I watched the Norliss Tape the other night and for those of you who don’t know it is a little lost gem from the late 70’s. It was a tv movie that was designed to segue into a tv show, but the show never materialized. However what fascinated me upon this viewing was not the main bulk of the story but how he acts in the beginning of the movie. Perhaps a little backstory is needed. David Norliss is a writer who is working on a book debunking the supernatural needless to say he finds that his skeptical worldview is not as accurate as he’d like to believe. When we meet David at the beginning of the film it has been a year and he has collected his adventures on audio cassettes. He is nervous and his publisher notices there is something strange in his voice. You come to find out that what has him so distraught is his realization that there are things that go bump in the night. Couple this with my joy of reading Lovecraft and I started focusing on people’s reactions. Just how frail is the human mind when confronted with truth of a different sort?
Of course most of Lovecraft’s heroes do not handle their reality shaking experiences so well and normally meet their end at the hands of some horrific entity or inside the walls of an asylum. Most popular fiction has people adapt super fast to the incidents in which they are involved. I understand in the heat of the moment going with it, but afterwards wouldn’t you stop and question the events that had just occurred. Maybe it’s just me, as much as I’m not a skeptic if I had witnessed incontrovertible proof of let’s say vampires or werewolves. That thought in general may not freak me out entirely (I think it might) but the repercussions of that discovery would be the most disturbing. If you are wondering what repercussions I mean, if we encountered one of the monsters that inhabit myth and legend that leaves the realm of possibility open that there are others. I mean if one exists the reality that they all could be real is frightening. So this has become a fascinating point of observation for me.
I realize that in most fiction you have the skeptic who does not believe until it is too late or the problem is resolved, but at the same time our hero is completely sane and calm as he is confronted with these things and proceeds as if nothing is wrong. It seems to me that the hero should also be a little concerned or visibly shaken amongst these things. I understand certain characters that were raised to combat monsters not being freaked out because it was another element of their childhood. Yet a full grown adult who had lived their entire life as a normal suburbanite would most likely have to pause and consider the implications and try to live in a world of repression and deniability just to maintain some mindset of safety.
The film Dog Soldiers (which I highly recommend) is a prime example of this. Soldiers discover these werewolves and are attached by them. They continually refute the reality that they are werewolves and when it’s a matter of their survival they act like soldiers to survive and combat an enemy. When the ordeal was over though, that would require some severe therapy to process the event.
I may be way off base, but I don’t think your standard person could necessarily cope with an undeniable incident that called into question that thin layer of reality where the only real monsters are other people. So this is something I believe I’m going to look into for some of my newer work and try to bring to the forefront. So what are your takes on it? Could you hold up after making some earth changing discovery like that?