It was quite a month. Robert Eggers’ The Northman put the legend behind the story of Hamlet on screen, full of blood and thunder. Meanwhile, the finalists for the 2022 Hugo Awards were announced, a few horror-relevant candidates among them — including Bitter Karella, creator of the Midnight Society, who is up for Best Fan Writer.
Elsewhere, Gretchen Felker-Martin’s novel Manhunt made international news because, like many other works of post-apocalyptic fiction, it included the death of a celebrity (in this case, J. K. Rowling) as part of its narrative. The Daily Mail headline “Woke NPR is blasted over gushing review for controversial transgender author’s violent horror novel which depicts JK Rowling being burned alive at her home” was typical of the garbled outrage.
In less amusing news, two high-profile Dracula films — Karyn Kusama’s Mina Harker and Robert Eggers’ Nosferatu — were both scrapped. Speaking of troubled movies, Shudder released the second series of Cursed Films, covering Rosemary’s Baby, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Stalker and The Wizard of Oz.
Continue reading “April 2022: A Month in Horror”
Following on from the fifth Scream released last month, February saw a new additon to another venerable horror series with the ninth Texas Chainsaw Massacre film, entitled simply Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film debuted on Netflix to mixed reactions — which, to be fair, is better than the last few films in the series managed.
Meanwhile, horror fans who appreciate fiction with a solidly leftist slant were doubtless happy to see both the inaugural issue of the horror-adjacent Seize the Press and the publication of Gretchen Felker-Martin’s much-discussed novel Manhunt.
In awards news, February saw the releases of the final ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards and the contenders for the Rondo Awards, which enjoy their twentieth iteration this year.
Richard L. Tierney was a writer best known for his sword and sorcery fiction, although his work also included horror elements. He was an admirer of the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, and acted as both a Lovecraft scholar and an author of original Cthulhu Mythos material. He passed away on 1 February, aged 85.
Ivan Reitman was a director and producer closely associated with comedy. His single most popular comedy film was also horror-adjacent: Ghostbusters, released in 1984, showed that comedy had a place in the era of big blockbusters and also acted as a gateway to horror for a generation of youngsters. He passed away on February 12, aged 75.
Dave Thomas was a writer, animator, musician and known to many horror fans as co-host of Brian Keene’s beloved Horror Show podcast. Keene announced his peaceful passing on 14 February.
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. Gonzales Lifetime Achievement Award.
Continue reading “January 2022: A Month in Horror”
The big horror-adjacent release of the month was… well, I’m assuming it was Ghostbusters: Afterlife, although I have to admit that I’ve heard almost nothing in terms of buzz about this film. Compared to the opinion-dividing 2016 Ghostbusters, which sparked a microcosmic culture war, few people seem interested in Afterlife. i wonder if this had something to do with the trailer, which (perhaps as a response to the notoriously awful trailer to the previous film) contained absolutely no humour whatsoever. I’m planning to see Afterlife, but it’s below House of Gucci and Eternals on my list.
Continue reading “November 2021: A Month in Horror”
A horror icon returned in style this month with the debut of the Chucky television series. Three episodes have aired so far, and already it’s picking up quite a bit of buzz. Steven Scaife’s review for Slant is typical of the more positive responses directed at the series:
The show’s most surprising angle is that, while we understand and sympathize with Jake’s situation, he’s not all that hard to sway toward violence. He’s full of anger and pain that he hasn’t learned how to deal with except through art nobody seems to like. Chucky retains a lot of the silly humor inherent to the premise of a surly killer doll, but it can also be quite unsettling as it depicts Jake slowly goaded into violence against his classmates.
Naturally, we had a number crop of horror films on release, although admittedly they’ve been somewhat overshadowed by Dune. Personally, I’m most eager to see Last Night in Soho and Antlers. Halloween Kills also came out, and accurately recreated the completely pointless slasher sequels of the eighties and nineties. Horror-adjacent releases include Venom 2 and The Addams Family 2. According the RottenTomatoes the latter film is even worse than Halloween Kills, although I personally found it to be an amusing kidflick.
Fans of Ramsey Camobell were pleased to see DMR Books republish Far Away & Never, a collection of heroic fantasy novels that’s been out of print for a quarter century. Creepypasta got anotehr boost in the mainstream courtesy of a Financial Times article. The people behind Stygian Sky Media have announced that they will be publishing Joe Lansdale’s memoir The Mechanic’s Son. Oh, yes — and Joyce Carol Oates went viral for a bizarrely po-faced tweet about plastic skeletons.
AOn October 13, Andrea Haugen (alias Nebelhexë) was one of five people killed in a bow-and-arrow attack in Norway. Her musical career, which was influenced by paganism, is documented by the Encyclopaedia Metallum. Her written work includesbooks on mythology, such as The Ancient Fires of Midgard. Multiple online sources, possibly derived from an uncited claim on Wikipedia, assert that she wrote scripts for horror films. I have been unable to find any evidence of these scripts having been produced, although she did express interest in writing for the screen.
I’ll be honest, this was rather took hectic a month for me to keep up with my genre beat. We all know that September is something of a calm-before-the-storm month for horror happenings, anyway. Even if, as in this case, it did see some notable streaming releases: witness Mike Flanagan’s miniseries Midnight Mass, and the immigration-themed horror film No One Gets Out Alive.
Before I go, I could hardly leave without mentioning something I’d missed from last month’s round-up: Graham Masterton now has a statue in Poland depicting himself as a pointy-hatted dwarf. This is one of many dwarf statues decorating the streets of Wroclaw, Poland.
If my Twitter feed is anything to go by, the most talked-about horror film of the month is the new version of Candyman, which has clocked up 85% at Rotten Tomatoes. In an ordinary year I’d have rushed out to the cinema to see it, but this year — well. Hopefully I’ll be able to see it soon.
Of course, if we use a slightly broader definition of “horror”, then Candyman loses its most-talked-about title to The Suicide Squad. Certainly, some found it horrific, as evidenced by a certain “superversive” tweet that went viral for the wrong reasons.
In award news, this month saw Killercon Austin take place, and with it the Splatterpunk Awards. Wile E. Young’s The Magpie Coffin took Best Novel. Other winners were Samantha Kolesnik, whose novella True Crime and edited anthology Worst Laid Plans each won; and Silver Shamrock, a publisher represented by Wesley Southard’s short story “My Body” and Ronald Kelly’s collection The Essential Sick Stuff. The judges’ impartiality was apparently unaffected by the recent controversy in which Silver Shamrock managed to annoy a significant chunk of the horror community through its flip-flopping stance on trigger warnings.
The Shirley Jackson Awards were also handed out. The big winner was Stephen Graham Jones, who won in the novel and novella categories for The Only Good Indians and Night of the Mannequins respectively. The other winners were J. Ashley-Smith’s novelette “The Attic Tragedy”, R. A. Busby’s short story “Not the Man I Married”, Kathe Koja’s collection Velocities: Stories and the anthology Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women.
One of the biggest horror releases this month was The Fear Street Trilogy, a series of Netflix films based on R. L. Stine’s teenage horror books that started in 1989. The series was well-received and there is already talk of a possible continuation.
In award news, Ladies of Horror Fiction announced the winners of their awards which include Agustina Bazterrica’s Tender is the Flesh, Alexis Henderson’s The Year of the Witching the graphic novel The Low Low Woods and more. The finalists for the World Fantasy Awards have also been revealed; amongst the horror titles are Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic and Stephen Graham Jones’ The Only Good Indians.
The month also saw a sequel to a controversy from June. Last month small publish Silver Shamrock performed a U-turn on trigger warnings, first denouncing the entire concept and later announcing that it would begin using trigger warnings for all of its books going forward. This month we saw the apparent result of this in a compromise that pleases nobody: Brennan LaFaro’s Slattery Falls, a new book from Silver Shamrock, was given a weirdly unspecific warning by the publisher that reads simply “This book may contain content that triggers undesired reactions.”
Film director Richard Donner helmed a number of much-loved movies including Superman (1978), The Goonies (1985) and the Lethal Weapon series. His immortality in the horror field, meanwhile, was assured by his early film The Omen, originally released in 1976; he also produced the 2002 film Tales from the Crypt: Ritual. He died on July 5, aged 91.
This month was not a happy one for the small-press horror community. On 10 June, author Janine Pipe announced that she was teaming up with Cynthia Pelayo on a book called Triple 9, which she described as “a Cop V Monster short horror story anthology”. Pelayo’s publisher Burial Day was set to put out the book. Less than 24 hours following this announcement, Pipe revealed that the project had been cancelled.
“It is with sadness I announce that this project is no longer going ahead”, she said. “Please make sure you all continue to support Cina in any way you can. I am crushed at what has happened.” The next day, Cina Pelayo published a blog post discussing the attacks that she had received, and which prompted her to cancel the anthology and end Burial Day; towards the end of the month she posted a further essay on related matters. Both posts are deeply personal pieces of writing on her part. I will offer no comment, merely encourage you to read her words which speak for themselves.
Continue reading “June 2021: A Month in Horror”