May 2020: A Month in Horror

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This was a turbulent month for the horror community. Scandal broke out when it was revealed that Adam Donaghey, a producer who worked on 2017’s A Ghost Story, was arrested in late April on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor during the production of that film. He was released on a $25,000 bond, and resigned from all projects he was involved with at the studio Cinestate. “It’s unclear if and when his next court appearance is scheduled”, reports IndieWire. “A spokeswoman for the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office referred requests for information about the case to the city Police Department. The department is not responding to records requests because of city offices’ pandemic-related closure.”

These question makes currently hanging over the Donaghey case no doubt contributed to the affair being overshadowed by another scandal – one with much smaller implications, but where the details are at least clearer. The controversy concerned long-time film critic and horror buff Joe Bob Briggs, who wrote an article last year expressing bewilderment at contemporary LGBT discourse:

If you go deep into the sexual identity of anyone—cisgender, transgender, intersex, androgyne, bigender (please add a hyphen so we don’t think it’s big-ender), gender variant, pangender, transmasculine, transfeminine, butch, femme, stone butch, high femme, third gender, aliagender, boi, demiboy, demigirl, polygender, trigender, gender creative—in other words, if you go into the mind of anyone, anywhere, at any time, at any place on the gender spectrum, you will find a secret idiosyncratic place that makes that person who ze is. Unless you’re having sex with that person—and sometimes even if you are—you’ll never know what that idiosyncratic place is.

There aren’t just eight categories of “gender identity,” there are 8 billion.

Defining part of the population as LGBTQIA is self-defeating because it separates.

Come back to the family, people. Don’t make me label you. It’s all the same. It’s called the HTTFIOLFL community:

Humans Trying To Figure It Out, Looking For Love.

The debate was partly over what Briggs said, but also partly over where he said it – Taki’s Magazine, the owner of which has ben described by the Times of Israel as a “far-right race-baiter”. The ensuing social media slapfight prompted Johnny Donaldson’s Medium piece “Horror Has A Leadership Problem”, which placed the LGBT article in the wider context of Briggs’ past cultural commentary:

The newly dusted off article about Briggs’s confusion with acronyms isn’t the worst thing he’s ever written, and taken on it’s own, can play like an old man’s misguidedly “humorous” take on his own attempts at dealing with a rapidly changing social sphere. But the article doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it exists on a continuum of incidents in which Joe Bob has proven himself to be less kind to marginalized communities than either he or his protege Diana Prince (aka, Darcy, the Mail Girl) try to make him out to be. The LGBTQ article is one of a piece with the kerfuffle he created over Black Christmas in December and an article he wrote about our “need” to listen white supremacist speakers — the latter, like the LGBTQ article, published on Taki.

Donaldson argues that the problem is not only Briggs himself, but also Briggs’ fanbase:

Whenever someone dares to critique or question Briggs, an army of his fans descend like buzzing gnats to harass, insult and harangue the critic making charges, often using very right wing rhetoric of calling us humorless and overly sensitive scolds who don’t get it. It’s the same tactic that Trump supporters take whenever their hero is attacked. The Ol’ Snowflake Move.

The article also brings up Donaghey’s arrest, alongside a few other cases of people involved with the horror films being accused of assault or expressing bigoted personal opinions, and concludes that the horror community needs to “do better.”

Johnny Donaldson frames the controversy in terms of progressives versus alt-righters; other commentators have taken different tacks. Matt Konopka, my editor at Killer Horror Critic, offered a more centrist perspective, addressing the issue as one of bullies versus bullied that happens across the political spectrum.

For my part, well, I’d just like to say that I was impressed by Briggs’ response to the controversy:

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He could easily have cast himself as a martyr. He could have set himself up as a right-wing pop culture warrior in the vein of Larry Correia or Ethan Van Sciver and founded #Horrorgate. But he didn’t. Instead, he joined in the calls for peace and reconciliation. That, I believe, deserves credit.


In other news, May was the month in which we said goodbye to some more members of the horror community. Screenwriter and director John Lafia, whose credits include co-writing the original 1988 Child’s Play and directing its 1990 sequel, died on 29 April aged 63, with his death being publicly announced early this month.

Cartoonist Richard Sala, known for his offbeat, distorted illustrations in books including Hypnotic Tales, Maniac Killer Strikes Again! and The Grave Robber’s Daughter, died on 9 May aged 61.

Comic writer Martin Pasko died on May 10 at the age of 65; although best known for his work on superhero titles like Superman and Wonder Woman, he started his career writing for Warren’s horror comics Creepy and Vampirella, while his subsequent work included helping to reinvent the occult hero Dr. Fate and writing the 1980s revival of Swamp Thing prior to Alan Moore taking over.


Was there happier news this month? Yes indeed! The finalists for the latest rounds of the This Is Horror and Indie Horror Book Awards have been announced. I notice that the latter ballot has a large overlap with this year’s Splatterpunk Awards, which I’ve been covering on this very blog. So, if you want a creepy reading list, now you know where to begin assembling it…

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