Sebastian Kanczok “He would see It naked, a thing of unshaped destroying light.” Clowns are inherently scary for many people, and when Stephen King chose to make a clown the initial form of his monster in his epic novel It, he was both responding to and enhancing the public’s curious revulsion at popular painted jesters. What “it” truly is in the novel, though, is something intangible. It is the essence of fear projected and manifested. When the adults confront It… Read more »

The Joker’s constant grin is captivating and terrifying, glittering with remorselessness. It’s a signal of madness, the cold laughter of sociopathy. Smiles are often friendly, alluring, and a sign of fun, happiness and comfort. The Joker is king of the forced smile, the cruel grin of glee degenerating into icy malignancy. It turns out that this image of the clown’s face frozen in a permanent, painful grin spawned from a 19th century Victor Hugo novel (here’s a pretty cool graphic… Read more »

250 years ago a young man with a generous trust fund and a gilded macabre imagination invented modern gothic style and fiction as we know it. His name was Horace Walpole and his “spirit” flows through almost ever scary story and every bleak bannister. Horace Walpole was the son of essentially the first Prime Minister of England, Sir Robert Walpole, and used his privileged position in life to indulge his aesthetic sensibilities to the extreme.

Jeannette Walls wrote The Glass Castle to conquer shame about her hardscrabble past, but the metaphor of the Glass Castle is almost universally relatable. It represents the impossible dreams for the future that most of weave for ourselves, the glittering dreams instilled in childhood, a fantastic goal to reach for that we can never quite touch.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 introduces the Star-Lord’s father: Ego, The Living Planet. He’s a Celestial in the Marvel universe, a being endowed with immense power. Of course with a name like Ego, his story is a metaphor for rampant self-obsession. (Ego is not Star-Lord’s dad in the comics, and doesn’t have much of a connection to The Guardians of the Galaxy, but his choice in this movie seems pretty brilliant.)

“Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved! Rejoice!” – The Beast M. Night Shyamalan’s unexpected blockbuster Split wasn’t initially billed as a comic book origin story, but the spoilers immediately revealed that’s exactly what it is. Going into it without that knowledge possibly makes the journey a bit more fun, at least it did for me, because it gives a hindsight context to the initial tone of the film. It made the standard Shyamalan twist feel a little more satisfying…. Read more »

Peter Jackson’s 1994 film Heavenly Creatures takes its audience on a voyage through the twisted fantasy world woven by of a pair of adolescent girl murderers. The movie ends with a scene that stabs an icy stake through the heart of innocence: the gruesome slaying of one of the girls’ mothers. The movie’s dreamlike atmosphere feels like a dark, warped fairytale, but it was based on a crime committed by two real girls in 1950s New Zealand: Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme. The motive? Juliet was leaving for America, and Pauline’s mother was against Pauline going with her.

TThe breakneck revenge-fueled turns in Park Chan-Wook The Handmaiden‘s astonishing plot are owed directly to their source material: Sarah Waters’ The Fingersmith. Although The Fingersmith is set in Victorian era England and The Handmaiden is set in Korea under Japanese rule in the early 20th century, they’re both tales of class and desire mixed up with twisty, double-sided plots.