Showing posts from 2017

Happy Birthday, Barbara Steele

The queen of Italian horror cinema, British actress Barbara Steele , is eighty today! Raise a glass of something suitably dark, rich, and red to her.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

This American film co-stars Scotland's finest, Brian Cox (the original movie Hannibal Lecter), so for that reason I thought I'd give it a go. I'm glad I did. I've been disappointed by the quality of a lot of US horror lately, and while far from perfect TAOJD is pretty good. The story begins with a crime scene, and the usual palaver - little markers around a blood-soaked small-town home, photographer flashing away. The sheriff is baffled by a multiple homicide in a house where there is no sign of breaking and entering. It's almost as if the victims were trying to get out. Then, in the basement, the cops find something even stranger - the half-buried body of a young woman. They cannot identify her, and there is no sign of violence. Jane Doe is taken to the local morgue, run by father and son team Tommy and Austin Tilden. Tommy (Cox) is under pressure to find the cause of death, and Austin (Emile Hirsch) postpones a date with girlfriend Emma (Ophelia Lovibond) to h

Ghost Stories For Christmas

'The Trial for Murder' Christmas is traditional a time for etcetera. We all know the drill. But which ghost stories are best for the festive season? There are lots of lists out there, so I thought I'd scrutinise a few and see just what the trend young folk* are pushing as suitable Yuletide fare. First, there's an item from the Independent about the tradition of telling ghost stories are Christmas. The author, Keith Lee Morris, ranged rather widely, putting the gang at the Villa Deodati into the tradition. Admittedly 1816 had a miserable summer, but their stories were written in June. And nobody will ever call 'Frankenstein' a Christmas ghost story, will they? Still, it's an interesting piece. Onward to the lists. Here The Paris Review lists '5 Forgotten Christmas Ghost Stories'. The stories are: 'Between the Lights' by E.F. Benson; 'The Kit-Bag' by Algernon Blackwood; 'A Strange Christmas Game' by J.H. Riddell; '

Old Grey Whistlefest

Over at the BFI website you can see an item about a 1956 adaptation of an M.R. James classic. No, not the Miller one with Michael Hordern, the amateur one that's just been brought to light. It's rather nice and of course quite seasonal in its way. There's even a sheet with an actual face.Not bad for post-war enthusiasts on a zero budget. There's a link in the article that takes you to the 1956 film, which is free to watch and lasts 10 mins. 


The next story in the Women in Horror Annual 2 is by Kathleen Danielson. It's set on Halloween, and a group of youngsters decide to test out an urban legend. Apparently you can summon something nasty if you say a particular rhyme while looking into a mirror. Of course, a great deal of scepticism is expressed about this. So the characters decide to draw straws to see who gets to conduct the inevitable experiment. If that very sounds familiar, it is. However, the author offers a twist. This is a world where werewolves (here termed 'lycans') co-exist with ovine humanoids. I must admit this threw me a little, but it's all clearly meant in fun. I was slightly surprised to find two werewolf stories in succession, but perhaps that's part of a cunning plan. A nice enough story, 'Red', but it didn't do a lot for me. More from this running review soon.

Christmas Spookery on the BBC

I wish the BBC would go back to producing a new 'Ghost Story for Christmas' every year, but I suspect that phantom ship has sailed. But it's good to see that Auntie has decided to wheel out her back-list of ghostly dramas.  On  Christmas Eve Mark Gatiss' adaptation of 'The Tractate Middoth' will be shown, preceded by the short documentary 'M.R. James: Ghost Writer'. It will be followed by 'No. 13: A Ghost Story' (not brilliant, but okay), then 'The Signalman'. Christopher Lee's readings of two MRJ ghost stories will follow at midnight, and then at 1pm there will be 'A View from a Hill' , which I quite like. It's a very visual story and I think it works rather well. Haunted binoculars!

The White Road - Review

Sarob Press has answered the prayers of a host of bibliophiles by publishing a lavish collection of Ron Weighell's stories. The original Ghost Story Press edition of The White Road has long been a collector's item, and it's easy to see why. This is a book that deserves to be dubbed a classic of supernatural fiction. It contains two dozen stories ranging in quality from good to excellent, and is very much in the British weird tradition. The Sarob volume is illustrated by Nick Maloret. As well as a superb dustjacket, there are remarkable end-paper and cover art. I am a terrible photographer, but I thought I would try to capture them regardless. See? Told you I was rubbish at taking pictures, but at least you get some idea of the quality of Maloret's work. The overall feel of the book is luxurious, of course, and proclaims it a genuine collector's item. But what of the stories themselves?

More Audio Spookery

Want some more weird and wonderful stuff to listen to in the run-up to Yuletide? Here are some readings of classic tales, beginning with E.F. Benson's story of dire doings in a quaint little place not unlike 'Tilling'. It's as if Miss Mapp had gone a bit feral. Now for a bit of Walter de la Mare. This is a Sixties US radio adaptation of one of Walt's best-known stories, and I think it comes across well. If you liked that, you'll probably like this. The Black Mass adapted an M.R. James story that, while nobody's absolute favourite, is enigmatic and interesting. What were they up to? And what happened on that final, fateful night? A Canadian radio show, next - Nightfall , which ran from 1980-83. This is their adaptation of a classic tale of girl-on-girl vampirism, which in the early Seventies spawned several films featuring young women in anachronistic nighties. Finally, we're back to Montyworld and a reading of 'Casting the Runes'

'Backseat Driver'

'I stir the thick red generic alphabet spaghetti, all the while eyeing the rat poison looming tantalisingly within arms reach.' Thus begins Nicky Peacock's contribution to Women in Horror Annual 2 . This is a more playful work that the two preceding tales. It begins with a portrait of a dysfunctional marriage in which the wife is also acting as mother to an overgrown adolescent - a man obsessed with conspiracy theories and the like. When we join her she resolves to leave him, taking her trusty old dog, and just driving off into the night. Unfortunately she strays off the highway onto a country road, where she finds a hit-and-run victim of a rather unusual kind. This is the first of a series of encounters that come straight from the realms of urban legend-based horror movies. I found this one enjoyable enough, though - paradoxically, given the content - a bit bloodless. Running review continues, though I suspect I won't get finished until the New Year.

'Behind the Music'

The second story in the Women in Horror Annual 2 (see below) is by Madison McSweeney. It begins with a couple of cops discussing a badly injured woman who has fallen from a hotel balcony. The room in question belongs to a rock singer, Silas Oddside, and obvious conclusions are drawn. We then flashback to a young lady called Cherry who blags her way backstage at a rock concert to try and get jiggy with her favourite singer. The story unfolds as the cops gradually discover just how strange Cherry's encounter with Oddside was. The revelation is foreshadowed, and it's quite neatly done, though I did wonder exactly how a career in rock music could be balanced with Oddside's unusual habits. Hey, it's only a story, right? A story set in 1987, as it happens. This was during the horror boom, and 'Behind the Music' does have an Eighties vibe - a time when the genre was shaking off some of its more cumbersome Gothic baggage, but also becoming more self-consciously trendy

Women in Horror Annual 2 - Running Review

Yes, it's time for more of my so-called opinions on stories, in this case collected by Canadian editor C. Rachel Katz. Here is the blurbette about the book. The Women in Horror Annual 2 is the second volume of an anthology of horror fiction and nonfiction written by women. WHA promotes and celebrates female voices in horror, and the stories and papers contained within represent a diverse group of writers, each with their own unique vision. Ranging from supernatural tales of horror to quotidian terror, and touching on themes of empowerment, insanity, and freedom, the stories herein run the gamut from melancholic to darkly humorous. As was the case with the first volume, WHA 2 is further proof that horror has something for everyone. So, let's get started with the first story. 'Rumspringa' by Melissa Burkley presented me with a new word, right there in the title! I looked it up - 'Rumspringa, or “running around”, is the term used to describe the period of adolescen

Mark Gatiss reads E.F. Benson

Random House Audio has produced a nice audio collection of some of Benson's 'greatest hits' in the ghost story genre. Mark Gatiss does an excellent job of reading 'em. Need I say more? Oh all right then... The stories in the collection are: 'The Bus Conductor', 'Negotium Perambulans', ''...And No Birds Sing'', 'Spinach', 'Mrs Amworth', 'In the Tube','The Room in the Tower', 'Caterpillars', and 'The Man Who Went Too Far'. I would have preferred 'How Fear Departed from the Long Gallery' to 'Spinach', which is lightweight stuff, but perhaps the former was a bit too long? Gatiss, a fan of the Mapp and Lucia books, adopts a relatively light touch with the characters and settings here, emphasising the pleasant rural atmosphere in 'Mrs Amworth'. In 'Spinach', a comic tale', he has fun with the slightly preposterous society psychics. The climactic moments

Don't forget to vote!

Fans of ST, if you've read the latest issue - which you can order here , along with back issues - why not give your verdict on  which story is best? The poll is over to the right, top of the page. It's easy - just point and click in a mousey fashion. You can pick more than one if you can't settle on a clear favourite.

'Narrative of the Ghost of a Hand'

Superficially simple but in fact deeply disturbing story by Le Fanu. A case of a Victorian ghostly tale in which little is explained but much can be imagined. Some lovely scenes - especially when the sceptical paterfamilias decides to open the front door...

'The Lodestone'

My favourite of Sheila Hodgson's plays based featuring M.R. James as a kind of psychic sleuth.

'The Sundial' by R.H. Malden

A fine ghost story of the old school by an author much influenced by M.R. James. Malden only wrote one collection of tales - a not-uncommon situation with authors of ghost stories. There's an excellent essay on Malden by the Roger Johnson here . Unlike James, who was never ordained, Malden was an Anglican clergyman and rose to become Dean of Wells Cathedral.

'The Midnight House'

The Hogarth engraving above is a little masterpiece of bonkersness, giving the lie to the notion that the so-called Age of Reason was anything of the sort. Check out the link explaining all the cases of withcraft and possession the artist depicts. Which leads us nicely onto the play, 'The Midnight House'. It is obviously derived from M.R. James' 'The Mezzotint', but is I think an excellent variation on the theme rather than an adaptation. And it's  all about a picture by Hogarth that, while apparently devoid of supernatural imagery, is in fact downright evil...

Seasonal Spookery

The first of many readings and links to things that I hope to post as Yuletide approaches. It's the time of year for strange tales, ghostly occurrences, and general malarkey of that sort. I thought I'd start with a bit of Poe, and who better to read it than Basil Rathbone? His voice is, I think, perfect for the precise yet florid Gothic prose of this and similar stories.

A poem lovely as a tree...


Can't imagine why Cadbury didn't use it...

Flake - Jonathan Glazer from David Nichols on Vimeo .


Democracy in action, and all that Vote for the best story in the latest issue of ST by mouse-clicking on the poll at the side. It should be over to the right somewhere. You know the score by now, old-timers. And you can vote for more than one story! Heck, you can even vote for ALL of them - rendering your contribution meaningless, but still, its a choice! Remember, the winning author gets the princely sum of £25! Imagine the luxuries they could buy with that. Two and a half pints of beer in London, say. But there's also the kudos of being more popular than several other people. And you can't put a price on that. Mrs Pankhurst explains the concept of Ladyvoting

'The Upper Berth'

Over at the M.R. James podcast those wacky dudes have moved on from the ghost stories of Monty James - because they ran out of them, basically. They are now probing away at classic ghostly tales of the MRJ era. The latest podcast is on F. Marion Crawford's 'The Upper Berth'. ''The Upper Berth' was originally published in “The Broken Shaft: Tales in Mid-Ocean”, an anthology of tales told by passengers on a stranded ocean liner.' The excellent Mansfield Dark has produced an animated short version of the story here .

'Virtually Famous'

The final story in Imposter Syndrome is by Phil Sloman. It's the tale of a celebrity, a big star whose face is known to millions. He is the subject of a virtual reality 'game' in which people get to live his life. Unfortunately, the internet being what it is, people soon start killing him. In fact he gets killed in ever more bizarre and inventive ways. Then he decides to play the game, and kill himself.  Virtually, of course. Will his long-suffering fixer be able to fix the resulting mess? 'Virtually Famous' is slightly reminiscent of Seventies sci-f of the sort of promoted by Harlan Ellison in his Dangerous Visions anthologies. There's a paranoid feel to it that combines elements of sci-fi, psychological horror, and noir crime fiction. It also - inevitably - holds a dark mirror up to our own era of instant, meaningless celebrity and grotesque self-indulgence. It's an appropriate ending to an anthology that explores so many different aspects of identity,

Issue 36 Available Now

It's out! The magazine, that is. Issue 36, that's the three dozenth release from the mighty Supernatural Tales franchise. So, if you want to sample the new issue in print form, you can mosey on over to the POD page and order at least one copy. Possibly several. Or you can wait a wee while until the Kindle ebook becomes available. Further news of that later in the week. But what's in the magazine, eh? That's what you're asking. So let's have a peek at the opening sentences of some stories. I think you may detect a whiff of old-school ghost story, a soupcon of modern horror, and a general Gothicky tone here and there. 'The Templar Cup' by Paul Lewis Rain fell on London as I hurried into the station; that persistent drizzle which clings to the clothes and the hair so that one remains unpleasantly damp long after reaching shelter... 'The Chiromancer' by Tom Johnstone “Penny arcades not your thing, Willy?” asked Bertie, affectin

'Little Heart'

Georgia Bruce - a writer new to me - contributes a remarkable story to the Impostor Syndrome anthology It's not easy to summarise. The first sentence is 'This woman liked to break things', and the theme of things being broken, and the damage caused by the debris, runs through the tale. Anna's mother was a famous film actress in black and white cinema days, and her most famous performance was in a rather Gothic production. Shown the film as a little girl Anna struggles to reconcile the on-screen woman - 'the wrong mother' - with the mother she knows. On screen her mother shatters glass, cuts her feet walking on the shards. This image is central to Anna's development as an artist, and what may be her eventually mental breakdown. A thread of confusion and doubt runs through a precisely-written story that has intensely cinematic qualities. The power of the projected image, the curious nature of mirrors, and the incursions of a terrifying bird-like entity

Cabaret Sadako

It had to happen. The by-now rather tired horror movie trope of the long-hair Asian girl creeping about the place and pouncing on people has moved into mainstream showbiz . Riana’s gimmick is definitely a reference to The Ring’s Sadako and similarly scary female spirits, with her long hair falling in front of her face and schoolgirl-like outfit, while her doll calls to mind Annabelle from The Conjuring. Her ability to totally stay in character while still lending her trick a touch humor (and keeping it creepy) shows The Sacred Riana is quite a talented performer. The Sacred Riana did not appear out of thin air on the set of Asia’s Got Talent. Her real name is Marie Antoinette Riana Graharani and she’s been performing in Indonesia, at magic shows and in numerous TV performances, for a few years now.  Marie Antoinette? This just gets better.

'The Wrong House'

Tracey Fahey's contribution to Impostor Syndrome is compact and straightforward, but still manages a cruel twist. A man becomes convinced that his wife, daughter, and home are all spurious - this is not the family he remembers, not the home he used to wake up to. He goes to work, feeling relieved when he escapes 'the wrong house' - but when he gets to work it seems that he is on extended leave. Confusion. A colleague's remarks hint at something wrong, and a medical appointment leads to a revelation that cannot be borne.  I found 'The Wrong House' moving, a story that is humane and decent while avoiding any sentimentality. In a way it's a tale of everyday horror, the stuff of news reports that we barely notice most of the time. Here there is no malice, only the terrible weight of the truth that so many of us struggle to bear. Only two more stories to go in this review. Remember to check out the link above for details about the book!

The Sound of Horror

What is the sound of horror? 'Ker-thunk!'? 'Eeek!'? 'Squelchy-squelchy!'? Possibly. But it is also a radio show down in Brighton and Hove, where Tom Johnston discusses the genre and introduces readings by Thana Niveau. But let the blurb for the show tell you more... The Sound of Horror. Local writer Tom Johnstone discusses the importance of sound in horror, drawing from radio, film and music he will examine his favourite subject for Halloween. As an example of radio-based horror fiction, we'll hear an extract from Thana Niveau's terrifying short story 'Two Five Seven', about numbers stations. if listeners want to find out what happens in the remainder of 'Two Five Seven', they'll need to buy a copy of The Eleventh Black Book of Horror from Mortbury Press...& More info about the author at We'll also hear one of Tom's supernatural stories, 'The Apotheosis of Jenny Swallow' More info at tomjohnsto

'Hold My Hand and I'll Take You There'

This story in Impostor Syndrome  left me a tad puzzled. What is it about, and where does the imposture occur? Ralph Robert Moore's tale is a moving, clinically precise account of two lives that could, should, and perhaps did in some sense intersect. It is arguably a story about the What Ifs of life, and in this case love. The title, I think, is a clue. It's a beautiful song, but it is sung by star-crossed lovers parted by death. The story told here is (in its way) beautiful but death casts its shadow over all. We begin with Noah, a small boy who gets seriously ill. As we're in America his parents have to pay vast sums for his leukaemia treatment, but it seems to be failing. Noah's illness drives his parents apart, adding to his suffering. Meanwhile a young woman called Audrey is suffering from increasingly severe mental illness, one that isolates and almost destroys her. But one day, undergoing yet another bout of treatment, Audrey sees a TV news item about Noah...

'Other People's Dreams'

Stephen Bacon's story in Impostor Syndrome  nods to Edgar Allan Poe, among other Gothicists, despite a thoroughly realistic setting and premise. The first-person narrator is the amnesiac survivor of a terrorist bombing in Nuremberg. Why Nuremberg? Well, in part because of Kaspar Hauser, whose mysterious appearance and equally mysterious and violent death continue to intrigue many. The nameless survivor - who seems to be British but has no ID - is plagued by nightmares that he comes to believe are someone else's dreams. When he catches sight of a man who seems to be his double he develops a plan that will allow him to return to normality. This is a tricksy tale, in that I was left uncertain as to whether the supposed doppelganger ever existed. This is not a failing, for me, as unnerving confusion is a very acceptable horror ingredient. I'm past the halfway point in this anthology and am well satisfied with the standard thus far. More to come soon.

The Similars (2015)

Imagine a horror movie so strange that it resists easy categorisation. Imagine a Mexican film set in 1968, in a bus station. Imagine a plot that defies logic but has a remorseless, dream-like coherence. Imagine me writing an entire review like this. But it's difficult to stop, because this slightly ropy Rod Serling-style intro is just what The Similars offers. Among other things. The Similars is one of those films that I watch all the way through because I'm genuinely intrigued. What on earth, I ask myself, is going to happen next? Superficially it's a tale of sci-fi horror, as a group of disparate individuals end up in a bus station some distance from Mexico City in a torrential storm. The rain is so bad that it's made road travel impossible. This is bad news for Ulises, a man whose wife is giving birth in a city hospital. He can't get to her, and is understandably stressed out by the unhelpful attitude of the sleazy old station manager, Martin. Martin spends

'The Insider'

Continuing my running review of Impostor Syndrome we come to Neil Williamson's tale of psychological horror. It strikes me that all of the stories thus far have been timely, in that they deal with ideas or themes that are in the air. Folk horror, identity theft, the contentious history of empire and colonisation. 'The Insider' is also bang up to date with its subject of a Twitter troll who appears to have stolen the identity of an amiable company guy who never seems to get the promotions he deserves. But things are, as they say, not quite what they seem. This is a concise, economical tale that pulls no punches in its depiction of what's become known as toxic masculinity. We see the self-assessed 'nice guy' who bigoted online from both sides. It's implicit that the modern corporate environment, and by extension the world is creates, is a swamp of resentment, fear, and dishonesty. Within this, Williamson implies, only the dark side of our natures can flou

'What's Yours Is Mine'

Holly Ice's contribution to Impostor Syndrome is, in some respects, the most straightforward story so far. Sophie visits her mother who is suffering from early onset dementia. A friend of the family reveals a secret that's been  kept from Sophie since early childhood - she has an older sister, Isabelle. The scar on Sophie's arm was not from a cycling accident. Isabelle is confined to a hospital and her mother has been visiting her regularly for decades. Understandably staggered by this revelation Sophie decides to go and meet Isabelle, only to encounter a woman who looks uncannily like her. Things then take a nightmarish twist, one that is arguably a little too predictable. However, the story's ending has a genuine modern Gothic feel, as Sophie discovers just how dangerous Isabelle is. 'What's Yours Is Mine' is a well-written tale of existential horror, suggesting - quite rightly - that even the most ordinary-seeming family can harbour strange secrets.

'Who Is That On the Other Side of You?'

The third story in the Impostor Syndrome anthology is an ambitious tale by Timothy J. Jarvis. The title is taken from The Waste Land , which is apt given that the setting is (mostly) Antarctica. This is the white continent of Captain Scott and his great rival Amundsen. Scott and other members of his expedition feature in the narrative, albeit peripherally.  The focus is on two unlikely anti-heroes who arrive in the Antarctic at the same time in pursuit of a portal into the hollow earth. The two men are uncannily similar despite being unrelated - doubles who seem like identical twins. Their adventures are strange, violent, at times disturbing. The world the author creates is that of the Gilded Age, the US after the Civil War when robber barons prevailed. The author throws in magic (with even a passing reference to Aleister Crowley), to create a rich stew of decadence and vaulting ambition. The main problem with the story is that the quest at its heart either leads into t

Anthology of Anthology Horror!

Yes, someone has compiled clips from a lot of anthology horror films, thus providing a handy Hallowe'en sampler. If the horror anthology film has a weakness, the equivalent of a wooden stake or an overbearing (and decapitated) mother, it’s that they are almost always, by their very nature, uneven. Whether one director is in charge or the stories have been divvied up among a group, the result is still usually a mixed bag... Here's a bit I hadn't seen, from the Italian movie Black Sabbath. I didn't know there were Italian horror movies. And here's one of the nastier bits of the Amicus classic Tales from the Crypt . A brutal ex-army officer has taken over a home for the blind and begun mistreating the residents. Needless to say... Finallly, here's a clip from a French antho film I should have mentioned earlier - Fears of the Dark. Don't have nightmares!

Impostor Syndrome - 'In the Marrow'

Laura Mauro's contribution to the Impostor Syndrome anthology draws on Irish folklore and modern medical science to produce a remarkable story. Is it a coming-of-age tale? Not exactly, though it concerns pre-teen twins at a time of great change in their lives. At twelve confident Hazel is developing faster than quiet, uncertain Tara. Despite this new distance between them the twins still share a secret life, heading out after school for the lough near their home, where they set traps for faeries. Not that they believe in faeries, not really. They're no longer little kids. But their custom is belief of a kind, and becomes crucial when Tara collapses and is diagnosed with leukaemia. The mysteries and terrors of childhood illness are perfectly described, here, with an added weird touch. Hazel becomes convinced that Tara is not, in fact, her sister at all, but a changeling. She is of course trying to rationalise away the unbearable truth that her sister is dying. Or is she? No

Impostor Syndrome - New Anthology

Doubles, doppelgangers, people who impersonate minor celebrities for a living - two of those are weird. No, make that all three. The excellent James Everington has co-edited, with Dan Howarth, a selection of stories based on the disturbing notion that, out there, is somebody who looks exactly like you. Or me. Possibly both. The point is that Impostor Syndrome will soon be published by Dark Minds Press, and you can find details here . I have received a PDF of the book from James and will be doing one of my running reviews over the next fortnight or so. The contents page is interesting, offering what I like best - a mix of authors whose work I know and like, and some who I have not encountered before. First up is a story by Gary McMahon. 'I Know What They Look Like' is a gritty tale of modern urban horror which (I suspect) nods towards Taxi Driver and the sub-genre of the urban vigilante thriller. A cab driver takes a fare who is his double - or is the driver deluded, insane?

Ghost Impersonators

Have you ever wondered when people started going around in sheets pretending to be ghosts, possibly shouting 'Woo! WOOOO!' during the process? Neither had it, but it has been drawn to my attention that the tradition is as old as it is silly. And it could get you killed . The story of the Hammersmith Ghost is new to me, and one well worth retelling, given the sheer number of ghost impersonators of all sizes liable to descend upon us very soon. Ghost or not, there was undoubtedly a public menace in Hammersmith, and people wanted it gone. A bounty of 10 pounds would be awarded to anybody who caught it. The story is also told here on a legal blog.  In December 1803, villagers claimed a ghost, covered in a white shroud, was confronting travelers and, in some cases, physically attacking them. There were lots of other cases, as it seems our ancestors were both very credulous and amply supplied with linen etc. But there was a very serious side to the dressing up,  especially in

Hallowe'en Movies - The Mysterious East

Apart from a handful of movies like KWAIDAN relatively few East Asian horror movies were on my white Western radar. Then along came THE RING and suddenly I was immersed in dark-haired ghosts lurking in the attic, emerging from the telly, chasing kids up and down corridors, and just generally misbehaving. Great stuff. But which J-Horror, K-Horror, and just general E-Horror are best for Hallowe'en? JU-ON/THE GRUDGE - Arguably the most terrifying of the lot. It works well on all the levels you want - scary ghost,  haunted house, curse, neatly knitted plot. It's also one of those films that offers no real escape or restitution, just a remorseless working out of fate. There is a series of Ju-On movies but, oddly, the first to be released in cinemas was the third.  DARK WATER - A milder dose of horror than the Ju-On movies, with a more traditional ghostly feel. This is a character-drive supernatural drama in a rainy, bleak Japan that has its own offbeat beauty. When a

Hallowe'en Movies - Anthology Horror

Or, if you like, portmanteau horror. Horror films with lots of stories in them, that's the point. It's a genre that was invented in Britain and perhaps the best examples were produced here. But there are some cracking examples from overseas. So, here goes... DEAD OF NIGHT - Made immediately after World War II by Ealing Studios (far better known for comedy) as a bit of pure entertainment. Horror was explicitly banned during the war in Britain, so DOF represented a return to normality for the film industry. It was also an opportunity to showcase acting and directorial talent. The stories are variable in terms of chills, but all have their virtues. The adaptation of E.F. Benson's 'The Bus Conductor' is pretty good, the comedy interlude based on Wells' 'The Inexperienced Ghost' is pleasant. Those two old faithfuls, the country house ghost and the haunted mirror, are both handled well. But of course the most memorable sequence concerns Micheal Redgrave'

Hallowe'en Movies - Folk Horror

Here are some folk horror movies that aren't THE WICKER MAN, BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW, or WITCHFINDER GENERAL. Such strange entities do exist. Perhaps the best examples were created for British TV in the Seventies, but there are a few films out there that use folkloric ideas and/or imagery. ABSENTIA - A relatively low-budget chiller with the premise that monsters lurk in dark places, waiting to ensnare unwary travellers. In this case the lair of the entity is an underpass near the home of a woman whose husband vanished seven years before the film begins. While low key for most of its length, this one has at least one moment of visceral horror. THALE - A Norwegian tale of huldras , mysterious forest-dwelling entities. The film begins when a clean-up crew go to the house of an apparent suicide and find a secret basement room, complete with weird equipment. They also discover what seems to be a beautiful young woman, Thale, who soon turns out to have strange powers. It''

Hallowen'en Movies - Lovecraftiana!

Yes, old Howard P. has inspired a shedload of movies, some good, some bad, some a bit meh. Here are a few that range from respectful adaptation to thematic homage to... well, silly but fun. THE CALL OF CTHULHU - A silent film by the HPL Historical Society, this is a spiffing effort. It succeeds in recreating the essence of early Hollywood, complete with stop-motion effects and old-school studio-based action sequences. A faithful adaptation, and a fun one, this is a labour of love that works damn near perfectly. SPRING - About as different from the above as you can imagine, yet still replete with Lovecraftian themes. Like tentacles, ancient secrets, and weird miscegenation. Overall it's not so much a horror film as an offbeat love story with a whacking great obstacle for our hero. It's also rather beautiful - it's Italian setting is about as far from HPL's Vermont as you could get, but it works, not least when the star-crossed lovers visit Pompeii. DIE FARBE (T

Halloween Movies - A Mixed Bag

Here are a few suggestions for viewing over the spooky season. I'll probably think of some more in due course. I'm like that. CITY OF THE DEAD - aka HORROR HOTEL, a cheap and cheerful movie starring Christopher Lee. It sets out to create an atmosphere for witchiness, or witchitude, in a New England town in the post-war era. It succeeds, despite its tiny budget. Lee is excellent, of course, but the cast is rather good overall. Splendidly atmospheric. GHOST STORY - as recommended to me by no lesser authority than award-winning author Steve Duffy. A starry adaptation of Peter Straub's novel, this is again an atmospheric small-town America story. Here the supernatural force is not something conjured up deliberately but created as an avenging force by wrongdoing of a very familiar kind. This theme plus excellent performance by the young Alice Krige makes it a far from simple tale of good v. evil. CARNIVAL OF SOULS - cheap and cheerful amateur production, this is the so

All the Rage


The White Road

One of the great rarities of modern weird fiction is The White Road by Ron Weighell, It was published in 1997 by Ghost Story Press. Many enthusiasts have tried in vain to obtain a copy. And now Sarob Press is bringing out a new edition of the book! Details are on the Sarob blog here . This is a major event by any standard. The striking cover (see above) is by Nick Maloret,  and here's a hint of what is in store for the eager multitude. This 384pp (approx) hardcover containing 24 stories and 2 novellas has been a massive undertaking by the author, the artist and by Sarob Press ... a true labour of love. The original stories have mostly only minor revisions/corrections etc and appear in the author’s preferred order ... and the overall feel and concept of this new volume is wholly different to the GSP edition.

Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories is a nice, on-the-nose title for a film, is it not? This particular British portmanteau film was adapted by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson from the hit stage show of the same name. There's a very good, detailed review here in the Guardian . It’s not a film that wants to be subtle – and, as I say, its unsubtler flourishes and jump scares may have been more potent in the theatre, like outrageously startling but cleverly managed stage illusions. But there’s a tremendous atmosphere to this picture, a dream-like oddness and offness to everything. Nyman and Dyson have created a weird world of menace, despair and decay. All good fun, then. And impressive that they've got hot property Martin Freeman as one of the leads. I look forward to this, as Jeremy Dyson is a huge fan of classic horror movies, as he explains here . This was one genre in particular that we in this country seemed to do well. A disproportionate number of the finest examples of the supernatural hor

Readers Poll - Issue 35

Well it's a triumph and a half for Andrew Alford, whose story 'A Russian Nesting Demon' ran away with the poll. Congratulations to Andrew, who will be receiving the almost unimaginable sum of £25 British pounds as a prize. (I know, it's a puny sum really, but I can't help currency fluctuations.) Thanks to everyone who voted, and commiserations with all the runners up. I was pleased to see that nobody failed to trouble to the poll-ometer. If you want to check out the issue and have not yet obtained a copy, well, you can do so here . And there are back issues, too. It's a veritable cornucopia of stuff.

The Innkeepers (2011)

What makes a good ghost story on film? Setting, characters, central idea, basic plot - lots of things, in fact. The Innkeepers is an interesting example of a film that seems to have everything going for it, but somehow failed to win over this ghost story lover. Why? It just lacks clout. The setup is good. The Yankee Pedlar Inn (a real hotel in Torrington, Connecticut) is closing down because it's losing money. It's a quaint old place, allegedly haunted, and in its final days under the care of Luke and Claire. Luke (Pat Healy) is a classic pretentious dropout type who has set up a website cataloguing supposed paranormal events at the hotel. Claire (Sara Paxton) is young, perky, not quite sure what she's going to do with her life. When the film begins there are only a handful of guests and the innkeepers are planning a long weekend of ghost-hunting. They are seeking to contact the ghost of tragic Madeline O'Malley, w

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace - A Forgotten Classic

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is available on demand for anyone willing to sign up to Channel 4. It's free! Rewatching these shows made me regret that there are so few of them, but accept that it's not easy to do horror comedy that's at once so entertaining and so knowing. If you don't know Darkplace, here's Marenghi himself, plus his all-star cast. Matthew Holness, Matt Berry, Alice Lowe, and Richard Ayoade are rather brilliant. The guest stars are also great fun, especially Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding. Each episode of Darkplace is dotted with cast interviews, in which the fascinating opinions of the creative team are shared. And Darkplace tackles some of the most vital issues of our time. I mean, cop a load of this from . If this isn't enough to convince you that GMD is worth your while, listen to the author/actor himself read a sample of one of his bestsellers. Now that's horror.

As They Grow Older: Running Review 4.

The next three stories in Stephen Cashmore's  collection  of children's stories all have a slightly familiar ring to me. The innocuously-titled 'Teddies' has the familiar theme of children's toys that come to life. Oddly enough I always found this idea scary as a kid, and I'm pleased to say that the story has the right nightmarish feel. 'Wings' is an old-school framed narrative, in which granddad tells the sprog about something strange that happened on holiday many years ago. This one has a good menacing entity - a flying entity that attacks the family car in a manner that might be mistaken for a hailstorm. This one brought back memories of my own family holidays in Scotland. Finally there is 'Doctor MacGregor', who lives on Witch Street next to the derelict old school There's a slight touch of Salem's Lot here, as local children fall victim to a mysterious disorder. Eventually the doctor realises that's going on, and a sh


The world has been waiting for... Of course, there are some seriously Lovecraftian overtones to this canine crime noir series. Borkchito has a Facebook page . Also Etsy . I suppose an occult cat detective would be a tad counter-intuitive, what with cats generally being horror shorthand for Spooky Stuff Ahead. However, Robert Westall did write a cracking story about a vampiric entity being defeated by a brave cat - 'The Creatures in the House'. Just thought I'd include that for balance.

Psychic Vampire Repellent

Yes! It's that time of year again, when Hallowe'en looms and all things ghostly, ghoul-y, and moderately long-legged and beastly return from their summer holidays. Of course we are all terrified of being haunted, throttled, disembowelled, or otherwise messed up by creatures of darkness. So it's good to know that, for the smallest of fortunes, one can at least ward off one category of evil entities. Yes, it's a bottle of squirty perfume that 'uses a combination of gem healing and deeply aromatic therapeutic oils, reported to banish bad vibes (and shield you from the people who may be causing them). Fans spray generously around their heads to safeguard their auras.' You can find it on Gwyneth Patrow's Goop site. A snip at thirty US dollars, for which you get a 3.4 oz bottle. Purchasers may be away with the fairies. (See previous post.)

Away With the Fairies

When I was young and just staring into space - probably imagining myself on a voyage to the Moon, or the Earth's core - grown-ups would remark that I was 'away with the fairies'. I don't know if people still say it nowadays, but the meaning is clear . Fairies, the Good Folk, the Little People, or whatever you call 'em, could enchant people. They might steal you bodily, or just nick your soul. But they were always out there, watching, waiting... Yes, you can spell it that way if you like. No, I'm not being all grumpy. Fairies don't feature strongly in modern supernatural fiction for obvious reasons. The Victorian conception of the fairie-folk was twee and harmless. Shakespeare's Ariel and Puck were both powerful beings of a normal-ish size. But once supernatural beings get to be tiny and cute (sort of) any potential for unease is banished. Garden gnomes are scarier than 19th century fairies. Your basic Victorian fairies, here, escaping from a