FOUR-LETTER WORD BEGINNING WITH `F'
Mark McLaughlin's fiction, nonfiction and poetry have appeared in more than 800 magazines, anthologies, newspapers, and websites, including Horror Garage, Doorways, Hungur, Cemetery Dance, Space & Time, The Black Gate, Galaxy, Writer's Digest, FilmFax, Dark Arts, Midnight Premieres, and two volumes each of The Best of the Rest, The Best of HorrorFind, and The Year's Best Horror Stories. Collections of his fiction include Pickman's Motel, Slime After Slime, Motivational Shrieker, At the Foothills of Frenzy (with Shane Ryan Staley and Brian Knight), and All Things Dark and Hideous (with Michael McCarty). Also, he is the co-author, with Rain Graves and David Niall Wilson, of the poetry collection The Gossamer Eye, which won a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Poetry. His most recent poetry collection, Phantasmapedia, was a finalist for the Stoker Award.
In September 2008, Delirium Books/Corrosion Press released Monster Behind the Wheel, a novel Mark wrote with collaborator Michael McCarty. In that same month, Skull Vines Press released Attack of the Two-Headed Poetry Monster, also co-written with Michael McCarty.
These and other books can be ordered at www.horror-mall.com. Be sure to visit Mark online at www.myspace.com/monsterbook and
A Very Special Episode of
"Four-Letter Word Beginning With 'F'"
Remember the classic sitcoms, Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life, and Blossom? Those great old shows were about young people learning about life and love and laughter, as well as the sweet and poignant changes that come with growing up. Aaaawwww!
Well, sometimes with programs like those, an episode would come along where those wonderful young people would learn about something challenging -- like teen pregnancy or drug abuse or Aunt Lydia hittin' the cooking sherry -- and the producers would call that particular installment a "very special episode."
I guess the other episodes in any given season weren't all that special.
With all that in mind, I'm about to present you some challenging information about a form of fear which has been popping up with increasing frequency in horror movies. So, welcome to a Very Special Episode of "Four-Letter Word Beginning With 'F'"
As you know, this is the place where we talk about different forms of Fear (the afore-mentioned four-letter word) and how they are addressed in horror movies. Recently I discovered a form of fear that is addressed quite often -- and yet, this fear does not have a name!
So I am going to give it a name, and this Very Special Episode of my column shall hold historical significance as the birthplace of a new word.
The fear in question (get ready for the new word!) ... is ... (drum roll please) ... Onoteratophobia.
I generated this word from the Greek words onos, terato, and phobos, meaning donkey, monster, and fear, respectively. Onoteratophobia is the fear of a monster that's completely ridiculous -- a cinematic donkey, braying for all that it's worth (which ain't much).
The 1972 movie, The Torture Chamber of Baron Blood, is stuffed to its Gothic gills with Onoteratophobia. It was directed by Mario Bava, whose movies were always either sumptuously wonderful ... or wildly cheesy and ridiculous. Baron Blood falls in the latter category.
It's strange to think that this very man, the renowned Mario Bava, directed the horror classics Black Sunday and Black Sabbath, and then turned out such goofy clunkers as Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs and Baron Blood. The guy was like a light-switch: classic or clunker, with no settings in-between. But, at least all his movies were pretty energetic, and therefore fun to watch.
In Baron Blood, a rich prettyboy named Peter Kleist visits the castle of his insane titular ancestor and soon comes across some parchments with magic spells to summon and then cast back into Hell the dreadfully departed old coot. With the help of Eva, played by Elke Sommer, who is pretty even when she's screaming, he summons the Baron with one spell -- and then chickens out and sends him back with the other.
The end? Not quite.
Peter regains his bravado and summons the Baron again -- but then a convenient gust of wind blows a parchment into the fire and our young hero loses the ability to send the Baron back. And so Baron Blood is unleashed upon the world.
The Baron is a real donkey of a monster. Sometimes he's a bloody, staggering corpse in a big hat, and sometimes he's a wealthy, distinguished American in a wheelchair. We later find out he doesn't really need the wheelchair. Why did he pretend to need it? Why does he wear such a big hat when he's a gruesome walking cadaver? Why, why? Who knows?
Bava featured a witch with big, bloody holes in her face in Black Sunday, and he rips himself off by putting a fat male zombie with bigger, bloodier holes in his face in Baron Blood. In the end, a lady ghost and a magic amulet help prettyboy Peter and pretty screaming Eva. The pretty living people win and the ugly dead people go to Hell. Hurray!
Another cinematic donkey kicks up its heels in Children of the Corn (1984). This lame-brain movie spawned a big litter of sequels and for the life of me, I don't know why. Because it's based on a Stephen King story? Because corn is nutritious? Who knows?
A young couple driving through the Midwest find themselves stranded in a remote little town where the kids have killed off most of the adults. It turns out, the li'l darlin's worship a demon known as He Who Walks Behind the Rows. I've seen this clunker before, and as I rewatched the movie on DVD in preparation for this column, I felt like I might suddenly turn into He Who Throws a Frying Pan at the TV Screen.
Sometimes He Who Walks Behind the Rows is a big ol' lump, moving super-fast under the soil. Sometimes he's a roiling thundercloud. Sometimes he's a cheap, speckled special-effect creeping over a victim tied to a corn-crucifix.
Like Baron Blood, He Who Walks Behind the Rows is a donkey because his actual appearance is never really established, and when we do see him, he's never very frightening.
Of course, a movie donkey doesn't have to have a shifting or ambiguous figure. It can have a firmly established appearance and still be laughable -- like the furry freaks in Yeti (2007). In this el cheapo production, plane crash survivors fight yetis hidden away from the world high up in some snowy mountains. Basically, the yetis look like guys in gorilla-style costumes covered with matted white fur. They're not even as realistic as Godzilla in his movie adventures from the Sixties.
The faces of the yetis are rubbery masks and their hands and feet also appear to be made out of light-gray rubber. Oooh, scaaary! I pray that those plane crash survivors don't have latex allergies!
Donkeys take to the water in Sharks In Venice (2008). The premise here is just out-and-out goofy. A mad-scientist-type weirdo has put some man-eating sharks in the canals of Venice. Who, oh, who is going to protect the world from these savage gondolier-gobblers...?
Stephen Baldwin, that's who!
That's right, the guy who played Barney in the live-action Flintstone movies. But in Sharks, he's a yabba-dabba-action/adventure hero! Gee, Fred, Betty and Wilma will get mad if we stay out late fighting canal sharks! Hee-haw! Hee-haw!
I don't think that horror-movie aficionados need worry that Sharks In Venice will replace Jaws as the most frightening shark-horror-movie ever made. Heck, even The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl is scarier!
Frankly, I don't think too many people suffer from Onoteratophobia because movies like these hold nothing to fear. But does that mean you shouldn't watch them? Of course not! Watch each and every one of them. Sure, they're goofy -- but goofiness has a certain odd charm to it. One can grow quite fond of goofy old horror movies. Why do you think I write this column?
And after all ... donkeys need love, too.