The Rabbit & his Shadow

RAHS1Just over forty years ago, I was brought into this world at Huddersfield’s Princess Royal hospital.

Like all newborns I’d like to think I entered the world full of innocence and without fear.

I don’t remember much of those early years in the mid-1970s but I do remember my first exposure to absolute soul-numbing horror.

As a toddler my Mother would often take me to visit her parents who would then read to me.

I love reading, I always have but in those days I would beg my Granny to read me a specific book; a book that both terrified and enthralled me.

After a recent conversation regarding the book, my Mother has kindly sourced a copy – all the way from the states – and so I present to you, the book that stands as a prologue to my love of supernatural horror.

The Rabbit & his Shadow.

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This tale of paranoiac horror was my first exposure to the concept of malign “other” that was a springboard to a world of imaginary darkness so terrifying that even now, as a grown adult, I haunted by the story’s theme.

From the age of 3 or 4 right up to the age of 7 (when I was reading the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis) I would ask my Granny for the book – so strong was the hold this tale had over me.

The story is a simple one (surprisingly enough for a children’s book).  It follows the woes of an innocent, yet nameless, rabbit who is being stalked by a dark and sinister shadow rabbit.

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Published as “A Happiness Story Book”, my adult eyes notice that the intention of the book is to show a transition in the rabbit from its initial unhappiness through to the joy of new found friendship at the end of the tale.

This is far from the case through the eyes of young Armaitus.

As we follow our tormented protagonist through the tale, we see it driven to despair as it tries to rid itself from the ever present pursuit of his shadow.

So desperate is the rabbit that it even tries to kill the shadow creature to gain some freedom from the beast.

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As a child, each step in the rabbit’s descent to despair carried me along with it.  Already open to the paranormal world about me, this tale taught me that I was not alone, even in the darkness, and that was somehow comforting in its discomfiture.

If I could gain this feeling from a book then it would suppress my own night terrors maybe… again, this was far from the case.

The tale ends with the rabbit risking its life to seek advice from a wise owl, an owl that chooses to offer advice rather than rend the tiny mammal in its razor sharp claws.

rahs6The rabbit attempts and succeeds in reconciliation with its nemesis, who displays an unnerving ability to both talk and move independently of its host.

Reading this tale again I realise that, subconsciously, I learnt an important lesson from this book.

It is better to embrace your demons and learn from them than flee and fight them in futility.

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Music Video Nasties

As I have mentioned before, music is very important to me. One of my other guilty pleasures is a good old supernatural horror – no matter what medium it comes via.I'll eat your soul

One medium that is often overlooked for supernatural horror, or related themes, is the music video. There have been some fantastic horror themed music videos over the years and I’d like to share some of my favourites here.

Come to DaddyThe very best has to be Chris Cunningham‘s award winning video for Aphex Twin‘s Come To Daddy. What a truly awesome (in the fullest sense of the word) music video.

I get goosebumps just writing about it. Chris Cunningham’s work often has a dark or at least fantastic side to it; with Come to Daddy he manages to capture a rare kind of urban horror that you usually only get from British horror or J-Horror films. Chris Cunningham manages to evoke that feeling of being truly alone, disturbing us with the latex masked Aphex Twin children and seemlessly synching the video with Aphex Twin’s own audio horror. The music and the video direction work absolutely as one, each being less without the other.Kate Bush

Second in my list is a video that has haunted me since my childhood, Kate Bush‘s Experiment IV. The song itself is quite a haunting tune on its own but the video has aclassic British Horror feel to it. I was a big fan of the Comic Strip when I was younger and this video came across as a bit of a Comic Strip Nasty, with the likes of Dawn French and Hugh Laurie appearing throughout.  The creature in Kate’s video is very similar in both origin and appearance, both born from technology and yet ghoulishly demonic.  Experiment IV

My third and final offering is a music video that sums up everything I like about haunting entities on film. Another music video in a British horror style is the fantastic Mary by Supergrass.

SupergrassWhilst not as visually shocking as Come to Daddy, I love this video for its depiction of supernatural forces at work. I recommend the full version as opposed to the comedy “Onions” version (which blocks out the more horrific scenes with pictures of onions). The video itself is a pastiche of paranormal shorts: a man insane and alone in a room with bleeding walls, a woman hallucinating death and a girl attacked in her bath. There are nods to British screen paranormality, like shots of the water pipes evoking memories of “Mr Pipes” from the BBC’s Ghostwatch.Mary

The Blair Witch Project – (Contains Spoilers)

Blair Witch ProjectIt was hyped as the be all and end all of horror films; I remember my mind being set against The Blair Witch Project even before seeing it.  I’m all for innovation in film but the concept of the film, as was hyped, already had me on edge – even before the jerky camera work and ham acting.

I guess in a way, the film didn’t disappoint me; but only because it did, in actual fact, disappoint me so much. There are times I like to be proven correct in my assumptions and this is one instance where I could say with satisfaction:

I knew this film would suck!

The biggest problem I had with the film were the young paranormal investigators. Granted, they were never billed as professional paranormal investigators but still, even Micah did some research in Paranormal Activity (albeit poorly executed research).

Instead of choosing to research their target and equip themselves, these hapless buffoons set out on a camping trip with a camera and some tents. Then – surprise, surprise – when they pique the interest of whatever malevolent entity is out there (we never really find out what it is), they get pWn3d.

Worse than that, our intrepid autodarwinates actually exhibit zero common sense. I might choose to ridicule their lack of paranormal awareness and preparedness; and I can appreciate that some people may think:

Come on Armaitus, everyone knows that this ghosts and goblins malarkey is all stuff and nonsense.

But even the most die hard skeptic should be able to see that the films protagonists have a combined IQ of 12. In my head, Ray Mears cries himself to sleep because people like these exist. When lost in the woods (woods that you have studied for some time I might add) and you come across a river – you follow it out. You don’t run around, allowing some half baked forest witch cloud your inner sense of direction with corn dollies.

The one positive I took away from the film was the way the entity was portrayed. The entity acted exactly as I would expect a malevolent entity, that has just had a group of intellectually challenged come barging through their territory and poking around, to act. The use of mimicry to lure them out of their camp, the hidden body parts of their missing comrade and especially the way it turned them around on their forest walk (something I’ve actually experienced in the past).

Being Human (Series 2)

I am a big fan of BBC’s Being Human. From the pilot through to the end of Series 1, I was very pleased with the unconventional take on a genre that is very familiar to me (as an old school tabletop roleplayer with fond memories of playing games such as Nightlife)

Far from being as dark as the US series Supernatural (another favourite) Being Human still managed to pull no punches and elements of series 2 carried this forward to good effect. The aftermath of Mitchell and Daisy’s retribution on the tube for example; or the horrific possibilities of George’s near transformation in the school.

Series 2 had a weak start, from a supernatural horror point of view, but picked up quickly. The early concentration on Annie helped add to the series’ mythology, the “doors” from series 1 playing a much more sinister role. Along with this we have sinister god botherer, Kemp, and his team successfully conducting surveillance on the house. Despite this, I think Kemp and his team were somehow underplayed. The resources available to Kemp imply a far greater organization than we see, even at the end with the introduction of Kemp’s catamitic storm troopers.

The BBC did make good use of the web through this series, much of what we know about characters such as Lloyd, Ivan and Daisy come from the various blog posts and the CENSSA website, detailing Lloyd’s findings and research into the paranormal entities he has come across.

Lacking the teen angst or mundane americana of US series like True Blood and The Vampire Diaries, Being Human still manages to hold its own, interspersing elements of the supernatural with day to day Bristol life. At the end of series 1, Mitchell, George and Annie had finally grown together as a family unit; series 2 tears that apart as George and Mitchell struggle independently to deal with Herrick’s death. So wrapped up with their own issues (Mitchell controlling the local vampires and George struggling to build a surrogate family) they ignore Annie, leaving her to cope with her own horrors alone.

The final episode had a lot to live up to when you think back to the end of series 1. I can’t say I agree with all the decisions made by the writers but I can see why they made the choices they did and appreciate the roller-coaster ending they give us. There is an obvious direction for series 3 now and a good choice of antagonist for our heroes to be hampered by. There were times series 2 seemed to lack direction but I doubt this will be a problem with series 3.

Now if only the BBC would learn from the US networks. 8 episodes is far too short for a series.