E.C. Writer: Nine More Stephen King Works That Would Make Great Creepshow Adaptations

Counting the films Creepshow and Creepshow 2, and the premiere episode of the new streaming series, there have been nine Stephen King pieces brought to the screen to date as pseudo-shudder-comics segments. What other King stories might be ripe for adaptation on future (assumably green-lit) seasons of Creepshow? Here are my nine ideal candidates, chosen from works that have yet to be adapted elsewhere (as anything more than a dollar-baby):


1. “The Reaper’s Image” (1969)

Some brilliantly dark atmosphere could be recreated by drawing on this early story, set in the “Samuel Claggert Memorial Private Museum” and centering on a reputedly haunted looking-glass stored with other Gothic bric-a-brac in a gable room. Also, the inevitable appearance of the Reaper in the mirror would allow for the practical-effecting of a particularly Creep-y ghoul.


2. “The Blue-Air Compressor” (1971)

King’s modern-day conte cruel (whose story idea developed from the author’s reading of E.C. Comics) concerning a vengeful fledgling writer offers up some nasty violence and horrific imagery that would be right at home on Creepshow. Even better, King’s self-identifying intrusion into the narrative makes this potential adaptation the perfect opportunity for him to film his latest Creepshow cameo.


3. “Suffer the Little Children” (1972)

In his endnote to this story in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, King writes: “it feels a little bit like the Bradbury of the late forties and early fifties to me, the fiendish Bradbury who revelled in killer babies, renegade undertakers, and tales only a Crypt-Keeper could love. Put another way, ‘Suffer the Little Children’ is a ghastly sick joke with no redeeming social merit whatever. I like that in a story.” Enough said.


4. “Nona” (1978)

This story checks all the (f)right boxes: more rats than you can shake a stick at, a violent killing spree, a supernatural femme fatale, and a graveyard climax. The fact that “Nona” is set in a little town called Castle Rock would make this a timely adaptation (given the series of that title currently streaming on Hulu).


5. “Popsy” (1987)

Featuring a reprehensible lead character who receives his macabre comeuppance, this story seems tailor-made for Creepshow treatment. Throw in a terrific twist ending and some grisly concluding imagery, and you can’t help but wonder why the producers of the new series didn’t turn here first (rather than to “Gray Matter”) when searching for a King story to adapt.


6. “Sneakers” (1988)

Creepshow has never qualified for highbrow status, so a tale of a haunted toilet stall would hardly compromise its aesthetics (as the story’s protagonist notes, the very idea combines the “gruesome” and the “comic”). The graphic horrors filling “Sneakers” (nightmares of a “slumped mossy thing”; the eventual encounter with the ghost of a mutilated corpse) would certainly keep such an adaptation well-clear of the crapper.


7. “Mile 81” (2011)

This story (one of King’s professed favorites) has a happier ending than those typically adapted for Creepshow, but features an eerie setting (an abandoned rest area) and a series of spectacularly grotesque set pieces. The monster car driving this narrative makes Christine seem like a kid’s toy.


8. “The Little Green God of Agony” (2011)

A Gothic shocker (in which a less-than-admirable viewpoint character is forced to learn the errors of her ways) that seems another perfect fit for the Creepshow mold. I can imagine the series’ fx specialists taking wicked delight in designing the story’s eponymous abomination (a slimy, pulsing, sentient sac of pulp).


9. “Bad Little Kid” (2015)

The ongoing trials of a hapless protagonist mark this darkly humorous tale as ready-made for adaptation. No doubt there’s an underlying malevolence to the antics of the potty-mouthed problem child of the title. This demon seed wearing a beanie hat with a propeller on top is every adult’s worst nightmare.


In Anticipation of IT

In my previous post, I grumbled about the new Creepshow series’ intrusive allusions to other Stephen King works in its adaptation of “Gray Matter.” Arguably the most prominent call back is to the book and film versions of IT. Reference is made to cataclysmic events in 1958, and the character Timmy shows up wearing a bright yellow raincoat just like the one recently popularized by Georgie Denbrough. Ironically, though, what at first seems the most facile reference to the epic narrative is anything but, and actually turns out to be drawn directly from King’s short story.

In the story, the narrator shares an anecdote about “a fella named George Kelso, who worked for the Bangor Public Works Department.” The Constant Reader’s attention is instantly caught by the choice of first name, not to mention the town (Derry would become King’s fictionalized version of Bangor) and area of employment. George Kelso, we are told, abruptly quit his job after venturing into the sewer and experiencing something horrible: “Frankie Haldeman, who knew him, said George went down into a sewer pipe on Essex laughing and joking just like always and came up fifteen minutes later with his hair just as white as snow and his eyes staring like he just looked through a window into hell.” This sudden loss of hair color prefigures Henry Bowers’s new look after encountering Pennywise underground in the 1985 novel. Perhaps the most suggestive parallel forms when George Kelso in “Gray Matter” eventually reveals the source of his terrible fright: “Turned around on his stool, George did, an’ asked Frankie Haldeman if he’d ever seen a spider as big as a good-sized dog setting in a web of kitties an’ such all wrapped up in silk thread.” Following this mention of a monstrous spider that makes the sewer its lair, the narrator proclaims that “there’s things in the corners of the world that would drive a man insane to look ’em right in the face,” which also sounds like an apt description of It’s mind-blowing deadlights.

King was only a fledgling writer submitting stories to men’s magazines such as Cavalier in 1973, and I am not suggesting that he already had his magnus opus of twelve years hence already mapped out in his head when he wrote “Gray Matter.” But the details are certainly intriguing, and the imagery and scenario of subterranean terror appear to have simmered in the author’s imagination a long time before being served up in IT‘s full-fledged feast of fear.


Creep Calm and Carrion: A Review of Creepshow’s Series Premiere

The first episode of the new streaming-series edition of Creepshow immediately links back to the original movie: an animated bit shows the Crate (which in the film segment contained the carnivorous Fluffy) being pried open to reveal a heap of Creepshow comics. In his moldering look, the horror-hosting Creep (nicely realized here as a practical-effect puppet) also recalls the ghoul in the original film. I like the restraint shown by the show’s producers, who don’t make over the Creep into a chattering Crypt-Keeper type; he expresses himself mainly through growls and evil chuckles, with his mordant and alliterative wit being limited to shots of the comic book’s story intros. Such connective tissue forms a great part of Creepshow‘s aesthetic strength. The dissolves from comic panels to live action are wonderfully done, and I love the glimpses of interstitial pages of the issue featuring advertisements for iconic Monster Culture items like horror masks and (“Aorta” rather than Aurora) model kits.

It’s only apropos that the series opens with an adaptation of a Stephen King story–the Night Shift piece “Gray Matter.” In this segment, a grieving father’s descent into alcoholism takes a grim turn when the man consumes some mold-contaminated beer. Richie’s subsequent transformation is gruesomely gooey, an at-squalid-home mutation reminiscent of “The Lonely Death of Jordy Verrill” in the original film (perhaps not surprisingly, considering that both King stories are inspired by the weird tales of H.P. Lovecraft). The motivation of Richie’s son Timmy is radically altered from King’s 1973 text, yet this serves to justify the boy’s recitation of the backstory of his father’s drunken demise.

Great suspense builds as the heroic police Chief Connors (Tobin Bell) and the cowardly Doc (Giancarlo Esposito, likewise playing against [suave-and-sinister-Gus-Fring] type) warily investigate the dark, decrepit house in which Richie resides. The creature revealed in the climax is impressively monstrous, another testament to producer Greg Nicotero’s fx mastery. “Gray Matter” plays the horror razor-straight, which unfortunately makes the resort to more familiar Creepshow-style campiness in the segment’s conclusion (as the characters engage in hammy hysterics while pondering the apocalypse) tonally jarring.

Speaking of jarring, I thought the manifold allusions to other King works (CujoPet SemataryIt) unnecessarily distracting. Must every King adaptation these days include a basketful of Easter eggs? These knowing winks are fast growing trite and tiresome.

In the second segment, “The House of the Head” (scripted by Josh Malerman, adapting his own short story) a young girl named Evie (the adorable-as-ever Cailey Fleming from The Walking Dead) finds her dollhouse haunted by the bizarre intrusion of a decapitated, zombie-like noggin into the stagings of domestic bliss. The story unfolds in fantastically uncanny manner, as inanimate objects appear to rearrange themselves while no one is looking. Both eeriness and black humor abound in the increasingly-horrified reactions of the dollhouse family, and Evie’s concerned attempts to introduce figures of physical and spiritual protection into the scene lead to some terrifying tableaux.

“The House of the Head” is no doubt creepy, but in the end doesn’t really feel like a Creepshow tale. It starts with a killer premise but fails to pay off: there’s no explanation given for the mysterious head’s games, and the climax fizzles with an abrupt, and markedly undramatic, resolution. This had the potential to be a classic installment, but the story concludes not with a bang but a sigh-inducing whimper.

Still, don’t get skittish, kiddies. This premiere episode might have its peaks and (death) valleys, but there’s enough scary fun on display here that I can honestly say that the series promises to form an honorable hommage to the Creepshow films and E.C. horror comics alike.

Growing Rank: A Creepshow Film Segment Countdown

Creepshow debuts as a streaming series on Shudder today, but before reviewing the premiere episode (which, appropriately, features a segment based on a Stephen King story), I’d like to take a look back at the film series. Here’s a countdown of the eight segments included in Creepshow and Creepshow 2 (I will willfully neglect the nominal, non-King-related sequel, Creepshow 3), from the downright rotten to the positively putrid.


8. “Old Chief Wood’nhead” (Creepshow 2)

Tooth-achingly sentimental (uggh, that theme music) and painfully melodramatic, this slow-developing segment is by far the worst offering of the series. The uncanny effects of a cigar store Indian coming to life to take vengeance on the storeowners’ murderers is undercut by the resort to blatant cultural stereotypes (the bloodthirsty chief’s warpath leads to arrow-shooting, tomahawking, and scalping). Perhaps most dismaying of all, though, is the use of a glaringly white actor to portray Native American villain Sam Whitemoon.


7. “The Crate” (Creepshow)

Adrienne Barbeau gives an over-the-top performance as a boozy shrew of a wife, and the ostensible suspense is overdone (the initial opening of the mysterious box seems to take forever). The carnivorous creature released (dubbed “Fluffy” on the film set) looks like a cheap Halloween costume someone might rent. Filling up nearly one-third of Creepshow‘s runtime, “The Crate” proves terribly overlong.


6. “They’re Creeping Up on You” (Creepshow)

No doubt the most notorious and nauseating segment in the series (I’m sure that a significant portion of my present-day bug phobia can be traced back to its swarming scenes). Ultimately, though, there’s just not much to this piece, whose somewhat-nonsensical story strikes a singular note: a jerk of a germaphobe is overrun by myriad cockroaches.


5. “The Hitch-Hiker” (Creepshow 2)

The premise here is a strong one (a woman is haunted by the revenant of her hit-and-run victim as she speeds home from an adulterous tryst), and the increasingly grotesque deterioration of the hitch-hiker is well done as a practical effect. But the stricture of the situation (a single actress alone in a car for much of the segment) forces a jarring directorial decision–Lois Chiles’s continuous thinking out loud soon grows obtrusive, reducing the sense of verisimilitude.


4. “The Raft” (Creepshow 2)

The scene of Randy perving on Laverne naturally dominated my attention as a teenager, but now I am able to appreciate other aspects of this segment. When the sentient slick sucks Deke down through the slats in the raft, the jock’s violent sacking causes his leg to be bent gruesomely (a sight every bit as horrifying as that of the initial victim in the opening of It Follows). Based on the nature of the monster, this King story adaptation could have made for a tough sell visually, but the filmmakers succeed in creating a convincing float fatale.


3. “Father’s Day” (Creepshow)

The ranting, cane-rapping old man in this holiday-themed segment is terrifying even before he rises from the grave as a moldering ghoul. “Father’s Day” features some of the best kills in the series, including Ed Harris’s devastation by a toppled headstone. The closing image of a frosted, candle-crowned head on a platter makes for a garish graphic that might have been ripped right from the pages of a horror comic.


2. “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” (Creepshow)

I love King’s comedic riff (starring the author himself as the titular yokel) on H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic-horror classic, “The Colour Out of Space.” Jordy’s steady, weedy decline is played jokingly, yet the story also jabs a primal nerve: the dread of contagion and terminal disease, and the anxiety of discovering signs of bodily breakdown breaking out. The verdant Verrill’s Hemingwayesque final solution to his human-Chia-Pet status certainly is no laughing matter, and makes for a sobering conclusion.


1. “Something to Tide You Over” (Creepshow)

This tale of marital infidelity, criminal revenge by a cuckold, and ultimate supernatural comeuppance plays like a quintessential E.C. Comics story. Leslie Nielson gives a strikingly chilling turn as the villain here (who knew Lt. Drebin could be so dreadful?!). His sadistic set-up (beachfront premature burial) creates a form of torment as relentless as the ocean’s breaking waves. The scenario is so harrowing, it almost renders the inevitable resurfacing of the waterlogged zombies anti-climactic.

Mob Scene: IT

Approximately midway through Stephen King’s monster opus, IT, a mob scene breaks out.

The novel’s “Third Interlude” section (another entry in Mike Hanlon’s journal of Derry’s dark history) details the very public execution of the Bradley Gang (King’s fictionalized version of the Brady Gang, who met a grim fate in Bangor) in October 1929. Previously identified when attempting to purchase ammunition at Machen’s Sporting Goods store, the fugitive group of bankrobbers ride into a barrage of gunfire that makes the ambush of Bonnie and Clyde seem like a roll-out of the old welcome wagon by comparison. It’s a case of bloodlust run amok, of community-wide vigilante violence (“There were men everywhere, men with guns, standing in doorways and sitting on steps and looking out of windows”). With “fifty, sixty men firing all at once,” the scene “sounded like the Battle of the Marne.” Overkill is undoubtedly the order of the day, as the criminals’ vehicles are obliterated (“By the time the firing stopped, those cars didn’t look like cars at all anymore, just hunks of junk with glass around them”), and the members of the Bradley Gang themselves brutally dispatched (Arthur Malloy has his throat torn “wide open” by a bullet; George Bradley’s gun moll, Marie Hauser, has “one of her eyes shot out”; as for  Bradley: “someone pulped the back of his head with a shotgun blast”). This bloody massacre right in the center of Derry’s streets precipitates a wave of shame and denial–most of the perpetrators are loathe to admit they were even present in Derry that grim day.

In and of itself, the gunning down of the Bradley Gang is a perfect example of the ugly results when hotter heads prevail. There is a further turn of the screw to this particular mob scene, though: Mike identifies the incident as another “monstrous sacrifice” that served to stir It from a quarter-century-long hibernation period and thus unofficially initiated Its next feeding cycle. Appropriately enough, various vigilantes report seeing a clown (none other than Pennywise It-self,Mike knows) gleefully joining in on the shooting spree. Noting a nearby county fair operating at the time, the recounting Norbert Keene speculates to Mike: “Maybe one of them [clowns from the fair] heard we were going to have our own little carnival and rode down because he wanted to be in on it.” The macabre irony of such statement is that Derry’s carnival of violence has been heavily influenced by the town’s own long-resident clown. Malignancy, as Mike’s recurring journal entries illustrate, is deep-seated in Derry’s body politic, and is anything but excised by the execution of a gang of designated outsiders.


Winchester in Gingerbread

For those of us who happily reside in the Macabre Republic, Christine McConnell (whose way-too-short-lived Netflix series I reviewed here) is considered nothing less than a national treasure. McConnell is as resourceful as she is gorgeous, and her photos/videos of her horror- and Halloween-themed craft projects are positively mesmerizing.

Her jaw-dropping magnus opus, though, might be her latest effort: a giant gingerbread edition of the Winchester Mystery House. The creativity and attention to detail on display here is incredible. McConnell makes all those skillful contestants on Halloween Wars look like a bunch of untalented hacks by comparison.

Check out the making-of video below, and be sure to stay tuned to McConnell’s Youtube channel for her next amazing creation.

Summer Slashin’

Based on the season premiere, American Horror Story: 1984 is a case of “Jump” rather than “I’ll Wait.”

I will admit, I first approached the new slasher-themed season with some trepidation. I questioned whether we really needed another bloody redux, a further rehearsal of a long-familiar formula. At this late date, aren’t we well past pastiche and postmodern self-consciousness alike? (Unbelievably, it’s almost a quarter-century now since the launch of the Scream franchise–a later installment of which AHS alum Emma Roberts also starred in.) So far, though, my concerns have been quelled.

The episode (“Camp Redwood”) cold-opens with a chilling scene: a summer camp massacre perpetrated by an ear-slicing psychopath. I thought the keychain-jangling “Mr. Jingles” angle was a tad lame (I hope it turns out to be more than a sonic calling card), but it was great to see John Carroll Lynch (ol’ Twisty himself) back playing another serial killer on the show.

From there, the episode jumps forward fourteen years but steps back and takes the time to establish its cast of characters and situation and setting (the seemingly idyllic summer camp makes for an iconic horror locale). It was nice to see Roberts playing against vixen-ish type this time around, and Billie Lourd (rocking the Lita Ford look) appears to revel in the role of an aerobics-obsessed bimbo. I liked how the episode invoked the ’84 summer Olympics in Los Angeles (something I was not expecting); there’s a terrific scene where the cast watches Olympians running to light the torch while Roberts runs for her life from a raincoated slasher outside the cabin.

A typical problem for American Horror Story in seasons past has been sustainability. Character motivations have tended to be rendered chaotically, and the narrative drive has taken some dizzying turns. The slasher theme, though, seems well-suited for a season-long arc. Thus far the identity of Mr. Jingles has been clearly revealed, but I don’t doubt that further twists are in store, and the mystery of a masked killer (or killers) could bring great focus to the show’s perennial mayhem.

As evident from the premiere episode, this season will feature plenty of references to classic slasher films (e.g. Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Of course, too much of this could prove distracting, just as campy callbacks to 80’s styles and popular trends could grow tiresome after a time. But one episode in, Camp Redwood looks to be the perfect place for viewers to kick the post-summertime blues.




IT’s Just Too Much

I am of two minds about IT: Chapter Two. There are aspects of the film I really enjoyed, but also a lot more elements I found problematical.

The opening scene involving the gay-bashing of Adrian Mellon (and Pennywise’s eventual noshing on him) marks a harrowing return to Derry’s unfriendly confines. The violence on display is vicious and unsettling, and bears an immediacy lacking from the corresponding scene in Stephen King’s novel (which is presented via a series of ex post facto statements to the police by the perpetrating punks). Director Andy Muschietti makes a wise choice starting with this hate crime, which inaugurates Pennywise’s next cycle of predation. In this scene, we get a glimpse of the evil influence that has permeated Derry; the problem is that Muschietti fails to sustain this idea. The town’s haunted state is largely absent from the rest of the film, as the streets and edifices of Derry are reduced to mere backdrops and the townspeople to virtual spear-carriers in the ongoing battles between Pennywise and the Losers Club.

The monsters mashing their way through the film (as Pennywise dons his various terrorizing disguises) are undeniably top-notch. Particularly memorable (by which I mean: scarringly nightmarish) here are the witchy Mrs. Kersh (the most unnerving nude in a King adaptation since the woman in Room 217 in The Shining) and the animate, bat-spewing statue of Paul Bunyan. The film boasts a menagerie of impressive antagonists; this is one area where the follow-up manages to surpass IT: Chapter One (which I reviewed here).

I don’t think it’s a terrible spoiler to write that Stephen King has a cameo in the film. Readers of this post who have yet to venture out to their local cineplex will be happy to learn that this is arguably King’s best cameo work to date. Muschietti, though, typically pushes matters too far by including a second cameo by a Hollywood luminary (seemingly playing himself), whose appearance here is completely out of left field and serves to jar the viewer out of the onscreen world.

Time is not on the side of It: Chapter Two; a generation has passed and the members of the Losers Club have all grown up. It’s simply not as easy to root for–and fear for–the adult versions of these characters. Personality traits that proved endearing in the young can seem tiresome in the post-pubescent. I found James Ransone’s adult Eddie especially grating, and thus had a hard time investing in his character arc. James McAvoy as adult Bill is miscast and unconvincing–he lacks stature (he’s dwarfed by most of the other Losers) and the commanding presence that led the others to look up to him as the group’s leader in King’s novel. Jessica Chastain gives a solid performance as the adult Beverly, but her character is bogged down by the burgeoning romance with the hunky yet utterly uninteresting Ben (Jay Ryan). Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) is a muddled mess; rather than forming the conscience of the group, he comes across more as a borderline madman verging on a heel turn. Just as Finn Wolfhard stole the first film as young Ritchie, Bill Hader stands out as the adult counterpart. A professional stand-up comedian, Hader’s Ritchie’s delivers laugh-out-loud-funny lines throughout (almost too many of them, threatening to compromise the tonality of the film). The much-ado about Ritchie’s personal secret, though, was somewhat off-putting. This aspect of his character was nowhere present in the source text, the alteration made here seemingly just to be different.

The film hardly floats through its bloated 170-minute runtime. A significant part of the drag no doubt stems from the insistence on re-establishing the juvenile ensemble from the preceding chapter. As the adult Losers are sent off on a silly treasure quest, viewers are subjected to a series of flashbacks to the troublesome summer twenty-something years earlier. But these scenes of further dreadful encounter with Pennywise strike a vague note of anachronism. I found myself asking: why didn’t any of this come up before (at least as a point of discussion between the young Losers)? Muschietti might have benefited from adopting a more self-contained approach here, minimizing the recurrences to the characters’ childhood.

Bill Skarsgard reprises his role as the coulrophobia-inducer extraordinaire Pennywise, and once again entertains with a combination of bloody malice and maniacal wit. Thankfully, though, Pennywise doesn’t only reach down into the same old bag of tricks. There are new nuances to the character, such as when the clown lures Its prey by feigning loneliness and painting himself the victim of ostracism. It’s in these quieter moments that It terrifies the most, not when the Dancing Clown launches into hyperkinetic attack mode. Perhaps my favorite part of the movie is when Pennywise sulkingly insists that It is an “eater of worlds” even as It is bested by the Losers.

That being said, the film’s climax frustrated me on a couple of fronts. First, the Ritual of Chud from King’s novel is grossly mishandled, turned hackneyed (a mystical routine learned from some token Native Americans conveniently living right outside the Derry town line). Also, while certainly not lacking for action, the climax is just too protracted. Amidst the epic battle, the Losers are split up individually, with each member having to deal with personal demons and negotiate a dark funhouse scene. Pennywise is juggling a lot of balls here, and I couldn’t help but wonder how the clown managed to pull off all these frightful mind-games simultaneously.

A running (and not particularly funny) gag throughout the film is that the horror novelist Bill sucks at scripting endings to his books. I’m almost tempted to think that the screenwriters were anticipating the audience’s own negative response to the film, whose denouement isn’t very moving. The voiceover reading of a missing Loser’s missive felt terribly contrived, and the quintessence of schmaltz. It had me pining for a scene of Bill and catatonic wife Audra on a bike ride through the beleaguered streets of Derry.

For all its prodigious length, It: Chapter Two paradoxically falls short. The film lacks scope: there are plenty of tentacles whipping around, but the sense of It as a Lovecraftian horror from beyond space is sadly absent. I don’t doubt that the film will benefit from a second viewing in the comforts of home–when I’m not physically assaulted by AMC Theatres’ thunderous sound system, and when I can rewind and rewatch key scenes with attention to the details that might have slipped by amidst all the chaotic goings-on. Still, I don’t think I will ever consider the sequel the equal of its precursor. It: Chapter Two bursts its own balloon with over-inflation; its impressive parts end up being too much of a good thing, yet nonetheless outnumbered by the film’s creative missteps.


O. Boy, Oh Boy!

I am doing a happy dance, on the heels of some incredibly exciting news. Norman Partridge’s 2006 novel Dark Harvest–an instant classic of Halloween fiction–is finally being adapted as a feature film.

Set in 1963 in an archetypal Midwestern town, Dark Harvest features a legendary bogey called the October Boy–an animate scarecrow with a jack-o’-lantern head. He attempts to run a gauntlet of teenage boys armed like angry villagers, as part of an annual Halloween ritual that is integral to the fate of the community. I would describe the novel (my favorite book by one my all-time favorite writers) as Ray Bradbury meets Shirley Jackson, yet nonetheless a tale of stunning originality presented in Partridge’s unique prose style.

The film is slated to be directed by David Slade, whose work on 30 Days of Night appears to make him an appropriate choice for this project. Dark Harvest‘s compact narrative, fueled by hard-charging action, also makes it the perfect vehicle for a cinematic adaptation. If visualized correctly (and not scythed down by bad CGI), the October Boy has the chance to grow into a horror icon.

Production details are limited at this point, and the film probably won’t be released until next Halloween season, but whenever Dark Harvest does crop up in theaters, rich rewards stand to be reaped by viewers.



Lore Report: “The Shortest Straw” (Episode 122)


“When faced with death, that will to live kicks in and gives people the courage to do what is necessary to survive. Whether it’s the strength to sever your own limb to escape a dangerous situation, or the stubborn refusal to give up hope of rescue, people are capable of extraordinary things. And when their very life is on the line, desperate people will do anything to survive.”


For its 122nd episode, Aaron Mahnke’s podcast Lore voyages to the land of ultimate taboo: cannibalism. Once again our intrepid narrator displays a knack for sketching historical context and supplying fascinating details. When tracing the origins of cannibalism, Mahnke notes that making provender of one’s fellows is not distinct to humanity: over 1500 species have been known to dine on their own kind. In terms of strictly interpersonal gourmandizing, such gruesome act (judging from the tooth-marked bones unearthed) dates back an incredible 600,000 years.

Mahnke narrows matters down to focus on the “custom of the sea” (sailor euphemism for the resort to cannibalism). The title of the episode refers to the practice of literally drawing straws to determine who among the group of desperately hungry seamen would be fed, and who would be converted into cuisine (drawing the second-shortest straw wasn’t very rewarding, either: to that person fell the dirty job of butchering the designated victim). A good chunk of the narration here is devoted to an 1884 maritime tragedy involving the English yacht “The Mignonette,” and the story does bog down a bit as Mahnke discusses the legal dilemma that stemmed from this cause célèbre (is cannibalism a justifiable survival effort or simply murder?). But the tale takes a turn toward the intriguing when Mahnke proceeds to identify a callback to the case by a recent Oscar-winning movie, and to point out a curious coincidence with Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.

The episode clocks in at a considerable 38 minutes, yet I wish it had run even longer, and addressed other offbeat feats of survival besides those involving starving sailors in dire straits. For anyone, though, who is a fan of the subject of shipwreck and grim perseverance in American fiction–from Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat” to Stephen King’s “Survivor Type” and Dan Simmons’s The Terror–“The Shortest Straw” will surely be a winning selection.