Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Crying Boy

My short story, The Crying Boy, is featured in the Thrills, Kills 'n' Chaos site as part of their Halloween special. I'm overjoyed to have landed the actual Halloween night spot and than David Barber for showing faith in the story.

It's based on the legend of the Crying Boy painting. We had this picture hanging above our fireplace as a child and it always scared me. Tony Lovell recently reminded me of a long forgotten curse involving the painting involving house fires.

I took that inspiration and wondered what would happen if a fireman was called to his own home where his wife had hung the picture. The Crying Boy is the story that came from that germ. I hope you enjoy reading it. Any feedback, comments, shares or likes would be much appreciated.

Thank you, Anthony.

The Crying Boy

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Moribund Tales by Erik Hofstatter

Moribund Tales is a mix of campfire Gothic and rewritten urban legends.

"Erik Hofstatter’s Moribund Tales is a short anthology of very short tales written in a Poe influenced Gothic style. This toe dipping offers the right amount of time inside the warm treacle of words. Any longer gulping below the surface may leave some readers feeling breathless."

"So it was a wise choice between Hofstatter and his editor Lisa Knight to make these stories snapshots rather than epics. Because it works very much in the author’s favour."

Full review at The Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Lurker by Gary Fry

I reviewed Gary Fry's upcoming cosmic horror novella from Dark Fuse for The Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog.

Here's the opening of the review.

'Gary Fry treads similar territory in Lurker that he visited in his fantastic Novel ‘The Conjuring House’ also published by Dark Fuse. A move to the Moors, an imbalanced relationship and a missing child. Only this time it’s a miscarriage. This novella also journeys into the realm of cosmic horror, though with its feet firmly planted down to earth.

The author tricks you into believing you’re simply following a plot, stitching together clues and trying to understand the importance of the backstory. What he’s really doing is reaching into your mind with tentacles of fear that wriggle and scratch when you turn out the lights. Fry has the ability to set ancient monsters abroad in your imagination with terrifying precision.'

The review continues atLurker by Gary Fry- Review.

Please pop along and have a read. You'll also find a link to receive the book with a 33% discount link. So well worth taking a look.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Falling Over by James Everington

I have a new review up at The Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog for James Everington's fine collection of weird tales.

There are eight stories and two flashes pieces, all written with great style and an expansive imagination.

‘The Time of Their Lives’. An almost magical and occultist take on death and old age. It’s a story filled with childhood innocence that helps the reader peek through gaps of light as the author tries to shut the doors in our face. Eventually the doors are swung open and what we find is poetic and sad. 

Why not check out the full review by clicking the link below.

Review- Falling Over by James Everington.

Monday, 2 September 2013


I recently had a chat with the star of Jug Face, Lauren Ashley Carter. I'm sure her name and face will be familiar with horror fans due to her brilliant performances in The Woman and Jug Face. Lauren gave some fascinating answers and had wonderful insights into horror films and the genre in general. Read the full interview here-

"In horror, the gift is sharing the fear. We’ve all seen some horror films, or thrillers for that matter, where the protagonist seems only mildly annoyed at the masked man following her, so why should we be afraid if she isn't? One of my favorite moments in sharing the fear is Mia Farrow at the end of Rosemary’s Baby. That look on her face when she sees her child affirms every horrible image that we've been conjuring up during the film. And it’s unforgettable."

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Above the City. Sci-fi Theme Music.

I wrote this minute long piece to attempt constructing a science fiction theme that may later develop into a longer work. This is a thumbnail of the bigger picture.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Make Your Own House of Horror.

Have you ever been sitting there alone at night worried that all the ghosts and killers are someplace else having a good time? Yeah me too. I thought it would be so much easier if I could have my own haunted house. But as I live in a small place I need small houses. Thankfully I discovered a site that can help me and you.

What's that you hear from the window? Is that a silhouette of your mother calling? It can be now with a free project to build your own Bates House. You'll have to find a mini mummified mother to pop in there yourself however. Then pop over to Haunted Dimensions and check out there fantastic projects.

Click the photo to find the Bates House.

Just click the link and follow the instructions. What's that you say, you don't like serial killers for breakfast you prefer toast? Oh you prefer a ghost. Well if demonic possession is your thing then why not try the The Amityville House? Don't worry about repossession as this is free, no mortgage is needed. Possession may be a problem though.

Click the photo to find The Amityville House.

There's plenty more ghoulish projects on the site. If you like it why not donate a little too. Just never donate your soul.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Promise Me: Tara Fox Hall Talks Vampires, Books and Cat Beds.

Gone Dark is delighted to have Tara Fox Hall over to discuss her new book, Taken for His Own, book #4 in her paranormal romantic drama Promise Me series. Tara Fox Hall is the author of the paranormal fantasy Lash series and the paranormal romantic drama Promise Me series. Tara divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice.

GD: Hi Tara. I guess the first question our readers would like to know is what drew you to vampire stories?

TFH: Hi. I’ve loved vampires since I saw Frank Langella in the first “hot vampire” version of Dracula years ago. That love intensified in my later teens with The Lost Boys, and reading Interview with the Vampire, along with anything vampire I could get my hands on. But I wanted more than the evil monster chasing young virgins; more than the sweet, misunderstood handsome fanged stranger that becomes the perfect mate for the woman who captures his heart after so many lone centuries. I wanted a vampire so well-crafted in detail that I could believe he was real. I wanted something different to happen in the story, other than girl becomes vampire, or vampire becomes dust. I wanted passion, tragedy, romance, suspense, action, and the haunting sweetness of poetry and song floating on a soft night breeze. So I penned my own vampires.

GD: Could you tell me about your latest book?

TFH: My latest book is Taken for His Own, the fourth instalment in my Promise Me Series. It takes up where the third book left off. Sar had done her best to rebuild her life when her fiancé Theo went missing. She’s partnered with her former vampire lover Danial to raise Theo’s daughter Elle (Elle’s natural mother is dead from childbirth complications). She’s also had a child of her own with Danial, Theoron, and is trying to come to terms with her inevitable turning from human to vampire. When she finds out Theo’s alive, she can’t stop herself from journeying west to find him, and confront him about where he’s been for the last year and a half. This is where Taken for His Own begins. After a passionate reunion and a hasty marriage, the two lovebirds are headed back east. But picking up the pieces is far from easy. While Danial is accepting of Theo’s return, Elle prefers her vampire adoptive father over Theo. More than one enemy is waiting in the wings, making repeat attempts on Sar’s life. Add into the mix Devlin, Sar’s old enemy who’s now turned good guy, and a new paramour for Danial and you've got a powder keg primed to explode.

GD: Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?

TFH: That it’s never too late to take control of your destiny…and that you are the only one that really ever can. You may not be able to control what happens to you, but you can always control how you react to events. And that it’s important to always try to do the right thing…but that isn't always possible.

GD: The big question. After this book, what is next?

TFH: There will be more books in this series. Two more will this year, Immortal Confessions and Her Secret, with more in 2014 and 2015, until the series is done. The next instalment in the Lash Series, Revenge, will be out this fall, and hopefully my second anthology of short suspense/horror stories will also be published. There's also the first Promise Me anthology and a Latham’s Landing anthology this fall. A new Lash short story,Spiritwalker”, will début in the Shifters charity anthology from Hazardous Press, and I also have a short story called “The Lie” in the anthology Brief Grislys, both due out in a month or less. I'm also working on a sequel to my transgender short Grow a Pair, and another compilation of BDSM stories for the late summer/fall.

GD: Where can our readers keep up to date with your work?

TFH: I constantly update all projects on my website here- 


GD: Thank you Tara. Before you go could you give our readers have a taste of the new book in the Promise Me series, Taken for His Own, please?

 Taken for His Own excerpt:

“What about what you did to me?” I whispered, gazing at him and biting my lip. 
“That wasn’t a whim,” Devlin said, dropping his eyes. “That was my bad judgment. Sadly, it wasn’t the worst mistake I’ve made in my life.” 
“What was?” 
Devlin didn’t answer. I reached out and took his cool hand in mine. 
“When you lead others you must do whatever you have to in order to save your people,” he said with a sigh. “Compromising values should matter less than saving lives.” 
“I agree with you,” I said. “If you rule others, you have a responsibility to them above the responsibility to yourself. But even then, I think your family should come first.” 
“They should,” Devlin said in a cracked voice. He swallowed hard. “But the past can’t be undone.” 
I squeezed his hand. “What happened to Danial wasn’t your fault.” 
“Yes, it was,” he said softly. 
“How is it your fault?” I said curiously, easing closer to him. 
“Because I should have known what the thing was when it attacked. I didn’t know anything back then, except strategy and tactics. I was too concerned about rising through the ranks as fast as possible, so I could leave my family behind and become someone important.” 
“What did you want to be?” 
“A commander of men, either soldiers or police.” 
I was surprised that Devlin would want to uphold the law or spend his life guarding others. Yet it made sense. When he’d taken me from my house years ago, he’d insisted on taking me to Danial, because I wore the choker. He was here putting himself in danger now to keep me safe. 
“I knew something had attacked a few people on that road in that last month,” he continued. “I knew that there was a chance we might be attacked transporting the prisoner. But the road was the quickest way to our destination. I’d been assured that if I made the journey in good time, I’d get the promotion I wanted, and Danial would get my old position.” 
“You aren't at fault for what you did. It wasn't for an evil reason.” 
“Yes, I am,” he said despondently. “It was my greed and pride that doomed us.” 
Carefully, I reached for Devlin and put my arms around him. He tensed at my touch, then relaxed. 
“You did the best you could. You aren't damned.” 
“Yes, I am. You have no idea what I’ve done.” 
I shifted uneasily. 
“And I wouldn’t want you to,” Devlin added, his arms snaking around me loosely. “My ends have always justified the means, no matter what they were. I’ve done great evil in the hope of averting worse evil. Sometimes it worked and sometimes not. Still, it’s likely that given the chance to do my life over, I’d do the same things, make the same choices. I’d find myself here, at this same point in time, a fallen king.” 
“In case you’re wondering,” I said deliberately. “I’m waiting for you to add into your speech somewhere that you regret everything you did to me while you were king…um, ruler.” 
“I regret hurting you,” Devlin said quickly. “Yet I don’t regret coming for you that night or taking you to Danial.” He looked up at me. “You might not have gone back to Danial after Theo went missing, if I hadn't. Theoron might not be here. I can’t regret any action of mine that led to him being born.” 
I didn’t reply, considering his words. 
Devlin laid his head against my chest, and his arms tightened on me slightly. We lay there like that for a few moments, not speaking, then I slipped into sleep. 
I woke sometime later when Devlin stirred. According to the bedside clock, it was almost dusk. 
“I have only one regret,” Devlin said finally, propping himself up on his elbow, his expression intent. 
“What’s that?” I said, covering my yawn with my hand. 
“That it wasn't me you found in your quarry that night,” Devlin said, kissing the back of my hand with cool lips. His golden eyes locked on mine, transfixing me, as he drew my hand away from my face. 

He was going to kiss me. My lips parted as my breath caught in my throat.


Book Title: Taken for His Own (Promise Me Series #4) – Vampire romance
Format: print and e-book
Pages: 247
Date Released: late April 2013

Blurb: After learning Theo is alive, Sar immediately embarks on a mission to find him. Reunited, the lovers return to New York; Danial, Terian and Theo uneasily combining forces to protect Sar from Al’s assassins still seeking her. But when Sar is taken prisoner in an all-out attack, only one man can save her: her old adversary, Devlin.

Buy Links:
Amazon UK:
Melange/lulu link for Print, PDF and HTML copies:
All Romance E-books:
Barnes and

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

I Want To Build A Minecraft Wife

I want to play on Minecraft
Build myself a brand new life
With a little blocky family
And a beautiful Minecraft wife.

I’ll spend all day just building
A relationship of bricks
Protect her from the creepers
With a few quick keyboard clicks

I want to play on Minecraft
It’s not some passing fad
Because  I feel emotions
With the help of my touchpad

When I’ve build a fortress
And had enough crafty fun
I’ll shut down the software
And sign up,

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

“Now when I die, I shall only be dead.” Goodbye Richard Matheson.

My first experience of a Richard Matheson story is probably the same as most people, watching Captain Kirk being driven insane as a man in a woolly suit tormented him from the wing of an aeroplane.  I was massive fan of The Twilight Zone as a kid; I still am I guess and along with Charles Beaumont and Rod Serling, Matheson brought some of the most fantastic monochrome tales into my living room. Tales I've never forgotten.

Matheson wasn't just a horror or sci-fi writer, he was a sci-if writer. What if a man was covered in a reflective mist that caused him to shrink to the size of a fly? What if a stranger offered a cash strapped couple a box that would bring them wealth but also cause somebody they know to die? Would you press the button? 

That’s what the best writers do. They ask us the questions and let our imagination ride along with their own. Matheson did this throughout his career with great skill.

Of course his stories were never far from our televisions. Everything from Spielberg’s debut ‘Duel’ to the adaptation of Dennis Wheatley’s ‘The Devil Rides Out’. And who can forget Karen Black being hunted by a possessed Zuni fetish doll in Matheson’s ‘Trilogy of Terror’?

In later years I would discover Richard Matheson as a novelist and short story writer. In fact another of those horror films that played on my childhood TV set ‘The Omega Man’ was based on his superb novel ‘I, Am Legend’.  That book along with, ‘A Stir of Echoes’ which was later released as a film starring Kevin Bacon and ‘Bid Time Return’, filmed as ‘Time and Again’ became some of my favourite novels of all time.

I won’t list all of Matheson’s credits here, I’m sure you all know them and they'll be elsewhere for you to discover if you don’t. But we have lost a great mind who gave so much to the genres of horror and sci-fi. He inspired my imagination along with some of the heavyweights like the aforementioned Spielberg and of course Stephen King. I know his films, TV episodes and books will always be there for us, yet I feel he left a different legacy behind. He left the romance of imagination for other writers to discover. That’s something I’m sure would make him proud.

Because like his friend Jack Finney, Richard Matheson was never about the here and now, he was always about the past and the future combined.

 Richard Matheson February 20, 1926 - June 23, 2013

Monday, 17 June 2013

Red Ink And Blood On The Tarmac.

I’m proud to announce that I won last week’s challenge at RR Kovar and Colleen Foley's 'The Prediction'.

It’s a simple process. Three words are selected at random and you have to write a story in a hundred words or less including those random three. This form is called a drabble and as flash fiction goes it's a lot more difficult than you'd think.

Last week for example the words were- Defeat, Crafty and Malefaction. Here’s my winning drabble using those.

Child Safety Locks As Standard 

His car smelt of sugar and salt. My favourite boyband drifted from the grille under the missing window winder.

"Need a lift to school?"

I was late, left my homework till this morning. Four locks snapped.

"Child safety as standard." he grinned.

He was crafty, pulling into a layby. He killed the engine and grabbed my skirt.

Blood sprayed from his neck as he jerked like a drowning fish.

I twisted my red pen from his Adam’s apple and finished marking my student’s homework. My twitching malefaction stopped, defeated bedside me.

I’d make it back for lunch. Friday is fish day.


Speaking of flash fiction competitions I received news of a great looking one in my inbox this morning. The NOTLP’s first Flash Horror Contest is being judged by the Bram Stoker award-nominated author Jeremy C. Shipp.

Submission guidelines:

Word Count: 1000 words or less.

Reading Period: July 1 through July 31, 2013

Genre: Horror. The guest judge particularly enjoys character-based tales, vivid imagery, dark humor, unique monsters.

For full submission guide and details please visit-

CONTEST: NOTLP’s Flash Horror Contest 2013

Monday, 10 June 2013

'The Fox' by Conrad Williams.

If there’s one reason I enjoy the chapbook format it’s due to the sharp arc required in its restricted size. It allows us into the characters world just long enough to discover what haunts, or more often, what is about to haunt their lives. 'The Fox' by Conrad Williams is the third limited edition signed instalment from the This Is Horror chapbook series. It's also my favourite so far. I even enjoyed the cover art by Neil Williams that hints at something sinister skulking between the pages.

With ‘The Fox’ the reduced form doesn't hinder but actually strengthens Conrad Williams own storytelling style. This layered tale deceives the reader into thinking they've read a much longer piece. Such is the skill of Williams as a writer.

A family camping trip for a stressed and overworked editor starts to disassemble when a blot of animal blood on sheets of snow scratches at his brain like red ink on the page. With a wife and young daughter to worry about, and a mid-life crisis collecting wood to stoke fires in his life, the narrator falls into self-analysis. Do the animal slaughters have their roots in his youth? Is it karma calling to collect?

This is more than man versus nature; this is man versus his past. 

Williams interweaves some clever clues into this story. His wife Kit, the name for a small fox, suffers from a condition known as Raynaud's syndrome. This is a disease that sounds very close to the mythical Reynard the Fox. His daughter is also called Megan which was either a subconscious leak by Williams or a nudging joke toward the Transformers actress.

Though these may simply be playful games, Conrad Williams also displays his ability to stitch through many threads that belie the short word count here. The peek into the narrator's past could be a story in itself.

'The Fox' is a rich story about the passing of time in one’s own life and how closely reflected that is to death. It’s also about secrets and regret. But mostly it’s a thrilling tale that will keep you turning the pages as you devour the elegant writing of the author. 

'The Fox' is available from This Is Horror website here- 'The Fox' by Conrad Williams.

Or why not be sure you'll never miss out by becoming a Premium Subscriber here-
This Is Horror Premium Chapbooks Annual Subscription.

Keep up to date with Conrad's writing at his website here- Conrad Williams.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Ravenglass Eye

Ravenglass Eye is part love story of Cumbria and its people, and part horror of what lurks deep within us all. Edie is a Londoner relocated to Ravenglass due to her grandfather’s love letters to her grandmother. Each part of the book is driven by these letters and it’s a good device to link love in the past to the anger of the present.

It’s a slow starter of a book and I wondered where Tom Fletcher was leading me. We had nice descriptions of everyday life in a country pub interjected with a curious animal sacrifice. None of it appeared to be connected at first. Then it hits with a bang as Fletcher twists and weaves the plot and its characters in many dark directions. We have bigoted Little Englanders, immigrants trying to work hard to be accepted and the frictions that certain tabloids stoke between these two groups. It’s not long before murder and the supernatural take us on a terrifying ride through the mountains of the Lake District.

Fletcher builds the tension throughout the book with skill. Edie and the Candle, her otherworldly guide, have a battle of wills. The economic and political frictions tear people apart. It also examines how the isolation of living in a place like Ravenglass causes depression and an austerity of love. This is all set to the backdrop of the notorious Sellafield nuclear plant and the Eskdale weapons testing centre, and the dark expanse of the Irish Sea that stretches out of that coast.

Of course being a Tom Fletcher book we are treated to some fine supernatural horror. The Candle has plans for our world and Edie in her craving to fulfill her potential opens up a doorway to a place darker than Hell. This conflict between good and evil ramps the horror in the final third of the novel.

 It’s metaphysical, Dantesque description of evil aboard are surreal and beautiful to read. Yes it’s bloodcurdling as hell and yes it’s a very dark section of the book. But this jump from a James Herbert style English country horror to cinematic brutality akin to Pasolini is a great asset and Fletcher’s forte.

Buy ‘The Ravenglass Eye’ if you love horror and are prepared to hitch a ride from a cosy English rose garden to the Inferno.

Ravenglass Eye by Tom Fletcher is published by Jo Fletcher Books.

Purchase 'The Ravenglass Eye' at Amazon UK.

Purchase 'The Ravenglass Eye at Amazon USA.

Friday, 29 March 2013

When Good Kids Go Bad. 'Let's Play Games'.

My second story to feature in 10 Days of Madness 'Let's Play Games' is definitely inspired by a book that rocked me in my teen years. Mendal Johnson’s Let’s Go Play at the Adams’. If you've never read the book I urge you to give it a go. It speaks of something utterly dark and repulsive hidden inside the human psyche. It’s something that can escape so easily if the planets of insanity align just the right way.

Of course the cruelty and shock value in Johnson’s 1974 horror novel relies on the people inflicting the violence being children. It's a taboo subject to use a child that becomes a killer in fiction, we've all witnessed the horrific legacy of such cases in reality. Of course the book is based on real life events. It loosely taps into the murder case of Silvia Likens as a basis for the escalating violence and insanity. Jack Ketchum also used the Likens case as the base for his equally disturbing novel, ‘The Girl Next Door’.

Ever since I read Let’s Go Play at the Adams when I was a thirteen year old kid it’s compelled me to investigate the dark nature of such fiction. I must admit I sneaked the book from my brother’s bedside cabinet and put it back after reading a few pages. It wasn't until I was sixteen that I finally found the nerve to read the novel to the end.

While the new millennium brought torture porn to our screens nothing really came close to Johnson’s novel. It’s not about the horrific and debasing events but more about the sliding of man into monster; or in this case children into chilling killers. Other cinematic comparisons may include the French thriller ‘Ils’, Michael Haneke’s 1997 'Funny Games' or even 'Martyrs'.

I have an idea for a novel, or certainly a novella on the back-burner that touches on this theme. Unfortunately I've never found the nerve to sit down and write it. Maybe one day and hopefully soon now that my short tale 'Let’s Play Games' is out there in the big bad world for all to see.

Monday, 25 March 2013

The Thief of Hunger and Other Tales.

Did you hear the one about the mermaid and the crazy genius inventor? No? Well you can today if you pop over to Chris Allinotte’s ‘Leaky Pencil’ and read my story ‘The Thief of Hunger’ for free. It’s part of the continuing Days of Madness that Chris has hosted for the past three years.

This time around Chris has pushed it up to ten days, which includes twenty short tales based on the theme of  frenzy. We've already been treated to seven fantastic and varied tales. With three more today and the rest to follow each day this week there's a lot of quality writing to keep you entertained through this wintry springtime. 

There’s something for every reader too. Check out Richard Godwin’s extreme piece ‘Saturation Point’Benjamin Sobieck’s haunting ‘EVP’Angel Zapata’s twisting ‘The Frantic and the Dead’ for example. While my mermaid tale isn't exactly horror, it is a chilling fantasy and quite bizarre. In contrast my upcoming story on Friday, ‘Let’s Play Game’s’ is a brutal violent slice of horror.

"Their tails flicking in curls, shimmering like silver dollar coins dropped into a wishing well". The Thief of Hunger.

Along with ‘The Thief of Hunger’ today, we are also treated to the return of Donald Jacob Uitvlugt with, ‘Trick or Treat’ and ‘A Mythical and Astonishing Woman’ by J. J. Steinfeld.

Please read those and all the other great stories while you can. Because as soon as '10 Days of Madness' is over all stories will be compiled and sold as an anthology. 

Monday, 18 March 2013

Another Notch In The Belt.

Lily Childs Prediction has nested in two new internet trees since she let it fly free. I was lucky enough to win there a couple of times and once at Phil Ambler’s place. Last week I decided to pay a visit to Colleen Foley’s new site and I'm glad I did. My drabble titled ‘The Karmic Wheel’ took the top spot.

Decanted, notch and straddle were the words provided to include in the 100 word story. An image of a new belt notch being dug into leather popped into my head. The tale of desperation grew from there.

I've entered a few of these challenges in the past and while the stories often remain as hundred word vignettes, a couple have grown into full length stories. Even when they are abandoned the exercise always wrenches open the idea gates inside my head. For that alone I value them as a worthwhile challenge.

Here's my hundred word winning entry. 

The Karmic Wheel

Alfie stabbed another notch in his belt with the corkscrew. He was losing weight faster than a supermodel passing the Hall of Mirrors.

He tossed a bundle of oily notes at the dwarf and straddled the Ferris car. Ten languid turns before screaming girls and brave boyfriends ran dancing to the calliope.

He climbed out of the wheel at the top, threw up his belt and pulled it around his neck. One more spin for luck. His life decanted in turns; violence, drinking, unfaithfulness, losing his son.

Then the cancer.

What goes around comes around. Alfie reckoned that was fair.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Haunted Book

The Haunted BookThe Haunted Book by Jeremy Dyson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book delivered more than I had expected. It presents itself as a portmanteau connecting stories based around the frame of Dyson collaborating with a local journalist to assemble his spooky column into a book.

It's quite an effective conceit. The idea of ready recorded stories needing to be qualified by a journey around haunted Britain is a mouth watering prospect. The only problem is the framing device disappears halfway through the book and is never really explained.

Not that it mattered much because the second half of the collection is based on an found tome full of old ghost stories. I really enjoyed these. It's a mix between Aickman and James.

I won't list my favourite stories in case it leads to spoilers. One thing I will say is I enjoyed every single one of them. Yes of course some more than others. The only downfall was the fading of the framing structure which sent me reading back to see if I'd missed a few pages.

If you loved ghost stories as a kid or read The Mysterious World books like me then you will appreciate this book. It's clear Dyson has a great love of the supernatural tale and it really shines though.

I give it four stars but in reality It's a four and a half.

Buy The Haunted Book on Amazon
View all my reviews

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

From Bates to Babes: The Little Deaths Part 2.

In Part One we examined the symbolic use of sex as creation and death as destruction in genre cinema. In the case of Norman Bates it is both, a cyclic journey without end. With the Italian movement of Giallo, which took its cue directly from ‘Psycho’, things got a little more blurred. Sex and death represented beauty. If art is destruction as well as creation Giallo films should have been the masterpiece, or at least a masterclass in the form. The films of Mario Bava, Sergio Martino and the Italian movement’s most famous son, Dario Argento, looked at murder as creation, as painting and ballet, (just look at 2010’s ‘Black Swan’ to see the influences). Though a lot of these films are rightly criticised today, a large number of them were pretentious or plodding, they gave birth to something that would change horror cinema forever.

Slasher films were Norman Bates mainlining cocaine straight to the brain. A fresh young director called Wes Craven took the noir of Giallo, Hitchcock’s suspense, 1950’s nuclear paranoia and rolled them up into a great ball of outrageous cinema. Though some would argue Michael Powell’s 1960 masterpiece ‘Peeping Tom’ owns that honour. Others may even tell you it’s ‘ThirteenWomen’ from 1932. Though I suspect much of the hype of the latter is largely due to the Hollywoodland suicide of Peg Entwistle. For me personally Craven’s debut film, ‘The Last House on the Left’ is the first true slasher. It’s widely known for echoing Bergman’s 1960 brutal film, ‘The Virgin Spring’ staring horror stalwart Max von Sydow.

Where films like Aregnto’s 1970 work, ‘Bird with the Crystal Plumage’ looks at murder as social problem curable by precise investigation, ‘The Last House on the Left’ shows it for all its grainy brutality. Craven’s debut was released in the same year as the best example of Giallo.  Fulci’s 1972 magnum opus, ‘Don'tTorture a Duckling’ dealt with death and sex as serious themes, setting the template for future Giallo, though none exceeded it.

It wasn’t long before the mystery thriller elements of Giallo and the nightmarish realism of Wes Craven were picked up and twisted. Horror is often like Frankenstein’s monster sat at the lake edge of genre with an innocent little girl; it takes the pure and squeezes the life out of it until it flails into a lifeless body.

The slasher genre had some great films. ‘Friday the 13th’, ‘Halloween’ and Wes Craven’s other great gift to the genre to that point, ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ disturbed a generation. But a whole batch of Cannibal films, video nasties and anything else the video man had hidden under the counter in faux classic book cases was simply awful. Don’t get me wrong I love those films. They have a soft spot in my heart, even the really bad ones. But the slasher genre for all its faults and all it beautiful glories gave us something unsettling. It gave us a puritanical view and a moral code that horror hadn't really seen before.

Of course we always had the ‘Man versus God’ or ‘Man versus Nature’ films. Hell, we even had Norman Bates style prudeness that sex out of marriage was punishable with death. But with the idea that the college kids smoking a bit of pot, having a few beers, or God forbid getting laid, would all end up hacked up or nailed to a cupboard door was a bit too much. It was as though they took all those puritanical anti-fun propaganda films of the 1930s and tacked them on to horror. Horror became ‘Reefer Madness’ style public information films against all fun.

It took the godfather himself, Wes Craven, to shake things up yet again. Just when his greatest monster Freddie Kruger was becoming a cartoon caricature, Wes kicked horror and the slasher sub-genre he’d been so pivotal in creating into the furnace in the basement. He held up a mirror to the genre and broke the unwritten rule; he made fun of the things supposedly horrific. He not only held up that mirror, mostly and bravely at himself, he smashed the template so nobody could use it again.

While 1996’s ‘Scream’ was another leap in horror it was still obsessed with one aspect of the very origins. It had sexy young women in almost every scene. This was horror for boys to drool over while their girlfriends gripped their shoulders as Ghost Face leapt from hidden places. Sadly the ‘Scream’ franchise and its little sister ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ series fell into the same state as ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ and all the other slasher overloads. Soft core, soft focus and sexualisation seem to be its greatest legacy.
In films like the ‘Final Destination’ series and all the way up to ‘Piranha 3DD’ it’s all about the babes and less about the blood. If you look hard enough you’ll find clever films with great scares, terrifying monsters and more than a splattering of sex either viscerally or psychologically. ‘Hellraiser’, ‘Silence of the Lambs’, ‘The Exorcist’, ‘The Evil Dead’, ‘Videodrome’, Polanski’s ‘Apartment Trilogy’, ‘Martin’, ‘The Devils’, Alien (the whole film is about sex, birth and death), and David Cronenberg's entire back catalogue up to 2002’s ‘Spiders’ and so many more.

Sex and Death Today.

These days you’ll find little thread between sex and death at the cinema. Now and again a film will pop up that reminds you of Giallo, 2009’s ‘Amer’ for example. You’ll stumble on a sexy vampire flick, 2011’s ‘We Are the Night’ and 2012’s ‘The Moth Diaries’ are two great examples. Slashers however have become teenage cartoons, yet I still hold out hope for an original take on the much maligned sub-genre.

So sex and death is the same thing in horror it seems. Or different parts of the same beast. Much like in life I guess. Remember that beautiful French phrase, La petite mort, or The Little Death I spoke of in Part One? It's a metaphor for an orgasm. So you see, with sex we will always envisage the shadow of death lurking behind the bedposts.

   And for me at least, that’s what gives horror its real beauty.

Paws: The Revenge.