Monday, October 6, 2008

Losing Your Key

At first you don’t panic. It has to be somewhere, and you check the pile of unopened mail just below the slot in the door, right next to its dish. It was there a week ago, and now it isn’t, and you circle the front parlor scanning shelves and tables for the familiar chain with its tags and trinkets.

Soon you’re searching the pockets of coats in the closet, of old pants lying in the hall, of musty shirts in the moist hamper. It isn’t anywhere, and you feel your breath go tight. You find yourself rummaging through papers you haven’t disturbed in years. You open the refrigerator just in case. You search the pantry.

Soon your whole house looks strange to you. Every item slightly off-place, but you can’t remember when you may have moved any of it. You hunt through everything you own, altering it all, and removing any trace of how it might have been a moment ago, or a moment before that. And you think you might be going a little off-place yourself.

And then you find the key. Right where you left it in the dish you’re sure you checked. You fit it into the front door’s lock, and it works. And everything would be fine if its shape weren’t slightly wrong; if there weren’t that chip of unfamiliar nail polish. If you weren’t sure that someone had mistakenly left you the copy of the key they took. A week ago.

Horror? Horror.

This is probably the first horror story many of us hear in our lives, sitting in a parent's lap dressed in our pj's. And in many ways it's the purest. A monster stalking the homes of three protagonists. The sensible one defeats it (of course). This monster is Count Orlok peeking through the window and Michael Myers prowling the byways of Haddonfield. It goes right back to Grendel.
The wolf could represent the Depression-era hunger that forces a family to band together. Or it could be a racial other; there's an anti-Semitic version of this cartoon that parallels Nosferatu in its depiction of Jewish people. I think these are good interpretations, but they miss the tale's primal quality.
Something strange comes to your home. Lock the door and kill the lights. Don't linger near the window. It knows you're alone.

Classic Horror

Here is one of my favorite horror movies of all time: Murnau's Nosferatu. It contains some of the creepiest images I've ever seen in a movie. It comes to us from a Youtuber known as 1938Superman. One interesting tidbit is that Murnau was a German fighter pilot during the First World War. Another fact, something you probably know, is that this was an unauthorized remake of Stoker's Dracula, and that it was supposed to be destroyed by court order.

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