Showing posts from March, 2020

Society (1989)

The 1980s were a great time for horror cinema. The emergence of ground-breaking make-up and special effects work enabled filmmakers to depict unimaginable horrors in ways never possible before. When effects were used to enhance gripping stories, the results were frequently memorable and powerful. The likes of An American Werewolf in London (1981) and The Thing (1982), with their astounding depictions of lycanthropic transformations and unspeakable terrors from beyond the stars, respectively, thrust audiences headfirst into all manner of visceral, eye-popping imagery. Brian Yuzna’s satirical body-horror Society is another of these titles. It tells of a teenager who begins to suspect his wealthy family are part of a mysterious elite cult and have dubious intentions for him. As the story unfolds, we’re given hints here and there of the weird, almost otherworldly nature of the cult and its members, before it is finally revealed at the jaw-dropping climax in all its gory, body-melting glo…

RIP Stuart Gordon

Cult film and stage director Stuart Gordon has died at the age of 72. Famed for his Lovecraft adaptations, including Re-Animator(1985), From Beyond (1986), Dagon (2001), Castle Freak (1995) and Dreams in the Witch House (2005), Gordon was also a playwright, and began his career producing experimental, frequently controversial stage plays before moving on to film in the 80s.

Born and raised in Chicago, Gordon majored in theatre studies at the University of Wisconsin, where he founded the theatre company Screw Theater. Together with his wife and collaborator, actress and writer Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, he formed the Organic Theater, described by a friend of the director’s as “the take-off-your-clothes, scream and bleed theater.” The company quickly garnered a reputation for radical, politically charged, anti-establishment productions, including an anti-Vietnam war re-telling of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan, which actually resulted in the arrest of Gordon and Purdy-Gordon on charges of 'obsc…

London in lockdown

Earlier this week the prime minister announced strict new measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus in the UK. People may only leave home to exercise once a day, travel to and from work when it is "absolutely necessary", shop for essential items and fulfil any medical or care needs. Shops selling non-essential goods have been closed and gatherings in public of more than two people who do not live together are prohibited.

As we're currently still allowed to leave the house once a day in order to exercise, I was thinking about places I could go for a walk where I would not only encounter as few people as possible (I’m trying to be careful and responsible when I go outside at all) but could also take a few photos of London’s eerily deserted streets. One of my housemates and I decided to leave early in the morning when we thought there would be (even) less people around. Exercising caution and social distancing when we did (infrequently) encounter other people, we walked…

My Book on the films of Dario Argento Turns 10 (!)

On this day, ten years ago (!), my book on the films of Dario Argento was published by Kamera Books (part of the Oldcastle Books group). I initially pitched the book at the beginning of 2008 and was commissioned to write it in March. My aim was to write an accessible introduction to Argento’s body of work – much had of course already been written about his films, but generally speaking, it was very academic (which is fine, obviously, but I wanted to bridge a gap) – and to examine each of his films and identify key themes and motifs throughout. I was able to look at everything up to Giallo (2009), the premiere of which I checked out at the Edinburgh Film Festival in June 2009. Argento's last film, to date, was Dracula 3D (2012), so it remains the only film not included.  

Initially the book was intended to be part of the Pocket Essentials series, however that series was later transformed into 'Kamera Books', in part as a response to bookshops commenting that the Pocket Es…

XX (2017)

Featuring stories by and about women, XX is a potent horror anthology written and directed by Jovanka Vuckovic, Annie Clark, Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama and Sofia Carrillo. It features four distinctive segments and an interstitial piece, which, amongst other things, explore themes of motherhood, familial dysfunction, loss and social isolation.

By their very nature, anthology films can vary greatly in content, style, structure, tone and pacing, particularly ones involving contributions from several filmmakers, and the constant interruption of the narrative flow when we pull back to the framing story can be jarring. When done well though, we get the likes of XX, which unfurls as a macabre collection of unsettling stories that leaves a deeply haunting impression.

Written and directed by Jovanka Vuckovic (The Captured Bird, former editor of Rue Morgue), and adapted from a short story by Jack Ketchum, The Box is a dark, upsetting tale that delves into parental fears of helplessness. Wh…

Lurking in the Stacks

Loosely based on Guy Endore’s novel The Werewolf of Paris (also adapted by Hammer as The Curse of the Werewolf in 1961) Legend of the Werewolf was produced by Tyburn Films in 1975 and starred Peter Cushing. Edward Buscombe’s exquisitely detailed account of the making of this British cult-horror classic contains interviews and accounts from cast and crew involved in every aspect of the filming process. Published by the BFI, this book was the first to recount the making of a British horror film. And it does so with so much enthusiasm and attention to detail. Every stage of the film’s production is delved into, from finance to casting, shooting and editing, scoring and special effects, to marketing and distribution. The making of the film is pieced together through accounts from the cast and crew, including director Freddie Francis and star Peter Cushing. It’s a jolly delightful glimpse into how British films were made in the 70s. There’s also a section on Tyburn Films, the sadly short …

Titles in the library

Kier-La Janisse’s fabulously titled House of Psychotic Women: an autobiographical topography of female neurosis in horror and exploitation films, is an examination of ‘female madness’ in horror. Janisse asserts that unlike her male counterpart, the female neurotic lives a shamed existence, and that the horror genre – unlike any other genre - provides a platform for women characters to express particular destructive, ‘shameful’ emotions. Paranoia, loneliness, masochistic death-wishes, obsessiveness and hysteria are given space to be expressed and play out. Film history, academic analysis and painstaking research are deftly woven through personal anecdotes, memories and experiences to form a compelling exploration of psychological turmoil and breakdown. Titles covered include Possession, Repulsion, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, The Entity, The Piano Teacher, The Brood, Antichrist and Black Swan.

The influence of folk and fairy stories on horror cinema is the subject of Sue Short’s Misf…