In terms of horror media, June was not a particularly eventful month. But in terms of the genre’s cultural surroundings, well, that’s a different story. The shockwaves currently running through society could hardly fail to hit the horror community in one way or another.
The full scope of the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and systemic racism is too broad to cover in a single post, but suffice to say that their impact was felt within the horror world. The Horror Writers for Black Lives Matter fundraiser, organised by Philip Fracassi on behalf of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, was launched on 5 June and went on to surpass its original goal; at the time of writing, it is a few hundred dollars away from its upped target of $25,000.
Meanwhile, other scandals have been raging. Last month’s news included reports of film producer Adam Donaghey of Cinestate being arrested after allegedly sexually assaulting a minor. This month, The Daily Beast ran an article about other accusations against Donaghey, including one from Cristen Leah Haynes who provided an audio recording of herself being sexually harassed by the producer. The Daily Beast provided evidence indicating that Donaghey’s misconduct was common knowledge within the Dallas film industry, but did not prevent Cinestate from hiring him.
These revelations led to what Dread Central dubbed the “72 hours that split the horror landscape”, during which multiple content-creators involved with the Cinestate-owned Fangoria – including Joe bob Briggs, Mark Garris, Rob Galluzzo and Barbara Crampton – announced they were cutting ties. Eventually, Fangoria itself announced a split from Cinestate, as did Birth. Movies. Death.
This is just one part of a wave of call-outs regarding sexual harassment in media, with a sizeable number of genre authors being accused. Comic writer Warren Ellis is the highest-profile, but he is far from alone – see this post by Brian Keene for a thoughtful summary of the issue. Looking specifically at horror authors, a dishonourable mention must surely be awarded to Matt Hayward, not only for his harassment of female reviewers but also for his ludicrously incompetent attempt to smear his most vocal critic, which served only to finalise the destruction of his once-promising career.
Moving on to controversies of a different sort, this month saw the release of survival horror game The Last of Us Part II. I don’t tend to keep up with the latest game releases these days, but not even I could escape the whirling mass of discourse surrounding this saga of brutal survivors and deadly mutants. CNET’s review of the game went with the title “The Last of Us Part 2 is getting internet hate. You can ignore it”, which does a pretty good job of summing up my perspective.
June 2020 was also the month in which we lost Denny O’Neil, veteran comic writer who is best known for making Gotham truly Gothic in his Batman scripts of the 1970s; other horror-adjacent characters he worked on include Dr. Strange, the Creeper and his co-creation Azrael. We lost Joel Schumacher, the film director who helmed – amongst other things – The Lost Boys, Flatliners, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin and the 2004 version of The Phantom of the Opera. We lost actor Ian Holm, whose contributions to horror include performances in Alien, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, eXistenZ and From Hell.
I would have liked to have had space for more cheerful news, but alas, June 2020 simply was not the most cheerful month for the horror genre.. We can but hope that the latter half of 2020 will see signs of something more positive being built on the ashes and debris.