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Traumafession:: GCG on Where The Red Fern Grows

April 21st, 2015 · 6 Comments

I realize someone before me has tackled this terrible subject, but it’s been a while, and I need to focus more particularly on the film released in 1974, because as a child, I “experienced” the story on the page and the small screen simultaneously. Allow me to scare-quote that euphemistic verb, by the way, because this memory could be the worst of all from my childhood, the one that still makes me twitch with hopelessness even into early middle age.

Reading “young adult” fiction in the ‘70s and ‘80s (I don’t think they marketed it as “young adult” back then; “children’s literature,” if I recall correctly) was a perilous business. Adult authors seemed to think that precocious ten-year-olds getting into non-pictorial reading for the first time needed to be apprised of all the horrible things that could happen to an innocent person throughout life. Bridge to Terabithia (rope swing breaks, Leslie falls and drowns in a creek), Tuck Everlasting (living forever sucks, just look at the miserable toad on the road who doesn’t care if he lives or dies), The Outsiders (Johnny stabs and kills Bob, then later gets his back broken in a fire), Forever… (Michael nicknames his penis Ralph)—reading these books ensured that impending adulthood would look like atrocity footage. The Newbery Awards list was an honor roll of devastation and catastrophe.

Rawls’ novel did not win the coveted Newbery, but it taught me never to read “children’s novels” that were about dogs. Never. If you see a young boy embracing a dog on the cover of a children’s novel: run. Or light the book on fire, and then run. Because adults use the radical innocence of animals and the deep attachment children form with them as an opportunity to teach them ways in which they can “accept death.” They somehow think that the death of a pet is the shallow end of a death pool at the end of which dead parents and dead siblings and dead best friends float in ten feet of chlorinated death water. But I’m sorry to disappoint your pedantic urges, Rawls, “Old Yeller” Gipson, and the rest of you misery merchants: pets are just as intensely mourned.

Not content with spilling the intestines of one dog, Rawls pairs it with the second dog’s death. Mind you, this second pet dies of despondency after its mate’s demise! Sadness kills her! What happened to “accepting death,” Rawls? And in the world of the novel, this is considered noble devotion at work: a red fern sanctifies the sacrifice, growing between the graves, validating the second death like a bride burning in India. Yes, it is good to stop living when your mate dies, Rawls would seem to be telling us.

Now, I know this is a family website but—fuck that book. And fuck the movie made from it in 1974. Previously, a contributor discussed the death of Rubin, the boy rival who falls on the axe. In the film, I remember the close-up of Rubin’s face after the accident, a gout of blood running from his mouth, his eyes glazed in the wooded darkness. This was the moment that I learned a person could belch hot blood if they get axed in the stomach. The blood backs up and spills from the mouth. And children can die this way just as easily as adults; children, too, can rupture their organs with a sharp axe and regurgitate blood tainted with bile that originated somewhere near their kidneys. Thank you for letting my five-year-old self know! I don’t think I would have matured correctly without that nugget of wisdom.

Let’s talk about “treeing coons” for a minute, too. Aside from the dubious associations any American should make with that expression, the act of trapping a helpless raccoon in a tree, and then chopping down the entire tree in order to set your dogs on the defenseless animal, seems like extra-steps evidence of perverse sadism, all in order to get a Davy Crockett hat. Watching the film, I felt bad for the raccoon struggling to escape, running to the end of one limb after another in an animal panic, looking pathetically for a means to return to its innocent, bandit-faced life, free of Redbone Coondogs and Appalachian demon children. I have had a raccoon hiss at me on its hind legs while literally holding the lid of a metal garbage can like a post-apocalyptic shield, and I still feel this way.

I even felt bad for that tree. Again, who chops down a giant sycamore tree to catch a raccoon? Is that really the method required here? Weaken the ancient trunk enough with an axe so that some demented Old-Testament God can answer your sick prayers by sending a wind that topples it? What happened to sling shots, rifles, or let’s-just-consider-this-a-win-and-let-everything-live? Whatever happened to catch and release? I realize Billy wants to save the venerable Ghost Coon—and bully for him—but look what happens when the natural hillbilly order of Kill Everything was disrupted: a boy falls on a hatchet and dies. What does that teach us?

Making a movie from a children’s novel means letting a child five years younger experience the horrors of that book. I was a freakishly early reader (not that that helped me much in life, except to expose me to trauma much earlier than most children), but even the most illiterate kids can sit in front of a television and watch Rubin vomit blood and Little Ann collapse on the burial mound of her lifelong mate in total abject sadness.

Before I leave this subject to the carrion birds, let’s review a couple book covers that deceived us as kids, the book cover illustrations that matter so much to visually inclined children. Here’s the original dustjacket:

Ah, the halcyon days of frolicking with your best animal friends in the woods. But watch out! This is an autumnal setting! Do you know what that means, children? Of course you don’t! You are still immune to the heavy-handed symbolism of the adult world. You think this is a lovely wooded scene, but in fact it Reeks of Death.

Here’s a much later paperback edition:

Gosh, this looks thrilling, like a Hardy Boys mystery! What spooky, innocent fun this will be! I mean, sure, sometimes you notice the Hardy boys making fun of Chet for being fat now and then. A slight drop in your respect for the brothers, a nagging suspicion that they might be assholes to their friends, but otherwise safe, right? (I mean, at least until the spin-offs, when—allow my potty mouth one final f-bomb—a fucking car bomb kills Chet’s sister, of course.)

Cheers,

GCG

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Tags: Traumafessions

Sunday Viewing:: The Exterminator (1980)

April 19th, 2015 · No Comments

Holy cannoli, you can watch 1980’s THE EXTERMINATOR on your computer any time you want to thanks to HULU. I swear I do not own stock in HULU, it’s just that I come from a wretched time period where you had to wait a year to watch THE WIZARD OF OZ on TV. Anyway, THE EXTERMINATOR is broncho nuts. I think if I was forced to make a top ten list of the most traumatizing movies of my youth, it would certainly be on it. Once upon a time I tried to write a traumafession about it HERE but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly put my feelings into words. The weird thing is, THE EXTERMINATOR does not get less insane with age, it just seems to get more and more crazy and explosively sinister. Check it out below and say so long to your mental well being….

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Tags: Stream Warriors · Streaming Alert! · Sunday Streaming · Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Dr. Kaiju on The Rockford Files

April 18th, 2015 · 4 Comments

I’ve never really been frightened by horror movies, but when I was a little kid the show The Rockford Files scared the holy living shit out of me. It would make me sick to my stomach with worry. You never knew when he would get attacked out of nowhere and beat up, it was all very seedy and traumatic. Everyone was always sweaty.

Regards,

UNK SEZ: Thanks Dr. Kaiju! Kids, Dr. Kaiju is currently collecting information on any and every giant movie monster. You don’t need an appointment to visit his office HERE!

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Tags: Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Raul F. on The Sentinel (1977)

April 9th, 2015 · 5 Comments

One night, in the early ’80s, I woke up in the middle of the night. I was 12 or 13 years old and I couldn’t go back to sleep.

I didn’t lie in the dark for very long before turning on the TV. I had an old 13 inch color TV in my bedroom, and it took a couple of seconds to warm up before the picture came into view. The picture faded in from black, and suddenly, I saw these people, deformed and missing limbs, crawling closer to my TV screen. I immediately turned the TV back off and left it off. I lied back down, freaked out by what I just saw.

As time passed, I couldn’t get the image out of my head. I looked at a TV schedule for the title of what I saw, but we were on to the next week, and in the pre-internet days, that meant I was out of luck.

Cut to 12 years later, I was working at a video store, straightening up the horror section, when the thought of that night popped into my head. The memory came to me like an old friend, and as I stared at the colorful VHS boxes that surrounded me, I knew the answer to my mystery was within reach.

I started taking home 5 or 6 horror movies a night, every night. I would say I watched and fast forwarded through 50 or so movies spread over a couple of weeks before finally finding it. That sounds like a lot, but the victorious feeling of solving my 12 year old mystery made it worth every second.

The movie was “The Sentinel” from 1977, as I’m sure many of you already guessed, and towards the end of the movie, those freaky, limbless people came crawling out of the darkness and toward the leading lady, as well as myself.

I couldn’t believe that I found it, and there was a bit of post mystery-solved depression, I must admit. But now, video stores are gone and Kindertrauma is here, and none of my horror movie mysteries will take 12 years to solve again.

Raul F

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Tags: Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Senski on Gold Key Comics and Gloomy Sunday Suicides

March 18th, 2015 · 4 Comments

I’ve written before about how comic books were my gateway drug into the harder horror of movies, television and literature. While my parents would buy funny cartoon animal titles for me when I was all of two, it wasn’t until I turned six and made my initial forays into fright with comics from Gold Key (formerly Dell, often referred to as Western Publishing). They had a trio of terror titles: Ripley’s Believe It or Not! (presumably true tales of ghosts, demons, uncanny occurrences), The Twilight Zone (stories that would not have been out of place on Rod Serling’s classic series) and Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery. That book started life in 1962 as Thriller, undergoing a name change for its third issue after the cancellation of the TV namesake. “Tales of Mystery” was somewhat of an undersell and a misnomer, as most stories dealt with giant monsters and hideous aliens that would not have been out of place in a 1950’s Creature Feature. The three books were great gobs of fun, all managing nearly two decades of publishing life (no small feat for a comic book.) With their sophisticated painted covers, they looked classy on the newsstand next to their Marvel and DC counterparts.

The Gold Key titles did not bear the voluntary Comics Code Authority seal due to an implicit agreement publishers had that their content would be both benign and educational. Other Disney characters and licensed TV franchises could be found between the pages of Gold Key comics, and certainly Donald Duck and Gunsmoke would never offend, right? (This self-policing was spotty on occasion. The 1970 cover of BKToM #32 featured a gorgeous canvas of the living dead emerging from the sea; the Code strictly forbade the depiction of zombies, and Code-stamped Marvel/DC would never have been able to get away with such artwork.)

As to that “educational” element…all three horror titles featured a text page that was devoted to the exploration of strange real life phenomena; ESP, weird weather, ghosts in the White House, etc. Kids were expected to read, dammit, and the Gold Key titles delivered a lot of bang for only 15 cents.

Which brings me to the point of this Traumafession…

Published in the Fall of 1968, Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery #24 was only my second issue of the title, and I was already quite hooked (with that stunning George Wilson cover painting, who wouldn’t be?). But the text page for that issue was not only educational, it was deeply unnerving. Entitled “Melody of Death,” it told the history of the tune “Gloomy Sunday,” which soon after its creation had become known as the “Hungarian Suicide Song” due to its legendary propensity to inspire self-destruction in those who heard it. The song was composed by Rezső Seress in 1933 but didn’t achieve notoriety until recorded by Billie Holiday in 1941. It has been rumored to be a factor in dozens of suicides worldwide; indeed, its vocal version was banned by the BBC for its fear of contributing to public depression, a ban that was in place until 2002!

Well, that was terrifying to me. Imagine a song that held such malevolent power! And the fact that it was not readily hearable on the public airwaves only gave credence to the legend. I became that little boy in the article who was happily bicycling along, enjoying life, only to encounter the strains of “Gloomy Sunday”…and fling myself into the river! How could such evil be allowed to exist in the world? And the ultra-creepy accompanying illustration (by Joe Certa, who would fittingly go on to draw Barnabas Collins and cohorts for Gold Key’s Dark Shadows) didn’t help matters. That poor woman!

As fate would have it, I never heard a version of “Gloomy Sunday” until 1984, when ex-J. Geils Band vocalist Peter Wolf released his first solo LP “Lights Out,” but by then I was quite sanguine over the affair and wondered what the fuss was all about. And now, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, we can hear numerous cover versions by everyone from Ray Charles to Björk. But they all pale in comparison to what my childhood imagination concocted…all from the pages of a comic book.

Oh, and composer Rezső Seress? He died in 1968 – the year I read this article.

Suicide.

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Tags: The Amazing Senski · Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Carl M. on Judgment at Nuremberg

March 2nd, 2015 · 6 Comments

Forget the horror movies. What scar(r)ed me the most when I was but 8 years old was seeing “Judgment At Nuremberg” and learning about something called “The Holocaust” for the very first time! It was all I could think about for weeks!!

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Tags: Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Taryn C. on The Psychopath (1966)

February 23rd, 2015 · 6 Comments

I just turned 50 last week (still trying to figure out how THAT happened?) and I loved watching horror and science fiction movies during my formative years. I checked the archives but didn’t see a mention of a fairly obscure 1966 movie called “The Psychopath“. Although it wasn’t a big hit at the time, it was written by Robert Bloch, directed by Freddie Francis and starred Patrick Wymark. As a child, I used to beg my parents to allow me to spend Friday nights at my best friend, Julie’s, house. Julie’s family always stayed up to watch horror movies on the Big Chuck & Hoolihan show (Cleveland, Ohio – REPRESENT!) and I really enjoyed this Friday evening ritual. I saw “The Psychopath” in 1975 when I was 10 years old, on an old black & white TV in my friend’s basement/rec-room. It disturbed me on a level I wasn’t even aware existed! Suddenly, I realized that not all ‘monsters’ were covered in thick fur, or drank blood, or had large bolts sticking out of their necks. Sometimes a ‘monster’ can be the normal-looking person who lives next door…

I can’t begin to convey how the ending of this movie terrified me. My friend and I would always bunk down in sleeping bags (on the shag-carpeted floor!) after the movie was over, but I didn’t get any sleep that night because it was spent clutching the pillow up around my face! The mental image of the movie’s shocking ‘reveal’ played over and over in my head for a looooong time afterwards….and even years later, I would still get the chills thinking about it.

I couldn’t recall the name of this movie for the next 27 years but thankfully, the internet and IMDB came through for me and at the age of 37, I had the opportunity to purchase a bootleg copy of this film and watch it again as an adult. Perhaps it’s due to my childhood memories, but – honestly – the movie STILL manages to frighten and disturb. While it can be a difficult title to track down, I strongly recommend viewing this one to anyone who loves a good, psychological horror story!

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Name That Trauma:: Chris on Kids, Matches and Fire Safety

January 10th, 2015 · 2 Comments

Every time I’ve tried to search Youtube for this, I’ve come up with either the famous PIF where a camera is slowly gliding through a burnt-out house with dubbed on shrieks, or the other one where a kid ends up burning down his home because he was too careless lighting the fire in the living room and was more interested in reading the Dandy or whatever. This isn’t either of those. Instead, this is something that I saw once, and only once, during the always-unsaleable ad-break time of around about 5:45 am during an edition of the ITN Early Morning News in 1996.

The PIF began with two kids playing with matches in a blacked-out room – I think they were meant to be sister and brother. The older girl inevitably dropped one and a conflagration started. Which was nasty enough, but then the soundtrack went insane, ultra-heavy delay being applied to the girl screaming “MUM, MUM, MUM, MUM, MUM -” and then there was a massive film splice and the sound cut out and the action froze, the girl’s face remaining on screen mid-scream.

No word of a lie, my blood genuinely ran cold. I was rooted to the spot with fear. I have never been so glad as I was when it was faded out and part 2 of the bulletin began. The fact that there seems to be absolutely no mention of this PIF anywhere on the net, and all my searches for “PIF matches kids fire” or variations thereof all come up with the other two PIFs I mentioned earlier, makes me wonder if it was actually some terrifying broadcast from another dimension that only I could see.

-Chris

UNK SEZ: Chris, I think I may have found it! I just googled “playing with matches PSA” looking for an image to illustrate your NTT and it popped up! Can this really be it? It seems so much like what you described….

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Tags: Name That Trauma! · Traumafessions

Traumafession From Dr. Future:: Chick Tracts and Christian Scare Literature

January 5th, 2015 · 8 Comments

As a fairly long-time devotee of Kindertrauma, I have tried to contribute my few submissions to the Kindertrauma “family” (which is much like the “Manson Family”) in the fields of “oddball” topics that have child-traumatizing elements, such as “Sesame Street” film segments or apocalyptic nuclear war themes. To continue that direction, I would like to address a field that, for people like me raised in evangelical Christian homes in the mid to late 1900s, caused potential traumas that are far greater than the scary movies and stories of monsters and ghosts – the threat of demons grabbing one and dragging them off to Hell, and the prophesied imminent End of the World.

As an older adult who still espouses Christian beliefs, and has even contributed to the field by writing on serious research topics in the field of prophecy in the Bible which still holds my respect, I have to clarify that my work has been of an intended non-exploitational nature (if that is possible) and targeted for a mature Christian adult audience. However, even in the pre-Internet and cable television days of the early 70s, it was very possible for a new generation of “Christian scare” literature and films, bolstered by a revival of Last Days apocalypticism and phenomena such as the Thief in the Night “last days” films (which everyone should watch on Youtube if not having been seen them in their churches previously), to randomly fall into the hands of easily-scared or otherwise fascinated children, such as yours truly.

On my “watch” as an impressionable child of the early 70s, the “grand daddy” (and reigning champion) of all “Godsploitation”, “Christian scare” literature was the “Chick tracts” produced by the enigmatic and reclusive Jack Chick. His small rectangular tracts were ubiquitous in the 1970s public realm – Chick Publications reportedly claims to have sold 750 million tracts since 1960, and having been translated into over 100 languages – what other type of propaganda literature (good or bad) can make such a claim in terms of its impact on society and its worldview, even if communicated in the shadows, and its message preserved in unspoken form in the back recesses of the readers’ minds?

In 2003 Los Angeles Magazine did an extended expose on Chick and his impact (HERE). It notes that, “In the pocket-sized tracts, people are stabbed, burned alive, and eaten by snakes. There is cannibalism and human sacrifice. The apocalyptic works are equal parts hate literature and fire-and-brimstone sermonizing, with a tough-guy Christ – ‘Jesus is not a weak fairy’, he writes – as protagonist”. They note that “Chick is the world’s most published living author”, with his works “handed out on subways and campuses or left behind in diners and bus stations”, and his tracts having been displayed at the Smithsonian. The screenplay writer of the film Ghost World was noted as saying of Chick’s work, “I had never been so terrified by a comic book”. They note that his work, targeting the Satanic work of Catholics, gays and a long list of culprits (including those who use any Bible but the King James), was banned by many Christian bookstores, denounced by Christianity Today, and led Chick to quit the Christian Booksellers Association, thereby cementing his reputation as the king of “Christian outsider literature” (my term). His few favorable subjects include Israel and Tony Alamo, a Los Angeles-based cult leader.

I must have come across my first Chick tract as a six or seven year old at a restaurant or public bathroom – where most Chick tracts are discovered. Inside I found the most grotesque and stupifyingly horrifying images that have seared into my mind and nightmares, as they have with millions of others for decades. Like many such younger readers, I am sure, my mother told me to discard it because it was “not good” – which of course led me to crave the perusal of its contents as taboo, “forbidden fruit” of dangerous knowledge and ideas. They permanently form the enduring, defining images of demons and Hell in all of us who have been touched at a tender age by them.

While they may seem a little more quaint in today’s “Saw”, “Hostel” era of “no limit” depravity, they still pack a mighty wallop – magnified a hundred fold for sheltered youth. While the Chick Publications website features their scores of famous tracts, with online illustrations of their pages, I would like to mention four Chick tracts that I have not forgotten, almost forty five years later – indelible images not privy then to the notes-sharing and discourse now possible with the Internet, and rather kept in the isolated thoughts of those damned to find such a tract on their own in the mysterious pre-Internet world of discovery.

The first, The Beast, (HERE), clearly warns the reader of its contents with a cover picture of a father, mother and child – marked on their foreheads with the dreaded “666”, and thus damned for eternity. The contents reveal widespread death from the Flood, gay encounters in “today’s world” (with one perpetrator’s phrase of “You know you’re the only man for me” remembered by a senior friend of mine fifty years later), Lucifer worship, the Antichrist embraced at the Vatican, guillotining, black eyed and fanged demons, werewolves, a Goat of Mendes, and the Lake of Fire – all in one tract!

The next, the cleverly quaint Somebody Goofed (HERE), reveals an adult mentor of a child sneering at others who appeal to the child to follow Christ (and avoid “overdosing on speed”) or be “eternally lost”, leading to the eventual car wreck and descent to Hell, where the “mentor” reveals himself to be in fact a ugly, masked demon who intended to drag the child to hell.

The tract The Last Generation (HERE) has a cover with a costumed super-villain offering a syringe of drugs to youth, features death camps for Christians, a Damien-like child informant of his parents because they are “straight” and who sacrifices cats and dogs on Halloween, reincarnation and the Mother Goddess, all taught to children in public schools, concluding by noting that “Little Bobby died in his sins, because he never prayed a prayer”.

The legendary This Was Your Life (HERE) shows a man who dies, and is forced to watch all the creepy and lecherous thoughts he ever had, until he is thrown into the Lake of Fire.

The purpose of my post is not to mock or belittle the message (and warnings) of Christianity, but rather to spotlight an iconic, social impacting role of a “king traumatizer” and controversial but undeniably influential individual from the magical days of the youth of my generation and evangelical circles, and the amazingly “traumatic” influences of religious extremist expression (even when communicating spiritual truth) in the “good old days”, which really weren’t so “innocent” in comparison to the “Dungeons and Dragons” and demon-filled video game culture of today.

If you like exploring such topics, please trot over and check out the hundreds of free archived radio shows I hosted over on my website FUTURE QUAKE.

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Tags: Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Hilary F. on Problem Child and Problem Child 2

January 1st, 2015 · 3 Comments

I was an introverted only child with an admittedly unhealthy love for my own possessions (thanks Brave Little Toaster). Edward Scissorhands, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Gremlins 1 & 2 were definitely some of the few somewhat-traumatizing movies I experienced during my childhood, but at least I knew that they lived in a world of make-believe, or they were puppets. The kid from the Problem Child movies, however, lived in my world–the real world–and while there might not be so many kids with the brains for the sheer amount of hate-filled evil he wrought, there were definitely a few in my classroom with the personality for it.

I remember watching Problem Child 1 at a sleepover when I was 7. The scene where he decides to trash his bedroom is what really horrified me, setting it on fire, just because he didn’t like clowns. Those were TOYS. That was his HOME. To me toys had inherent personalities–and as we all know just as adults from watching Toy Story: when toys with personalities are about to get melted down–even that jaded, stone-hearted bear–it’s SAD and AWFUL. Oh yeah and then there was the animal abuse of that poor cat he feeds soap to. At that young age, I still lived in dread that my parents hadn’t finished making babies and I might get some little demon brother or sister like the Problem Child. It was a fear I lived with nightly for years. And I blame the Problem Child for my unwillingness to have kids of my own now. Now how many supposedly awful and evil movie villains actually have that kind of effect on an adult’s big life milestones?

Then in Problem Child 2 (another movie forced onto me at a sleepover), he sets a sprinkler off in the whiny little girl’s room, soaking her stuffed animals, confirming my fear that not only would he trash his own sanctuary, he’d trash someone else’s.

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