Today the little box next to my desk told me I had to draw goblins and I didm’t have the slightest idea what to do. So I scribbled for a half hour and came up with this. The problem is that once you get past all of the D&D stuff and go straight to the folklore what you have is just another flavor of brownie, which while very scary when in a bad mood the average person on the street do not know that. I think I was going for slightly malevolent tricksters messing with someone’s office but after doing Gremlins it feels kind or redundant.
This one I kind of botched.
For me the term Ghoul is interesting in modern parlance it’s kind of merged with modern meaning of Zombie and for the most that works… But the thing is I’ve read some of the Arabic folktales they come from and in those they seem like some kind of dessert ogre, thin, fast and deadly, kind of a jackal to the ogre’s wolf.
And that was kind of what I was going for in the first sketch giving it kind of a snarling baboon face and even though I wasn’t happy with the picture as a whole it did the trick as far as the parameters of this exercise went….But Then I got a better idea that I just couldn’t let go of. So I ended up with two sketches for the price of one today… even though the price tag feels slightly higher.
Today’s sketch I had down on the list as Merrow, the irish name for mermaids, which I thought would allow me to circumvent all of the romantic connotations going around, but then I looked them up to refresh my memory and found that they are some of the more benign examples and I was doing them a disservice.
So today’s monster is the mermaid, that’s right Mermaids! If you know your folklore they tempt people into drowning and cause shipwrecks. As for the Disney version…. Ariel may be a sweetheart but the ones in Peter Pan are happy little sociopaths who gleefully plan to drown Wendy!
For me one of the scariest way to present them is to show them resting against the side of a boat. Since you only see the top half you mistake them for a real woman and since you are beguiled by that charming smile you don’t ask the question of why someone would be swimming this far out in the water… or this late at night… of course by the time you realize this you’re close enough for her to grab you and pull you down into the water. This was shown wonderfully in Pirate’s of the Caribbean: on Stranger Tides, and suggested in The Rum Diary, but unfortunately a little too subtle for a single image. Anyway here’s a few of them heading for the boat planning to do that.
For today’s sketch we have the star of the Ring franchise… Sadako! It occurs to me that along with fitting well into the traditional Japanese Ghost lore (specifically the Onryo) She also fit’s into the much more modern paradigm of urban legends. In fact considering how popular children trapped in wells are in the tabloids I’m surprised I don’t hear more stories about slightly soggy ghosts
To keep with the holiday season I decided to start viewing some dark fantasy films (my threshold for horror is mixxed at best. I prefer the subtler supernatural over the raw terror of a slasher film so a lot of the examples of the genre I like best are only nominally horror by my definition)
So for the first week of my Halloween countdown I decided to start with the works of Ray Bradbury.
The first of the two was the Hanna-Barbera The Halloween Tree. An adaptation of Bradbury’s novel of the same name. the Halloween Tree features the adventures of four friends who are guided by the mysterious Mr. Moundshroud (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) through the history of Halloween, as they try to rescue the spirit of their friend, Pip, who is in the hospital with appendicitis (all this takes place in the turn of the century so his recovery is not a sure thing)
This is essentially an educational cartoon teaching children the history of Halloween (a lot of which needs serious fact checking) done on the most part on a shoe string budget. But what it does with what it has is quite spectacular. THe painted backgrounds are gorgeous and the titular Halloween tree provides a wonderful sense of wonder.
Also as far as Holiday specials go it has a very good plot and despite serving as a framing device for the four sequences there is always a feeling of suspense whether everything will go well in the end. Including will Moudshroud capture Pip’s spirit to take to the beyond and what will his friends sacrifice to rescue him.
The second film on our list was Something Wicked This Way Comes a film I remember as one of the last live action films Disney did before they adapted the Touchstone label. I didn’t see it when it first came out but it interested me how it became a cult classic afterwards.
Like Halloween Tree, Something Wicked This Way Comes is based on a Bradbury novel of the same name with a script by Bradbury. it takes place in an idealized turn of the century midwestern town where children can run and play unattended to their hearts’ content. We are introduced to this in loving detail and introduced to the community… all the better to see what happens when the circus comes to down.
Mr. Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival led by the mysterious Mr. Dark played wonderfully by Jonathan Pryce gradually seduces the adults of the town with their fondest wishes and gradually one by one they disappear. I enjoyed this a lot. Having mostly knowing Pryce as Sam Lowry in Brazil his performance as what is essentially the Devil was an amazing surprise.
For the most part I liked things better when the things were more subtlle. I found it much more frightening when the adults were entrapped by their dreams or when Dark tempts one of the boy’s father with the offer of lost years regained rather than the more graphic scenes of terror (spiders? Really?) But since this film is technically a children’s film I can understand why this was a priority. But still this was a nice lyrical film filled with Bradbury’s wonderful prose (I especially liked the description of the “Autumn People” and with a kickass soundtrack by James Horner I think it does a wonderful job capturing the tone of the Bradbury’s original novel.
This one was a challenge before I even finished this year’s list. Going over various lists of suggestions I first came across “Vampire Trees” Tree’s that grew around battlefields thriving on the blood soaked dirt and getting a taste for more. The problem with that is that it’s rather how to spell it out that this rather creepy tree also drinks blood. I quickly changed it to a hangman’s tree (assuming that the tree might get something out of this like a much darker version of the Kite Eating Tree). This also got me thinking of the sacred grove of Gamla Uppsalla where Vikings supposedly hung animals of every species in sacrifice. It always gave me the creeps since the image was way too easy to visualize. I tried to drown that out with a more whimsical note by thinking of the more friendly Hangman’s tree that was a background monster in Nightmare Before Christmas but any amusement was quickly brushed away as this stream of thought finally took me to Billy Holliday’s “Strange Fruit.