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Showing posts from October, 2011

Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968)

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Almost forgot this ghost/cat/samurai/sexy/martial arts movie. Might watch this now in fact...

Grauniad's Halloween Quiz

(Note - The Guardian was once dubbed The Grauniad because of its notorious proofreading problems. End of historical factoid.) Anyway, The Grauniad has this Halloween quiz in which you get multiple choice questions, so it's easy to guess a few of 'em. Which is why I got 8 out of 10, hah.

The Raven: Read by Christopher Walken

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Spooky Toon for Halloween

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Much obliged to Steve Duffy for this one...

Halloween Movie Finale - Best of British

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The horror movie is to some extent an American creation, but there are plenty of fine examples from other countries. British horror cinema, at its best, draws on a rich heritage of literary ghost stories, an often bloody popular culture (Spring-Heeled Jack, Sweeney Todd, Jack the Ripper) and a solid tradition of 'serious' mainstream drama. At its best the Brit horror flick is original, disturbing and oddly exhilarating. It's also rather intimate - without a big budget, you can still get a very good actor talking to a dummy and sending shivers up/down/along your spine. Dead of Night (1945) is the first and arguably the best portmanteau spooky movie, and while it creaks in places it's climactic tale is still powerful. We move on to a Hammer film that's firmly in the science fiction genre - except for the black magic, the demons, the poltergeist activity, and the contact with 'spiritual evil'. Quatermass and the Pit (1967) is arguably the best British sci

Halloween Movie Ideas 7 - Ringu

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The movie that started the Asian horror boom. Genuinely disturbing and owing something - at times - to M.R. James (the central idea of the living picture, plus the 'thing' with long hair, not to mention a scene down a well).

Halloween Movie Ideas 6 - Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary

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Yes, it's a ballet-theatre version of Dracula. I think it's rather good. One for the dance lovers.

Halloween Movie Ideas 5 - Blood from the Mummy's Tomb

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Halloween is a Hammer-y time of the year, and who doesn't like a bit of Ancient Egyptian folderol, complete with a severed hand that crawls about a bit?

Halloween Movie Ideas 4 - The Last Broadcast

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This was released before Blair Witch, and is vastly superior to it IMHO. A modern media tale of terror, with found footage of an expedition to find the fabled Jersey Devil. This is, for me, one scary movie, despite a notable lack of gore. 

Halloween Movie Ideas 3 - Tales of Terror

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Not just Vincent Price, but also Basil Rathbone and Peter Lorre in three Poe stories. It's played for laughs at times and camped up a bit, but is great fun. Not Roger Corman's best, perhaps, but one of the jolliest.

Halloween Movie Ideas 2 - The Fog

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John Carpenter's classic, remade recently as forgettable tosh. If you like ghost leper pirates and Jamie Lee Curtis, not to mention Adrienne Barbeau, this is one for you.

Halloween Movie Ideas 1 - Kwaidan

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Hairy hands...

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Just been to see the Mervyn Peake exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle. It's fascinating, and offers quite a rich selection of the artist/author/poet's book illustrations. As well as drawings for the Gormenghast novels and other of his own works, Peake illustrated several classics. The pictures on show are for Treasure Island , The Hunting of the Snark , Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm, and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde . Each illustration is accompanied by the usual little notice telling you something about it, and in the case of the classics they often include quotes from the books. In the case of Jekyll , one is particularly interesting. Peake - after some preliminary attempts - decided not to show Hyde's face, because it's described as pure evil (always tricky to draw, I'd guess) and also because nobody who sees it can remember much else about it. So in the drawings actually used for the book we never see Hyde's face, only his back or his h

Review: A Bracelet of Bright Hair

The first collection of ghost stories by Jane Jakeman has just been published by Sarob Press in a fine volume illustrated by the always excellent Paul Lowe. (At time of writing, the book was still available from various dealers listed on the Sarob blog - check the link.) Two of the eight stories have appeared in ST, three appeared in Ghosts & Scholars , and one in All Hallows . The other two stories consist of one that is wholly new and another that's only appeared on the author's website. So, what kind of a collection do we have hear? Firstly, these are academic ghost stories by an archaeologist with an Oxford pedigree. Traditionally Oxford is seen as more 'establishment' than the artier Cambridge. Prime ministers come from Oxford, satirists from its great rival. For my money, any establishment that produces leading politicians must have gone over to the dark side a long time ago, and these stories tend to confirm that opinion. That said, the academic world

Irish Ghosts on Stage

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The Irish playwright Conor McPherson is, I suspect, unique in having written several ghost stories for the stage that have been taken seriously as 'proper' modern theatre. I can recommend Shining City, The Weir, and The Seafarer (I was privileged to see Jim Norton star in the latter). His latest, The Veil , is also ghostly in content, but I've yet to have the opportunity to see it. In the non-supernatural vein I can also recommend Port Authority, a moving triple-stranded tale of Dublin life. Shining City is a particularly interesting example of the sub-genre that goes 'psychiatrist talks to man who claims to see ghost'. The ending is extremely memorable. Here's another video, which gives some flavour of the playwright's work. You can probably guess who this gentleman is.

Curfew Reviewed!

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Having greatly enjoyed Curfew and other Eerie Tales , let me again recommend this fine volume from Swan River Press . It's unusual in that, as well as offering a small selection of short stories, it also contains the author's only play. Lucy M. Boston was obviously interested in the witch mania that beset this country in the 17th century, and 'The Horned Man' is a remarkably economical treatment of the theme. Set in a small rural manor house, it shows how the crazy logic of the persecutors (if there are accusations, there must be witches) plays into the hands of genuine evil. Not everyone enjoys reading plays, but for me there's something refreshing and direct about a story told almost wholly through dialogue. The script - intended from an amateur company - is straightforward and doesn't mire the reader in flummery-tushery dialogue. Instead Boston employs clean, direct language to show how a culture of suspicion and terror turns people against one another. Th

Also survived encounter with yetis...

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Remember the competition...

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Legendary editor Rosemary Pardoe is holding a competition to write a prequel/sequel to an M.R. James ghost story. Just a reminder that anyone can enter and the story doesn't need to be in the style of MRJ, which is probably just as well for all you trendy modern writers. Here's what Ro says on her blog: Following the very satisfying level of interest in the "Merfield Hall/House" and "The Game of Bear" story competitions (for the texts of the winning entries, see recent  Newsletters ), I'd been considering the possibility of a third competition when Dan McGachey came up with the suggestion that writers might like to produce sequels to MRJ's completed tales. All the people I've sounded out about this agree with me that it's a fine idea, but I want to extend it to include prequels too. Of course, there have already been examples of sequels - David Sutton's "Return to the Runes" in the second issue of  G&S , for instanc

ST20 on the way

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The latest issue of Supernatural Tales is being posted out this week, and indeed some subscribers' copies have already been sent. I noted the contents in an earlier post . I hope everyone enjoys the selection of stories - all new, all interesting, and of course all good for my money.

Shadows & Tall Trees

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Issue 2 of this excellent annual Canadian magazine is selling out rapidly. S&TT is dedicated to 'quiet, literary horror fiction'. The second issue demonstrates that the category is a very broad and interesting one. Excluding the easy cop-out of visceral cruelty requires an author to use their imagination. The result is a very diverse range of stories. Editor Michael Kelly is to be congratulated on attracting such an eclectic group of contributors. Thus the first story, Richard Harland's 'At the Top of the Stairs', might almost be a gritty realist account of a family in crisis. Two children are left in an apartment at the top of a grim tenement building while mother goes out to work. Father has departed in troubling circumstances. When mother is out a man climbs the stairs and knocks on the door. Will be gain admittance? As with all such stories told from the perspective of children, there is something nightmarish about the timeless simplicity of the tale. &