Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Boo - who?

by Josh

One of my most indelible cinema memories is attending an afternoon showing of Larry Clark's snapshot of teenage wasteland, Kids, with my friend David Krasner. We were in college and we both loved films and Kids had gotten a lot of buzz, not only because of its subversive subject matter but also because its wunderkind screenwriter, Harmony Korine, was exactly our age.

The movie centers on Telly, a repulsive charismatic HIV-positive wastrel; one of Telly's buds is a particularly stump-brained ne'er-do-nothing named Casper, who likes to refer to himself, in perfect singsong, as "Casper the Dopest Ghost." And he may very well be the dopest ghost, but he is not my favorite.

While I'm at it, here are some other indelible silver screen grim grinning ghosts: Joe Gillis from Billy Wilder's vitriolic ode to Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard; the Overlook Hotel from the Kubrick adaptation of The Shining; the title character(s) from one of my absolute favorite films, Poltergeist; Bruce Willis's kind-hearted shrink Malcolm Crowe from The Sixth Sense; and, at the other end of the spectrum, the ohmygodsoevil Samara Morgan from The Ring.

Like Samara, Susie Salmon, the central character in Alice Sebold's exquisite novel The Lovely Bones, is a child ghost. Over the course of the story, poor Susie leads us from the circumstances of her premature demise to the emotional toll her death has on her family. Through this tragedy, her only confidant is the reader. We know who murdered her. We know what secrets her sister has begun to keep. But we're as helpless as Susie and can only watch and wait and hope. Yes, oh yes, Susie Salmon is my favorite ghost, if only because, of all the spectral entities on this list, she more than the rest deserves a hug.

And while I'm on the subject, isn't there something inherently optimistic about the notion of a ghost story? After all, if ghosts exist, then, logically, there must be an afterlife, and thus every ghost story, even Peter Straub's nihilistic Ghost Story, carries with it a kernel of promise. That said, one of my shallow imagination's nascent concoctions is an atheistic ghost story, one in which the ghosts are not the restless remnants of the dead but instead are the...

Oh, never mind. I do go off on tangents, don't I.

From the spooky crew here at 7 Criminal Minds to all of our readers, we hope you had a delicious Halloween. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some candy aisles to pillage.


Meredith Cole said...

There is something optimistic about a ghost story--but often they feel so sad. I guess it's because ghosts often have unfinished business. But of course there's also the great host comedies (Ghostbusters, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, etc.)

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

NO, Josh! You can't leave us hanging like that! I want to know more about the atheistic ghost story!!!

And I'm so very glad you mentioned Susie. The Lovely Bones left a deep furrow in my heart.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

I never thought of them as optimistic before, Josh, so thanks for the cheery undercurrent.

I agree with Sue Ann about THE LOVELY BONES leaving a hole in my heart. I read the book, but didn't have the courage to watch the movie.

I want to see the atheistic ghost story too!!!

Harvey Burgess said...

A great example of plot (atheistic ghost story) coming before character! I've been having the character-driven vs. plot-driven novel discussion a lot this week, so I'm seeing it everywhere :) Which is your favorite style to write?

Gabi said...

I want to go to the movies with you, Josh.

Rebecca Cantrell said...


Me too! Maybe we should have a 7 crims movie night the next time we're all at a conference somewhere.

I'll bring the popcorn.

And at least one of the movies has to have come out after 1960, Kelli!

lil Gluckstern said...

There's always a sense of poignancy even when the Ghost story is comic-The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. There's always this what if question. I couldn't see The Lovely Bones. The book was so moving. I can see raiding the candy aisles today. If you can find any; Christmas has invaded my local CVS and other stores.

Joshua Corin said...

Harvey, I'm not sure if I agree with you 100%. My atheistic ghost story is (hopefully) very character-driven. It just happens to have a very spectral premise. =)

Joshua Corin said...

Gabi, I'll buy the popcorn.

Joshua Corin said...

Oops - looks like Becky's taking care of the popcorn. I'll buy the napkins.

Kelli Stanley said...

Hey, Becks--I like Technicolor as much as anyone ... but can I help it if artistic merit started to go downhill after awhile? :)

One of the best "ghost" movies (not the icky 80s romance flick) as well as one of the best horror flicks is the classic (1961, I believe, so there) "The Haunting", based on "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson, one of the most frightening books I've ever read. Skip the remake and watch the original!

Kelli Stanley said...

Josh, what a great post!! And I'm hearing an echo ... we ALL want that atheistic ghost story!!

BTW, gang, for what it's worth--I had a very special and actually life-affirming (no sarcasm intended)encounter through a ghost tour in New Orleans.

Corner me in a bar at the next conference and I'll tell you the story!