Posts Tagged ‘Nosferatu’

You know, for a little while now, I’ve been pondering something. I’ve heard a lot of people refer to certain stories as “slow burns.” Heck, I even called my friend/colleague Pat Bertram’s book Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare a slow burn mystery when I reviewed it on Amazon (and I highly recommend you read it, BTW). But what exactly makes a story a “slow burn?” Sadly, searching in Google didn’t pull up a lot of information, and I needed a short break from working on Rose (which is going great, BTW), so I thought I’d share my observations on the matter.

So what is a slow burn story? Well, to put it simply, it’s a story that doesn’t try to rush itself or keep escalating things as the story goes on. Instead, the story takes its time getting to the story’s resolution, using an intriguing set up, good characters and character development, and little bumps in the excitement levels to keep readers invested in the story. A good example of a slow burn would be a romance that, instead of having the characters hook up within the first half of the story and then showing them struggle to stay together, or having the characters finally confess and kiss at the end of the story after a number of travails, the story takes its time establishing these characters, the development of their relationship, and then showing the hook up, all without any big drama or too huge plot twists.

Getting an idea for them yet? And you’re probably familiar with a lot of these stories, even if you don’t know it. Many of these slow burn stories are pretty calm for up to the first two-thirds, with little intervals during that time that ramp up the excitement for a brief period, before they have an explosive final third (not always but often). A good example of this is The Shining, both the book and the movie. Unlike other King stories like It, where things are big and scary from the very beginning, The Shining takes its time building things up. It lays the groundwork, showing us these very real characters and their struggles, the isolation they feel, and the true nature of the Overlook. On that final one, King really takes his time. We get brief glimpses of the truth of the hotel, and each glimpse gets nastier every time, but it’s not until the final third that things really hit a head and things become truly exciting.

Another facet I’ve noticed about slow burns (the ones I’ve come across, anyway) is that there’s a sort of reluctance on the parts of the characters. In The Shining, none of the three main characters want to be in the hotel, but they all have to be so they can survive as a family, and it’s with a certain reluctance that the characters, especially Jack, acknowledge that there’s something seriously wrong with the hotel they can’t handle and that they have to get the hell out of Dodge. Dracula is often described as a slow burn, especially in the novel and in the Nosferatu adaptations, and without a doubt the characters are reluctant to be in the machinations of a centuries-old vampire. And in Pat’s novel Madame ZeeZee, the first-person narrator is very much reluctant at first to look into the strange events that occur at the titular character’s dance studio. It’s only as things progress that she finds herself really looking into things.

So that’s slow burns for you. But how do you write them? If I had to guess, I’d think it would have to do with moderation, specifically moderating the amount of excitement in the story. With most other stories, the norm is to build the excitement until the climax of the story when things get really explosive. But with a slow burn, it’s more like you’re doing a mostly flat Richter scale graph with only slight bumps here and there until the very end when things get super exciting (if you decide to write the story that way, that is). Doing that might take some practice, however, so I would recommend doing that practice and just allowing yourself to get good at them. Don’t get upset if you’re not good at it at first; we all start somewhere, don’t we?

In the meantime, if you’d like to read some good slow burns to get a good idea for them, here are some of the ones I’d recommend: The Shining by Stephen King; See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (see my review of that novel here); HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (see my review of that here); Final Girls by Riley Sager (see my review for that here); and of course Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare by Pat Bertram, which I reviewed on Amazon. All of them are excellent slow burns, and I can’t recommend them enough. Definitely check them out if you’re curious.

What observations have you made about slow burn stories?

Which slow burns have you read recently? Would you recommend them?

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So I’m seven films into this series (click here to see the whole series), where I rewatch horror films I previously disliked to see if there was something there I missed the first time. And this time around, I’m going with a classic. By which I mean, it’s probably older than any of my grandparents. Nosferatu, one of the earliest horror films and the first Dracula adaptation, as well as an example of German expressionist film. It’s become something of a cult classic since it’s release over ninety years ago, and its villain, Count Orlok, has become almost a meme, but longer lasting.

And can I just say, my own opinion aside, it’s a freaking miracle we even have this movie? Not kidding, we nearly lost this film to copyright infringement. Prana Films, the studio that made this film, was started and owned by two businessmen who never made a film before, and apparently had no idea you had to ask permission before doing an adaptation of a non-public domain work. Bram Stoker’s widow sued the company when she found out, and the company was forced to destroy all their copies…except or two copies, which have been copied and cobbled together to preserve the film to this day. Which is why if you watch the film today, sometimes the film is pure black-and-white, and at other times it’s sepia-toned.*

Okay, enough of that. Time to talk about the actual film.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: It’s Dracula, just with everyone’s names changed: Dracula is now Orlok, Harker is Hutter, Mina is Ellen, etc. Do you need more information than that?

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: I was fifteen or sixteen when I saw this film for the first time. And while I enjoyed older films well before then, I just didn’t get into it. I knew the plot, so I was never surprised or scared. It was just…boring. Really poisoned silent films for me.

WHY I REWATCHED IT: I just thought it would be good for this series. And in any case, while I still don’t read it that much, I appreciate classic literature much more than I did then. Maybe that extended to films too.

THOUGHTS: Um…it’s not good, but I find it hard to hate.

Look, you need to have a certain frame of mind to enjoy silent films, and I’ve only enjoyed one of the silent films I’ve seen (which was made in 2005, so…), so it’s safe to say I don’t have that frame of mind.

But I did enjoy it at times…as a comedy. Yeah, I know it’s a horror film, but I just couldn’t help but laugh at the film. There was so much to make fun of! For one thing, the make-up makes every guy look like a serial killer about to take a victim, especially when they laugh or smile, and every girl like a drag queen. I just couldn’t help but giggle. (Also, the character Knock is probably the inspiration for Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Thank the make-up department for that!).

And because it was a silent film, I could just sit in my living room and make goofy voices. I remember during one moment, when Hutter comes home to tell Ellen he’s going abroad, I responded to the dialogue card by saying, “Hi husband, good to see you too. I had a wonderful day, thank you for asking. Now what are you talking about?” And when Hutter runs into another room to start packing, I said, “So this is what Marge and Lois are talking about when their husbands announce they’re about to do something stupid.” It was hysterical.

Unfortunately, the best of on-the-spot comedy couldn’t help the film from dragging. For a 95-minute film, it felt so much longer, and like nothing was happening at all. Characters just took their time, said things, and reacted to things. There was nothing to get your blood pumping at all.

I could go on with the problems I had with this film, but that’d be a veeeery long blog post. I’ll just save time by saying, I had many more issues that kept me from enjoying it.

Still, Count Orlok is cool looking, and the sets are really pretty. I’ll give the film that.

JUDGMENT: I’m sorry, but it’s just not my kind of film. I know it has its fans, but I’m not one of them. 1.5 out of 5. I’m sad to say that, due to its place in film history, but that’s just how I feel.

Well, I think I might enjoy this next film a bit more. And if I don’t, there’s a good chance I’ll be reviled in the comments for it. in fact, people might shout “REDRUM” at me. That’s right, I’m rewatching Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining next.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*Also, the version of the film I watched was restored in Wiesbaden, the city in Germany I lived in for four months back in 2015! That’s really cool, if you ask me. My former home helped to create a beautiful print of a classic movie. I wonder if my supervisors knew about that?

If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you know I’m a huge fan of horror. I read horror novels, I write horror stories, I sometimes write articles examining various aspects of horror, I watch YouTube videos about dark and creepy subjects, I decorate my apartment with horrifying artwork and dolls and stuff, I…well, you get the idea. And of course, I watch plenty of horror films and shows.

And as every true horror fan knows, it can be hard to find good horror sometimes, particularly in the movie department. We fans watch a lot of horror movies that are really bad hoping that they may be good and even give us a few nightmares (or in my case, some good inspiration). I sometimes think of it examining piles of shit looking for gold nuggets, only you can’t tell the difference without special examination (imagine if that was the actual case. Nobody but the really desperate would ever look for good horror movies!). And I’ve seen plenty of bad horror films over the years while looking for good ones. I’ve even written about them, on occasion.

But lately there’s been something I’ve been wanting to try. You see, some of those horror films that I’ve hated, I’ve heard lots of people praising. They tell me the shit is actually gold. I’ve even seen some very thorough examinations of these films, in essays and videos, and the writers/creators of those videos have made me wonder if maybe I should rewatch some of these films, and reexamine my opinions of these films.

So now that I’ve seen It and there aren’t that many horror films coming out in the next couple months that I’m absolutely dying to see and review, I think it’s time to do what I’m going to call the Rewatch Review series. I’m going to watch ten films that I’ve hated and/or given bad reviews in the past, and see if my opinion has been changed. Some I may have watched in the wrong light, others I just think I missed something the first time around. Either way, I’m going to take a look again and then let you know if I’ve got any new thoughts to share.

And with the first film waiting for me at the library even as you read this, I should be able to start watching in earnest soon. It may take some time, depending on how quickly I can get these movies, but either way, you’re going to get something from me.

As for what these films are, I’ll list them below. When I’ve written my (hopefully changed) thoughts on each movie, I’ll post a link to this article. That way, if you want to read all my thoughts at once, you’ll have that option (though I don’t know if anyone’s THAT bored!).

Perfect Blue (1997)
The Strangers (2008)
The Witch (2015)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Oculus (2013)
Evil Dead (1981)
Nosferatu (1922)
The Shining (1980)
Mama (2013)
Whispering Corridors (1998)


Why did I dislike some of these films? You’re going to have to wait till I actually write about them. Haven’t I reviewed a few of them before? Yes. Why am I reexamining them if I already reviewed them? You’ll have to wait till I watch them. And that’s all I’m saying on the subject.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m heading off to bed. Until I write again, pleasant nightmares.*

*And if you have any, let me know. I might write a novel based off it.