The final of my 31 Days of Halloween. I have saved Cthulhu (traditionally pronounced Ka-Thoo-Loo) for last. First appearing in 1928 in The Call of Cthulhu, a short story by H.P. Lovecraft Cthulhu is an elder god within a mythos that created by many writers through decades. Cthulhu lies sleeping somewhere in the South Pacific, in a sunken city known as R’lyeh. It is said that if the god were to awaken, the mere sight of him would cause a person to go insane.
It is amazing how much Cthulhu has permeated pop culture in recent years: Board games, card games, video games, comics, toys, movies, tv shows, and even clothing. Despite all the of the depictions, he merely sleeps. Lovecraft is not about giant monster, Godzilla stories; Lovecraft is about stories of mankind and the limits of the mind. Common themes are sanity, isolation, unanswered questions, and helplessness.
Did you know: All of Lovecraft’s stories written before 1923 are now in the public domain. However, it’s not clear who owns or owned the copyright to many of his works, and the status of stories written after 1923 is disputed.
Day 30: To date, I have still only seen one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Hush.” The episode features creatures known as The Gentlemen, creepy, well-dressed, floating men with asylum inmate henchmen. They cloak the town in silence, so they may collect hearts without screams. Not knowing anything of the characters prior to watching, I still found the episode enjoyable to watch on its own, although I found the ending to be rather silly. It was interesting to watch a show almost entirely silent, with the characters having to rely on other forms of communication.
Did you know: Doug Jones and the other actors who played The Gentlemen were professional mimes. This gave them an elegant grace, especially in their hand movements.
Day 29: Gmork: Most usually don’t know his name, just that super scary, evil wolf from the 1984 film The Neverending Story that haunted their childhood. Gmork is a servant of the Nothing, tasked with hunting down and killing Atreyu. Atreyu is the only one that can stop the Nothing from destroying Fantasia. Gmork loses his prey in the Swamps of Sadness, failing his task. The two meet for the first and final time in Spook City and discuss the Nothing, Atreyu hiding his identity.
The film is adapted loosely from a 1979 German novel by Michael Ende.
Did you know: The film itself actually “ends” about halfway through the book.
Day 28: Released in 1982, Poltergeist is a great standard ghost story: house built on top of an ancient native american burial ground, angry spirits, furniture moving, get out of the house. Then the girl gets taken and we get an episode of Ghost Hunters that actually has ghosts in it. Poltergeist gives us some great practical special effects, good lighting and camera work, and some fantastic memorable performances, mainly Zelda Rubinstein as the medium.
At 4’3″ Zelda was the biggest character in the film, taking charge of the situation without fear and commanding that the little girl come home, commanding that her father go and rescue her. “This house is clean.”
Did you know: A common translation of the German word “Poltergeist” is “rumbling spirit”.
Day 27: Back to a classic. At what point did preserved royalty become an unstoppable malign force? I guess the same could be said of zombies. The first seems to be an 1827 novel The Mummy! where one such is brought back to life, and includes a curse to boot. In 1932, The Mummy was added to Universal’s monster line-up. A year following Frankenstein, Karloff dons the make-up of another undead title role, this time with dialog.
Karloff’s character is buried alive after trying to use dark magic to resurrect is dead lover. Awakened when archeologists explore his tomb, the mummy escapes, living as a modern Egyptian in search of his lover yet again. In this original film, the mummy has very little supernatural powers, while some newer films give their characters curses, control over insects, sand and other undead, and other mystical abilities.
Did you know: The piece of classical music heard during the opening credits, taken from the Tchaikovsky ballet Swan Lake, was previously also used for the opening credits of Dracula.
Day 26: One can’t have Alien without Predator from 1987 starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Alone in the South American jungle, what was to be a routine mission for an elite team turns into a hunt, but it’s the team that’s being hunted. Predators are a warrior race, priding themselves on honor and the hunt, and valuing skulls as trophies. In the first film, Arnold’s group is hunted by an unseen force hiding in among the trees, taking them out one by one. This enemy is technologically advanced with heat vision, a cloaking device, and a laser targeted pulse gun. The monster isn’t even seen until final fight, and that’s what adds to the fear. Also, as far as final fight scenes go, Predator is a fantastic all out brawl, ending with one of the greatest evil laughs of all time.
Much like the Alien, Predator has perhaps had a few too many licenses thrown around from sequels, video games, toys, and comics. I’ll stick mainly with the first two films, although playing the Alien vs Predator video game multiplayer in college was a blast. The Predator still remains my favorite alien from fiction.
Hilarious SNL skit with the ghost of Harey Carey talking about the Predator: https://screen.yahoo.com/harry-caray-000000713.html
Did you know? The alien had to be redesigned a couple times, finally with Kevin Peter Hall playing the part, who was 7’2″.
Day 25: So the Engineers who created humans, create the xenomorphs to kill the humans, but we are a bunch of terrible beings who kill things we don’t understand and find threatening. Well the joke is on them because the threat is set loose and kills all but one of the engineers before attacking Earth. Fast forward over 2000 years and we have Alien: dark, claustrophobic, terrifying Alien. Released in 1979, Ridley Scott’s film scared audiences with the atmosphere of isolation.
First you have the egg, where grows the face hugger, which is really just a delivery system for another egg. The xenomorph gestates inside a host, normally human, and inherits some traits before bursting from the chest, which kills the host. The xenomorph runs and hides so it can grow into a full grown killing machine.
With four movies and prequel, comic books, crossovers, video games, and toys, so much has been expanded on. Some is good and some quite bad. Still, it’s hard to not be scared of the efficient, silent killer in the original installment.
Did you know: In H.R. Giger’s original illustrations the creature has eyes. For the movie, Giger insisted that the creature have no eyes, thus giving the bleak appearance of a cold and emotionless beast.
Day 24: Dr. Herbert West, the Re-Animator. Published in 1922, it’s actually considered Lovecraft’s worst work, only driven to write for the money. West is a fiercely driven student in Miskatonic University’s medical program. Rather narcisistic, having little respect for the living or dead, his theory is that the human body is merely a machine that can be restarted after death using his serum. West and his companion, who narrates the story, proceed to test the serum on grave robbed corpses, the dean of the school, and WWI soldiers before meeting his end at the hand of his creations.
In 1985, the story is adapted to film, starring Jeffrey Combs as West. Despite some gratuitous nudity and gore in true 80’s fashion, I really enjoy the movie. Part of me would like to see a remake with a higher budget treatment, but I worry it would be terrible Combs is fantastic in the title role and I can’t imagine anyone else as the character. It’s really astounding with such great source material, good Lovecraft movies are so hard to come by, with Re-Animator being only one of two I can think of that are actually adapted, albeit loosely, directly from his works. The Call of Cthulhu, a silent film from 2005, is the other. In the Mouth of Madness and Event Horizon are both good movies with a Lovecraft theme.
Did you know: Lovecraft wrote Herbert West—Reanimator as a spoof on Frankenstein.
Day 23: In the world of Magic The Gathering, one necromancer reigns supreme. However, when I started playing Magic, planes walkers weren’t cards and the famed Liliana Vess hadn’t entered the storyline yet. So today I focus on Lim-Dûl, the necromancer I grew up with. Once a human (they all start out that way), Lim-Dûl fled when his soldier unit was attacked, stumbling upon a magic ring amidst a blizzard. This ring bestowed necromantic powers with which he terrorized the land with his undead minions during Ice Age. He’s put his soul and mind into so many different people and things, it’s hard to tell what has become of the powerful wizard.
Some of my favorite Magic artwork came from the Ice Age set: Jester’s Cap, Giant Trap Door Spider, Dance of the Dead, Chub Toad.
Did you know: Legions of Lim-Dul is the only card ever printed with Snow swampwalk.
Day 22: Once a human mage, Kel’Thuzad left his city and company of wizards and headed north to make a bargain. He pledged his service to the Lich King in return for power and immortality, was slain by Arthas and resurrected as a lich. For a time, he commanded a portion of the undead scourge from his necropolis before being defeated and forced north once again. Kel’Thuzad appears as a hero choice for the undead in Warcraft III, and a raid boss in World of Warcraft.
Naxxramas, the necropolis, remains one of my favorite experiences in World of Warcraft even though I accomplished the task long after it was released. The players have to defeat each of the four quarters, arachnid, military, construct, and plague, before facing Kel’Thuzad in the final battle.
Naxxramas preview monologue
I was cast out by my comrades. Exiled. Forced to wander the frozen wastes…but I was not alone. Not entirely. The voice, now my only companion, guided me to my destination. Strange, nightmarish creatures awaited me at the entrance. I felt my blood run cold, as cold as Icecrown itself.
Inside, I bore witness to horrific acts, demonstrations of power, power that could be mine for the asking. Terrified, I ran…but did not get far. All too soon, my choice was made. Too late did I realize that such power does not come…without a price.
Now, the world shall pay a far greater toll, for I have returned.
I am Kel’Thuzad…
Your curiosity will be the death of you.
Did you know: Kel’Thuzad’s “Your curiosity will be the death of you” is an exact Zhar the mad (Diablo I) quote.