Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Some subtle scares from literary fare for your Halloween delight

While many of us love having Halloween as an excuse to read and watch as many scary stories as we can,some folks are less than thrilled with the gruesome pop culture offerings thrust upon them this season.

It's not so reasonable;after all,you can easily get overloaded and underwhelmed by the hordes of zombies,serial killers and werewolves screaming for attention on every other channel,bookstore display or multiplex screen.

Even a big vampire fan like myself feels the need for a break from bloodsuckers once in a while there. As a service to those seeking less gory but still spooky in spirit entertainment,here are a few suggestions from the realm of classic literature that should give you a good shudder or two:


Granted,this posthumously published novel of Jane Austen's mostly pokes fun at the overwrought imagination of those who take their leisure reading a little too seriously but it does whip up a few moments of titillating tension as our heroine Catherine Morland widens her eyes extra large upon her arrival to the title sinister looking estate.

While the 2007 film version of this story does provide a few inventive scenes of gothic fantasy,the 1986 take on the story is done with a fearsome flourish worthy of any Hammer horror film. For campy chills and surrealistic sequences that make no real sense yet are charming to behold,this eerie view of Austen is your golden ticket to terror:


For a more authentic gothic tone,the Sisters Bronte are happy to oblige. While Jane Eyre does have plenty of lurid thrills on hand(a mysterious mad woman in the attic is nothing to sniff at ),Emily Bronte's tale of tormented lovers has more shocks in store for it's readers and viewers.

Wuthering Heights was one of the inspirations for the second book in the Twilight saga and for good reason. The hell that Heathcliff and Cathy put themselves through,dragging in other friends and family from more than one generation down with them,makes any deathtrap from the Saw movies look like child's play in comparison.

It even begins in a ghost story like manner,as a stranger to the area stumbles across the house and dares to stay the night,despite the desolate air that haunts those still remaining. Wuthering Heights may be marketed as a tragic love story but it's also a good example of destructive obsession,sort of the Fatal Attraction of it's day:


"Come on,Lady T-this is a Hitchcock movie! Of course it's scary!" Don't be so quick to assume that,folks. This chilling film,based on Daphne Du Maurier's novel,is more of a mystery that gently unfolds rather than the overt horror of Hitch's Psycho or The Birds. Rebecca is truly a haunted house story with the evil that was this woman still lingering on in halls of Manderley,determined to destroy as many lives as it can.

A prime agent of this agenda is Mrs. Danvers,the housekeeper whose twisted devotion to her former mistress takes the form of suggestive sabotage towards the new Mrs. DeWinter. One wonders if Danvers is motivated by obsession or in some strange way a victim of possession as she seeks a way to avenge the perceived wrongs done to the first Mrs. DeWinter with no limits as to far she's willing to go:


Unfortunately,none of these "blood and thunder tales" by Louisa May Alcott have been adapted for film but they are still available for your reading pleasure,thanks to the diligence of two LMA researchers who brought her hidden for years thrillers out into the literary limelight.

Alcott wrote many stories dealing with themes that would certainly shock those only familiar with Little Women(then again,Jo March did scribble a few shockers of her own there)-deception,drug addiction,madness and deliberate cruelty.

There is also a full fledged novel called a Long Fatal Love Chase that has a woman on the run from a not to be deterred lover(no restraining orders in those days)but for a small taste of LMA style of terror,the brief novellas collected in Behind a Mask should do rather nicely:

I hope that some of these offbeat suggestions for milder Halloween chills are of some use to even those diving into the more modern fright fests going on around us. While there are plenty of high tech horror flicks to be found this time of year, it is wise to not buy too much into the hype. The bang for your buck might not be as big as you expect it to be:

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