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Showing posts from October, 2014

Happy Hallowe'en!

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Hallowe'en Movies 3. What scares you?

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I've listed some spiffing spooky movies thus far, but there is the question of fright. Some years ago I recommended a film to someone and they (as in, a couple) decided to watch it late at night. I had specifically warned them not to watch it before bedtime (and I was unanimous in this). Sure enough, I got a sad little email reading something like: 'We were too scared to go to bed straight away, and so had to watch a couple of episodes of Scooby Doo.' You don't see that kind of endorsement on bus adverts. Anyway, the film in question is in this list of films that scared me. See if you can guess which one it is, and let me know which (if any) films genuinely scare you. 1. The Last Broadcast (1998) This obscure independent movie is widely considered to have 'inspired' The Blair Witch Project and so, indirectly, a whole slew of found footage horror. Please, don't let that put you off - it uses found footage, certainly, but does so with intelligence. The plo

Hallowe'en Movies 2. They Talks Funny, Them Furriners

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These are all subtitled films I enjoyed. 1. The Orphanage (2007) A Spanish story of loss and redemption that will have the most hard-bitten watcher wiping away a tear. Like all the best ghost stories it works, first and foremost, as a story. In a very strong cast Belen Rueda's lead performance is compelling and never overdone, and the gradual shift from domestic drama to supernatural mystery hasn't been done better, in part thanks to use of children's games. 'One, two, three, knock on the wall...' 2 . Let the Right One In (2008) Scandinavian stuff is big at the moment, but this one is arguably the best example of the Nordic horror genre. It's not to everyone's taste - it's take on vampirism is rather grim. But it is also careful to keep the most violent screen off-screen and is careful to show just how problematic a vampire's existence can be. It is also one of the few films that reveals just what happens when a vampire enters a home uninvi

Hallowe'en Movies

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Every year people compile lists of things to read, watch, do, and indeed wear at Hallowe'en. As I'm not a fashion guru (pause for gasps all round) I'll leave the spooky attire to others. So let's consider some spooky movies instead. In my arbitrary way, I've decided to divide films into categories. First up: BLACK AND WHITE FRIGHTS 1. Night of the Demon (1957) The only big-screen adaptation of an M.R. James story, and a little masterpiece of its kind. Yes, it's got a boozy Dana Andrews in the lead role, as was necessary if a British movie wanted a chance of American distribution. But that apart it's a sharp, intelligent, and convincing take on the old idea of the evil cult and the perils of summoning up things best left undisturbed. Some criticise the film on the grounds that director Jacques Tourneur shows the demon in the opening scenes. But this is an artistically necessary move. In the original story, 'Casting the Runes', we are introduc

Ghost Stories For Hallowe'en

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At this time of year a lot of people develop a sudden interest in supernatural fiction. The few parts of the internet that aren't full of porn, conspiracy theories, and cats are full of lists. Lists like this one : 'Five Must-Read Ghost Stories for Hallowe'en'. Oliver Tearle has a book to plug, as is the norm with such things, but his list is a decent one. His starting point is the late-Victorian 'shift from what Virginia Woolf called "the blood-stained sea captains, the white horses, the headless ladies of dark lanes and windy commons" towards newer, more ambiguous and more unsettling, types of ghost.

ST#28 Contents

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What's in the next issue? I'm glad you asked. There are some stories! 'Fiveplay' - E. Michael Lewis Naughty adults shouldn't play certain kinds of games... 'Doorways' - William Wanless An old-school tale of a strange curse and a desperate solution 'A Name in the Dark' - Michael Chislett Another unique tale of magical London from a criminally underrated author 'Look Both Ways' - Sam Dawson Nostalgia can take possession of a man 'Mr and Mrs Havisham' - Gillian Bennett A portrait, a haunting, but not exactly a haunted portrait 'Snowman, Frozen' - Tim Foley A writer goes to a remote cabin to finish a screenplay... 'Bright Hair About the Bone' - Jacob Felsen A poetic exploration of love and loss 'The Shrouder' – William I.I. Read A weird tale about a weird tale Out in November. Prepare yourself for preternatural peril, and that sort of thing.

He's at it again...

Robert Lloyd Parry's Nunkie Theatre Company is on the road again this autumn. From Hallowe'en onward RLP will be performing two 'new' M.R. James stories. The title off the new show, 'Casting the Runes', is a bit of a giveaway. But, as fans will be aware, the show always contains two stories (and an intermission) - and the second is a bit of a surprise. 'The Residence at Whitminster' isn't the most obvious choice for a one-man performance. It's set in two historical periods with no modern framing narrative. But it's notable that in the new G&S Book of Shadows there are two stories inspired by 'Whitminster', as it is rather strong in terms of both character and ideas. Anyway, I look forward to the latest Nunkie-tastic show with my usual droopy enthusiasm. I will report in due course when he performs in Newcastle.

The Complex (2013)

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Hideo Nakata directed Ring , Ring 2 , and Dark Water , and so can claim to be at least one of the true begetters of J-Horror. If it weren't for Nakata's considerable talents I would probably not have sat through quite so many films in which young Japanese, Korean, Thai and Chinese people dash along concrete corridors under faulty strip lights. Nakata's latest, The Complex , is at first and indeed second glance a return to familiar territory. The eponymous setting is a run-down block of flats very like the one in Dark Water . As in the earlier film the protagonist is a woman whose mental health seems fragile, and the haunting itself is down to an accident rather than malice. The focus of the film is not so much horror (though there's a decent measure of it) as neglect, and the harm that a selfish, thoughtless society can inflict on its weakest members. The film begins with scenes of mundane domesticity, as nursing student Asuka (former pop star Atsuko Maeda) move

A Look at the New G&S Book of Shadows

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Artwork by Paul Lowe Here are a dozen stories, all derived to some extent from the tales of M.R. James. Most are sequels, but there is a prequel and two stories that tackle stories from the middle, so to speak. In some cases, part of the game is guessing before it becomes obvious. I think you'd have to have a fairly detailed knowledge of all James' works, not just the famous ones, but that's a given with the audience for the book - isn't it? Oh, and one of the stories is by me, which makes this the first collection I've reviewed that contains a personal emanation. It's a strange feeling. Anyway, the first story is by Peter Bell and concerns the vile doings and terrible fate of the Lord of the High Court of the Wapentak of Wirral. If that isn't enough to set your Jamesian juices flowing, he offers us an epigraph from Milton's 'Lycidas' and a framing narrative in which the narrator explains that he has pieced the story together from corresp

Ghosts + Palin = Ratings Winner, Probably

Michael Palin is to appear in a three-part BBC drama , categorised as a thriller, with a supernatural theme. This is a rare outing for the most peripatetic Python, best known for his travels but also an accomplished actor on film and TV. He has of course done a bit of comedy, but has tackled more serious roles. Remember Me , set in Palin's native Yorkshire, will also star Julia Sawalha ( Absolutely Fabulous , Jonathan Creek ) and Mina Anwar ( The Thin Blue Line, House of Anubis ). The writer is Gwyneth Hughes, who scripted The Girl (dealing with Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren), and Miss Austen Regrets . Her track record inspires confidence. Would it be too much to hope that the BBC is going to start producing ghost stories and related weird fiction for grown-ups on a regular basis? Yes, it almost certainly would. But we can at least cross our fingers. According to the Guardian report, this is Michael Palin's first leading TV role since 1991 (in Alan Bleasdale's gritty poli