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Quick Sparklies by The Centaur
October 28, 2002

Scythes, skulls and Cthulhu grace my den and foyer; Lovecraft, King and Harris infest my bookshelves. Alien is my favorite movie ... and I've played the Shining at Christmas parties.

I may not be the king of horror ... but I like it a lot.

And so here's the Centaur's List of Creepy Crawlies for you this Halloween, ordered in monotonically increasing amounts of ph34r!!! Enjoy.

  • The Spooky Horror Puppet Show.
    First on my list is something I haven't yet seen ... but conider a must see. The Center for Puppetry Arts's production of The Spooky Horror Puppet Show has a lot to recommend it. And it's not just that good friend Glenn Morrison is in it; no, the darn thing has opened to yet another season of critical accaim.

    It runs through Saturday. Go see it. So let it be written; so let it be done.

  • The Devil and Ben Jones.
    Part of Atlanta's First Glance festival, this twisty little play was brought to atmospheric life by my friend the director/actor Jim Davies. A creepy little comedy about demons, sex, and chicken, The Devil and Ben Jones is built around tight, delightfully contradictory loops of dialogue between its offbeat characters - chicken-boned Ben Jones, his untrustworthy friend Pug, randy mother Mrs. Jones and her ex-squeeze, the Devil - exploring themes of honesty and self-deception, trust and betrayal, and gender and acceptance.

    In one cruel scene, Ben asks his mother if she told his friend Pug he was deformed. Angrily she denies it, saying Pug can't get anything right - because "the word is malformed, not deformed."

    In staged readings this play's raw text is powerful but outlandish, and ultimately hard to take; under Jim Davies' direction, however, the outlandish becomes compellingly concrete - using a detailed, realistic set to fold miles of houses and terrain into a tight storyspace and extensive musical and foley cues to make fantastic events seem completely natural, Jim draws the viewer deep enough into Ben's twisted world that his dilemma seems real.

    I could say more, but truly, no-one can tell you what the Devil and Ben Jones is. You must see it for yourself.

  • The Ring.
    The rule is simple: American remakes of French films suck, unless they involve nitroglycerin; American remakes of Japanese movies rule, unless they involve giant lizards.

    And so The Ring rules.

    Based on a groundbreaking film that reinvented the horror genre in Japan, The Ring combines the rich visual sense and intricate plots of Japanese cinema with the high production values and grounded storytelling of American movies - and it works.

    The Ring begins with an urban legend seemingly ripped from Candyman or Scream: a teenager spooks her girlfriend with a tale of a videotape that kills you seven days after you watch it - only to find that her friend watched the cursed tape one week earlier. It's campy but gripping stuff, but almost immediately, The Ring smartens up without losing its edge, focusing on the girl's aunt - a scatterbrained parent but a determined, resourceful reporter - as she unravels the mystery of her niece's death, finds and ultimately watches the tape - and then races the clock to prevent her own demise.

    Like the Blair Witch Project, to which it has been compared, The Ring will be a hit-or-miss experience for some moviegoers: some won't get it, some will be creeped out, and others won't sleep for days. But unlike The Blair Witch, which was largely improvised, The Ring was meticulously scripted and impeccably filmed. The world it creates is populated by believably flawed but realistically strong characters set against a backdrop of beautifully filmed but disturbing imagery, trying to unravel a plot which is rich, ambiguous, and full of unexpected twists.

    In short, go see it. It be real boogly.

On a similar note, I have to recommend Signs, a harrowing little tale of a farmer traumatized by tragedy who wakes up one morning to find his crops scarred by crop circles ... and who then slowly realizes that the circles were not a hoax. Signs was more straighforward than The Ring, but also deeper, focusing on a more intellectual level on how people respond to extreme situations. Signs is the latest of director M. Night Shyamalan's serious treatments of fantastic subjects; unlike his explorations of ghosts in The Sixth Sense and superheroes in Unbreakable, however, Signs narrows the focus to a single family, eschewing plot complexity in favor of greater intensity and depth. Catch it at a dollar theater near you.

That's all for now. SO yall go on out now and get the hell scared out of you.
-The Centaur

The Ekpyrotic Universe

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The Library of Dresan
The Library of Dresan ~ (C) Copyright 2002 Dr. Anthony G. Francis, Jr. ~ All Rights Reserved
Writer / Artist / Producer: Anthony Francis