Saturday, September 25, 2010

Raising the Dead - PMBP

For the Practical Magic Blog party, I thought I’d dabble on a subject raised in the film. I always really loved the part when Jillian and Sally try to raise Jimmy, Jillian’s psychotic boyfriend, from the dead after poisoning him with Deadly Nightshade (classiest of the poisoning substances). Besides being an absurdly bad decision to resurrect someone trying to murder you, the spell looked rather easy, and I've always longed for a Zombie of my very own!

Skip to the 4:00 mark to get to the good stuff.

A closer look at the ingredients that the producers/scriptwriters felt would, in combination, bring life to the dead reveal some pretty standard deep magic materials. Blue sage, Madagoria (Mandrake root), Henbane (another poisonous herb) and lots of beeswax candles are among the decipherable ingredients. Then there is a lot of gesturing, tricks with the tongue and whip cream, and the delightful sticking of needles in the eyes of the dead.

So, I decided to see how much this little song and dance that ends badly for all involved has in common with other methods of raising the dead. In order to do that, I needed to actually find other methods of raising the dead. Luckily for me and every other seeker of the obscure, there is Google.

E-How Method: How to Raise the Dead

Ah! There truly is an E-How for everything. This helpful little gem suggested many paths to follow for emptying out the grave, and with very little overhead needed. For its voodoo method, all that is needed is a puffer fish (the really poisonous fugu) ground up into powder and tested on someone who may or may not die from ingestion (if they do, you can resurrect them next). E-how also suggests you try your psychic abilities after dousing the corpse with animal blood, or perform your own free-style incantation in the garden of good and evil. Loud music and consistent shocking with electrical currents are also viable options. Warnings consist of brain-eating Zombies and making sure the subject is actually dead before you perform any resurrection work on them, as you may just end up killing them and creating more work for yourself.

Randy Demain - Crazy Christian Method

According to evangelist and Youtube-proclaimed whack job Randy Demain, westerners have made this Jesus-commanded act of resurrecting the dead too difficult. Randy proclaims that he raised aUgandan folks from the dead. After being rudely interrupted while in the middle delivering “The Message” to a congregation, Randy was shown to the stiff body of a woman in the tall grass. In his vexation over being interrupted just to be shown some dead woman, he commanded the woman to live in the name of the Lord, because he needed to get back to his congregation. The dead woman abided, was brought back to the compound where she stole money and ran off before being converted.

Witchcraft method:

Surprisingly (or not, if you are at all familiar with Witchcraft), there are no methods for raising the dead that Google can reveal. Wiccans and Pagans almost categorically condemn the idea of violating nature in such a way. But then there is that little thing called Necromancy. Sure, most modern witches don’t touch the stuff, and the very root of the world means black magic. But it’s still a category and perhaps my last best hope for getting that Pet Zombie I’ve kinda always wanted.

Practiced all the way back to antiquity, Necromancy can be found throughout ancient Europe, notably in Greek mythology. The ancient Necromancer was pretty hardcore about his craft, wearing dead people’s clothing and even engaging in a little cannibalism (hopefully only of those they weren’t bringing back to life). They also had strict scheduling policies: bodies could be raised up to 12 months after death. Afterwards only the spirit could be summoned. A classic afterlife warranty program.

In medieval Europe, resurrection was linked with Demonology and Astrology (via Arabic influences), and was practiced by highly-educated members of the lower Christian clergy, not Witches. Offering sacrifices and invoing various demons, these necromantic rites mingled the occult with Christian and Jewish tradition and were considered prayers as opposed to witchcraft by ecclesiastical authorities. The Munich Manual is a Bavarian grimiore of the 15th century that outlines rites and general information on demonology and prayer. It has not been published in modern English.


Well, so much for the fantasies inspired by Practical Magic. As far as the Google Gods can say, I will never really be able to get my pet zombie or raise my childhood dog from the grave. So I’ll stick to watching Jimmy Angelov be resurrected only to choke out Nicole Kidman and be buried under the rosebushes. Or I’ll just keep killing and resuscitating house flies. That’s a start, right?

As part of the Practical Magic Blog Party, I'm giving all readers 20% off any purchase through Monday at My October Country's Etsy Store. Just convo me on Etsy with "Raising the Dead" after purchasing to be refunded the 20%!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Scoring the Dead – Three Film Composers to Start October

A sudden noise in the silence may be a more realistic soundtrack to things that make us dread and jump, but we’ve had plenty of great modern film composers tighten the tension of horror movies and ghostly films. Some of them make their career on haunting the films released around October (obvious geniuses like John Carpenter's theme to Halloween or Titular Bells from The Exorcist; others have dabbled occasionally and gotten it oh-so-right.

John Debney

The Halloween Tree 1993 – This isn’t a terror tale, but any story brought to you by the immaculate Ray Bradbury (Hanna Barbera or not), is sure to please. I watch this film every year as a great romp through the Halloween atmosphere of my past, and of the world’s past. Getting by the films kitsch and just loving it for what it is, great storytelling mixed with decent animation backgrounds and a beautiful score my John Debney makes this an October must. If you like that, dance on through the cemetery to Hocus Pocus, Disney’s 1993 Salem Witch fantasy, which again is pure candy with a whimsical score.

James Newton Howard

This guy cut his teeth early on nail-biters like Flatliners and Alive (a movie I still can’t watch). But it wasn’t until 1999 when he scored The Sixth Sense that he showed up on my radar. His music is utterly haunting, but unlike Debney or Elfman, Howard really utilizes atmospherics more than catchy themes to place the audience in the right frame of mind. His music is streamlined, with just the hint of a theme that asserts itself when ever the supernatural is confronted. The melody is mysterious (which it must be), and just a little sad around the edges, just a touch of grief.

Danny Elfman

Really couldn’t do this list without him. He is Hollywood’s master of macabre melodies, and permanently attached to the hip with Tim Burton. Early works like Batman, A Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands are fun romps that suggest fairytale more than supernatural (and rightly so!). But Elfman didn’t really show up on my radar until 1998’s Sleepy Hollow. Perhaps it’s the combination of Burton’s interpretation of a colonial haunting and Elfman’s atmospheric tension, but this hits all notes for me. Much like Jerry Goldsmith in Poltergeist, Elfman uses innocent sounding melodies and children’s choirs to underscore the sinister. And all the while, he keeps a murkiness to the mood. It’s a score as overcast and foggy as the scenery.

I also give Elfman Kudos for composing the original opening theme to the Simpsons. Here’s a little Halloween rendition he contributed to a later season.

Also, if you are craving something a little less Hollywood, but still fun and atmospheric, Try Nox Arcana. Deliciously atmospheric in the vein of each of the above composers, but their music is open-ended. Warning, you might be accused of listening to a Halloween sound effects album… No shame it that!