Classical Music and Killer Psyches in Horror Settings

    Implementing otherwise calming orchestral music in a horror setting is an ingenious technique used to instill uneasiness. While playing with the viewer’s expectations, using classical music in this way simultaneously provides a depth to characters that would normally be written off as simply psychopaths. Characters such as Alex DeLarge from Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, Patrick Bateman from Mary Herron’s 2000 film American Psycho, and Sander Cohen from 2k Games’ 2007 video game Bioshock are perfect examples of where this technique has achieved an affecting sense of uneasiness not otherwise associated with classical music.Thomas Fahy, in his article “Killer Culture: Classical Music and the Art of Killing in Silence of the Lambs and Se7en”, suggests that when classical music is used in horror settings it is “like an appreciation for literature and fine cuisine”, which all three of these characters have, which fits the persona of what Fahy calls the “Gentleman Killer”, one who “Having appropriated the pose of aristocratic or elite culture…feel empowered to judge and destroy those who fail to be ‘civilized’” (Fahy, 2003). The use of orchestral music is a way to provide an unspoken insight into these aforementioned characters’ psyche; their crimes are intricate, which lends to the idea that these characters are indeed intelligent. The idea that a killer is smarter than his victims is quite unsettling indeed. They could prey upon anyone and they are out there among us; they like the same things, attend the same concerts, and even have similar philosophies as the general public. Facetiously using classical music, which is usually associated with high class, in disturbing scenes is a tool used in games and movies that highlights antagonistic characters’ intelligence (and therefore their capabilities) and perspectives while exuding an anxious atmosphere not otherwise associated with the genre.

    Alex DeLarge, the main character of A Clockwork Orange, is a teen with a thirst for “ultra-violence” (as he calls it), who thinks very highly of himself. While a narcissistic character, using pieces such as Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony” highlights the fact that Alex is well-read, smart and educated enough to blend in. He can hold a normal conversation, and is in fact highly gifted and imaginative with words; for example, Alex narrates while listening to the score, “…. Oh, it was gorgeousness…. It was like a bird of rarest-spun heaven metal or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship…. I knew such lovely pictures!” (imdb.com). Obviously inventive and literate, a disturbed Alex uses his cultural knowledge to incite terror on others. In the scene where one of his “droogs”, Georgie, decides to mutiny, Alex exacts his revenge when he is inspired by music coming from a stereo, “It was lovely music that came to my aid” (imdb.com); it is prudent to point out that the “Overture” to “La Gazza Ladra” by Gioacchino Rossini is playing over this following scene, possibly meant as the song that inspires him. One can guess that the scene unfolds as a fight instigated by Alex assaulting Georgie. Interestingly, within the mechanics of the film, in Alex’s infamous punishment scenes, the “Ninth Symphony” is turned against him; he is forced to watch violent scenes while the music is played over them. Classical music is unusually used here as a torture device as he can not listen to Beethoven (his favorite composer) after his release. The uncharacteristic use of classical music in such ways influences the viewer to think that something terrible can happen in their own lives and it could come from a person one doesn’t expect, a gentleman who has inserted himself into an “elite culture” who could have a civilized conversation about elevated topics, but is really judging his companion. Regrets to those who do not, for they become prey.

    The use of classical music in American Psycho, is used to accentuate main character Patrick Bateman and his ideals. However, it should be briefly noted that modern music (like Huey Lewis and the News) is used during Bateman’s murder scenes, employing the same technique only with a different genre of music. Classical music is used in this film during the opening credits scene and Bateman’s personal introduction to the viewer. The opening scene has the capability of immediately instilling the level of uneasiness that the viewer feels for the entirety of the movie. Playing with the viewer’s expectations from the start, with an upbeat and playful score, there are drops and streams of red that the viewer can only assume (upon first viewing) is blood. However, it quickly becomes clear that it is an elegant dish being prepared (the red being some kind of sauce used as a garnish), not a build up to a crime scene. Yet, the viewer does not feel at ease upon this realization. This ambiguous title sequence combines beauty with crime, which is certainly how Bateman sees it: There is an art to murder; everything must be organized, pristine, and perfect (much like a classical music score). Though it should be said that this way of thinking is Bateman’s whole life, not just where murder is concerned; he has a very rigorous and detailed daily regime so he physically looks his best in order to avoid detection that he is different from his social circle. One of the tropes normally associated with a psychopath (in films anyway) is a need to feel normal, to “fit in” as Patrick puts it at one point.

    In the daily routine scene, classical piano music is played over his voiceover while the viewer witnesses this glimpse into Patrick Bateman’s life. Image and perfection are very important to him; it is imperative that he looks the best and has the best. The use of classical music here highlights the simultaneous paradox occurring: During an otherwise (somewhat) normal routine in a normal setting, the carefully planned regime is straight from the mind of a sociopath (who is usually very precise). Everything has its place in his life, even murder, and the balance must not be disturbed. In the final shot of this scene, Patrick says “There is no real me, only an entity”. This lends insight into his character, as he does not see himself as a person (another trope of the psychopath); yet, he is smart enough to not to draw attention to himself and uses his physical appearance as a way to fit in with everyone else. An unsettling reminder that he is a killer among us, indeed. However, his prey are the dregs of society; people, he thinks, that are expendable, and in fact should be destroyed. Bateman’s victims are mainly bums and prostitutes, two demographics he feels don’t have a place in society; in fact he feels the need to purge society of them. Combined with the fact that Patrick is dressed to the nines when committing these crimes and has a dialogue with his victims about the importance of being an elevated member of society, Fahy’s claim that a “Gentleman Killer” feels empowered to “judge” seems to hold true within Bateman and his ideals.

    Sander Cohen in Bioshock, is one of Rapture’s demented artist types who thinks himself as having an elevated status because of his passion concerning music and art. Similar to Bateman, he sees himself as high class, above everyone else. He forces the main character, Jack, to help him complete his masterpiece by killing other people and placing photos of their corpses into a collage (careful to not get his creative hands dirty). To Sander, people are expendable when it comes to making art; in Cohen’s audio diary “The Doubters”, he says “I suppose the Doubters think you can paint a picture without soiling your smock”(bioshock.wikia.com). Indeed, there are instances in the modern art world that depict scenes of suffering; there is a beauty in death, but not when one is responsible for the killing(s). In Bioshock, as stated, Cohen forces Jack’s hand in completing his masterpiece collage so he doesn’t actually commit the murders. It seems, through the audio diary of one Anna Culpepper (a citizen of Rapture), that Cohen has often made art out of murder without doing the actual killing. She claims in a diary (titled “Ryan’s Stableboy”) that can be found in Fort Frolic that “Cohen tidies with a catchy melody and a clever turn of phrase” (bioshock.wikia.com) after Andrew Ryan (Rapture’s creator) has doled out deadly punishment. Even before the downfall of Rapture, he was creating art in the monstrous; however, he was creating it in such a smart way that he could always deny he was part of the event, only documenting the aftermath; “The burden of the artist is to capture”, Cohen claims. After Rapture falls, however, Cohen becomes more openly demented. As a way to get revenge on the ones who “doubted” and “betrayed” him, he doles out punishments of his own, becoming a dictator like Ryan, for the sake of his art.

    Before Cohen allows Jack to enter Fort Frolic, he sends splicers (psychopathic goons) after Jack to test his worthiness of meeting the great Sander Cohen. It should be noted that Cohen often refers to himself in the third person, as if he is the finale of an act, as a way to distinguish himself from anyone else; his artistic knowledge and creativity, he believes, allows him to be put on a pedestal. Upon beating the splicers and entering Fort Frolic, Jack is met with Kyle Fitzpatrick, a former disciple of Cohen’s, who is vigorously playing Cohen’s Scherzo. Upon closer examination, we can see that this is not out of leisure; Fitzpatrick is plastered to the piano, which is rigged with explosives. Upon this realization, the player is immediately uneasy; it’s quite apparent that something awful is about to happen. Classical music is again being uncharacteristically used as a torture device, like in A Clockwork Orange; it is the last thing Fitzpatrick will ever hear, and it is the tune of his enemy. Sadistic Sander knows Kyle will stop playing in defiance, which causes the piano (and Fitzpatrick) to explode. His death is always part of Cohen’s intricate plan, no doubt meant to highlight his intelligence. A further atypical use of classical music comes when Cohen irrationally believes that Jack is judging him upon placing the third picture in the collage. In a rage, Sander sends more splicers after Jack who battles the hoard while Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers” from The Nutcracker plays. Usually a song reserved for the beauty and magic of the Nutcracker’s kingdom, the score is used here as Jack fights for his life with Cohen baiting him over the radio to “Smile! Smile!” as if Jack’s fighting were a performance. Cohen fits the bill almost perfectly for being a “Gentleman Killer”, though Fahy also says “By relying on ‘art’…. these crimes transform high culture into a tool for expressing violence” (Fahy, 2003). Similarly to Patrick Bateman, there is a parallel beauty to art and killing for Cohen.

    Albeit all mentally disturbed, there is an intelligence associated with these killers which is highlighted using an otherwise pacifying genre of music. When little attention is given to these characters, it is easy to write them off as simply the antagonist. This is a shame as a killer’s psyche is not so one-dimensional. Using classical music subtly and facetiously brings attention not otherwise paid to antagonists as a way to add depth to their characters. Upon a close reading of these texts, the subtle references to these characters’ complicated personalities is highlighted using orchestral music. A genre that is usually reserved for the high class, it is partly used to point out the fact that these “high class” characters could be the very people one walks by on the street everyday; all three of them look normal (for Cohen, based off his audio diary picture) and arguably act normal in public because they strive and know how to fit in. They have elevated likes (aka: an appreciation for music and art) and dislikes like everyone else, yet their mentality is extremely different from a normal citizen.

    In the cases mentioned, these characters are educated and have a public demeanor that alludes to an elevated status in society, all fitting Fahy’s description of a “Gentleman Killer”, which makes them hard to spot in a crowd of the same people. This is certainly an unsettling fact that breaks the fourth wall; it exhibits these killers’ intelligence at being able to blend in, which instills a sense of uneasiness for the viewer, not only within the film’s universe, but in the real world. A further aim of implementing classical music (in settings it normally wouldn’t be in) is to play with the viewer’s expectations, like with the American Psycho opening, and adds to the general uneasiness one is meant to feel when dealing with these characters, like when “Waltz of the Flowers”, a song usually associated with beauty, is played while Jack (aka: the player) fights for his life in Bioshock. Uncharacteristically using this otherwise soothing music genre in a horrific setting is an affecting, yet subtle, way to bring an awareness to these complex characters’ psyches.

Works Cited

  1. Fahy, Thomas. “Killer Culture: Classical Music and the Art of Killing in Silence of the Lambs and Se7en.” The Journal of Popular Culture, 27 June 2003. Web.

  2. Bioshock Wiki. bioshock.wikia.com. 2015, web.

  3. IMDB. imdb.com. 2015, web.

Advertisements

Case #288: Alpha/Omega

blog header

September 25, 2015

My name is Ruth Warren.

My older brother, Ezekiel Warren, disappeared exactly three years ago. At the end of that year, there were about ninety thousand missing person cases still active. Of those, fifty-five (including my brother’s)1 connected to each other. A Greek letter was painted on the door of each missing person’s house. In some cases whole families disappeared — either all at once or staggered throughout the year. Each family member was given their own letter.

Our house was painted with an alpha.

I’m writing all this today because I just reached a breakthrough.

For the past three years, I’ve been driving around the country and investigating each house I can find. Many are abandoned and rundown. Some are completely gone. I’ve seen various Greek letters but no other connections. I’ve also encountered some other people on the search for their own lost loved ones. They’re all in the same boat as I am. At least the ones that haven’t given up.

And they haven’t given up without reason. Many letters weren’t written in black paint. I’ve seen betas, gammas and deltas lined in blood.

Blood, but never any bodies.

Anyway, back to the breakthrough. I figured out that I was looking through cases from the wrong decade. Instead of sticking to more recent cases, I should go to the beginning. With this new direction in mind, I found the town in which these disappearances originated. A small town called Xenia. I’m on my way there now.

 

 


155 cases and counting. There doesn’t seem to be an end to these disappearances. The only thing anyone can agree on is that these are all connected, which Ruth discovered. Maybe she got too close to whatever or whoever is behind this. We met in St. Louis while I was working on this case. The cases already numbered 40 by that time and I was losing too much sleep to mention. We met at one of the houses and she said she would call if she got close to anything, and I said I would do the same.

 

 

September 28, 2015

Xenia, Texas is a tiny dot on the map with a forty mile radius from other communities. There’s only one house left standing in Xenia. The rest of the landscape is covered in ash and rubble. And not a single inhabitant roamed, except maybe some ghosts that keep the candles lit inside the surviving house. I scoped out the place. Can’t tell right now if it was a mistake or not.

Xenia made its mark on the news for being terrorized by some sort of large wolf creature. One by one the townspeople got killed. Some bodies were found in the surrounding woods but there was never a sign of a wolf. Whenever the Greek letters started popping up on doors, it became clear that the killer/kidnapper was no wolf. Many people moved out of Xenia before they were the next to be taken away. By 1985, there was no one left and no answers. And the rest of the world lost interest.

The exterior of the house was weathered by biting winds and downpours of rain, but the interior wasn’t dusty or unkempt at all. Someone must be keeping the wooden flooring spotless and tending to the potted hyacinths. It was a quaint one-story home, with a normal bedroom, bathroom and living room all furnished with normal furniture. What wasn’t normal was the closet.

Inside, the walls were covered in photos, each labeled with a letter. No red ones. I tried looking for a familiar face but there were so many that some were even pinned on top of each other. There were also miniatures lining a shelf to the side. Socrates. Aristotle. Pythagoras. Idolized even though they weren’t gods.

I then smelled something. Smoke. Fire. I tore down as many photos as I could and stuffed them inside my backpack. The glint of gold buckles from a satchel on the floor caught my eye. I stuffed that in my bag too.  

Fire engulfed the living room. Through a glass window was my only escape route. I threw the pot of hyacinths at it and scrambled through the opening.

Once I got out, I watched as the rest of the house succumbed to the crackling flames. The howling wind helped the fire rage on.2

 

 

2What I discovered is that the blood at the crime scene never belonged to the person being kidnapped, but to someone who was previously taken in this manner. It was difficult and took time but we finally got a match: it was her brother’s. I wanted to let her know that he could still be alive and that the chance was high. I was also hoping she might have had a clue to where he could be. It would have put an end to this madness. But I can only carry on.

 

 

September 29, 2015

I’m back at home. My walls are now covered with the photos I took.

I found my brother’s. Like the rest, he stood in front of a black background and was smiling. A forced smile. An alpha symbol marked his head — both drawn on the photo itself and inked on his forehead.

I’ve also gone through the satchel. There was only one thing inside. A tape recorder.

The first time I tried to play the tape, it wouldn’t work. There was a piece of paper stuck in the slot. I’ll transcribe what was written on it:

α superior
β X
γ X
δ X
ε X
ζ X
η X
θ culture
ι X
κ health
λ physics
μ engineering
ν X
ξ X
ο X
π mathematics
ρ X
σ chemistry
τ religion
υ morality
ϕ X
χ statistics
Ψ psychology
Ω supreme

It explained some things, but not enough.

The recording explained a little bit more3:

[28 seconds of silence]

VOICE (dissonant)

What has one voice, and is four-footed in the morning, two-footed in the afternoon and three-footed at night?

MAN (shaky)

I’m telling you. I don’t know.

VOICE

That’s a pity. Your sister knew the answer.

MAN

Well, she is smarter than I am.

VOICE

We’ve noticed. But you have at least gone this far as to find our whereabouts.

MAN

I just want to find my sister.

VOICE

She is ours now.

MAN

I don’t care. Either tell me where she is or just kill me already since I don’t know the answer to your riddle.

VOICE

Very well then. We knew you didn’t have a mind we need. This was just a final test — just to make sure.

[end recording]

 

 


3Ruth wasn’t the first one to find tapes like this. I have a few and they all go relatively the same. A question is asked. The answers vary from “Fuck off”, to “I don’t know”. No one ever knows the answer. The interviewer just ends the tape before we can discover anything else.

 

 

October 1, 2015

I keep looking at all the pictures. So many people.

I’ve stared at Zeke’s face for hours. I have a lot of other pictures of him but I only look at this one. The one with that terrible, fake smile.

I rewatched a video I made after a full year of hunting for answers. It used to comfort me. But now it just reminds me of what I still don’t know. Of what I still haven’t accomplished.

I’ve also listened to the tape over and over again.

Sometimes I hear the man’s voice as Zeke’s instead. And then I start to cry.4

 

 

4I also explored the house in Xenia, though it seems I was too late. When I got there, it was already rubble and ash just like everything else around it. But I decided to look anyways and found something. A safe. Fireproof. Possibly waterproof. It was difficult but I managed to open it with power tools and a crowbar. Inside was only one thing: a tape. I quickly got in my car and listened to it. It was a continuation of the tape Ruth transcribed above. It went like this:

[movement of more than one person]

VOICE

We really expected more of you, John. You would have fit in here. You would have been happy.

MAN

How I could I be happy with you psychopaths? Where is my sister?

VOICE

I’m afraid you’ll never know.

[more movement]

VOICE

John Carpenter of Fargo, Minnesota, you are absolved.

[end recording]

 

 

October 3, 2015

My parents died when I was four years old and Zeke was seven. We were put into many different foster homes but there wasn’t a single one that became permanent.

We took care of each other.

Every school we attended was quick to discover that both of us were above average in most subjects. We took in knowledge like air. Once we bought our first house, the library room was the first to get furnished.

I look at all the books on those shelves now and wonder how they could have possibly cursed us.

Zeke’s a professor but he doesn’t specialize in just one subject. Whenever one class cancels, he moves onto another one.

I don’t have a job. I pretty much read books all the time. The library is my second home. Zeke always told me to do something more with my life.

I just can never figure out what.

October 5, 2015

omega — on the door5

 

 

5Ruth had long ago given me her address just in case I could not reach her. After I found out where John Carpenter lived, I came to tell her, to see if she’d made any progress. Too late. The omega on the door. I stepped inside and saw nothing. No sign of struggle or forced entry. Just this journal. Damn shame. I really could have used her help.

I went to Fargo, Minnesota. Nice town, nice people. Asked around for a John Carpenter. Finally one lady said her neighbor’s name was John. I decided to check it out. I went to the address given and there was a man. I asked him who he was and no shit, his name was John Carpenter. I showed him the tape and he had no idea what the hell it was. It sounded just like him. We knew it was him but he had no recollection of the event. He offered to let me spend the night and I accepted. I woke up around 3 a.m. to get some water and he was nowhere to be found. Without hesitation, I left. I don’t know if he left or was taken again but I know I don’t want to end up like that. I’m spending the remainder of the night at the nice hotel right outside of town. Perhaps the daylight will have some answers.

4:15 am

I am writing this in the bathroom. Someone is in my room. Something is, at least. I am going to try and stay quiet.

4:20 am

There’s a window. But the sight I was met with upon drawing back the curtains made me wish I had never seen it.

∆¥6

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

6That’s where #288’s record ends. I need to seek out more information.

The Master and the Slave

The Master and the Slave

No other literature quite highlights the danger of becoming a slave to your own invention(s) like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In Victor Frankenstein’s selfish search for knowledge, he creates a being that he is not ready to take responsibility for and it is his downfall. The creator/creation relationship is always there, for Frankenstein will always be the creator and the creature will always be the creation; however, there is a power shift that occurs between them in Volume II when the creature asks Frankenstein to create a mate for him. From there, the connotation leans more toward that of a master/slave dynamic.

A definition in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) states that a “slave” is “One who is completely under the domination of, or subject to, a specified influence” (oed.com). Victor certainly falls into this definition when creating the creature’s female companion, or at least it’s not until then that he starts thinking “chains and darkness were the only objects that pressed upon me” (p.202). Several times, he refers to his predicament as his “slavery”. Conversely, the creature later refers to himself as a “slave, not a master” (p. 222) as he laments over Frankenstein’s corpse. This is profoundly interesting, not because neither sees themselves in the master role, but because earlier, when the creature confronts Victor about destroying the mate, the creation calls his creator a slave! The power dynamic at its most uneven here, he ends the threat, “Slave! You are my creator, but I am your master- obey!” (p.172). The creature blames his behavior on compulsion, “… an impulse, which I detested, yet could not disobey” (p. 222), during his confession to Walton in the final moments of the novel. The creature could not allow Frankenstein any happiness because the scientist could not show his own creation the same kindness. Now that his creator is dead, the urge to ruin his life or have any power is gone; the creature is left with only guilt and retrospection.

In a way, the creation is a slave to existence as well as to his creator. It would certainly fit under one of the OED’s definitions “The condition of being entirely subject to some power or influence” (oed.com); the power or influence being life itself. In his first moments, the creation was cast away into a superficial world that would never accept him. Forced by humanity to only travel by moonlight, the creature spurns his creator and curses the day he was given life; his very existence haunts him. However, upon his climactic meeting with Frankenstein on the mountain summit, “Life,” the creature says, “…is dear to me, and I will defend it” (p.102). The creation lacks the constitution to kill himself until the very end. In life, Frankenstein was his only hope for happiness; in his creator’s death, nothing is left for the lonesome creation. The power dynamic notably shifts again. In death, Victor holds the power as he was the master key to the creature’s happiness. Without Frankenstein, the creature is nothing. It seems only fitting that his life is presumably ended. That way, they are finally equal, creator and creation, only in death.

The second female creation would seemingly fit into the OED’s primary definition of a “slave”: “One who is the property of, and entirely subject to, another person, whether by capture, purchase, or birth.” (oed.com). The master/slave relationship for her would exist between both Victor and the creation; in the case of the mate and the creature, she is a slave before she is created. For example, in the creation’s plea to Frankenstein to create a companion, he explains his plan of living off the grid with his new companion; her solitary fate is sealed before she even exists. It is supposed she would not have a say in the matter as this is the sole point of her existence; so, already the master/slave dynamic exists between her and the creature. Say she was given the opportunity to voice her opinion, and she did indeed not want to go. In this event, it could be surmised that this could put Victor in the same position he is in now. She would be a slave, as the first creation is now, to Frankenstein as she would rely on his knowledge to fashion her a companion to her liking.

Being that Shelley was a Romantic and the Industrial Age was on the horizon when she wrote Frankenstein, it would be fair to hypothesize that Victor’s hasty innovative obsession with creating the first creature is Shelley’s way of warning against reckless innovation and industrialization. It can certainly be read as a warning against delving into the unknown; there are some places that humans just aren’t meant to go. It’s always been a problem with our species to want to understand everything. “Knowledge is powerful” is a dangerous phrase for an obsessive but ignorant person like Frankenstein; it made him think he could play God. Frankenstein’s story highlights one horrific, albeit fictional, way how one can become a slave to their own inventions. Perhaps Shelley hoped that readers would learn from Victor’s devastating story, run from innovation, and flee back to nature.

Works Cited

  1. Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. London: Penguin Books Ltd, 1818. Print.
  2. “slave” Def. 1a. Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press.Web.
  3. “slave” Def. 2b. Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press. Web.
  4. “slavery” Def. 3b. Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press. Web.

Trauma, Obsession, and the Importance of a Haven

The lack of a safe space in House of Leaves is a motif for many characters, namely Johnny and Navidson. Starting with Johnny in the Introduction, he says that all he wants is “a closed, inviolate, and most of all immutable space” (p.xix). The reader slowly learns (though is never sure what is true) about Johnny’s traumatic past with his mother, father, and foster father. He bears physical scars from it; he has been repressing what happened to him his whole life. Putting all of his energy into transcribing Zampano’s notes gives Johnny a purpose; his obsession of completing the project consumes him but also garners his ultimate hope that whatever he believes is following will stop so he can be at peace. Johnny never sees the house on Ash Tree Lane, but it haunts him. For example, shortly after starting his transcription, he starts speaking in metaphors that relate back to the house: “Inside me, a long dark hallway…continued to grow” (p.49). His apartment is not a haven, as he repeatedly points out in his rapidly degrading mental state; he more feels stuck there than safe. He struggles to find his place.

When the reader is introduced to Will Navidson, all he wants is to settle down after his tumultuous career. “Personally, I just want to create a cozy little outpost for me and my family. A place to drink lemonade on the porch and watch the sun set” (p.9), he says. Navidson is haunted by a subject (Delial), a starving child that he photographed (and won the Pulitzer Prize) but did not help. He is consumed with guilt and trying to find a way to live with it. All he wants is to document his return to normalcy; he gets anything but that. Although it starts out the way he hoped, peace does not last long with The Navidson Record’s title character (and his family). Once the house’s mystery is presented, Navy tries to solve it thinking it will become the haven he’d hoped for (and needs) in the end. However, he also battles himself throughout the book. He constantly defends his obsession with the house (to Karen mostly) by saying “…going after something like this is who I am” (p.389). He can’t deny that he is intrigued by the dangerous closet hallway and the anomaly consumes him. In the midst of trying to solve the mystery, he attempts to seek solace from Karen (who is cold and not a source of peace) and Tom (who Navidson looks up to, but any solace that was found in him is dissipated when he is swallowed up by the house).

The lack of a haven leads these characters to put their energies into solving the mystery of the house, which leads to insanity and despair, but ultimately to resolution. Both Johnny and Navidson seem calm and contented with their lives at the book’s conclusion after the house has imploded, therefore not plaguing their minds any longer. Both have found their safe space.

The Master and the Slave

VF

In Chapter 1 of Volume III, on pages 157 and 158, Victor refers to his predicament as his “slavery”. I already thought that was an interesting concept until, not accidentally, the creation later (when lamenting over Frankenstein’s body) refers to itself as a “slave, not the master” (p.222).

I realized Shelley was perhaps trying to say something here. So, I started thinking about how she framed the distinct parallels between the creator and the creation:

Victor

VFKB

A scientist haunted by a creature of his own design. He doesn’t understand what he has made, or the power he wields, and it is his downfall. A seemingly complex character, he is really quite shallow and one-dimensional; with all his good intentions, he does not think of the consequences of his actions (like just abandoning the creation OR like sending Elizabeth upstairs alone on their wedding night… HELLO?!). He expunges his energy into making the creature only to abandon it the moment the spark of life appears – realizing too late what he had done. The only attempt at civility with or understanding the creature is when it regales its side of the story – in a brief moment of clarity, even Victor realizes that what the creation asks for is not unreasonable. But certainly, after what had taken place at this point, it was normal for him to be suspicious. However, not taking responsibility for his actions ultimately leads to his entire bloodline being wiped out.

The creation

fmeme

Abandoned at birth for reasons it didn’t understand, it was forced to learn the ways of the world alone only to be shunned by humans. Upon hearing its side of the story in Volume II, the reader cannot help but to feel sympathetic for the creation (especially with the loss of the French family he had hoped to call friends). He is lonely, and there is not much else in the world that can make one more miserable. Its gruesome looks make it impossible for him to be near humanity and its superficiality. It realizes inner beauty is useless and that’s all it has. A mate, created equal, is its only hope. Think of the creation like a child; in the simplest terms, he threw a tantrum when Victor destroys the second creation and exacts un-ending revenge until Frankenstein’s demise.

 The Second Creation (Hypothetically)

bride

It was never brought up verbally whether or not the second creation would even have reacted favorably to the union. Frankenstein surmises briefly at what her reaction might be at the beginning of Chapter 3, Volume 3. I think it could have been a real argument for Victor not to make it; the creature, unless angry, seems reasonable. If the second creation had come into existence, a whole other dynamic of master and slave could arguably be drawn. The second creation would be a slave to the first – existing only to satiate his needs. The possibility of ever separating from him seems low.  If it were to be created the same as the first, would it not have consciousness and the ability to think for itself? What if it did not want that? What if, being equally miserable, it asked Victor for the same thing, being unhappy with the first creation? The creature would have most certainly reacted unfavorably to this outcome and then where would Victor be? To me, this was a realistic cyclical possibility that was only briefly addressed.

VFC

Once the master creator, Frankenstein now sees the creation as his master, forcing him into making a mate; Interestingly, the creature always sees Victor as his master, the only one capable of making him happy. They depend on each other but are fueled by too many emotions and too much misery to see it.

Explanation post: His Face Forever Red

Here, I extend the backstory of Emily Carroll’s “His Face All Red” and by doing so, attempt to humanize the anti-hero of the comic.

I was surprised at myself when I sat down to write this post and this story came out. I always appreciate films and books that try to humanize the anti-hero/sociopathic character (Frankenstein anyone?); I believe it is more interactive in the sense that the reader is forced to reflect on their interpretation of that character. There were very human reasons why the anti-hero killed his brother and I strived to highlight just an example of “why?” in my story. I also wanted to provide a bit of background to instill more emotion and to lengthen the brothers’ relationship. I didn’t feel like, in the original comic, that the main brother felt any malice or hate towards the more popular brother- it was outside sources that led him to madness. So, I introduced the father character.

I decided to go the demon route because of the line the “brother” says when he comes back from the woods, “Thank God my brother killed that devil”. I read that as words only the demon brother wanted the other brother to hear; he said the words aloud, but it had a double meaning. It was a way of communicating to the anti-hero that the “brother” knows what happened. Not only that, but he says it himself, a “devil”. Gods and demons in mythology have a grand time messing with the mortals- here I saw no exception. Also, I had a problem with the abrupt ending with the corpse being turned over, eyes open. I wasn’t sure how to interpret that so I expanded on the possibilities and made an ending I was happy with. Too much ambiguity can be annoying to some readers, but just enough is intriguing. I strived for the latter with the last line.

The punishment at the end very much reflects Greek mythology. Most punishments are extended and violent (Ex: Prometheus), but nonetheless get the message across.

The moral I wanted the reader to leave with is to appreciate who you have in your life and don’t let outside sources hinder your thoughts. This is the reason I put the flashback in the beginning- the brothers didn’t have a negative relationship when they were alone.

Make your own choices. If you are unhappy, reflect on why, and make the necessary changes. If you don’t, you will wind up shut in a hole with your dead brother for eternity.

His Face Forever Red

I went to the woods to be alone for a while.

woods

  After a time, my brother found me (he always knew how to find me).

You shouldn’t listen to Papa”, he said. “His generation doesn’t understand that an artist like you thrives on creativity, not manual labor”.

    My brother always did understand me.

He always compares us. I can never live up to his standards like you can.”

Bah!” he said, clapping me on the shoulder. “There’s more to life than athleticism and brawn. Girls love romantics like you. Besides, I have faith in your talents, we’re not going to be here forever. Oh! Speaking of girls, I have to go meet Alice. I’ll see you later.”

And then he left for university.

university

Papa was so proud.

Now, here I am again.

hole2

Once a place for respite and reflection, these woods hold a lifetime of memories. 

Now, namely, a memory of death.

And something else.

demonbrother

(I still haven’t figured out what)

I look at the lifeless lump of flesh that used to be my real brother.

brobody

His body… it’s…

down

here… in this gaping hole.

His face still bloody and red.

red

Is this a gateway to Hell? 

gateway

I start exploring the walls while my inner dialogue continues.

Surely that imposter is a demon. My brother doesn’t have a twin.

devil

Has it come to haunt me for what I did?

When the beast looked into my eyes that night, it knew everything in my soul.

showdown

I could almost feel it combing my mind. It must know the uncharacteristic pleasure I derived from holding my brother’s weeping wife or the new desk I bought with the money his livestock afforded me? Before that anomaly shook our sleepy town with its appearance, I planned to write my way out of here… away from the guilt.

For, this must be guilt. Never has anything plagued my mind so.

That beast knew my hatred-

No…

my jealously towards my brother. No one will believe me now, but I did love him. But, if you pit any lesser person against someone who’s good at everything, some bitterness is bound to ensue. My failure knows no bounds after all the times my father made me feel inferior; it never lessened the sting.

The wolf was the demon.

A catalyst with a motive.

That demon knew the joy I felt when my brother left for college… knew I wanted that again. I didn’t have to compete anymore, I could just be… me.

I should have just left

(and never looked back)

Why the hell did I stay? Well… for the same reason people stay in dead-end jobs for years; they’re comfortable and hate change. It’s the reason my father is so unhappy.

Blast you, hindsight! I should have left. I should have gone so far away… to a villa in Italy perhaps, where some of my idols studied.

italy

That demon also knew what I would do that fateful night.

killed

A slow clapping sound fills the cave, echoing off the walls and reverberating in my ears

“How perceptive”, a familiar voice says.

eyes

A slow

  cold

    tingle

trickles down my spine.

I turn to see my dead brother’s blinking bloodied face staring back at me from an upright position

bloody face

“Impossible”, I breathed.

One would think, right?”, the former corpse supposed, “but in your selfishness, dear brother, it seems you have neglected to leave yourself an exit”

Surely I did. I climbed down by-

The rope is gone.

I turn my gaze upward to the starlit opening of the hole to see my brother’s twin smiling maniacally down at me.

You have turned what joy there is in family into hate and jealously”, the imposter said in a resonating baritone, “You are to spend an eternity

down here

with your beloved brother. In death, you will finally be equals. For do not be mistaken, he is the greater of the two of you. You must die to be missed… and even then, I am certain you won’t be.”

And while I screamed in protest, the creature extinguished all light in the deep hole and sealed it from above.

That left me, my cries bouncing aimlessly off the earth,

and my blood-soaked “dead” brother to the mercy of darkness.

Silence blanketed us as I grappled with understanding my now eternal situation.

So”, my glowing red brother said, “Shall I return the favor?”

glowing red

The End