Thursday, 26 May 2016

Joe Dante v. Hollywood

This interview might be of interest to movie lovers. Joe Dante made some excellent and charming movies after cutting his cinematic teeth making trailers for Roger Corman. Like many people he's baffled by the way creative control is routinely wrenched away from directors by studio execs.
It’s hard enough to make a movie when you’re all on the same page. But when you suddenly discover in the middle of the movie that now they’ve decided that it shouldn’t be what they thought it was about, it should be about this … that’s a recipe for disaster.
I agree with him about this, too.
I’m a James Whale student. His Universal Horror pictures were on TV when I was a kid. And a movie like The Invisible Man, the Invisible Man is throwing ink at people and being crazy and silly at one point, and then beating them to death with a stool in another moment. And it’s a dichotomy—because horror movies are essentially absurd anyway. The audience is always looking for something to laugh at, and if you give it to them, then they relax and then you can really scare them. But I always liked genres that cross.

And I second this endorsement.
There’s a movie called Idiocracy that Mike Judge made a couple of years ago, which came out to no particular notice, because the studio hated it and they buried it, but it has come true. It’s a predictive comedy about how awful the future’s going to be, and so many aspects of this movie have actually taken place, and are actually happening as we speak, that it’s almost not funny.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Sentinels

Hi guys. I have a short horror novel coming out next month from an American publisher (so it's edited for American spelling, idioms etc). They are willing to provide e-books to reviewers. If you are American/Canadian they are particularly keen to have you review it as that's their target market, but anyone can have a go. So, please let me know if you'd like an e-book in return for the promise of a review.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Muladona, by Eric Stener Carlson

Tartarus Press sent me an e-book of this novel to review. I'm glad they did, as it's a brilliant work of American Gothic supernatural horror.

Muladona is set in the small east Texas town of Incarnation in 1918. The Great War is coming to an end and the Spanish Flu epidemic is taking hold. Widespread disruption leaves the narrator, 13-year-old Verge Strömberg, to fend for himself at home in a town where people are dying like flies. Then he receives word that a terrifying creature from Mexican/Indian folkore is coming to kill him and drag him to Hell. According to folklore the Muladona is a fire-breathing winged mule by night and transforms into an ordinary (but sinful) woman by day.

If that sounds improbable, Carlson makes it very believable by presenting us with a world in which the supernatural intertwines with the everyday. If I had to categorise Muladona I'd put it somewhere between Ray Bradbury and Mark Twain, with a distinct touch of Rod Serling and a dash of Ambrose Bierce. It's world is that of often cruel life in the deserts on the southern frontier of the US at a time when bigotry against 'natives' and Mexicans was not merely tolerated but respectable.

It's also a magical world in which young Verge, confined to bed for much of his life, enjoys the works of Victorian authors like Stevenson, Verne, and Wells. He also hears the tales of the people of Incarnation, an old gold-mining town recolonised by a group of fiercely Protestant Swedes, led by his Verge's overbearing grandfather. There's a compelling, prolonged clash between the earthy but humane values of the locals and the austere, hypocritical ways of the incomers that proves central to the story.

As well as a strong central narrative, this is also a story about telling stories. Verge finds a way to protect himself from the Muladona for a while by hiding under the bed sheets (sound familiar?), but the creature torments him, night after night, by telling him scary stories. These tales become ever more disturbing and personal as his allotted time runs out and he must do the one thing that will defeat the monster - guess it's true name.

The stories within the novel are all first-rate, and show the author's great versatility. One particularly impressive tale is a neat variation on 'The Venus of Ile' by Merimee. Another is a futuristic story of science misused to control 'naughty' children that's truly nightmarish. All explore the themes of exploitation and violence that underpin the creation of American society, and it's interesting that (without giving too much away) Carlson here rejects the American dream in its narrow 'Trumpian' sense.

None of which conveys the essential quality of the book, which is not a thesis or a lecture. It is more of a boy's fever-dream recollected in old age by a man who has lived life to the full. We know Verge survives, albeit with scars, because this is his first-person recollection. Yet the Muladona is still far more menacing than most horror monsters, and the revelation of its true identity is deeply shocking but artistically right.

Eric Stener Carlson is a new writer to me, but on the strength of this book I'd say he was a first-rate author of supernatural fiction. He mines deep in the old tradition, but makes something rich and new, and his prose is admirably clear. I'll be seeking out more of his work.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

ST 31 Poll Nears Its Terrifying End

Well, with less than 48 hours to go it looks like Tim Foley is going to run away with the amazing prize of £25 (which, at current exchange rates, is worth less than ever before)! If you haven't already voted, why the heck not? It's free and harmless.


It's over! And Tim Foley's elegiac story of lost hopes and dreams won by a clear margin. With luck Tim will have received his generous cash prize by now and should be able to afford an extra pair of socks, depending on exchange rates.