Category Archives: Reading/Viewing Response

Radio Show Review! (Say that three times fast…)

So, for this post I’ll take a moment to discuss a radio show that wasn’t my own! Pretty straight-forward, right? Much like the oh-so wonderful production of the Edward Creepy Show! Right off the bat, the showrunners gave us a fright and I can honestly say that I never knew what was right around the corner. I didn’t think there were any glaring problems with it, either. Much like with my group’s show, there were moments that felt almost a little too quiet, but I could still hear it with my laptop’s volume cranked. It seemed to be well put together and I appreciated knowing that the group worked together ahead of time to create a script and then record individually– smart move!

I was particularly impressed by the voice modulation and the music that was used. It gave it a very genuine radioshow horror feel, which was definitely a good choice.

Great work!

The Vignelli Canon

If there’s one thing that I learned from reading the Vignelli Canon (of course, there are more), it’s that aesthetically pleasing things are generally balanced and set to grids, be they imaginary or otherwise. In previous graphic design classes, it was a concept I’d heard of numerous times. While I understand that this aesthetic value can become incredibly subjective, in theory it holds true for most individuals. In regards to who we find attractive or the items we’re likely to buy, our brains tend to shift toward things that are symmetrical or, in some cases, ornate.

Regardless of having met the concept before, I don’t practice or study the rules or visual art very often, if at all, so reading through this booklet refreshed my memory. That said, I also agree with the notion that design is about creative power. The idea is to put forth an idea, a concept, a notion– something– and make sure that it is clearly displayed and respected. To do this, one must find or create the balance between white space and text, textures and colors.

Going back to my point about symmetry, I believe it’s ultimately important that whatever you’re doing, it’s purposeful, powerful, and intelligent. Whether it’s simple or not doesn’t matter unless you choose that it should. It’s complexity can be through the roof, off the charts, or down to earth. The important thing would be to make sure that there’s a reason for your work existing. That it serves a purpose or that it conveys something. To say that it is arbitrary betrays the notion of your efforts.

Planet of the Vampires – A response

One of the things that I immediately noticed was the shifting of camera angles during dialogues. Whenever someone spoke, the camera shifted behind whomever was listening to give a clear view of them. Something as simple as that seems to work effectively because it breaks the mundanity of remaining still for too long. This dynamic camerawork, in addition to decent editing, prevents any scene from feeling to stagnant.

Design, where the set is concerned, seems flamboyantly sci-fi in a great and cheesy way. Having been filmed in the 60’s, it very much fits the aesthetic that a lot of sci-fi followed during the time.

Another thing to note is that the lighting seems to be very consistently dark throughout the movie. The contrast between bright(ish) colors in dark light serves as an interesting juxtaposition.

Overall, I’d say that the film was fairly well-shot and I appreciated the cuts made in editing. I think they aided the pacing of the film. And I enjoyed the ending! This was an interesting take on the introduction of vampires to Earth– most routes are supernatural.

 

(A quick note: was the audio slightly mistimed from the video? That seemed to be the case throughout, so I just thought to ask– if you did or didn’t notice, by all means, go look)

Audio in Storytelling

Truth be told, audio is an extremely crucial part of storytelling in my opinion. Why do I say that? Ambience. When I imagine someone telling a story, some concepts are better perceived when heard. For example, someone’s voice can sometimes give insight into their character through intonation, inflection and pauses while speaking. In addition to that, music and sound effects work well to create atmosphere. Hearing scary or eerie music will definitely give someone the expectation of something scary.

Sound is powerful. Now, imagine simply reading a book. Without hearing anything, it can be just as powerful, that much can’t really be argued. But for every experience that one can have in life, imagine how much scarier or emotionally effective something is when it feels that much closer to you. Your imagination may play a large part in the process, but some may feel that saving you that trouble is that much sweeter. However, that’s a debate for another time.

Some great examples came from tonight’s radio show! The first story was a little difficult for me to hear (I don’t currently own any headphones), but from what I could pick up, there was a great sense of care in the delivery of the actors’ lines and the music/effects were well placed. If anything, I suppose that my point is that audio in storytelling adds a new layer of depth to something already great. And movies add yet another! Anyways, that’s enough musing for now.

Until next time!

The Shining, an analysis by James Rives

This movie is an excellent example of horror for many reasons. As such, I want to take my time and explore some reasons that explain why.

The first of these is depth. One great example of depth in this movie is one of the hallway scenes following the child on the tricycle. I say that it has a great sense of depth because of the symmetry of the hallway and the hallway’s narrowness. That same symmetry also gives us a proper sense of balance. The uniform nature of the hallway is repetitive but visually appealing. In addition, the length of the scene itself plays a role in giving the viewer this feeling of longevity. The fact that it’s aesthetically pleasing also works in its favor. On top of that, I think it’s important to note the use of perspective here. Following the view of the child here, we’re left wondering what’s around every turn almost as much as he (probably) is. This is successful because it’s a more passive method of adding suspense to situations.

an example of depth

Another well-made scene that plays off of the idea of lighting and balance is this one:

aesthetic value

Here, we see the same idea of symmetry and balance with the walls of the hotel. It’s also worth noting that there’s a juxtaposition of that symmetry with the chaos of the scene itself. Something that seems as though it should be ordered and neat obviously isn’t. The fact that it’s littered with two corpses and the walls are covered in blood just make the entire ordeal frightening. All in all, I’d say it’s an effective use of material to display the gruesome nature of the move in one of it’s less subtle displays.

This movie was rich with detail and, to avoid an obvious example, I wanted to refrain from using the class, “Here’s Johnny!” scene. But I think that very scene works in its own way, again, by displaying a grand sense of the foreground/background. A close-up of Jack Nicholson’s face as he smiles while Shelley Duvall screams her head off, one close and the other, far.

Vonnegut’s Shape of Stories

I wasn’t sure what exactly the title of this video meant, but Vonnegut’s explanation of shapes won me over in the end. Every good story has its arcs, and while they need not necessarily follow the same flow, more formulaic ones will and they fit the mold Vonnegut speaks on. From there, I want to take some time to look at one of this week’s readings in particular, “Last Respects”, I’d say it best fit the second shape that Vonnegut drew on his graph. At some point before the beginning of the story, we know that Anna and Anthony met one another and fell in love. Fast forward to when the two of them were discovered by Anna’s uncle and we’d see a decline in the happiness they experienced. Instead of there being another rise at the end though, we would instead see a sharp decline that directly contrasts Cinderella’s sharp spike towards the positive.

Response to The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

This piece didn’t necessarily strike me as creepy or spooky or outright frightening but it still retained an element of horror that I felt was more subtle: the unknown. One thing Jackson did well was giving us enough information about the characters present to feel as though we could begin to know them without having us grow too attached. Another would be that the entirety of the story is set during The Lottery but we’re never told who started it or what the purpose for it is. These questions  haunt those who need answers and, for people like myself, leave a sense of uncomfortable wonder. We don’t get much about what happens to Tessie, but it’s understood that she had stones pelted at her (presumably, until dead).  Regardless, I think reading The Lottery was important in broadcasting the real diversity there is in horror storytelling. There isn’t one cut-and-dry method to being scary, rather there are a handful of techniques that each bring their own flavor to the meal.

 

Response to Last Respects

I’ve never read a comic in this series before but when I was younger I watched the TV version of Tales from the Crypt fairly regularly. Starting the comic, I wasn’t sure where the twist would be or what significant spookiness there’d be but I can surely say that it delivered in the end. I’m usually a sucker for a love story where the couple fights back against some improbable odds. Though, in my preference we avoid death in the end. Interestingly enough, though, this is still a good way to introduce emotion and suspense in storytelling by subverting any preconceived notions. I did expect someone to die, but I originally thought it would only be Anthony after some horrific reveal that he was actually a horrible person. When, at the ending, the Old Witch states that each one killed the other I had to pause for a brief moment in realization that it was more subtle that I originally thought. Though, while the uncle was cruel, he wasn’t directly responsible for Anna’s death. If anything, I say it was an unfortunate consequence of their circumstance. And, while Anthony died from formaldehyde poisoning, I hardly imagine it’s fair to blame a dead woman for that. But, for the sake of the commentary and the story itself, I understand the point it was trying to make. And, regardless of what I’ve said, please understand that I still think this was a fascinating work. I valued the pacing in the work too, especially near the part when Anthony admits to killing Anna’s uncle. I shouldn’t have been too surprised that it happened, but because he seemed like a well-meaning man and seemed obviously distressed I wanted to believe that he was just grieving in naturally. All in all, I’d say that reading this was worth it.

A response to our wonderful viewings this week

I think it’s safe to say that our viewings this week met the bar in terms of spookiness. Why, though? While I can’t say I’m afflicted by pediophobia, I don’t like the idea of usually inanimate things coming to life. It may seem cute when watching Toy Story but in all actuality, it doesn’t exactly seem right to me. Having seen the Twilight Zone episode before, going into it again was not a pleasant experience for me. While suspenseful things generally don’t bother me (gore does, though), it’s the slow burning and subtle creepiness that the show is generally known for that will casually slide its way under my skin.

in the Trilogy of Terror, story three: Amelia, I really don’t know what I expected. Maybe I’m a secret pediophobe, maybe not but one thing I do know is that killer dolls that seem persistent in a most unflattering sense (and quite honestly look rather mean) are not my cup of tea. But for all the things I could say about what frightens me pertaining to this story, I can also say that it was well done. Not the most high budget production in the world but hey, whatever. If it does the job it seeks to do, it’s a success (sort of). Would I do the same given the same situation? Maybe, maybe not. I feel that if the doll didn’t have a little spear, I’d have kicked it into the garbage disposal or something or just punched it until it was broken. Point is, it achieved its goal… at least in my eyes.

The one that had the least creepy-factor, in my opinion, may have been the Night Gallery piece. I still found that it worked well and the pacing was probably my favorite thing about it. I look forward to seeing more, though.

A meaningful response to Bryan Alexander and Shira Chess

Bryan Alexander makes a good point in his work about digital storytelling being a constantly changing thing. Following the nature of technology itself, it would be hard to expect anything to stay the same for too long, to which he adds that “social media  evolve at a very rapid speed” — a statement the more or less corroborates that thought. But what I thought was most interesting about his piece on it was that it dealt with the idea of permanence in regards to digital stories themselves. With everything going at a much faster pace, it’s hard to know how long anything will last online (servers shut down, links idle and are replaced by different ones). What that means to me, though, is that digital storytelling is something that should be savored. The more anything is shared, the more interactive it is, the better chances there may be that works will last. With digital caches, it’s possible to save records of these things for years to come but I feel that exposure is the best route.

In regards to Chess’ piece, she details the origin of The Slender Man, a creature that has gained most of its popularity in recent years even. This is actually a great example of how digital storytelling works best. There are countless people that can say they’ve at least heard about Slender Man once or twice in their lives because of the attention its gained and the subsequent video games and web series‘ its inspired.

I found both pieces to be fairly well-written and the material was inspired, both prompted me to think a bit more about what digital storytelling truly means. Sometimes I find myself forgetting that it involves multiple media– my definition is sometimes stuck to writing alone.