Don't bother with this blogpost if you don't like horror at all, or aren't interested in Italian horror films, it'll just tire your brain...
This is an old story I wrote, for an exercise in an Open University Course some time ago. It’s a short horror-ish story. More of a vignette than anything else. I’m going to give links about what I was on about at the end – only cos if you aren’t a fan of the films of Dario Argento, you will probably find the story daft and inexplicable. Hell – you might regardless of explanation!! Anywaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyy…..Here you go.
Bit of teenagey gothness!
Cliche and Argento
They say starting is the hard part. That may be true of writing a song, or a soundtrack or making a film. It wasn’t true of my best friend. Starting, and finishing her, was the easiest thing I have finally let myself do.
She would sit in school, years I watched this: being the butterfly, being the one everyone loved. Spreading herself too thin. I would be sitting next to her, with my walkman hidden by my hair, the wires sneaking back and under my collar, easy; like so much else when I finally freed myself. Listening to her with one ear, her husky voice asking about someone else, a crisis, a wise comment…half of me would be listening to Goblin. I had to have it on quiet; it’s an intrusive sound, those Italian geniuses. I had a thing for Profondo Rosso for a while, then Suspiria. It was when I hit Tenebrae that I knew I had to kill her.
I would watch her, flicking her hair, lovely blond hair, genuine, not a dye. Like straw, the colour of straw, but soft like kitten fur…soft, so soft.
She’d turn to me, and say: ‘Do you mind if we go to Clare’s house tonight on the way home? Her dad’s away again, and she might drink, but she won’t if we’re there, and we cheer her up?’ She’d know that if she smiled at me, let it go to her eyes, that she’d have me. She always had me. She’d turn back to Clare (or whoever, the mother Theresa), and hunch forward, soft caressing hand on the arm, those soft smiles, soft words.
I used to live on those moments where we’d actually, finally be alone, and she would turn those smiles and words on me. I lived for that small time, last summer, when she let me touch her. Touched me back. She worried of course. That she was becoming a lesbian! I thought that hilarious. I have always wanted to touch, really touch, anyone I have ever loved: to me it felt normal. To her…she thought, I suppose, that it was an extension to caring, all that help she gave people, all that endless bloody peacemaking. Turned out that she enjoyed this particular help, but too much for her comfort.
I was insulted, and realised that…she didn’t really love me. Not like I loved her. I cried quite a bit. I played lots of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, trying both to calm down, and to experience some attenuated, clearer sort of consciousness. A pinnacle of suffering, where I would receive enlightenment. All the while I watched her, and behaved as the faithful sidekick, as I ever had. I didn’t ask for that time back, or her touch again. I touched myself, I thought of her. I started to want to be rough, to cut my nails to hard triangles and use them on her soft wetness, to scrape, to dig. Then I realised the next logical thing. I could help her out of her hypocrisy, her uncaring.
It was a few days after I began listening to the Tenebrae soundtrack that this dawned on me. It was she who was the filthy, slimy pervert the killer talks about. All I really needed was an old fashioned razor. Some black gloves. A white top for her to be changing into. Forget the fancy camerawork, the famous Luna crane sequence – obviously, I couldn’t replicate that scene. But she hated Goblin! I could make her yell to turn it off. Easy.
So I had the beginning of a stupid, but oddly easy plan. Do you really want to hear the rest? How even though I succeeded, and she is not with us anymore, and the feeling of slicing into the skin and muscle of someone you love is amazingly easy, both mentally and actually (providing the razor is sharp), I am still not happy? It was a great trip – it really felt like a film – being caught. I didn’t run, I sat, and I watched her die. I watched the blood congeal, I watched the edges of the wounds on her throat (it really does gout, it’s astonishing, be prepared to do a massive clean up if you don’t plan to sit and stay) change colour from that livid red, to a quite unattractive meat-sat-in-the-sun-for-too-long tone. Sort of purple pink orange. Not pretty. Not that beauty of death Argento talks about.
The more I sat, the more disappointed I got. She was beautiful to begin with, beautiful uncaring bitch. Then beautiful as I killed her, and she choked, and it all spilled – wow! But then, the more time passed, the more I wanted to do it again, she was starting to seem so…boring now. I got down on the floor and looked into her eyes, as you are told to in Four Flies on Grey Velvet, to see what the last image recorded on the retina was – whether she registered surprise or an emotion, something. Nope. Just empty, dead, stupid eyes.
When the policewoman came in – it was only about 45 minutes later, Merriam made lots of noise as she went down, after all, till I cut the cause – I knew I was going to have to try to do it again. I knew I didn’t have a plan this time, and I need forethought. So I knew it was probably going to fail. But even if I just got her hand when she put it up to defend herself – even just one slice…
I’m in for life. A filmic cliché. They say, what do they know, that I am criminally insane. They have not loved, they have certainly not possessed. They know nothing. They don’t know about love, or punishment, or music, or making things look perfect. Maybe I should have just tried to make a film? Or write a soundtrack? I do that now, sitting here, I get given paper.
They say starting is the hard part.
But there’s so much inside my head.
If they gave me something sharper than crayons, I could try and get it out.
(story copyright: me! BlackberryJuniper!, 2012)
I’m a bit in love with the last line there: I can really hear the voice saying it. (Aaaahhhhhh. Moment of adoration of own stuff....ehem, ok, I'm over it.) The whole thing is wildly cheesy, but hey – cheese is fun sometimes. Ok, bit of explanation…Dario Argento does Italian horror films, thrillers. He was most famous for his work of the late 60's through till early 80's, when he was more or less exclusively a horror director (he's done many other genres, as have alot of the classic Italian directors of the same generation). I love Italian horror cinema almost more than the English. Everything is so amazingly lurid, vivid and OTT. (And badly dubbed: joy!) Amazing style, and a complete lack of worry about believability too. Makes for some unforgettable cinema. (He's not the only great director there, either, for the genre: there are quite a few more: the Bava father and son, Lucio Fulci, and thats just 3 more famous ones - there are all sorts of hidden not so famous ones - go look, such fun!!)
Suspiria was always - and still is - my favourite: nothing like the setting of a German girls boarding school, all that red and green lighting, and evil witch covens led by an ageing Joan Bennett (my recommendation: see the incredibly atmospheric Secret Beyond the Door, 1948, with Michael Redgrave and directed by Fritz Lang: perfection...). Wonderful stuff! Closely followed by Profundo Rosso. So many good actors and actresses; and the creepy and bonkers music of Goblin.
Ah, the music of Goblin, yes, very important to my little tiny story. They did lots of work with Dario Argento on his films. (Depending on what version of Romero's original Dawn of the Dead you have seen - there are many more than the one, you'll hear more or less of them on that too, as a more mainstream way to hear them...). The soundtrack for Suspiria is terrifying and screechy; for Dawn of the Dead eclectic and memorable; for Profundo Rosso (aren't I lovely to have found you the whole film - don't watch if you don't like old schlocky bloody horror films; but you're safe to listen for the music over the credits at the beginning) catchy and nursery rhymeish one minute and hooky the next; for Tenebrae, the film I talk of alot in the story - well, you'll hear it in a minute, if you click the link. Try to imagine being teenage, very unstable, in love with your best friend - the love that, in a comprehensive school at least, still cannot speak its name...obsessed with these films and this music and...there's my story, really.
The thing about Tenebrae is that it is considered by some people to be a classic giallo type thriller. (I've referenced giallo before and won't go on about it again - think of it as a particularly unforgivingly violent thriller, early 70s style - and very very stylishly scored and filmed; its an Italian subgenre. Despite their grittiness in places, alot of it would of course appear tame by today's torture-porn standards. This is not a good thing.)
The section I mention, the Luna Crane sequence was about a famous sequence in the film where a shot continued, unbroken, for a very long time (by the standards of that genre, and those times), and was accomplished using the Luna Crane, a sort of support for a steadicam - here is the sequence. (Stanley Kubrick was famous for the same sort of work in his films, used differently.) Its the sequence that the protagonist in my tiny story gets obsessed with, and decided to emulate when it comes to killing her best friend. (Don't worry, its a more or less bloodless sequence - it's about the music and the camerawork, not Argento's adoration of 'the beauty of death' as filmed, surreally. By the way, this academic article here has some interesting things to say to the critics of Argento's love for killing off beautiful women in a very violent way. I'm a feminist, for sure, and I love his films: vive la paradox.)
I mentioned to a couple of people that this small story would have to go up with notes and they said, typical received wisdom, that if it can't stand alone it doesn't stand. I disagree. If it introduces anybody to the delights of giallo through these little notes - well and good! I wouldn't call my tiny story a fan fiction either - it's a reference to what to me, is very familiar (pop) culture: if you were all as into horror films or Argento as me, you'd all know what I was talking about without need of the notes! (There's a circular bit of logic!)
Anyway - there may be more time-mining soon, I'm reading over lots of old stuff at the moment; and its the old old story, I have precious little time to think of anything new, let alone be able to type it up right now...But don't fret, I shan't subject you to throat slittings every post. As far as I remember, this was the only story of this kind I ever wrote....I mean: there was a funny/silly one about a cursed locket or something...but I shan't bother you with that!
Er, I better do a disclaimer here: Here am I officially telling you its not a good idea to get obsessed with anything then go and kill people, for any reason. Tsk! That's what fiction is for, working stuff out therapeutically...
Till next time!