Soul Mother

This is a teaser trailer for a forthcoming short film made by a talented friend of mine  by the name of Catherine Stepien. Having worked in film for a while, mainly within wardrobe and production design, Soul Mother is very much her project. Being her debut directorial outing, she also wrote the script, created the effects, designed the production and dealt with make up and wardrobe.

My old school mate is nothing if not versatile!

Please check it out. Turn your volume up.

 

The October Tone

I make no bones about it. The only reason I was reading Before You Sleep was because it was free on Amazon. I’d never heard of the author, Adam L.G Nevill, but I saw this three-story collection promoted as a taster for his anthology of horror/supernatural short fiction and thought I’d give it a go.

I’m glad I did. The two latter stories were okay, but the first, Where Angels Come In, was superb. A tale of two children who brave to enter a reputedly haunted house that stands on a hill in a town where children and pets disappear. A place ‘where angels come in’.

You know the kind of collection it comes from. You know the kids should have just stayed home watching tv.

Creepy and grotesque, it was my kind of thing.

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I sat outside with a coffee and read all three stories, undisturbed in the late, afternoon sunshine of a mild October day. October: I’m reminded that this is the time for ghost stories; ancestor stories. A time when I often reach for my favourite Sheridan Le Fanu tales, or perhaps that latest supernatural anthology.

A local priest, a couple of years ago, put on a ‘Party of Light’ to counter the many Halloween parties that were taking place. She reasoned that this was to teach the children that no, it wasn’t okay to be frightened. It was not acceptable to be confronted at every turn by ghouls and zombies and goodness knows that else (and this was before the current clown craze).

As a father I get that, and concur. And yet . . . and yet . . .

Some kids like the thrill of it all. I was a child that loved to be scared. Well, I take that back. How I should put it is that I loved scary things, for I was never truly scared by them. I grew up watching Hammer films, reading James Herbert novels (despite my teacher’s reservations voiced during a parent’s evening discussion with my mother). I don’t think it had any adverse affect on me. (Of course my wife vehemently disagrees.)

Instead it fuelled my imagination, made me think that there was more to the world that we knew of,  furthered my love of books.

Helped me to write.

It is difficult when it comes to my own children. I accept that not all kids are like I was, (warped, my wife chips in again), though I did find others of similar interests that gravitated towards me in school. I am unsure about how to monitor my children’s reading material.

I read recently that Stephen King, who read the same kind of stuff as I did when he was a kid, refused to censor his own children’s tastes.

I haven’t given much thought to this. Should I ensure they stick to the children’s section of the library, unlike I did? But, then again, is there anything more darker than the likes of Grimm’s fairy tales? Is horror sanitised early on by the television images of Tom chasing Jerry while clutching a cleaver? Pre-dating the “Here’s Johnny!” sequence of The Shining.

I don’t know. I’ll leave these questions for another day.

In the meanwhile-it’s October. I’m reaching for In A Glass Darkly, seeking out the beautiful but mysterious Carmilla, and perhaps that freaky, red-eyed monkey in Green Tea.

Stocking up on old favourites for when the weather begins to turn.

Carmilla

 

Introducing Pennywise

I’ve always been a Stephen King fan. I grew up reading him. I love his depictions of small town American life, as well as his more epic stories. Though I also read his thrillers, it is the horror books of old that I have a penchant for.

My two favourites are Salem’s Lot, and It. King’s stories don’t always translate well to the big (or the small) screen. In regard to Salem’s Lot, I do like the original television adaptation, starring Hutch himself-David Soul. Though perhaps more faithful to the book, I’m not so enamoured with the remake.

As for It, I last watched this years ago. I don’t recall much about it except that I was disappointed. Well, now a new, two-part movie is being made. The first movie is about the children, The Loser’s Club, who come together to fight the evil presence that resides in Derry. The second film will depict the next confrontation, when the children are now adults.

I’m looking forward to seeing a fresh perspective of King’s great novel. Today, I saw the first glimpse of the new, evil Pennywise. I shared it today on Facebook, tagging in the picture two of my friends ostensibly because they are King fans, but also because they are afraid of clowns.

You’re welcome. I’m that kind of friend.

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Hammer Chooseday #14: The Abominable Snowman

The Abominable Snowman (1957) 3/5

This film was overshadowed by Hammer’s other science fiction/horror film of that year: The Curse Of Frankenstein.

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‘See It With Someone Brave!’ It says. No chance of that: Hammer goes on, wife goes to bed.

Peter Cushing plays Dr Rollason, who, after staying as a guest of the Lhama with his wife and friend while on a botanical expedition to the Himalayas, joins a second expedition of five people fronted by glory seeking Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker) to find evidence of the fabled Yeti.

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Team photo before kick-off.

Unbeknownst to Rollason, who is going out of scientific curiosity, Friend’s real motive is to try and capture one of the creatures. Maybe he should have just got a nice Dalmation dog instead.

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‘We Dare You To See It Alone!’ No bleeding choice pal!

The first sight we have of one of the creatures is when one of the biggest hands you ever saw comes creeping beneath the canvas of their tent. Seriously in need of a manicure.

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Hello Bighand. Are you related to Bigfoot?

Sherpa guide Kusang flees, not before being questioned by the others. “What did you see?” “I saw what men should not see.”

Helpful.

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“I saw what men should not see.” Say no more. Same thing happened to me when I accidentally went in the women’s toilet at a Manchester nursing home.

Soon they manage to kill one of the creatures, but we still don’t see the full animal, just the arm and that oversized hand. (We are not to have a more revealing glimpse until the end of the film.)

As snowstorms set in, the film has a claustrophobic feel to it, and the snowy setting is ideal for the black and white format. Tensions rise between Rollason and Friend. One by one the men begin to die, but not directly at the (big) hands of the Yeti.  One falls to his death, one has a heart attack, and one (Friend) is killed in an avalanche.

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To lose one expedition member may be regarded as a misfortune…

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…to lose two you should get the bejesus outta there.

After this last death, Rollason staggers back to a cave that the men used, where he finally encounters two of the Abominable Snowmen.

And at last we see the Yeti’s face, then Rollason passes out.

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Looks like a science boffin after being struck in the face with a spade.

The creatures, who just want to retrieve the dead body of their kin, leave Rollason out to be found by a search party that includes his wife Helen, played by Maureen Connell, and I was reminded of some earlier wisdom dispensed by the Lhama: “The fate of your husband will be governed by his own nature.” 

“That’s you doomed then,” says my wife.

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See these footprints here? They are nothing like that in the film. This looks like Bambi has trotted by.

The film finishes with Rollason, the only survivor of the expedition, telling the Lhama that they found no evidence of the creatures.

The newly resurrected Hammer Films have announced that they are going to do a remake of this film. I look forward to comparing the two.

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Ghosts Out Of Season

I’m not exactly sure why, but Christmas, particularly Christmas Eve, seems to be equated with ghost stories, even more so than Halloween. Perhaps it’s down to that Dickens fella.

If ever I turn to such fayre, I prefer the older, Gothic-type tales, my favourite, so far, being The Phantom Coach, by Amelia B. Edwards, set on a wild, wintry, northern moor.

Recently, on a coach journey of my own, albeit a motorised version, I finished the book that I was reading, and searched my Kindle for something else to read. I found three books that I had uploaded last year, and hadn’t gotten around to reading yet, by Sheridan Le Fanu. Le Fanu was a great 19th Century Gothic writer, and really should be as well known as the likes of Poe and M R James, who himself was a champion of this author, and I decided to delve once more into his world.

I began In A Glass Darkly, a collection of five stories of varying length (in effect, a mix of short stories and novellas). They are all linked by being case studies of a certain Dr Martin Hesselius, who investigates medical cases with a twist of the supernatural about them. A stormy, winter evening would have been a more preferable time to immerse myself in these, rather than a sun-kissed August afternoon, but still, needs must.

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My favourite stories in this are Green Tea, a tale of a clergyman who is haunted by a freaky, red-eyed black monkey, whose plaguing of the poor man becomes progressively more disturbing, and also the wonderful Carmilla, the vampire story that was written before, and was an influence on, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This has long been a favourite of mine.

The role of Carmilla was played by Ingrid Pitt in the film adaptation The Vampire Lovers. Just thought I’d throw a little Hammer connection in there for you!

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Immediately on finishing this collection, I ordered an anthology of shorter ghost stories by Le Fanu, selected by James himself, for the princely sum of one pence!! One pence-I don’t even mind if I hate it at that price. Maybe I will wait until late December to read it. That will please the wife when she starts planning for Christmas.

One of the other three stories in this collection is called The Room In The Dragon Volant. One of the characters in it made this speech:

“Just so! You English, wherever you are, always look out for your English boors, your beer and ‘bifstek’; and when you come here, instead of trying to learn something of the people you visit, and pretend to study, you are guzzling, and swearing, and smoking with one another, and no wiser or more polished at the end of your travels than if you had been all the time carousing in a booth at Greenwich.”

Over a hundred years later, and it seems that we English haven’t changed that much.

Hammer Chooseday #10: Frankenstein Created Woman

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) 5/5

Peter Cushing reprises his role of the Baron, in this film going down the metaphysical road of soul transferral. He puts the soul of a wrongly executed man into the body of the woman that the man loved. Maybe not exactly the fantasy of her beloved, but close enough.

Could have been worse, Peter, you could have got Boris Karloff.

Could have been worse, Peter, you could have got Boris Karloff.

The producer summarised the story: “This time Frankenstein creates a beautiful girl from one who has been ugly. Only something goes wrong. She goes around chopping people’s heads off with an axe.”

There’s always a glitch, but nothing that can’t be ironed out.

Susan Denberg plays Christina, a disfigured girl who is also paralysed down her left side. When a trio of arrogant dandies (I can’t believe I called them dandies) pay a visit to her father’s bar, they mock her, angering Hans, who gets in a fight with them. Later, without witnesses, they kill her father, and Hans is arrested for his murder. Unwilling to provide his alibi, that he was in bed with the currently absent  Christina, (gentleman that he is), he is found guilty and sentenced to death.

The aerial shot. In the days before CCTV.

The aerial shot. In the days before CCTV.

Christina, returning to the town, and unaware of both her father’s death and everything else that has transpired since, spots Hans upon the hill, about to be guillotined. There is a dramatic scene as she tries to reach him, and there is a desperation as he spots her approach, but this is Hammer-they don’t do happy endings. He is executed before she gets there. Seeing the one man, besides her father, who saw past her deformities and loved her, killed, she is overcome with grief and throws herself into a river, drowning. That’s ‘don’t do happy endings’ x2.

Cue Frankenstein and his ill-advised experiments. He never learns, does he? Not with scriptwriters like he’s got.

A beautiful woman with the soul of the Devil. Have you met my wife?

A beautiful woman with the soul of the Devil.
Have you met my wife?

Once she is brought back to life, she is not the usual, patched-up lumbering monster, but is Susan Denberg, more easy on the eye than Christopher Lee. This would be Denberg’s last film, her career curtailed by a drug-induced breakdown.

Now resurrected, Christina is just a girl with no memory of who she is.

Was.

And-good news for us, her blemishes and deformities have gone, too. You don’t get that on the NHS.

Hang on, is this Frankenstein or The Mummy?

Hang on, is this Frankenstein or The Mummy? Or some freaky kind of Kinder Egg?

Several times she asks the scientist to tell her of her identity, but which he declines to do. Here’s a few snapshots that might help:

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Maybe not.

So, now that she is blessed with beauty, no longer paralysed and having to hide her face beneath her hair, do you remember what I said about Hammer and happy endings?

Yep.

Now the vengeful spirit of Hans begins to take her over, driving her on to take revenge, in turn, against the three men who were really responsible for the crime that cost him his life.

“Kill him. Kill him. Kill him, Christina.”

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After murdering the last of these, (and taking Hans’ head along for the deed, sentimental girl that she is), she flees the pursuing Frankenstein, and, having nothing left to live for, throws herself again into the river, ignoring her creator’s pleas not to do so.

The perfect combination for a stroll in the countryside: some food, a loved one, an ex's severed head.

The perfect recipe for a lovely day in the countryside: a partner, some food; a little wine; an ex-lover’s severed head. Bliss.

Farewell Christina. Farewell Susan Denberg.

I watched this while my wife had her earphones in, listening to music. When it finished, I said “It was quite good that.”  She replied “It looked boring as Hell!”

I enjoyed this different take on the Frankenstein story. We are now ten posts in on the Hammer Chooseday series, and I am yet to make a fan of her. I’ve not given up yet, but I think it best I avoid the lesbian vampires.

Pitt Of Horror

I used to be a bit of a blood thirsty kid. I think I may have mentioned that before.

When I was growing up I was a huge fan of Hammer, and idolised the likes of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Sir Christopher Lee, no less. I was gutted when I first heard of the death of Cushing. And, as a horror fan, films like The Vampire Lovers and Lust For A Vampire had everything that a teenage lad could want. If you know what I mean.

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I recently read the autobiography of Countess Dracula herself, Ingrid Pitt, the Polish born actress who was regarded as the Queen Of Horror.

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I wanted to read her book, in particular, as I knew that her story was not the usual Hollywood actress fare. And what a story it was.

The second part of the book included the usual name dropping anecdotes. How she played cards with John Wayne, rode a motorcycle with Clint Eastwood, and practiced karate with Elvis. But it is the retelling of the early part of her life that sets this book apart.

Her childhood coincided with the madness that consumed Europe in World War Two, and her early narrative tells of a last glimpse of her grandparents and (temporarily) her father, as she was led on a journey that eventually led to her being imprisoned in Stuthoff concentration camp along with her mother. A five year old girl, taken from everything familiar and suddenly surrounded by such cruelty and death, some of the memories related of this time in her life are harrowing. She remained imprisoned there, until, at the age of eight, both she and her mother escaped into the forest as they were being marched by the Nazis to face a firing squad.

They then lived in the wilderness among partisans, until the red army approached and the war came to its ignominious end.

What comes across in the book is the indomitable strength of her mother, who kept going on behalf of her child, with a strength and endurance she discovered because of her child. Together, they got through their hellish ordeal and eventually emerged on the other side.

Although her difficulties did not end there, I will leave it for you discover for yourself how she eventually became the famous actress and writer who was much celebrated by we Hammer fans. Suffice it to say that Pitt’s is a remarkable story of overcoming the odds in one of the darkest and shameful chapters in man’s history.

I read a comment about her autobiography, the original version of which is entitled Life’s A Scream, by a man who knew her. He said that she told him that she had wanted to call her book From Shit To Champagne, but was persuaded otherwise. I think that would have been a perfect analogy of her life journey. She herself said, in one interview, that acting in horror films was easy, because she had seen what real horror was.

R.I.P Ingrid Pitt 1937-2010

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