Time for a new round of search term Q&A

We haven’t done this in forever, but my longer term peeps know I like to occasionally go through the WordPress report on the search terms that have brought people to my site, and do my best to oblige them with answers to their burning questions. So let’s get to it:

mr. rochester is an asshole: You seem to have worked this out on your own, so why the search? If you’re seeking confirmation, then yes. Mr. Rochester is an asshole. We love him anyway though, because Jane does, and that’s good enough for us.

supernatural x reader lemon: Last time I did this, I had one that said mr rochester x reader lemon. Now this. I’m not quite sure I’ve got the proper decoder ring. Um, drink more Ovaltine?

scariest things: Spiders, clowns, creepy dolls, walking across your dark room to your bed when you just know a pale slimy hand is about to reach out from under it and grab you (No? Just me?), deep water, any vague unidentified problems that involve calling a plumber or an electrician.

terrifying jaws: Assuming you mean the shark, then yes, I can confirm that Jaws is terrifying. Human jaws are not even unsettling.

illidan wisely say: You are not prepared.

formatting messed up on createspace template: You’ve got to watch those guys, it’s true. Just double check the centering on your headers and footers; they like to leave the first line indent in there, so it’s not really centered at all.

the north remembers: YES IT DOES.

jen rasmussen: You’ve come to the right place! Except, there is another Jen Rasmussen who seems to be an expert bee keeper. I am not her, and I’m afraid my only knowledge of honey is as it relates to tea or baking bread. I’m not fond of bees.

jen rasmussen hawaii: Sign me up!

jen rasmussen porn: Do not sign me up!

jen is cow: Now you’re just being rude.

richard armitage nude: You again? Well, points for persistence. But I’m afraid I can’t help you.

gaming with jen facebook: I’m not into Facebook games, but if you want to do some WoW pet battles, I am your girl.

I also get quite a few visitors who arrive here after various searches having to do with Authors United, but honestly, I just don’t even want to talk about them anymore. It’s gotten too ridiculous to even mock.

Search terms: you ask, I answer

This is one of my favorite games to play on my other blog, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it here. I feel it’s only polite to try to help those who visit me seeking something specific. Luckily, WordPress can tell me what they were looking for.

real dornish peppers: It would have been better for you to hear this from a loved one, but I’m afraid there’s not a real Dorne. I imagine you could substitute any of several varieties of chili?

things that are not scary: Macaroons. Napkins. Toothpaste. The Blair Witch Project.

sansa loves lemon cakes: Yep.

jen rasmussen hawaii nude: Not that I recall.

richard armitage butt: Seriously, four of you in the last thirty days? I am not the proper resource for this. Meaning no offense to Mr. Armitage, there aren’t very many people whose butts I care to know stuff about.

american horror story briefly topics: Ghosts, aliens, medical experiments gone awry, odd explanations for the Black Dahlia, creepy clowns, creepy nuns, creepy war criminals, completely uncreepy and nonsensical witches, serial killers, and ladies who want babies. Not in that order.

info on murder of jen rasmussen: I imagine I’d be the last to know.

we found a witch may we burn her: How do you know she’s a witch?

jen scary thing: Not generally. Maybe if that Hawaii thing was true.

where do you send for letter to cary fukunaga: I can’t help with this, but if you write to him, tell him I loved his Jane Eyre!

four and tris with supernatural powers: I agree this would be cool.

excessive planning: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS.

i would always rather be happy than dignified: Jane and I both approve.

mr rochester x reader lemon: This is almost certainly code for something, but as I’m not a Cold War spy, I don’t know what. Perhaps my commenters can offer suggestions, if it wouldn’t blow their cover.

Did we learn nothing from Pennywise?

This post contains spoilers for Stephen King’s It and last week’s American Horror Story, but not this week’s, because I haven’t watched it yet. I don’t mind if you spoil it when making comments, though.

American Horror Story has made me sad. They had such a great thing going with that clown. But they ruined it. No no, not by killing him. I mean, I’m kind of bummed about that too, because it’s too early in the season to lose their best feature, but I could have handled that.

But first they had to give him an origin story, and that’s where it all went wrong. Horror rule, you guys: leave the clown alone. Resist the urge to mess with the clown.

Do you remember when you read It, and Pennywise was just the most terrifying thing? And then the makeup came off and it was just, like, a big bug? That was such a letdown. The only thing that kept it from ruining the book was that the rest of it was so damned scary that you could forgive even that big a flaw. American Horror Story just made the same mistake, and they haven’t got Stephen King’s skill to talk their way out of it. (Don’t feel bad, Ryan Murphy and friends. Nobody does.)

Because you have two kinds of villains: villains who are uncomfortably like the rest of us, and monsters. The former are relatable, and that makes them both scary and tragic. You might hate them, but you get it, how they became what they did, the things that make us crack, the darkness within all of us. Nobody likes to look too long into that darkness, and these villains work because somewhere in the back of your mind you’re afraid that, given the same circumstances, that could be you.

These are good candidates for origin stories and mask removal. We need to know their motivations and we need to understand them. They need character arcs of their own. They don’t work otherwise, and they come off flat.

But monsters work the opposite way. They must be mysterious. The source of their terror is their otherness, their inhumanity, the sense of something bigger and badder than any of us. It’s great for them to be disguised as something familiar, especially if it’s something related to childhood, like a clown or a doll. That only adds to the effect. But you must make me imagine something awful under there without ever, under any circumstances, showing it to me. Take off the mask and give me a big spider, or a sad man who hasn’t got the capacity to judge the right or wrong of his actions, and you’ve just replaced the mystique with something I can deal with, even something mundane. The trick to the monster is understanding that you can’t scare someone better than they can scare themselves.

Where American Horror Story went wrong is that they started with a monster and then at the last second tried to swap it for the human kind of villain. Once you’ve put someone in a clown suit, he is not that kind of villain. He is unequivocally a monster, and there’s nothing you can show me under his makeup that will be scarier than him with it on.

Okay, fine, maybe they didn’t want him to be scary anymore. But why not? Why ruin all that terror momentum they had going, just on the off chance that they could use a few minutes before they killed him off, after we’ve been watching a monster for weeks, to make us see a sad man instead, and feel sorry for him?

There’s no point to that, and also, it didn’t work. The origin story wasn’t interesting or good. And going for the cheap gross-out with that jaw? Totally ruined a perfectly good evil clown. It’s like Pennywise all over again.

Just leave the clown alone.

Props for getting Wes Bentley though, AHS.

Everyone hail to the pumpkin song

Eleven things for Halloween:

1. The post title, of course, comes from the song “This is Halloween” in A Nightmare Before Christmas. This was the correct answer to the October poll asking for the best Halloween movie. Fifty percent of you got it right.

2. The other half of you chose It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which is certainly a good one. But you’re still doing Halloween wrong if you don’t know Jack Skellington is the pumpkin king.

3. Nobody chose either Halloween or Night of the Living Dead. I was especially surprised that Michael Myers did not garner a single vote, although I quite agree with you. (By the way, there is no November poll because mah book is being released next week and will be occupying the sidebar space where the poll normally sits. But I’m sure we can all agree that the best Thanksgiving pie is cherry anyway. Shut up with your pumpkin.)

4. ahsclownAmerican Horror Story, which was maybe the least scary thing on TV last year, is the scariest it’s been since Season 1 this year, and maybe even scarier. You really can’t beat a creepy clown when it comes to scares, and John Carroll Lynch is giving us the creepiest one since Tim Curry played Pennywise.

5. The adaptation of It in which Tim Curry played Pennywise was not scary, despite Curry doing a fantastic job. The production values were… not high. So there’s no point in watching that for Halloween, but you might consider reading it, because it still wins my scariest book ever award.

6. ‘Salem’s Lot and Pet Sematary are my runners up for scariest Stephen King books. His son Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 is also really scary.

7. That family hasn’t got the corner on scary, of course. The Haunting of Hill House is a classic that stands up, and Poe will always be the master. I haven’t read much lately that genuinely scared me, though. (By all means, give me your recommendations in comments.)

8. If you want a movie instead, my personal picks for scariest movies are Seven and Silence of the Lambs.

9. Last year’s The Conjuring deserves a mention too, because it brought the scary back to scary movies. We need less of that nauseating found footage nonsense, and more good old fashioned scares.

10. I’m going to say it one more time, movie people: startle does not equal scare. Don’t just make me jump and call it a day. I’m not going to have nightmares about being startled. You’ve got to disturb me.

11. My fun sized candy bar of choice this year is Almond Joy. Yours?

Putting the sleepy in Sleepy Hollow

Spoiler content: Sleepy Hollow

So did you watch Sleepy Hollow? Yay for Clancy Brown! Boo for chopping off his head in the first ten minutes!

As a fan of all things horror, supernatural, and fantasy, I really want to love this show. I want more of this kind of thing on TV. But there just wasn’t a lot to love here. Frankly, it was kind of, well, boring.

This is a show that is trying to do too much, and none of it in a particularly interesting way. Come on, the apocalypse? Why is that necessary? The Headless Horseman has plenty of potential on his own. Stretching it into a struggle for life as we know it is just trying too hard. “Wait, you don’t find our villain compelling and terrifying on his own merits? Okay then, he’s DEATH INCARNATE! How do you like him NOW?”

And then you add in all the usual pilot awkwardness: the exposition is clumsily delivered, the chemistry between the actors hasn’t come together completely, the story in general just doesn’t feel cohesive yet. That stuff is all fixable, at least, but there was nothing about this first episode that got me excited for another one.

There were some bright spots () and good lines. My favorites:
“Back up. You’re offended?”(hee)
“But that building is also a Starbucks.” (hee)
“Put your hands on your…”  (hee)

But see the problem there? The highlights of a supernatural show should not be funny. Sure, there should be some light to balance out the dark. But this show had nothing really dark to balance. There wasn’t a single moment that was actually scary. I recall one that was mildly creepy. One. Mildly. This will not do.

I’m going to give Sleepy Hollow a couple more weeks, because a lot of disappointing pilots go on to be good shows. But I’m concerned that we’ve got another The Following on our hands: a good idea poorly executed. Please, Sleepy Hollow guys, prove me wrong. I’ll happily admit it if you do. I want to be on your side.

The shark’s still got it

sharks are scaryI recently saw Jaws for the first time in many years. Maybe for the first time from beginning to end since the 70’s. Do you remember Jaws when it first came out? It was terrifying. I was young when I saw it in the theater, and I never thought it was safe to go back in the water; to this day my toes have to be able to touch bottom. Nonetheless I assumed it would be almost laughably unscary now. Special effects have come a long way. That shark was bound to look like papier-mâché, right?

Wrong. Or kind of, but it doesn’t matter. This is the storytelling genius of Spielberg, a man who was young and relatively inexperienced when he directed Jaws, and who you don’t typically think of as a horror guy in any case. He gets what all too many horror writers and filmmakers fail to, even after making careers of it: startling does not equal scary. Gross also does not equal scary. It’s easy enough to make somebody jump or cringe. But that’s not the same as making them sprint from the light switch to their bed later that night, for fear of what might be reaching for them in the dark.

Jaws doesn’t depend on special effects or cheap tricks for its scares. It doesn’t even depend on the shark. He remains unseen until halfway through the film, and even then the tension is immediately lifted by one of the best one-liners in movie history. (To give credit where it’s due, Roy Scheider improvised that line.) Jaws is not without blood and gore, but it earns its scares honestly, by building suspense – thank you, John Williams – and tapping our most fundamental fears. What can be scarier than vulnerable naked limbs, dangling down into the black unknown?

Nothing is what. The shark when he’s actually biting poor Quint in half isn’t nearly so scary as the shark when he’s merely lurking, unseen, in the dark. And that head that comes lolling out of the half-eaten boat can’t even begin to compete. It’s a classic startle moment that makes you jump and squeal for sure, but it’s not going to be with you forty years down the road, making you think twice before swimming out too far. A thrill is temporary. A scare is something else. A scare stays.

Horrifying images are great. Thrills and chills and blood, all great. These things can be terrifying when they’ve been given substance by good storytelling. But you can’t just throw them out there and expect them to stand on their own. There has to be more to it than a jump and a retch.