Before I found my calling as a writer, I was a visual artist. In fact, I initially went to school for Fine Arts at Kent State University back in the mid-1990’s. However, part of the reason I never finished with an art degree was because the professors didn’t care for my oft-preferred subject matter. I don’t really blame them now. I have and always will be into Geek Stuff – horror, scifi, fantasy, and superheroes.
I used to spend a lot of time illustrating these types of speculative fiction images. Not so much anymore. Visual art can stress me out, especially when the image isn’t coming out the way I want it. It doesn’t really work that way with writing. When reading a story or seeing a picture, I’ve always understood how I would render it due to its original source. Ah, but seeing something on screen? That’s different! I suppose I’m a “visual writer,” but whenever I’d see some random scene in a movie that would capture my imagination, I wouldn’t think about how to illustrate it later, but how to describe it in words.
Sure, there are those movies from my youth like Star Wars that obviously influenced me, but why bother with those? There were movies later on, in my adolescent and teen years that really stayed with me. Sometimes, it was the concept of the film, sometimes the vibe. In most cases, the effect of the film on my fragile young psyche can be summed up in one scene. Let’s look at those.
My gang of friends and I were probably obsessed with Highlander more than any other movie as young teenagers. I do not use the term “obsessed” lightly. In the film, when he delivers his “I am Connor MacLeod of the Clan McLeod” speech, it is utter badassery. We all wanted long coats so we could hide swords we didn’t own inside them. But if Highlander was the epitome of cool, John Carpenter’s The Fog was the epitome of terrifying. It wasn’t the shuffling horde of silhouettes in the darkness that disturbed thirteen year old me so much, as the scenes where their eyes glowed. Freaked me right out.
Sometimes, as much as I loved a movie, it ended up being one, innocuous scene that would stay with me. Hellraiser is one of my favorite horror movies of all time, and Clive Barker is one of my top three biggest influences as an author. Strangely, all the Cenobites, Frank’s resurrection, and Lemarchand’s Puzzle Box aside, the image I held onto most was how the Cenobites arrived. Lights through the slats of wood, bricks shifting, colors dimming – You weren’t transported to Hell, Hell came to you. And speaking of other realms, I think it’s criminal that more people haven’t seen Christopher Walken’s turn as the Fallen Archangel Gabriel in The Prophecy. For some reason, him lightly shushing a guard, only to have the man fall to the floor asleep just fascinated me. Viggo Mortensen’s version of Satan was pretty excellent, too.
People grow. I have, as a writer and a person. I love Geek Stuff now just as much as I did then. And I still seem to pick out weird little things from movies that capture my interest. For example, on the topic of Satan…
A lot of fanboy purists hated the movie Constantine. I’ve read over 250 issues of John Constantine: Hellblazer, and I still managed to love the movie. Especially the arrival of Lucifer as portrayed by Peter Stormare. The slow lowering, the white suit, the muddy feet… just awesome. While this was a character reveal at the end, it was that creepy babydoll spider-thing at the beginning of Night Watch that let you know you were about to see something totally new. Timur Bermambetov’s Russian masterpiece of horror and adventure, it was the sudden appearance of that thing skittering around the floor a few minutes into the film that set the tone.
And sometimes it’s all about tone. Danny Boyle got famous for his film 28 Days Later, but his movie Sunshine is a forgotten gem. It uses light the way most horror/thrillers use darkness. Just those scenes with the captain standing in front of the bay window, staring out at the nearer-drawing sun as he goes quietly mad are quite discomforting. In a different way, so are many of the scenes in The Descent. While many might recall the film for its pools of blood and albino creatures, watching people screaming and scurry through tight nooks and crevices underground will cause anyone with even the slightest claustrophobia to shudder.
Everybody has those scenes, those movies, whether you’re into Geek Stuff or not. Mine just happened to have an influence on me that comes out now in my writing. They are just as much a part of the type of author I am today as my love of the works by Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft, Anne Rice, or even Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison. Just as I’ve been influenced by the art of Russ Mills, Alphonse Mucha, Dave McKean, Jim Lee, and Joe Madureira. Just as I have been influenced by music, and friends, and nature, and food, and whatever!
Everybody has those scenes, scenes that stay. They stay, for whatever reason, and become memories. Memories, from the major events in our lives down to moments in the dumb movies we love, help to forge the type of people we become. As for me? Well, after I finish editing this, I might go watch The Prophecy again.
Brian Fatah Steele’s new book Brutal Starlight: Collected Dark SciFi is now available in e-book and paperback on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, and other markets. He has been writing various types of Horror for over ten years now, and is a founding member of Dark Red Press. Along with his novels and collections, his work has appeared in such places as Blood Type, Dark Visions, Vol.1 and 4pocalypse. Steele lives in Ohio with a few cats and survives on a diet of coffee and cigarettes. He still hopes to one day be a super-villain.