Thursday, September 24, 2015

Weekend Warrior

Practiced at flesh and blood
the deity slaps the alarm clock
                            to snooze five more minutes.
The sun bleeds into the room
like a day of Crucifixion;
the god arises to face the day
to shackle himself to the human race
to say Yessir to his Roman masters,
but reckoning is at hand,
for the Judgment Day is coming
and they will get theirs
and you will party like it's TGIF.
The weekend warrior that you are,
you wipe the blood and sweat
                              from your thorned brow,
enter the final period on that email,
                              and press Send.
The snooze then ends
                              and Monday begins.

Anthony Servante
Copyright 2015
Permission to use by author consent only. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Common Psyche: 
The Projection of Private Horrors

by Anthony Servante


F. Paul Wilson, if you will forgive the name-dropping, once told me over dinner after a signing at Dark Delicacies that there are some stories that are doomed to be told over and over and that the writers of these stories will in fact believe that their tales are original. The example Paul gave me was the story that ends with the world meeting its demise where the last two survivors are named Adam and Eve. The writer commonly believes that the impact of the ending will shock and awe his readers with its originality, when realistically it will merely trigger a deja vu experience. It is a common reaction because most writers have written a similar story with a similar ending, thinking their story was also original and unique.

Let me review for a second what this is called in psychological terms. Projection. A person attributes negative experiences to others. For example, I do not like apples. I see a man at the market take an apple from his basket and replace it in the produce section. I think: this man does not like apples. The real case, however, may be that the man may have forgotten that he had already purchased apples the previous day or that he'd rather have a pear after dinner tonight. In either case the man likes apples. I projected my dislike of apples unto the man's actions. I can go a bit further and say that I also believe that since the man does not like apples, he must similarly share my other dislikes as well. I can create a negative profile of the man and wholeheartedly believe I am correct. It is this process of projection that I feel writers transfer to the page in the form of these "deja vu" stories.

Please note: regarding "tranference". "In psychoanalytic theory, transference occurs when a client’s feelings about someone else, particularly someone encountered in childhood, are projected onto the therapist. The classic example is falling in love with one’s therapist, but feelings such as rage, anger, distrust, or dependence can also be transferred" (from In other words, the patient projects his neuroses onto the therapist or psychiatrist. For our purposes, the writer transfers the process of projection unto his deja vu story.

Thusly, because the writer believes his story is negated by the reader, namely that the reader shares the experience without having had it, he attributes originality to the tale. Think: I will write a story about my having been beaten by a mugger, the reader, I believe, will empathize with my narrative as I know that he was probably beaten at some point in his life as well, and when the story reaches the page I believe I have captured something universal in all people. Let's return to the Adam and Eve deja vu story. I experience awe thinking up this story, imagine the reader will also experience awe, and expect all readers to read my printed story with the same awe. Wow, the last two people on earth are named Adam and Eve, just like in the Bible; I didn't see that coming. Or so the writer thinks. But as Paul would tell them: It's a common story that everyone thinks is unique. The writer is projecting his own feelings and transferring them to the page. Neither the reader or the story empathize with the deja vu tale. Most likely, the reader thinks: I've heard this story before; or I think this was a Twilight Zone story.

So what the hell am I talking about here? Well, many stories that one may feel are original and great are echoes of one story that writers have forgotten but is buried deep in their psyche, thus the feeling of deja vu when the writer reaches that sweet ending and thinks, "Wow, that's deep." Actually it's shallow to the reader. And to the editors who have suffered through many of these stories and rejected them, it's deep crap. There's no character development, no plot structure, no three acts. It's all ending.

I could list the most common deja vu stories that pass editors' and readers' hands, but I won't. Let someone else write that article. I offer you a Rorschach test of sorts. Before you is a story I wrote many years ago. I came across it among my college essays and term papers. I dusted it off and typed it up for you, the readers of the Darkness Blog. It has no title and I don't intend to give it one now. It appears to be a first draft, but more importantly it is projection of a private horror, transferred unto the page for your perusal. If it makes you go "Ewwww...", you've entered my psyche; if you go "I've read this same story 100 times from 100 different writers. Sheesh...", you've seen through the facade. Keep in mind, you don't know anything about the character, nor do you learn anything about the character. However, you will feel something, depending on your experience as a writer or editor. Hopefully what you feel is not projected or transferred creeps, for you must keep in mind, the creeps you feel are strictly my own.

by Anthony Servante

            In less than an hour, it would lay its eggs. But first it had to find a suitable place for its hatchlings to emerge safely. Karen watched as it scurried between her DVDs above the player, clutching her rolled up newspaper in her fist. She cursed herself and glanced at the wall clock. It was just after midnight. She had to get up in five hours, but how could she sleep knowing that that damn fat cockroach would bear its young at any minute?
            She flung the DVDs to the center of the bedroom till the shelves were cleared. No cockroach. She lifted the DVD player and the vermin darted along the corners of the shelves. Karen hit at the roach but the angle was wrong and couldn’t quite connect. Years of evolution had taught it to use the edges of surfaces to escape enemies. It reached the edge of the shelf and dropped to the floor. Karen stomped at it, but it disappeared under the bureau.
            Karen yanked out the drawers full of her underclothes until the floor beneath the bureau was visible. There was the roach, its antennae twitching nervously. Karen reached in with the newspaper and tried to swat the pregnant bug, but it hugged itself into the corner and avoided the swat. Then it raced off as Karen rewound her aim. It went behind the bureau, she thought and tipped the drawer-less bureau over. It crashed to the carpeted floor with a hushed thud.
            The plump insect paused a second then scurried along the wall and under the bed.
            “No you don’t,” yelled Karen as she pulled off the mattress, the box-spring, and pushed aside the bedframe. “Damn you.”
            The cockroach was cornered. It had no choice but to run up the wall. There was safety also in heights. Karen slammed the newspaper just inches from the bug. It shifted direction but continued its upward course. She whacked again but the roach was now out of reach. She grabbed her computer desk chair and stood on it. The bug was within reach, only once again it hugged itself into the corner of the ceiling and wall. Karen tried to slide the edge of the newspaper into the corner but didn’t have enough leverage to kill the damn bug. It merely lost its grip and fell.
            Karen lost sight of it. She stepped off the chair, keeping her eyes fixed on all the possible places it could have landed. Nothing. She backed up, scanning the floor and stepping over the drawers. Her heel hit the mattress. She looked down.
            It was under the edge of the pillow just behind her. She dropped on her butt, allowing her weight to crush the pillow over the cockroach. She rolled off and lifted the pillow. Smashed. Its white insides were sticking out of its open sides. Its antennae flickered once more then stopped. She took its dead body to the toilet and flushed it. Then she rearranged her room and put fresh sheets and a pillowcase on.
            Then she turned off the lights and went to sleep.
            Little did she realize that the roach that she had killed was not pregnant. The gorged brown vermin had landed in her hair and lay tangled there as she readied for bed. It slowly untangled itself and felt the first pang of the pulsing egg sac. As the exhausted girl fell into a deep sleep, the overdue creature crawled into Karen’s ear and laid its eggs.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Visit (2015)
Directed and Written by M. Night Shyamalan
Review by Anthony Servante


Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) say goodbye to their mother as they board a train and head deep into Pennsylvania farm country to meet their maternal grandparents for the first time. Welcomed by Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie), all seems well until the siblings start to notice increasingly strange behavior from the seemingly charming couple. Once the children discover a shocking secret, they begin to wonder if they'll ever make it home.


I remember when the name M. Night Shyamalan drew hoots and hollars from movie critics and horror fanatics all over the movie-loving world. That's because his first film 'The Sixth Sense' (1999) merited such attention. But with each new movie, the oohs and aahs calmed to a quiet meh. I enjoyed 'Unbreakable' (2000), a superhero film set in the real world, just as 'ghosts' inhabited his first film with shocking realism. The declaration "I see dead people" became an iconic line on par with "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse". The promise of Shyamalan never materialized, although we still see flashes of his genius in each of his movies, and even as his audience has shrunk, we few die-hards keep watching his movies, hoping that the next flash in the pan is real gold. 

What's gramma and grampa up to?

Sadly, 'The Visit' is close, but no gold ring. However, we do get a gold-plated piece of jewelry that is pretty as the real thing.

The main problem with the film is that Shyamalan still hopes to trick us again, as he did so brilliantly in The Sixth Sense. Consider the premise of the film. Preteen Tyler (the annoying one) and 14 year old Becca (the cloying one) will be spending one week with their grandparents, the estranged parents of their mother (Kathryn Hahn). The kids decide to film the visit in reality TV fashion in an effort to reconcile their mom with her folks. Thus we have another found footage film that is curiously as well-edited as a regular high-budget film. Shyamalan wants to have his cake and eat it too. Whether or not we the audience will go along with his attempt to mix genres relies heavily on that 'twist' we know is coming. Hell, we know Penn and Teller are pulling the wool over our eyes right before our eyes; that's the fun, that we don't see it coming. 

What's gramma watching?

The first act of the movie introduces us to the kids. Becca likes to make movies. She uses all the right vocabulary that big-time film-makers use, which doesn't click as true coming from a 14 year old's lips. We are reminded again and again that these kids are Smart with a capital S, so I suppose smart 14 year old film-makers do talk like that. Tyler, on the other hand, is "ethnically challenged", as his sister points out, because he likes to rhyme, as in Straight Outta Compton rhyme. That's where the annoying part comes in. (Possible Spoiler) Even Pop Pop tells the boy later "I don't like you." And that speaks volumes about these kids: we don't like them. They're Brady Bunch by way of the Garbage Pail Kids. 

Which brings us to the second act. We get to know the grandparents. Hey, these were real well-drawn old people. Adult diapers. Dementia. Depression. MS. Schizophrenia. Uncontrolled laughter. Oh, and chronic cooking and eating. And loads of neurotic tics. You may as well have made a horror movie about young kids having to spend a week with sick old people. Who needs a trick ending?! Seen through the eyes of children, the symptoms of old age might indeed seem like a horror movie. The seniors in the audience I saw the film with thought the movie was a comedy, 'cuz damn, it was funny. And if those annoying kids get their comeuppance for bothering those old folks, well, they had it coming. 

Aside: Where is the mom all this time? Oh, that's right. She has to be clueless for the twist to work. Oops. Almost gave it away. 

The brats come for a visit. 

In the third act, the battle of ages begins. Yep, it's about here that the trick denouement triggers the horrors to come. But wait. What exactly are these horrors? No spoilers here. It's great editing, senior moments, and scared kids colliding. It's like M. Night Shyamalan came across this found footage of some kids visiting their grandparents and edited it into a horror film, transposing the twist into the weave to give it his personal tag. Sure, it's not a great twist, but the last two acts are worth your time--if you have a lot of time on your hands.

If you are a Shyamalan fan, then this is a must-see. It's not primo horror, but it's on the right track to getting there if you've been patient this far into the director's oeuvre. In a penny, in for a pounding, as they say. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Top Ten Guitar Solos
Selected by Anthony Servante


A guitar solo does not mean a guitar that works alone. It is the leader, the culmination, or the heart of the song. However, for a moment or a series of moments, the guitar-work transcends the music it is a part of while simultaneously bolstering the impact of its totality. 

The songs I have selected for my top ten best in the area of guitar work are songs that would lose their soul if they were played acoustically. They were made to be jammed, plucked, picked, and axed. In some cases the tunes are secondary to the memory of the guitar solo(s); in others the guitar solo serves its master, the music. In either case both song and solo are one. 

In literature we are taught to critique the stories by examining the machinations of plot, character development, and denouement. We learned that if there is a character that could be omitted from the story only to find the story still works without the character's inclusion, then it is a flawed story. Omit any detail and the flawed story unravels. 

Similarly, the guitar solo must function to make the song work; without it, it would be a flawed piece of music. Let us now countdown the list from the melodic to the sublime, the classic to the immortal, from number ten to number one. Please feel free to add your top ten list in the comments below. 


10. Soul Sacrifice by Santana Guitar: Carlos Santana

9. Going Home by Ten Years After Guitar: Alvin Lee

8. In Memory of Elizabeth Reed by Allman Brothers Guitar: Dickey Betts

7. Green Grass and High Tides by Outlaws Guitars: Hughie Thomasson & Billy Jones

6. Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd Guitar: Gary Rossington

5. Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin Guitar: Jimmy Page

4. Salisbury by Uriah Heep Guitar: Mick Box

3. Look into the Future by Journey Guitar: Neal Schon

2. The Grass is Greener by Colosseum Guitar: Dave "Clem" Clempson

1. Home of the Brave by Strange Advance Guitar: Darryl Kromm

Runner up: Phoenix by Wishbone Ash Guitars: Andy Powell & Ted Turner


Thanks for listening. Please comment and add a list of your own below.