THE SAVAGE HORROR OF MORTAL KOMBAT

Categories
Featured Lifestyle

In 1992 a fighting game, centred around the titular Mortal Kombat tournament shattered screens worldwide and changed the way the genre was viewed forever. After ten direct sequels and a horde of spin offs the series is still painting our screens with blood and viscera to this day, most notably with its latest instalment, MK11 (2019), where the grisly Fatalities and Brutalities (that contributed to the founding of the ESRB) are as ever prominent. It was almost reactionary in hindsight, taking the idea of a fighting game from martial arts action to a far more demonic, low-brow and downright nasty horror dimension. 

The idea seems to have been born from some nightmarish dream combining Enter The Dragon (1973) with the savagery of grindhouse cinema. As a child it felt like a forbidden series (MK:Trilogy (1996) being the first I played), one that allowed the inflicting of violence and hatred that I never thought possible at such a young age. They were only sprites, tiny pictures of people, though the brutality between them genuinely shocked me. 

Mortal combat enter the dragon screenshot

We weren’t just fighting here, we were looking to decimate one another, and the idea of finding new and even more complex and disgusting methods of doing so was enough to glue me to the series to this day. Over the top, execution-style fatalities seemed more like torture than fighting and the unnecessary overkill factor had a merciless feel rendering it authentically scary. Using meathooks, machetes and more, the characters of Mortal Kombat pull off such imaginative slaughter that the influence from such slashers as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Friday 13th (1980) are impossible to ignore. 

Taking place in an alternate dimension of gruesome savagery and merciless, unparalleled punishment, the series invokes horrors similar to a lot of real-world mythologies. Reflecting this is a roster of characters ranging from sinister warriors protecting hellish realms, gods that crush craniums with their minds, a spectral ninja with a flaming skull, and a reptilian henchman wearing a disguise of human skin. Properly considered, every pore of the franchise seeps horror. It could even be said that MK deals more and more in cosmic horror with its inclusion of ‘Elder Gods’ and a rather Lovecraftian universal origin story involving ‘The One Being’. 

Mortal Combat scary tongue image

Mortal Kombat has always been a theatre of hideous monsters. Classic characters such as Baraka and Mileena, with their unreasonably large fangs, are born of inbreeding between demons and the citizens of Outworld; while more recent abominations include the insectile D’vorah, who spews swarms of insects and has a penchant for impaling opponents with her terrifying arachnid arms. 

Mk’s horror influences are not entirely limited to slasher and monster movies either; Dark magic permeates the universe, with many fighters demonstrating occult practices. Quan Chi favours necromancy to meet his nefarious needs, while Ermac and Shang Tsung depend on tortured souls to fuel their power. These along with demons, terrifying warrior emperors and brutal multi-dimensional assassins mean the depth and depravity of Mortal Kombat’s character lore knows no limit.

Of course, a roster of savage fighters would be nothing without suitably horrifying places to fight. A good amount of MK’s arenas commonly involve floating spectral skulls, hanging corpses, unsettling faces watching from within sinister trees and lingering darknesses. Mortal Kombat’s arenas are some of the best in fighting game history, and the inclusion of interactive environments has arguably made them all the stronger. From Shang Tsung’s famous courtyard to The Pit, a precarious bridge over a dizzying drop into spike pits below, no fighter is safe from these death traps. Arguably the most gruesome of these is the Dead Pool, an underground dungeon of pure nightmares involving a reservoir of acid ready to consume the next unfortunate loser. 

Mortal Kombat knows exactly what it is, knows its audience and knows why it has had such a widespread appeal over the years. In this knowledge it has taken no effort in distancing itself from the horror scene, involving many of our favorite horror icons as playable characters such as Leatherface, the Xenomorph, Predator, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Kreuger. It seems that characters must spill a considerable amount of blood before they can get into the kombat klub. Mortal Kombat is as close as we’re bound to get to an actual horror-themed fighting game and in this kombatant’s humble opinion, it’ll do nicely. 

Article originally posted on Beyond the Veil

Shaman’s Portal of Beaver Dunes Park

Categories
Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Oklahoma has been a human settling spot for millenia, since sometime in the interglacial Holocene epoch over 11,000 years ago. Before becoming a part of the United States in 1803 (due to the Louisiana purchase) it was explored by the Spanish and claimed by the French. Eventually it became Native American territory until 1888, wherein it was opened up to legal settlement by other American citizens. The word “Oklahoma” comes from a blend of Choctaw language meaning “red people,” which was a blanket term used to describe Native American tribes. 

Oklahoma is no stranger to myths and urban legends, from The Friendly Ghost of the Stone Lion Inn, to the Tulsa Hex House and The Haunted Chalkboard of Bird Creek School, though none are as infamous and deterring from its more rural spots than the mysterious Shaman’s Portal of Beaver Dunes Park. 

Beaver Dunes Park

Oklahoma greeting card

Located in Oklahoma’s panhandle region on US Hwy 270 in Beaver, Oklahoma, Beaver Dunes Park sits on what is lovingly referred to as “No-Man’s Land” or “The Neutral Strip,” which encompasses over 300 miles of Oklahoma’s extreme northwestern region. Drenched in the paranormal, the dunes have been home to enough human disappearances, secret military excavations, and “Men in Black” sightings to earn it the title “Oklahoma’s Bermuda Triangle”. 

Shaman’s Portal

Coronado with native americans

It all began in the 1500s with the Spanish explorer Coronado. When Coronado’s men vanished mysteriously from the dunes in a blast of strange, green light, he described the phenomenon in his diary as “the work of the devil”. That’s not to say he wasn’t forewarned, however. Native American guides who had aided him so far in his journey warned Coronado and his men not to wander into the Dunes. They said it was an evil place, though Cornoado’s lust for New World gold spurred him on. It appears the guides were not far wrong. 

“The Shaman’s Portal” title was coined by these very natives, and the place has been suspected of a string of disappearances from that fateful expedition to this very day. As time went on, less and less of these disappearances have been verified, and none in fact proven to have any connection to the alleged portal, though the combination of history and superstition here is enough to deter many from straying too far in. Some locals report that they have encountered military excavation sites under the cover of darkness. Dr. Mark Thatcher, an Oklahoma State University archaeologist, spent three years in the nineties studying the area before suited individuals with military credentials shut his operation down.

So is the area a portal to another dimension, as the natives believe, or could there be some credibility to the electromagnetic disturbances recorded in the dunes? Some say that an ancient alien spacecraft is buried deep below, while others surmise that the explorers were merely incinerated by green lightning or fell victim to some heinous native magic meant to protect the gold the greedy Europeans sought after. Coronado didn’t heed the warnings and whatever happened to his men, they were gone for good. Between sudden disappearances, hardened government suits, and scientifically unexplainable phenomena in the air and soil, this may be one to miss on your next outing.

References

La Mala Hora – Urban Legend Explored

Categories
Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Mexico has enough folklore and urban legends to make HP Lovecraft cancel his flight, though none are as menacing and confrontational as the dreaded La Mala Hora.

La Mala Hora Legend

La Mala Hora relates to The Devil’s Hour also called The Witching Hour; a time many know as 3am, and a time at which one may wake suddenly for no perceptible reason with an acute sense of dread wallowing in their stomach. This uncanny hour has been associated with practice of witchcraft, imbued with great satanic significance and even held accountable for the true story of The Amityville Horror, though residents of Mexico know it as something rather more tangible, and far more horrifying. 

In 1910 the phenomenon was described by Aurelio Espinosa as a malicious entity that stalked crossroads around Mexico at night. It would hunt, torment, and even kill anyone brave enough to ignore the tales and travel home alone at such an hour. If these individuals were unfortunate enough to come across the dreaded La Mala Hora and gaze headlong into it, they would be driven hideously and irreversibly insane. Sounds like Mexico has been reading a little of Lovecraft’s work after all.

And because of this, this particular spirit is said to be more feared than the devil himself. Most of Mexico flat-out refuses to talk about it, changing the subject or simply referring to it as “an evil thing”.  

La Mala Hora takes great pleasure in driving its victims mad. Not only this, but it will often attack helpless travelers, paralyzing them in their tracks and brutalizing their weakened forms. After being suffocated by the fiend their bodies are left at the side of the road.

La Mala Hora Lady in White

In Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico, the insidious entity is told to take the form of a beautiful woman, sometimes dressed in white, sometimes in black. This incarnation and its diversely gruesome behaviours come across like some demented video game enemy gone rogue. When dressed in white La Mala Hora is said to be gentler and more graceful. She hypnotises weary travellers who, if they don’t notice the space between her feet and the ground, or the fact that her toes are backwards, or the fact that their lanterns have stopped working and all sense of direction seems lost, will follow her obediently into wherever peril she chooses. Perhaps this will be off the edge of a ravine, or perhaps in front of the next passing car. 

When dressed in black, La Mala Hora is more aggressive. She will stop a traveller by any means and attack directly with her pointed nails. The strong-willed should hope to meet her on a “white night,” while no one should hope to see her in black. 

One particular story has been circling the internet for quite some time, earning La Mala Hora its creepypasta certification along the way. In this story a woman goes to stay with her friend who is experiencing marital troubles. On the way she almost hits a woman in the road who, when the car stops, begins scratching fiercely at the windows in an attempt to get in. After driving away as quickly as possible, our protagonist reaches her friend who tells her frantically that she has seen La Mala Hora, the spirit who only appears when death is close. The woman then calls her husband, who she finds has been mugged and shot to death in another area. 

New Mexico Legend

On the southern border of the United States, in the state of New Mexico, La Mala Hora seems to appear much closer to Espinosa’s original description. Usually it’s seen as a black abstract form, like a fleece of wool which expands and contracts, changing size and shape and seemingly floating along the roadside. A widely feared omen, this incarnation is only told to be seen when death is soon to befall a loved one. I would imagine a lot of concerned yet apologetic phone calls taking place around 3am in Mexico. 

One thing is for sure; if I lived near any of the places that La Mala Hora is said to appear, I would doubtfully ever go out after midnight. 

References

10 Fascinating Facts About The Devil’s Hour, 3AM – Listverse

Mexican Monstresses: La Mala Hora – Multo (Ghost) (wordpress.com)

La Mala Hora: From Scary stories at Americanfolklore.net

Urban Legends And Ghost Stories: La Mala Hora (urbanlegends66.blogspot.com)

Curse of The River Serpent – Urban Legend

Categories
Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

Technically speaking, we as a species have explored more of the cosmos than of the extensive oceans that make up the majority of our planet. Earth’s history is riddled with sightings and encounters of subaqueous creatures both large and small, beautiful and dangerous, and real and imaginary. Whole skeletons have been discovered to prove the existence of immense antediluvian monsters the globe over. While these creatures are in fact proven to have roamed the earth’s waters at some prehistoric juncture, many more fantastical types have managed to bleed over into a myriad of weird and wonderful superstitions. The Curse of The River serpent is no exception.

Urban legends are positively rampant in the United States, largely in sparse areas of vast deserts, rivers, and woodland where superstition is given true space to run wild. One long-persevering tale, originating from the rivers of Tennessee and Alabama, sounds more like something from HP Lovecraft’s most aqueous nightmare than a backwater fantasy. This is the curse of the river serpent. 

 The Coosa River

Coosa River Map home of the river serpent urban legend
By Original: Pfly, using a base map template made with US Federal public domain GIS data;Version 3: John Lambert – This is a modification of File:MobileAlabamaCoosa2.png, which is in Wikimedia under GFDL license., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2065758

The Coosa River, once claimed by the French and considered the “key to the country”, is one of the main areas this particular thalassic oddity has been sighted. A 280 mile tributary of the Alabama River, Coosa River has been a place of rich history since long before the first Europeans visited it in 1540. Coosa Basin contains 147 fish species, oddities such as the painted rocksnail, and plenty of alligator sightings, but it was around 1822 when a great snakelike creature with large fins was first spotted slithering near the banks at Ball Play Creek. 

The Curse of The River Serpent Legend

Columnist E. Randall Floyd described several incidents in a 1993 article in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. According to the article, Buck Sutton was fishing in Van’s Hole when he saw the creature writhing in the swampy shallows. He described the horrible sighting to his friends, only to turn up mysteriously dead a few days later. Since this mysterious occurrence other victims have fallen prey to the serpent’s curse, such as Billy Burns dying in 1827 and Jim Windom in 1829. No records exist as to the actual cause of these perplexing departures, though the stories are evidence enough for many to avoid the basin at all costs.

So is it just backwoods imagination gone wild, or is there something to be said for the curse of the Alabama river serpent? While most tales of sea creatures have been dismissed as sightings of extremely large river fish, fossils discovered in 1834 show a prehistoric whale once swam in waters that existed long ago where Alabama is now. According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History, the creature was later found by scientists to be Basilosaurus cetoides, or zeuglodon, a prehistoric meat-eating whale found once in the Eocene epoch that grew as long as 70 feet (the head itself able to grow as long as five feet).

Conclusion

Humans are not meant to be underwater, and it is this fact that drives our inescapable thalassic fears. Films like Underwater (2020) and Leviathan (1989) exploit this to great effect, and the possible existence of seventy-foot sea serpents doesn’t help matters much. From the early to mid-1800s, sea serpent sightings occurred with the regularity of UFO sightings today, according to the Geological Survey of Alabama, and it is within the public’s fascination with the uninhabitable that the truth will grow ever closer.

References

Underwater (2020) – IMDb
Leviathan (1989) – IMDb
Car-sized catfish? Supernatural serpents? ‘Monster Fish’ host Zeb Hogan discusses Alabama’s legendary river creatures (Odd Travels w/video, photos) – al.com
Herald-Journal – Google News Archive Search

Let’s Talk About Survival Horror

Categories
Featured Horror Books NA Scary Movies and Series

The differences between some horror games are like the differences between a haunted house ghost ride and being chased by an actual deranged killer. Being startled is one thing, but the feeling of being pursued by a genuine threat is as hellishly exhilarating as it is difficult to simulate. Horror video games such as Resident Evil (1996) and Silent Hill (1999) laid foundations for the concept of ‘Survival Horror’ as much as later titles like Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010) and The Forest (2014) branched out and developed what it meant, finding new ways to milk the formidable dread of being stalked. The feeling could arguably translate to many mediums of art and entertainment, none however finding it nearly as easy to achieve as video games. When a player can digitally embody a character’s perspective, or further still, make a character to look just like them, then immersing the common individual shouldn’t be all that hard.

Friday the 13th movie poster

Films, on the other hand, must rely on a variety of tricks to achieve the fight-or-flight-tickling survival horror sensation. This can include stylistic choices, core concepts and often exploitation of the setting and the themes buried within it. Slasher flicks like Friday 13th (1980) commonly include a group of people desperately trying to escape a killer with their lives which, when done well, forces the viewer to consider their own mortality over and over. Apocalyptic horror films like I Am Legend (2007) can portray a single individual as the last surviving human, posing questions of society and seclusion to its audience while basking in the heavy dread of pure isolation. 

It is within this isolation that many horror films thrive, and setting is one of the more common tools to make it work. Of course the true requirement for audience immersion is quality acting, though setting can often act as a character itself, becoming in some cases the ultimate source of terror. Many horror films such as Backcountry (2015)Willow Creek (2014) and arguably The Revenant (2016) (the latter featuring one of the most savage bear attacks in film history) take place within vast wildernesses for this very reason. When things go wrong, there aren’t many places to go, and chances of survival decrease drastically. One of the most effective of these films, especially for the general British public, is Eden Lake (2004). When a couple retreat to the idyllic titular spot in the woods for a quiet weekend, their worst nightmares manifest in the form of a group of troubled youths. Armed with a capable cast and a believable plot, this violent thriller consistently raises question after horrible question of morality and group mentality, right up until its hair-raising finale. Not a lot of us will have come across bigfoot or even a grizzly bear in our lives, though trouble at the hands of ‘hoodies’ is something many are accustomed to. 

Of course isolation does not necessarily depend upon setting, and the plot of a film can have just as much bearing on this effect. Many stories tell of an apocalyptic age, one taking place after much of humanity has been wiped out, and focus on the exploits of a few survivors. Within films such as The Crazies (1973/2010), Doomsday (2008)I am Legend (2007) and Mad Max (1979) are insights into the psychology of people forced to outlive their species, along with a lot of wacky violence. When characters are thrown into a lawless world of gangs and deadly viruses, new and often brutal measures of survival are employed. Frank Darabont’s The Mist (2007) centres around a small town overrun with, you guessed it, an insidious mist. Within this mist, however, are terrors beyond which they have ever known, and the only hope for a modest group is to lock themselves into the local supermarket. As the story progresses, antagonists become more numerous in the form of other survivors, and what follows is a potent and nightmarish surmise into what religion and mob mentality could achieve in such a situation. The story is told through the eyes of David Drayton as he tries to protect his son Billy from the gospel-preaching insanity of Mrs Carmody, and poses a harrowing choice between a world of monsters and the company of his neighbors as they slowly become monsters themselves. 

One must not necessarily wait for the apocalypse to explore the volatile chaos of a group of isolated people. This idea provides the base concept for many horror films from the prolific Saw series to smaller flicks like Await Further Instructions (2018) and Would You Rather (2012) wherein a congregation are held by some sinister means and forced to endure some psychological or physical torture. These films are an excellent vehicle for exploring the psychology of different groups when faced with a life or death situation. While a common trope is to bring a group of (supposed) strangers together for some hellish game, Await Further Instructions pits a British family at Christmas against some unseen, unknown threat that has contained them within their house. It is a brilliantly executed exercise into paranoia, xenophobia and the true meaning of family values when said family is pushed to the brink by an otherworldly threat. 

Alien horror movie poster 1979 showing an alien egg in space

Things not-of-this-earth have been a source of terror for centuries. Being lost in wooded wilderness is one thing, however space is arguably the ultimate setting for claustrophobia and pure hopelessness. Alien (1979) teased us with the idea that an extraterrestrial threat could reach earth while gleefully exhibiting the effects of just one of these organisms on a spaceship’s crew. Where it thrives is within the tight, winding corridors and vents of The Nostromo, where the crew are mercilessly picked off by the ultimate killing machine. Coupled with this internal threat is the vastness of space only sheet-metal’s width away. When properly considered, the extinction of the human race wouldn’t be all that hard (look at how we handle a virus outbreak) and the horror writers and directors who know this will always hit harder at our baser survival instincts. Stay safe, and stay alive. 

Signup to our newsletter