Category Archives: inspiration

Stuck for something SCARY to watch this Halloween?

FrazerLeeHappyHalloween

Check out my article on ‘The Scariest Horror Movies you’ve probably never seen‘ over at Higgypop.com.

I can guarantee a few nightmares…

🎃 HAPPY HALLOWEEN! 🎃

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In Memoriam: Robin Hardy, writer & director of ‘The Wicker Man’

Robin Hardy was a true original, and his 1973 film The Wicker Man is often and justifiably hailed as the finest British horror film ever made.

The Wicker Man by Robin Hardy & Antony Shaffer

The book is a cracking read, too!

The story of the film’s conception is perhaps as fascinating as The Wicker Man itself, with a studio unsure of what it had on its hands butchering Hardy’s masterpiece in the process of its clumsy and half-hearted initial release.

My own personal obsession with Hardy’s work began when I saw (the theatrical version of) The Wicker Man at a special screening at Glastonbury’s Library of Avalon. A discussion followed the screening of the film about its pagan themes, and I was well and truly hooked.

Those were the early days of VHS video and I managed to track down an alternate cut of the film on a yellowy, fifth-generation pirate copy from Australia. This was later cleaned up using the best possible source materials and released on DVD as The Director’s Cut of the film.

Years later, with the advent of home-HD and the Blu-Ray format, The Wicker Man – The Final Cut arrived, providing a fitting epitaph to Robin Hardy’s life and career as he finally got to release the version of the film that he deemed closest to his original vision.

In 2011 I was very lucky to meet Robin Hardy, for a brief “Hello!”, in person at FrightFest, London. Mr Hardy was there to present the premiere of his sequel The Wicker Tree, adapted from his novel Cowboys For Christ. He was a true gentleman and eccentric – very warm and wickedly funny. (Read my capsule review of the rather wobbly, but joyously bonkers, sequel The Wicker Tree here.)

One unsung hero in the whole Wicker saga is Anthony Shaffer’s brilliant script, which really is one of a kind. The basic storyline was based on Ritual, a novel by David Pinner, which has recently been republished. The novelisation of the film (also written by Shaffer & Hardy) is well worth tracking down (a new edition was published by Tor in 2000) – with some lovely embellishments to the screen story, not least its haunting and ambiguous ending, it provides yet another version of The Wicker Man for us all to enjoy.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it is time to “keep my appointment with The Wicker Man.”

R.I.P. Robin Hardy, 1929-2016

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Quoted in The Wicker Man novel by Robin Hardy & Anthony Shaffer

 


RIP Wes Craven, sweet dreams and thank you for all the nightmares

Wes Craven A Nightmare On Elm Street

a genre giant – on the set of Nightmare On Elm Street (photo source: WesCraven.com)

Horror fans are mourning the loss of a Master of Horror. Wes Craven was a true innovator in the genre who had a knack for taking transgression and giving it mainstream popularity. From his early video nasties through to the live burial scene in The Serpent and the Rainbow (arachnophobes beware!) and the crowd-pleasing jump scares of the Scream series, Uncle Wes knew what scared us. I remember having bruises up my arm for a week after taking the prettiest girl at high school on a date to see A Nightmare on Elm Street – and I hardly slept a wink that night after seeing a red and green car on the walk home (for real – what are the chances). Wes Craven’s filmography is an impressive legacy and he will be sorely missed.

Here is Wes Craven talking about being a filmmaker, about finding something deeper, and about the geek inheriting the Earth in one of my favourite segments from the brilliant Nightmare Series Encyclopedia (1999). It is bittersweet to hear him speak about how he’d like to be remembered.

And remember him we will.

Rest in Peace Wes Craven, sweet dreams – and thank you for all the nightmares.

 


R.I.P. Edgar Froese, Tangerine Dream founder

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So sad to hear that we lost Edgar Froese today, who died aged 70.

I was lucky to see him play live with Tangerine Dream twice and even luckier to meet him briefly one rainy night in London. He was a gracious, gentle man. And the music…that throbbing, pulsating, organic machine sound that is TD’s and TD’s only. It has been the soundtrack to so much of my writing over the years and i’m grateful for it. Ever since my teacher played Phaedra to us in class (a tradition I have continued in the classes I now teach) Edgar’s visionary soundscapes have provided an engine for my dreams and nightmares. I particularly love the film scores – in tribute I’ve shared three faves below.

A pioneer of electronic music, Edgar’s passing will be mourned by fans worldwide.

In his words:

“There is no death, there is just a change of our cosmic address.” (Edgar Froese)

http://youtu.be/T355t3WBZ0E

http://youtu.be/91DuxjzlLLU

http://youtu.be/G_-R4nir7Cs


A Horror Master on why the Genre will Live Forever

©TheHorrorMaster

©TheHorrorMaster

I couldn’t not post about this one. My love affair with the films of John Carpenter goes way back to the days of dusty old video stores and those rental VHS tapes in big, squidgy boxes. It reached fever pitch when I was lucky enough to enjoy a run of his movies on the big screen, a personal highlight being Prince of Darkness (i had bruises on my arm from my poor terrified date after that one, let me tell you!). I was a gibbering fanboy mess after seeing his talk/screening on the films of Howard Hawks at the National Film Theatre (he smoked liked a gunslinger throughout). And yes, I am one of the few who enjoyed Ghosts of Mars and rocked up to see The Ward on release day – so sue me, even when his movies are slightly below par they still rock my world.

It’s heartening to know that Carpenter is out there, still doing it (this time in comic book form with a Big Trouble in Little China spin-off). And when I read this interview, I just had to share it. Here’s a choice cut:

“Horror is the most durable genre in cinema,” Carpenter says. “It’s outlasted the Western, it’s outlasted the musical, it’s outlasted all sorts of genres.”

“It will live forever.”

Amen to that, Master Carpenter. Read on for more of his insights here, and follow the great man on Twitter @TheHorrorMaster.

Long live John Carpenter! And long live horror!

 

 


In praise of: Whistle and I’ll Come to You

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I really fell in love with the ghost stories of M. R. James while lurking in a sentry box, dressed as a Victorian serial killer (they wore top hats apparently), ready to jump out on unsuspecting tourists with an exclamation of “tickets please!”

Let me explain.

I worked weekends at The London Dungeon to help pay my way through college in the early 90s. To pass the time during each shift i sometimes listened to audiobooks, sneakily hiding my headphones beneath my costume. These were the days of books-on-tape, or cassettes (which, to explain to younger readers, were like mp3 files stretched across two reels of dental tape and listened to via an iPod device the size of a house brick). One of the audiobooks was a collection of M. R. James tales read by Michael Hordern. I had read a couple of James’ classics and knew i was in for a flesh-creeping time – and then i heard “The Ash Tree”. By the gods my heart nearly stopped in my chest at that one and for once it was me who got a fright when the tourists came asking for directions.

I then discovered the telly adaptations of some of James’ tales, presented by the BBC each Christmas. The tradition continued into the new millenium with a series of Christopher Lee-narrated adaptations, which i enjoyed during Christmas hols in the wilds of Ireland. And of course just last month, Mark Gatiss made his directorial debut with his fun, Hammer-esque M. R. James adaptation “The Tractate Middoth”.

But the one that got to me the most was “Whistle…” And to my delight, Father Christmas (or perhaps his pal Krampus) left a copy of the BFI’s double bill dvd “Whistle and I’ll Come to You” under the tree for me this year. The disc includes both the 1968 and 2010 versions, plus extras featuring contemporary master of the macabre, Ramsey Campbell. I’ve seen both versions before of course – and both are beloved to me in different ways. I think one exploits shaky denial in the face of fear and the other channels total, harrowing despair. If you haven’t seen them, do seek them out. But (ahem) a warning to the curious… both are utterly disturbing in the true spirit of James’ original short story “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad” (also included in audio form as a nice bonus on the dvd – now all i need is a draughty sentry box. The garden shed will have to do).

Here’s to the traditional festive ghost story – long may they continue to scratch at our windowpanes, rattle our doors.

And tangle with our bedsheets.


R.I.P. Syd Field

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There it is then, the first book i ever bought and read on screenwriting. It was written by Syd Field, who has passed away aged 77.

If you told me back then that i’d someday be teaching university classes using some of Field’s theories i’d never have believed you. But then i’d never have believed it possible that i’d be a produced screenwriter either, if not for the inspiration i gained from Syd Field and his book.

Today, i raise a cup of coffee in salute to the man who was such a legend that he even had ‘PLOT PNT’ on the license plate of his car.

Syd, you were one of a kind and you’ll be missed. Here’s to you.

FADE OUT:

The End.