Category Archives: personal post

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 10.35.04

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

 


The Best Christmas Movie of all time is…

The Exorcist.

This festive tale of the possession of a young innocent by the demon Pazuzu enchanted audiences when it opened on Boxing Day in 1973. And it has continued to cast its seasonal spell ever since.

  

The film’s story opens rather aptly in the Holy Land, where loveable priest Father Merrin’s Christmas wishes come true with the discovery of a beautiful statue. The shots of cute dogs playing together in the sand are particularly heartwarming.

  
Cut to Georgetown (complete with its decidedly festive Icelandic embassy!) and the happy household that young Regan calls home. Her mom’s excitement, when she finds her daughter has been playing that Christmas classic boardgame ‘Ouija’ with her adorable imaginary friend Captain Howdy, is a joy to behold. It’s enough to put your head in a spin.

  

And who could fail to feel that glimmer of Christmas cheer when the demonic possession fully takes hold? These scenes are perhaps the most magical of all, with director William ‘Joy to the World’ Friedkin playfully ensuring that we can see the priests’ breath in Regan’s wintry wonderland bedroom – let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

  

And the icing on the Christmas cake is Mike Oldfield’s twinkling soundtrack. ‘Tubular (Jingle) Bells’ is surely everyone’s Yuletide top of the pops.

So there you have it folks, the ultimate Christmas movie of all time: The Exorcist.

  

“Why you do this~mas to me Dimi?”

Happy Ho-ho-horrordays,

Frazer x


The Next Chapter: Don D’Auria/Samhain Update

On Wednesday, i posted a tribute to my editor extraordinaire, Don D’Auria.

I learned (just hours after posting his tribute) direct from Don via email that Samhain had let him go.  Perversely, Samhain’s marketing department had asked us authors to make tributes to Don as part of their 10th anniversary celebrations. We were only too happy to do so. But then utterly dismayed and confused by his sudden dismissal. Was the call for tributes an attempt to soften the blow? Or a last ditch effort from those on the inside who disagreed with the decision? I guess we’ll never know.

To put it mildly, the horror-net went quietly ballistic. Samhain authors huddled together in cyberspace and howled at the moon, shared their disbelief, anger, disappointment – and support. An official statement from Samhain followed (Ramsey Campbell posted it in the comments section on my Wednesday blog if you want to take a look), the general gist of which was that Don was dropped as a cost-cutting measure and because he isn’t active on social media. As others have commented, it’s a sad state of affairs that Twittering and Farcebooking should take precedence over curating and editing a multiple award-nominated horror line. The former activities are within the purview of marketeers, not necessarily Executive Editors.

My mate Hunter Shea posted a brilliantly optimistic response to the news, and author and genre champion Brian Keene called for a #SamhainBlackout (a call to unfriend and unfollow Samhain’s official social media channels and to follow the individual authors instead).

I personally feel for Don and for the many authors who were looking forward to working with him, either for the first time, or the umpteenth time. Tomorrow is Don’s last day at Samhain and at present, the future’s uncertain.

But one thing is for certain.

Don knows horror fiction and i’m sure he will continue his great and nurturing work elsewhere. I wish Don all the very best for the future, and as he’s also a huge Pink Floyd fan (yet another plus point) this song’s for him.

Don D’Auria, shine on you crazy bloody diamond.

don dauria sa

Halcyon days – Don D’Auria & Samhain in Famous Monsters magazine (copyright Famous Monsters 2014)

And here’s to whatever the next chapter brings!

 


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.

 


Happy #WBD2015 – what are you reading today?

Happy World Book Day 2015.

Here’s my current reading pile (a couple more on the go on my Kindle too).

IMG_2028-0

What have you got your nose into today?


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

2015/01/img_1963.jpg

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


Halloween Greetings from the Pumpkin Patch

I always wanted a pumpkin patch.

My earliest Halloween memory is of Trick or Treating with a hollowed out turnip dangling from a string that threatened to snap as the candle flame licked at it and my tender young fingers. Actual pumpkins were in short supply when i was a kid (back in the late 1800s). But they became easier to pick up as the years rolled by, and are now a seasonal staple in farm shops and supermarkets across the land.

My first attempt at growing my own jack o’lanterns took place two decades later in a tiny, urban garden in the heart of Camden Town, London. The soil composition was mostly thick clay and cat poo, so it was a miracle when one green little fruit appeared – and not at all surprising when it died a week later.

Fast forward another decade and here we are at Lee Cottage. It’s our second Halloween out here in the countryside (…the October Country, if you will) and as the Season of Mists fast approached I was more determined than ever to give growing pumpkins another go.

We started them off in my office, on the windowsill that gets the sun. I read M.R. James Ghost Stories to them to get them germinating, and pretty soon we had four viable plants. We planted the best three of them outside and, after a lot of feeding and watering and slug wrangling, got two lovely pumpkins per plant.

The smaller ones we ate in September (one roasted in a risotto, the other souped up) had a very mellow flavour. But October’s batch has ripened much more, with that classic earthy sweetness.

Our biggest, prize pumpkin will be carved up by our two little monsters today. I like to think my sons will, like their Dad, marvel at the fact that they are scooping seeds from a pumpkin that we grew from a seed.

And at this special time of year (when the cycle of life, death, and birth is embedded in our Samhain rituals and customs) i can’t think of a more perfect way to celebrate than with a pumpkin plucked from my very own patch.

I always wanted a pumpkin patch.

Well, at long last i got one. And next year, it’ll be bigger.

Happy Halloween to you and all your pumpkins. Young or old, shop-bought or hand-cultivated, enjoy them!


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