Once again, horror fans were able to bathe in the annual glut of Halloweentime releases. Some old monsters returned in the likes of Hellraiser, Halloween Ends, WerewolfBy Night (based on the Marvel comic) and Terrifier 2 (the subject of dubious reports describing audience members allegedly vomiting and fainting). Perhaps the best-received revival was AMC’s Interview with the Vampire, adapted from the 1976 Anne Rice novel. A much earlier vampire classic also got another go-around courtesy of the audio drama Re: Dracula.
Newcomers to horror cinema include Prey for the Devil and Barbarian, the latter a sleeper hit. Also of note is Wendall & Wild, a horror-themed stop-motion collaboration between Henry Selick and Jordan Peele, which received positive reviews but, alas, seemingly negligible promotion. Elsewhere, big names brought their talents to horror series on Netflix: Guillermo del Toro opened his Cabinet of Curiosities while Mike Flannigan invited us to The Midnight Club.
Well, as any horror enthusiast will know, September is the month where we start to see the early glimmers of Halloween, while the bigger events are saved for October proper. Cinemas got a few of the cinema’s earlier horror realeases, including Smile (82% on Rottentomatoes), Spirit Halloween: The Movie (50% on Rottentomatoes) and Rob Zombie’s Munsters reboot (42% on Rottentomatoes… but I’m still looking forward to watching it, because I’m exactly that sort of person).
And while the new version of Hellraiser won’t debut on Hulu until October 7, Jamie Clayton’s version of Pinhead has already become one of the horror icons of 2022. Roll on Halloween!
Peter Straub, who passed away on 4 September, will need little introduction to horror readers. Debuting in 1973 with his novel Marriages, Straub began exploring supernatural themes with Julia in 1975 and ended the decade with 1979’s Ghost Story, one of the biggest hits of his career. His subsequent novels include The Talisman and its sequel Black House (both co-written with Stephen King) along with a string of Bram Stoker Award winners: Mr. X, Lost Boy, Lost Girl, In the Night Room and A Dark Matter.
Martin Barker, who passed away on 8 September, was a left-wing film critic and cultural commentator whose writing on media violence is characterised by a strong anti-censorship stance. He was one of the comparatively few media figures to speak out against the moral panic over “video nasties”, which he deconstructed in his 1984 book The Video Nasties: Freedom and Censorship in the Arts. The same year also saw the publication of A Haunt of Fears: The Strange History of the British Horror Comics Campaign, in which Barker examined a similar moral panic from the 1950s. Barker would continue writing on topics from Judge Dredd to The Lord of the Rings into the twenty-first century.
Goth icons of past decades are coming back in style, with a well-received adaptation of The Sandman on Netflix, a trailer for the Tim Burton-helmed Addams Family relaunch Wednesday (all eyes have been on Luis Guzmán as Gomez, it seems) and the announcement of a newHellraiser film to debut on Hulu come October.
Speaking of Hulu, the service also hosted the premier of Prey, the latest film in the Predator series. As well as tedious culture-warrior grumblings about the fact that the protagonist is a Native American woman, the film’s success prompted arguments that it should really have been released into cinemas.
At the other end of the streaming scale, we find the utterly catastrophic state of HBOMax. A casualty of the Warner/Discovery merger, the implosion of this streaming service led to a large amount of content being pulled or canned; not much is relevant to the horror genre, however, aside from the occasional edge-case like nearly-completed but never-to-be-released Scoob! sequel.
Another month has been and gone. Another crop of horror offerings came with it: Jordan Peele’s latest satirical horror film, Nope, was released to a positive reception; Netflix’s Resident Evil TV series was released to a less positive reception. And once again, the horror community played host to some social media furores.
Stephen Jones, the British anthologist behind the long-running Mammoth Book of Best New Horror series, was at the centre of a controversy this month. The touchpoint was a Facebook post he made in which he complained about failing to make a convention panel and poked fun at a con staff member for having non-binary pronouns; this led to an argument with Guy Adams and much ridicule and criticism elsewhere on social media, all documented at File770.
This month saw David Cronenberg’s film Crimes of the Future go on wide release; the reception has been mixed, but then, hasn’t that always been the case with Cronenberg’s work? Another talked-about release was Dashcam, which — if a screenshotted email is to be believed — was banned by Vue for its offensive content; although Vue denies placing this ban.
In awards news, the Ladies of Horror Fiction presented their prizes to a new batch of works. The winners this year were Jessica Lewis’ Bad Witch Burning (Best Young Adult), Lorien Lawrence’s The Collectors (Best Middle Grade), V. Castro’s Goddess of Filth (Best Novella), Gwendolyn Kiste’s “Sister Glitter Blood” (Best Short Fiction), Jessica McHugh’s Strange Nests (Best Poetry), Hailey Piper’s Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy and Isabel Yap’s Never Have I Ever (tied for Best Collection), Zakiya Dalila Harris’ The Other Black Girl (Best Debut) and Rachel Harrison’s Cackle (Best Novel). 2022 marks the final year of the Ladies of Horror Fiction Awards.
Big-budget franchise horror was in full bloom this month, with the fourth season of Stranger Things making its debut while the Marvel Cinematic Universe took a turn for the macabre in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. At the same time, however, we also saw signs of the underdog biting back. Now that A.A. Milne’s Winne-the-Pooh stories are in the public domain, the bear of very little brain is available for use without permission from either Disney or the Milne estate — and filming has already wrapped on the inevitable horror reimagining, Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey.
May also saw the release of Men (to generally positive reviews) and Firestarter (to terrible reviews).
Finally, the latest batch of Bram Stoker Awards were handed out. Stephen Graham Jones won the main novel category for the second year in a row with My Heart is a Chainsaw; the other prose fiction winners were Hailey Piper’s Queen of Teeth, Erica Waters’ The River Has Teeth, Jeff Strand’s “Twentieth Anniversary Screening”, Lee Murray’s “Permanent Damage” Gemma Files’ collection In That Endlessness, Our End and the anthology When Things Go Dark: Stories Inspired by Shirley Jackson, edited by Ellen Datlow. Alessandro Manzetti and Stefano Cardoseilli won the graphic novel award for The Inhabitant of the Lake; the sixth episode of Midnight Mass took the screenplay award; and Tortured Willows: Bent. Bowed. Unbroken. by Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn won the award for poetry collection. Finally, the non-fiction prizes went to Michael Knost’s Writers Workshop of Horror 2 (long-form) and Angela Yuriko Smith’s “Horror Writers: Architects of Hope” (short-form).
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.
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.
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.