Again, my recs have built up since the blog has been down. So I am listing some highlights here for those of you not on my mailing list or who don’t follow me in S.M.
Chernobyl: I never expected to be affected by this TV series in the way I have been, but have found myself responding to it as I would to good folk & cosmic horror. I’m getting a big Nigel Kneale aesthetic from the show, particularly episode one, and what I imagined would be a straightforward disaster-thriller made-for-TV, based on real events, achieves far more artistically.
There is a mythic sense of summoning an ancient, infernal power, as old as the universe itself, in a forbidding Russian landscape, followed by a failure to contain it, and dispel it with primitive technology. The consequences of unleashing the power of the radiation are ghastly, as if the victims looked into a star or into the face of a god. There’s a really interesting and continual pitch of terror in the series that hasn’t subsided across three episodes.
It also does, at least to me, demonstrate how misty the boundaries of horror are (particularly folk horror, and I’ve shared this in the FH group), perhaps how subjective they are. But the way they’ve presented the imagery of brutalist, futurist architecture and the shrill insect-like clicking of the machinery monitoring radiation levels, the atomic fire in the debris, is just as poignant, to my eye, as the use of ancient artefacts you’d traditionally associate with horror (the natural materials, bones, runes and ruins, ancient stones, etc). The conjured power also seems so similar.
I think the series conjures a profound sense of cosmic horror too, in which man’s insignificance before ineffable forces is terrifying. The theme of human sacrifice is persistent and chilling.
Anyway, for me it’s been great horror and gave me the same frisson that ‘Threads’ did in the 80s.[On SKY in the UK, maybe HBO elsewhere]
Suspiria: Bold horror filmmaking is always divisive but I thought the Suspiria remake was outstanding. Finally watched it over the weekend and I am still thinking about it.
I think if you’re going to remake a classic, then really “go for it”.
Been looking forward to this book from the moment I finished the last Nathan Ballingrud collection, a few years back. And I read my copy of ‘Wounds’ right after the book arrived. One evening and the following morning was all it took and I didn’t want the stories to end.
As with Nathan’s first collection, I couldn’t leave this one alone. Genuinely entertaining horror containing all of the dread and hideous aesthetics of the best in the field.
The final novella – ‘The Butcher’s Table’ – is new to this collection and a work of the imagination that gave me genuine awe, bringing Conrad, Tolkien and early Barker to my mind. I’m still thinking about the depiction of hell that has the epic feel of the classic portrayals, the hells of Milton and Dante. A story worth twice the price of the hardback alone.
Read two more first class collections of horror/weird fiction last week and over the weekend. More uncanny marvels from Reginald Oliver including ‘The Game of Bear’ – an unfinished story by M.R James, completed by Reggie Oliver. I thought it excellent. Published by Raymond Russell and Rosalie Parker at Tartarus. This edition also contains the stories I hadn’t read from the impossible-to-find Ex Occidente anthology, ‘Madder Mysteries’.
Also enjoyed the best book from Mr Samuels since ‘Glyphotech’ imo. Jonas Plöger at Zagava has produced a paperback edition of the new collection, ‘The Prozess Manifestations’. The final story is one of the grimmest pieces of horror fiction I can remember reading.
Just when you thought it was time to go to bed here are two more horror films well worth your time, if you haven’t seen them. One new, one not so new.
‘The Witch in the Window’ – the new Andy Mitton film (‘Yellow Brick Road’, ‘We Go On’ & the only good thing in the ‘Chilling Visions’ anthology) and the main reason I subscribed to Shudder. Not seen this film available anywhere else. Very good, I thought, and imbued with his signature uncanniness and uncomfortable strangeness (a quality too many modern horrors lack).
And ‘Noroi, The Curse’. Not a new film but one I’d never managed to see until last night. I bought this film on DVD years ago but it didn’t have English subtitles (that’s happened twice with Amazon traders). All the horror vitamins and minerals are packed into the final act of the film, but it’s well worth worth persevering to extract them. Bizarre and sinister found-footage.
Another three recent favourites were all supernatural horrors that are a distinct cut above the usual. Ireland’s ‘The Devil’s Doorway’ (Prime) which reminded me of one of my fave UK films (‘The Borderlands’), Argentina’s creeptastic ‘Terrified’ (Shudder), and Canada’s ‘The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh’ (Shudder). The latter has one location, great atmosphere, set design and a terrific monster.
I also enjoyed ‘The Dyatlov Pass Incident’ – a decent found footage film I’d not heard of until it just popped onto Prime. Australia’s ‘Killing Ground’ was almost too grim for me, but I couldn’t look away (also on Prime). ‘Echoes of Snowtown’ there.
I thought I was done with zombies but was impressed with Korea’s ‘Kingdom’ series (Netflix) and Indonesia’s Evil Dead-esque ‘May the Devil Take You’ (Netflix). Also ghastly (the characters) but entertaining was Taiwan’s ‘Mon Mon Monsters’ (Shudder).
Nevill Family teatime viewing – Chasing Monsters. We all love it. And as a longtime fan of River Monsters, this French Canadian show might even be better. Bit of anthropology and conservation, mingled with travel to remote places and some entertaining local sidekicks … But the stars of the show, the monsters he hauls out of the water, are positively prehistoric (he also puts ’em back with a kiss) …
On Netflix Kids of all places.
Amidst the teetering columns of books waiting to be read, this short novel was too intriguing to ignore. Contains many of my own aesthetic interests: the English landscape, peculiarly charged domestic spaces, a suggestion of the uncanny and a mind unravelling at the heart of it all. Restrained, precise, perceptive writing.
Lovely looking paperback too, with flaps. It’s out next week from Influx Press, and from the author of Folk Horror: ‘Hours Dreadful and Things Strange’.
Fine British weird. Get some.