Posts

Showing posts from May, 2020

Mesopotamian ghostbusting with Irving Finkel I Curator's Corner +

Image

A Dark Song - Review

Image
This is a punishingly intense film about the occult. The debut feature by writer/director Liam Gavin, it's set in an isolated house in Wales where two people spend months occupied with complex rituals. A bereaved mother seeks to contact her dead child, via angelic intercession. But purity is essential to success, and neither the magician nor his sponsor are pure in spirit. The demons are never far away... Ironic that I watched this during lockdown as the drawn-out, tedious nature of 'real' magic is central to the film's power. There is nothing glamorous about magic, here, and much that is vile and grubby and petty. Joseph Solomon (the excellent Steve Oram) convinces as an occultist thoroughly sick of his strange trade and longing to become 'invisible' to a higher reality he can't bear to keep facing. Like Solomon, Sophia (an amazing performance by Catherine Walker) is damaged and not at first very sympathetic. But as their personal demons gave way to th

Hillbilly Horror Show

Image
"Well, I just done and gone shot my own toe off in excitement at this here anthology series of rootin', tootin'..." No I can't type an entire review like this. Suffice to say that Hillbilly Horror Show, like so much else in our world, looks cheap and terrible and sometimes isn't. To explain: it's an anthology TV series, currently on Amazon Prime, that showcases short horror movies by aspiring directors. Good idea, right? Like an anthology efforts, the quality is variable, but every edition of HHS has at least one excellent film and at most one stinker out of four or five. There are four hour-long episodes, so you get a lot of viewing time. Why is it called Hillbilly Horror Show? Well, that's the premise that links the whole thing together. At the beginning of part 1 were are welcomed to the spacious trailer of the garrulous Bo, his mumbling brother Cephus (who worked for NASA, if only for one day), and their scantily-class 'kissing cousi

Super ghost story, you say?

Image
Officially Devil Ship is out on 1st June. But early preview reader feedback is good. My stuff for Scare Street is here .

The Moth, by H G Wells

Image
Lovely ghost story with a distinct touch of Poe and Victorian Gothic, but still distinctly Wellsian in its sparkle and lightly-worn erudition.

The Captain Of The Pole Star - Part 2

Image

The Captain Of The Pole Star - Part 1

Image

'The Dream Woman' from The Weird Circle

Image

'The Occupant of the Room' by Algernon Blackwood

Image

'Ancient Lights' by Algernon Blackwood - read by David Longhorn

Image

'The Ghost' by Catherine Wells

Image

'The Midnight House'

Image

Berenice by Edgar Allan Poe | Short Horror Stories

Image

The Residence at Whitminster, by M R James

Image

'All Hallows' from The Black Mass

Image

'No Passage Landward' by Steve Duffy

Image
From ST #31 - still available! Go to the 'Buy Supernatural Tales' page above.

'Feeding the Peat' by Claire Dean - Running Review of Uncertainties IV

Image
And so we reach the end. This excellent antholog y has, for me, illustrated yet again the broad range of Gothic fiction, and more than hints at a genre revival in this century far more impressive than anything in the last. Perhaps this is because, like the Victorian era, ours is one of uncertain peace, irrational fads, scientific progress, and deeply unstable societies that are mirrored in confused personal identities and relationships. And people still like spooky stuff a lot.  'Feeding the Peat' is very close to all those folk horror tales that appeared on our TV screens in the Seventies (if you're British). I'm thinking of 'Robin Redbreast', Nigel Kneale's 'Baby', 'Children of the Stones', and of course the near-legendary 'Penda's Fen'. Claire Dean's story sees Kath, single mother of two fractious children, go to her great-aunt's house to clear the place out, as the old lady has to go into a home. Feeding the peat is

'Primal' by D.P. Watt - Running Review of Uncertainties IV

Gothic horror - what are its vital components? Mystery, fear, death, but above all - arguably - the inability to ever truly know another's essential self. And self-discovery, that too should be in there somehow. The penultimate story in Uncertainties IV fits these criteria. A British student meets and falls in love with a beautiful, intelligent Irish student called (among other things) Jo. There is drinking and dancing and discussion of Kafka, and lovemaking. It gradually emerges that Jo has had a hard life, not least because her parents joined a bizarre cult dedicated to primate screaming. The Screamers collapsed when there shared house burned down - and the reason why is revealed as the story unfolds with effortless realism. This is one of those tales that offers twists without gimmicks, and I enjoyed it tremendously. The moment when the narrator hears something strange emanating from the sleeping Jo's throat has a whiff of Aickman and Poe. The story offers a denouement

Rod Serling On Writing

Image

'Some Girls Wander by Mistake' by Nadia Bulkin - Running Review of Uncertainties IV

The Gothic is a literature of obsession, and ours is an obsessive age. Many of the stories chosen by Timothy J. Jarvis for Uncertainties IV reflect this, none more so than Nadia Bulkin's elegant, chilly tale. A young woman goes missing in small town America. The police issue a description, and so forth. One young woman living in a nearby city becomes fixated on the disappearance and talks of nothing else, spends hours online, and becomes convinced she saw the woman's ghost. The disappearance consumes her life. During a call her mother reveals that a tendency to wander may run in the family. She boards up the windows of her apartment, tries to convince the police to dig up a construction site, sees the ghost of the missing girl again, and eventually drives out into the country as the snow starts to fall... The story has a fine symmetry, and offers many interpretations. But what lingers in the memory is the way that one loss leads to another with a kind of wild, lurching fat

The Stranglers : 'WaltzinBlack' - RIP Dave Greenfield

Image

T.S. Eliot Recites "The Hollow Men"

Image

'These Words, Rising From Stone' by Charles Wilkinson - Running Review of Uncertainties IV

Image
It's often been said that, in the academic world, rivalries are all the more vicious not because the stakes are high, but because they are so low. A little money, a little prestige, fame and glory within a narrow cabal unknown to the wider public. Squabbling over scraps is unseemly and perhaps this adds to the nastiness. The same might be said for poetry, genre fiction, or indeed any area of creative endeavour. Which brings me to a tale of poets and the occult. In Charles Wilkinson's nicely-judged tale, the organiser of an English provincial literary festival fails to invite a local celebrity, a female poet whose work is mystical and occult in nature. The story is told not from the viewpoint of the organiser, but from a rival poet who also runs a small press and wants to avoid her for reasons that will be apparent to anyone familiar with that world. He catches glimpses of the formidable Frances Slater around the venue, and strenuously avoids her. But then he learns someth

HBO new series 'Lovecraft Country'

Image

Lulu returns, sort of triumphant

Image
After giving me grey hairs, for days on end, Lulu.com is now functioning again. All print-on-demand issues are now available from here . Not sure if I will continue to use Lulu after this fiasco. Some pondering to do.