Actually, It’s Because When You See Someone Walking, You Know They’re Not of This Earth

October 29th, 2004 · No Comments
by Booksquare

After making a hit-and-run comment about the scary folk who inhabit Los Angeles, writer Robert Masello moves in a different direction. Not a wrong direction, mind you, but a different one. Before we follow him, we’d like to dwell on the fact that people in L.A. can be downright scary. Just the fact that players in our major industry don’t age. They grow younger with each passing year.
If that’s not horror, we don’t know what is.

This place is home to just about anything you can imagine. It thrives on make-believe (one merely needs to read the Disney/Ovitz transcripts to appreciate this). It is no wonder that so many authors celebrate the deceptive image of the city with horror:

Just about anywhere in town you go, under any palm tree or in any cloistered courtyard, there’s somebody making L.A. out to be even scarier than it is.

But why? And why, of all places, have they gravitated here? How has Los Angeles — the sun and fun capital of the world, lampooned for its superficiality — become the locus of horror and the ghouls’ favorite hideaway? How has a city renowned not for its dark, rainy nights but for its bright, balmy days become the veritable epicenter of scary?

“I think we have to own up,” English expat Clive Barker confesses, with a laugh, “and say that Hollywood does exercise an unnatural pull on our souls.” In Barker’s case, that pull has compelled him to buy three houses high above Beverly Hills and create a private compound for himself, his partner, his daughter and five dogs — a setting he used, to horrific effect, for his recent bestseller, “Coldheart Canyon.”

“It was a test for me, really, to write something based on this kind of life, lived behind secure gates in the lap of luxury. What comes to visit,” he asks portentously, “the person who has everything?”

Inspiration, apparently. Barker believes that writing about L.A. is both hard and easy. “Easy because people already have a received image of the city from movies and TV,” he says. “And hard because you don’t want that imagery to be at the center of your narrative. I find it’s both a test, and a goad, to my imagination. The clichés beloved of most horror writers — dark and stormy nights, cold and snow — they’re simply not to be seen here.”

To us, there’s another aspect of Los Angeles that lends itself to horror: the insulation. This isn’t a place that easily lends itself to close-knit community. Too much space (it’s a far larger city than you can imagine, and that’s just Los Angeles proper). Too many hours on the road (we do not know many who live and work within a reasonable distance). Weekends are spent doing all the things you can’t do during the week, no matter how much multi-tasking you perform. To see close friends, we must sometimes drive at least an hour. Two if we try during the week.

If you are the imaginative type, you begin to wonder about the man across the street. You know he exists, but he never leaves his house. He doesn’t mow his lawn. What is he doing in there (our apologies to Tom Waits)? Who are the people in the car that appears to be a classic unmarked vehicle? Why do they only come on Thursdays and stay for two hours? And, less anyone think he’s the only one, why does the homeless cat consent to being pushed around in a child’s stroller? What self-respecting cat rides all day long? Can you honestly tell us that feline isn’t a space alien?

It is not odd that so many horror writers gravitate to the Southland. Is there anything more heart-stopping than places like Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, and Calabasas? Yes, and we have found the author who sought and found the truly terrifying: Tamara Thorne (The Forgotten

  • The skeleton crew: From Ray Bradbury to Richard Matheson, under any palm tree or in any sunny courtyard, there’s someone making L.A. out to be even scarier than it is. (Note: Unless something has changed, there is a cockamamie registration required; we apologize in advance for the lameness of our hometown paper)
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