Tag Archives: nightmares

Women in Horror: Halli Lilburn

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteHalli Lilburn, author and editor, speaks about what makes horror addictive.

Halli on Horror

Horror has its perks. A rush of hormones and adrenaline is addictive. The fight or flight mechanism in our brain is activated without ever being in danger. A good jump-scare is equal to extreme sports. But if you analyze the underlying conflicts behind monster versus man, the message can continue to disturb you for months and even years.

lilburnMy parents wouldn’t allow me to go to a friend’s and watch Poltergeist, so I snuck out. I was thirteen. Curiosity and rebellion were my motivators. Mostly curiosity. I wanted to know what happened to human beings when their souls became corrupted and what kind of damage could they do to the living. I learned that it didn’t take much for a soul to cross the line from human to monster. It was the first time a show gave me nightmares. The morbidity rate on and off screen proved the truth of the rumors that demons had cursed the set. One actress was strangled to death by an ex-boyfriend, and the main character also died of mysterious health complications. I will never watch those movies again. The idea of retribution from beyond the grave will never not be scary. Thirteen is a very vulnerable time for a developing brain.

I am a vivid dreamer. Could be inherited from my dad or could be the anti-depressants Lilburn weshallbemonstersI’m taking. Probably both. When people ask me where I get my bizarre ideas the answer is usually a nightmare. And the more outlandish the better. In horror, a writer can get away with anything. In my story Hidden Twin I found a way to make one body rip apart to find another body inside it like Donna in Poltergeist III (spoilers).

Still, there are areas in the genre that I avoid: (living) serial killers and body mashing are not my cup of tea. The thrill of witnessing a murder is petrifying but once you are dead, it’s over. The stories that get to me are the hauntings; images that churn in your mind over and over for years, being trapped inside your mind, not knowing what is real, losing control of your sanity. Ghosts are especially convincing when they reach out to their families for help, but their method of communication so cryptic it fails. When the dead stick around the living are bound to get hurt. Some examples include The Others, Sixth Sense, Delirium, and Haunting of Hill House. Like I said, if it gives me nightmares, it is well written.

SKULL SPEAK

A skull is what I see through

Through my hollow eyes

A skull is what I speak through

With chattering teeth

Always smiling

With no lips it’s impossible not to

A ribcage is what I love through

It is cold here in your heart

Can you find a way to love me?

The skeleton sits on my shelf

A corpse of me

Sporting a felt hat and smiling

Always smiling

Showing teeth in a carefree, neurotic way

“You are obsessed with me” it laughs

I tap its tiny noggin

I let you take up precious space on my shelf

Precious space meant for books.

It replied, “Ah, but the stories I could tell.”

Lilburn steampunkHalli Lilburn writes speculative, sci-fi and poetry, but she always tries to spice it up with something horrific. Her most recent releases include stories in anthologies: We Shall be Monsters by Renaissance Press, Tesseracts 22: Alchemy and Artifacts by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy. She is a freelance editor with essentialedits.ca and you can read more at her blog.

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Movie Review: The Triplets of Belleville

The other night I watched a DVD with a friend. We just had a few to choose from and between The Triplets of Belleville and some war film we decided to go with the Triplets, not knowing at all what it was. Les triplettes de Bellevilleis the true title as it’s French and made by a Canadian, Sylvain Chomet. It begins with a two-dimensional black and white cartoony animation of three women singing and various characters coming on stage like Fred Astaire and Josephine Baker. Josephine’s famous banana costume is attacked by male patrons from the audience who turn into monkeys.

I was a bit surprised when the movie started to see it was a cartoon. I wasn’t ready to watch a long one but the camera pulls back on the triplets, vaudeville singers to show it is on TV and that we’re in the room of a very short old woman, with mustache hairs, one foot shorter and a lift on her shoe, plus an eye that rolls which she must push up. Her grandson is a melancholy child and she tries to find ways to make him happy. His parents are dead and nothing seems to cheer him.

Although this is French with English subtitles, the main characters never really talk. It is only the background announcers for TV and the Tour de France who talk. The actions and images tell all. The style of the animation changes with the grandmother and her grandson, Champion. It is a painted set, with subtle colors, indicating and idyllic life, and shifts again when in Belleville. Grandma buys Champion a puppy, and he is momentarily elated but saddens again, until she discovers he has an interest in bikes and buys him a tricycle.

Bruno, the young puppy, has a traumatic experience with a toy train, and trains continue to plague him throughout his life, for real, and in black and white dog dreams. If a cartoon character could steal the show, Bruno comes close. This cartoon character displays dogness so well that you can’t help but laugh at his antics and his fat body and spindly legs. In fact, the attention to individual detail in this film is what makes it stand out.

Bruno would have won in the endearing category if it wasn’t for Grandma Souza. She loves her grandson dearly and clearly continues to innovate ways to do numerous things. Years span by in a lovely painted style of animation, where they live in a tall brick house, that is eventually encroached upon by building and expansion, until it’s not so lovely. But that doesn’t stop Grandma from helping her grandson train for the Tour de France. Nor Bruno from barking at every train.

Champion is really a two-dimensional character compared to Bruno and Madame Souza, but then all he lives for is bicycling and he is a passive character. Grandma on the other hand peddles along on Champion’s outgrown tricycle (still the right size for her tinyness) using a whistle to encourage Champion on his training. He is skinny except for massive thigh and calf muscles which she massages with electric beater, hand lawn mower and vacuum cleaners.  She fixes bicycle rims with a tuning fork and the use of a miniature Eiffel Tower. She carries her overgrown grandson up stairs, puts him to bed and sees to his every need. For every problem she finds a way to fix it. But she is a terrible singer.

Eventually Champion goes into the Tour de France only be to be kidnapped along with other exhausted bicyclists by the French wine mafia and stolen away to Belleville. However Madame Souza and Bruno don’t give up and through beautiful scenes find themselves trying to trace Champion’s captors in the big city. Belleville looks like it could be in France but there is a chubby statue of liberty and every person on the street is huge and round, probably a tongue in cheek comment about Americans.

Grandma has no money and as she sits under a bridge she finds an old bent rim and begins to play a tune on it when three elderly ladies, the triplets, appear and hum a tune. They take her in but they seem a bit crazy, not letting her use the vacuum cleaner or read a paper. But they too have a way of surviving. They hunt frogs with dynamite and there is frog soup, skewered frogs, cooked tadpoles and frog popsicles, much to Grandma’s dire dismay.

All of these truly funny antics are for a reason. Every nuance or little quirk ties back into the plot as Grandma discovers the mafia’s nefarious plan. She and the triplets, with the help of Bruno and some ingenuity, rescue Champion.

I can’t say when I saw an animated film that was as charming and truly funny as this. The imagery and design are beautiful and quirky. The mystery of the kidnapping is played out well and without words. The actions truly speak stronger than the words. The storyline is intriguing and complex in its way, and the characters are just so much fun to see. It is endearign to a point that I would see it a second time.

I started out thinking I didn’t want to watch a cartoon and was completely charmed by it. This film came out in 2003 and won numerous awards, including a Genie for best motion picture, and was nominated for many more. If you get a chance to rent this film, it’s highly recommended. I’d give it nine stars (or more) out of ten.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Triplets_of_Belleville

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Dreams & Nightmares

The title is the name of a poetry magazine specializing in speculative forms. However, I’m talking about those things that hit you when you’re asleep.

We all dream. It’s part of the mind’s way of processing daily events and emotions. If we don’t dream we go mad. People who suffer from apnea risk never dreaming because they don’t go into the right leve of sleep, REM (meaning rapid eye movement) where dreams take place. A person can develop a neurosis or suffer other health problems if they don’t achieve sufficient sleep and depth of sleep. This is still debated because the brain is a crafty organ to understand.

Needless to say that most mammals seem to dream. And that dreaming is part of the normal sleep process. While a dream might be the processing of the day’s events, it is also a place of alien concepts. My dreams rarely correlate to what happened during the day. Sometimes they will, like being at my ex’s party this weekend (we’re still friends) and going to sleep thinking about a relationship I”m writing in a story.

It brought out a strange dream about my ex not paying attention to me though there were two of him in the room. I awoke crying, realizing that it was a dream and thinking how bizarre it was to dream of our relationship many years in the past. But that was a combination of things on my mine or recent events.

However, I often dream of different worlds and societies, or  place where people walk around with their skins off. How these dreams relate to my everyday is very unclear. My dreams are often fantastical and science fictional. I read once that a study showed that creative people suffer more nightmares on the average than others. Why that is, I’m not sure anyone knows.

My dreams have often been the fuel for stories and sometimes poems. Dreams however, have dream logic. They’re often a mishmash of images and even storylines. In an average night a person may have five or six REM episodes, and although we have longer ones later into the night, I bet our brains sometimes mix the different episodes into one.

So a dream may be vivid and colorful and have a complex plot but as I start to unwind the storyline I see the gaps in it. I must then iron it out and not be slavishly true to the dream. Years ago I had a dream so complete with religious society, nobility, races, conflicts, plots, characters, that I started writing a novel from that dream. I had enough material to get through half a book. I’m still writing that book and I can no longer tell how much was dream and work I’ve put in since then doing world building. But I have the dream written somewhere and I know that society was very complete.

Where did that dream come from? Not from what I was reading, nor from my day-to-day activities. All I can presume is that I entered a different world, one of what-if. My sleeping brain, given freedom to roam and create, said hey, what if there was a world like this? And off it went.

I’m glad  my brain makes bizarre connections and imagines worlds and races not of this earth. My creativity sometimes carries on even when I’m not aware of it. I’ve also gone to sleep with a half completed story whirling in my thoughts specifically so that I can dream up an ending. Sometimes it works, sometimes it takes several naps. And sometimes I’m still looking for an appropriate ending.

I am very happy that I can remember at least some of my dreams. It makes my sleeping more fun and my creativity more bountiful.

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Phobias, Or: Spider Spider Burning Bright

Yes, I am misquoting a William Blake poem in the title. The actual line reads, “Tiger, tiger burning bright…” Yet it speaks just as well to anyone who has ever experienced a spider phobia, known as arachnophobia.

My progression into arachnophobia started as a child. There were two incidences that I can think of that may have been the beginning of my fear of spiders. I’m not sure which came first. We used to live in a house that was a split level. My sister and I shared one of the basement bedrooms and the room was mostly below ground, with 2-foot high windows at the top. Below these windows was a ledge that ornaments sat upon.

I remember I had this plastic bubble bath container in the shape of Pinocchio as well as a plastic piggy bank that I’ve talked about in an earlier post. One night I dreamt that the top popped off of Pinocchio and out poured hundreds of spiders. One other night as I was falling asleep I heard a “plop” upon my pillow. I don’t know if I actually found the spider or imagined it but after that I feared spiders.

Calgary had daddy longlegs mostly, which, depending on where and how they’re described, may be called Harvestmen and are arachnids but not spiders. Still, they’re spidery enough for any fear. The phobia was manageable while I lived in the colder clime that controlled the spider populations. Then I moved to Vancouver.

The first year I moved in with a friend and she was gone through the summer to Greece. And the spiders came a visiting. There were so many creepy crawlies in Vancouver because of the warmer climate that my phobia escalated. The worst were the wolf spiders; large, hairy (at least I think they were) and fast. I was completely freaked out and like a true arachnophobic, I could not kill them because it meant getting too close to them. So my place was littered with plastic containers that trapped spiders beneath them. I put a book on each container for fear that they would get out. When a friend came to visit, he had to dump them for me.

When I vacuumed I’d moan and shriek as the spiders hung from the edge of the long nozzle. Every once in a while I’d dropped the vacuum cleaner’s wand and run back if I thought the spider was crawling down the pipe. I’m sure it would have looked hilarious to anyone watching but the phobia was very real. Camping was a real issue. My tent was zippered tightly shut and if there was a spider someone had to get it out or I couldn’t sleep.

The worst that first year was this monstrous wolf spider that lived in a hole in the wall of the house, right next to the door knob. It was all I could do to get the key in the lock and at night I was terrified. (Note, that people with severe phobias can die from fright. One should never find it funny to chase the person with the phobic producing object.) This spider was one of those granddaddy wolf spiders, with a body as long as my thumb. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_spider

One day I couldn’t take it any longer. I loaded a spray bottle with super hot water and went out to the spider’s home. I started shooting in sprays of hot water…and all the wolf spider did was leap out to attach the water. I couldn’t kill the bugger. Years later I read that some wolf spiders live in warm underwater currents.

My phobia became so bad that I couldn’t go near any spider. It could be the size of a pin dot but if it landed on me I was shrieking and batting it away, in full hysterics. It wasn’t funny and it was getting so bad that I was about to go to my doctor. In a coastal rainforest you can’t avoid spiders and sometimes they fly through the air on their strands. Even staying indoors wouldn’t help because spiders are everywhere. So yes, the spiders burned very brightly in my life.

Along the way I spent a year upgrading hiking trails. I had to hike in and out an hour each way. I started the job wearing gardening gloves and carrying a stick so I could knock the webs out of the way. Imagine being in the forest and keeping watch for spiders. That meant checking every branch I was under, every log I sat on, every piece of foliage I had to grab.

Then one day, about six months later, a spider was on my hand and I flicked it off, calm as you please. It took a few minutes for it to sink in. My phobia was gone. One form of therapy for phobias is a slow introduction to the phobia inducing item. I’d been doing this by being in the forest every day. I no longer freak out or cry. I still don’t like wolf spiders but I’ll leave other spiders hanging in the window and watch them spin and eat. Somehow that natural therapy probably did the job faster than months of counselling ever would have.

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Dreamscape

Well it’s the usual Friday, except it’s still pouring and it’s a long weekend and I’m going to try and camp. Ick.

But I’m going to relate a dream I had two nights ago. It was amazingly visual and perhaps this was one of those muse visits. In the dream:

I’m driving some kind of Rolls Royce down the highway and several people in the car (I have no idea what they looked like) said I was going too fast. Then we’re in this meadow, which is hummocky with sparse trees, a few old locks and rocks. It’s light green and brown and looks an awful lot like my friends’ ranch in Clinton, BC. I’m driving down the middle trying to avoid various humps when a moose comes up to the car. It’s small for a moose and has moss on its antlers.

Then up the middle comes this amazing animal. It looks like a deer but in truth it is made of wood and moss and twigs and leaves and its alive. We just stop and look at it, noticing its dark eyes.

Next, as dreams do like to shift, I’m walking with some people into a glacial snowy area. There is a huge mountain and something like a high white shelf piled with hundreds of feet of snow. I look up think it looks pretty weighty and then proceed into the cave that turns into this long, downward sloping roughly chopped snow tunnel. It is in pale shades of green and white and light blue and just at the bottom I can see it starts to slope up again.

Then we hear a rumbling and great torrents of ice and snow flood up the passage, an interior avalanche. I manage to crawl out some side holes between the grey rock with two other people. Five are left in there including two friends, Karin and Eric (who I haven’t seen in years). Once it stops we go back in to find them and all the snow has turned to sand. We pull each person out from under the sand and besides being slightly damp and unconscious, they wake and are fine.

A friend of mine likes to interpret her dreams but I’m not sure I can with this. The interactions with nature were very strong. And groups of people mattered but were mostly anonymous.

Many of my dreams are muse driven, that is, they end up becoming stories. I don’t think this one will and even though there was that avalanche the feeling in the dream was one of wonder, where no one was injured. The colors were vivid and important, and I really hope this is not just a portent of early winter.

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Movie Memories

I’m not sure why this memory has surfaced now but I got thinking about the movies I remembered from my childhood, specifically the ones I saw in theaters. The Jungle Book was definitely in there. To this day, every once in a while, a song will go through my head, or the lines as I remember them. Such great hits as “Bongo bongo bongo, I don’t want to leave the jungle. No no no no.” Or “Ooo Ooo Ooo, I wanna be like you ooo ooo, I wanna walk like you, talk like you…” And of course the truly classic “The Bare Necessities.” Gotta say I loved that film that I saw sometime in the 70s.

I remember my sister, six years older, taking my younger brother and me to see The Sound of Music. It was winter in Calgary, or near enough that there was still snow on the ground. My sister in some vain act of teenagerhood, had worn inappropriate footwear and spent the first part of the film whimpering as her feet thawed. But in the self-centered way of children, I heard her but stayed riveted on the film. I recently had the opportunity to see this again on DVD with a friend. My friend Kit, a sound actress, and once a stage actress, did some of her first stage work as Liesel. She had very interesting other versions of songs, such as “I fell in a pile of goat poop,” which I think is “The Lonely Goatherd.” I can still sing “Do-Re-Mi” even if I’m not a singer.

Movie theaters in Calgary were still these grand affairs, seating 400 people, with large screens and the magnificent, usually red curtains that drew back in majesty. Popcorn was a must and matinees were noisy affairs. I still like the old theaters, of which there are a few in Vancouver, and not always but often, I’ll buy popcorn for the nostalgia. Because I also worked in a movie theater and know that popcorn is cheap cheap cheap I find the exorbitant prices and the oily stuff they often put on instead of butter somewhat lessens the nostalgia for me.

Herby the Love Bug was yet another matinee movie and I remember the least about this film besides a VW bug, yellow I think, bopping about and rescuing people, or something.  For movies in my childhood, those three are it. We didn’t see that many. But there were the drive-ins.

Ah yes, the drive-ins, a unique invention for those big four-child families. We would go in our jammies, with blankets and pillows and homemade popcorn and snacks. That was the good memories. Unfortunately the drive-in was usually prefaced by some huge monstrous screaming (sometimes throwing) fight between my mother and my father. She would bundle us up and off to the drive-in we’d go.

They had those monster teardrop shaped, metal speakers that had to be wedged into the window. If it was a colder time of year, you would roll the window up, and every once in a while turn the heat on to defog the windows and warm the car. Imagine all that exhaust in a vast parking lot with a movie screem.  

The only two movies I ever remember seeing at a drive-in were The Fall of the House of Usher and The House of Seven Gables. They’re blended together in my memory and maybe both were at the same driven-in night. The late, wonderful Vincent Price starred in both. I remember bleeding walls and a tumbling house, which was probably Usher, since it was about a sentient house, based on the Edgar Allan Poe story. There was a bleeding locket and Vinny pickaxing his sister in the forehead, which was from Seven Gables, based loosely on a story by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Perhaps that’s why I grew up with a penchant for weird and fantastical stories and read some of Poe and a lot of Ray Bradbury. My mother didn’t seem to mind letting us see such graphically gruesome films. I think I was six at the time. Definitely the images has stuck with me ever since, but considering what was going on in my family, they really weren’t that scary.

I should ask my brother some day if he ever had nightmares from those movies. I like those early memories from The Jungle Book to The House of Seven Gables, and yet both have strong images for me. I guess that’s why my muse comes from different corners at times, and though I write lighter or even humorous pieces, I often have a dark aspect to my stories.

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