Sunday, 25 December 2016

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

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’s website to read more… And wherever you are in the world, have a very Merry Christmas.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Behind the Couch Turns 8 Years Old!

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 at the history of the tale of Red Riding Hood and how such fairy tales, and the ways they are told and retold, have contributed to the construction of gender roles/relations and influenced various customs and mores of society. The book will hopefully be published next spring (stay tuned for more info). As I have been watching a lot of werewolf films and reading books about werewolf cinema, lore and literature, I thought it would be fun to post some of my discoveries to the blog, including several archaic rituals that enable lycanthropic transformations (!!).

Away from all things lycanthropic, I have continued to review DVDs, books and graphic novels for Exquisite Terror and was also lucky enough to interview fellow Devil's Advocates authors Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Jez Conolly about their books on Suspiria and Dead of Night, respectively. I have continued to contribute to Diabolique, including a piece exploring and celebrating Sir Christopher Lee’s ground-breaking portrayal of Count Dracula in a special issue entirely devoted to the actor; one of the twentieth century’s most important and enduring icons of horror cinema.

I helped to proofread Jon Towlson’s new book on 1930s horror cinema and had my first short story published. I was also invited to contribute a few words on The Company of Wolves to a forthcoming book on The Howling and werewolf cinema by Lee Gambin – more info on this in the coming months.

To everyone who has strayed from the path and dropped by over the last year - thank you! I hope you'll continue to do so.

Monday, 5 December 2016

The Return of Diabolique Magazine...

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 Kuroneko, right through to the J-horror boom of the nineties in Ringu and Ju-On: The Grudge; before joining J-horror pioneer Hideo Nakata to discuss his career in genre film. 

This is followed with features on the blood soaked tradition of Japanese theater in relation to the work of Akira Kurosawa and Jacobean revenge, the shocking horrors of Korean war portrayed in genre film and a tribute to the work of the late great David Bowie. 

Add to that some sizzling sensuality and lesbian love, as we unwrap Chan-wook Park’s provocative The Handmaiden, and last, but certainly not least, a homage to the mythical beast Godzilla, and we promise you this is one of our boldest and most potent issues yet!"

Pre-order a copy of the new issue here.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary Vol. 1

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

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…

Monday, 31 October 2016

Exquisite Terror Halloween Sale

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

"Wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!"

John Greenleaf Whittier 

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." 

Happy Halloween, y'all!

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Autumn XXX


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

Stephen King

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Autumn XXIX


"Satan! Come to us! We are ready! 
Satan! Come to us! We are ready! 
Satan! Come to us! We are ready!" 

Lords of Salem

Friday, 28 October 2016

Autumn XXVIII


"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

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Autumn XXVII


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

Clive Barker

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Autumn XXVI


"The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited." 

Stephen King, Bag of Bones

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Autumn XXV


"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

Monday, 24 October 2016

Autumn XXIV


"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

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Autumn XXIII


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

Robert Frost

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Autumn XXII


"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

Friday, 21 October 2016

Autumn XXI


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 before I was happy for ever and ever. 

The White People by Arthur Machen

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Autumn XX


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

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Autumn XIX


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

Bob Dylan

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Autumn XVIII


"The Erl-king will do you grievous harm."  

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber

Monday, 17 October 2016

Autumn XVII


"Some houses are born bad." 

Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Autumn XVI


"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..."

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Autumn XV


"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

Friday, 14 October 2016

Autumn XIV


"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

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Autumn XIII


"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." 

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Autumn XII


He Who Walks Behind the Rows...

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Autumn XI


"Perhaps other souls than human are sometimes born into the world, and clothed in flesh." 

J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Uncle Silas

Monday, 10 October 2016

Autumn X


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

Shakespeare, The Tempest

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Autumn IX


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

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Autumn VIII


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

Friday, 7 October 2016

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Autumn VI


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

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Autumn V


"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."

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Autumn IV


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

Monday, 3 October 2016

Autumn III


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

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Autumn II


"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."

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Autumn I


"...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...

The Autumn People by Frank Frazetta
“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 hope you have an appropriately shuddersome Halloween. I’ll leave you with a few words from Ray Bradbury, who has some very definite ideas about people who favour this time of year above all others…

“For these beings, fall is ever the normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond. Where do they come from? The dust. Where do they go? The grave. Does blood stir their veins? No: the night wind. What ticks in their head? The worm. What speaks from their mouth? The toad. What sees from their eye? The snake. What hears with their ear? The abyss between the stars. They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth… Such are the autumn people.”

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

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

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 explicit films that were recut when the Code was more rigidly enforced from 1934. This led to a modern misperception that classic horror was intended to be safe and reassuring to audiences.

Taking a fresh look at the genre from 1931 through 1936, author Jon Towlson's new critical study, The Turn To Gruesomeness In American Horror Films, 1931-1936, examines "happy ending" horror in relation to industry practices and censorship. Early works like Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) and The Raven (1935) may be more akin to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (2003) and Saw (2004) than many critics believe.

Jon, a very good friend of Behind the Couch, is a film critic and the author of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (CONSTELLATIONS) (Auteur/Columbia University Press, 2016) and Subversive Horror Cinema: Countercultural Messages Of Films From Frankenstein To The Present (McFarland & Co, 2014). He is a regular contributor to Starburst Magazine, and has also written for the BFI, Paracinema, Exquisite Terror, Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies, Shadowland Magazine, Bright Lights Film Journal and Digital Film-Maker Magazine.

The Turn To Gruesomeness In American Horror Films, 1931-1936 is available now, courtesy of McFarland & Co. A hard copy can be purchased here. It is also available to download for Kindle. For a detailed look at what it has to offer, check out the preview on Amazon.

To keep up to date with Jon, check out his blog and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Werewolf of London

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 a man much more comfortable experimenting alone in his lab than socialising at his wife’s parties. After the attack, the internal conflict he experiences, as his intellect and reason become overshadowed by animalistic impulses and bloodlust, propels the narrative as he searches for a cure while trying to maintain control of the transformations.

Interestingly, Glendon retains much of his personality, faculties and moral reasoning (not to mention his sharp fashion sense) when he’s in wolf form – he continues to experiment in his laboratory and at one stage, he even dons a hat and coat before going out into the cold London night (!). One can't help but wonder if this was what Warren Zevon was referring to in his song 'Werewolves of  London' when he sang 'I'd like to meet his tailor.' Anyway, I digress. When he consults an ancient tome on werewolves and demons, Glendon discovers that ‘unless this rare flower is used the werewolf must kill at least one human being each night of the full moon or become permanently afflicted’ and while he struggles to resist the urge to kill, his instinct to survive leads to reluctant and guilt-inducing bloodshed. Conflict also arises when another werewolf attempting to obtain Glendon’s botanical remedy makes its presence known. The make-up effects by Jack Pierce transform actor Henry Hull into a therianthropic man-wolf hybrid, the look of which would be echoed throughout later werewolf films, notably George Waggner’s highly influential The Wolf Man (1941), which further congealed and popularised certain conventions established by Walker's film.


Glendon’s first transformation is effectively conveyed. As he skulks along his shadowy, pillar-lined veranda his beastly changes occur cumulatively; each time he emerges from behind a pillar, he appears ever more monstrous until he is completely transformed. As Glendon attempts to keep his lycanthropy a secret, becoming more reclusive and driving his wife (Valerie Hobson) further into the arms of an old flame, an emerging subtext pertains to drug addiction, and, arguably, closeted homosexuality. Interestingly, Werewolf of London also unfurls as a Frankensteinian cautionary tale which speaks of the potential dangers of scientific advancement – it is Dr Glendan’s hunger for knowledge and his desire to push the boundaries of scientific research that leads him to his doom. Prior to his discovery of the strange flower that blooms in moonlight, he is warned not to venture into the valley where it grows, as one character notes ‘without fools there would be no wisdom.’

Steady pacing, moody lighting and several atmospheric stalking sequences in the fog enshrouded streets of London help to fuel the tension and enhance the somewhat gloomy tone, though there is comic relief in the form of a boozy landlady and her equally sozzled chum. While it is usually relegated to the shadows of more prominent werewolf titles, such as George Waggner’s aforementioned classic, there’s no denying the influence of Werewolf of London, which not only remains an effective and entertaining title, but fascinating viewing for anyone interested in exploring the conventions, tropes and lore of the cinematic werewolf. 

Thursday, 18 August 2016

How To Become A Werewolf: Part II

Who’s the Fairest of Them All by Bernie Wrightson
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 by classic Hollywood horror cinema (namely The Werewolf of London [1935] and The Wolf Man [1941]), other ways to become a werewolf include infection (ie being bitten by another werewolf) and by lunar influence. The influence of the moon was actually briefly suggested in texts such as Sabine Baring-Gould’s Book of Were-Wolves (1865), in which references are made to certain regions of Southern France where lycanthropes could change into wolves under a full moon, and in Edward Topsell’s The History of Four-footed Beasts (1607), which actually asserted that the brains of wolves decreased and increased in size with the waxing and waning of the moon.

While researching all things lycanthropic for my book on The Company of Wolves, I came across Elliott O’Donnell’s Werwolves (1912), an old ‘scholarly’ study of, you’ve guessed it, werewolves. Within its pages are first-hand accounts of O'Donnell’s encounters with lycanthropes and a staggering array of werewolf lore from many cultures throughout the world. Also included is a chapter concerning various rituals and rites to perform if you’d like to become a werewolf. According to O’Donnell, in cases when lycanthropy is not hereditary, werewolfism can be attained by drinking water from a wolf’s paw print, or by drinking downstream from several wolves. O’Donnell suggests that in certain parts of Scandinavia it was believed a person could become a werewolf if they drank from an enchanted ‘lycanthropous’ stream. Lycanthropous water is apparently different from regular water (!) and according to O’Donnell, those who live near lycanthropous water describe it as having a faint odour ‘comparable with nothing’ and possessing a ‘lurid sparkle’ which is strongly suggestive of ‘some peculiar, individual life.’ The noise of flowing lycanthropous water is said to resemble ‘the muttering and whispering of human voices as to be often mistaken for them’ and by night the voices rise into ‘piercing screams, and howls, and groans, in such a manner as to terrify all who pass near it.’

Gray Wolf River by Yair-Leibovich
When the individual seeking to become a werewolf locates a lycanthropous stream, they must kneel by it at midnight and recite the following incantation:

Tis night! ‘tis night! and the moon shines white
Over pine and snow-capped hill;
The shadows stray through burn and brae
And dance in the sparkling rill.

Tis night! ‘tis night! and the devil’s light
Casts glimmering beams around.
The maras dance, the nisses prance
On the flower-enamelled ground.

Tis night! 'tis night! and the werewolf’s might
Makes man and nature shiver.
Yet its fierce grey head and stealthy tread
Are nought to thee, oh river!
River, river, river.

Oh water strong, that swirls along,
I prithee a werewolf make me.
Of all things dear, my soul, I swear,
In death shall not forsake thee.

Once these words are spoken, the individual then strikes the bank of the stream three times with his/her forehead, then dips his/her head into the water three times, each time taking a mouthful of water and drinking it. This, according to O’Donnell, completes the ceremony and the individual has become a werewolf and ‘twenty-four hours later will undergo the first metamorphosis.’

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Carnacki: The Lost Cases

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 largely been neglected and even forgotten... 

Here's the official blurb: Even Carnacki, the great ‘Ghost-Finder’, himself has cases that he will not speak about. In these 12 tales, we learn the details of those ‘Lost Cases’ that Carnacki talked about only in hushed whispers. Learn the truth behind “The Steeple Monster Case”, the horror of “The Grunting Man”, the creeping terror of “The Grey Dog” and so much more. When you have learned the truth behind these cases, you may find yourself haunted as well! 

For more information on the book, and to obtain a copy, go here.

For more information on William Hope Hodgson and his creation, Thomas Carnacki, check out editor Sam Gafford's website.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Werewolf

Artwork by Jim Perez
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 light for interior filming and the use of double exposures in early cinema. The screenplay was written by Ruth Ann Baldwin, a former journalist, and is very loosely based on Henry Beaugrand’s short story ‘The Werewolves’ (1898), which tells of a band of pioneers who believe there are (Native American) werewolves prowling around outside their snowbound Canadian fort.

According to Chantal Bourgault du Coudray, author of 'The Curse of the Werewolf: Fantasy, Horror and the Beast Within', The Werewolf combined “anxiety about female sexuality with fears of racial degeneracy” and “contributed to a discourse that envisioned women as a threat to the lives and aspirations of men.” While the likes of Werewolf of London (1935) and The Wolf Man (1941) popularised the notion of the doomed lycanthropic (male) protagonist who desperately wanted to be free of his curse, The Werewolf’s depiction of a witch-woman who uses her ability to change into a wolf to obtain revenge, is something that became quite typical in representations of the female werewolf. Female werewolves tend to be more comfortable in their wolf skin than their male counterparts, and because they generally embrace their more primal impulses, are seen as a threat to (patriarchal) order and must be destroyed. The aligning of femininity with nature, the body and the wilderness stems from nineteenth century discourse which posited women as men’s ‘other’; masculinity was aligned with culture and the mind (hence the reason why male werewolves tend to be more psychologically tormented by their condition - which often guaranteed their salvation, whereas female werewolves were usually destroyed).

Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004)
As an interesting side note, various settings and themes from The Werewolf and Beaugrand’s 'The Werewolves' would be echoed in Grant Harvey’s Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004), which is not only set in The Great White North during frontier times and features a group of early pioneers coming under attack from roaming lycanthropes, but also addresses ideas concerning ‘monstrous femininity’, cultural identity and race, and the notion of cursed bloodlines, cyclical history and reincarnation…

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

How To Become A Werewolf

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 one of the most fascinating, and, dare I say, entertaining resources on the subject, containing as it does, stories and sightings of wolfmen from various cultures across the globe.

While perusing an online copy of the book, I was immediately drawn to the fourth chapter: How To Become A Werewolf. According to O’Donnell, in cases when lycanthropy is not hereditary, it may still be acquired through the performance of certain ancient rites ordained by Black Magic. Phew! Before detailing these certain ancient rites, O’Donnell suggests that whoever intends to perform them must first of all find a suitable location, and secondly, be “earnest and a believer in those super-physical powers whose favour he is about to ask.”

He then goes on to suggest that "a spot remote from the haunts of men" is best, and that "The powers to be petitioned are not to be found promiscuously - anywhere. They favour only such waste and solitary places as the deserts, woods, and mountain-tops."

"The locality chosen, our candidate must next select a night when the moon is new and strong. He must then choose a perfectly level piece of ground, and on it, at midnight, he must mark, either with chalk or string - it really does not matter which - a circle of not less than seven feet in radius, and within this, and from the same centre, another circle of three feet in radius. Then, in the centre of this inner circle he must kindle a fire, and over the fire place an iron tripod containing an iron vessel of water. As soon as the water begins to boil the would-be lycanthropist must throw into it handfuls of any three of the following substances: asafoetida, parsley, opium, hemlock, henbane, saffron, aloe, poppy-seed and solanum; repeating as he does so these words:

Spirits from the deep
Who never sleep,
Be kind to me.

Spirits from the grave
Without a soul to save,
Be kind to me.

Spirits of the trees
That grow upon the leas,
Be kind to me.

Spirits of the air,
Foul and black, not fair,
Be kind to me.

Water spirits hateful,
To ships and bathers fateful,
Be kind to me.

Spirits of earthbound dead
That glide with noiseless tread,
Be kind to me.

Spirits of heat and fire,
Destructive in your ire,
Be kind to me.

Spirits of cold and ice,
Patrons of crime and vice,
Be kind to me.

Wolves, vampires, satyrs, ghosts!
Elect of all the devilish hosts!
I pray you send hither,
Send hither, send hither,
The great grey shape that makes men shiver!
Shiver, shiver, shiver!
Come! Come! Come!

The supplicant then takes off his vest and shirt and smears his body with the fat of some newly killed animal (preferably a cat), mixed with aniseed, camphor, and opium. Then he binds round his loins a girdle made of wolf's-skin, and kneeling down within the circumference of the first circle, waits for the advent of the Unknown. When the fire burns blue and quickly dies out, the Unknown is about to manifest itself; if it does not then actually appear it will make its presence felt.


Coaxing out the beast within...
There is little consistency in the various methods of the spirit's advent: sometimes a deep unnatural silence immediately precedes it; sometimes crashes and bangs, groanings and shriekings, herald its approach. When it remains invisible its presence is indicated and accompanied by a sensation of abnormal cold and the most acute terror. It is sometimes visible in the guise of a huntsman - which is, perhaps, its most popular shape - sometimes in the form of a monstrosity, partly man and partly beast - and sometimes it is seen ill defined and only partially materialized. To what order of spirits it belongs is, of course, purely a matter of conjecture. I believe it to be some malevolent, superphysical, creative power, such as, in my opinion, participated largely in the creation of this and other planets. I do not believe it to be the Devil, because I do not believe in the existence of only one devil, but in countless devils. It is difficult to say to what extent the Unknown is believed to be powerful by those who approach it for the purpose of acquiring the gift of lycanthropy; but I am inclined to think that the majority of these, at all events, do not ascribe to it any supreme power, but regard it merely as a local spirit - the spirit of some particular wilderness or forest."

O'Donnell opines that this is not the only method of acquiring lycanthropy. If you haven’t been able to obtain all of the ingredients and accoutrements to enable you to commune directly with the Unknown (cat lovers, I mean you), O’Donnell suggests ingesting a wolf's brain. If your vegetarianism or love of wolves (understandably) prevents you from doing this, try drinking water out of a wolf's footprint, or drinking out of a stream from which three or more wolves have been seen to drink...

Monday, 7 March 2016

Women in Horror Annual

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 themes of blood, motherhood, and insanity.

The WHA is available in print and digital formats through Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, and a host of other digital retailers.

For more information contact whannual@gmail.com

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Curtain

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