Wednesday 30 October 2013

Supernatural Tricks

The harvest season is here and it’s time to put on a scary face to keep away evil spirits. As part of a primitive superstitious tradition, Hallow’s Eve is a treasure trove of stories from the “dark side” of our imagination. Masks, skeletons, witches, jack-o’-lanterns and ghosts have given children nightmares for countless centuries, but it is our ignorance of the afterlife that creates such a grim cornucopia of horror. At least, that's what it used to be.

Although considered a topic within the domain of organized religion, Hallow’s Eve has become more of a secular, holiday time for crazy parties and decorating. In the past, people put on rags and smeared ash on their faces to disguise themselves - in order to hide from supernatural creatures. It was believed there was only one night of the year when the spirits of the dead were allowed to cross over into our world and spend time with the living. The only way to escape these spirits was to trick them into thinking you were not one of the living.That was the theory.

There's a common folk tale, of which there are many versions, about a greedy man named Jack who tricks the devil into letting him live even though it's supposed to be “his time” to depart this world. When Jack’s trick goes wrong, however, he is trapped between Heaven and Hell - doomed to wander the Earth for eternity looking for a place to rest.

We also used to celebrate classic monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman, but today the Zombie rules when it comes to the most disturbing side of horror. Most major cities now have zombie walks or parades where huge crowds of people dress up and stagger along toward a cemetery or pub. Of course, the object of their desire is no longer the soul of victims, but their brains.

In the cinema, Zombie films have descended from a long tradition of horror that deals with our fear of “the undiscover’d country, from whose bourn no traveller returns.” Perhaps the most creative latest example has to be R.I.P.D. (Blu-ray just released yesterday) with Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds. The film was a financial disaster. Its total domestic box office was only $33 million with $42 million (foreign) for a total Worldwide of $76 million. The production budget was almost twice that. Personally, I loved the film. The frozen time scene at the beginning was astonishing! Jeff and Ryan were great. The story is a bit of a buddy movie with afterlife cops looking for dead people who didn't want to leave the world of the living. I thought it was great.

It still doesn't explain, however, how "dressing up" has evolved to the point where horror is no longer part of the event. No. Now it can be any concept at all including inanimate objects like pianos, kitchen appliances or slot machines. Then there are the normally shy and bashful women who put on fantasy adult costumes portaying sexy pirates, hot cops or scantily clad cute rodents. Such portrayals may not trick the dead, but it's bound to make them wonder.

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