Saturday, July 25, 2009
--Tons of great book reviews, including Robert Dunbar's MARTYRS AND MONSTERS, Ryan C. Thomas' reissue of THE SUMMER I DIED, and a couple of classics of the genre, Stephen Gregory's THE CORMORANT and Peter Straub's GHOST STORY. Also, our novel-of-the-month is Cormac McCarthy's BLOOD MERIDIAN. Come find out why every horror fan needs this in their TBR pile. Plus, many more.
--We've got more interviews with James Moore, Gary Fry, William Miekle and Alysson Byrd
--And if you're into gore, this month's DVD reviews are just what you need, with TOKYO GORE POLICE, DAWN OF THE DEAD, RESIDENT EVIL: DEGENERATION. Plus, DEAFULA and ZOMBIE 3,4, and 5 get The Black Glove treatment
--For the music maniacs Steven Duarte has a concert review for the MARILYN MANSON and SLAYER tour. Plus, we've got several album reviews lined up, including GOATWHORE's new one. And come see who we picked as our feature artist of the month.
--Ever heard the terrifying sound of THE BLOOP? Stop in and give it a listen.
--Find out what lurks in this month's SITES OF HORROR
--And we've got more zombies for you in our TOP 13: Shoot 'Em the Head
--And tons more articles and horror news coming your way in the August 4th, e-issue #2 of The Black Glove
(If you have horror news to share, please email Nickolasecook@aol.com. Also, The Black Glove is still actively seeking staff writers who have a passion for the genre. Please email the above address if you are interested in becoming part of The Black Glove)
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Saturday, July 4, 2009
by Nickolas Cook
Born in 1969, I grew up in the 70s and 80s. During those formative years, I saw the horror boom come and go. The impact that such a profusion of horror venues (films, TV series, books, games, etc., etc.) had on my life is almost impossible to explain. Let's just say as a child I had always leaned towards the dark side, so the influence of all that horror was like a black light beckon for my future. From an early age, I ate, drank and dreamed horror related stuff. I collected Famous Monsters before its decline, played The Dark Shadows board game, and even bought issue number 5 of Fangoria, which hooked me for life on gore films. Even in comic books, which I religiously collected for most of my teen years, even going so far as to get a job at 13 to pay for my monthly obsession, I found the dark side of the four panel soap opera more appealing than the Superman type of story. There was something inherently dangerous and edgy about men and women like The X-Men, who had such enormous powers, and by their own choices used them for the good of humanity and not for evil, that held me spell bound. Of course, the 70s and early 80s were the years of the drive-in, and every weekend my parents hauled me and my little brother to any of the six local drive-ins within 15 miles of home. It was at these wonderlands of light and darkness that I saw such classics as Phantasm (which has informed my creative life beyond words), Scanners, Humanoids From the Deep, Alien, Grizzly, Fear No Evil, The Velvet Vampire, Dawn of the Dead, and Fulci's Zombie, Friday the 13th, and so many more that I have no room to list them all here. Then of course the 80s video revolution came along to completely annihilate the drive-ins. And along with the vid-revolution came more horror grist for the mill. Because of videos being released at an exponentially expansive rate, I was able to see many horror films that I'd missed because of my age, or because they never made it to the theaters in my town. But there was also the fact that a lot of the new releases of that fertile period were not what one would classify as classics. Don't get me wrong, there were some straight to vid classics, but not many. Most of them were made on shoestring budgets by people who clearly had no idea what made horror work- much like the straight to DVD market by conveyor belt studios run out of someone's basement, with no stories, crap acting, and terribly mundane direction/cinematography/effects- a sort of horror porn, if you will. Unfortunately, this was also taking place in the horror publishing world. We went from cleverly written, literate classics such as The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby and The Shining to Zebra's foil covers and books written by people who didn't exist or by not so talented authors hoping to cash in on the horror boom. It was this rush on the cash cow genre that ultimately ate away at the solid foundations of craft and professionalism like acid on wooden legs. The collapse, as we can see looking back, came on the heels of remakes (both foreign and domestic), too any needless sequels, PG13 'horror' films, big studios conceptions of horror, using overblown CGI effects that look exactly like every movie out there, and a video game mentality (i.e., violence with no real world consequences). And while there's been a few spikes on the radar, most those have been foreign releases thrown into American theaters to satiate a starving US horror populace.So what the heck is going to happen the horror genre that we all know and love?Cripes. Who knows? I sure don't. I keep watching the studios for signs of life again, keep my fingers crossed that some of the folks who know an author's pittance in the small press will finally blowup and hit the big house publishers, and keep wishing that America will begin to make horror the old fashioned way again- dangerous, edgy, gut wrenching stuff that hasn't been seen since the late 70s.Which brings me to the point of this editorial/introduction you're reading now.The Black Glove will be there to point the way--not only to what we consider the future return of great horror, but also to help readers look backwards at what once was and could perhaps be again.We have an open door policy here at The Black Glove, so please feel free to email any of the staff with comments, curses, or horror news you think we should highlight.It's our promise to you that we'll keep The Black Glove a free magazine, while providing the best non-fiction articles, reviews, news, and other content with the resources at our disposal.So we welcome you with open hearts and minds to The Black Glove...
The Black Glove
For my first column, I’m honored to be interviewing one of the best, if not the best, genre poets of our time, Bruce Boston. He’s won seven Rhysling Awards, five Asimov’s Readers’ Choice Awards, three Stoker Awards, and a Pushcart Prize. He also was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Poetry Association.
Karen Newman: Bruce, congratulations on another Stoker win with your latest poetry collection, The Nightmare Collection (Dark Regions Press, 2008). You’ve also won the Bram Stoker Award for poetry for Shades Fantastic (Gromagon Press, 2006) and Pitchblende (Dark Regions Press, 2003). In addition, your books, The Complete Accursed Wives (Dark Regions Press/Talisman, 2000), White Space (Dark Regions Press, 2001) and Night Smoke (written with Marge Simon, Miniature Sun Press/Quixsilver Press, 2002) were nominated for the Stoker Award for poetry. I noticed that most of these collections were published by Dark Regions Press and almost at yearly intervals. Does this particular publisher ask for your work at regular intervals, or do you have an understanding?
Bruce Boston: Thanks for the interview and the Stoker congrats.
I first met Joe Morey of Dark Regions Press in the late 1980s at a SPWAO (Small Press Writers and Artists Organization) Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Joe solicited me to write an article on the wonders and woes of small press publishing for his magazine Dark Regions. Over the next ten or more years of the magazine’s existence, I became a regular contributor to its pages with both poetry and fiction. My first DR book came out in 1995, Sensuous Debris, which brought together my best genre poetry from 1970-1995. Another eight books from DR have followed over the years, both poetry and fiction, with one more forthcoming.
Dark Regions has always paid me decently for my work and presented it to readers in a manner I feel good about. Joe Morey has been a longtime fan of my writing. I’ve given him books that he can feel proud of publishing. They’ve received critical acclaim, brought some awards to the press, and sold well enough. It’s a business relationship that has worked for both of us, and in the course of it we’ve become good friends.
When I feel I have a book that is right for Dark Regions, and they are open to submissions, I’m likely to try them first. On occasion, Joe has also solicited me for a collection or project. Currently I’m writing a series of Nostradamus-like quatrains for an anthology on Nostradamus that is forthcoming from Dark Regions.
However, Dark Regions Press has never been the sole outlet for my books. Since I started publishing with them, I’ve also published books through ten other presses, most recently the Spanish publisher Le Factoria De Ideas.
KN: How would a writer go about developing the kind of relationship you have with Dark Regions Press?
BB: It’s serendipity to a large extent. Yet you can improve your chances greatly by making as many connections as possible in the field in which you are writing. Attend conventions. Use the Internet. Be friendly and open to meeting new people. When you encounter other writers or publishers who seem simpatico to your work, pursue those connections. Don’t be arrogant or absolutist about your writing. Listen to what others have to say and be willing to compromise. This is the most likely way you are going to connect with a publisher that will be a steady outlet for your work.
KN: You often collaborate with your wife, Marge Simon. Do you work in separate rooms a while and then compare notes, or is there another arrangement? How often do you disagree?
BB: Marge and I work in separate studies, but will come together to discuss a collaborative poem or fiction. Most of our collaborations have come about initially from an idea and some lines from Marge. Then I contribute ideas and lines and if it seems to be working, we discuss a final draft. We don’t disagree often, but we have attempted some collaborations that we decided to abandon because we had different ideas about the directions they should take.
KN: How big an influence was Marge in your becoming an artist? What is the favorite horror illustration you’ve done?
BB: It’s news to me that I’m an artist. I have no natural talent for drawing, and I’ve never taken the time to learn. I’m a designer. I’ve been designing books, both small press and commercial, for twenty-five years. Once I had access to sophisticated graphic software, I discovered I could create electronic collages and abstract designs with it. I’ve sold a bunch of these to small presses as book covers and online portals. Anyone with a decent sense of design, and knowledge of the software, could do the same thing. It doesn’t make me an artist. It’s more a hobby, a relaxation. I don’t express myself as an artist through design work, but through my writing.
Marge has always been supportive of my design work, though not a direct influence. My favorite illustration is usually the one I’m currently working on or have just finished. Though I am rather partial to a cover I did for the May 2008 issue of Cover of Darkness.
KN: I saw on your website that you’re collaborating with ten other poets for your upcoming collection, Double Visions (Dark Regions Press). How did you select these poets? Please compare how their writing styles are complimentary to yours. How did you all make your differences compatible?
BB: The collaborations in this collection cover more than twenty years, from the late 1980s to 2009. They came about in many different ways and followed many different directions.
The collaborations that have received the most reader response are the Mutant Rain Forest poems written with Robert Frazier. They depict a sentient and rapidly mutating Amazonian rain forest that rebels against mankind’s incursions. Here, compatibility of voices never seemed to be a problem. Bob and I were writing out of the same traditions. We’d both read a lot of the same science fiction, growing up and as adults. We both had a background in modern and contemporary poetry. And we both had been publishing genre poetry in the same small press and pro magazines for a decade and were thoroughly familiar with one another’s work. Further, we were both excited and involved in the fictional world we were creating and the individual poems it spawned. All in all, this was an ideal situation for collaboration, and I think our individual voices merged very well. When I look back on the poems in the series now, I can seldom recall who wrote which line.
My collaborations with t. winter-damon took a very different course. Damon was writing primarily out of a different tradition: surrealism, decadent romanticism, cyberpunk, and cutting-edge horror. This overlapped some with my writing and reading background, but was far from coincident. We wrote three collaborative poems. Two of them ended up in Damon’s style of writing, i.e., I adapted my writing voice to fit his. One of them was written in what I refer to as my populist style: poems that will appeal to intelligent readers who don’t normally read poetry. In that case, Damon’s voice adapted to mine.
And there have been some collaborations that never worked out, either because my collaborator and I ended up not being excited enough about the idea to carry through on it, or there were conflicts in the execution of the piece that could not be resolved.
The selection of the poems for Double Visions was not difficult. I merely picked what I considered the best ones that also seemed to complement one another. The collection is shorter than it could have been if I’d included all my collaborations, but a better collection for it.
KN: I admire the way you get the most mileage out of topics, such as poems about people, i.e. “Lice People,” “Crow People,” and “Werewolf People,” and your famous ‘curse of’ poems. What was your reasoning not to collect all of those into single collections of ‘curses’ and ‘people,’ or are you planning to do that in the future?
BB: Actually, I’ve published four collections built around a singular theme or topic: Alchemical Texts, a chapbook of poems portraying the life of a medieval alchemist, The Complete Accursed Wives, fiction and poetry using archetypal genre figures as metaphors to reflect ways in which women are exploited and abused in relationships, Etiquette with Your Robot Wife, humorous genre list poems akin to the top ten lists of late night television, and Chronicles of the Mutant Rain Forest with Robert Frazier,
It was an aesthetic call not to collect the “accursed husband” poems in a single volume. First, there’s not enough to make a full-sized book, only a chapbook. Second, I don’t think they are as interesting or compelling as the “accursed wife” poems because the exploitation and abuse of men by women is not as much of a problem in contemporary society as the reverse. Regarding the “people poems,” which I prefer to call anthropomorphisms, the series is still in progress. At this point, more than half the poems in the series are scattered through other collections of mine. I may collect all of them in a single volume someday, but probably only if the other books containing them are out of print.
KN: Although you are best known for your poetry, you’ve also successfully transitioned to writing novels. I noticed the beauty of your word choices in your novel, The Guardener’s Tale (Sam’s Dot Publishing, 2007), a Bram Stoker Award Finalist and Prometheus Award Nominee. In what other ways did your poetry background help in writing the book? Did your various work experiences aid in that transition?
BB: Any kind of writing you do informs and influences whatever you write. Just as your life experiences do. I’ve worked as a technical writer, a copywriter, and for ten years I wrote author sketches for reference books. All of this helped me learn to communicate ideas and facts effectively and with economy, which can be a plus in almost any kind of writing, though probably more so in fiction than poetry.
The Guardener’s Tale was very much influenced by my poetry. The idea for the novel came from a single poem of mine – “In the Garden of the State,”-- about an overly solicitous future government that attempts to control and direct the lives of its citizens, supposedly for their own good, a kind of human bonsai gardening. Images of flowers, plants, and organic growth occur throughout The Guardener’s Tale, figuring in both negative and positive contexts, reflecting the themes of the book, functioning the way images often do in poetry.
KN: Have you ever regretted not obtaining an MFA or PhD? With your level of success, you obviously didn’t need them, but if you could time travel, would you obtain one or both of these degrees? Why or why not?
BB: I do have an M.A. degree, in economics, though the main reason I pursued it was to keep my draft deferment and stay out of the Vietnam War. If I could time travel, or do it all over again, obtaining a higher degree in creative writing would be very low on my list. I think such degrees are mainly for those who plan a career in teaching and publishing articles. I’ve taught creative writing both at the college level and in online classes, but have never viewed it as a career. Though the best creative writing classes have something to offer, I don’t think you learn to write by taking classes and receiving degrees. You learn to write by living, paying attention, and reading. Also, much of the academic world tends to look down its nose at the kind of writing that interests me most -- sf, horror, dark fantasy, and noir – so I don’t think it would prove to be a good environment for me in terms of seeking a higher degree.
KN: You’ve edited two issues of Star*Line and served as an editor for half a dozen other publications, both mainstream and genre. What do you enjoy most about the editing process? The least? Would you be interested in editing a strictly horror publication?
BB: Editing for me is a creative process, somewhat akin to putting together a collection of my own work. As you accept work for a given issue it often begins to take a specific direction. Individual poems and stories resonate with one another. Sometimes this all comes together like magic. At other times it is a struggle. I enjoy the process of putting together an issue where this resonance occurs and leads to a kind of coherent whole. I also enjoy encountering submissions that I think are excellent that I am going to responsible for publishing, particularly if they are by a writer that is new to me.
What I don’t like is having to reject good poems and stories – there’s seldom enough room for all the good work submitted – all the more so if they are by a writer I know and admire.
I’ve just finished guest-editing my second Star*Line prose poem issue, which will be appearing later this year. I probably won’t feel like taking on another editing job for a while, but when/if I do, I’d certainly be open to editing a horror publication. My only criterion would be that the publisher grants me free rein in determining what was to appear in the part of the issue I edited.
KN: Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Is there anything additional you’d like to share with our readers?
BB: Ah, the inevitable chance for self-promotion that occurs at the end of every interview. I’ll keep it short. In addition to Double Visions, I have a collection of sf speculative poetry titled North Left of Earth that should be out from Sam’s Dot this fall. I’m working on a noir novel, inspired by writers such as Jim Thompson and Charles Williams, and also compiling a new dark poetry collection. I have assorted shorter works forthcoming in various magazines and anthologies. You can always find the most recent ones listed, with links to those online, at my website.
Thanks go to Bruce Boston for his time.
--Karen L. Newman
“Shades Fantastic” reviewed by Karen L. Newman
When the final ballot for the Horror Writers’ Association 2006 Stoker Awards was announced, I wasn’t surprised to see Shades Fantastic (Gromagon Press) by Bruce Boston among the works nominated for superior achievement in poetry.
Bruce Boston delivers another great collection in Shades Fantastic. He shows again why he was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Most of the poems are reprinted from fine genre publications such as Asimov’s SF Magazine and Strange Horizons, including “Heavy Weather”, the 2005 Asimov’s Readers’ Award. He includes just five new poems, the only fault I can find with the book. The collection is beautifully illustrated by the talented Marge Simon, Boston’s wife.
It’s easy to become a fan of Bruce Boston. He writes about common things and speculates about them. His words flow on the page with a lyrical beat and strong imagery, as illustrated in the first stanza of my favorite poem in the collection
“In the Course Morn”:
Brown lies the landscape,
once green through the year.
In the mean market stalls
the fruit is hard and dry.
Dust must be wiped from
the scales and weights
several times each day.
The meter here reminds me of Robert Frost. Hidden meaning abounds and the internal rhyme of dust and must and the consonance in the title are clever, making the poem memorable. The other poems are of as high a quality.
--Karen L. Newman
By Robert Dunbar
At the tail end of the horror boom of the 80s and early 90s, Robert Dunbar presented to the genre a book of moody, bleak terror: THE PINES. Over the years, this novel has rightfully gained a rabid cult following. Fans of the novel (myself included) speculated why no sequel. This was a man who could, after all, craft engaging and atmospheric fiction, a true master of the art of horror.
Well, we can thank Robert Dunbar and Delirium Books for finally giving the world THE SHORE, a sequel of sorts, involving characters from THE PINES. Dunbar, internationally renowned for his expertise on the Jersey Devil legend, has appeared on multiple documentaries, and written several academic articles in reference to the legend and the environment in which it has survived since the 17th century. This time Dunbar returns to the legend from a different angle, setting the story on the shore of Edgeharbor, a tourist town in its last death throes, where shadows and cold hold wet sway.
In THE PINES, Dunbar created a palpable atmosphere of dark humidity, replete with sodden rot and swampy stench - one of the elements that most fans agree made the book a modern classic of the genre. This time around he has created a chilly, blue world of cold, salty wind and lashing icy rain, which may have you wrapping up in a blanket by book’s end. Those rainy scenes will haunt you, especially the forlorn ending. The plot is deliberate and tight, the characters emotional and full, and Dunbar approaches even the most dastardly with a rare empathy and compassion. There are several surprises along the way, where evil and good may not be what you think they are; the twists are entertaining and emotional.
In short, THE SHORE is every bit as classic as THE PINES, and perhaps even more so, as it helps to build Dunbar’s mythos, and accentuates how much more masterly he’s become at his craft in the intervening years. As with his first novel, it would be easy to write a ten-page essay of all the little details that make his work stand out and why these works transcend genre labels and shelves, but I’ll let you, dear reader, discover these things for yourself.
The end of the 80s saw the implosion of horror as a power in the market place, with the exception of the heavy hitters, like King, Rice, and Koontz. At one point in 1989 there were no less than 45 new horror titles in less than a month from various publishers and imprints hitting the sagging shelves. There were copycats of copycats, and the market was glutted with the bad to worse that horror fiction had to offer.
One book that made it under the closing flap of the 'death of horror' pronouncement from the all-knowing gurus of NYC Publisher's Row was Robert Dunbar's THE PINES (1989 Leisure). It's slow, tense buildup of how four people come together on a dark and windblown night to confront the terror known as The Jersey Devil. Sounds like a simple enough setup, right? Well, yes and no, because Dunbar did it with such power that it defied its own simplicity. And even during this final desperate onslaught of horror regurgitation, THE PINES caused many to sit up and take notice. The book was dark, bleak, and maybe one of the twenty best books to come out of that explosive period in horror fiction.
But it wasn't without its flaws.
Pages of scenes had been cut, and characters subtracted, for the sake of word count.
Now Dunbar, with the fine folks at Delirium Books, has done what he's always wanted to do with THE PINES: He's given us the book as it was originally intended in all its profundity. The missing pages have been added back in; storylines have been properly ripened for the book's final chapters.
Simply put, THE PINES is the demented lovechild of Faulkner and King.
With its tableau of honest characters, full of depth, flaws, and the need for redemption, an unswerving buildup of terror that defies logic, and Dunbar's deft descriptive powers that makes the New Jersey Pine Barrens come to life, this is the way great horror should be written. There is an underlying Southern Gothic sensibility to Dunbar's horror, one that speaks volumes about the nature of violence, and the casual way in which it ensnares good people and warps them. There are no missteps in THE PINES. The editing is managed with such masterly skill that the author is able to pull together divergent storylines into a heady brew, and by book's end one feels the sweat and terror dripping from the page. I was in awe at how much storytelling he was able to do in short bursts, and how he was able to make you feel the grit and despair of the people who call The Pine Barrens home, The Pineys.
For those who do not know, there's a reason why THE PINES comes off with such power. Robert Dunbar is one of the world's leading authorities on the legend of The Jersey Devil. He's appeared in dozens of cable documentaries and done interviews for several magazines on the subject. His background in the field of amateur cryptozoology and Jersey mythos makes him uniquely suited to give the story a backbone of believability, and he holds nothing back in this unabridged version. So for those of you who have read the original version, take that and times ten with this Delirium Books edition.
Word is Dunbar has a sequel coming down the pike: THE SHORES, also from Delirium Books. And I hear it is even more horrifying than THE PINES.
And let me give a quick kudos to the cover artist, Mike Bohatch, for he has truly captured the black and uneasy sense of THE PINES story with his artwork. I would buy a framed print of that cover, folks. Very nice, indeed, Mike. Good job.
When 'quiet horror' was king, there were two main writers of the form: Charles L. Grant and Ramsey Campbell, each of whom put out some extraordinary genre classics throughout the 80s and early 90s. Both still practice this style, Campbell more prolifically in these latter years. But Grant was especially vocal in his insistence that all great horror was 'quiet', avoiding any reference to blood and guts in his aggregation of works. Some love it; some hate it. All have to agree this man can write like no one else in the industry.
Speaking of prolific: did you know that Grant has over thirty novels, collections, and edited anthologies to his name? If you haven't made time to read him and appreciate his consummate ability to entertainment, please find his books where ever you can and start today. For readers he is a dark treasure trove. For fellow scribes, he is a master of the form and can teach the craft.
"The Orchard" follows his 'quiet' code, as he demonstrates his literary prowess. Grant breaks the novel into several connective shorter works, all centered around the titular locale, situated in his mythical town of Oxrun Station. Each section can be read out of order, and still stand quite well on its own.
Grant begins the novel with a Prologue that sets the tone for the tales that follow, as an old man guides his younger friend out to the Orchard to tell his stories, "My Mary's Asleep", "I See Her Sweet and Fair", "The Last and Dreadful Hour", and "Screaming, in the Dark". The wraparound story is a favorite ploy for Grant, as he has used it in several classic anthology style novels, such as "Dialing the Wind", and became somewhat a professional stamp to his works.
Not all of the stories in "The Orchard" work on equal footing, and may even come off as a bit too obscure for some readers. But his craftsmanship is apparent, even if the moral isn't. The one that works best for me is "The Last Dreadful Hour", the tale of a man trapped in a haunted movie theater with other patrons, who begin to disappear one by one, or transform into nightmarish creatures. It is a truly nightmare like story, as the protagonist descends into madness, and then, finally, acceptance of his fate. The last line of this gem is worth the book alone. I actually felt a bit creeped out by the time I had finished it, a true rarity for a horror writer.
This is a great place to start with Grant. Some of his other works that might be of interest for the novice are "The Pet", "Dialing the Wind", and "The Long Night of the Grave". He also wrote several excellent tie-in novels for "The X-Files" (that show probably wouldn't have existed without Grant's trademark 'quiet' horror bestsellerdom) and a great series called "Black Oak", a sort of Peter Saxon like X-Files. Grant is also known for his genre building anthology series, "Shadows". With so much work to choose from, I don't think a reader can go wrong with any of his books.
The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson
There are classics of the genre and then there are CLASSICS of the genre. "The House on the Borderland" is a CLASSIC.
Hodgson uses the plot device of a found tale, as two weekend campers find a crumbling manuscript in the ruins of an ancient house in the woods. Creepy enough already, but when the campers begin to read the lost story of a recluse and his sister it gets even more foreboding.
Lovecraft cited this as one of the best horror novels ever written, and it's easy to see why the man who made his name writing 'cosmic horror' would find it such a compelling read. Hodgson is the father of Lovecraft's fears.
Hodgson has actually written two separate novels in "The House on the Borderland". The first is by far the most frightening of the two pieces, as swine-like intelligent creatures siege the house and the protagonist must battle them for his life. There is a dream sequence at the beginning that sets up that the house is really more than a simple domicile, is, in fact, a sort of extra-dimensional time and space nexus, something that becomes even more apparent in the second half of the book. Through this dream sequence our protagonist finds that there is a monstrous collection of gods that watch the house and its inhabitants from a vast blank desert field.
After his battle with the swine creatures our protagonist descends into the belly of the earth, through a cave in his backyard (which we find later is actually connected to the cellar of the house as well). What he finds there is just as cosmic in its revelations, but he goes no further and barely escapes with his life.
Then comes the second part of the book. And this is where it becomes true 'cosmic horror' as the protagonist is given a glimpse of what the far-far future holds for the universe. As he sleeps, he is thrown headlong into the future and must watch as his own body rots away behind him. He sees the death of the sun, and eventually the death of the earth, and the other planets in the Solar System. Finally, he must face that monstrous collection of gods once again and stay sane.
By book's end we are left with the impression that the world is an unstable collection of facile life and dust, under the control of some faceless entities that give not a wit for mankind's fate.
That's true 'cosmic horror' at its best.
Hodgson's other works were hit and miss with readers, and none ever reached the pinnacle of "The House on the Borderland". This is a truly inspiring work, made all the more so as it was written long before Lovecraft, Machen, or Lord Dunsany tried their hands at 'cosmic horror'.
This review does come with one caveat: The grammar and style is a bit outdated, and may be a barrier for those unwilling to traverse an age or two of craft.
Apple of My Eye by Amy Grech
Review by Nickolas Cook
Two Backed Books
Comprised of thirteen stories, APPLE OF MY EYE is Amy Grech’s second book. One wishes that TwoBacked Books had taken a bit more care in editing the material, because too many of the book’s offerings have minor to major narrative and structural issues. Granted, it’s a novice’s effort, but with a little spit and polish, and an editorial eye to greatness, Grech and TwoBacked Books might have come away with something much better than this collection.
Unfortunately, most of the stories that make up the first half of the collection feel repetitive and amateurish. All the ‘killers’ use almost the same weapons, and all display a very similar ambiguity in characterization, as do her wispy framed protagonists. Too many characters ‘wink’, ‘nod’ or use other silent descriptives instead of allowing the spaces to just be: in short, Grech doesn’t seem comfortable with the silence and feels she must fill them with such physical and repetitive inanities. Grech seems to be shooting for a sophisticated sort of eroticism in some of the stories, but a lack of life experience makes them come off like silly teenage girl journal entries instead- the daydream of eroticism, not the reality. She tries for danger, but it feels like camp. When she tackles love, she does a much better job of conveying realistic emotions.
The collection does, however, begin to pick up towards the last half, giving us much more professional and polished selections—albeit still on the amateurish side. I found ‘Perishables’, ‘Damp Wind and Leaves’ and ‘EV 2000’ to be the best of the thirteen. Each of them displayed a style and voice that I’m sure is hiding within this inexperienced writer. If only they had been made manifest in the other stories as well, this would have been one hum-dinger of a collection.
As it is, it’s mediocre at best.
Still, on the strength of the above mentioned stories, I would give Amy Grech another read in the future, in the hopes that she will have improved her craft considerably.
James Newman: Oh, I've been doing this since I was old enough to hold a pencil, really. But, as far as the very first story that I can remember writing down, illustrating, the works? I was in the fifth grade. I actually made a whole book of short stories back then, with colorful drawings to accompany each little "tale of terror." The first one in the book was called "Four-Eyes."
MM: What inspired you to write it?
JN: Being called "Four-Eyes" in school because I wore glasses.
MM: What was the first book you wrote?
JN: I never could decide on a title for that one, but I remember it well. It filled up a whole spiral notebook (I still have that notebook, in fact!). It was basically a slasher movie on paper, full of teens having sex and partying then getting offed in clever ways. The killer was a creepy clown named Bebop.
Yeah, it was just as terrible as it sounds. It'd make a fun little body-count B-flick, though.
MM: Of all the books you've written, which is your favorite?
JN: That would be the unpublished ANIMOSITY (which hopefully won't remain unpublished much longer). ANIMOSITY is my "love letter" to the horror genre, and to the often thankless job of being a horror writer. It's a story that says a lot about how the "normal people" view those of us who dig this "spooky stuff." ANIMOSITY is very special to me, even more-so because it's taken so long to be released.
MM: Which book would you like to forget you wrote?
JN: I dig 'em all. Some are stronger than others -- and one or two might have even written for a quick buck, I'll admit -- but I'm not ashamed of anything I've published.
MM: Who is the most influential person in your life?
JN: My wife, Glenda. Just watching her tireless selflessness makes me yearn to be a better person.
I fail miserably, again and again. But she makes me want to try.
MM: Who is your favorite author?
JN: That one's easy: Joe R. Lansdale. Still can't believe I not only got to meet him last year, but was also invited to sit on a few panels with him and chat about writing. Awesome . . . .
MM: If you could only own one book, what would it be?
JN: BOY'S LIFE, by Robert R. McCammon. My favorite novel of all time.
MM: When and where do you write?
JN: I used to do a lot of writing in my home office. Lately, though, I've found that I do most of it "on the go." I picked up a new smartphone a few months ago with Microsoft Word-To-Go on it, and that's helped immeasurably. Loaded my novel on that bad boy, and I've gotten more writing done since I bought this phone than I have in the past year, believe it or not. Lovin' it.
Probably a good thing I got it when I did, as my office is soon to be no more. The wife and I just found out we're gonna have a baby, so my office will soon become a nursery.
MM: Do you have a "day job?"
JN: Yep -- by day I'm a Production Planner for Shorewood Packaging. We make paperboard boxes -- everything from toothpaste cartons to DVD and video-game sleeves (we've done a lot of recent movies you may have heard of, in fact; always cool to see them come through the plant months before release: CORALINE, LAID TO REST, MARTYRS, the LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT remake, GUITAR HERO 5, tons of bad Sci-Fi Channel originals).
It's a great gig. I'm one of those rare folks who actually loves his job.
MM: Do you have a "dream job?"
JN: Writing for a living. That wouldn't last long, though, 'cause I'm unprolific as hell. Although I'd like to think I wouldn't be if it meant my family might starve!
MM: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
JN: The most fun I've ever had was in New Orleans a few years back, but I don't think I'd want to live there. Might sound crazy, but I think I'd stay right here, in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina.
MM: What is your guilty pleasure?
JN: Hair metal from the 80's. Loved that stuff. Still do.
Drag Me To Hell (2009)
By Steven Duarte
Sam Raimi has always been well respected in the horror genre especially considering his contributions to the genre. He perfected the use of demons in his Evil Dead series which paved the way for many other films such as Demons, Demons 2 and The Church. A viewing of any of these Italian films will no doubtingly show a resemblance to Raimi’s Evil Dead work. Raimi had completed the Drag Me to Hell script after he finished Army of Darkness. Instead of going ahead with the script he decided to pursue other areas which eventually led him to directing the Spiderman franchise. So finally we now have Drag Me to Hell, the maestro’s return to the horror genre. So was it worth the wait or should Raimi stick with directing Peter Parkers adventures? Read on to find out the scoop.
The basic premise of the story involves a young loan officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) who works for a major bank. One day an old Gypsy woman comes in asking for another extension on her mortgage. Christine is not sure what to do so she asks her manager. Her manager empowers her to make this tough decision. The decision that Christine makes affects her immensely. The story is not too convoluted and is your basic curse story. Raimi’s over the top gross out humor that we first became familiar with in Evil Dead is back. From gross out throw up scenes to an ongoing gag of the old disgusting Gypsy constantly losing her dentures, Raimi does not fail to deliver on the gross out factor. Raimi maintains this tone for the duration of the film. Another area that fans of Raimi’s style will recognize is the humor that he brings to his horror films. Some notable instances include a dancing demon and a certain talking animal. It is instances like this that led horror fans to love his older horror films from the past.
The only problems that I saw with the film include the blatant foreshadowing at the beginning of the film. While foreshadowing can be great when used effectively, it can also take away from the film. I figured out the ending midway through the film. While this did not ruin the film for me, it did take away from the ending, which was intended to be a twist. Another area that I saw as a problem was the overall mainstream appeal of the film. People who have never seen any of the Evil Dead films will just not get this film. In fact some of the people I saw the film with thought it was stupid. This mesh of horror/humor was new to them and they were not ready for it. While I normally despise the mainstream in general, I do recognize that mainstream provides the money needed to fund future films of the same nature. I fear that this lack of appeal to the mainstream will deter major studios from green lighting future films like this.
Overall I enjoyed the film and felt that it was a great return for Raimi. This film shows that the many years that he has been directing Spiderman films has not made him soft and that he is more than capable in the horror genre. On a last note, see if any of you horror fans can catch the numerous Evil Dead references.
Cast: Stan Ivar, Wendy Schaal, Lyman Ward, Robert Jaffe, Diane Salinger, and the one and only Klaus Kinski
Director: William Malone
Studio/Label: Diamond Entertainment Corporation
Release Date: 2000
Extras/Features: Trailer (and a nifty plastic case)
If there's an award for best "Alien" rip off, "Creature" is clearly the winner.
Director William Malone, who brought us other stellar pics, such as FeardotCom (2002), House on Haunted Hill (1999), and Freddy's Nightmares (1988), gave this the old college try as he sends a space ship full of B-actors and actresses to a black, storm ripped planet called Titan (hence the alternative title for this picture, TITAN FIND) and dumps them off into some aliens forgotten space menagerie. But not all of the creatures are dead, as the titular monster has survived 2000 centuries, and decides it's time to play with the humans.
There is a lordly introduction before the film rolls, to let us know that the U.S. and the Germans are at odds in space over mining rights, and that fierce profit battle is being waged back on Earth. None of this matters worth a hill of beans ten minutes into the film, but it's a nice way to start, knowing that there's never going to be peace, even with the riches of open space to welcome us.
Our intrepid crew finds Titan, lands upon its unstable surface, and promptly breaks the ship in two. To add to their headache, their air supply is dwindling fast, and something is knocking off the dumbass crewmembers. I'm not being mean here, but what else do you call someone who walks into a dark room without a weapon, on a ship known to have something deadly aboard? It's worse than Camp Crystal Lake in space. Well, the alien also likes to assimilate his victims, turning them into zombie like creatures, by the use of a small throbbing penis like monster it sticks to their heads.
To perk things up the film gets too dull (and it does suffer here and there of the over-expositional disease, found mainly in films that don't have confidence in the audience's intelligence), we have the one and only Klaus Kinski playing his, by now, trademark crazy mother-effer. He's the last surviving member of a rival German space team who has also crashed on Titan.
But don't worry; his histrionics don't last too long. Before we know it, he's alien toast, and now one of the zombie things, and ready to kick some American ass.
The film gets better as the crewmembers decrease. Must be some kind of math formula for it, I guess. In any case, the atmosphere gets pretty spooky once there's only three left, and the shadows literally jump at you.
The music is a throwback to the days before everyone decided that synt-music was what every 80s horror film just had to have to make it complete.
The production work is not too bad for a Malone flick, and the special effects sort of work at the end, when the beasty gets...well...I'll let you find out how it ends.
THE CHURCH (1988)
Cast: Tomas Arana, Feodor Chaliapan, Hugh Quarshie, Barbara Cupisti, Antonella Vitale, and Asia Argento
Director: Michele Soavi
Studio/Label: Anchor Bay
Release Date: 2002
Michele Soavi bio
In medieval Europe, a band of crusading knights massacre a village of suspected devil worshippers, and then build a large gothic church atop the cursed remains.
Flash-forward to present day, to the still-standing elaborate cathedral, as a visiting historian uncovers an ancient bit of parchment that helps him unlock the basement crypt/doorway to Hell. Archaic mechanisms click into place, trapping a group of people inside the church as all Hell breaks loose.
Co-written and produced by maestro Dario Argento (Suspiria), THE CHURCH helped to cement the reputation of director Michele Soavi (Stagefright, Cemetery Man, two fantastic horror flicks of incredible visceral humor and intelligence) as the new master of Italian horror. This was originally intended to be a spinoff of Bava and Argento’s DEMONS and its sequel, and was known as DEMONS 3, but the studio decied after seeing its complexity and stunning visual to release it as a standalone picture instead.
All I can say is: if you’ve never seen this one, you’re missing a hell of a visual treat. Anchor Bay take this underrated classic of Italian horror and really give it the tender lovin’ care it deserves for a DVD release. The full screen is especially awesome during those sprawling architectural trawl shots that Soavi uses to wonderful effect. The sound is enhanced, so even a regular television still picks up those little nuances that make the background sound work so well. And the music…WOW! How can you pass up a chance to hear not just the great idols of Italian horror soundtracks, Goblin, but also Keith Emerson? The music plays like another character to the story, as it winds and insinuates itself throughout Soavi’s dark scenery.
A very young Asia Argento turns up as Latia, daughter to the abusive church maintenance man. The rest of the cast gives great performances as the church begins to eat them up, one at a time.
There are two scenes in particular that I’d like to point out, and they stand for me as demarcations in THE CHURCH, cinematic moments that tell you that the people who put them together knew their business visually, and knew that what they were doing was bigger than themselves. They’re both towards the end. One is a full screen shot of a man who has become a demon. He’s winged and even has a winding Boa Constrictor-like tail. The shot is so sweet for a horror fan that it’ll bring tears to your eyes.
And if that one doesn’t do it, then the second shot will for sure.
It’s a full head-shot of a demon rising from the crypt beneath the church. But the head is made up of dozens of people hanging together on this massive framework to give the subtle impression of a demon’s face slowly coming up from Hell.
As I said, Anchor Bay really puts their hearts and souls into this one, folks. They even present it uncut, uncensored and fully restored from the original vault materials. THE CHURCH is a must-own for true-blue horror fans, and for anyone who loves the pure visual beauty of film.
DEVIL'S NIGHTMARE (1972)
Cast: Erika Blanc, Jean Servais, Jacques Monseau, Ivana Novak, Lorenzo Terzon
Director: Jean Brismée
Studio/Label: Image Entertainment
Release Date: October 21, 1998
Extras/Features: Original Belgian trailer and three trailers for different European exploitation films.
Seven bus tourists find themselves stranded in an ancient Italian castle haunted by the succubus daughter of a reclusive Nazi war criminal. Each tourist cleverly represents a different deadly sin, and the beautiful and seductive Erika Blanc punishes all of them for their earthly pleasures. There's sex (both classic European exploitation type lesbian sex and good old hetero-sex, if you're not feeling up to seeing two pairs of heaving breasts), food, drink, stormy nights, creaking doorways, hidden chambers of lost treasure, and did I mention Erika Blanc?
Wow! If she doesn't get your...erm...attention then you must be dead already.
Actually this may be the best Belgian horror film to come out of the 70s. The production values are pretty classy for a Euro-plotation venture. The acting is decent, the soundtrack compliments the creepy Gothic atmosphere of the movie's darkest moments, and the colors are as eye catching as anything Mario Bava painted to the screen. There's even, dare I say, a theme. Sin is bad. Being pure and chaste is good. Okay, so it's a simple theme, but more than you'd expect from such a film.
But let's talk about what made this film memorable way beyond its years.
Her character is the driving force behind "The Devil's Nightmare", as she encompasses the tortured lust of a demon, and the melancholy of a diseased soul out of control. But don't think this means she shirks her duty as killer Succubus sent by the devil to take some souls to Hell. She does her best to show ironic death to all of her victims. We get beheadings, impalements, and even a death by turkey drumstick. Interestingly enough, there is no final God vs. the Devil battle. Just a quiet agreement between a rather sardonic looking Satan and the one surviving member of the tourist group, the chaste and pure young priest. How he ever refused the advances of Erika Blanc, I'll never understand.
JUST BEFORE DAWN (1982)
Cast: George Kennedy, Mike Kellin, Chris Lemmon, Gregg Henry, and Deborah Benson
Director: Jeff Lieberman
Studio/Label: Shriek Show
Release Date: July 26, 2005
Anamorphic Wide screen
Commentary with director Jeff Lieberman
Cast and Crew Interviews
Shriek Show Trailers
Original Film Trailers
When five young campers ascend what they think is an uninhabited mountain paradise for a weekend of camping, they find out the hard way that they aren't alone.'
How many times have you read that same description, or at least something suspiciously similar, on the advertisement of a plethora of post "Friday the 13th" slasher flick? I mean, it seemed for a while there that all a producer had to do was come up with an isolated place, maybe a holiday of some kind to throw on the name, hire a bunch of talent less actors and topless actresses, and voila, he had himself a sure fire drive-in hit.
The funny thing is that "Just Before Dawn" actually outdoes "Friday the 13th" and its subsequently weaker protégés.
For those acquainted with director/writer/producer Jeff Lieberman's films (Squirm, Blue Sunshine, etc., etc.) know his movies are never simplistic and juvenile. He's a creator who can always be trusted to make you think long after the film has rolled end credits. And with "Just Before Dawn", he makes the slasher film almost artistic. Lieberman takes this simple storyline and imbues it with social messages about pollution, rape of the land by uncaring masses bent on exploiting its resources, and even manages to pull off a fairly subtle sexual empowerment subplot within the strictures of what is essentially a slasher flick with a brain. He keeps this running through the film, as the lead heroine, Connie, becomes the symbol of female power by movie's end. She becomes more and more powerful as Warren (her he-man boyfriend) becomes less and less sane, reasonable, and powerful as his friends begin to die or disappear.
He gives us a nasty twist halfway through the movie, but it's the end that will leave you shaky. You will not see the end coming. No gimmicks here, but I promise it will be a surprise for all.
His killers are a duo of mountain men, who by film's end seem to become symbolic protectors of the violated sanctity of nature. Lieberman even goes so far as to plant an abandoned church in the middle of the forest, and makes it the killers' headquarters, adding yet another clue that this God's country (i.e., the mountain) is sacred.
Granted, some will find the social message a bit heavy handed. But it keeps the story honest, and raises it way above the standard slasher flick bullshit.
Shot in Silver Falls State Park, Silverton, Oregon, the cinematography is particularly good, harkening back to William Girdler's ability to shoot forest scenes that looked both beautiful and daunting all at once. As a director, Lieberman knows how to give us sublime pastoral scenery, beautifully rendered in wide shots, and plenty of long pullbacks to show how isolated these characters soon become once they leave the road, and keeps a pace that misleads and then tightens into a tense denouement.
The sound effects are definitely a large part of the story, adding tension and depth to the scenes, as we hear noises as if we were stranded in the night with no knowledge of what hides just beyond the shadows. Shriek Show has done a bang-up job of making the sound almost another character in movie, one that pounces and scurries off stage, and unnerves.
And I have to say that Brad Fiedel does some wonderful things with the music. It's eerie, in the tradition of Goblin. The soundtrack is full of electronic pulses and sounds that border on nonsensical music, and he manages to convey the very mountain's voice of warning doom.
My final assessment of this lost classic of the pre-Friday the 13th days is that "Just Before Dawn" does for camping in the mountains what "Jaws" did for night swimming. If you have the money and time, pick up the newly remastered edition from Shriek Show (most definitely an up and coming contender for the Anchor Bay crown of excellence). It’s worth every penny.
Welcome to the first installment of 'It Came From The Back Issue Bins!' What I’d like to do is to use this space to take a look at horror comic books, both old and new. Despite reading a ridiculous amount of superhero comics in the late 70s and early 80s, I’ve found myself drawn to stories with a darker side. Marvel had its Dracula, Man-Thing, Morbius, Werewolf by Night, and Frankenstein, while DC had its Swamp Thing, House of Mystery, Phantom Stranger, and House of Secrets.
There’s been a clear resurgence in horror comic books with the success of The Walking Dead, 30 Days of Night, and Cal MacDonald. A lot of the classics are also being reprinted in hardcover editions, like Creepy and Eerie, EC (which has unfortunately gone on hiatus), and Atlas (Tales of Suspense and Tales to Astonish), to tap into this growing trend.
That’s enough preamble, let’s move right into the blood and guts, shall we? Here are five horror comic books you should be reading (in no particular order).
# # #
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Jacen Burrows
If you’re at all familiar with comic books, you’ll know that Ennis is no stranger to over-the-top, black humor or gore (take a look at his Hitman, Preacher, and his Punisher runs). Ennis and Burrows don’t hold back and come at you, at full speed, depicting the horror of this apocalyptical world and forcing you to watch. And it isn’t because you want to watch, it’s because you can’t not watch. Like all apocalyptic fiction, it gets you thinking about how you would react in such a horrifying situation. And that mind frame helps bring the story alive in all of its gore and violence.
The series certainly doesn’t waste any time thrusting you into this terrifying vision of the end of the world. If the final sequence of issue #1 doesn’t shake you, there’s something wrong with you. What’s great about this series is how it carefully balances the outward violence with the characters’ inner struggles to stay human through this inhuman ordeal. Issue #3 is a great example of what this series does best.
The title of the series comes from one of the virus’ symptom where a rash spreads across the victim’s face in the shape of a cross. Crossed will run 10 issues in total, including the #0 issue and #5 has just come out. What are you waiting for, go get it.
If you like The Walking Dead or 28 Days Later, give this series a chance.
# # #
Impaler v2 (Top Cow)
Written by William Harms
Art by Matt Timson
If you’re looking for a vampire story with teeth that’s a refreshing change from the teen romance stuff that passes as vampire fare these days, you’ll love Impaler. Homicide Detective Victor Dailey teams up with the immortal hero Vlad Tepes as a horde of vampires overruns the Eastern seaboard.
Impaler made its debut in 2006 in a three-issue miniseries which has been recently reprinted in the Impaler Volume 1 trade paperback. Harms has a lot of solid ideas, taking the familiar and putting his own twist on them, and is weaving a strong story around them. The vampires are more like shadow creatures and Vlad is supernatural hero bent on driving these vampires from the world.
Volume #2 opens up the story’s scope and pulls in other characters for their view point into this near-apocalyptical event. This volume will run six issues. New artist Matt Timson's art is impressive as he uses mixed-media to provide a rich variety of evocative panels. The action scenes in issue #2 with the US military trying desperately to stem the flood of vampire is jaw-dropping.
If you like 30 Days of Night and Blade, you won’t be disappointed with Impaler. After speaking with Harms, he had this to say about his comic book: “Impaler is the horror comic that I’ve always wanted to read. It’s vicious, terrifying, and the vampires are absolute monsters. If you love horror comics, Impaler should be on your reading list.”
You can read an online copy of Impaler v1 #1 at http://www.topcow.com/impaler/
# # #
Dead Irons (Dynamite)
Written by James Kuhoric
Art by Jason Shawn Alexander
“99 Innocent Souls, 6 Undead Monsters, 1 Shot to save the world”
Dead Irons is labeled as a supernatural western and lives up to its billing. Both its creators have solid experience in horror comics and it shows. Jason Shawn Alexander’ art is a cross between Jon J. Muth and Bill Sienkiewitz and has that photographic feel to it combined with a powerful cinematic flow.
The cover to issue #1 by Jae Lee is what drew me in. Turns out that Lee designed the characters and served as artistic director for the series. Using Jae Lee, who’s currently drawing Marvel Comics’ high profile Dark Tower comic book series, helps to get you to pick up the issue, but it’s the story and art that grab you by the collar and pull you in for the ride.
I found the first issue a bit difficult to follow in terms of sorting out the characters and exactly what was going on. However, I just went with the flow and kept reading and everything started to fall into place. So, instead of trying to pick up these issues individually, look out for the hardcover collection shipping near the end of the year.
Check out the great youtube.com trailer for the series: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8hdpbTYqF4
# # #
Jonah Hex (DC Comics)
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by a revolving cast of artists
While not technically a horror comic book, Jonah Hex does walk close enough to the edge to be called dark fiction. Veteran co-writers, Palmiotti and Gray, have teamed up on horror franchises, like Friday the 13th, The Hills Have Eyes, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And while their superhero stories are impressive, it’s Jonah Hex that’s always stick with me.
To be honest, I’m shocked as hell that a Western title in this comic book market has almost 50 issues and seems to be going strong still. Month after month, this book continues to deliver strong, powerful stories with a dark edge that’s satisfying. Most issues are self-contained, so the easiest way to see if it’s for you is to pick one up. And if you anything like me, you’ll be hook after a few issues and then stuck ordering all the trade paperback to catch up. The art is surprisingly consistent for a series that has several revolving artists like Jordi Bernet, Paul Gulacy, and Phil Noto, who are all quite adept at capturing the look and feel of the Wild West.
If you like Western or just want to read a damn fine comic without crossovers, tie-ins, or spin-offs, pick it up. And with the feature film coming next year, there will be a lot of attention paid to this series. You can also pick up a black and white trade paperback of his original 70s series, reprinting tales from All-Star Western and Weird Western Tales.
# # #
Captain Britain and MI13 #10-15
Written by Peter Cornell
Art by Leonard Kirk
Unfortunately, this selection has some bad news. As a comic book series, it’s been cancelled. However, the Power-That-Be have at least allowed the creative team to finish their phenomenal run. This cancellation does highlight everything that’s wrong with comic books today. This title is one of the better written mainstream fare, but just doesn’t get the in-house support that it needs to get. The first story arc was mired in a crossover which didn’t do it any favors.
But, enough with ranting and let me get on with why I think this series is worth picking up. One word: Dracula. Dracula’s been banished from the Marvel Universe since the mid-1980s and has come back with a vengeance. Not satisfied with stalking the shadows looking for victims, Dracula lives up to his heritage and mounts a full-scale vampire invasion of Great Britain. He plans to use the unofficial home of magic in the Marvel Universe as his vampire nation.
If that isn’t enough to draw you in, let’s talk about the good guys. MI13 is a government branch established to protect the United Kingdom from supernatural threats and is led by the iconic Captain Britain. Add the Black Knight, Blade, and Spitfire, and you have a dynamic cast that complements the storyline. In particular, I’m impressed with how Blade was brought onto the team and humanized. Cornell manages to move Blade beyond the two dimensional vampire hunter that he’s usually characterized as.
There has been enough buzz on this series that it will be reprinted as a trade paperback this fall, Captain Britain and MI13 Vol#3: Vampire State.
# # #
And that’s it for this installment. Feel free to send me any suggestions as to what I should look at or if there’s anything out there now that are really doing something for you, let me know.
Rotting flesh, reanimated bodies, and spine-chilling moans all come to mind when we hear the word Zombie. There is no mistaking the popularity of the zombie in our popular culture. Zombies have graced everything from cinema, literature, music, and video games, but these decaying stars have not always had the celebrity status they enjoy today.
It wasn’t until 1968 when a then unknown small time Pittsburg horror director George A. Romero made a low budget film called “Night of the Living Dead,” that the mainstream zombie craze started. We saw many zombie movies being made from all continents, including Italian director Lucio Fulci’s “Zombi,” and Spanish director Jorge Grau’s "Let Sleeping Corpses Lie". Their popularity aside, what is it about zombies that keeps us hollering for more? Has the change in zombie ideology over the last couple of years kept us from becoming disinterested in the zombie sub genre of horror?
Romero takes credit for creating the look and mystique of the zombie that we all know and love-- the slow moving, flesh eating corpses have been a staple of his “Dead series,” films which will span 6 movies with his soon-to-be-released “Island of the Dead.” But it's easy to see that recent zombie films have strayed away from Romero's rules for the undead. The biggest change, of course, running zombies, as seen in Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of “Dawn of the Dead”, and the recent not so great remake of “Day of the Dead.” Other films such as “28 Days later” and its sequel “28 Weeks Later” along with the Spanish made film “REC” all had pseudo zombies that could run, but as stated by their respective directors, these are not technically zombie movies.
This film which without a question has reached cult status had running zombies. The film even had a talking zombie which we all know as Tar Man.
Being an avid heavy metal fan I jumped at the chance to see Cradle of Filth play in nearby Tempe Az. The band was touring in support of their new album “Godspeed on the Devils Thunder.” Septic Flesh and Satyricon provided support on the tour. The venue while much smaller than I had pictured it to be was more than sufficient for the face melting riffs that I was to experience that night. The night started out with Septic Flesh who played songs primarily from their new album “Communion.” The title track Communion and Lovecraft’s Death were the two songs that really shined during their set. Next up were Norwegian metal heads Satyricon. While their set list consisted of songs mostly from their new album “The Age of Nero,” They included some of their classics such as Mother North and The Pentagram burns.
It was now time for Cradle of Filth to take the stage. Their stage setup consisted of a crucified skeleton and a large video screen located behind the band. There was much anticipation for the band to come out as their set list started with the instrumental track In Grandeur and Frankincense Devilment Stirr. Doug Bradley’s voice from this track echoed throughout the building making me feel as though I was about to face Pinhead and the Cenobites instead of the band. Once the band took stage they jumped right into Shat out of Hell. After the song ended Cradle front man Dani Filth let out a cry screaming out Gilded C___ as this was the next song that was to be played. One of the highlights of their set was their rendition of Nymphetamine (Fix). They had keyboard player Rosie Smith sing in place of Sara Jezebel Deva who was absent from the show. There were not many tracks played from the new album but the ones that were played gained much applause from the crowd including the track Honey and Sulfur. Other notable highlights of the nights were Cthulhu Dawn and Her Ghost in the Fog. They ended their set with a haunting rendition of From the Cradle to Enslave. As their set ended and the lights turned on we finished our beers and went on our own ways.
Full set list:
Disfear’s sound is adrift somewhere in that nebulous scream-mo/punk/metal area that defies easy categorization. From Sweden, these guys have been sporadically recording some of the heaviest, fastest, meanest sounding music since the early 90s. With 2003’s MISANTHROPIC GENERATION, they pushed the sound firmly into the metal mainstream. Part subversive, part horror influenced, and part angst, the songs never let up. From beginning to end, they pummel your senses with battering drums, coupled with smart bass lines, and devil may care guitar work. The lyrics, mostly angry rasping roars, are designed to make you think. For punching and kicking yourself into an exhausted pile of sweating, quivering flesh and bone, this is the kind of music that works for me best.
Watershed (2008) Opeth
These guys really know how to throw progressive metal on its ass and make it bleed melody and harmony. The guitar work is astounding, and although this isn't blues in any way, shape or form, there are moments that almost sound like The Allman Brothers have haunted their studio. The addition of orchestral sounds fits like a smooth silken glove in between rumbling bass lines and thundering drums. This is Opeth's Dark Side of the Moon. I have a review copy, but this fantastic album will be out later this month. Get it! Love it! Live it!
In Rainbows (2007) Radiohead http://www.radiohead.com/deadairspace/
Once more, Radiohead proves with their latest release, IN RAINBOWS, that a band which strives to break their own sound is a band that creates magic. IN RAINBOWS isn't a monumental departure from the last two albums, but it's obvious they've found a niche of sorts and are trying to find all its boundaries, while still creating melancholic and politically aware songs. They really know how to lay down all those neat little blips and tweaks that make an ordinary song something different and special- i.e., Eno- and Lanois-esque. There's a rich layered electronic keyboard ambience to every song, commingled with mostly restrained, yet still powerful, bass lines and guitar work. And yet…there is a deceptive simplicity to their sound. At times it belies description, a description that somehow steals the magic by putting it into words.
As usual the star of the music is Yorke's unmistakable voice-as-instrument. He moans with true emotion, sending echoing wails in the background that cause the small hairs on your arms to stand at attention. His lyrics are haunting and beautiful- a perfect match for the soundscapes created.
Despite all the carbon copies that have tried to perfect the Radiohead formula since THE BENDS, no one comes close to making the kind of music RADIOHEAD does. IN RAINBOWS may have the distinction of winning several awards this coming year, and may find its place in history as a one of a kind album by a one of a kind band.
When author David Wellington snagged a lucrative book deal with Thunder's Mouth Press for his debut horror novel, ‘Monster Island’, an online serial zombie novel (known colloquially as a 'blook'), there were many old school authors and publishing houses that openly scoffed at such an anomaly. An 'online' novel being read by the general public? How could this be? A 'badly written fanboy novel' getting a publishing deal?
Since then, Wellington has proven himself not only a talented storyteller deserving of a wider readership, and most importantly, that he is anything but a one trick pony. Since then, he's released no less than eight online serial novels, most of which have been published the old fashioned way after the fact.
But has Wellington's success managed to change the way readers and, more importantly, publishers view horror reading?
According to a library poll in 2008, it was reported over 33% of internet users say they do read blogs (a serial novel's usual format) and that around 11% do so on a regular or semi-regular basis. That's nearly double the numbers reported by various polls and agencies in 2006. So it would seem- at least by the above results- that internet readership is growing as more and more people become used to this new method by which an aspiring author can present his or her story to a potential audience.
But what about publishers? Are they paying attention to these fictional flowers on the internet? Just how many publishers, small press or otherwise, are scooping up the next online Wellingtons and sending their works out into the print world?
A handful at most…and that's counting Wellington's blooks.
Even those companies that offer online publishing services to authors do so with the intent of having the buyer print the product at home, thereby saving them the cost of paper and shipping.
Which begs the transverse question: How many print novels have found life or even a new life online?
And the not so surprising answer is, of course, thousands.
Many literary classics, some contemporary works.
Some legally, most not.
So it would seem that many publishers are willing to use the internet to further their sales to those who use online as their primary reading source, but do not perceive this venue as a viable first source for readers.
Some publishers- mostly those who are trying to angle their business towards the much cheaper web publishing medium- claim that in ten years or less the print world will be pretty much dead.
With the recent third generation release of the Kindle DX, we're beginning to see more authors trying to give their older out-of-print works a second chance at a reading public.
All of these technology-driven publishing mediums are bound to take their toll on the old world of paper and spines, but with what eventual cultural effect? And this should be of even larger concern for those of us in the horror genre- a genre that has come to be identified with less than professional craftsmanship when it comes to self-publishing and web publishing.
Who will guard the gates of editing and good storytelling?
If you thought self-published works were bad, blooks make some of those look like Pulitzer Prize winners.
It seems these days that there are thousands of online serial novels hitting the web, perhaps inspired by Wellington's incredible success, perhaps because it is a free and easy, ‘no gates’ way of sending your work into the world.
One positive of such a no-holds barred venue is that strange and not-so-easy to define novels have the potential of drawing an audience, where in the corporate heavy mentality of modern big house publishing such works would never see the light of day. How many big houses would gamble on something like ‘Confederacy of Dunces’ these days? Or even something as surreal and subversive as Robert Anton Wilson's ‘Schrödinger's Cat’?
Can the internet save an ailing horror publishing market?
One thing against using the internet as a solitary source of readership is the non-physical aspects of it. Free, yes, but also by its very airiness in terms of costs, it also gives a perception of bearing no weight in this modern instant gratification culture. Do the words lose their consequence and importance because of their lack of physicality?
By many online authors' admission they want to see their works in print even if they're popular online, so it seems as though one cannot deny the reality that exclusive online readership simply isn't enough to impress the industry.
Which isn't the same for online comics/graphic novels, and even films. For those mediums of storytelling do just fine with an exclusive online life. As do some fiction and nonfiction magazines and news sites.
So why the double standard for novel length material?
Even the master of horror Stephen King felt the need to provide print versions of his online offerings in recent short story collections.
Some authors have even gone so far as to create whole worlds for their fiction offerings, as evidenced by Weston Ochse, John Urbancik, Mike Oliveri and artist Russell Dickerson’s creation, MUY MAL. Their experiment seemed to come off quite successfully by their own accounts, so maybe this is the new wave of fiction: an unrestrained world building between collectives, where the reader gets more than a printed page, an interactive experience, instead, that transcends the old world.
In any case, it’s truly stating the obvious the say that the internet is going to affect reading by and large, and probably a lot sooner than the old world reading public would like. The new world isn’t going to go away because it may be strange and inconvenient. It will break the taboos; it will tear down the pillars.
Here’s the future.
Below are a few links gathered during the writing of this article. Some display a creativity that embraces this new format for fiction, most don’t, but they’re still entertaining.
Cory Cramer’s ‘Hades Rising’ by Remarco Publishing
Chris and Patrick William’s ‘Dead Meat’ by Permuted Press
Simon Drax’s ‘Exit Vector’ by underland press (they call their works ‘wovels’)
John Passarella’s ‘Shimmer’
Zed Zefram’s ‘Zomtropolis’
Andersen Prunty’s ‘The Beard’
What is Backwoods Horror? Picture yourself, lost in a foreign environment, deep in the forest (or desert) where sane men dare not dwell. But this deserted place hides a secret, be it madness, cannibalism, torture, or just plain old ‘We don’t much cotton to no city folks here’, and it means death to the interloper. Backwoods Horror is the symbol of our fear of the antisocial element that exists on the fringes of our civilization, those who have turned their backs on social order and morals, where survival is the only law. And if they have to occasionally kill a trespasser and throw him in the stew pot…well, them city folk should know better with all their fancy clothes and book learnin’.
But from the examples of the best that sub-genre has to offer, there is an unspoken sympathy with the fringe dweller(s). They have shunned us, and usually for good reason. What’s so great about civilization anyway?
We’ve managed to completely screw the environment with our pollution, have nearly depleted the world’s natural resources, putting all of mankind in jeopardy, and, when it comes down to it, the social order we’re all so proud of is basically controlled chaos.
When the old order finally collapses, the smart money is on the loner—even if he does carry a blood soaked machete around.
Top 13: Backwoods Horror Films
13. Spider Baby (1968)
Director jack Hill’s infamous movie is known by several alternate titles, 'The Liver Eaters', 'Attack of the Liver Eaters', 'Cannibal Orgy', and 'The Maddest Story Ever Told', 'Spider baby' tells the story of a group of orphaned killers overseen by Lon Chaney Jr. in one of his last performances. The young crazies suffer from a fictional disease called Merrye Syndrome, which causes them to regress into violence during early puberty. Also starring horror icon Sid Haig, the film almost defies description in its strangeness as it depicts a family of mad murderers hacking and slashing their way through the supporting cast. And as an added bonus old Lon sings the nifty eponymous ditty.
Come on everybody...Spider Baby, Spider Baby...oooo...ooooo
This makes our Top 13 simply because you will never find another movie like it.
12. Frontier(s) (2007)
Xavier Gens’ film is a grim, dark hell ride. There’s almost no light to relieve this bleak outlook of humanity as Nazi zealots torture, kill and eat a small group of desperate fleeing bank robbers on the outskirts of Paris. Seriously, not since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has a movie left me feeling so disturbed and sickened. This one makes our list because of its grim impact on the viewer.
11. Anthropophagus The Beast (1980)
An Italian splatter masterpiece of tension and gore, this movie has so many alternate titles there’s no room for them all. In portraying the story of a group of innocent Greek island hoppers finding a mysteriously deserted village and its hungry sole survivor, lovable gore movie scamp, Joe D’Amato, truly outdid himself with this one, even going so far as to show a pregnant woman’s fetus being pulled from the womb to be consumed before her eyes by insane cannibal, George Eastman. What this movie lacks in pacing, it certainly does make up for in over the top performances from the likes of Tia Farrow (Mia’s sister who starred in another splatter classic, Lucio Fulci’s Zombie). This one makes the list for D’Amato’s unswerving desire to never look away.
10. Calvaire (2004)
This one has everything a backwoods horror fan could want: pig fucking, a dark undercurrent of homosexual context, religious blasphemy and torture. This Belgian ‘delight’ seemed to come out of nowhere and left permanent emotional scars on its viewers. It is a scathing and unrelenting experience--not for the faint of heart--as we follow the terrible misadventures of an arrogant male lounge performer who breaks down in the middle of nowhere, and his subsequent imprisonment and physical, mental and sexual torture at the hands of some really unsavory people. But don’t let the gore and perversions turn you off; this one made the list for its excellent cinematography and deep emotional impact as well. It doesn’t play. It’s brutal viewing.
9. Wolf Creek (2005)
Another film that seemed to come out of nowhere to take the horror world by storm was this Australian backwoods horror. Directed by Greg McLean, it told the brutal story of three outback travelers who are drugged and imprisoned by a back-to-nature type serial killer. John Jarrett, who plays the killer Mick, does such a superb job of switching from an altruistic man of the hills to a gibbering, slavering torturer it’s spooky. The torture scenes alone are enough to make any viewer wince, especially since the first half of the movie takes the time to let us get to know the victims and really care for them. This film made the list because of its unforgettable bleakness and extraordinary alien looking scenery. Since Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, isolation has never looked so realistic. The producers claim it was based on a real case, which leaves you pondering the film’s ambiguous conclusion.
8. The Final Terror (1983)
Directed by 80s action helmer Andrew Davis, this is his only attempt at a horror film. And one can see the action bent already, with a strong male and female cast who are anything but mindless fodder for the strange woodland, faceless killers who stalk them by day and night. Several firefighters in training go on a training mission deep in the woods, bringing along a group of women who want to camp where no man has been for a hundred years or more. But they soon find they’re not alone in the woods when they come face to face with a family of cannibals. This is one of the few films which does not employ the ‘final girl’ conclusion. It, in fact, becomes a surreal action movie towards the end as the survivors band together to trap and kill their stalkers. For that alone, this film does what few backwoods horror film have done: give a sense of empowerment to its victims.
7. Wrong Turn (2003)
Director Rob Schmidt can be thanked for almost exclusively bringing the backwoods horror film back to life with this film. Again, we have isolated travelers, this time in the backwoods of West Virginia where people tend to disappear without a trace, who must battle for their lives against a clever backwoods family of cannibals. And again, the director knows the value of making us care for the victims before he slaughters them, adding a whole wince factor when we see scenes of them being chopped into eating meat for the mutated killers. This one makes the list because it revived an ailing sub-genre and made it feel new again for even we jaded horror fans. The late great Stan Winston knew what he was about when he helped produce this one.
6. Just Before Dawn (1981)
Jeff Lieberman is the man responsible for some of the most cerebral and grotesque horror films of the 80s, including ‘Squirm’ and ‘Blue Sunshine’. His movies always have a deeper message. ‘Just Before Dawn’ is no exception in telling the story of a group of campers in the deep dark woods of Oregon who, again, run amok of a family of loners who do not like outsiders in their woods. But buried beneath this blood and guts thrill ride, and beautiful backdrop of waterfalls and forest, is a deeper examination of the consequences of man’s encroachment upon the natural world. Lieberman even goes so far as to place a deserted church in the woods where the killers congregate before they kill. This one makes the list for its intelligence and style. And the ‘final girl’ scene in this film is unbelievably grotesque and empowering.
5. The Old Dark House (1932)
The original backwoods horror film from famed Universal monster director, James Whale, ‘The Old Dark House’ is still a hell of a thrilling movie. There are no cannibals, no scenes of blood and guts, and certainly no T and A, but it does carry a pervasive air of oppression and manic energy. It also stars some of the biggest names of the period, Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton and Gloria Stuart who give, one and all, dynamite performances. When fellow travelers are stranded in the back country during a violent storm, they seek shelter in a seemingly abandoned mansion. But the mansion’s inhabitants are anything but sane and normal, and as the night progresses, their collective terrors are realized as a secret family member comes from the attic room and joins the party. This one makes the list because it still works and helped create a sub-genre, decades later.
4. 2000 Maniacs! (1964)
Directed by the Godfather of Gore, H.G. Lewis, this is the one that started it all: the blood and guts revolution. Sure, the effects by today’s standards and silly looking, and the acting is pretty dreadful, but the film’s strength is it’s over the top aesthetic, a no holds barred approach to showing on screen violence. The story is about a car load of ‘yankees’ traveling through the backwoods of Georgia, who find themselves the center of a town wide celebration. Little do they know these ‘rebels’ want some bloody revenge for the South’s Civil War downfall. There are no cut aways to trick the eye. Lewis went for realism and got pretty near close to it in most his scenes of mayhem and gore. In ‘2000 Maniacs!’ you’ll see a man rolled down a hill in a bucket lined with nails, a woman dismembered and eaten, a man drawn and quartered, and that’s not all. Lewis knew the value of shock and showmanship and this film oozes with the twin sense of sideshow huckster and the DYI filmmaker. This one makes the list because without Lewis’ willingness to jump over the line of good taste we would never have seen a blood and guts revolution in film.
3. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Wes Craven has always been a hit or miss director, but this is one he was he was hitting on all cylinders. And while the 2006 remake by director Alexandre Aja is a fine and gruesome film, it still doesn’t hold a candle to the original. This is the story of yet another family who find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere, but this time we trade the familiar forest for an even bleaker California desert landscape, arid and empty. It is a film of battling family units. One must survive the elements and the killers, while the cannibals must gather their victims as food to survive. It is graphic in its depiction of violence, and tackles several taboo subjects in film: incest, rape, cannibalism, among them. It is still brutal viewing and is not suggested for those with weak stomachs.
This one makes our list because it still has yet to be topped in its brutality.
2. Deliverance (1972)
Director John Boorman practically created the modern backwoods horror movie with this classic tale of four good old boy hunters being stalked and killed in the Georgia woods by hicks who don’t like anyone messing in their woods. Starring some of the 70s top male actors, Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Betty, and Ronnie Cox, the movie still makes one wince when these innocent city folk run afoul of men who treat them as animals to killed. Of course, there are the now iconic scenes of the mentally handicapped banjo playing boy and that gut wrenching ‘squeal like a pig, Bubba’ male rape scene. But more importantly this is a story that, like ‘Just Before Dawn’, examines the cost of man’s encroachment on the natural world. See, that the hicks have mistakenly assumed that the four innocent travelers are actually there from the power company to check out their land for construction. This one makes the list because it’s the granddaddy of the modern backwoods horror film.
1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
So it’s not surprising less two years later, we come to our number one backwoods horror film, Tobe Hooper’s ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’. Because with the popularity of ‘Deliverance’, a big name movie, with big name stars, it was only natural that someone would come along with the all important indie cinema DYI attitude and do it even better. Better than ‘Deliverance’ you say? Yes, better. What makes this simple tale of five young friends running afoul of a family of Texas cannibals and BBQ entrepreneurs isn’t the graphic violence (because the film really doesn’t indulge in blood and guts violence) but the mental and emotional level of violence that inundates the film from the very first scene of a rotting corpse hanging in a ravaged graveyard. There is little attempt to create sympathy for the victims, because no one cares. This isn’t a tale of morality or ethics. It is a straight forward story of slaughter (ostensibly the slaughter of the 60s flower child mentality) and meat. Some of horror’s most iconic characters and mythos have come from this movie, including Leatherface and his fellow cannibals, and the modern attitude that strangers are not to be trusted. Hooper doesn’t have any qualms about killing a cripple, nor killing the supposed hero in the first reel. He also has no qualms hanging someone by a hook to be slaughtered like a pig for food. In short, Hooper wanted to shock and dismay, and he does so with a minimum of blood, and usually only the gut wrenching whine and rev of a chainsaw. If you own only one backwoods horror film this should be the one.
Join us next month for another Top 13, here at The Black Glove.