Window Dressing: the Podcast was very tight, very clear and great for crosstalk and details. Zeke's stupid voices are still stupid, but there's clearly an audience for those (and I suspect it's Zeke). The opening was cool, and you were very distinct.
First things first, guys. Chthonic
is the word you were using. It's a good word, a glorious word, a word I love and a word I use like a specialised tool. You don't trot it out routinely, as the word itself touches into a number of terms people sometimes hear, which means it has an inherent creepiness to it.
However, the word Chthonic is not Cthulu-related. The term you almost certainly want to use when referring to the Lovecraftian style is just that - Lovecraftian
. That terminology nitpick is important, because I feel the Jungian Chthonic -
In Jungian psychology, the term chthonic was often used to describe the spirit of nature within, the unconscious earthly impulses of the Self, one's material depths, but not necessarily with negative connotations.
- has potential amongst horror. That irrelevant
nitpick aside, let me go on.
* Cthulhu Mythos
* Chaosium’s Call of Cthulu
I feel you missed the point of the Cthulu mythos, missed what makes them horrifying. Your claim is the horror derives from the alien nature of the cthuloid creatures (and there are a lot of them, by the way; Lovecraft's horror ranges from alien creatures like the Colour out of Space, the dread gods like Cthulu, but it also features things like the Unnameable and Herbert West, Reanimator). That's not really it.
Lovecraftian horror is about perspective
. It's about finding out that not only is the world different
to what you think it is, it's about realising how insignificant
you are. How unimportant and irrelevant your nature is by comparison to them. The world on which we live is a transient blip amidst a transient blip.
This is actually something awkward to represent in the modern age. Gamers - and by inference, geeks - tend to be well-informed about issues of science, so we're actually often quite well-accommodated by the idea that we are, yes, a tiny insignificant dot on a tiny insignificant dot. In that way, Lovecraft has lost a lot of his virginal bloom as a horror writer, and yet, he's still popular. I propose that this is because Lovecraft's writing has a fantastic way of making the uncertain personal
. This is important.
The Thing On The Doorstep is one of my favourite Lovecraftian stories. The actual horrific element within it is personal, interpersonal, watching a friend slowly decay, and being put into a position where murder
is the only true response - the murder of a friend, and revenging him. The actual Cthuluesque creatures that you see in this story are the most vague
references. You stare at the horror through a keyhole and that makes it all the more fearful. You stop, pressing your back to the door, and stop even drawing breath, for fear that you will earn attention.
That moment there is the horror. That anticipation. That's where the creature bursts through the wall
at you, or the moment where all is still and you realise you've a moment.
I'm actually surprised nobody mentioned Poe in this entire piece. Steven King got a number of good licks in, but Poe was mysteriously absent.
* Meg’s fear of sea creatures comes in here.
I think that Meg's fear of whales is relevant to this. Mainly because a whale gives you that sensation of perspective - of realising how small and insigificant you are.
Now, horror in modern cinema tends to come in one of two basic flavours, and I'm going to say it in a way that'll come across as racist, with personal opinion parenthesised. There is American Horror (which is overdone and shit
) and there is Japanese Horror (which by dint of being minimally exposed, far less overdone and shit
American Horror is about inevitability. It's about watching as the cast is steadily whittled down by something or other, and really, through no fault of the individuals in question. There's no rhyme or reason and the personality of the people does not play a direct part in the task - it's much more about confirming your personal moral biases. That's why the slutty girl and the jocky guy tend to go first. They embody good, solid christian values - showing how people whose crime of enjoying sex are punished arbitrarily and in breathtakingly cruel ways by an inexorable hand above that we're supposed to appreciate even as we recognise it for the monster that it is. American horror is claustrophobic, about being trapped in a small space, often with a small group, that coerces you into interaction.
Japanese horror, however, tends to be much more about isolation. It's about being in a place that hates you a great deal and is very passive-aggressive about it. In every situation in J-Horror, the power to kill, to enforce suffering is almost absolute. It's about things and people that are simply beyond
your ability to fight or even to run from. You survive, you live, only on their whim, which tends to be fairly arbitrary. This is the kind of horror I prefer. Even in a crowd, you're alone - consider Marebito.
That's the kind of horror that Lovecraft loved. The idea that, really, in a vast world of creatures to whom the consumption of worlds was immaterial, we are ultimately, shockingly, terrifyingly alone. I now want to go write a superhero horror story based on these ideas, like Carl Sagan meets Hp Lovecraft.
2. The Undead
* Halloween (a poster on our forum)’s excellent post about “contrasting for horror”.
* 28 Days Later
* Cell by Stephen King
You start to explain why
then get sidetracked with examples. Why are smells important? Smells are important because they're powerfully evocative, and they excite the memory. If you evoke a particular smell to players - and it doesn't have to be a smell they recognise as being horrific. You need to play with the duality of sounds. In System Shock 2 (the real Bioshock), when you travel through the nursery, there are robots - Nurses - that attack you. But as they do it, they whisper soothing phrases, - "Babies need their sleep,"
- and it jars with both the mood (it's dark, you're alone, you're scared, you're hurt), and their actions (they're trying to murder you with surgical tools).
Sounds again, you fail to expand well on that idea. You give examples but don't explain the principles. Do you know why sound is important? It's because certain sounds are hardwired into our mind as being predatory, or
being safe. You touch on this - 'look human but aren't' - but you don't really make a point of it. You repeat it for almost every single threat in the podcast, in fact, which makes it exceptionally exasperating! You introduce, you example, and that's it
. You don't talk about why
3. The Siren
* The Mythological Siren
* Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
* Little Shop of Horrors
* The Firm
* Star Wars
I feel you guys covered this decently
. You have this unfortunate habit of saying something amazingly brilliant that, to me, defeats the point of the setting around it. You could have just for this whole section said "Anything that takes your soul an inch at a time"
, and that would have been enough. Tidbits:
- Getting Ugly in KOTOR - When you don't have to compete against other players, that's not a problem. You can get unfair powers for being a dick and players will - if the character is appropriately sympathetic and well-written, - still avoid it so as to avoid being a dick.
- "Horror is not in the bang, but in the anticipation thereof."
- You have to give the players connection to the events to make them feel real, to make them care about what is happening to them, to care about what isn't happening.
- MEG: Work on your antecedents! Listen to Josh sometimes. The man knows how to build a point. You tend to get opening and conclusion reversed. Consider your relating of Sean of the Dead. You mention the zombified version of the world before you mention the zombified one. This totally takes the wind out of your point, and I think you notice that - you pause, you stammer around your point and pull out by exhorting the movie itself.
Beyond that? It was a good show! Sorry it took me so long to really get into my response.