The month saw some major film releases. The fifth Scream came out — entitled simply Scream, as per a recent trend for sequels with the same titles as their originals — and received a generally favourable reception. Straddling the gap between horror and noir we find Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation of the William Lindsay Greshem novel Nightmare Alley (previously turned into a classic 1947 film), which examines exactly what happens when a mentalist’s act crosses the line from cold-reading to spookshow. I should mention that the film in question came out in the US in December — but your humble blogger was only able to see it come its January release in the UK.
In awards news, we had the release of the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards. Conspicuously absent is the newly-announced category for middle-grade fiction: this will not be included until next year’s awards. More importantly for the readers of this blog, we also learnt the nominees for the 2022 Splatterpunk Awards and I have every intention of keeping up my annual tradition of reviewing each and every finalist. Special congratulations to Clive Barker, who has been announced as the latest recipient of the J.F. Gonzalez Lifetime Achievement Award.
Vulture.com ran an article by Lila Shapiro on Joss Whedon, following the writer-director’s fall from grace after multiple accusations of onset misconduct. Previously, Buffy/Angel actress Charisma Carpenter had likened Whedon to a vampire; when interviewed for the article, Whedon himself made the same comparison:
On our second day of interviews, I asked Whedon about his affairs on the set of Buffy. He looked worse than he had the day before. His eyes were faintly bloodshot. He hadn’t slept well. “I feel fucking terrible about them,” he said. When I pressed him on why, he noted “it messes up the power dynamic,” but he didn’t expand on that thought. Instead, he quickly added that he had felt he “had” to sleep with them, that he was “powerless” to resist. I laughed. “I’m not actually joking,” he said. He had been surrounded by beautiful young women — the sort of women who had ignored him when he was younger — and he feared if he didn’t have sex with them, he would “always regret it.” Looking back, he feels shame and “horror,” he said. I thought of something he had told me earlier. A vampire, he’d said, is the “exalted outsider,” a creature that feels like “less than everybody else and also kind of more than everybody else. There’s this insecurity and arrogance. They do a little dance.”
One disturbing event this month — not directly connected to the horror genre, but relevant to the debates over censorship that are part of horror culture — was a Tennessee school board voting to remove Art Spiegelman’s Maus from an eighth-grade curriculum, the result of an unanimous vote by the board members. The official reason was that this graphic novel about the Holocaust contained nudity and swearing, thereby making it unsuitable for 13-year-olds who (we’re expected to believe) have neither heard swearing nor seen drawings of genitals.
Actress Yvette Mimieux passed away on January 17. Early in her career she served as female lead in the 1960 film The Time Machine and went on to appear in various later fantasy and science fiction productions. Her horror work includes the 1970s TV movies Snowbeast and Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell.
Rock star Michael Lee Aday, alias Meat Loaf, passed away on January 20. As well as appearing in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, he performed a range of songs with horror-adjacent themes, most famously “Bat Out of Hell” (written by Jim Steinman) which was influenced by Psycho.