Sunday, December 21, 2014

Where Horror Rears its Ugly Head on Family Television

The Weird Western Lassos the Rawhide TV Show
Reviewed by
Anthony Servante
(originally published in The Black Glove Ezine 09/01/2011).

When we watch family television, we have certain expectations about the plots and the behavior of the characters. We expect Lucille Ball to get into and out of trouble; we expect Scully and Mulder to encounter supernatural phenomena. What we don’t expect is Lucy taking on monsters or Mulder stealing John Wayne’s cement footprints from the Grauman’s Chinese Theater. When the unexpected happens on our favorite shows, I call them Off Kilter TV.

Eric Fleming as Gil Hodges

In today’s column we will take a look at the 60s TV Western, RAWHIDE and an episode called, “Incident of the Four Horsemen”, written by Charles Larson, who wrote for the TV show, One Step Beyond, and directed by Thomas Carr, who directed for Adventures of Superman and Dick Tracy. The includes Eric Fleming and Clint Eastwood. 

Fleming and Eastwood  

What I like about Rawhide is that the stories are always on the verge of the supernatural: a mysterious figure in black follows the drovers, killing them off one by one, the Murder Steer (a bull with the word ‘murder’ branded on its side) appears and whoever sees it soon after dies; there’s the rolling wagon with no driver, a supposedly haunted Indian Burial Ground, and a zombie Indian, but the episodes always end with an explanation: the figure in black is a man who murdered his wife and child and seeks his own death by killing others; the Murder Steer is planted by a corrupt judge who plans a crime; the zombie Indian was just very ill and never really died as his tribe believed. However, in the episode, “Incident of the Four Horsemen”, it turns out to be a true supernatural tale, an Off Kilter TV yarn closer to weird than western.

Let’s first refresh our memories as Rawhide is over 50 years old. The western TV show revolves around a cattle drive of about 3000 head of steer, the trail boss, Gil Favor (Eric Fleming), the second in command, ramrod Rowdy Yates (Clint Eastwood), Wishbone, the cook (Paul Brinegar), and the 20 or so drovers played by regular and guest actors from week to week.

Rawhide: Incident of the Four Horsemen
 View Episode Here Before Proceeding if you Wish

In the Four Horsemen episode, the drive is stalled between two feuding families, and in Romeo and Juliet-style, a young man from one family, Louden, and a young woman from the other, Galt, marry, triggering a murder and fueling the feud toward a full-scale war. One by one, each of the horsemen arrive as the war nears. Here we need to get a little biblical guidance before we resume the episode analysis. The coming of the horsemen heralds the Apocalypse, that is, the final battle between Christ and the Antichrist for the souls of mankind, and these riders are known traditionally as Death, War, Famine, and Pestilence. The head of one family is Galt (God?), and the other is Louden (Lucifer?); it is difficult to say who is the good one and the evil one in that their names are interchangeable with double meaning: for instance, Galt can be gaunt or god, while Louden can be Lucifer or Lord. This ambiguity causes us to focus on the horsemen rather than the families, just as in the biblical Apocalypse there will be false prophets and one will not be able to tell the rise of the Antichrist from the second coming of Christ. Many souls will be lost as they choose the wrong side.

The Four Horsemen

So, in the Rawhide episode, the family feud on the brink of battle represents the coming Apocalypse. Thus, the first horseman to appear is War: Initially, we meet Gus Marsden (Claude Atkins); get it, Mars, Roman god of war? The den of war. Nudge, nudge. His first act is to instigate the murder of Carl Galt (Edward Faulkner) right after the marriage between Amy Galt and Frank Louden. Next we meet Ben Kerran (carrion?) (John Dehner) who plays the horseman Death. We can tell he’s Death because Wishbone finds him dead and buries him, and a few seconds later, he rises from the grave. Of course, Favor hires him immediately. When Marsden and Kerran meet, they get on like old acquaintances, for what is war without death?

John Dehner as Kerran (Death)

The horsemen, Famine and Pestilence, are found in a ghost town. They are called Hombre and White. Hombre represents famine as he eerily eats nonstop for the rest of the episode. White is pestilence as he coughs nonstop, a cough deep inside where no medicine can reach, as he points out. Soon, the two horsemen join the others and the four are now together, ready for the families to begin their bloodshed so they can thrive. Only Gil Favor stands between the four men and their goal. Favor must drive the cattle across the river, preventing any of the armies from using the steer to feed their warfare. But the Four Horsemen are not going to make it easy for him.

Claude Akins as Marsden (War)

As Kerran reminds Favor that he’s driving the herd straight into a brewing war, the trail boss points out that he makes his own fate, thus alluding to free will and that the outcome is not predetermined. He tries to convince Louden not to go to war, but Galt and Kerran barge in on them. Kerran (Death) pushes the newlywed groom to make it seem like he’s reaching for a gun and Galt shoots him. The horseman tells Favor that he was trying to push him out of harm’s way, the same lie Marsden used to trigger the first murder, of Carl Galt, that brought them to the brink of battle.

Favor is not deterred and plans to cross the river. Marsden, Kerran, White and Hombre sit atop their horses on the other side of the river and the herd refuses to cross. It is then that someone says that the four men are the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and call Kerran by the name Death. Favor insists that the sun is in the cows’ eyes and they just need to wait a few hours for the sun to be overhead. But war threatens. Marsden and Kerran are steely-eyed, White coughs away, and Hombre continues to eat. The trail boss challenges Kerran to a fight, winner takes all; if Kerran wins, he claims the lives of everyone, including the cattle’s, but if Favor wins, war will be averted and the cattle can cross the river.

So, it’s mano a mano with Gil Favor versus Death. Since we can’t have the hero of the show get killed, Favor wins, and Kerran admits that his timing was off, that it was not yet Favor’s time, but that he’ll be back. In essence, Death will return for Favor. I guess even Death can make a math mistake. Anyway... War is averted, the cattle cross, the family feud is settled, and the Four Horsemen ride off.

Much of the fun of this supernatural episode is the weak attempt to explain away the strange behavior of the drovers (some come down with a bad cough, similar to White’s, others choose sides for or against Galt and Louden, and many are driven to drink to handle the pressure of impending war), but the best they could come up with is the sun got in the cow’s eyes. Throughout the episode there is talk of devils and demons, god and man’s place in a godless land. Through it all, as Favor tries to talk sense to his men, we as viewers cannot ignore all that has transpired, the deviousness of Marsden and Kerran, the insatiable appetite of Hombre, and that wicked cough deep in White. But there's no explanation other than Death mistimed Favor's demise. The rest (the disease, the evil, and the deaths) can only be explained by the presence of Death, War, Pestilence, and Famine. It's as if the writer Charles Larsen deliberately left the episode open-ended. I mean, what else could we expect from a guy who wrote for the supernatural TV show ONE STEP BEYOND?! Still, “Incident of the Four Horsemen” can be added confidently to the list of Weird Westerns and to the list of Off Kilter TV shows brought to you by yours truly.

Until next we meet with another Off Kilter TV program, keep the TV on in the darkness.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Poetry Today: Trends and Traditions 18
Christmas Light and Christmas Dark

Compiled and Formatted by Anthony Servante

First Santa by Thomas Nast

It is tempting to write a thesis about the first Santa and his relation to the horned and demonic Krampus, but I leave that to the anti-Christmas folk who like to dwell on the pagan aspects of the holiday. In today's poetry column, I choose to give equal attention to the lighter and darker elements of the Christmas spirit. To help me in my cause, I welcome our poets for today's poetry column: We have Michael H. Hanson, Jaye Tomas, Coralie Rowe, Kay Irwin, DS Scott, Rick Mohl, Lemmy Rushmore, and Jerry Langdon. You may notice that I had an extra spot for Light Christmas poetry, so I included two songs by Trans Siberian Orchestra to add some sound to the proceedings. So gather round the computer screen with the elves, the Krampus, and Saint Nick to read a few poems of Christmas cheer and fear. 

Let's begin.

The Dark

Lemmy Rushmore

Lemmy Rushmore is a mechanic by trade and father of three who occasionally dares dabble in the world of words. Until recently unpublished, his pieces touch on many topics, but tend to lean toward the darker side of those things encountered daily. Ranging from emotionally dark to horror, some of his work can be seen in the anthologies We are Dust and Shadow, Demonic Possession, and No Sight for the Saved, which features the superbly dark art of Niall Parkinson. All have been released by James Ward Kirk Publishing and are now available. In addition he will be lucky enough to be included along with a great many truly talented writers and poets among the pages of the anthologies Hell II: Citizens, Cellar Door III: Animals, Indiana Horror Review 2014, The Grays, and Bones III, all coming soon from the great team at James Wark Kirk Publishing. His newest work can be viewed on the Facebook page, Parkinson Rushmore Project as he is currently involved in a unique collaboration with the extraordinarily talented artist, Niall Parkinson...

Facebook page....

Parkinson Rushmore Project page....

No Sight for the Saved....

Demonic Possession....

We Are Dust and Shadow....

The List

all the lights had been hung
and the stockings by fire
then good nights had been bid
'fore to room he'd retired
for Saint Nick he would wait
ever anxious and ready
while the rest were asleep
and he clung to his teddy
but the year had been his
and for no others he'd cared
it seems naughty he'd been
and only torments he'd shared
he knew nothing of nice
and he'd not listened at all
every chance he had gotten
under skins he would crawl
soon was bells he would hear
'pon the roof as they jingled
then the sound of those hooves
as with shingles they mingled
down the stairs he would fly
hoping red suit he would see
but another there was
and horns and fur there would be
to his lair he'd be dragged
in the bag Krampus carried
and so soon it would be
in the snow he'd be buried...

Copyright © 2014 Lemmy Rushmore  All rights reserved.

Silent Night, Violent Night

to my ears flew my hands
while all those carols were sung
and I found naught but disgust
for those lights neatly hung
no good tidings had I
seems I hated the season
while rejoice they all would
I could see not the reason
that cruel ghost of the past
it so endlessly haunted
and with Christmas it seems
it was me that it taunted
so a stop I would have
to that ache that repeated
with each ounce that I am
I would see it deleted
down the chimney he'd creep
but was I who was peeking
and I'd see the whole thing
as toward tree he was sneaking
there in act he was caught
and he'd pay for it dearly
was my point I would make
and he'd see it so clearly
wasn't joy I would spread
but instead it was violence
it was even I'd get
with that night and its silence...

Copyright © 2014 Lemmy Rushmore  All rights reserved.

The Light

Michael H. Hanson

Michael H. Hanson is the Creator of the Sha'Daa shared-world, horror/fantasy anthology series (currently consisting of "Sha'Daa: Tales of The Apocalypse," "Sha'Daa: Last Call," "Sha'Daa: Pawns," and the soon to premiere "Sha'Daa: Facets," all published by Moondream Press (an imprint of Copper Dog Publishing LLC).

He has written two collections of poetry, "Autumn Blush" and "Jubilant Whispers," whose second editions will soon be published by Racket River Press (an imprint of Copper Dog Publishing LLC).

In the upcoming year Michael will not only be overseeing the writing of the new Sha'Daa anthology "Sha'Daa: Inked," but he is also overseeing the writing of the shared-world novel "Not To Yield," a science fiction tale inspired by The Odyssey.

The Call of Snow
by Michael H. Hanson

The call of snow is whimsical,
both silly and mellifluous
like a live, joyous musical
sprinkling a lush, seasonal blush.

The call of snow is so selfless
it cares not who hears its rich song,
a most blissful, buoyant chorus
entertaining all winter long.

The call of snow is a grand gift
announcing a time of giving
beneath a tree that will uplift
our souls for their blest forgiving.

The call of snow is charmed and clear,
a humble chime that love is near.

by Michael H. Hanson

Angelic choirs of laughing rhyme
which giggling kids can’t hold inside;
we smell the pitch of blushing pine
that snuggles us this wintertide.

Sweet crystal flakes upon our tongue,
flimsy toboggans all can ride.
we gulp hot cider like a sponge
and sculpture snow this wintertide.

The thrill of daily greeting card,
warm crushing hugs at fireside,
a loving call beckons homeward
uniting us this wintertide.

The Dark

Jaye Tomas

Jaye Tomas has "scribbled" all her life but found her audience growing hugely after she created her Chimera Poetry blog. Her first Book, 'Nocturnes', has been very well received and she is hard at work on the second which will be ready for publication early in 2015.
Jaye loves all things bookish and her reading tastes are extensive: Tolkien, Lovecraft, Gaiman, Valente, Harkness, Plath, Ellison, Christie, Aaronovitch, Yeats, Blake, Servante, King, Barker, Straub, Lopez, Maugham, Rimbaud, Ness, Funke, Taylor, Kipling, Chaucer, Morgenstern name a very few.
Originally from Chicago, she is currently residing in the UK but has begun to cast her eyes in other directions. "The beauty of the story, she says, is in the journey, not the arrival."

Black Dwarf ~

All eyes were turned upwards to the sky on that special night
the angelic host shining splendorous
and the singing rose in celebration against the blackness and the conquering of all ultimate fears.
Or so it was thought....
for in that worshiped starfire,
that golden time,
a second star rose
and with violent precision
A streak of fury
of raging crimson,
overlooked and burning with injured conceit
heavy in its malevolence
it collided with the aquamarine world in an explosion of dirt and rock
and lodged there silently
unsung and unheralded.
Cooling into sullen metal and sending slivers burrowing blindly
into the disrupted soil.
This cold black dwarf
this star without light
seeding itself in preparation
of a new age.
Not of hope or of peace,
but Chaos.


Lazarillo Stealing Grapes from the Poor Blind Beggar
by Thomas Wijck-

The Forest For the Trees ~

It was always easy pickings at this time of year
he thought
which made his bleared eyes brighten to a lighter shade of mud.
Plenty of cash around for shopping,
for getting the "flash",
the tallest tree and the most electric lights.
As he wandered in that forest of cut pines
propped and priced to hook the buyer he reminded himself...
You smile at them, offer to carry the tree,
the heavy parcels
(they like that)
keeps them from getting needles and pine sap on their designer jackets.
Easy pickings;
smaller items dipped from bags,
all ready to be turned into... enough.
Whats enough?
The price of a bottle.
Or two bottles maybe? 'Tis the season and all that..
He laughed without much humor and stumble-shuffled towards the gates
The gates....
but they were nowhere in sight.
He turned
turned again.
What the...
no opening, no fence.
Only trees far as the eye could see...
Can't see the forest for the trees he chuckled nervously,
his feet slowing because they already knew what his brain wouldn't accept.
He was somehow lost in the forest
an impossible forest
an unkind
Thicker and darker the trees leaned in greedily
as the wind spun the dusting of snow in small devils around his feet
and dimly he heard someone
Heart failing him, he closed his eyes and waited.

This time of year
it's always -
they're always -
easy pickings...


The Light

Rick L. Mohl, Sr.

I was born May 9, 1959 in Frankfurt, Germany. Moved to Richland, Washington in 1960, lived here ever since. Graduated Kennewick high School, class of 1977, never attended College. Married (1986-28 years) Two daughters (31 and 21) One son (18). I love to read (big Terry Brooks and Stephen King fan),and I love to write poetry.




The Dark

Jerry Langdon

I was born and raised in Michigan. Lived in Germany since the early 90's. I have had great interest in painting and poetry since my teen years. Dark things have always interested me. Been a fan of horror and fantasy. I have chosen this path in my writing and painting.

Amazon Page:

Twelve Nights of Christmas

On the first night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
A wreath of thorns

On the second night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns

On the third night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns
Upon this decrepit door

On the fourth night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns

On the fifth night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
Five lumps of coal
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns

On the sixth night of Christmas
You'll never guess
The ghosts brought to me
Six dying souls
Five lumps of coal
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns
Upon this decrepit door

On the seventh night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
Seven minds ~ maddening
Six dying souls
Five lumps of coal
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns

On the eighth night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
Eight spikes ~ thrusting
Seven minds ~ maddening
Six dying souls
Five lumps of coal
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns

On the ninth night of Christmas
I'll be damned
The ghosts brought to me
Nine broken mirrors
Eight spikes ~ thrusting
Seven minds ~ maddening
Six dying souls
Five lumps of coal
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns
Upon this decrepit door
I plea no more

On the tenth night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
Ten demons ~ screaming
Nine broken mirrors
Eight spikes ~ thrusting
Seven minds ~ maddening
Six dying souls
Five lumps of coal
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns

On the eleventh night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
Eleven angels ~ crying
Ten demons ~ screaming
Nine broken mirrors
Eight spikes ~ thrusting in my heart
Seven minds ~ maddening
Six dying souls
Five lumps of coal
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns

On the twelfth night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
Twelve hearts ~ bleeding
Eleven angels ~ crying
Ten demons ~ screaming
Nine broken mirrors
Eight spikes ~ thrusting in my heart
Seven minds ~ maddening
Six dying souls
Five lumps of coal
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns
Upon this decrepit door
And came no more

© Jerry Langdon 2013

Obscure Yuletide

It is bitter cold outside

As the last dying flames subside

The remaining warmth leaving the fireplace

It has lost its comforting grace

Unfed ~ Of life denied

Deadly silence floods the room

As it fades into gloom

All the love has left this place

Took all the joy and left empty space

Naught remains but this mournful groom

You'll find nothing under the tree

Emptiness reminding me of place I'd rather be

Not a carol being sung

Not a stocking hung

No one here other than me

It's bitter cold outside

As the last dying flames subside

Deadly silence floods the room

As it fades into gloom

Oh, My obscure Yuletide

© Jerry Langdon 2013

The Light

Kay Irwin

Kay Irvin is a single Leo and a lyrics and poetry writer with a penchant for all things beautifully eerie. Her signature style is Gothic-Victorian. Often dark, haunting and with just a subtle twinge of something unnerving from time to time, is how she likes to pen her verse and prose. She has been writing for well over two decades and maintains a blog, chronicling a large amount of her work.
She admires the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Byron, Robert Frost and especially a piece entitled, 'Ode' by Arthur O'Shaughnessy. She enjoys the lyrical attributes of Jim Morrison, 
Stevie Nicks, Nirvana, Type O Negative, Evanescence, Pearl Jam, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.
She considers these artists - her teachers, learning from them but developing into her own.
I hope to offer something pleasing to those who come across my work.'

Poetry and Lyrics Blog ...
A contact form is located on her blog
or she can be contacted via ...

The Dark

Coralie Rowe

C. Rowe is new to the writing scene. Previously a baker by trade, now a mum, Rowe found an interest in writing poetry and has been published in a horror anthology recently.

Facebook page:

"Xmas Lunch"
Santa and his elves
Are a merry little bunch
Eating all sorts of naughty kids
For their christmas day lunch
Randal got caught
Spraying graffiti on a sleigh
Now he is going to be
The appetizing entrée
Tommy was bad
He had hit his sisters
Now cooking in the oven
His skin crispy with blisters
Suzie was mean
Others feelings she hurt
Now getting whipped slowly
She'll make a great desert
So children beware
Because if you are bad
You'll be the best christmas lunch
Santa, ever has had

Jolly Folly
Christmas bells
Satan's hell
Watching the kids play
Feeling pissed
And slightly miffed
Where is his heyday, hey
Singing songs
Righting wrongs
Giving love and kisses
Opening gifts
The paper rips
Sounds like Satan's hisses
Feeling miffed
And slightly pissed
He's the red suit man
But another came
With toys and games
And ruined his grand plan
Now Satan frets
While Santa nets
All the greed of men
He's so jolly
They don't see the folly
Only what they yen 

 The Light

Trans Siberian Orchestra

Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) is an American progressive rock band founded in 1996 by producer, composer, and lyricist Paul O'Neill, who brought together Jon Oliva and Al Pitrelli (both members of Savatage) and keyboardist and co-producer Robert Kinkel to form the core of the creative team (Wiki).

The Snow Came Down

 Christmas Canon Rock

The Dark

D.S. Scott 

When D. S. Scott was fourteen, a friend suggested he write a short story. He began writing and immediately took an interest in it. A couple weeks later he finished and was surprised to find how much he enjoyed writing it. In the years since, Scott has written in several genres but has found a particular interest in horror and suspense. He enjoys writing poetry, short stories and has started on a novel. Finding writing to be a creative outlet, he kept with it and followed his goal to publish.

Christmas Cheer - © D. S. Scott - 2014

Coming downstairs this Christmas Eve
I see the back door open letting in the cold
Santa can’t fit all my gifts down the chimney
I see him and realize he’s not like I was told

He doesn’t hear me approach from behind
But I see my parents are already there
Santa has let them join his party
And he has given them each a chair

I see with wide eyes that they are afraid
Then I notice they both are bound
With Christmas lights tied around them
I know I must not make a sound

Santa looks so very different
He is nothing like I thought
He does wear a suit of red
But in the act he has been caught

He must be taking my presents
Wanting to keep each one
I hear my mother sobbing
And my dad looks fed up and done

He asks Santa why he’s doing this
And Santa tells them that as a boy
He never once got a nice Christmas
And not a single moment of joy

Santa’s red suit looks so very strange
I see in big letters the word “INMATE”
He has no white hair and no long beard
He’s not even jolly and overweight

And so I decide to come a little closer
I need to know what this man is about
That is when my parents spot me
And both let out a scream and shout

Santa turns and seems startled
Recovering quickly he advances on me
I hear my dad tell him not to hurt his son
But this is the plan, it’s easy to see

He grabs me by the shoulders
And shakes me all around
But then he stops and hugs me
Like something lost and found

He yells out with joy
“Hello there, little brother
Come join us for Christmas
With father and our mother”

Suddenly I’m confused
Everything has changed
This man is not my Santa
This man is just deranged

“I never had fun with my family
Nothing quite like this
The times I never had
Things like this I had to miss

You see I was locked up
Thrown away and jailed
Mom and Dad here, well …
They quite simply failed

And so I did decide
To break out on this day
I wanted to be with you
To meet with you and stay

So I came here quickly
I came to see you tonight
I hope they don’t catch me soon
If they do I’ll put up a fight

I just needed to see you all
I didn’t know what else to do
You never visit, Mom and Dad
I really missed you too”

I truly have to wonder
So I give my parents a glare
They look away uneasily
As I continue to stare

Then the man inspects me closer
A long look of sheer glee
I don’t know what he expects
Surely he can’t think I’m happy

That’s when we hear the sirens
And across his face comes a frown
He seems quite depressed
So very dark and down

“Well I guess that’s my cue
It’s time for me to go
I left gifts for all of you all
Oh, and just so you know …

It was great to see you tonight
I hope I brought you cheer
One last thing before I leave …
I’ll see you all next year”

The Christmas Gift - © D. S. Scott - 2014

Waking up from a noise
I sneak downstairs to detect
I wonder if it’s Santa Claus
The one I do expect

All I see is a single gift
A present under the tree
I must know what it is
I know that it’s for me

Gifts come from Mommy
Nothing’s real about Santa Claus
Presents come from Daddy
But something I see gives me pause

There on the top of the box
Is a name penned in red letter
Signed by the one and only
It couldn’t get any better

I knew it all along
I knew Santa was real
I thought the stories were right
And this seals the deal

Mom and Dad don’t know
Everything is true
There’s only one thing left
I know what I must do

I know it’s not Christmas yet
It’s just a little bit early
It is only the night before
I think it would be okay, yes surely

I rip open the crinkly paper
And I cast aside the bow
I find a cardboard box
What it could be, I just don’t know

I am so very happy
I’m oh-so excited
I can’t wait a moment longer
I just know I’ll be delighted

So I pull apart the box
And I take a peek inside
Suddenly I can feel
A little bit of me has died

There is a piece of paper
A simple little note
Nothing more, nothing less
And here is what he wrote

“You have been naughty this time
I’ve watched you all year
Especially on this night
I saw what you did, oh dear

So this is why you won’t get any gifts
Not from me, your mom or dad
I can understand how upset you are
But it is your own fault that you are sad

Maybe you should check on your parents
Make your way back upstairs if you dare
Go into their bedroom and check
Make sure that they are still there”

Now I feel horror in my stomach
Now I am truly terrified
I run to the base of the staircase
And as I ran up them I cried

Running down the hall
Trying to reach the door I snuck past
Earlier that night I had to creep by
And finally, I reach it at last

I feel the floorboards creak below me
As I open up the door
I’m struck by a horrible sight
One plagued by blood and gore

There stands Santa Claus
Just at the foot of the bed
Mom and Dad aren’t moving
I think they may be dead

The jolly man bellows laughter
He doubles over with fun
Finally he spoke to me
As he pointed at me with a gun

“Hello there little child
I bring no games or a toy
Here’s what you get for being bad
So Merry Christmas, boy!”


Thank you, readers, for visiting the Poetry Today column. It's been a mixed blessing of ups and downs for the column this year, but as I've noted before: The column comes out each month somehow. It's a mystery and miracle to me how it gets done, but it does. Thank you to all the visual media folk for your contributions and to the poets themselves, be they scribes or musicians, for their participation this year. May you all have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year from your blogger, the Servante of Darkness, Anthony Servante. 

Andrew D. Blacet (Words) Brande Barrett (Art)
Buy this fantastic poetic journey here.
Description: Here are poems for those who prefer to linger among the ruins, to listen for ghosts in leaning doorways or the driplines of caves; for those who appreciate the incipient dread of long shadows, the dark flourish of root and branch, the reflections of stars in wet sand. These are poems for the reader who does not require every puzzle to be solved, every monster to be dragged from its well and thrust into withering light. For those seeking reassurance from the familiar or mundane, look elsewhere. These are the thud of moist earth on the lid of a casket, the suggestion of half-formed faces budding in the boulders of a cliff – these are the occupants of the ditch.
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Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Babadook (2014)
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Directed and Written by Jennifer Kent

Starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, and Bejamin Winspear.

Summary: A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son's fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.

In the tradition of movies like Turn of the Screw (any version), The Amityville Horror, and, yes, The Shining, The Babadook gives us a look at parenthood through the eyes of madness. Only the madness here may in fact just might be a monster. That's the challenge for the viewer--to watch the breakdown of Amelia as her six-year old child, Samuel, drives her out of her mind. But I get ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning. Let me also add that SPOILERS may follow regarding the supernatural element of the film, but it's inherent to my critique to reveal the role of Mister Babadook. So, yes, the Babadook is real, but knowing this does in no way affect any future viewing of the movie as that ending takes us beyond the parenting metaphor. 

The film opens with tragedy. Amelia's husband is killed in an accident; she is left to raise her hyperactive child Samuel by herself. The director Kent focuses on Amelia's tics and twitches as she suppresses her desire to yell at or strike Samuel who is incessant with his need for attention. One night Amelia finds a book on the shelf that wasn't there before. For his nighty-time reading, he wants mommy to read Mr. Babadook to him. Even as the book grows more horrific and terrifying (Samuel latches onto his mother in terror), Amelia reads on oblivious to her son's reaction. Basically, the book is the pronouncement of the Babadook's arrival. Amelia just sees the book as curious, but Samuel understands that an evil force has been set loose.

But the poor viewer sees the story through the depressed mother's eyes as her life falls apart around her, while Samuel must convince his mother that they must prepare to fight Mr. Babadook; he pleads: "Take care of me, mommy, and I'll take care of you." The precocious boy has a gift for building clever and deadly weapons, which get him in trouble at school, but come in handy when the "demon" makes his appearance. But don't get me wrong. We don't see the demon. We see mommy gone mad. She now yells at Samuel and imagines cutting his throat. 

However, once the focus shifts to Samuel, we see a different movie, which brings us to the crucial scene of the movie when Amelia actually sees the Babadook in its "outer" form. It is after this scene that we watch Samuel become less hyperactive and more fearful of mommy, although he continues to promise that he won't let the Babadook take her. Which brings us to mommy's tics and such. Amelia has a loose tooth that bothers her throughout the movie. When stressed, she grinds her teeth, thus aggravating the bad molar. She also has a habit of avoiding scary sounds by slipping under the blanket when readying to sleep. Suddenly, it's morning. Very creepy. 

These tics are important because they lead the viewer to sympathize with her predicament with the misbehaving boy. He screams, he destroys property, he hurts other children. His mother has no where to turn for help. Or so it seems. Neighbors and others offer help, but her guilt convinces her that she must suffer her son's misbehavior alone. This opens the door for Mr. Babadook to be let in. Note in the mysterious book the words: LET ME IN! In essence, Amelia seems to be fighting her own fragile restraint, for she too suffers the loss of her husband just as Samuel overcompensates for his mother's attention because of the loss of his father.

It's those TV images, though, that really reflect the state of Amelia's mind. At first there are those gory nature documentaries that flash by as she channel surfs, then the surreal cartoons from the 1920s, you know, the ones where inanimate objects come to life, such as the face of the moon. After that crucial scene, however, the TV images take a darker turn. Remember the movie Black Sabbath, the Mario Bava classic? Well, Amelia watches that infamous scene from "The Drop of Water", where the dead woman rises from her bed to get back her ring. Director Jennifer Kent picks just the right images to unnerve the viewer while showing Amelia slowly going mad. But as I pointed out in the spoiler earlier, these images are the work of the Babadook. Very layered story-telling at work here.

The final battle with the evil force is also a metaphor for Amelia's regaining control of her own senses and restraining her anger and impatience to be a better parent to her child. But what is that thing in the cellar that she too must control? Is it a manifestation of her own dark side? Well, if you were paying attention, you know that it's the "inner" Babadook that the book warned us about early on in the movie. Without the demonic presence, this is basically the story of a single parent trying to raise a troubled child in need of attention after the loss of his father, but with the demonic Mr. Babadook added to the story, we have a Horror movie that scares you out of your wits without the need for jump-scares. Best Horror Movie of 2014.