Wednesday, January 9, 2013


by Doug Brown

Santa Claus has run his course for another year.  Plastic statues of St. Nick and his reindeer-drawn sleigh are stored in the garage.  The stockings are being removed from the hearth and packed away with the tree ornaments and lights and other decorations.  Christmas trees are ready to be cut up and composted.  The annual celebration of Christmas is drawing to a close.  What many people do not realize is that the holiday just passed is a continuation of a centuries-old commemoration of the Winter Solstice, a holiday that predates the birth of Jesus Christ by many years. In its cover feature, “The Pagan History of Santa Claus,” DIABOLIQUE #13 reveals some of the decidedly non-Christian origins of many Christmas traditions.

In her entertaining and informative essay, Dr. Springwolf discusses how Norse, Celt, Greek, and Roman traditions have been modified and incorporated into aspects of modern Western Yuletide rites.  The twelve days of Christmas, for example, have their roots in the Norse myth of Odin and his warriors traveling through the winter sky on a “Wild Hunt” beginning on the Solstice and lasting twelve days and nights.  The Roman Saturnalia was a festival of light leading to the “rebirth” of the sun on December 25, which influenced the modern tradition of gift-giving.  Springwolf explains the evolution of St. Nicholas from the historical Bishop of Myra in third century Turkey to the mythical “jolly old elf” of Clement Moore.  In fact, Santa Claus is a “composite of many mythological figures” and given a modern face by editorial cartoonist Thomas Nast and the advertising agency for Coca Cola.  Dr. Springwolf’s article is a fascinating tonic for readers weary of the blather about the “war on Christmas.”   Evil and deadly movie Santas are the timely topic of David Calbert’s accompanying story, “Tis the Season to Eviscerate.”  He chronicles bad Santas from the scary to the cheesy in movies from around the globe.

Some of my favorite horror shows involve devilish dolls and puppets, so I was thrilled to read Brandon Kosters’s article “Toys of Terror.”  From CHILD’S PLAY’s Chucky to the TRILOGY OF TERROR, Kosters delves into the psychological underpinnings of people’s fear of inanimate figures coming to life.  Along the way he discusses the classic TWILIGHT ZONE “Talky Tina” episode and the under-appreciated 1978 film MAGIC, both personal favorites of mine.  Accompanied by some excellent photos, this is a great article.

DIABOLIQUE does not limit its content to standard monster movie fare, as evidenced by “Horror Ink” an examination of the social phenomenon of horror tattoos.  Scott Feinblatt interviews two outstanding tattoo artists to see if clients choosing horror subjects are “significantly different” culturally than other tattoo clients.  Apparently not, is the conclusion, but people getting monster tattoos “are definitely more set on what they want.”  Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein monster and Bela Lugosi’s Dracula are the most popular characters, but there is a wide variety of subjects.  Beautiful color photos of eight different tattoos are shown.

Filmmaker Chris Marker’s influence on modern time travel movies such as 12 MONKEYS and LOOPER is discussed by David Kleiler.  Marker, who died in 2012, created LA JETEE, a 1962 short film in which the lead character witnesses his own death via time travel.  As something of a time travel geek, I was fascinated by the article, despite the fact I have never seen LA JETEE.  References to Marker’s movie embedded in 12 MONKEYS as homage are described.  Kleiler’s background in film studies really shines through this informative piece of writing.

Many (male) monster fans growing up in the 60’s and 70’s lamented the fact that so few females seemed interested or involved in horror films.  That has clearly changed—thankfully!—in recent times.  The Viscera Film Festival, and the attendant Viscera Organization, were created to showcase and assist females in the horror film business.  Michele Galgana interviews Viscera founder Shannon Lark about women’s opportunities and involvement in the horror genre, as well as the new Mistresses of Horror Alliance in an interesting look behind the scenes of fright films.

“Young adult” horror fiction sends shivers up my spine, but not in a good way.  I cringe at the impact TWILIGHT and its ilk have had on traditional horror stories.  Kristen Micek addresses some of these concerns in “The Twilight of the Ghouls: Why TWILIGHT Didn’t Defang the Vampire Genre.”  She discusses the evolution of the vampire from Bram Stoker’s DRACULA to modern film blood-drinkers.  The stories have shifted emphasis from human heroes using their wits to overcome inhuman monsters to “humanized” vampires fighting internal demons driving them to kill.  It is an interesting perspective, but I still recoil at the image of teen-aged vampires on a date in a sunny meadow.

Before J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer appeared on the scene, Christopher Pike dominated the teenage horror bookshelves.    In an interview here, the elusive author talks about the art of story-telling and his latest book, WITCH WORLD.  It piqued this skeptic’s interest enough to seek out one of his books to read—unless I hear that his vampires go on dates in the afternoon sun.

Multiple Bram Stoker Award winner Michael Arnzen contributes a one-page fiction story, “Convictions,” which is very good.  It is reprinted from his collection 100 JOLTS.

The issue is rounded out by a too-brief story on television horror hosts.  Vampira, Zacherley, Svengoolie, Elvira, Jeepers Keeper and their kin played a major role in the monster boom of the Fifties and Sixties.  Brandon Kosters writes a nice overview of this favored topic, but three pages is insufficient space for such a popular and important subject.

DIABOLIQUE is a heady, well-written excursion into the horror world.  Its far-reaching, eclectic content is adult and intelligent.  In short, it is a great read which brightened my Christmas vacation.                                

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