The Ocean

Much of Neil Gaiman's work is centered around myth and The Ocean at the End of the Lane is no exception. Although I think the Grimm fairytales have a large influence on how Neil Gaiman shapes the plot and theme of his stories, I couldn't help but feel that The Ocean at the End of the Lane had a strong resemblance to the epic poem Beowulf. Much of the book is a monster in the closet type of plot. A. There is a monster. B. It is in your closet. C. Nobody believes you. What is different is that, in my opinion, the main character / narrator doesn't really do much to fix the problem. In other media that follow this archetype, Alien for instance, the main character is with the monster and has to deal with it. There is no doubt that Ripley dealt with the giant, human-wrecking monster, but when it came to getting rid of the "flea", our main character was less than heroic. This brings me to why I brought up Beowulf.

If Grendel is the Flea then by extension Letty Hempstock, the one who did most of the work in vanquishing the flea, is Beowulf. It might be a stretch to compare a small english farm girl from another dimension to a nordic Scandinavian warrior hunk, but let's try it. This means that the narrator is King Hrothgar. To put this in context:

- The narrator's world is unhinged when he accidentally brings the "flea" into existence through the hole in his foot. This is very similar to how King Hrothgar upsets Grendel with all his loud parties.

- The narrator then gets the champion Letty Hempstock to protect him and fight off the evil. Again, this is like Beowulf showing up and vowing to end Grendel. The only difference is Beowulf hails from over the ocean, and Letty hails from the ocean.

- After defeating the flea / Grendel the overprotective overseer and other monsters help the villain, or at the very least, doesn't make the journey any easier. These are either the hunger birds, or Grendel's mom / the dragon.

- The champion, Letty and Beowulf, die to defeat these monsters in the end.

The monument constructed at the end of Beowulf to remember him is also very similar to how the main character in The Ocean at the end of the Lane is remembering all of this story on a bench by the ocean.


So, I know I was supposed to read Night Circus this week, but instead I decided to read Harry Potter. I've been waiting all semester for an excuse to reread Harry Potter and so, because it was in the summary, I decided to read it.

In Harry Potter there is no question that J.K. Rowling believes that although magic is good, love is far better. This s a weird juxtaposition for the readers as they are introduced to a magical world, and then told something in our normal, boring world is far better. In the story Harry's mother dies to save him, and he eventually dies to save others as well. Many have made this parallel, but the notion of dying to save someone and then living on is essentially christian in nature. This is not so surprising when a lot of Rowling's influences, Tolkien and Lewis, were also very christian.

Another thing that Harry encounters on his adventures is a monster called a Dementor. These cloaked figures can suck out your happiness and soul through their mouth, and leave victims cold and frightful. I found it interesting that when dealing with despair Rowling suggests through the Dementors that there are two options: fond memories and chocolate. Again Rowling uses something we muggles know as just a candy to solve something completely magical in nature.

I will probably post more of this at a later date as I'm still listening through book 3 as of right now.

The Hobbit

I was really glad I had an excuse to reread "The Hobbit" this week as it is one of my favorite books. After reading the book I watched both movies that have been released and I got to say, I really like the direction Peter Jackson has gone with the movies. I view the Hobbit as a children's book, so the whimsical feel of the movies fits like a glove. In the second movie as the dwarves and Bilbo escape from the elvish Palace there is a sequence where bomber the dwarf wipes out a battalion of orcs while rolling in a barrel. To me this was exactly how I imagined the tone of the Hobbit, and also served as great contrast to the giant Smaug later in the movie.

Another part I really liked about the movie was how seamlessly it related back to the movies already made. This is how imagined Tolkien tried to relate things back as, if I'm not mistaken, he wrote the Hobbit after completing the Lord of the Rings trilogy. At one point during the second movie Legolas comments on a picture of Gimley that his father Gloin was carrying. This is funny for fans because in Lord of the Rings Gimley and Legolas become instrumental in the destruction of the One Ring. Although Legolas wasn't ever part of the books, this change isn't completely out of the air as he was a wood elf and could have in theory been there.

Overall my favorite part of the books and movies is the Goblin King sequence. Everybody loves a good chase scene and this one was done incredibly well. Not only was the action good in the movie, but in the book this is when Bilbo discovers / steals the one ring from Gollum. Tolkien really draws out the Riddles in the Dark chapter for a really tense atmosphere.

Overall, this has been my favorite week so far — can never have too much Tolkien.

The Weird

For week 4 I read American Psycho to cover both the old and new "weird".  Having already seen and enjoyed the movie I had certain expectations coming into the book. I think that Bret Easton Ellis achieved something in the book that the movie could only really scratch at. The book is written in current time "she is doing that, she is doing this" which, coupled with the first person perspective, gives an analytical view of the scene. I translated this later into a serial killer mentality. The movie attempts to do this at certain points in the movie such as the famous business card scene, but it cannot last forever.

I think weird is often intriguing because its job is to show us something we would never think of.  Nobody in their right mind would think of human centipede, but it exists. I even think elements of the weird pop up in other movies like "Alien". Who thought of the alien popping out of the guy's chest? I would even go so far to say that anything outside of the normal hack and slash movie is weird to an extent.


Today in class we discussed how J-Horror and western horror differ. I think we touched on a few key points:

1. Western horror needs a hero and a villain. We need evil to hate, and I think a lot of that does come from religion. In christianity god, the good force in the world, battles the devil. In most western films there are clear sides as well, Indiana vs. The Nazis, Luke and the Rebels vs. The Empire, Ferris Bueller vs. Mr. Rooney. All of these things have a clear person to root for and someone to take you through the story. In Japanese horror there is a very blurred line about what is evil and what is good, like the movie we watched today in class. The snow spirit woman killed a man in cold blood (get it?) but also has a very motherly instinct. The man who was scared of her at the beginning longs for her at the end. I think a lot of this has to do with, again, religion. A lot of Buddhist ideals believe that good and evil both come from the same source and that it is human choices that decide outcomes, which is really exemplified in J-horror.

2. We talked about society today and how the individual is viewed in both western and Japanese culture. In American movies going against society is rewarded (again, Luke against The Empire) whereas in Japanese stories it doesn't turn out so good. Like in the bronze mirror story were read, because the one woman went against society and didn't give up her mirror with good intent, she had turmoil.

3. A very clear difference is that J-horror focuses on the psychological as opposed to the physical. Where America has slasher movies, Japan has psychological terrors.


For the book and movie this week I read and watched the first installment of Twilight. Although it wasn't nearly as bad as I anticipated, it definitely wasn't an enjoyable experience. Vampires in this universe are not the terrors of the town, but people who actually realize that they are monsters. This dynamic is the reason behind where they live and the main conflict with the more monster like vampires. With this warped motive behind the main vampire Edward, Meyer also warps the myths surrounding these vampires. Garlic is thrown out the window and the whole stake to the heart is confirmed as nothing but legend — instead these vampires sparkle in the sunlight, have extreme human strength, and a unique super power. This isn't to say that the "good" vampires aren't immune to the lure of humans. The main character Bella falls in love with Edward which leads to forbidden love on a Romeo Juliet scale. Where a normal vampire would have chewed on her neck, Edward holds back because he knows that it's wrong. All in all I think the idea for the book is incredibly interesting, I just wish it was written better. Bella is hardly likable whether its the book or the movie, and even the interesting story world Meyer sets up can't carry the book.


With the recent advances in virtual reality technology such as the Oculus Rift, many video games are starting to design their user experience around an in-the-moment feel. Many of these games have been horror games, one of the first being "Amnesia: The Dark Descent". The game takes a lot of common aesthetic elements as well as themes from classic horror literature and films to create the same atmosphere.

The first and most obvious thing Amnesia uses from the horror genre is the creepy castle motif, as well as the feeling of isolation we talked about in class. There is even a larger parallel to young frankenstein: the castle is in Europe, the main character is a man coming to terms with his heritage / past, the castle is explored from room to room to uncover clues and delve deeper into the castle. 

The castle itself is modeled after 18th century gothic architecture and much of the game is spent in the dark waiting for a creepy monster to pop out. The passages of the castle are narrow, filled with candles and suits of armor, and give the uneasy feeling that something might be following you at all times (think Alien). 

A lot of the game's storyline is based around the gothic theme of life and death. The main antagonist is a sort of otherworldly spirit, and much of the scariness stems from human mortality and the opening of a monster portal. The gate cannot be opened without the blood of humans however which sort of brings the "science" of horror, much like the making of frankenstein, back into the game. 

This is only the tip of the iceberg as many other games are taking a more gothic / horror approach to games (such as Dark Souls II or Diablo 3).