Monday, 17 July 2017

Farewell to George Romero


It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of George Romero. Although he has been lauded as the master of the modern zombie genre, his signature film Night of the Living Dead was also an important social commentary on the racial divide in the United States, and it is for this that I will always remember him. As a Hollywood source describes it:

Night of the Living Dead arrived at a time when American idealism was starting to sour. The momentum of post-war progress and the hope of early 60s counterculture had all but evaporated in the year of the Watts riots and assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. The film was a potent piece of speculative satire: a low-budget, tightly scripted horror film that posited as its protagonist a young black professional (played by Duane Jones) who struggles to navigate the neuroses and hysteria of his white counterparts while fending off an undead horde. The film's closing moments, in which Jones is 'mistakenly' shot by the police cleanup crew, remain one of the most stinging incidences of irony in cinematic history.

In fact, Romero had been asked to write an episode for the television series The Walking Dead, but declined, saying that the show was more soap opera than social commentary.

Mr. Romero made a guest appearance at the Ottawa ComicCon this past May, much to the delight of my son Tim, who has all of his movies and admired him greatly. My son was able to meet him and because it was nearing the end of the convention and not overly busy, Mr. Romero took the time to talk to Tim and even have a picture taken (without charge) of the two of them. Tim had ordered, through eBay, foreign movie posters of the Living Dead franchise. He took them with him to ComicCon to get autographed. Mr. Romero was delighted to view the posters, which he had not seen before. He was a kind man who made an indelible impression on my son.

The light of the horror world is dimmed greatly by his passing.

RIP George Romero: 1940-2017


Monday, 26 June 2017

The Changeling: 1980



I was scrolling through the television listings yesterday afternoon and chanced upon The Changeling--not to be confused with the 2008 movie of the same name but with different subject matter--and felt compelled to stop and watch it once again. I've seen it about eight times, and I'm sure I'll watch it again.

What's so striking about this movie is its excellent cast, including George C. Scott as the protagonist, and its atmosphere. Very few movies have evoked such a strong theme of loss, sadness, and regret. The sets are stunning, and the panning, wide-angle shooting of scenes in a huge house ironically creates a sense of a world closing in on itself. The sound effects and music are also effectively used to heighten the tension. And what makes it even more credible as a horror/supernatural film is the believability of Scott as the central character. This is not a man easily given to flights of fancy: this is someone looking for rational explanations and ultimately being unable to find them.

As one critic wrote of the film:" [It is] a solidly made, genuinely creepy and effective ghost story of a type the movies rarely attempt and even more rarely get right." (Ken Hanke)

If you haven't had the opportunity to watch this classic of psychological horror, please check it out. It's one of those movies that never seem dated despite the fact that it was made almost 40 years ago.

Monday, 19 June 2017

New Horror Releases: May/June 2017

Here are some recent horror releases. (All product descriptions in this post are taken from Amazon.)


SACCULINA by Philip Fracassi (2017 Journalstone / 99 pp / trade paperback & eBook)


"The story is exciting, and terrifically scary." -- The New York Times

"SACCULINA is a smart, terrifying, and poignant tale of creeping menace. I devoured it in one frenzied sitting... this Fracassi guy is damn good." --Richard Chizmar, author of A Long December and co-author (with Stephen King) of Gwendy's Button Box

When Jim's big brother Jack is released from prison, the brothers--along with their broken father and Jack's menacing best friend--decide to charter an ocean fishing boat to celebrate Jack's new freedom.

Once the small crew is far out to sea, however, a mutant species rises from the deep abyssal darkness to terrorize the vessel and its occupants.

As the horror of their situation becomes clear, the small group must find a way to fend off the attack and somehow, someway, return to safety; but as the strange parasitic creatures overrun them, they must use more extreme - and deadly - measures to survive.



THE DOLL HOUSE by Edward Lee (2017 Necro Publications / 102 pp / trade paperback & eBook)


WELCOME TO THE PATTEN MANOR HOUSE.

It’s a horror house, a slaughter house, a devil house. And it’s something else, too:

A doll house.

Reginald Lympton collects doll houses, and now that he’s acquired the rare Patten Doll House, he can boast the most preeminent collection in the world. But after visions too abominable to reckon, and nightmares blacker than the most bottomless abyss, he discovers in short order that his acquisition is not a prized collector’s item at all but a diabolical thoroughfare designed to serve the darkest indulgences of the King of Terrors.

Now, Edward Lee, the master of hardcore horror, has penned this audacious homage to the master of the Victorian ghost story, M.R. James.



BLACK STATIC no. 58 (May/June 2017)

The May–June issue contains new dark stories and novelettes by Mark Morris, Helen Marshall, Tim Casson, Gwendolyn Kiste, and Joe Pitkin. The cover art is by Joachim Luetke, with interior illustrations by Joachim Luetke, Warwick Fraser-Coombe, and Vince Haig. Features: "Into the Woods" by Ralph Robert Moore; "Notes From the Borderland" by Lynda E. Rucker; "Case Notes" by Peter Tennant (book reviews and an in-depth interview with Richard Chizmar); "Blood Spectrum" by Gary Couzens (film review).





 To check out reviews in The Horror Fiction Review, please click here. There are a number of other books reviewed as well that might pique your curiosity.

Happy Reading!

















Monday, 29 May 2017

Powers of Darkness: The Lost Version of Dracula

For both fans and scholars of Bram Stoker's Dracula, there is an alternate version of the story now available with a very interesting history.

In 1900, Icelandic publisher and writer Valdimar Ásmundsson began translating Bram Stoker's world-famous 1897 novel Dracula. This Icelandic edition, which was titled Makt Myrkranna (literally, "Powers of Darkness"), included an original preface written by Stoker himself. 

Makt Myrkranna was published in Iceland in 1901 but remained undiscovered outside the country until 1986 when Dracula scholarship was astonished by the discovery of Stoker's preface to the book. However, no one looked beyond the preface and deeper into Ásmundsson's story. 

In 2014, literary researcher Hans de Roos examined the full text of Makt Myrkranna, only to discover that Ásmundsson hadn't merely translated Dracula but had penned an entirely new version of the story, with all new characters and a totally re-worked plot. 

The resulting narrative is one that is "shorter, punchier, more erotic, and perhaps even more suspenseful than Stoker's Dracula." 

Powers of Darkness represents the first-ever translation into English of Stoker and Ásmundsson’s Makt Myrkranna. There are also marginal annotations by de Roos that provide readers with historical, cultural, and literary context. There is a foreword by Dacre Stoker, Bram Stoker’s great-grandnephew and bestselling author, as well as an afterword by Dracula scholar John Edgar Browning, (Source: Amazon: publisher's description)

This is the Amazon link:  https://www.amazon.ca/Powers-Darkness-Lost-Version-Dracula/dp/146831336

The book is available in hardcover and audio formats.

Monday, 22 May 2017

The Trump Presidency: A Real-Life Horror Story

Stephen King has added his voice to those expressing concern over the presidency of Donald Trump.

What encourages me the most about this move is that King is a populist writer and may be able to reach people in ways that the media and the Hollywood elite could not.  And I also assume that King has had no problem withstanding the constant barrage of abuse that is being sent his way by Trump supporters.

In fact, I'm not worried at all about the ability of high-profile Trump critics to survive his presidency. But I am concerned about Trump's de-regulation of environmental protection; his insistence on turning a blind eye to human rights abuses; his overhaul of health care in the US that will leave so many vulnerable; his cuts to programs that benefit seniors and the poor; and his flagrant disregard for ethics while in the White House.

Ironically, many of Trump's policies will affect the various groups who supported him and thought he would make their lives better.

To read King's tweets, please click here.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Upcoming Release of Alien: Covenant

Fans of  Alien can look forward to the release of Alien: Covenant directed by Ridley Scott. This film is a sequel to the 2012 film Prometheus. (Scott directed the original Alien movie, as well as Prometheus.) In November 2015, Scott confirmed that Alien: Covenant would be the first of three additional films in the Alien prequel series, before linking up with the original movie.

In Alien: Covenant, the crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.

Here's a link to the official movie trailer for a sneak preview.

Alien: Covenant is scheduled for release on May 18.

Monday, 24 April 2017

A Sad Parting: My Decision to Say Good-Bye to The Walking Dead

Like many of you, I was an avid fan of The Walking Dead. Sunday night was always something to look forward to with the latest episode. Over the past two years, however, I've become increasingly disenchanted with the series. In retrospect, the killing of Glenn was probably the death knell for me.

My decision to give a future pass to The Walking Dead, however, is based on various elements besides the death of one of its most interesting characters. The main difference between a graphic novel and a television series is that the latter has a real opportunity to flesh out characters rather than  rely on the formulaic hero versus villain theme. But in Negan, the latest villain, we see not a flesh-and-blood human being, but a caricature of evil--a bit like a leering bad-guy wrestler playing to script. How many times is it necessary to show someone beaten to death, branded with an iron or, in one case, thrown into a fire? And do we really need to see the main characters, Rick and Daryl, repeatedly emasculated? Granted they are fighting back at the end of Season 7, but for me it's like a wearisome cycle that never ends. Add to this a cast of ineffectual "supporting" characters. Am I the only one who finds Gabriel, Tara, and Rosita, to name a few examples, more annoying than effective? The Walking Dead has the dubious distinction of ending the performance of many strong actors while relying on inferior acting skills to keep the series running.

As reported by Wikipedia, "executive producer David Alpert said in 2014 that the original comics have given them enough ideas for Rick Grimes and company over the next seven years. 'I happen to love working from source material, specifically because we have a pretty good idea of what Season 10 is gonna be', Alpert said. 'We know where seasons 11 and 12 [will be].... [W]e have benchmarks and milestones for those seasons if we're lucky enough to get there.'"

There is a difference between "having material" and maintaining the freshness of that material.

In my mind, what started off as a thoughtful and exciting new series has taken an abrupt right turn.