Saturday, January 27, 2018

JACK KETCHUM'S HUMAN MONSTERS


“Thinking about writing isn’t writing. Planning to write isn’t writing. Neither is talking about it, posting about it, or complaining how hard it is. These may be part of the process. But only writing is writing.” 
― Jack Ketchum, Writers On Writing: An Author's Guide Vol. 1

One day a few years back, I had a day off from work. As I recall it was a typical Pacific Northwest winter day -- cold and gray and damp and crappy -- which didn't lend itself to doing much outside. I figured I'd take a look at what I could watch that was streaming from Netflix or Prime. I decided on a film that I'd never heard of before.

So I sat down and watched it. As the film progressed from innocence to ominous to outright horror, I knew I was watching not only something repulsive, but something that was truthful. The movie was Lucky Mckee's THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, and the book that it was based upon (from a true story no less), was by Jack Ketchum.

It was one of those synchronistic events when circumstance and mood combined for the perfect time to allow total impact from a film. It was sickening, it was disgusting -- which meant the movie (and the story behind it) did its job.

Ironically, this happened to me twice more with the films RED, and THE WOMAN, both directed by Mckee and written by Ketchum. There was something potent about this pair, and at the very least, they left their singular imprint on the horror film that will unlikely be equaled any time soon.

Dallas William Mayr, known to the world as Jack Ketchum, passed away on January 24th. He has left a unique legacy of horror literature behind. Ketchum, who read and was influenced by authors such as Robert Bloch, Charles Bukowski, Jim Harrison, Ernest Hemingway, and of course, Stephen King, skillfully applied all he learned from these authors and branded his own style in the process.

Perhaps Ketchum's greatest gift was in the fact that he was able to not only recognize, but put words on a page, that told of the worst things that humans are capable of. He let us in on the dark world of hate, cruelty and vengeance, kept us in the shadows, and never once provided any light for relief. That was the essence of Ketchum's work -- showing us the face of the human monster. After that, the supernatural seems far less frightful.

As for the films I mentioned, I'll let you watch them if you haven't already and experience for yourself the unsettling world of the worst that man is capable of.

“People were complex creatures, walking, talking rag quilts, youthful dreams and hopes and fears and middle-aged indiscretions, aging aches and pains and losses, the whole damn kit and kaboodle, mended here and tattered there. People were pushed and pulled in all sorts of directions and did whatever it was they had to do for balance.” 
― Jack Ketchum, The Lost

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