"Run-of-the-mill" seems like a modestly accurate way to describe myself in terms of horror fandom. In certain respects I find that valuable, since ideally I can make an appeal to those like myself, to those who may be testing the waters, and hopefully to the hardcore horror fans as well. (And I sincerely encourage feedback, especially from the latter.) It wasn't until several years ago, the present time of this writing being December of '09 to give perspective, that the genre genuinely appealed to me and I owe all that to the film adaptation of Stephen King's 'IT'. After that, it was a slow and steady progression that grew into watching more Stephen King film adaptations, then into watching general horror films. In more recent years it's branched from solely films into different mediums, namely: comics (comic books, manga, graphic novels, webcomics, etc.), purely written literature, and different games.

But let's get to the point, shall we? The Darkley Niche is something I've constructed after the comic-in-progress that a friend and myself plan on self-publishing, an anthology of short horror stories much in the same vein as 'Tales from the Crypt' and similar titles. The series centers around a faceless persona we've affectionately dubbed Alan Darkley, the Niche's namesake, and a cast of storytellers whose tales fall within particular subgenres and sister genres of horror. This site is the drawing board, if you will, where everything posted is either a form of research or a roughing out of ideas. It's all relevant in some fashion. By exploring these different horror stories and their mediums a better understanding and influence of the genre, as well as inspiration, can be put into the comic. Even if you have no personal interest in the project, perhaps you can glean something from the reviews and the like. And if nothing else, the Niche will work to serve my own purposes.

Be sure to browse over the column of banners below if you're looking for posts on a particular topic. (And at the very bottom of the blog, if you would like to consult the complete listing of post labels.) Otherwise, scroll down past them to get to the most recent articles. Likewise, refer to the right side for our latest tweets.

Meet The Darkley Storytellers

Meet The Darkley Storytellers

About Myself

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Well, here's yours truly. The name's Drew, in case you were wondering. The Niche is my personal site, while the comic-in-progress is a partnered effort with Don, a lifelong friend of mine. We collaborate on the stories, but my partner's the writer in the outfit while I am the illustrator. This is currently little more than a side project, but we hope to make something of it.

artwork by yours truly

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book reviews: consult the niche's necronomicon

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gravity Falls: Summerween

the Mystery Shack, decorated for Summerween
For those not familiar with the Disney Channel series 'Gravity Falls', the premise is how twin siblings Dipper and Mabel Pines spend their summer with Great-Uncle "Gruncle" Stan, a Shriner-looking sheister who runs a tourist trap called the Mystery Shack. (Or Mystery Hack, rather, as the letter S has fallen off of its proper place on the sign.) But, as the children soon learn, the town of Gravity Falls, Oregon is far from normal and appears to be a hub of all manner of strangeness. It's loosely like 'Twin Peaks', but less soap opera melodrama and for kids. (This is especially apparent at a restaurant called The Club, where the interior resembles the "Red Room.")

In time for the season, 'Gravity Falls' released its latest episode "Summerween," named after the fictitious holiday celebrated on June 22nd. The townsfolk of Gravity Falls apparently all loved Halloween so much that they invented it. (Definitely sounds better than Christmas in July in our book.) Essentially, Summerween keeps to the same traditions as Halloween does but with just a few discrepancies: watermelons are used instead of pumpkins to create jack o' melons, "cheap ol' loser" candy is prevalent (ex: Sand Pop!, Gummy Chairs, and Mr. Adequate-Bar), and, in direct relation to the candy, the Summerween Trickster. As Mystery Shack handyman Soos tells it to the Pines kids, the Summerween Trickster is a boogeyman who will get children discontent with the off-brand candy or lacking in the Summerween spirit.

bowl of cheap ol' loser candy
The legend of the Summerween Trickster has to be invoked, of course, so naturally a scenario shortly afterward begins to set itself up. Wendy, another Mystery Shack employee, along with a Donnie Darko-esque Robbie, the typical douche-bag boyfriend, come by the Shack to pick up her coat that evening. While there, she relates to Dipper details of a party happening later that night and that he ought to come. As it happens, Wendy is one of those slightly older cool kids and incidentally Dipper's crush. So when she inadvertently validates Robbie's point that trick-or-treating is for little kids, he decides to give it up.

"Twins in costumes! The people eat it up."
This proves problematic, as Mabel loves trick-or-treating and has fond memories of doing this together. To spare his sister's feelings, Dipper feigns sickness from eating some of the bad candy. But while in the middle of selling his white lie, there comes a visitor knocking at the Shack's door. Cue the ominous music, and here we are introduced to a trick-or-treating Summerween Trickster. However, exasperated with convincing his sister that he simply isn't up to it, Dipper rudely shuts the door on their visitor twice.

Yeahhh, you already know that this isn't going to go over well.

"Trick or treeeat..."
"Dude, really? You're a little old for this, man."
A third, more adamant knock bangs on their front door and this time Mabel answers, as Dipper refuses to. She politely excuses her brother's behavior, but the Summerween Trickster has been angered and will not be appeased until they have met his demand: retrieve five-hundred pieces of candy that night before the last jack o' melon goes out, or else he will be eaten (just like an unfortunate, random kid is only moments before). Now, even if this wasn't some sort of boogeyman, he's still an incredibly tall and creepily imposing guy. That alone should be adequate motivation. Even so, Dipper begrudgingly goes along with trick-or-treating as Mabel recruits Soos and her friends to help.

"I got a picture!"

Meanwhile, Stan Pines, the self-proclaimed "Master of Fright," gleefully anticipates terrifying any trick-or-treaters who come over to the Mystery Shack. Between an 'Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark' melting face scare and a disembowelment with sausage link guts, this works pretty well for the most part. However, two among the group of costumed kids are underwhelmed with the antics, despite his best efforts. So here we come to a standstill between an unstoppable force and an immovable object: a cheapskate who scares children to avoid handing out treats vs. horror-desensitized kids who want their candy. Who will break first? That question will have to wait.

Elsewhere on the streets of Gravity Falls, the Pines twins and their gang of friends begin hitting up the houses. But it becomes plainly clear that people won't hand out enough candy unless Dipper dresses up in costume, which at this point he hasn't. And to give them a healthy little reminder, the Summerween Trickster promptly drops in – quite literally to check on their progress, or rather lack thereof.

"Tick tock, children..."
*blows out jack o' melon's candle*
Dipper relents and dresses in a complimentary costume to his sister's, the literal peanut butter to her jelly. This goes off without a hitch especially with the twin cuteness factor and during the ensuing montage of trick-or-treating the circle of friends collect four-hundred and ninety-nine pieces of candy, just in the homestretch. But when Wendy and Robbie happen to spy Dipper he ditches both the costume and candy, making up an excuse as to why he's out. When the older kids have driven off, we see that Mabel has overheard everything and is hurt that Dipper would have otherwise ditched her.

To make matters worse, the wheel barrel of their collected candy accidentally dumped itself into a ditch and washed the treats away in a creek. It's then that they notice all of the jack o' melons have gone out, save for one, and despite rescuing it they themselves wind up blowing it out with in sigh of relief. Oops. Cue the ominous music again, and the Summerween Trickster comes to collect.

"Knock, knock..."
Yeah, even as a kid's television show, that scene is still kinda creepy. 

Approaching the children on the deserted street, the Summerween Trickster corners them into a local dump. When Dipper is unable to deliver on his demands, the Trickster stretches taller, his humped back tearing through his coat, and another pair of spindly arms branch out. The Pines boy futilely flings the last and only remaining piece of candy at the changing character, only to see it absorb into the boogeyman's mottled skin. Laughing, it pursues the children and begins to nab them in its clutches. Luckily, Soos comes to the rescue in a truck and dashes the Summerween Trickster into broken bits.

Their luck doesn't last, though, as the Trickster begins reassembling itself into something more akin to a giant spider, with the exception of the smiley face mask. It leaps onto the moving truck, causing Soos to crash his vehicle into the local Summerween Superstore. Everyone is alright, but the immediate danger isn't over as the monster makes its way into the store and stalks about as they hide.

Blocking the entrance, they devise an escape plan by dressing in the surrounding costumes to disguise themselves from the Trickster as store props. Progress is carefully made and eventually they do make it to the front of the Summerween Superstore. Soos, however, cannot resist the temptation of the touch-activated, talking skull candy bowls. Despite Dipper and Mabel's hushed pleas he goes ahead... And it doesn't work. As it turns out, there are no batteries inside. But in a stroke of comical genius, Soos goes out of his way to tear open a package of batteries, install them, and press again, which of course works this time and alerts the monster.

the Summerween Trickster, here resembling No-Face ('Spirited Away'), swallows Soos
Perhaps emboldened by the dire situation of their friend Soos, the children brandish costume weapons and attack the monstrous Summerween Trickster. Flecks of the boogeyman-thing glance off of its mottled skin, some in their mouths, and they notice it has a flavor like saltwater taffy. When it sees that they haven't pieced together the truth, the monster removes its mask and reveals that it is, itself, made entirely of "loser" candy. "Did you ever stop and think about the candy at the bottom of the bag, that no one likes?" it asks. Every year, all of the rejected candy would be discarded in the dump, where it accumulated, grew sentient, and now seeks revenge on the picky children of Gravity Falls.

"Look at my face. Look closely..."

No one would eat him, he tells the children, "So now, I'm going to eat you..." But as the monstrous Summerween Trickster draws them closer within its clutches, it hesitates, gurgling out a cry of agony as its chest begins to painfully break outward. Then, Soos suddenly bursts through in a manner directly taken from Ridley Scott's 'Alien' films, even letting out a shrill, Xenomorph-esque squeal and flailing his arms before reverting to passively chewing. He offers some of the creature's candy innards, which catch the ear of the dying Summerween Trickster. Hearing that someone thinks it tastes good all it ever really wanted makes it happy, so resigns itself and passes.

Shortly thereafter, the little kid who was eaten earlier on also bursts out of the Summerween Trickster's body.

"'Sup, Gorny?"
"I've been twamatized!"
Back at the Mystery Shack, Stan Pines does finally prove himself to be the Master of Fright. When the two stubborn trick-or-treaters have tired of the place, they resolve to go inside and find out the old sheister. Little do they realize, though, that he's readying himself for a bath and walk in on him half naked. Fittingly enough, 'Psycho'-like music strikes up at the sight as they flee screaming into the night. Not only does he get his confidence back, he also lays claim to the bags of candy left behind. All in all, a good Summerween for Stan.

Mabel, Dipper, and friends also return to the Mystery Shack, finding Gruncle Stan in his customary chair near the television, watching a late night, horror movie marathon special. Also there, to Dipper's surprise, is Wendy, who relates that the party wasn't so fun after all. Plus, Robbie had to go home early due to choking on the wrong end of a lollipop. (Yup, that boyfriend's a keeper alright.) Dipper is pleased to hear this, but Mabel can't help being disappointed that they have no candy, considering after all the hardship endured that night. Stan pulls out the two claimed bags of candy and generously hands them over to his grandnephew and niece.

And so, the rest of Summerween night is spent gathered around the television, eating candy and watching schlocky horror movies. Not a bad way to end the night. Not bad at all.

ahh, holiday quality time with friends and family
We've been thoroughly enjoying Disney's 'Gravity Falls' and "Summerween" only reaffirms our faith in both its endearing animation and creative storytelling. Not to mention how this episode playfully nodded to a number of very adult horror movies in a kid-friendly way. When they're older, someday, they can appreciate that on another level as we can now. For parents who are hardcore horror fans, this is a good way to introduce their children to the genre without scaring the bejeezus out of them.

This episode scores five out of five jack o' melons.

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