Many know the Reaper…

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DEATH


Titles: Kinslayer, The Reaper, Rider of the Pale-Horse
Elder Brother of: Strife, Fury, and War
Leader of: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Featured In:
Darksiders II, The Abomination Vault, & Death’s Door
Voiced By: Michael Wincott

Of all the elements of Halloween, there is one most prevailent throughout the holiday, one aspect that is treated with reverence and fear alike. Death. The one thing that will exist until the End of Time itself and one whom has been personified many a time throughout mankind’s illustrious history. I have seen Death in its most common of aspects, a robed skeleton carrying a great scythe to reap the souls of the dead. I have seen Death made a woman, a beauty unlike any other who was there since the Beginning and will be there at the End to put up the chairs and turn out the lights of Creation. Yet, of the many variations I’ve seen of Death, I have never seen one as I have from the video game series Darksiders wherein Death is a being of incredible power both mystically and physically.

A creation of the demon mother Lillith and formed from the ashes of angel and demon, Death was one of many countless Nephilim who waged war against all the forces of Creation. Yet, it was first he and three of his closest siblings who grew both tired and wary of the conflict, fearing that their endless war might break the already fragile Balance of Creation. So it was that Death and his siblings went to the one “neutral” party in Creation.

The Charred Council, an entity whose task was to enforce the Balance as dictated by the Creator. Granting the four siblings powers to embody the very elements of Creation that they were so named, the Four Horseman rode on the side of Angels and Demons against their brethren and it was Death who led them all. On the day where he earned the titles of Executioner and Kinslayer, Death crafted himself a mask befitting his new role and hasn’t removed it since.

Of the Four Horseman, Death is the eldest, strongest, and arguably the wisest of them though that wisdom is arguable in the face of certain situations. For though he had been tasked with the destruction of his dead kins’ souls, Death chose to seal them inside of an amulet and granted that amulet to a being known simply as the Crowfather, or the Keeper of Secrets, and was granted his raven familiar, Dust, as a small token of thanks.

To protect the precarious balance between the three kingdoms of Heaven, Hell, and Man, the Council forged the Seven Seals of the Apocalypse, devices that would signal a time when the Third Kingdom of Man stood ready for the Endwar and would decide the ultimate fate of the Three Kingdoms. Though the signs of the first six seals were never stated, the seventh and final seal was meant to call the Four Horseman and together they would ride to punish the wicked, be they Sons of Man, Lords of Heaven, or the Dregs of Hell.

However… a conspiracy had been made for all but six of the seals to be broken, to trick the forces of Hell to begin the Endwar early and without proper preparation so that the elite of Heaven’s army, the Hellguard, could rid Creation of Hell and its forces once and for all. Unfortunately, both Hell and the Charred Council were aware of this ploy and the Red Horseman, War, was framed for starting the Endwar early and dooming mankind to extinction. Knowing that his brother would stop at nothing to prove his innocence, Death chose to aid his brother in the only way that he knew how. Instead of proving War’s innocence to a corrupt Council, he would instead absolve War of the crime by restoring the Kingdom of Man.

Like his fellow Horseman, Death rides upon a Phantom Horse, a creature as old as Creation itself whose very form and abilities are granted upon them once they are tamed. Upon taming his Phantom Horse and seeing for himself the ghastly form it was given, Death named his pale horse “Despair.” Despair is a ghastly sight to behold, perhaps even more so than his Rider, but appears to have no distinctive abilities or attributes beyond the norm of his race that being a creature of phantasmal qualities and powers.

As to Death’s chief weapon of choice, the Harvester, it is a unique weapon in that it can change its form and function as Death sees fit. Though most commonly found in the form of a massive scythe, Death oftentimes chooses to wield it as a pair of dual scythes for greater speed and damage. He is also the Necromancer. Not “a” Necromancer as that implies he is but one of the several that have existed throughout Creation. No, Death is the Necromancer, the originator and grandmaster of the black art of the dead.

Yet, what makes Death a truly frightening foe to face on the battlefield is not his weapon or his mastery of the arcane arts but what he and his fellow Horseman can all do without the restrictions of the Council. Though no official name has been given for this ability, I like to think of it as Essence of Personification insomuch that Death literally transforms himself into that which he is named. Resembling the very Angel of Death, if said angel were given an unhealthy amount of hardcore awesome, Death is literally unstoppable in this form and there is little that can last long against it and fewer still that can claim to survive with their souls intact.

As stated earlier, I have seen a lot of variations on how Death is personified in many differing aspects. There are many aspects that I have seen but few can manage to successfully make a true-blooded character out of Death, one that has as many flaws as there are virtues. I have seen Death be made as something to fear, respect, and in rare cases adore, but rarer still is the one aspect that embodies all three and so much more. Death comes for us all in the end, but whether we face Death as friend or enemy is up to each of us to decide. Me? If there is such a thing as the Pale Horseman that awaits me at the end of my time, I cannot say that I would face him willingly or even gladly, but I would take him up on that free ride to the Hereafter.

With that, we wrap up my top thirteen Halloween Horrors and so I wish to you all, my dear readers, a Happy Halloween!

A tragic tale of romance, passion and murder most foul…

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EMILY


Unfinished Business: Becoming a Bride
Featured In: Corpse Bride (2005)
Voiced By: Helena Bonham Carter

There is no shortage of Halloween themed films geared towards younger audiences but of the many multitudes that exist, I cannot help but feel that those composed of stop motion animation are by far the greatest of them. Films like The Nightmare Before Christmas that made such an impact that even years later, it is still renown as the de-facto Halloween AND Christmas movie all in one. ParaNorman that answered the question of how alive the undead can truly be and Caroline that showed us the nightmare our greatest dream can become.

Yet, it is in the film Corpse Bride that I find myself putting above these great films not for fear, horror, or even wonder. For love, passion, and a tragedy that tugs at even the coldest of heartstrings. The tale of the corpse bride herself begins some time before the film proper with a pretty young belle by name of Emily who is quickly enamored with a mysterious stranger.

Despite her father’s declaration that she is not to wed a man whom she had only recently met, Emily secretly makes a plan with him to elope. In the dead of night, she takes on her mother’s wedding dress, as per her dreams, and a satchel of gold and the family jewels, as per her husband-to-be’s request.

And so it was in the dead of night that Emily was murdered by the very man whom she had hoped to wed. Awaking as a corpse, Emily made a vow to wait for a man to set her free and so remained buried and forgotten near the old cemetery. That is until a young man named Victor happens to accidentally wed himself to her by way of practicing his marriage vows and inadvertently places the ring upon Emily’s skeletal hand.

As to Emily’s “husband,” Victor is a young heir to a nouveau rich family of fish merchants who forced him into an arranged family to a daughter of a noble family in order to raise themselves to those same ranks. Likewise, his bride-to-be, Victoria, is the heiress of a noble family without a penny to their name and ordered her to marry Victor to be rich again. Victor and Victoria both are surprisingly sweet and kind people despite their parents’ obvious faults and failures but I can’t honestly see a good relationship between them as what was shown with Emily and Victor.

Victor is shown to be quite the artist and talented pianist whereas Victoria is shown to be… uh… well… She’s nice and is willing to believe in Victor despite his seemingly crazy talk of corpse brides, land of the dead, and other such things. I’m sure that there is more to her character than what is shown or made obvious for the oblivious but there was little to nothing connecting her to Victor beyond the fact that the two of them grew up under similar circumstances and both have a pulse.

Emily… Now Emily despite her tragic circumstances leading both to her death and to her so-called marital bliss with Victor has shown herself to be a charismatic young woman who is as equally talented as Victor with the piano. In fact, one of the best scenes with the two of them involves them in a sort of piano duel that really shows off their respected talents of the musical arts.

Between the two of them, Emily has done much more for Victor than Victoria had in the little time that the two heirs had known each other. Emily had gone and found Victor’s departed dog Scraps and reunited the two as a wedding gift from her to him, and was more than willing to go to the Land of the Living to meet his parents and not realizing the ploy for what it was. Heck, the greatest tell of Emily’s true and honest love for Victor showed itself when it was revealed to her that though they had been bound in marriage, it wasn’t truly binding due to the fact that Death had already departed Emily from Victor’s embrace.

In order to truly be wed for eternity, Victor would have to repeat his vows to her in the Land of the Living and drink from the Wine of Ages, a poison that would forever stop his heart so that he may give it to her. In this moment, Emily revealed the greatness of her non-beating heart as she collapsed to her knees in despair with the proclamation that she could never ask that of him.

Emily’s circumstances, and those of the Land of the Dead, are incredibly unique as they are bizarre. It is blatantly obvious that the moment a person dies that they arrive in the Land of the Dead but they do so in a perfect mirror to the state of their own corpses. That is to say that the dead reflect how their bodies currently look in the Land of the Living with most being nothing more than bare skeletons. It’s rather strange how this works and throughout the film makes one wonder what would eventually happen when the entirety of the body is gone. That is, until Emily’s penultimate fate is made but that’s an ending I shan’t spoil.

Overall, the tale of Emily the corpse bride is a film that may not be frightening throughout its entirety nor one that revolts one from horror beyond the antics of the dead but it is a film that truly speaks of the tragedies of the dead, the living, and the heart that connects them both. In all my years watching cinema, there have been altogether a literal handful of films that made me weep. Corpse Bride is one of them and I applaud it for doing so.

Where there is light, shadows lurk and fear reigns…

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GARO


Title: The Golden Knight
Name Meaning: Fanged Wolf
Member of: The Makai Order
Featured In: GARO Television Series (2005-Present)

Make no mistake, there are things that go bump in the night and there are plenty that bump them right back in the same shadows but for many of them… They are heroes whom are either misunderstood due to their distinctive lineage or circumstances, and oftentimes the monsters they fight are those of their own creation however inadvertently. Such is not the case for the likes of Garo.

Now, before I really get into this review, let me make one thing perfectly clear. The name of “Garo” refers strictly to the Makai Armor and not the individuals wearing it. Like most Makai Armor, the Garo armor is passed down through the bloodlines of the Saejima family or, in some miraculously rare cases, won rightfully. As such, whenever I refer to Garo it more towards the armor and not the actual individual wearing it. That being said, let’s begin!

To start with… well, I shall be frank, I’m only going over the absolute highest of highlights here and I severely recommend watching the show and/or checking out the wiki for more information. That being said, the Garo armor, like most Makai Armor, had been crafted by the Makai Order whose sole purpose is to protect the world from vile monstrosities known simply as “Horrors.”

Though the name sounds rather tame, let me assure you that Horrors are by far the most frightening “monster of the week” I’ve ever seen bar none. In point of fact, I’d go so far as to say that Horrors are more frightening than anything from Western media. There has not been a single one that hasn’t had me shivering in my seat and far too many that leave me wide eyed and pale faced for hours afterwards. Every Horror is distinct save for their “natural” form that bares a strong resemblance to the unholy union of angel and devil.

Garo is able to combat these Horrors solely for the fact that he and his weapon are composed of a material known as “soul metal,” a type of metal whose properties rely partially on the wearer/bearer. Case in point, it takes a strong will and even stronger discipline to even don the Garo armor let alone fight in it. The same can be said of any weapons made of soul metal as their sharpness or effectiveness relies on the will of the wielder who can make the weapon light as a feather to heavier than a meteorite.

However, being made of soul metal, the Garo armor has one fatal flaw shared amongst its many brethren. It can only be worn for exactly 99.9 seconds. To wear it any longer than that runs the risk of severe injury as soul metal can and will easily burn through human flesh due to its inherent properties. Weapons are only slightly different because of specialized wrappings around the hilts and such to protect the wielder but such cannot be done for the armor.

Sadly, there is another inherent flaw in the Garo armor, one that can at least be partially blamed upon the wearer. If the wearer chooses to continue wearing the armor rather than letting it be returned back to the Makai realm from whence it came, via a very cool summoning through a sword with Garo’s case, then the armor will mutate both itself and the wearer into a monstrous hellion berserker. This topped with the agony of being burned alive from within makes Garo a nearly unstoppable threat to friend and foe alike.

Of the Makai Armor seen throughout the various GARO series, the Garo armor has shown to be the most mutable of the armors insomuch that it has many distinctive forms unique both to its wielder or the circumstances of a particularly difficult fight. Aside from its genuinely golden appearance, bar one particular instance, and wolf motif, Garo has attained such things as angelic wings and other distinctive protrusions/protections in his fight against Horrors.

Lastly, like all Makai Knights, Garo possesses a… unique… form of transportation in the form of a Madou Horse, a biomechanical horse that can traverse different dimensions—particularly pocket dimensions created by Horrors— and can augment their rider’s abilities by leaps and bounds. Some Madou Horses have also displayed powers unique unto themselves such as Garo’s own steed Gouten who can change Garo’s sword from a regular medieval styled blade to a massive zonbatou. Only titled knights such as Garo are granted these powerful steeds and even then, they must first slay a hundred Horrors and go through a distinctive trial to earn the right to ride.

Overall, while Garo is certainly not the horrific or even the most powerful of Halloween styled heroes, he is quite easily the most distinct among them insomuch that his wearers are all human from beginning to end. They are not some manner of lost soul briefly turned to the darkness nor are they those whom are born from evil but are not ruled by it. They are human beings fighting against the darkness by wielding that same darkness in the form of a shining golden brilliance set in a fearsome visage.

So you have wished it, so it shall be…

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DESIREE


Unfinished Business: Attaining Her Heart’s Desire
Featured In: Danny Phantom (2004-2007)
Voiced By: Peri Gilpin

Danny Phantom was a cartoon series that ran on Nickelodeon in a time when most American cartoons were undergoing a radical change from those of yester year. I say this in the sense that cartoons such Young Justice or even The Legend of Korra are being… not really censored but are slowly dying out due to their inherently mature themes.

Mature themes in the sense of the likes of even cartoons of yester year like Batman: The Animated Series or even Tom & Jerry are considered too “violent” for younger audiences. In some cases, the cartoon series is either cancelled before it has a chance to truly shine or, in the case of Danny Phantom, are changed just slightly as to not offend concerned audiences that otherwise have no business getting in a tizzy over a cartoon show of all things.

When it began, Danny Phantom made it all but blatantly obvious that the ghosts that our titular hero combats are spirits of the dead and that prime example was Desiree herself. In life, Desiree had been a beautiful harem girl that had caught the eye of the ruling sultan who had promised her everything that her heart desired and even a kingdom of her very own. Unfortunately, the sultan’s wife, jealous of Desiree’s beauty had her banished from the land. Desiree would eventually die of a broken heart.

And old age but given that she likely lived in a time preceding Scheherazade and her Thousand and One Nights, that’s probably a lot younger than most people would think…

Either way, Desiree was the first and only ghost to be outright stated as being the spirit of a departed person. Sure, there were plenty that hinted towards the idea in subtle and not so subtle ways, particularly in the case of Ember McLain and her song “Remember”. It was with Desiree that the show revealed its potential to be another groundbreaker, to be a cartoon geared towards kids but not without any attempts at putting the wool over their eyes.

Then came the episodes that revealed that ghosts were not only considered as a separate species of existence altogether but that they could even reproduce AKA have children.

I just don’t… How do they…? They’re DEAD! They’re the spirits of the departed! Most of them are blatantly obvious about their unfinished business! There are dozens of media out there, from film to literature, that outright state that something that is dead is not capable of producing life without serious consequences! Though, to be fair, the circumstances in that particular episode were of extremely bad variety but still!

Like all of the ghosts in the show, Desiree has the staple set of abilities that all ghosts inherently possess that include intangibility, flight, invisibility, and spectral body manipulation insomuch that she can go from gaseous form to even changing her limbs into other things like a hangman’s noose. Yet, like the more powerful ghosts in the series, Desiree’s unfinished business was so deeply ingrained into her soul that she became a living embodiment of wish fulfillment or more specifically…

A genie.

Desiree has shown that she is well and truly capable of granting any wish that she hears, but something occurred throughout the centuries that changed how she fulfilled them. In the flashback of her origin, it was shown that Desiree had gladly granted the wishes in their truest sense but was rewarded by seeing their happiness while she was left constantly reminded that her own desires were never granted and that her own heart lay broken somewhere in the desert sands.

Thus Desiree began granted wishes as she saw fit to grant them in a sort of… monkey’s paw fashion… For those who don’t know that story let’s use a few examples shall we? Say that you wished for a hundred bucks, Desiree would grant the wish by summoning a ghostly herd of bucks to run you out of town. If you wished to have a monster truck, she’d create a truck that was literally a monster.

Of course, Desiree is trapped by her own powers in two ways. The first being that she has to grant whatever wish she hears so long as the words “I want” or “I wish” are made and can grant those spoken from the heart rather than aloud if she’s granted enough wishes beforehand, which results in her increased power and strangely enough size as well. Of course, this leads to the second stipulation in that Desiree must stick to the boundaries of the wish. Yes, she can manipulate those that can easily be misinterpreted but those that are plainly specific she MUST grant no matter how much she doesn’t want to.

Ghosts and the like are no stranger in modern media and while there are plenty more ghastly and dangerous spiritual entities out there, I chose the likes of Desiree because she, like a good many other ghosts in Danny Phantom and even a few other media, are not strictly evil. Yes, she is certainly not at all nice about how she grants people’s wishes but given her history can you truly blame her?

Imagine being granted everything your heart could ever desire and having that all torn away from you to such a degree that you literally die of a broken heart. Imagine then rising from the grave as a ghost, an apparition that most people are incapable of seeing or hearing but having the power and means to grant to them their desires and travelling the globe doing just that. Imagine spending whole centuries granting wishes and never once being thanked or gratified, and constantly reminded of the self same tragedy that led to your own demise.

Could you still be a friendly ghost?

Unless your name happens to be Casper, I don’t think so.

Danny Phantom 1-06 What You Want [Honeyko]_Oct 24, 2014, 9.24.22 AM

To judge a book by its cover…

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20 Century Fox’s “The Book of Life


Directed By:
Jorge Gutierrez
Produced By: Aaron Berger, Brad Booker, Carina Schulze, & Guillermo del Toro
Written By: Jorge Gutier & Doug Langdale

As before with my other film reviews, I will be going over originality of the story, the music, and what few nitpicks I have with the film overall. A word of warning, this review will contain SPOILERS so those of you who want to see the film first, please go and do so. That all being said, I will say that I greatly enjoyed this movie. Would I consider it in my top five favorites films of all time? Certainly not but for those of the autumn season and Halloween, it definitely earns its place amongst the top three.

Now, I am by no means an expert when it comes to Mexican holidays, traditions, or mythology, but even so there wasn’t a moment that I felt lost or confused. In point of fact, the greatest selling point for the movie to me was the focus on the “Day of the Dead” holiday and the traditions involved. I especially liked the two deities connected to the holiday and the afterlife.

La Muerte, the kind ruler of the Land of the Remembered where the spirits of the departed live on in continuous harmony by the strength of the memories of their still living loved ones and descendants. Then there is Xibalba, ruler of the Land of the Forgotten where all souls eventually decay into oblivion as they are forgotten completely, even by those whose dominion is over life and death. What I especially liked about these two deities aside from their wonderful designs, particular in the case of Xibalba who resembles a Mayan death god to La Muerte’s Mexican goddess, was their interactions with one another.

Namely that La Muerte and Xibalba are not only in love with one another but are quite likely married to one another though their relationship is greatly strained at the beginning of the story. It is revealed that the two gods happen to possess a not-so-unique weakness in that the two of them like to make bets with one another and oftentimes use mortals as their chosen champion. One such wager that occurred prior ended with Xibalba being banished from visiting the Realm of the Remembered and La Muerte quite furious with him.

Heck, when it is revealed that Xibalba had cheated in their latest wager, which the prize was the switching of domains so that Xibalba would be in charge of the Land of the Remembered while La Muerte would be in charge of the Land of the Forgotten… Well, lets just say that La Muerte’s reaction and the resulting argument between the two reminded me of an old married couple. I sincerely hope that if The Book of Life earns a continuation in some form or another, be it a television series or even a sequel, it should definitely feature these two and their interactions with one another.

As to the human characters of the story, I will say only that the dynamic that they try to emphasize in the trailers is in fact a false one. Going in, I expected to find Manolo and Joaquín to be bitter rivals growing up and constantly fighting over the hand of María who had constantly refuted them both all the way to adulthood. Imagine then my surprise that not only were the three of them great friends as children, but they continued to remain so as adults.

Though, admittedly, this might have been different had María grown up with them rather than spend most of her late childhood and all of her teenaged years learning abroad in Europe. Still, I commend Manolo and Joaquín for still maintaining their friendship even as they competed for María’s hand.

Then there is Manolo’s extended family, those being his ancestors who reside in the Land of the Remembered. Each of them is so distinct to themselves that I sincerely wished that there had been a bit more focus on each of them rather then the brief introduction that we get that consists of name, feat, and personality. Seriously, what was up with the one cousin who was apparently a clown in life?

The music of the film is… a bit hit or miss for me. There are times when Manolo sings incredibly well, particularly in the songs “The Apology Song,” “I Love You Too Much,” and “No Matter Where You Are.” Yet, there are other instances, such as the song simply and eloquently entitled as “Creep” that just grate on the ears and… yes, I do have to agree with popular opinion that the Spanish versions of “The Apology Song” and “I Love You Too Much” are much better than the English versions. Yet, my own personal favorite song was one meant for the end credits entitled “Live Life.”

The only thing that I can say negatively about the film is the art style and even then that’s… a bit of a hit or miss as well. I liked the idea of making the story being told through the wooden puppets and the multitude of in-jokes that litters the story that show it’s a modern retelling and not the actual story itself. Such examples of this include a few minor characters literally losing limbs and hastily reattaching them as well as María inexplicably knowing kung fu. I can understand the fencing, but kung fu? Where in Europe could she have possibly learned that?

However… it is the scenes leading up to the retelling and interjected inbetween that didn’t sit well with me. The art style is cartoony to a point where its… jarring, to suddenly descend into a world of wooden puppets. I’d rather they follow “The Pagemaster” route and have live action for the “real world” segments and the wooden puppets for the story.

Still, aside from that and the occasional song that just does not carry a good tune, I enjoyed the film though I am somewhat disappointed that its title was changed. Yes, originally it was to be called “The Day of the Dead” but given the number of zombie films that consist of most of those words, I can understand their reasoning for the most part.

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate…

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CHARON

All.Dogs.Go.To.Heaven.1989.720p.BRRip.x264-x0r_Sep 24, 2014, 7.05.02 PM
Son of: Erebus (Darkness) & Nyx (Night)
Brother of: Nemesis (Divine Retribution), Thanatos (Death), and Eris (Discord)
Titles: Ferryman of the Dead/Damned, Ruler of the Dreary Coast
Featured In: All Dogs Go to Heaven, Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
Voiced By: Bart McCarthy (Dante’s Inferno)

There have been a lot of films that I’ve seen in my life. Films both old as the projector from whence they were made to as new as the dawn of another day. There have been movies that have disturbed me, there are some that have frightened me, and there are some that have sent me to many sleepless nights in the days following their viewing. Yet, it is not in the entirety of a film but in one horrific scene that I am haunted still to this very day.

The film, All Dogs Go to Heaven, is about a dog named Charlie whom is murdered and almost immediately revokes his predestined place in Heaven to return back to Earth to have a second chance at living whilst simuntaneously taking revenge against his former partner and murderer, Carface. An animated film by Don Bluth and, arguably, one of the best that he and his company had ever made, All Dogs Go to Heaven featured in it a scene the likes of which scared… well, scared the Hell out of me as a child.

There is a moment in the film, one where Charlie is sleeping and dreaming again of the heavenly voice that tells him once more that he can never come back to Heaven due to his actions. What follows is a spiraling trip straight to the black pits of Hell itself as Charlie quickly finds himself trapped on the ferry of the damned with a demonic ferryman cackling down at him with vicious glee. It wouldn’t be for several more years that I would discover that the ferryman in question not only has a name for himself, but a surprisingly unique history.

Charon is one of the children of Nyx and Erebus, sister and brother primordial deities of the night and deeper darkness respectively. Both of these deities precede those of the Olympian gods and Nyx herself is said to possess such power and beauty that even Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, fears her wrath. Charon also has many powerful siblings that include but are not limited to…

Nemesis, the goddess of divine retribution and is often considered as the very personification of vengeful fate and merciless revenge. Thanatos, the god/personification of Death and who is both merciless and indiscriminate in his dealings with mortals and immortals alike. Eris, the goddess of discord and the one who is most commonly recognized/famed for inadvertently starting the Trojan War.

What makes it a particularly interesting family tree, which considering this is the Ancient Greek Pantheon we’re talking about here that’s really saying something, is the fact that most of Charon’s relations have feathered wings and are, for the most part, defined straightforwardly as “gods.” Yet, Charon himself is not an actual deity in the strictest sense of the word. He is a psychopomp, a type of being who is in charge with ferrying the souls of the dead, and in Charon’s case that is quite literal.

Originally, Charon was under the employ of Hades the Greek Lord of the Underworld and was tasked to ferry the souls of the dead across the River Styx, the waterway that divided the world of the living from the realm of the dead. However, such passage was not given freely and newly arrived souls were expected to pay but a single coin to Charon in order to be ferried to the other side lest they be forced to wait. The tradition of leaving coins or other precious objects with the dead was popularized in the modern era by Charon to such a point that the practice is most commonly referred to as “Charon’s obol.”

However, like all things that have come before and after the Ancient Greeks, Charon had changed with the times and while his role still remained as a ferryman for the dead, he was given a more specific cliental, one that aren’t quite so willing to pay the fare. In the works of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, specifically the section entitled simply as “Inferno,” it is told that Charon’s new task is ferry the souls of the damned across the River Acheron into Hell proper. Yet, for those who have sinned enough to not warrant a place in either Heaven or Purgatory but not enough to deserve a place in one of the Nine Circles of Hell, Charon leaves them behind to remain forever more upon the shores of the River Acheron.

The select few in the entirety of Hell that could be even remotely considered as fortunate given the circumstances…

I hide my light inside a cloak of night…

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FRANCŒUR


Loosely Based On: The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Featured In: A Monster in Paris (2011)
Voiced By: Sean Lennon (English) Matthieu Cheddid (French)

A Monster in Paris is a film that I discovered in no small thanks to the sheer amount of fan art to its titular character, the “monster” Francœur. The film itself is loosely based on the tale of the Phantom of the Opera in the same degree of Frozen being based on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen.”

Not that it’s a bad thing, far from it in fact. Francœur is a more sympathetic “monster” than the Phantom that he is based upon. For while Erik is someone to pity for his appearance and how he had been treated by his own mother because of it, that doesn’t excuse the fact that he became a monster of enough renown to stand amongst the greats like Frankenstein’s monster or Count Dracula.

Still that doesn’t quite excuse Francœur from being considered a monster since he is a mutated flea…

Yep, you read correctly, the “Monster of Paris” is a flea that had been mutated in such a variety of ways that when he eventually shrinks back down to his proper size, he still retains all of his other traits. Those traits being a humanoid body structure complete with actual humanoid face, eyes, and mouth with a smile that melts the ice of the most coldhearted individuals.

Aside from that though, Francœur was mutated to somehow possess not only a master musician’s understanding of instruments, being able to play a guitar within seconds of holding it and be able to write sheet music despite being unable to read or write anything else, but can sing unbelievably well though cannot seem to speak beyond chirps or beeps.

Francœur ended up this way via a small… heh… yeah, “small” mishap involving Raoul playing around with another professor’s potions and causing an accidental combination of a few. While not all of them are named or demonstrated, two potions in particular are. A “super fertilizer” that with two drops can grow a sunflower seed into full bloom within seconds and towering at somewhere close to three or four stories depending on the amount of water it’s dropped into. The other potion was a solution entitled as “atomize a tune” that can create a, quote, “more melodious voice” for animals.

If anyone ever wanted to see a monkey briefly sing like an opera singer, this movie has that and so much more.

Anyway, the combination of these two potions, and likely a few others, somehow resulted in Francœur being mutated into a humanoid flea blessed with human level sentience and an understanding/adoration of music. Overall, he’s… he’s not even remotely scary. I mean, he can be an intimidating sight to behold given that he’s close to seven feet tall, his eyes look like they’re on fire, and in his original borrowed clothes can make for a startling sight in the alleys of Paris but…

I’m sorry, once you see him smile, like well and truly smile and not those little quirk of his lips showing off his slightly bucked teeth, it’s hard to ever imagine someone so nauseatingly adorable as being a monster in any definition of the term. Yet, Francœur has the potential to be a monster if he consciously made an effort for it.

He has shown to not only retain the flea’s ability to jump one hundred times his own height and is surprisingly bulletproof having been shot in the back with the bullet reflecting harmlessly away.

Of course, his first attempt at “roaring” at people during a scheme that played to the same idea as “The Reluctant Dragon” he… well, he sounded like he was exercising his voice more than trying to intimidate the crowd. Still, I give credit to his original attire and his performing clothes both consisting of a large brimmed hat and an equally long scarf. Don’t know why but I’ve always liked the image of a character, good or bad, to be garbed in such attire.

Yet it’s for the reason why Francœur couldn’t be a monster that I chose to include him on my list of personal favorites. True, he fits into the category of the musical orientated “Phantom” but I find that he’s a better fit for the “misunderstood” monster than any other I’ve seen.

He was an animal suddenly bestowed not only a humanoid form grossly different from his original one, but a human’s intelligence on top of it all. Yet, he did not succumb to his instincts nor did he react in the same negative fashion as most of the world had done to him. People ran from him and screamed in his face and what did he do in response to all of that?

He sang.

All that’s foul, all that’s stained…

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HEXXUS


Titles: Spirit of Destruction, Lord of Pollution
Featured In: FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992)
Voiced By: Tim Curry

One of the first movies I had seen in an actual theater and not at home on VHS (a primitive form of DVD to my younger readers), Ferngully: The Last Rainforest’s chief villain was one tied with the comedic relief character in stealing the entirety of the production. Voiced by Tim Curry, the foul creature known simply as Hexxus was born some several thousand years ago and unleashed onto the world nothing but destruction and death.

It wasn’t until the efforts of Magi Lune, a then young but surprisingly powerful mage of a fairy, managed to seal Hexxus into a tree where he was to be imprisoned for all of time. Unfortunately, as what likely happened before, the Spirit of Destruction was broken free thanks to the inadvertent aid of humans.

Of course, this is achieved via a deforestation machine the likes of which I sincerely doubt could ever be made and affectionately named as “the Leveler” but that’s neither here nor there. No, wait, I’ve got to go on a bit about this thing. This machine is easily the size of a freaking mansion and actually has arms armed with crablike claws and/or chainsaws to grab trees and place them into its “mouth” where they are then converted into giant planks of wood.

This film was made in 1992, when home computers weighed more than the desks they sat on never mind giant forest eating machines. Still kudos to the animation companies for successfully creating a machine that ended up being almost as terrifying as the evil spirit trying to possess it literally and figuratively. Anyway, back to Hexxus…

I won’t lie, when you first see Hexxus, you can’t really consider him that much of a threat. He looks, for all intents and purposes, like a living ball of oil. It isn’t until he starts to literally drink the acrid smoke of the Leveller and starts to talk that you realize how much trouble FernGully is in. The way that he giggles like a delighted child and proclaims the smoke of the Leveller to be akin to mother’s milk… Geez, even writing that, I get a chill down my spine.

It gets especially bad when Hexxus manages to worm his way into the machine’s heart whilst singing his “villainous song” entitled simply as “Toxic Love.” A song that was so adult orientated that more than a few lyrics had to be cut in order for it to be included in the film at all. Even then, a good majority of the song is disgusting to hear, especially with how it sounds like Hexxus is literally… well… getting himself… excited… shall we say…

Yet, the one moment in the entirety of the film that sealed the deal for me as far as earning Hexxus a place on my own personal top Halloween Horrors list was what occurs in the film’s climax. When our heroes manage to successfully shut down the Leveler, it looks as though Hexxus has been defeated. For though he is the self-entitled Lord of Pollution, Hexxus still needs a ready supply of the stuff in order to at least maintain his monstrously large smoky form. However… our heroes are already too late and Hexxus reveals that he had eaten enough pollution from the Leveler that he no longer needs a ready supply to maintain his form.

In point of fact, Hexxus had devoured so much of the Leveler’s smoke and oil that he gained an actual physical body. A physical body that eerily resembles a charred human skeleton with organs of flame, a cloak of oil, and a laugh to make most children cry for their mommies.

While not the most terrifying sight I’ve seen in my life, Hexxus’ final form held the top spot for quite a while in my childhood though was later usurped by another… well, that’s for a later day. Hexxus is not an entirely new or even original character as far as being both a creature of destruction and pollution are concerned. Yet, for most beings that embody one or the other, it has been shown that they possess a limit to their capabilities, a weakness that can be exploited. The smog monster Hedorah was destroyed via excessive heat, the Firebird eventually cooled down and disappeared as ashes on the wind, and even Captain Pollution had been defeated by excessive exposure to clean elements of nature.

But Hexxus? He has never been killed or officially laid to rest. The first time, he was sealed into a tree when he was but a wraith of his full potential and the price of that had likely been the lives of the humans that had once lived in FernGully. The second time when the Leveler had been shut off and his source of pollution cut off, Hexxus reemerged several times stronger than before with an actual physical body. The third and final time it took the near sacrifice of the fairy Crysta going into his heart to encourage the growth of a single seed and the efforts of every fairy in FernGully together to again seal him into a tree.

If he should ever manage to break out again…

I dare not imagine.

Do you?

With the strength of Ra…!

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NEFER-TINA

Mummies Alive! 101 - Ra, Ra, Ra_S
Name Origin: Queen Nefertiti
Date of Death:
Presumably 3,500 Years Ago
Patron Goddess: Bastet
Featured In:
Mummies Alive! (1997)
Voiced By: Cree Summer

While there are a great number of media featuring mummies, none are able to match the cartoon series Mummies Alive! for a variety of reasons. The chief being that the cartoon is… well, to put it mildly, a definitive product of its time, that being the 90’s. For those too young to have lived through the 90’s, let’s just say that a great number of cartoons were either a incredibly transparent copy of other, far more popular cartoons by way of exercising the same formula over and over and OVER again… Or were made entirely on the premise of selling toys. Mummies Alive! has the distinction of having been both, particularly when it came to the toy department.

The cartoon is rather infamous for its constant use of bad puns, both in episode titles and dialogue, but also for the fact that while it is surprisingly educational when it comes to the pantheon of Ancient Egypt… It is all done incredibly wrong or unbelievably silly. For example… the mummies in question mishear the phrase “kick butt” and eventually/excessively begin to use the phrase “kick Tut” in its stead. I feel the urge to smack my forehead just from writing that down.

That’s not to say that Mummies Alive! was a bad cartoon. As I said, it has a surprising number of references to Ancient Egypt Pantheon and though a number of them were done incorrectly, with evil deities like Apep becoming sympathetic, there were a few diamonds in the rough there. One particular example that sticks to my mind the most is when two gods are introducing themselves with the lesser known god, whose name sadly escapes me at this moment, goes over his many jobs and titles. His companion, Anubis, starts to do the same but is cut off shortly after he says his name with the lesser deity complaining that everyone already knows who he is.

Mummies Alive! also had a very original, for its time, premise of a boy discovering that he’s not only the reincarnation of a long dead Egyptian prince, Rapses, but that the very sorcerer who had taken his previous incarnation’s life had resurfaced and was out to complete the spell that was interrupted so many lifetimes’ past.

The boy, Presley, is guarded from the sorcerer’s attempts upon his life via the former servants who had been entombed alongside him at his death. These warriors were blessed firstly by the god Ra and secondly by their patron gods or goddesses in that not only do they live once more, though still as mummies, they can summon forth enchanted armor based on their patron deity.

Nerfer-Tina herself was something of a surprise to have been chosen as one of Presley’s guardians not only for the fact that her previous job was essentially the chariot driver/teacher of said driving to the Prince Rapses, but because she is a woman. Now, admittedly, I know next to nothing on Egyptian history and only slightly more so when it comes to their religion, and yes, I call it religion simply for the fact that is exactly what is was then and just because it isn’t to the same degree in this modern era doesn’t mean it’s any less—

Ah… Sorry, “mythology” in that regard has always been a soapbox moment for me… Where was I? Oh yes, Nefer-Tina had admitted that she had to guise herself as a man, cleverly named as “Nefer” in order to drive the royal chariots as women weren’t allowed. I’d make a joke at women drivers but honestly? Women were considered equal to men on almost every account including, but certainly not limited to, owning their own businesses, having their own jobs in or out the household, and even being able to divorce their husbands.

Of the mummies, Nefer-Tina is the only one whose patron deity is a goddess; Bastet the goddess of warfare and cats. This is plainly evident in Nefer-Tina’s armor and her choice weapon, a whip that frankly frightens me with how quickly she goes back and forth between it and the razor sharp claws on her hands. She’s not the most powerful of the mummies in sheer strength but she is easily the most adaptable of the bunch, taking the ability to drive a modern vehicle in the span of a ten minutes. Heck, out of the group, she’s the one that wholly embraces life in the modern world and rarely laments the days long past.

While I can’t say that Nefer-Tina is the most powerful mummy I had ever seen, as that distinction goes to a select few, the reason that I chose her as my own personal favorite mummy is because… Well, to be perfectly honest, because of how she and the others are designed. They don’t look like the atypical mummy nor do they look like the stereotypical. Nefer-Tina demonstrates this with the fact that she still looks like the beautiful woman she had been when she died but at the same time, you can’t mistake the fact that she’s still dead.

I don’t say this because of her ghastly blue skin, shocking white hair, or the ancient bandages still wrapped tightly, and strangely rather femininely, around her body. Its her eyes, specifically, the lines drawn under them. They’re a small detail, almost unnoticeable really, but that’s more than enough to paint the entire picture that she, and by extension her fellow mummies, are several thousand years in the grave and though alive once more, it won’t take much to send them back to the land of the dead.

Mummies Alive! 105 - Desert Chic_Se

The werewolf warrior…

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JON TALBAIN


Name Origin: Sir John Talbot of the film The Wolf Man (1941)
Otherwise Known As:
Gallon (“Hungry Wolf”)
Heir of: Baraba “the Wolf Lord” Kreutz
Home Country:
England
Featured In:
Darkstalkers
Voiced By: Alvin Sanders (OVA)

Throughout many media, the werewolf has been as interchangeable as the vampire as far as power and capability. Make no mistake, the common trope of them being shapeshifters able to interchange between man and wolf is there but beyond that… The change itself is considered either a blessing or a curse depending on the story of the werewolf in question and for the likes of Jon Talbain it is both.

His human mother dead from childbirth and his father mysteriously vanished prior to it, Jon grew up believing that he was a human in blood and body until one fateful night when the moon turned full and he transformed into a werewolf. Yet, contrary to the popular myth, Jon’s transformation seemed permanent as the moon’s fall and the sun’s rising did little to affect him. Thankfully, Jon remained somewhat in control of himself and started a long journey to controlling his inner beast and, hopefully, regain his human form.

Jon would not only succeed in this endeavor but would eventually become a martial arts master capable of using his own beastly energies to form attacks straight out of… well, an anime series. His most recognizable move, the “Beast Cannon” involves Jon enveloping himself in a field of ki and launching himself with all the force of a cannon strike. A smaller though less destructive variation of this attack is the “Dragon Cannon” wherein instead of launching himself, Jon creates a pair of energy dragon-wolves that fly out from his claws towards his opponent.

It has been said time and time again that Jon Talbain is the werewolf equivalent to Bruce Lee and frankly, I think that is an apt comparison. Contrary to how one might assume that a werewolf ought to fight, Jon’s attacks and way of combat are all about quick but effective strikes and not all the frenzied ripping and tearing we often see of most werewolves. Jon fights to win and he never allows his animal instincts out to interfere with his fighting though he does get a bit… shall we say antagonistic towards those whom regard him more as a monster than a man.

Though a werewolf, Jon is commonly referred to as a “Darkstalker,” a name that conforms any and all creatures of the night that can, could, or will mean ill intent towards humans. Any creature that is in some way “inhuman” but of enough intelligence to know right from wrong and can/will kill people with frightening ease is given this title and it infuriates Jon to be lumped in them. In a way, I can somewhat agree with Jon’s sentiment only in that he and a great number of other species are lumped in with the likes of such creatures as Morrigan Aensland and Demitri, both of whom have to eat people to survive or enough Lord Raptor who killed himself and a hundred other people as a sacrifice to attain power.

It is a good term to unify the vast varieties of sentient monsters in the world, but it is unfair of them to consider the likes of Felicia or Anakaris to be literal “monsters.” Speaking of Felicia, though it is never stated outright, there is a strong leaning towards her and Jon having some manner of romantic relationship with each other. This in itself is hilarious to me in a vast variety of ways considering that Jon is an English werewolf who practices Oriental style martial arts while Felicia is a Catholic raised American catwoman with slight… ahem… nudist tendencies shall we say…

Overall, of the many werewolves I’ve seen and read, Jon Talbain is one whom I’d never want to fight against. While the telltale weaknesses of lycanthropes still work on Jon, it’s a manner of actually hitting him with those same weaknesses that proves to be a problem. As was demonstrated time and time again by the premiere Darkstalker hunter B.B. Hood whose particular specialty/intense focus lies on werewolves. Though I’m loathe to admit it, it has been shown how relatively easy it is to bring down a werewolf with a silver bullet, and in one particular case why only a silver bullet will work, but that’s taking into account that the werewolf in question is more of an animal than a man and even those with human intelligence still fight like beasts.

Against the likes of Jon Talbain, a humanoid werewolf whose martial arts prowess has him compared to the likes of Bruce Lee, the man who won a fight in eleven seconds with a total of fifteen punches and one kick, and who has the ability to fling energy dragon-wolves via his hands?

Yeah, ya’ll gonna need some bigger bullets.

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