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Showing posts from 2017

50 Shades of Red: Sexuality and Loss of Innocence in Little Red Riding Hood & Book Competition

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Of all the folk and fairy tales known to us, the tale of Little Red Riding Hood is perhaps one of the most enduring and provocative. In its most basic form it is a tale of good vs. evil, and it is generally regarded as one of the most effective expressions of sexual curiosity and the ultimate loss of innocence.

I recently wrote an article exploring the evolution of the tale and how its meaning changed throughout the years - from its supposed origins as an oral folktale warning girls of the dangers of predators, to Charles Perrault's literary fairy tale adaptation warning young women against exploring their sexual desires.

Head over to Folklore Thursday to read the article, and for the chance to win thyself a copy of my Devil's Advocates book on The Company of Wolves (Neil Jordan's Gothic fantasy film based on Angela Carter's feminist reworking of Red Riding Hood). After you’ve read the article, simply subscribe to Folklore Thursday's lovely (and completely fr…

Book Update

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If you go down to the woods today, be sure to pick up a copy of my new book on Neil Jordan's Gothic fantasy The Company of Wolves. The book is part of Auteur’s Devil’s Advocates series, and is now available to buy. A recent review (courtesy of author and critic Jon Towlson over at Starburst) said it was 'A meticulously researched, beautifully written and fascinating book...'

Book includes chapters on the ‘making of’ the film, the evolution of folk and fairy tales in our culture, an examination of the tale of Red Riding Hood, the figure of the werewolf in folklore, literature and cinema, the powerful feminist message of the film (and the short stories by Angela Carter upon which it is based), and the representation of female monsters and werewolves in literature and cinema.

Stay tuned for news of how you can enter a competition to win a copy of the book (courtesy of the lovely people over at FolkloreThursday.com) later this week.

I have been receiving nice messages, photos…

Nope, Nothing Wrong Here

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Stephen King’s tenth novel, Cujo (1981), tells of a young woman and her infant son who are trapped in their car at an isolated farmhouse when confronted by a rabid dog. It was adapted for film by Lewis Teague in 1983 and the adaptation features all the sweltering claustrophobia and intensity that made King's novel so gripping.

Teague’s adaptation - which, like King's novel, also explores themes such as addiction, free will, childhood fears, adultery and familial dysfunction - is the subject of a new book by Melbourne based author and film historian, Lee Gambin. Nope, Nothing Wrong Here: The Making of Cujo (BearManor Media) is a staggeringly detailed work featuring academic scene-by-scene analyses alongside in-depth interviews with key members of the cast and crew, including stars Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh Kelly and Danny Pintauro, director Lewis Teague, and composer Charles Bernstein.

I recently had the pleasure of chatting to Gambin about his new book and the unyielding appea…

Diabolique Magazine Issue No. 27 Pre-Order

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Diabolique is a lavishly illustrated print and digital magazine exploring every aspect of horror film, literature and art. It brings fresh perspective to subjects old and new, foreign and domestic – from ancient folklore and Gothic classics to contemporary film releases and modern literary gems. Each issue brims with insightful commentary, analysis and engrossing information complemented by photos, illustrations and handsome, full-color design.

Issue 27 (July/August), now available to pre-order, is entirely dedicated to witchcraft, magick and folk and fairy tales. Within its pages you’ll find in-depth explorations of the occult inspired works of Norman J Warren, ‘occult gialli’, the late George A Romero’s Season of the Witch, The Craft and the history of the witch trials seen in Ken Russell’s The Devils. There are also essays dedicated to the urban myths and lore of Candyman and the cinematic counterparts of Eastern European folk and fairy tales such as Little Otik and Viy.

Elsewhere,…

RIP George A. Romero

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Film director George A. Romero has died at the age of 77. He died in his sleep last night (Sunday 16th July) after a brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer. His agent, Chris Roe, said Romero’s wife and daughter were with him and that he passed away listening to the score of The Quiet Man, one of his favourite films.

As the director of Night of the Living Dead (1968), Romero will be remembered as one of the major pioneers of the modern horror film. A truly groundbreaking work, it took horror out of the realms of the supernatural, away from a far flung Gothic locale and posited it directly on our doorsteps. Released just eight years after Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) it similarly suggested that horror can exit right next door to us. Indeed, that it is us. Commenting on his vision of zombies as a metaphor for society, Romero commented ‘All I did was I took them out of ‘exotica’ and I made them the neighbors. I thought there’s nothing scarier than the neighbors!’

Prior to Romero’s fil…

Exquisite Terror 5 Pre-Order

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Born from a love of horror, ponderous thoughts and meandering topics, Exquisite Terror is a periodical that takes a more academic approach to the genre, featuring exclusive art, script analysis and in-depth essays. Like all good things that come to those who wait, issue 5 – after the shedding of much blood, sweat and tears - is now available to pre-order. And it’s really been worth the wait…

Now featuring even more content than before, inside this issue you'll find in-depth essays and analyses on the likes of The Shining, The Omen, Silence of the Lambs and the werewolf (as a representation of 'coming out') in horror cinema, plus interviews with Uncle Bob Martin and Ramsey Campbell. Elsewhere, author and critic Jon Towlson delves into the world of film director Michael Reeves, while I explore the relationship between eroticism and death in the films of Dario Argento*. Every essay and article is accompanied by original and beautiful artwork (including some gorgeous illustra…

Book Update: Starburst Review

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The first review of my Devil’s Advocates monograph on The Company of Wolves is in, courtesy of Starburst. And it’s a good one! According to author and critic Jon Towlson, it is ‘a meticulously researched, beautifully written and fascinating book.’ I’ve copied the full review below, and you can also check it out (along with a wealth of other film related reviews, news and features) over at Starburst, the world’s longest running magazine of cult entertainment.

At the time of its release in 1984, Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves received mixed reviews: it’s not a children’s film, critics complained, but it’s about fairytales; werewolves feature heavily but it’s not a horror film. Indeed, it’s a strange beast, as pointed out in this excellent new study by James Gracey (author of Kamera Books’ Dario Argento). ‘Part fairy tale, part werewolf film, part horror film, part feminist coming of age allegory’, Gracey approaches his monograph from all these angles; and from a beguiling, if flawe…

Demon Hunter

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The feature directorial debut from Irish filmmaker Zoe Kavanagh, Demon Hunter (2016) tells of Taryn (Niamh Hogan), a young woman whose sister is kidnapped and ritualistically sacrificed by members of a creepy demonic sect. Taryn joins forces with a gang of demon hunters to rid Dublin of the diabolical fiends, but when she is arrested for murder, the covert operation is at risk of exposure and she must convince a cynical cop of the existence of real evil before it is too late.

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review.

The Company of Wolves/Gothic Feminism Conference

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My monograph on The Company of Wolves was launched this weekend at the Gothic Feminism Conference in Kent. Auteur Publishing had a stall with a selection of titles on Gothic horror from their Devil's Advocates series, including advance copies of my contribution.

Gothic Feminism is a research project based at the University of Kent which ‘seeks to re-engage with theories of the Gothic and reflect specifically upon the depiction of the Gothic heroine in film. The project raises questions of representation, interpretation and feminist enquiry in relation to the Gothic heroine throughout film history including present day incarnations. This project will illuminate the concerns, contradictions and challenges posed by the Gothic heroine on-screen.

This year’s conference, the second, took place on 24th – 26th May. Entitled Women-in-Peril or Final Girls? Representing Women in Gothic and Horror Cinema, it featured a plethora of papers and presentations including:

‘The Presence of Absence: …

Conversations About Wolves: Tsa Palmer

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While conducting research for my monograph on The Company of Wolves, I had the absolute pleasure of chatting with Teresa (Tsa) Palmer, the wolf-handler who worked on the film. Much of our chat was of course about her work on The Company of Wolves and those parts of the conversation are included in the first chapter of the monograph, which focuses on the background and making of the film. Tsa also reflected on experiences she’d had working with wolves on other films, her work with the UK Wolf Conservation Trust (which she founded in 1995 with her late husband Roger) and the various perceptions people have of wolves, due in part, to their depiction in horror literature and cinema.

It wasn’t possible to include all our conversation in the book, so what had to be omitted for the sake of relevance and a pesky wordcount, I have shared here.

On her early career as a wolf-handler: When I was about 18, I met my late husband, Roger Palmer, and he had a wolf cub which was incredibly charismatic. …

Conversations About Wolves: Suzy McKee Charnas

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While conducting research for my forthcoming monograph on Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves, I had the pleasure of conversing with science-fiction and fantasy author Suzy McKee Charnas. Back in the late eighties Suzy wrote an award-winning short story called ‘Boobs’, which not only shares strong affinities with The Company of Wolves, but also preceded the thematically similar Ginger Snaps (2000) by over a decade. Like these titles, ‘Boobs’ connects the ambivalent figure of the adolescent girl, fluctuating between childhood and adulthood, with the figure of the werewolf, which fluctuates between human and beast, and draws parallels between menstruation, developing sexual identity and desire, and the unleashing of something wild. It tells of Kelsey, a shy and lonely teenager whose menarche coincides with her transformation into a wolf. She uses her new-found power and abilities to take revenge on a bully who has made her life a living hell and whose cruel nickname for Kelsey, due to …

The Company of Wolves Book Update

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I’ve just submitted the final proofs of my monograph on The Company of Wolves (part of Auteur’s ‘Devil’s Advocates’ series), so it won’t be too long before it’s available to pre-order. I also wanted to share a preview of the beautiful cover design (right).

Here’s a little snippet from the intro:

The Company of Wolves is a dark fantasy film quite unlike any other. A meditation on the horrors of the adult world, and of adult sexuality, as glimpsed through the dreams of an adolescent girl, it amalgamates aspects of horror, the Female Gothic, fairy tales, werewolf films and coming of age parables. Drenched in atmosphere and an eerily sensual malaise, it boasts striking imagery immersed in fairy tale motifs and startling Freudian symbolism. 

The Company of Wolves was Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan’s second film, and his first foray into the realms of Gothic horror. Jordan co-wrote the screenplay with British novelist Angela Carter, and it is based upon several short stories from Carter’s The B…

'Too Dreadfully Brutal': In Conversation with Author Jon Towlson

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Is the 1930s horror film more akin to graphic modern horror than is often thought? In his recent book, The Turn to Gruesomeness in American Horror Films, 1931-1936 (McFarland & Co), film critic and author Jon Towlson vividly explores the misconception of 1930s horror as safe and reassuring. Towlson will also give a lecture at the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies in London on 16th March, to further discuss the subject and share his research.

Synthetic Flesh/Rotten Blood: The Turn to Gruesomeness in American Horror Films, 1931-1936 will examine ‘happy ending’ horror in relation to industry practices and censorship, and detail how the likes of Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) and The Raven (1935) may be more akin to the modern Grand Guignol excesses of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Hostel (2005) than many critics and audiences believe. Towlson’s discussion will be reinforced with memos, letters and censorship reports from the studio archives and other research conduc…

We Go On

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2016
Dirs. Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton

We Go On tells of Miles Grissom (Clark Freeman), a young man with a crippling fear of death, who places an advertisement offering a large sum of money to whoever can help him prove the existence of an afterlife.

With the help of his mother Charlotte (Annette O’Toole), he narrows down the offers of help he receives to three possible candidates and embarks on a journey he may never be able to return from...

The fascinating central premise of We Go On strongly evokes The Twilight Zone, while the focused script ensures an insular atmosphere.

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review. And keep an eye open for issue 5 of Exquisite Terror, coming soon...

Rare Breeds by Erik Hofstatter

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Kent-based author Erik Hofstatter’s latest offering is a dark, terse and keenly paced little chiller that consistently leads the reader into unexpected and ever unsettling places.

The story concerns Aurel Schwartz, an unassuming young man whose tendency to sleepwalk begins to create tension within his family. When his somnambulant wanderings become strangely menacing, Aurel’s wife Zora believes he poses a real threat to her daughter Livie.

Before long the family is caught up in a nightmare of missing teenaged girls, grave-robbing, astral projection and necromancy…

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review.

And keep an eye open for issue 5 of Exquisite Terror, coming soon...

Lemora – A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural

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1973
Dir. Richard Blackburn

Set in 1920s rural America and filmed on an ultra-low budget, this deliciously weird and wonderful adult fairy tale tells of a young girl’s sexual awakening in the rustic abode of a female vampire. When 13-year-old church singer Lila (Cheryl Smith) receives a letter from the titular antagonist (Lesley Gilb) informing the girl her gangster father is close to death and longs to see her one last time, Lila runs away from her puritanical guardian, Reverend Mueller (Blackburn). On her journey she encounters various incarnations of aggressive male sexuality, from the sleazy ticket seller at the bus station and the lecherous man whose car she stows away in, to the coven of undead abominations lurking in the woods around Lemora’s home. Their advances serve to highlight Lila’s perceived vulnerability and objectify her burgeoning sexuality as she wanders somnambulantly through increasingly nightmarish landscapes. When she arrives at the home of Lemora, Lila initiall…

Dear Scream...

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Happy 20th Birthday, Scream! I can't believe you've grown up so fast. I know it’s now 2017 and you turned 20 last year, but you weren’t released in the UK until 1997 so technically it was twenty years ago this year that I saw you. Technicalities aside, I couldn’t let the occasion go by without writing a little something about you on here. I remember my dad taking me to see you at the cinema because you were rated 18 and I was only 16. I wanted so badly to see you though. I was shocked and intrigued by your teaser campaign on TV, and you starred some people who were in things I loved as a 16-year-old (Friends! Party of Five! Boys on the Side!). You were my first experience of watching a horror film in a cinema with a real live cinema audience (they were quite annoying) and I can still remember the excitement and anticipation. I was equal parts irked and enthralled when the audience reacted to you in such a vocal way. They screamed a lot. I thought you were the greatest thing e…

Razors: The Return of Jack the Ripper

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2016
Dirs. Ian Powell & Karl Ward

What if someone had discovered the knives used by Jack the Ripper? What if those cruelly glinting blades then went missing? And what if the Ripper came back into our world to once again mutilate and massacre? These are the tantalising questions that form the premise of atmospheric independent horror Razors, the first in a new series of forthcoming films set to explore the bloody exploits of one of the world’s most mysterious serial killers. It tells of enigmatic film professor Robert Wise (Thomas Thoroe) who gathers a group of young screenwriters at a sinister Victorian warehouse in the heart of London to work on the ultimate horror film. Amongst the assembled group is troubled screenwriter Ruth (Kelby Keenan) who believes she has discovered the actual knives used by Jack the Ripper. When the knives go missing and it appears the spirit of the Ripper roams free, the young screenwriters must unlock the building’s dark secrets and unravel mysteries …