Yesterday I got a call from my pal Adam Starr, a VP of marketing at Caroline. Adam was a big Crass fan when he was young, and the whole ethos behind what they did and their style of anarcho activism was very appealing to him and to his credit, he’s remained a vegan to this day. (I was lucky enough to see Crass live—one of their final shows—when I was 18 and I always hold this over him. I’m bragging about it right now, in fact.) When he called me up raving about a new band he was working with, Ho99o9 (“Horror”), he described their music as “hardcore meets hip-hop” (which made me wince, I must admit, fearing the worst of what those words conjure up) and then he said that one of them has a Crass tattoo and that they seemed to be heavily influenced by Crass in various ways.
At that point my interest was definitely piqued and I said “Yeah, I wanna hear this.” Ho99o9 didn’t disappoint. Just the opposite. Blunt to the head (interpret that however you wish) and with a multi-layered message of militant resistance to the shitshow of current American life. Thought-provoking, and very cool, but also unabashedly fun and notably creative.
Ho99o9—theOGM (Jean) and Yeti Bones (Eaddy)—seem to have an innate understanding of punk iconography and why logos and imagery is so important for fans to connect with a band’s message on an emotional level. The visual side of their image feels fresh and authentic and they look like very modern rockstars. The sound of their new album United States of Horror (via their own Toys Have Powers imprint distributed by Caroline) puts me in mind of the Boredoms, Skinny Puppy or Brainiac at their most abrasive and yes, Bad Brains, although I hasten to add that I say this because both bands are bone-crushingly intense, not because of anything necessarily “Afro punk” related, although there is that, too, naturally.
I asked a few question of Ho99o9’s Yeti via email.
Dangerous Minds: During Occupy Wall St. there were so many people asking who “the Bob Dylan of Occupy” was going to be, or at least expecting some new sort of protest music to arrive, but that kind of thing can’t be forced. Now with Trump that same question is getting asked and along come you guys with a new single (and video) that feels like it speaks for a lot of people and channels the angry energy that people are feeling in 2017. Congrats, that ain’t easy to do.
Yeti: It’s not easy to do…. correct, but at the same time it’s not that difficult to do either: Speak your mind, heart, use your voice for what you believe in and how you express your feelings, whether that be something positive or negative. Our music is emotional, dark, chaotic, abrasive, fun, uplifting, and straightforward.
So tell me, how do two young black guys from NJ gravitate towards Crass of all freaking bands?!?
Yeti: Crass’ message was very strong, for a cause, for a fight and they stuck to it, meant what they said and said what they meant. Not your average punk band talking about beer, girls or doing drugs—anybody could talk about that—but what are you doing to better your community, youth and way of life?
If there’s one show that’s generating a ton of buzz right now, it’s the Netflix original miniseries Stranger Things. A lovingly-crafted homage to the 70s/80’s “Golden Era” works of Steven Spielberg, Stephen King and John Carpenter, this show is inspiring the kind of love we haven’t seen for a TV program in a long time. Having heard so much good stuff about Stranger Things, I went into watching it with high hopes indeed. On paper this show is so my kind of thing that it’s not even funny: John Carpenter is my all-time favorite director. Stephen King is the guy who inspired me to write, and I can trace my obsession with movies back to formative experiences watching Spielberg’s films obsessively as a child.
So what could possibly go wrong? Well I have a confession to make: Having watched the show now, for the most part I found it… well… kinda boring. I certainly didn’t hate Stranger Things or anything but I definitely didn’t find it anywhere near as “awesome” as everyone else did either. I think it’s basically just… okay. For most of the viewing experience I had a nagging sensation of “Is this it? THIS is the show people are losing their shit for?!” But in truth anything that gets this sort of across-the-board, almost scarily uniform praise—like this particular show—it should raise suspicions.
And before anyone jumps in to tell me that I “just don’t get it!!“my fanboy credentials are more than sound. The fiction I write is horror with teen protagonists! From 2004-2008 I was part of the synth/prog group The Evil Eye, taking influence from John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream and soundtracking various short films including the 80s/video nasties-inspired web serial TV Face. On top of working on these things I am also a child of this era, so I’m as surprised as anyone that I didn’t love the shit out of the show. And trust me, I don’t wanna be The Grinch Who Stole Your 80s Nostalgia Buzz, either. Stranger Things has some serious problems that people seem willing to overlook in the rush to hype it up. So in the interest of fair and balanced journalism, I have put together a guide to what I find to be eight of the major flaws with Stranger Things.
Dare you taste the Hatorade?
1. Winona Ryder
Don’t get my wrong, I love Winona. She’s the beating heart of some of my all-time favourite movies. I’m a Veronica. But BY GOD did her performance do my head in! To the point where I zoned out whenever she was on screen. Her role as “Joyce” (and I had to look that name up, that’s how unmemorable the character was) never strayed from the single, overbearing note of “despairing mother.” Which is not necessarily Ryder’s fault as she was given so little to work with. Still, color me disappointed. I lay the blame for this squarely at the feet of the writers/creators Shawn Levy and the Duffer Brothers. Stranger Things’ characters were paper thin despite some great performances from the child actors. But the adults? From Winona Ryder to Matthew Modine, not to mention the oddly clueless suburban parents and the totally clichéd sidekick deputies… sorry. In the end it seemed like only Steve and Will were genuinely changed by what they had experienced.
But I was willing to forgive all that until it got to:
The treatment of Barb neatly sums up everything wrong with this show. I knew “who” Barb was before I’d even seen a single frame of Stranger Things, which is why I was expecting a lot more from this “beloved” character’s role. But the way they handled her storyline left a bad taste. [SPOILER] After her abduction at the end of episode 2, Barb gets, what, maybe three more mentions over the course of the next six hours? And in the middle of one child disappearance investigation, the disappearance of another kid gets completely and utterly overlooked by the police? Please! I’ve seen mention that this is a comment on the general lack of urgency placed on missing-girl cases (which IS a thing) but that’s retroactively applying something to the show that just isn’t there. Once Barb has served her purpose to the plot she’s basically forgotten about. I get the feeling that the show’s creators expected the audience to feel a lot more empathy for Barb than they ever showed her. Simply put, it was cheap and lazy. And her predicament left dramatically unexplored.
3. The Pacing/Plotting
Let’s be honest here, the pacing was wildly uneven. Long stretches—entire episodes, in fact—passed where the plot barely advanced a single inch. Perhaps this is another homage as Stephen King has been guilty of this kind of uneven pacing and self-indulgent mood-setting in his fiction. But when he has to, he can knock that shit out of the park. Much of Stranger Things felt saggy and repetitive. It’s clear the Duffer Brothers and Shawn Levy haven’t got a grip on writing episodic television yet. Compare the plotting to the 2013 conspiracy-adventure drama Utopia (a masterpiece in my opinion, and a benchmark for mystery-thriller-TV, written by Dennis Kelly.) Utopia covers roughly similar ground: a world-threatening government conspiracy is uncovered through a pop-culture cypher by a ragtag gang of geeks along with a mysterious woman with major ass-kicking abilities. The twists and turns of Utopia‘s plot in the first three episodes alone took the viewer deeper into an unpredictable, exciting story while serving up some boundary-pushing scenes. By contrast, the plot of Stranger Things only really seemed to get going by the end of episode 3, and rather than shock us or surprise us, every plot twist had an almost mind-numbing familiarity. Like how is Will hiding in the electricity? Oh yeah: Because Spielberg.
4. The Relentless Pastiche-O-Rama
It got bloody tiring! While I did enjoy the show in places, at no point did Stranger Things ever transcend its influences to become something truly great with its own unique voice. And that is something the films it references managed to achieve, lest we forget. The show instead relies on a checklist of “spot-the-cliché” (well-produced clichés, but clichés nonetheless.) Despite a couple of entertaining peaks, after the end credits rolled I was STILL thinking about Spielberg, King, Carpenter, Lucas, Craven, Cronenberg, et al, and not the actual story I’d just watched. This seems to be true of almost everyone else talking about the show, too, which says a lot. That’s the fundamental problem with pastiche: not only does it have to be as good as the classics if it’s going to constantly remind us of them, it actually has to stand apart from them too if it wants to eek out its own place in that canon. Otherwise the referencing becomes distracting and makes a viewer wish they’d just watched the originals instead. “We have consumed more 80s pop culture than you!” is really not the best basis for telling a story. It certainly never answered the question as to why I should use eight hours of my life to watch it when I could watch a quadruple-bill of ET, Close Encounters, The Goonies and Poltergeist. With still time for a lil’ Freaks & Geeks thrown in.
5. Eleven’s Psychic Realm
And this was the moment when the relentless pastiching just became TOO much for me. When it spilled over from cute into ugly. When it went from being a constant, wearying nag of “now where have I seen that before?” to “I know exactly where I have seen this before, and GROAN.” The direct lift from Under The Skin (like Utopia, another modern masterpiece) felt incongruous. Not for Under The Skin‘s adult themes or modern setting, but because that film worked so damn hard to take us out of our comfort zones and show us something unique and genuinely alien. Seeing that reflective-black-empty-world (NSFW) again in the context of a cozy-nostalgia-80s-synth-kids-horror-adventure was both jarring and annoying. It was also a hugely missed opportunity: seeing inside the mysterious Eleven’s mind (literally) could have been a chance for the Duffers and Levy to show us something awesome and bizarre and new, but no, they cynically opted for more lazy pastiche. Instead of investing in genuine character insight or visual innovation, we got yet another “have you seen THIS film?” wink-and-nudge reference. Boring!
Which brings me to:
6. The Monster/The Threat
I think we can all agree that the monster in Super 8 was rubbish, right? Both its design and its role within that 80s throwback felt off. But having said that, you have to give JJ Abrams this: at least his monster had an endgame. It had a motivation. A back story. Even a primitive logic. But the Stranger Things monster (as yet un-named, even by the fans. How odd!) had no sense of having its own life beyond being a plot device. Not to mention that its feeding rituals (dead deer or fresh humans?!) and appearances in and out of our dimension were so loosely sketched as to lose any genuine sense of creepiness. Vagueness can be cool if the audience is confident that behind the twitching curtain lurks something truly terrifying (The X-Files coasted on this approach for years until it blew it with a farcically convoluted mythos: We saw behind the curtain and it was just some greasy-haired nerd typing in his Mom’s basement.) In horror for “The Threat” to work it has to be fully realized. This wishy-washy threat never gets satisfactorily explored or convincingly/consistently deployed and this was obviously going to be the case from the first episode. (See also: It Follows.)
To top it all off I just wasn’t a fan of the creature design. The five-second scene of the melting head from The Thing blew it out of the water.
And speaking of John Carpenter…
7. The Score
Everyone’s going on about how fantastic the soundtrack—by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of Austin-based synth quartet S U R V I V E—is. And I’m not saying that it’s bad. It’s certainly authentic sounding, which is good. But just one question—how does it go again? I can’t remember, can you whistle the theme tune for me please? The beauty of John Carpenter’s original synth-based scores was not just in the signature sound palette he managed to conjure up, but in the memorable melodies he lodged in our brains, melodies that came back to haunt us long after the credits had rolled. He’s also the master at using minimal music cues to build genuine tension. In contrast, some of the Stranger Things music cues were way too much. The pounding drums during the sheriff’s breaking in at the research facility didn’t make the scene more tense, it just became grating. One of the things that tripped the score up in my mind, was the inclusion on the soundtrack of some genuinely atmospheric synth masterpieces that put the original score in the shade. I’m thinking in particular of this, one of my favourite pieces by Tangerine Dream (that was used to accompany a fist fight scene?!?):
Which brings me to…
8. The Hype
Ah, the hype. The Stranger Things hype is the thing that is really pissing me off, more than anything actually featured in the show itself. To the point where I felt compelled to write this piece so at least there could be ONE dissenting voice out there to balance the (suspiciously universal) adoration for the show.
Cult horror film Spookies was originally shot in 1984 under the working title of Twisted Souls. It was co-written/co-directed by Brendan Faulkner and Thomas Doran, lifelong friends and horror fiends. The pair were in the early stages of another picture, Hellspawn, which a British movie distributor named Michael Lee offered to fund—if they’d first make a film according to his outline. So Faulkner and Doran went about writing a script about a band of partygoers trapped in a house, chased by monsters. They knocked out the text in two weeks.
Twisted Souls was shot in Rye, New York, primarily inside a spacious colonial mansion. Faulkner and Doran hired friends to star in the low budget film, with much of the budget going towards the special effects make-up used to create the various types of monsters. In one scene, creatures the crew identified as “Muck Men” emerge suddenly from a dirt floor.
Once filming was complete, the directors had to battle their overbearing financier, who insisted on approving every cut they made in the edit bay. Eventually, Faulkner and Doran got so frustrated with Lee that they bailed on the movie.
Enter Genie Joseph, a jack of all trades who got her start in adult films, and also worked as an editor for Troma. Initially hired as the editor, she ended up co-writing and directing new scenes, cutting the two and a half hour rough cut of Twisted Souls down to 45 minutes and filling the remainder of the 80 minute running time with her new footage. The results are… less than stellar.
Faulkner and Doran’s story involving a group of friends stuck inside a monster-filled mansion, inter-cut with Joseph’s plot concerning a sorcerer and his kept bride, may have seemed doable on paper, but in the final product the story lines were barely tied together. The same residence was secured for the new shoot, but the Twisted Souls actors—due to their loyalty to Faulkner and Doran—refused to be a part of Joseph’s cast. The acting ain’t the greatest on either side, and though the monsters created for the initial production look awesome by B-movie standards, what’s happening on screen is consistently baffling, largely because so much of the Twisted Souls footage was cut out. Across the board, Joseph’s editing choices are puzzling, to say the least. In short, Spookies is a glorious mess.
The “Muck Men” scene is now the most famous moment in the film, due to what was added after Faulkner and Doran exited. When the monsters appear, instead of provoking fear in the audience—as Faulkner and Doran had, of course, intended—they induce nothing but laughs, thanks to the farting sound effects Michael Lee insisted Genie Joseph add. A member of the Twisted Souls production says he shrieked in horror—and not in a good way—when the farting started on screen. Faulkner and Doran wanted to inject some humor into the film, but flatulent monsters wasn’t something they had in mind.
In 1977, a short film was produced in Britain to discourage children from playing on the railway lines and vandalizing trains—both problems in England at the time. But the documentary-style production did more than that: it scared the knickers off of kids and riled up their parents. The subsequent controversy surrounding this educational short was so great that it was ultimately banned. Even today, watching it is a shocking experience not soon forgotten.
Commissioned by British Transport Films (BTF) to be shown in schools, The Finishing Line (1977) is perhaps the most notorious educational film ever produced. The 20 minute short is akin to a gory episode of The Twilight Zone, or a Rod Serling-directed fake documentary. The atmosphere is so odd and the child body count so high, that it’s a wonder anyone thought this was a good idea to show to kids (the ages of the target audience was eight through twelve). Put simply, it’s a child’s nightmare come to life on the screen.
The film was directed by John Krish, a BTF veteran; Krish’s The Elephant Will Never Forget (1953), which documented the end of London’s tram system, is still one of the organization’s most popular movies. In a 2013 interview with the magazine devoted to blood spilled on the screen, Fangoria, the 90-year-old Krish said he was surprised BTF even wanted to make The Finishing Line:
I came up with this idea of a sports day on the railway line, and I was absolutely sure they would turn it down so that I could get on with something else, and bugger me, they loved it. They loved it! The psychologist in the British Transport’s employ said, ‘This is exactly what we need!’
The Finishing Line begins in a festive atmosphere of children and adults gathering for what looks like a day of fun, but the mood quickly turns foreboding, when medical personal appear with preparations for the inevitable carnage that will take place.
In the film, various events are staged on or near the train tracks. A kind of dystopian reality is presented, where games of life and death are the norm. At times, it brings to mind the black comedy Death Race 2000 (1975), in which racecar drivers earn points by killing pedestrians, but there’s no laughing at The Finishing Line. Here, children lose their lives in games staged by adults, and there is little mourning for the dead. In this world, there is no such thing as “innocence.”
Krish’s documentary-style filmmaking creates a tone that is completely unsettling. Weirdly, the film is staged as a child’s fantasy (what kind of kid would fantasize about his classmates being killed?!), yet the realistic look of the film could still be misinterpreted by a young person as an event that actually happened. If nothing else, the shear amount of gore and dead bodies is enough to upset any pre-teen viewer.
Though the director claims it was unintentional, The Finishing Line contains elements of the horror genre. For the last event, Krish filmed the kids walking briskly through a dark tunnel, capturing it in such a way that the children approach the camera as shadowy figures. The scene resembles something straight out of future horror films The Brood (1979) and Children of the Corn (1984). There’s no music, just the sound of hundreds of shuffling footsteps coming closer and closer. It’s very creepy.
Krish wanted the final moments to resemble the carnage of a war zone after a battle, and the sight of adults and teenagers carrying a hundred or so dead kids—symbolically laying them across the tracks, and doing so with a complete lack of emotion—is truly startling.
“The cumulative effect is shocking, and must have been all the more so for the young audiences to whom the film was screened. Not surprisingly, it immediately generated controversy, even becoming the subject of a Nationwide (BBC, 1969-84) television debate following a television screening of the film. Some commentators and parents worried that children would be traumatized, others that it might actually encourage copycat vandalism. Many defended the film as an appropriately tough response to a serious problem. Nonetheless, in 1979 the film was withdrawn and replaced by the much softer Robbie.” (BFI Screenonline)
All told, Krish has had four of his pictures removed from circulation, telling Fangoria, “I’m the only documentary director who’s had four films banned! And I rejoice in that.” In 2003, he was honored with a retrospective, which included the first public airing of The Finishing Line in over two decades.
Though it may have been inappropriate for the audience it was created for, The Finishing Line stands as a fascinating and significant film from a director still getting his due. It’s a disturbing and strange little picture—it’s also unforgettable.
Ah, but doesn’t it always seem to be the quiet one who turns out to be the serial killer? You know, the quiet one with dead bodies in the attic, or with children chopped-up and archived in bubble-wrap under the floorboards? On the six o’clock news there’s the interview with the concerned neighbor who tells the world how the killer was, “Quiet and polite, always said ‘Good morning,’ and kept his yard neat.” Yes, it’s those quiet ones—they’re the ones to watch.
Richard Laymon certainly was a quiet one, it was only his books that gave a clue to the mayhem going on in his mind. Laymon was a writer of horror fiction, specifically that genre known as “Splatterpunk”: brutal, disturbing, sadistic and violent tales of murder, sex and sadism.
Laymon was born in Chicago in 1947, and died of a heart attack on Valentine’s Day, 2001. He was the author of around 40 novels (one of which The Traveling Vampire Show won the Bram Stoker Award), and over 50 short stories, an output that saw him described as:
”Stephen King without a conscience.”
Laymon is certainly not to everyone’s taste. His books have been described as “sick,” “depraved,” “perverted,” “poorly written” and “disgusting.” All fair comment, but Laymon was an author of visceral horror, and one doesn’t get on a roller coaster to enjoy the scenery.
King was originally critical of Laymon’s work, and wrote in his book Danse Macabre:
There are haunted-house stories beyond numbering, most of them not very good (The Cellar, by Richard Laymon, is one example of the less successful breed).
King later changed his opinion, and became a “fan”:
“If you’ve missed Laymon, you’ve missed a treat.”
I’m not sure if “treat” is the right word, but America did miss out on Laymon during his lifetime, as few of his books were published in his homeland, and sales were almost non-existent. Laymon blamed this on a re-edit of his second book The Woods Are Dark, which saw the publisher cut 50-pages from the text. It basically finished his career in the States. But America’s lack of interest was in stark contrast to Europe, in particular the UK, where all of Laymon’s books were published, sold well, and received generally good reviews.
“In Laymon’s book, blood doesn’t so much drip drip as explode, splatter and coagulate. Its dynamic is described in salivating detail.” - The Independent (UK).
“A brilliant writer.” - Sunday Express (UK).
“This author knows how to sock it to the reader” - The Times (UK).
I can recall popping into bookshops in Glasgow and London during the 1990s and being able to find Laymon’s grisly tales displayed as prominently as King and Koontz. It may have helped that Laymon had a last name alphabetically close to the other two.
I started reading Laymon around the time of his death and devoured all of his books within a couple of months. They were compelling pulp horrors, but at the same time troubling because of Laymon’s often sleazy use of sex and torture as a device to create horror. Laymon argued he was reflecting the world as he saw it, and claimed:
”Horror writers are specialists in worst case scenarios.”
Laymon’s books are filled with such scenarios, which you could argue are little more than reflections of the writer’s own fear at being powerless to stop such terrors happening to himself or his family.
I can tie my own love of horror film and fiction to being scared shitless at a carnival when I was about five-years-old. I had dared to enter the “Ghost Tunnel,” which was basically an enclosed metal walkway consisting of a long, dark corridor, mirror-walled, with sliding panels, from inside of which two teenagers, dressed in rubber skeleton masks and gloves, attacked and pummeled anyone foolhardy enough to enter this nightmarish sideshow. I was terrified and (almost) loved every moment of it.
If this was the spark, then watching The Blob a few months later on TV, provided the fuel. The film’s all-consuming gelatinous goo (“Indestructible, indescribable, nothing can stop it alien!”) was responsible for recurring nightmares—one could argue this was some subconscious fear of my troll of a father’s attempts to destroy my nascent personality.
Horror fiction by its nature tends towards the conservative, the conformist, where the alien, the strange, and the abnormal are to be feared and ultimately defeated. This may explain why Laymon’s work is often denounced as “sick” and “depraved” because in his books the typical hero and heroine don’t win, but usually end up victims of the killer, the monster, or the sex mad beast in the cellar.
Around 2000, Richard Laymon was interviewed for Dark Dreamers, which seems to be the only interview he gave to TV. Laymon comes across as a quiet, rather mundane (if slightly creepy) high school teacher, but from his words you know there’s something dark and unsavory going on in his mind.
There’s no denying that Rosemary’s Baby is one of the scariest and creepiest movies ever made. The first time I saw it, I was up “late” with my mother, who was waiting for my father to come home from a night shift, and it was on TV. I don’t know how old I was—young—but even if I didn’t exactly get what was going on, I certainly got the gist of it and that was enough for it to be, well, fucking frightening.
The whole friendly old people and Satan routine was a new one in screen horror and when you throw in those primordial maternal fears of a pregnant woman, holy shit is that film intense. Rosemary’s Baby is an evergreen movie masterpiece. It’s a film for the ages and will still be watched as long as the human race exists. It’s a perfectly cut cinematic diamond.
This fascinating time capsule piece “Mia and Roman” was made soon after the film had wrapped production—this isn’t a made for DVD extra produced decades later—and features tons of behind-the-scenes footage. Polanski discusses how supreme attention to the smallest details are of paramount importance to him as a director and describes how he likes to watch the actors block out their scenes without any suggestions from him before he decides where to place his camera.
We also see Polanski driving race cars and fencing. Farrow lists all of the animals she has in her menagerie and spouts some “love and peace” stuff that she’d learned hanging out at the ashram with the Maharishi and the Beatles. Farrow says that she and Polanski just “groove together” and he (very sincerely) praises he professionalism as an actress to the hilt.
Krzysztof Komeda’s haunting score for the film is used throughout. Komeda would die from a head injury not long after completing work on Rosemary’s Baby.
It’s near midnight when I make the conference call to Glenn McQuaid and Larry Fessenden. Outside I can hear early Halloween revelers making their way home - shouts, laughter, a distant scream. McQuaid is the writer and director of I Sell the Dead, which starred Indie King of Horror, Fessenden – who has been making horror films as an actor, writer, producer and director since 1985, when he set-up his company Glass Eye Pix.
The line crackles, then a faint casual tone. It’s answered, and there’s something of the séance about their voices – distant, ghostly, far off – as they come through. Eventually ‘Hello,’ Glenn’s soft Irish lilt, and we greet each other through a deafening roar. ‘Like a hurricane’ one of us says. ‘Better try again.’ This time we’re clear, and in the room.
Since 2010, McQuaid and Fessenden have been scaring the bejesus out of listeners, with their anthology radio series of top drawer horror stories called Tales from Beyond the Pale. Recorded live in front of an audience at a New York theater, Tales… brought the magnificent acting skills of Vincent D’Onofrio, Angus Scrimm, Ron Perlman, and James Le Gros, together with the writing talents of Fessenden (who also acted in certain shows), McQuaid, Graham Reznick, Ashley Thorpe, Paul Solet, J. T. Petty, Sarah Langan and Jeff Buhler. These tales of mystery and imagination varied from science fiction (“This Oracle Moon”) to fantasy and horror (“Trawler”, “Hole Digger”, “The Demon Huntsman”, “The Conformation”), and were an instant success.
The original idea for the series came to Glenn, when he and Larry were driving upstate, listening to an old Boris Karloff broadcast.
Glenn McQuaid: ‘Larry and I were driving up to the set of Jim Nichols’ movie, which Larry produced, and we were listening to an old Boris Karloff radio play. The rain started down and we found we were enrapt by this old time radio drama. And I just turned to Larry and started proposing the idea - that this was something that Glass Eye Pix could get behind, and we both talked about it.
‘A coupe of months later, we started to take the idea seriously. It came out of a desire to get a lot more of our own content out there. Initially we had treatments and outlines for projects that had been sitting around too long, and we thought this would be a good platform to get our own work out there, as well as the work of all our friends and collaborators - people like Paul Solet and Jeff Buhler. It was a desire to keep working to keep getting ideas out there, and I think it was very tempting for Larry and I to try something, which was essentially new for us at the time.
‘Basically, the project grew out of a desire to get stuff out there from ourselves, but almost more importantly from other people and step in as curators in a way, and design the anthologies. We reached out to people we’ve either worked with before, or had met and have enjoyed their work.
‘For instance, I met Paul Solet while I was showing I Sell the Dead and he was showing Grace at Fright Fest Presents… in Glasgow, and we just got on well together. When we started shifting gears with Tales from Beyond the Pale, I started reaching out to Paul Solet, Jeff Buhler - he’s another film-maker that I like, and similarly Larry reached out to a few folks he was intrigued by.’
Larry Fessenden: ‘Yeah, we hooked up with Simon Lumley, who I’d never met, I think you met him. Simon Barrett as well, who Glenn and I have both worked with, I was in Simon’s film You’re Next, and Glenn worked with him on V/H/S.
‘It’s really expanding the community, which is the other agenda, something I’ve always tried to do. It’s my theory that if there is enough of us in the same boat, then maybe we can all rise up together and take over Tinsel Town.’
More tales from Glenn McQuaid and Larry Fessenden, after the jump…
“She’s Super-Natural”- and that is a top-notch Afro pun.
As we relish the season of scary movies, it’s easy to get discouraged when rifling through all your old stand-by DVDs. Have all the Halloween movies memorized? Can’t stay awake through another Friday the 13th sequel or remake?
Fear not! There are so many unsung glories of the horror genre!
Sugar Hill is a blaxploitation/horror crossover gem that has all the pulpy hallmarks of both. It’s a surprising yet sensible combo; though blaxploitation only rarely intersected with horror, the blood and guts so frequently thematic to both make for a simpatico pairing. When Sugar’s fiance refuses to sell his night-club (his voodoo-themed night club, naturally), the mob beats him to death. What follows is the classic revenge plot of a blaxploitation film, mixed lovingly with the campy gore of a supernatural zombie flick—what’s not to love?
From when I first saw Bambi at a tender age, I have always suspected that Walt Disney and his famous studios were responsible for releasing some of the most horrendous implements of torture, used to torment and traumatize small children. Possible proof of this can be seen in this rather disturbing video clip posted by Meredith Borders over at Bad Ass Digest:
Friend of a friend Geoffrey Roth took his sons to see the movie The Odd Life of Timothy Green, and, well, it affected them. Roth and his wife filmed the boys’ intense emotional response to the movie, which is apparently really, really, really, super, insanely sad.
These little fellas spoil the end of the movie, but dudes. Trust me. It’s worth it.
Thanks to Geoffrey Roth for giving me permission to post this amazing video.
Amazing? Not sure about that. Also, I wonder exactly why any parent would want to film their kids’ distress, which only reminds me of the end credits to Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom.
Richard Matheson, the author and screenwriter, celebrates his eighty-sixth birthday today. Few writers have been as original or, as influential as Mr. Matheson, whose novels, stories, and screenplays have infused our cultural DNA. Watch / read any sci-fi / horror / fantasy entertainment and you will find Matheson’s genetic code somewhere in the mix.
Over a career that has spanned 6 decades, Matheson has produced a phenomenal range of novels and short stories, many of which have supplied the basis for such films as I Am Legend (the version with Vincent Price is better than Will Smith’s, though Charlton Heston’s The Omega Man is best), The Incredible Shrinking Man, A Stir of Echoes, The Legend of Hell House, Duel (Dennis Weaver has never been better), Button, Button (read the story, forget the film version The Box) and of course Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.
I’m a big fan of Matheson’s writing and firmly believe that if ever the Nobel Prize committee should think about reflecting talent rather than paying political lip service to short term causes, then they should seriously consider giving Richard Matheson the award for literature, as few writers, other than say Ray Bradbury or Stephen King, have inspired so many young people to write, and more importantly, so many to read.
Happy Birthday Mr Matheson! And to celebrate, here is the classic Twilight Zone episode of Mr Matheson’s superb short story Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. Enjoy!
It’s getting near Halloween, and what better to celebrate than watching writer and film-maker, Shade Rupe‘s excellent short film T is for Trick.
So impressive is Shade’s film that the legendary horror writer and director, Clive Barker sent Shade a note of his approval:
Hey there Shade,
That was an elegantly shot, sharply edited and strongly conceived and directed four minutes of film-making. Colour me impressed. You managed to imply a whole range of character options for us, from which entirely plausible narrative solutions spilled. Very fine, courageous work from you and your actors. I hit the heart to say I’d been there. I hope it helps and i will certainly make sure my guys do the same.
Bloody good work, my friend.
Who could disagree with Mr Barker? But judge for yourself, and if you like, then you might like to vote for Mr Rupe’s success, by ‘hitting the Heart Vote button’. You will not be disappointed.
Check here to vote for Shade’s film T is for Trick to be included in the ABCs of Death.
Vincent Price is on sparkling form in An Evening With Edgar Allan Poe, in which the Master of Horror presents his unique interpretation of 4 tales by “the most original genius America has produced” - “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Sphinx”, “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Pit and the Pendulum”. Directed by Kenneth Johnson, who later created the classic series V, this is a classic TV adaptation from 1970, capturing Price at his electrifying best.
I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’ll tell you of the time I saw one. It was summer, I was 18 and working in a 7/11.
Early one morning, at seven-thirty to be precise, I was awoken by someone pinching my toe. There, clearly at the foot of my bed, was my great aunt, dressed in a dark overcoat, as if she had somehow arrived to see me.
“I’ve come to say goodbye,” she said, but never opened her mouth.
We looked at each other for several moments. Then I rubbed my eyes, and she was gone.
Fifty miles away, in a hospital ward, my great aunt died at exactly seven-thirty in the morning. How to explain it, I can’t say, but there it is.
I’ve always had a fondness for ghosts stories, tales of horror and things unknown - they are fine entertainments. Of late, I’ve been collecting such stories recorded in journals and biographies, which often reveal a similarity in the haunting or, in the telling of the tale.
The following come from the journal of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the great writer of supernatural tales, Algernon Blackwood, a man whose stories chilled my schoolboy days. Like the tale of my great aunt, there is a similarity to these tales, of ghosts returning to visit the living.
IX. - Journal
Geneva, Sunday, 18th August, 1816
See Apollo’s Sexton,* who tells us many mysteries of his trade. We talk of Ghosts. Neither Lord Byron nor M.G. L. seem to believe in them; and they both agree, in the very face of reason, that none could believe in ghosts without believing in God. I do not think that all the persons who profess to discredit these visitations, really discredit them; or, if they do in the daylight, are not admonished, by the approach of loneliness and midnight, to think more respectfully of the world of shadows.
Lewis recited a poem, which he had composed at the request of the Princess of Wales. The Princess of Wales, he premised, was not only a believer in ghosts, but in magic and witchcraft, and asserted, that prophecies made in her youth had been accomplished since. The tale was of a lady in Germany.
This lady, Minna, had been exceedingly attached to her husband, and they had made a vow that the one who died first should return after death to visit the other as a ghost. She was sitting one day alone in her chamber, when she heard an unusual sound of footsteps on the stairs. The door opened, and her husband’s spectre, gashed with a deep wound across the forehead, an din military habiliments, entered. She appeared startled at the apparition; and the ghost told her, that when he should visit her in future, she would hear a passing bell toll, and these words distinctly uttered in her ear, “Minna, I am here.” On inquiry, it was found that her husband had fallen in battle on the very day she was visited by the vision. The intercourse between the ghost and the woman continued for some time, until the latter laid aside all terror, and indulged herself in the affection which she had felt for him while living. One evening she went to a ball, and permitted her thoughts to be alienated by the attentions of a Florentine gentleman, more witty, more graceful, and more gentle, as it appeared to her, than any person she had ever seen. As he was conducting her through the dance, a death-bell tolled. Minna lost in fascination of the Florentine’s attentions, disregarded, or did not hear the sound. A second peal, louder and more deep, startled the whole company, when Minna heard the ghost’s accustomed whisper, and raising her eyes, saw in an opposite mirror the reflection of the ghost, standing over her. She is said to have died of terror.
* Mr. G. Lewis, so named in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers - M. S.
The second story comes from Mike Ashley’s Starlight Man, the biography of the fantastic writer, Algernon Blackwood. In this extract, it is 1887 and the young Blackwood, just in his early twenties, has taken a keen interest in the Society of Psychical Research, an organization established by “some of the most notable men in the land and devoted to the series exploration of psychic phenomena.”
This group can be traced back to the Ghost Club, which was established at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1850. By 1882, this club had galvanized into the Society of Psychical Research (SPR), and conisted of “highly respected men - no charlatans. And early members to the SPR were of similar stature - Lord Tennyson, William James, John Ruskin, W. E. Gladstone, Mark twain and Charles L. Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) plus eight Fellows of the Royal Society, including the later Nobel Prize winner Joseph Thomson.”
Blackwood’s father Sir Arthur Blackwood was loosely involved with the group, but only as a debunker of spiritualism. Any evidence that the group provided to confirm Sir Arthur’s no-nonsense, rational view of life was to be commended. However, for Algernon, stories of ghosts, ghouls and things-that-went-bump-in-the-night proved far too attractive for the young man.
Of course, Algernon went on to become world famous for his chilling stories of the supernatural and the occult - as well as his more spiritual and esoteric tales, including the original book for Edward Elgar’s Starlight Express, which later formed the basis for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical. In 1887, Algernon was interested in joining the SPR after reading one of the group’s books
This was Phantasms of the Living (1886) and it was a book that young Algernon found fascinating. It includes several cases that he adapted for his own stories. Perhaps the best known was a case reported by Lord Brougham (1778-1868) while at Edinburgh University in 1799. He had made a pact with a university friend that whoever died first should try to appear to the other. Brougham was one day relaxing in his bath when he saw his friend sitting on a nearby chair. The vision soon faded but he made a note of the occurrence. Soon afterwards he returned to Edinburgh, only to receive a letter to say hat his friend had died in India. The core of the story is the same as Blackwood’s “Keeping his Promise”, also set in Edinburgh, where a dead friend keeps an appointment.
Blackwood rarely mentioned his involvement with the SPR, though he touched upon the subject in his last television talk “How I Became Interested in Ghosts”, in which he discussed the investigation of a haunted house. Blackwood is a superb horror writer, and is better than H. P. Lovercraft, who once said of him:
“Of the quality of Mr. Blackwood’s genius there can be no dispute; for no one has even approached the skill, seriousness, and minute fidelity with which he records the overtones of strangeness in ordinary things and experiences..”
He lived a rich and full life, worked at dozens of jobs, including farmer, undercover spy during the First World War, adventurer, writer, and lastly as a regular presenter of the BBC in the 1940s. His stories of the supernatural and the unknown are amongst the greatest written. They have also provided episodes for Rod Serling’s Night Gallery and his classic tale “Ancient Sorceries” was more than an influence on Val Lewton’s The Cat People.
With Halloween coming these stories may provide some atmosphere to all that Trick and Treating.