TO THE DEATH as part of some evil, mass-mediated form of social control. It is part Death Race 2000, part Rollerball, part … well, part quite a lot of 1970s dystopian science fiction/horror.

In addition, many kids also seem to be into material that one friend summed up quite nicely with the phrase, ‘Gothic light’. For some of you, this term might summon up the terrible vision of Twilight, and certainly my niece, who is around ten says that this is her favorite book. However, not only is Twilight subject to quite unfair and completely contradictory criticisms (see my article and other pieces in a new collection on the subject) but there is a lot more to ‘Gothic light’, which sort of puts Twillight in a quite different light.

I had wanted to get one kid a copy of Eerie, Indiana, but it turns out that the show might be a bit old fashioned for them. Although, it turns out that my niece is really eager to watch Buffy, which is now back in vogue. Fantastic! Her favorite television show is also something called Wolfblood, which has completely passed me by and which I need to obviously check out.

But of course Christmas shopping was never going to be easy and, while the kids might love this stuff, their parents are, predictably, worried about it. The appeal to many kids is that these books, films and television series seem fascinatingly adult (for someone between eight and twelve) but that is precisely their problem for many parents.

I had thought about getting Warm Bodies, a wonderfully sweet, witty zombie/romance, with a killer performance by John Malkovich, but apparently the thought of a post-apocalyse zombie wasteland, however much it might be redeemed by love, might prove traumatizing to kids… Damn!

So, the encouragement was to go, instead, with something more appropriate to kids: Snow White and the Huntsman. This might have the star of the dreaded Twilight (who was once known as a fascinating androgenous child actor), and it may actually be darker and scarier, in my humble opinion, than Warm Bodies, but its based (however loosely) on a fairy tale and is therefore more appropriate for kids … apparently.

Of course, I would have thought that any child with half a brain cell would really want Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, if they knew anything about it, but if parents are going to object to Warm Bodies, they are never going to get over this joyous, endearing comic spatterfest – although what child could resist the charms of Tucker or Dale … I know that I can’t.

Ah well, maybe another Christmas.

Eerie, Indiana – Joe Dante Walks on Water!

So what can I say about Eerie, Indiana that isn’t covered by the announcement that it was a television show associated with the awesomeness that is Joe Dante. Yes, the man that brought us Piranha, Rock n Roll High School (with both the Ramones and exploding mice), The Howling, Police Squad, Gremlins, Explorers, Inner Space, Gremlins 2, Small Soldiers and so much more.

Well, if that doesn’t cover it, then watch the opening credits (above) … There! Now, what more need I say. Don’t you: a) want to watch it; or b) want to watch it again!

Yes, this was a show for everyone who ever loved horror and wasn’t ashamed to say so. It has everything. All your favorite horror plots, plus humor that is born out of love for the genre rather than embarassment with, or contempt for, it. And yet again, it is kids who keep saving the world, while the bloody adults can’t see what is right under their noses.

It also has the most wonderfully realized small town weirdness.

I may be known for regularly saying that this film or that television show is the greatest thing ever made … but, when I say that about Gremlins 2, I am actually being serious. Eerie Indiana might not quite be Gremlins 2 – surprise, surprise – but there is very little that comes close to it.

It may not always be magnificent but it is always an original. I really can’t think of much to which it could be compared. Its feel and tone and style have a quirkiness which isn’t forced or regulation (like so many contemporary indie movies today). They just have that Joe Dante touch.

And really, I don’t know why I am waffling on about this – you must be itching to watch it, even if you have already seen it before.

Children of the Stones – Scary or Baffling

So, having established that Children of the Stones was about ancient evil, I now have the somewhat disconcerting job of telling you what it is about in more precise terms. Which leaves me a little nervous. I am not sure that I know where to begin or what to say.

A father and son arrive in a village, which is surrounded by an ancient stone circle, and in which everyone is being taken over by some strange force that converts them into ‘Happy Ones’ – those vacantly happy people that you know aren’t right!

Gradually, the boy and his father begin to detect that something is wrong, and eventually track the problem back to something to do with the stars, the stone circle, an evil lord-of-the-manor-type and a time-loop that takes some getting your head around. I am not sure that I can make things much clearer than that…

Basically, events within the stone circle seems to keep repeating the same narrative cycle over time, and the elements of the show’s narrative seem to have occurred before inside the stone circle and to start again after the story’s closure.

Of course, those who love this show believe that this ‘difficulty’ makes the show profound and interesting, while I tend to find it baffling and incomprehensible. Oh, well.

The good news is that there are real compensations. If the story is about a cyclical narrative pattern, where everything has happened before, the show is one of the most familiar stories in children’s horror (and not in a bad way): you know the one where the kid’s can see that which the adult world is too blind to notice (Invaders from Mars); and where those responsible for socializing children turn out to be evil-doers.

Who didn’t believe, as a child, that their teachers are evil?

In order words, in these kinds of stories, the kids see through the adult world and save us all from its problems, even if they also annoyingly end up reaffirming a whole series of adult figures of authority in the process, particularly their parents!

Oh well, you can’t have everything – I did say that it was often baffling and incomprehensible.