What happens when music unleashes demonic forces

Demonic music and the apocalypseSeveral horror novels explore the theme of music as a gateway to the demonic. The trope of dangerous music has been a fixture since antiquity. Plato believed the Lydian mode enfeebled the mind. Musicians during the Middle Ages avoided the tritone interval—for example, C and F#—because of its dissonance and association with the devil. Genres from blues to jazz to rock to rap have been labled “devil music” and accused of furthering the downfall of civilization. The following novelists take this fantasy to the limit, and show us what happens when music actually unleashes demonic forces. Continue reading →

Charlie’s Angels meets Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom in Angels of MusicThe Phantom of the Opera has become one of the most well-recognized icons in the horror world, alongside Frankenstein, the Wolfman, Dracula, and more modern creations such as Alien. The Phantom keeps recurring in literature and film, staying alive in our imagination and spawning a host of other masked terrors like Jason, Michael Myers, and Ghostface. While most people probably know about the Phantom from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, the novel Angels of Music by Kim Newman offers an inventive reimagining of the Phantom and his habitat. I’ll get to that in a moment. Continue reading →

Horror and the supernatural in the music of Tori Amos

Tori Amos and the supernaturalIn her music, Tori Amos often uses images that evoke horror or the supernatural. Demons, witches, magic, legends, ghosts… But trying to discern the precise meaning of these lyrics poses a problem. The lyrics paint moods and images, unconcerned by their obscurity and resistance to threads of logic. I would even say she takes a magical approach to writing words, more interested in what they conjure than in being direct or realistic. Still, one seeks to understand what the songs mean. I’ve chosen five songs to explore how Tori uses the supernatural. Continue reading →

The Changeling: a lost opportunity for horror

The Changeling movie posterThe 1980 horror film The Changeling represents the best and the worst of horror movies. Directed by Peter Medak and conceived by Russell Hunter (purportedly based on his own experience), it stars George C. Scott and Trish Van Devere. Composer John Russell relocates to Seattle after the death of his family and rents an old mansion. Beset by strange occurrences in the house, he becomes obsessed with the mystery behind the haunting and uncovers the hidden past of a powerful senator. It’s a compelling premise, but falls apart toward the end—the bane of many a horror story. I watched the film for the first time recently, having heard good things about it. I can easily see what makes it a good supernatural story: the gradual presence of the spirit, the spooky seance, the enigma that keeps us guessing what the title means in terms of the plot. But why does it end up so disappointing? Continue reading →