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Showing posts from 2016

Diabolique Magazine’s Christmas Crackers: Favourite Films for the Festive Season

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The tradition of sharing ghost stories at Christmastime is an old one, and with its long, cold, dark nights, it's the perfect time of year to indulge in all things spooky. The Diabolique Magazine team have put together a list of our favourite films to watch at this time of year. Our wintry picks include Edward Scissorhands, 12 Monkeys, Black Xmas, Horror Express, Gremlins and many more.

One of my own personal favourites is The Curse of the Cat People, a chillingly beautiful sequel to Jacques Tourneur's moody classic, Cat People. Under the guiding hand of producer Val Lewton and directors Gunther von Fritsch and Robert Wise, The Curse of the Cat People unfolds as an understated, oddly touching psychological study of the mind of a lonely young girl, with myriad scenes unfolding amidst an eerie winter wonderland.

Head over to Diabolique Magazine’swebsite to read more… And wherever you are in the world, have a very Merry Christmas.

Behind the Couch Turns 8 Years Old!

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Behind the Couch turned 8 years old this month!

This year I have dedicated most of my time to researching and writing a book on The Company of Wolves for Devil’s Advocates, a series devoted to exploring the classics of horror cinema. Co-written by Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan and British novelist Angela Carter, and based on several short stories from Carter's collection The Bloody Chamber, The Company of Wolves is a darkly Gothic, boldly feminist reinvention of the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood. With werewolves. Released in the early 1980s, a time which produced several classic werewolf films (including An American Werewolf in London and The Howling), The Company of Wolves sets itself apart from the pack with its overtly literary roots, feminist stance, and art-house leanings.

Throughout the book (which I am currently proofing) I’ve placed the film in the context of the careers of its creators, explored its place in werewolf cinema and its strong feminist message, and looked…

The Return of Diabolique Magazine...

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Diabolique is a bimonthly magazine covering every aspect of the horror genre, including film, literature, theatre, art, music, history and culture. Lavishly illustrated in full colour, each issue is packed with entertaining and thought-provoking articles.

After a brief hiatus, Diabolique is now back in print and better than ever. At the helm is a new team of editors (Kat Ellinger, Samm Deighan, Heather Drain and Rebecca Booth) whose knowledge of horror cinema is surpassed only by their passion for it; not to mention their dedication to resurrecting Diabolique in print form and building on its legacy of thoughtful, insightful and compelling content.

"Diabolique Magazine is back in print with an entire issue dedicated to celebrating Japanese and Korean cult cinema at its most sublime, otherworldly, erotic and visceral. In our cover story we explore the darker elements of Japanese folklore; tracking the evolution of the ghost story from genre defining classics Onibaba, Kwaidan, and …

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary Vol. 1

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Montague Rhodes James was a renowned medieval scholar and Provost of King's College, Cambridge. He was also the author of some of the finest ghost stories in the English language.

His tales are populated by lonely, academic bachelors whose insistence on prying into ancient tomes, forbidden manuscripts and other esoteric materials plunges them into a world of malevolent entities and ghoulish spectres.

Four of his most haunting tales — 'Canon Alberic's Scrap-book'; 'Lost Hearts'; 'The Mezzotint'; and 'The Ash-tree' — have been adapted by Liverpool-based writers Leah Moore and John Reppion for indie publisher SelfMadeHero's latest graphic compendium, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary Vol. 1.

It is recommended for die-hard MR James enthusiasts, as well as for those perhaps just discovering his work.

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my review

Diabolique Magazine’s Ultimate Halloween Movie Night

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The Diabolique Magazine team have put together a list of our favourite films to watch on Halloween. Making lists is never easy, especially when there are so many great films to choose from. Our picks include Halloween III, The Shining, Evil Dead, Fright Night, The Changeling, Night of the Eagle and many more, including one of my own personal favourites, The Haunting.

Directed by Robert Wise and based on the novel by Shirley Jackson, The Haunting contains a perfect blend of understated horror, icy atmospherics and unsettling ambiguity. Wise’s subtle approach not only honours Jackson’s own chilling suggestiveness but is also a tribute to the work of Val Lewton, who produced several of Wise’s own early directorial efforts including Curse of the Cat People and The Body Snatcher.

Head over to Diabolique Magazine’s website to read more…

Exquisite Terror Halloween Sale

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Born from a love of horror, ponderous thoughts and meandering topics, Exquisite Terror is a periodical that takes a more academic approach to the horror genre, featuring exclusive art, script analysis and in-depth essays.

To celebrate Halloween (our favourite time of year!) we're having a sale, so if you'd like to pick up a copy, while stocks last, head here to do so. Issue 1 has completely sold out, but there are still limited copies of issues 2, 3 and 4.

Here's what some folks have said about Exquisite Terror:

STARBURST “Fascinating and informative” 

BRUTAL AS HELL “Intelligent and enlightening”

SEX GORE MUTANTS “Highly recommended” 

STRANGE THINGS ARE HAPPENING “One of the best horror zines out there” 

Autumn XXXI

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Today's image is a photograph I took a couple of years back - it's a turnip I'd carved for Halloween. When I was a child my parents would carve turnips instead of pumpkins - it's an old Irish tradition. The story of how carved turnips came to be used as lanterns varies throughout Europe. According to a spooky old Irish tale, a measly farmer called Stingy Jack tricked the Devil into climbing a tree. Once the Devil was high up in the moonlit branches, Stingy Jack carved a cross into the bark so he couldn’t get down again. Jack only agreed to let the Devil down when he promised never to take the farmer’s soul.

When Stingy Jack eventually died, he was too sinful to pass through Heaven’s gates, and as the Devil had promised never to take his soul, he was damned to always wander the earth in search of a resting place. He carved out a turnip, and inside placed a glowing ember the Devil gave him to light his lonely way. He became known as "Jack of the Lantern." 
Ha…

Autumn XXX

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"Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win."
Stephen King

Autumn XXIX

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"Satan! Come to us! We are ready!  Satan! Come to us! We are ready!  Satan! Come to us! We are ready!"
Lords of Salem

Autumn XXVIII

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"Ravens are the birds I'll miss most when I die. If only the darkness into which we must look were composed of the black light of their limber intelligence. If only we did not have to die at all. Instead, become ravens." 
Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

Autumn XXVII

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"All I've ever wanted to do is darken the day and brighten the night."
Clive Barker

Autumn XXVI

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"The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited."
Stephen King, Bag of Bones

Autumn XXV

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"The Devil pulls the strings which make us dance;  We find delight in the most loathsome things;  Some furtherance of Hell each new day brings,  And yet we feel no horror in that rank advance."
Charles Baudelaire

Autumn XXIV

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"There is nothing like the silence and loneliness of night to bring dark shadows  over the brightest mind."
Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Autumn XXIII

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"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,  But I have promises to keep,  And miles to go before I sleep..." 
Robert Frost

Autumn XXII

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"Now he was praying because the Witches' Sabbath was drawing near [...] when hell's blackest evil roamed the earth and all the slaves of Satan gathered for nameless rites and deeds. It was always a very bad time... There would be bad doings, and a child or two would probably go missing."
HP Lovecraft, Dreams in the Witch House

Autumn XXI

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So I went on and on till I came to the secret wood which must not be described, and I crept into it by the way I had found. And when I had gone about halfway I stopped... I bound the handkerchief tightly round my eyes, and made quite sure that I could not see at all, not a twig, nor the end of a leaf, nor the light of the sky... Then I began to go on, step by step, very slowly. My heart beat faster and faster, and something rose in my throat that choked me and made me want to cry out, but I shut my lips, and went on. Boughs caught in my hair as I went, and great thorns tore me; but I went on to the end of the path. Then I stopped, and held out my arms and bowed, and I went round the first time, feeling with my hands, and there was nothing. I went round the second time, feeling with my hands, and there was nothing. Then I went round the third time, feeling with my hands, and the story was all true, and I wished that the years were gone by, and that I had not so long a time to wait befo…

Autumn XX

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The woods enthralled her... Little by little did she become absorbed into them... She would sit for hours motionless, hoping, believing, that at any moment the revelation might come to her, and that she would see the Dryads dancing, and hear the pipes of Pan. 

The woods were aware of her, the trees knew of her presence and were watching her... A feeling of pride, of joy, of a little fear, possessed her... She knew something great was coming, something awe-inspiring, something, perchance, terrible! 

Already she began to feel invisible, inaudible beings closing in upon her, already she began to know that slowly her strength, her will, were being drawn out of her. And for what end? Terror began to possess itself of her... 

The woods enthralled her.

'In the Woods' by Amyas Northcote

Autumn XIX

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"Not a word of goodbye, not even a note  She's gone with the man in the long black coat."
Bob Dylan

Autumn XVIII

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"The Erl-king will do you grievous harm."
Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber

Autumn XVII

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"Some houses are born bad."
Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

Autumn XVI

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"Keep away from Pumpkinhead, unless you're tired of living,  His enemies are mostly dead, he's mean and unforgiving. 
It's when you think that he's forgot, he'll conjure your undoing..."

Autumn XV

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"It was just a colour out of space — a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it; from realms whose mere existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the black extra-cosmic gulfs it throws open before our frenzied eyes."
H.P. Lovecraft, The Colour Out of Space

Autumn XIV

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"The sea fills my ear with sand and with fear. You may wash out the sand, but never the sound of the ghost of the sea that is haunting me."
Ted Hughes, The Shell

Autumn XIII

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"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Autumn XII

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He Who Walks Behind the Rows...

Autumn XI

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"Perhaps other souls than human are sometimes born into the world, and clothed in flesh."
J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Uncle Silas

Autumn X

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"Hell is empty. All the devils are here."

Shakespeare, The Tempest

Autumn IX

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"In the midst of life we are in death..."

Autumn VIII

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"For dust you are and to dust you will return..."

Autumn VII

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"Blessed are the dead."

Autumn VI

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"Lord, let me know mine end, and the number of my days..."

Autumn V

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"For when thou art angry, all our days are gone: we bring our years to an end, as it were a tale that is told."

Autumn IV

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"...Before I go hence, and be no more seen."

Autumn III

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"So shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life."

Autumn II

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"There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead."

Autumn I

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"...fade away suddenly like the grass. In the morning it is green, and groweth up: but in the evening it is cut down, dried up, and withered."

Thinking Only Autumn Thoughts...

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“That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts... Beware the autumn people.” Ray Bradbury

It’s October. The month when daylight fades into long nights, cooler air, and when the trees demonstrate the golden and rich glory of death. I had hoped to celebrate the coming of Halloween by posting daily reviews and anecdotes to the blog, but once again ‘real life’ has stepped in and prevented me from doing so. I’m currently amending my book on The Company of Wolves for Devil’s Advocates and have just embarked on a post-graduate diploma, so, for now, my time is otherwise occupied. That said, I’ve (once again) been inspired by my good friend Christine over at Fascination with Fear who, throughout this month, is posting wonderfully creepy images to her blog in honour of all things October, Halloween, spooky and autumnal. This is a great way to celebrate a favourite time of the year, and to appreciate its beauty revealed through the macabre. 

Fellow October lovers, I…

The Turn To Gruesomeness In American Horror Films, 1931-1936

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Too dreadfully brutal, no matter what the story calls for [...] It carries gruesomeness and cruelty just a little beyond reason or necessity.” Review of Frankenstein, Motion Picture Herald, 1931

The type of picture that brought about censorship.” Review of Mad Love, Motion Picture Herald, 1935

Quite the most unpleasant picture I have ever seen [...] it exploited cruelty for cruelty’s sake.” Review of The Raven, London Daily Telegraph, 1935.

Is the thirties horror film more akin to graphic modern horror than is often thought?

Critics have traditionally characterized classic horror by its use of shadow and suggestion. Yet the graphic nature of early 1930s films only came to light in the home video/DVD era. Along with gangster movies and "sex pictures," horror films drew audiences during the Great Depression with sensational screen content. Exploiting a loophole in the Hays Code, which made no provision for on-screen "gruesomeness," studios produced remarkably exp…

Werewolf of London

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1935
Dir. Stuart Walker

While travelling through Tibet in search of a mysterious flower that only blooms in moonlight, renowned botanist Dr. Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull) is attacked by a werewolf. When he returns to London, Glendon begins to undergo a terrifying transformation, the only antidote for which appears to be the plant he is researching...

Produced by Universal in the wake of the success of Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy, Werewolf of London was the first mainstream Hollywood werewolf film. It established several precedents which later became significant mainstays of werewolf cinema, such as the idea of lycanthropy as a contagious disease, the influence of the full moon on the werewolf’s transformation, and the spiritual torment suffered by the tragic male protagonist as he desperately attempts to find a cure for his monstrous condition. As the eponymous beast, Hull delivers a performance that invites much sympathy; prior to his encounter with a werewolf, Dr Glendon was…

How To Become A Werewolf: Part II

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Myths survive as long as they speak to something fundamental in the human psyche, and notions of humans transforming into animals and monsters have fascinated and terrified us for millennia. It is an idea that speaks of the primal, animalistic impulses that lurk within all mankind, and it nestles in the dark corners of most, if not all cultures around the world. Throughout folklore and archaic literature the figure of the werewolf is depicted as a cursed and shunned individual, thought to have no control over his or her bestial urges which accompany the dreadful transformations from man to monster.

A person was believed to become a werewolf if they were excommunicated from the church, or if they were born on Christmas Day. They could also become a werewolf if they were cursed, or if lycanthropy ran in their family (tainted bloodlines), or by performing certain black magic rituals or sometimes, just through sheer force of will. More recently, thanks to certain conventions established …

Carnacki: The Lost Cases

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Just taking a quick break from writing (procrastinating) about The Company of Wolves to share some good news. I've just had my first short story published! In a book! Carnacki: The Lost Cases is an anthology that takes the mysterious cases hinted at by ‘Ghost-Finder’ Thomas Carnacki (a fictional occult detective who appeared in a collection of supernatural stories written by William Hope Hodgson between 1910 and 1912) and expands them into their own stories. My story, 'A Hideous Communion', is based on a line from 'The Horse of the Invisible', in which Carnacki remembers a particularly terrifying case in which ‘the hand of the child kept materialising within the pentacle, and patting the floor. As you will remember, that was a hideous business.’

Carnacki: The Lost Cases is published by Ulthar Press, an independent, small press dedicated to promoting, reading and understanding many authors of horror/fantasy/speculative fiction, such as William Hope Hodgson, who have…

The Werewolf

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1913
Dir. Henry MacRae

A Navajo witch-woman believes her husband has deserted her, but unbeknownst to her, he has actually been killed. When she is rejected by his family, she raises her daughter to hate all white men. The daughter grows up to become a werewolf and she seeks revenge on those who killed her father and wronged her mother.

While now believed to be a lost film, destroyed in a fire in 1924, The Werewolf is thought to hold the honour of being the first ever werewolf film. It also marks the first cinematic appearance of the female werewolf, a figure who, until relatively recently, was often overlooked (in cinema) in favour of her male counterpart. Interestingly, The Werewolf can also be seen (perhaps rather tenuously) as the first Universal horror film, though at the time, the distributor was still known as the Universal Film Manufacturing Company. It was directed by Canadian filmmaker Henry MacRae, who, amongst other things, is credited as pioneering the use of artificial…

How To Become A Werewolf

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While researching all things lycanthropic for my book on The Company of Wolves, I came across a marvellous old tome by Elliott O’Donnell, entitled ‘Werwolves.’ O’Donnell (1872-1965) was the author of countless books concerning the supernatural and the occult, and when he wasn’t writing accounts of his own experiences as a real-life ghost-hunter battling spectres, spooks and banshees, he authored several novels, including ‘For Satan’s Sake’ (1904) and ‘The Sorcery Club’ (1912), and myriad short stories and articles. O’Donnell once claimed “I have investigated, sometimes alone, and sometimes with other people and the press, many cases of reputed hauntings. I believe in ghosts but am not a spiritualist.”

‘Werwolves’ (1912) was intended as a scholarly, encyclopaedic study of, funnily enough, werewolves, and it contains first-hand accounts of O'Donnell’s personal encounters with lycanthropes. While the facts contained within its pages are a wee bit questionable, it certainly remains o…

Women in Horror Annual

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Edited by Paracinema Magazine alumnae Christine Makepeace and C. Rachel Katz, the Women in Horror Annual (WHA) is a collection of horror fiction and nonfiction written by women. While not unique in the horror literary landscape, the WHA counts as one among a scant handful of women-only anthologies. The annual promotes and celebrates female voices in horror, and the stories and papers contained within - penned by new and emerging literary talent - represent a diverse group of writers, each with their own unique vision. Some of these writers have published previously, while others are just starting out.

Women are often under-represented in the horror market, and this anthology is a step towards providing more female voices with a chance to be heard/read. The nineteen original stories featured in the annual run the gamut from melancholic to erotic; some are violent, brutal affairs, and others are more psychological. The essays include cinematic and literary analysis, touching upon theme…

Curtain

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2015
Dir. Jaron Henrie-McCrea

AKA The Gateway

The humble shower curtain holds a rather iconic place in horror cinema. Its presence in one of the most shocking and undeniably influential moments in all of cinema helped to create tension and a sense of vulnerability; a thin layer separating normality from chaos and carnage, a veil between life and death. Since Psycho (1960), countless horror films have featured scenes in which shower curtains are whipped back to reveal murderous marauders poised to thrust sharp implements into the naked flesh of the unfortunate showerer. In Jaron Henrie-McCrea’s low-budget, oddball delight, the presence, or to be more precise, the disappearance of the shower curtain once again serves as a harbinger of foreboding doom. But in a very different way indeed…

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review.