Horror Hotties for Halloween

Nothing says Halloween like a trawl through your favourite horror movies. We all know the genre is notorious for that excuse to perv off scantily clad ladies running as fast as their boobs can carry them to avoid being skewered by a psychopath or a demon. How’s that for Freudian? But in the interests of redressing the balance the Screaming Queenz are here to show you it ain’t all about the chicks – sometimes it’s about the dicks too.

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Horror has given a queer audience the excuse to let off steam since its inception – whether you’re rooting for the underdog to overcome the odds, whether you’re identifying with the wicked lady who’s bucking the patriarchy and slaying her way through society’s pecking order with fangs or a blade, or if you just want to indulge your fetish for camp melodrama – horror has got your back. It’s also got its fair share of hot men in not many clothes so sit back, spread out and enjoy our run down of horror hotties!

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JAMES BROLIN – Amityville Horror

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Okay so shirtless Ryan Reynolds set many a popcorn-munching chick’s heart a-flutter when he brandished the axe in the 2005 remake, but if you want a real man look no further than hairy wall of flesh James Brolin. Before he goes mad and tries to massacre his family – well, it can be excused, apart from the fabulous Margot Kidder they’re a tad annoying AND moving house is very stressful – James has a tendency to walk around in a pullover and tighty whities. Coupled with his big hair and beard he’s giving us 70s gay porn daddy realness and I, for one, am happy to take it!

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JOHNNY DEPP – A Nightmare On Elm Street

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Before he shot to fame as Edward Scissorhands, donned an angora sweater as crossdressing trash genius Ed Wood, then descended into parody as Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp was setting our loins alight as twink next door Glenn in the original Freddy Krueger outing. Whether he was stifling his hormones listening to his best friends have sex, or lounging about in sweat pants and a crop top whilst perving over Miss Nude America, Glenn was all wide-eyed innocence and pulsating teen horniness wrapped up in one tight bow. He was eventually eaten by his bed. I’m with the bed on this one.

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Honorable mention goes to Nick Corri as Rod Lane in the same film. My early years of lusting over men are dominated by the creak of his leather jacket and the sweat on his chest as he flees from daddy John Saxon. More of him later…

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ANTHONY PERKINS – Psycho

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OK so he has a slightly unhealthy relationship with his mother, and watching women take a shower unleashes something a tad dangerous in him, but he does make an excellent cheese sandwich. Imbuing the demented Norman Bates with vulnerability and making him sympathetic was no mean feat, but surprisingly Anthony Perkins made him absolutely gorgeous at the same time. So he gets a little stabby now and then, we all go a little mad sometimes!

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ROBERT RUSLER – A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

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OK so Nightmare 2 is well-known as being one of the gayest horror movies ever made. But you can keep your leather-daddy coach and your camp screaming queen hero – gay boys needed look no further than Robert Rusler as Grady. The classic high school jock, he was not fond of shirts and opted for little shorts and a glistening six pack for the movie’s most crucial moments. There’s even a flash of jockstrap just to tip you over the edge. Look out for Rusler in not very many clothes in the classic Grace Jones flick VAMP too – which earns queer stripes for its Keith Haring body paint and… GRACE FUCKING JONES.

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JOHN GAVIN – Psycho

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OK we’ve been at the Bates Motel once before. But with clientele like this wouldn’t you come back? Divorced hardware store owner Sam Loomis oozes masculinity, especially when renting hotel rooms by the hour to get down and dirty with Marion Crane. When she promises to ‘lick the stamps’ on his alimony payments you know exactly what she means – and Loomis stood there shirtless is flesh for fantasy that leaves even Janet Leigh in a shadow. When Loomis goes head to head with Norman Bates towards the end of the film it’s a porno-preamble that’s too good to be true…

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TREY SONGZ – Texas Chainsaw 3D

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Make no mistake about it I was not a fan of this movie, it had every cliché in the book badly rammed down our throats, but whenever Trey Songz was onscreen as Ryan the throat-ramming didn’t seem so bad. Say no more.

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JAY HERNANDEZ – Hostel

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Eli Roth is hot as fuck. But I maintain he should stay in front of the camera and never get behind it again. Whilst not a fan of his movies – and especially not a fan of Hostel – I do think it’s an interesting view for a queer audience. Boys in peril being one of my favourite subgenres, to see this group of boys who use homophobic language like it’s going out of fashion, subjected to hideous methods of torture is… interesting shall we say. Paxton, the cute-as-a-button asshole who manages to get to the end relatively unscathed, is played by the gorgeous Jay Hernandez. And even though he loses his head in the superior Part 2, he will forever have a place in my dungeon.

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DYLAN McDERMOTT – American Horror Story: Murder House

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Ryan Murphy’s inconsistent style-over-substance horror series has become a mainstay in pop culture horror TV entertainment. For better or worse, its thinly-stretched plotlines can be forgiven for two things. Fabulously camp leading ladies, and an endless stream of gorgeous manflesh on show. Like it or not, AHS is queering up horror all over TV and for that I’m grateful. Dylan McDermott’s turn as sexually frustrated daddy Ben Harmon kept us hooked from the moment we saw him jerking off whilst flexing those mounds of manbun in episode 1.

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And while we’re at it, a honourable mention goes to the stunning Evan Peters who has treated us to his cute tush and tighty whities for most seasons of the show so far…

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And…

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Oh and…

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TRAVIS SCHIFFNER – Jeepers Creepers 2

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“Izzy or Izznt he from Jeepers Creepers 2 was a crush before I realised I iz” is the direct quote from our resident filth-bucket Stephen. We’ll skip lightly over the fact that having throbbed through the homoerotic boys-on-a-schoolbus horror Jeepers Creepers 2 we realised the director was a convicted sex offender. There’s no denying the trashy Jeepers Creepers 2 had its place in many a queer heart purely for the male flesh on show. And it was there in abundance. Izzy Bohen was mocked by the rest of the football team who thought he might be a bit gay. We’ve all been there. Not locked on a bus with a sweaty football team who like to have pissing contests, more’s the pity.

TONY TODD – Candyman

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OK so I admit my choice here is a little off-the-wall. The baby-stealing, dog-beheading villain the Candyman isn’t the type of guy you’d take home to mother. But he does carry a certain romantic edge in his eyes – full of soul, tears and a longing for love and death. He also likes to eat bees. I know. I’m fighting a losing battle here but fuck y’all. I love me some Tony Todd. The minute he said ‘Be my victim’ I was hooked.

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JOHN SAXON – Cannibal Apocalypse

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Put genre staple John Saxon in a police uniform and I’m putty in your hands. Put him in a soldier’s rig-out and then strip him for some hairy topless action and I’m even happier. In Cannibal Apocalypse he’s a Vietnam vet grappling with cannibalism but the quintessential daddy of horror has spread his hairy charms all over exploitation and action movies, NOT to mention gialli, oh and he was a hot oil tycoon in Dynasty… OK I could ramble here for a long time about how much I love this man. And what a man. Never too proud to star in a terrible movie (Tunnels, anyone) he also happens to have appeared in two of the genre’s most influential films, on the right side of the law in Black Christmas AND Nightmare on Elm Street. Handsome, butch and a damn fine actor to boot.

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All of the Camp Counsellors – SLEEPAWAY CAMP

Er… where do we start? Crop-tops, thrush-inducing short shorts, skinny-dips and Angela’s hot gay dad! Sleepaway Camp gave us queer subversive horror with non-PC jaw-droppers from beginning to end. Essential viewing for more than one reason…

I could go on all day but quite frankly I’ve run out of Kleenex. Who’s your horror hottie of choice? Let us know in the comments, or tweet me at @jonnylarkin. Happy hunky Halloween!

JL

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Beautiful Stranger

The Countess comes to Liverpool…

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We’ve been talking to Liverpool Pride about bringing queer horror to a scouse audience and they could not have been more excited. As a result, one of our favourite movies EVER is coming to Picturehouse at FACT for Halloween. Well, the day after to be precise. On Wednesday 1st November 2017 ‘Daughters of Darkness’ will be screened to an unsuspecting audience. This under-appreciated gem needs a new audience… and we’re hoping people crawl out of their crypts to enjoy it. But why?

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“I’m just an outmoded character, nothing more. You know, the beautiful stranger, slightly sad, slightly mysterious, who haunts one place after another. Two weeks ago in Nice and Monte Carlo, two days ago in Bruges….”

The gays love a tragic heroine. Throw in the glamour of this beautiful shadow of a woman languishing in the heat of the South of France, sipping cocktails and longing to be eternally youthful and you’ve got camp dynamite. Only we don’t pick up The Countess in Nice or Monaco, but in a rainy, out of season, desolate hotel in Ostend. However we do get languishing, we do get cocktails (of the troubling green variety), and we do get a tragic figure… if not a heroine, then a timely echo of the youth-obsessed culture we’re more immersed in than ever…

Countess Elizabeth Báthory doesn’t fill her face with Botox to maintain a youthful glow – but the blood of virgins. By any means necessary. She swans across Europe, her cape billowing in the wind, shimmering in an impossibly glam outfit that she got from Marlene Dietrich, with her companion du jour at her side. Right now it’s Ilona, the glum-faced young beauty styled after Louise Brooks. The Countess isn’t particularly interested with finding a hunky young man to carry her hat boxes and tuck her in at night (or should that be at dawn?), but with nubile young women just desperate to be plucked from a life of patriarchal servitude and treated to a life of luxury, trailing on her aristrocatic fur coat-tails from one penthouse to the next. Only Ilona doesn’t look too happy about it. At one point she even moans “You call this living?” The Countess, obsessed with the surface beauty of eternal youth and bourgeouis excess, fails to acknowledge that she’s not saving enslaved women and liberating them – she’s just taking them out of the frying pan and plonking them mid-sizzle into her cool blue fire. She doesn’t particularly care whether they like it or not, they just have to match her purple ostrich feather ensembles and look good on her arm at the ambassador’s party.

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If Ilona hates the ‘life’ she’s been blood-sucked into then her luck might just be in. Because when we check in with the vamps we meet newlyweds Stefan and Valerie, fresh off an overnight train having had a whirlwind marriage, en route back to England where Valerie is to meet Stefan’s formidable mother. But all is not what it seems. Stefan is a sadistic misogynist who believes women should do his bidding, and Valerie is far from happy. Stefan is also keeping a pretty big secret about his Mother – one I won’t spoil here but let’s just say the film’s queer credentials don’t end at Sapphic vampirism…

So begins a ridiculously camp and stylish tale of the seduction of Valerie by Countess Elizabeth. Made in 1970 (released in 71), the film is loaded down with problematic attitudes to both women and homosexuality. But never let that get in the way of a good horror film. Especially one as beautiful as this. Delphine Seyrig – the best damn Marlene Dietrich you’re gonna get post-Marlene Dietrich – imbues her immortal lesbian vampire with both a coquettish brass nerve and a sad, longing vulnerability. In a film with more than its share of humdinger lines and hammy performances she’s shockingly plausible as a seductress, and engaging to the very end. Whether she’s spreading her sparkly cape to warm the chilled shoulders of her shivering charge and resembling a Weimar-era giant bat in the process, or recounting graphic tales of torture whilst sipping her crème de menthe in the hotel bar, you just cannot get enough of her. She carries the film, with the other players curled at her feet. Eagle-eyed viewers of a certain age may notice that posh-boy-wifebeater Stefan is played by John Karlen, who smartened up his act ten years later, got a job on a building site and married Mary Beth in the role of Harv in Cagney and Lacey. Or you might just be too distracted by his ever-so-short tomato robe and slippers. Not to mention the fact that he treats poor Valerie like absolute dirt.

But rest assured he gets his comeuppance. This being a 70s Eurotrash lesbian vampire movie, it’s not long before Valerie falls under the spell of the Countess. Ilona, for all her whingeing, isn’t going to be happy about that – and neither is Stefan. The blood flows in some of the most awkward and inexplicable death scenes you’ll ever witness. For softcore horror fans – don’t be put off by this. The blood is minimal. However there’s plenty of nudity, with an impromptu naked moon dance from Ilona that has to be seen to be believed.

You’ll come out scratching your head – what was the film saying? Was it demonizing misogyny, the aristocracy, or was it aligning homosexuality with deviance and decadence? Or was it subverting the genre with the marabou slipper suddenly on the other foot as the Countess toys with Stefan’s masculinity and casts him aside to swoop in on his new bride? Maybe you’ll still be under the spell of the Countess and you won’t care. Whatever happens, sit back and let this languid, beautiful movie wash over you.

Fans of Screaming Queenz will remember our podcast on the movie. But if you haven’t heard it then click away below. There are spoilers so beware…

Get your tickets for this screening here. We’ll be there, possibly in our purple ostrich feathers. Come and get your teeth into it and we’ll have a good old laugh in the bar after!

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Bottoms up…

JL

GERALD’S GAME (2017)

Mild spoilers ahead…

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The hype machine has gone into overdrive for a certain Mr Stephen King in recent months. First ‘It’ opened to record numbers and became the highest grossing horror movie ever, then over on Netflix an altogether darker, more cerebral piece of work from the maestro of the macabre slipped in quietly to give us nightmares into the wee small hours. That would be ‘Gerald’s Game’, and what a game it is.

Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood star as Jessie and Gerald, who after eleven years of a slowly dying marriage, decide to head out to their lake house in the middle of nowhere to spice things up. What begins as an innocent sex game involving handcuffs and Viagra soon spirals into a rape fantasy and death. You only have to watch the trailer to know Gerald bites it pretty early on, keeling over from a heart attack and leaving Jessie chained to the bed with nothing but her personal demons and a very hungry rabid dog for company…

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I must admit, whilst looking forward to seeing Gerald’s Game I did wonder how they could spin out 1 hour 47 minutes of a woman chained to a bed. For the most part my worries were unfounded. Once Gerald drops dead things spiral pretty quickly. We go full throttle into Jessie’s psyche and no disturbing stone is left unturned.

One thing Stephen King has always excelled at is taking our primal childhood fears and making them a very real, terrifying reality. Fear of the dark. Monsters. The hand reaching out from under the bed. The nightmare flipside of the nuclear family. The horror of parents turning a blind eye when they should be protecting us. The desperate loneliness of insomnia where everything is at its blackest and most hopeless. All of these take centre stage.

But the true horror of this piece – and of Jessie’s life – is (mild spoiler) child abuse. With more than an echo of the wonderful film adaptation of Dolores Claiborne, we’re treated to a red-tinged flashback to a solar eclipse that heralded the end of Jessie’s childhood at the hands of her father. The nuanced performances and writing around this portion of the movie bring out the manipulative depths a child abuser will go to to keep his secret safe, and in a truly heartbreaking scene we see the trauma a young Jessie goes through as she’s emotionally blackmailed into keeping shtum. This is a rare thing indeed in any movie let alone a horror movie, to see writing and characterisation of such depth.

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Which is why it’s almost inexplicable that in the last fifteen minutes of the movie we’re treated to a script that suddenly is so schmaltzy and on the nose you start to wonder if it’s flipped into a parody of what we’ve been enjoying for the previous 90 minutes. Being a connoisseur of the camp, the trashy and the bad, I could appreciate some of the humdinger lines and wrap-it-up-in-a-pink-bow resolution in a tongue in cheek way. But seriously, having gone through the traumas we see Jessie endure for the majority of the movie, my jaw was on the floor at what the movie then became.

This in no way detracts from the film experience so don’t let that put you off. There were two moments during Gerald’s Game where I screamed and shouted in horror – you’ll know the moments when you see them. One that will put you off that burgeoning foot fetish for life, and the other that will make you wince in agony along with Jessie. The film GOES there with the horror. If you saw ‘It’ and, like me and the other Screaming Queenz, thought whilst it was a good movie it lacked the depths of horror that only Stephen King can bring? Well this movie has that in spades.

Of the two much-hyped King adaptations (I’m not even going there with Dark Tower), this one brings the pure horror that ‘It’ lacked.

Gerald’s Game is one worth playing. Just keep an eye out for The Moonlight Man…

JL

IT (2017) Review: the threequel 

Stephen Moore gives his pennyworth on Pennywise…

IT was the most highly anticipated horror of the year. IT failed to deliver on its promise of a truly scary version of the classic Stephen King novel. IT was still one of the most enjoyable films so far this year. IT was IT… you get IT.

In the lead up to the release of this film I was swept away down the storm drain by an effective trailer, a plot that is still as scary as when it when it was conceived and a heavy sense of nostalgia. This will no doubt lead to massive profits for the film and guarantee it receives it sequel but may also lead to one major criticism at least by seasoned horror fans. IT just isn’t scary.

I was really excited to be genuinely terrified and creeped out by the film but it never really got there and I think there are three major factors that contributed to the lack of scares.

The film’s premise means we tap into those early childish irrational fears such as clowns, creepy paintings and errrrr germs apparently? For the most part though people largely grow out of these early fears as they enter adulthood and unless you happen to have a phobia of one of these things many of the scares are unlikely to do more than gross or weird you out.

The film also has a heavy reliance on GI effects instead of practical, and some moments that are meant to be scary look a bit plastic and silly. Many a time I was left unsure if I was meant to be scared or supposed to laugh at ‘creepy picture woman’ chasing the children. Finally we have a reliance on jump scares over tension. I’ve come to accept jump scares are inevitable in mainstream horror now and can often let out a shrill shriek when one is particularly effective but in order to be scary I need to be put in a tense state… Something that really never happens. Every time the film starts to build up tension or scare it either pulls its punches like when it refuses to delve further into the horrific racially motivated arson attack on the Black Spot and with Beverly’s sexually abusive Dad… or it breaks the tension with a witty one liner or hilariously childish and perfectly crude dick joke.

Now I’ve got my main complaint out of the way let’s discuss what makes this one of the most enjoyable films of the year. In the previously definitive TV version of the novel the main star was undoubtedly the incredibly enigmatic performance of Tim Curry as Pennywise the dancing clown.

Bill Skarsgards incarnation is a perfectly respectable performance that separates itself enough from Curry’s version to keep me happy but he is not the shining star of the show in this version. Instead the main stars of the show are the extremely talented and funny cast of children. I don’t say that sentence lightly as my usual feelings toward child actors are less complimentary and more homicidal.

All of “The Losers Clubs” managed to impress me at different times and in their own way but the two leads Bill and Bev are both fantastic. Bill’s loss of his little brother Georgie both propels the story forward and grounds it at its most insane times. He is an engaging and believable hero and leader of the group with his endearing stutter just adding to the likability of his character. Bev the female of the group delicately balances her Tom Boy thrill seeking ways with her sensitivity and caring for others. One of my favourite character moments is when Bev discovers Ben’s (aka Tits) love for New Kids on the Block and she simultaneously mocks him and keeps his secret from the others.

I started this review by discussing how IT fails to be an effective horror film but what I didn’t explain is that this isn’t really a bad thing… it’s just not what I anticipated. Instead of a straight up horror film we have a fantastic summer adventure with friends, a coming of age story that just so happens to have a supernatural undertone in the form of a dancing murderous clown and to be honest I’m not that mad about that.

As the group bond and form stronger friendships you enjoy being with them for the summer and seeing all these relatable and sweet first moments of adulthood unfold. Although one particularly well played scene of the boys watching Bev sunbathe was a little different in my life.

There are lots of beautifully played child-becoming-adult moments like this, from first crushes to a funny and endearing scene where Bev tries to hide the fact she’s buying her first tampon from the boys. Saying that when coupled with a later scene involving a whole lot of blood in the bathroom It was perhaps a little too much of a menstrual cycle analogy than I was prepared for.

There are a few other flaws, such as the underuse of certain characters and a massively shortened research of the towns history that I would have like to have seen more of but overall the film is as fun as a good old rock fight. I’m overall impressed by the film, I thoroughly enjoyed spending the summer with our pint sized heroes and look forward to a rewatch. I am, however, skeptical of how the adult based sequel will capture my attention. It either needs to turn up the horror which I doubt it will or choose another genre to be based on with the horror once again being more incidental than the main attraction but I say bring IT on!

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IT (2017) A Second Opinion!

Jonathan Butler chimes in with his thoughts on the new adaptation of Stephen King’s It…

It’s finally here, probably the most anticipated horror film of 2017. The expectations were high, the Tim Curry-starring mini-series being a childhood favourite of many horror fans, and Stephen King adaptations seemingly pretty hot at the minute. Now that it’s arrived what do we think?

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My feelings are mixed if I’m honest. It is a good film, but not really a good horror film if that makes sense. The greatest strengths of the film lie in the performances of the talented young cast and their interactions with each other. The performances are all superb across the board, and these genuine portrayals give a strong emotional backbone to the film.

I felt more like this film was taking its cues from the likes of The Goonies, Stand By Me and the films of Joe Dante than from anything closer to a horror film. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. Stand By Me is a favourite of mine and I’ve spoken of my fondness for Dante’s work before so I don’t mention these as distinctly negative points, just more that I feel the horror suffered for the sake of the relationship side of the story.

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My real gripes come when we look at the horror elements. It’s just not scary, like, at all. There was a distinct lack of tension built during the film’s “scary” scenes, it all comes in short little bursts of a minute and invariably ending in a massively telegraphed jump-scare. This is something of a bug-bear of mine, it’s a shortcut to scares that is hideously over-used nowadays. Although they were at least used correctly in IT, in that the jump-scares do actually come from things the characters on screen and the audience are supposed to be scared of.

This brings me to another issue of the film. For me it all feels a bit safe and rather tame for a horror film. Perhaps that’s my fault though, my tastes do tend to run a little more on the extreme side. I was disappointed to hear the news that the film’s original director Cary Fukunaga had exited the project over the dreaded “creative differences”. I was a huge fan of his work on the recent series ‘True Detective’, the bleakness and grimness of it gave me hope that we could be getting something genuinely dark and disturbing from his version of IT. The outcome ended up being that Fukunaga did want to include many of the darker elements from the novel and this was evidently too rich for the suits at New Line / Warner who balked at the idea of filming a sewer based gang-bang. Interestingly though, Fukunaga does receive a writing credit so some elements of his script do presumably make it into the finished product.

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The directing of Muschietti is competent but never really breaks any new ground and he seems to rely on the same trick to get scares. He reuses the same speed-ramping, fake stop-motion effect quite a few times. You’ve probably seen it in the trailer. I think he used the same effect in ‘Mama’ in fact, which I wasn’t a huge fan of.

While I do mention the negatives don’t let that put you off from seeing it as it is a good film, just not the film I had expected. I was hoping for a darker, nastier vision of IT and what we got instead wasn’t that, it was a bit safer and more mainstream than I had anticipated. The finished product is still good, I just feel the director did a better job of getting the “80’s childhood adventure film” elements right than he did getting the actual horror elements right, which to be fair to him is probably exactly what the studio wanted.

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Nostalgia for the 80’s is hot at the minute – making challenging films, not so much.

JB

 

IT (2017) Review

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Vague spoilers ahead…

I’ll tell you this straight off the bat. I think the original TV mini-series of It (1990) gets away with murder thanks to nostalgia. We saw it at just the right time, and hit the TV airwaves at just the right moment, for it to somehow become iconic and deemed terrifying. Same goes with Salem’s Lot. But watch it now and you might have a different opinion.

So when it was announced that Pennywise would be returning for a new outing on the big screen I, for one, welcomed the idea. Having read the tome of a novel, which needs a damn good edit but is utterly enthralling and almost unbearably dark in parts, I thought that maybe the new film would honour it better than the TV version. I had high hopes. And for the most part I was not disappointed. I really hoped it wouldn’t be a shot-by-shot rehash of the ‘original’ as people call it. And evidently, the team behind ‘It’ (2017) felt the same way.

The movie goes out of its way not to look or sound or feel anything like the 1990 effort. From the very start, whilst Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) helps his little brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) build that paper boat, there’s a notable absence of ‘Fur Elise’ being played by mom on the piano, obviously an iconic moment from the mini series. The action is moved from the barrens to the sewers and the old house on Neibolt, with no mention of dam-building, and the updating of the action to the 80s are all obvious – and successful – attempts to distance the film from it’s 1990 counterpart. Whilst obvious similarities will be drawn when Georgie is chasing said boat down the street in torrential rain, all fears of a remake vibe are set aside when we’re introduced to Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise. Nobody is ever going to touch Tim Curry’s performance but what we have here is a whole different ballgame. As Pennywise toys with Georgie and offers him fun and frolics in a subterranean big-top, Skarsgård is clearly pulling out every trick in the book to separate himself from the shadow of Curry – and for the most part it works. It’s no massive spoiler to say Georgie meets his fate early on – but this is a more ferocious, fiendish death scene that doesn’t quite go where you’re expecting it to…

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Speaking of unexpected, in It we get that rare thing in a mainstream horror movie. The emotional gutpunch. Director Andrés Muschietti draws out performances from his young cast that are loaded with authenticity and heart. Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard makes Richie Tozier loveable, annoying and hilarious in equal measure. He does a roaring trade in ‘your mom’ insults and swears like a trucker – you know, like real kids do. Jack Dylan Grazer is old before his time and riddled with anxiety as hypochondriac Eddie, and poor Ben Hanscom, awkward secret poet and christened ‘tits’ because of his chunky frame, is sweetly played by Jeremy Ray Taylor. But the standouts here are Lieberher as Bill – throwing aside the shadow of tragic Jonathan Brandis to give us a new hero we totally believe, and Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh, who at fifteen looks about ten years older than some of the boys. Wasn’t that always the way in school? Whilst some of the boys seemed to actively recoil from puberty, the girls towered above them and strode into early adulthood ahead of the pack. And that’s Beverly, dealing with buying her first Tampax, taking on bullies at school, and absolutely flooring the boys with her sophistication and beauty… whilst dealing with the hideous reality of life at home with her abusive single father…

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And so comes the gutpunch. The reality of Beverly’s abuse, Bill’s grief at losing his little brother, not to mention Ben’s bullying and unrequited love, actually prevail over the horror of Pennywise. At its core the novel delved into the absolute trauma it can be to just grow up, make it into adolescence and come out the other side intact. And that is where this film flies high. The 80s nostalgia isn’t particularly overdone, but the truthful portrayal of the adventure – and the real life horror – of just being a kid, of that last summer you spent with your group of friends before everything changed, before shit got real – that’s what resonates in this movie.

So much so, the actual horror tropes suffer as a result. We get jump-scares, we get creaking floorboards and clowns hiding under dust sheets. The set-pieces evoke elements of Nightmare on Elm Street, Poltergeist, even more recent horror hits like The Conjuring and Insidious, and whilst some of the jumps are efficient and jolting, the horror element never quite matches the teen drama. With a lesser script, poor direction and a weaker cast, that could result in a muddled overblown mess of a film. But because you care so much for the characters and the overall package is so well done you forgive it. You go along for the ride – an epic one at two hours fifteen. But it never feels too long, nothing drags.

And yet in parts I felt like cuts had been made. After the George intro we’re introduced to Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs), with a story tweaked from the novel where he lives with an overbearing Grampa (Steven Williams looking mighty fine in his old age). But after his opening scene he vanishes for over half an hour. Similarly Stan (Wyatt Olef) is given hints of a story that then vanish and he’s ignored for most of the film. Also Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) slices and dices his way on to the screen but feels underused. You’d be forgiven for thinking there’s a three hour version out there somewhere, but given that I got through over two hours and could have watched more, I’d welcome that director’s cut.

Maybe it’ll have the darker elements only hinted at in this release? Pennywise offering Eddie a BJ, the real death of Patrick Hockstetter, the racially-motivated mass murder at the Black Spot? All were absent here. I also found it interesting that Henry Bowers was clearly an evil racist but never once used hate speech when attacking Mike – although ‘faggot’ was thrown around with (cough) gay abandon. So whilst I easily forgot the mini series I couldn’t quite let go of what was STILL missing from the novel…

So a flawed film but mainly brilliant. Go in with an open mind. Forget Tim Curry (I know, sacrilege), put your preconceptions to one side and revel in a film that for the most part is beautifully made and a luminous cast who will make you laugh and – if you’re a sap like me – cry too. Yes the frights are nothing we haven’t seen before, and it’s not quite as terrifying as it wants to be… but for a mainstream horror it delivers much more than you’d expect.

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That said, with a film that makes it through the gate mainly because of it’s young cast, I think for It, Chapter 2, they’ll have their work cut out to make anything as good as this. Bring it on, Pennywise…

JL

You are now leaving Twin Peaks

Warning: SPOILERS!

I’ve been in a fog all day, not quite present in my situations, with a distinct feeling of looking in on real life from the outside. Not depressed so much as just not quite there. Deflated. Downbeat. Dare I say melancholy. And I think I know why.

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That pretty much sums it up. You see at 8am this morning Special Agent Dale Cooper actually knocked on a door marked 1516 and it was opened by none other than Laura frickin’ Palmer. You know. The beautiful dead body found wrapped in plastic in the opening episode of Twin Peaks back in 1992. The doorway from our dull domestic lives into a world of infinite darkness and light that changed the face of television forever. Ever present like a beautiful shadow always there whether onscreen or not, watching over the many interwoven tales of small town life amidst the shifting realities of supernatural and extra terrestrial interference coming from deep within the surrounding woods in Washington State…But always considered lost. Dead and gone whether we or her alcoholic mother or her square-jawed, motorcycle-riding beau liked it or not.

Until 8am this morning. For the uninitiated the new series of Twin Peaks has been more hardboiled crime thriller-cum-supernatural mindfuck than the quirky original. And in the wrap-up final episode Cooper, played by the supremely talented Kyle McLachlan in one of three roles this season, followed orders from the celestial Fireman and the tormented soul of Leland Palmer to ‘find Laura’. This involved driving across the state line from one reality to another, finding himself in an alternate dimension, or years in the future, or an amalgam of both, where Laura took the form of a white-trash waitress who’d just murdered her scumbag boyfriend and needed to, as she put it, ‘get out of dodge’.

But getting out of dodge meant going back to Twin Peaks, a darker, colder version of the town we know and love, where the residents of the Palmer house were NOT family, and hadn’t the slightest idea who Laura was. Had Cooper and Laura got off in the wrong time zone? Had Cooper driven into a different reality and simply forgot to drive back out, destined to roam side by side with our universe trying to find ‘one chance out between two worlds’ to get back in and bring Laura home?

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So much going on, and all before 9am on a Monday morning. You can understand why I feel a tad vague about life right now. But more than anything I feel a deep sadness. For the last 12 weeks or so my morning routine, lucky as I am to be able to choose what I do on a Monday morning, has involved waking up at the crack of dawn, brewing a pot of coffee and immersing myself into the new series of Twin Peaks all on my own. I chose this for myself. I decided to go it alone. But save for internet groups it’s a lonely life being a Peaker these days. No longer the water-cooler show that the original series was, it exists somewhere outside of reality just like the tulpas, the Woodsmen and a disembodied David Bowie in the show. It’s not gonna draw the big audiences it once did because, quite frankly, it is unlike anything that’s been on TV.

Putting aside comparisons with American Detective, Breaking Bad and the later films in Lynch’s canon, the slow burn beauty of this new trawl through dark Americana is literally peerless. Much was made of Episode 8 which took a step back from the slowly unfolding narratives to give us a history lesson in the creation of the evil that haunts Twin Peaks, transporting us to the atom bomb test in White Sands, New Mexico in 1945.

But for me it’s hard to single out one specific moment in this 18-episode journey that blew my mind the most. Was it the return of Audrey Horne, stuck in an endless loop of demented hysteria, a tragic shadow of the femme fatale beauty she once was? Was it Ike the Spike, the sharpy-wielding dwarf who rampaged across Las Vegas in pursuit of Dougie Jones? Maybe it was the return of Dale Cooper through a plug socket (no, really), and his long, drawn out return to form as he stumbled through life like a baby deer after spending 25 years trapped in another dimension. Or the trio of Candie, Mandie and Sandie, the Vegas showgirls who never changed outfit and liked to show up at the most inopportune moments just to look fabulous and bring sandwiches…

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You could literally go on forever at the wonders and horrors that Lynch and Frost bestowed on us over this last few months. It’ll take time for me to process and be coherent. But then Lynch revelled so much in being incoherent at times I hardly feel any guilt for rambling on. What I gave us was the gift of breathing space. So often now TV shows are obsessed with keeping us hooked – every scene has to end on a gasp moment, every ad break has to promise us another flashy surprise otherwise we may just turn over or get lost in social media. But with Twin Peaks: The Return we had long scenes that kept us watching simply because they were imbued with such heart, such artistry, and steeped in the mythology of a world and an artist who we know we just have to trust. Just go with it. It’ll be worth it.

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And wasn’t it? Who else sat slack-jawed at the audacity of revisiting the 1994 movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me with Coop now watching the scenes we’re so familiar with, and then actually stepping into that world to ‘save’ Laura? Only he fucked with time and I’ll argue paid the price in episode 18. But the theories are endless. In those final moments I got the impression that we were being taught a harsh lesson, one that it took 18 episodes to come to terms with. And that is this. 25 years have gone by since we were last in Twin Peaks. It could never stay the same. And that’s tough to deal with, but accept it and the rewards are rich and bountiful. I could be totally wrong of course. But that doesn’t matter. Lynch doesn’t want to explain, he doesn’t need to. With any decent or great work of art, what you bring to it informs what you take away.

With Twin Peaks: The Return I brought expectations of existential horror, soap opera melodrama and that dark heart Americana – simple images like a gas station at night or a motel in the middle of nowhere that are painted over with such dread in a way that only David Lynch can achieve.

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As you can see it delivered in spades – and golden shovels. I’ll write more as I process it. It’s gonna take a while.

But having thought on this, my mood today, sombre, out-of-time, spaced out – I think it could be grief. Like Coop with Laura in that final episode, I got back what I thought was gone only for it to slip away again. The last image was Laura being reminded of the life she’d left – or the life that had left her – and she screamed in horror and anguish and confusion. Whatever that was, that town, that familiarity, it was now out of her grasp. And now it’s out of mine. Well, until I just start from the beginning again.

Then I can start drawing up favourite moments, favourite characters (Diane all the way), biggest head-fucks, all that fun stuff. In the meantime I’ll just nurse the void with coffee and cherry pie – the original Norma Jennings recipe thank you, not the shit they sell outside of town!

I’m gonna need a bigger percolator. Fish-free.

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JL

The Voices (2014)

What if Dr Dolittle was a serial killer?

It’s not often that you get a film about a man with mental health issues that effortlessly balances comedy, empathy, gore and horror – but the largely ignored film “The Voices” (2014) starring Ryan Reynolds, Anna Kendrick, Gemma Arterton and Jacki Weaver does just that. It’s a downright hilarious film that shows you the world from the very unique perspective of mentally unstable Jerry. Jerry navigates through life with the help of his talking pets – the lovable dopey dog Boscoe and his viciously sassy cat Mr Whiskers who act like the Angel and Devil on jerry’s shoulder.


The film received positive reviews from critics but fell into relative obscurity due to a limited release and minimal publicity. The film only came to my attention by accident after being offered free tickets to an early screening of the film at FACT Liverpool, otherwise it would be entirely likely I’d have completely missed it too. In fairness not giving the film a wide release and big publicity budget was probably the correct move as it caters to a certain type of movie goer. It’s often bubblegum pop aesthetic, main characters and actors  are appealing to one type of audience buts its black comedy, dark plot and excessive gore, swearing and general weirdness probably appeal to another audience completely. Anna Kendrick for example is very much a Marmite actor but even me as a massive fan would (wrongly) question her casting in a dark horror comedy.


I left the cinema expecting this film to slowly gather a cult following as it has all the aspects and potential for that but I’m still yet to meet anyone who has even heard of it unless I’ve personally sat them down to watch it. It’s a shame especially as for me Ryan Reynolds puts in his best performance to date and yes I’m even saying he plays this role better than his universally adored Deadpool.


Reynolds plays the main character of Jerry the lovable naive serial killer as well as providing the voices for both of his pets, a half dead deer and his sock puppet Bunny Monkey. He manages to keep you on side with Jerry even as he spirals further and further down the rabbit hole of murder and decapitation. It’s seriously impressive as you find yourself almost trying to justify his actions, if not just truly empathising with his heartbreaking family history that brought me to tears. His character awkwardness and lack of confidence is so endearing that’s it’s also the most attractive I’ve ever found Ryan Reynolds, perhaps that says something more about me than the character but he makes me swoon in this film.


However Jerry isn’t the best role Reynolds plays in the film, not even close in fact. Enter Mr Whiskers. If you have ever wondered what a cat would say if it could speak I’d say this is about as close as you are going to get. Mr Whiskers is straight up vicious, crude, evil and absolutely hysterical. Full off witty one liners, insults and vulgar questions it’s safe to say he’s my new sprit animal.


I mean I couldn’t even decide on one gif to use to represent him.


Without giving too much away the plot focuses on Jerry trying to fit in at the office making friends, join a Conga Line and dabbling at dating the office’s stunning English girl Fiona played by Gemma Arterton. After initially standing him up for a karaoke party the date goes ahead with an unfortunate accident that leads to Fiona’s head being placed in the fridge to flirt and hurl insults at Jerry when needed. Don’t worry about Jerry’s love life though Anna Kendrick’s Lisa doesn’t mourn her friend for long before taking her man.


Jacki Weaver plays Jerry’s psychologist and through these sessions we are given some incite and great character building moments for Jerry as well as some superb acting on both parts. Despite some suspicions and unsuccessful attempts to get Jerry back on the medication it’s not long before Fiona has a friendly head in the fridge and another woman tied up on the couch. Cue some great moments where we see the world from others or Jerry’s medicated perspective that quickly snap you back to the reality. They highlight that despite all the laughs there is some pretty dark stuff going on.


The ending to the story is, well depressing but necessary and I’m glad they committed to that. However have no fear just when you think you were gonna leave this film on a down beat along comes one of the best musical credit endings ever featuring the talents of all the cast and Jesus.


So in conclusion it’s a crazy, dark but ultimately fun film that you need to watch. It’s a cult film to be, so lets make sure that happens even if it’s just so I can selfishly have someone to talk about it with and endlessly quote to. Grab a friend, grab some gin, popcorn, sit back and enjoy the craziest yet funniest movie night you will have anytime soon.


SM

Previously, on Screaming Queenz…

We’ll be back after our little Summer break next week. Meanwhile have you caught up on all our podcast episodes so far? Here’s a selection for your delectation. A mix of vampires, witches, Italian slashers and good old-fashioned monster movies. All of them come with an unhealthy dose of camp humour, poor taste and disgusting language!

From Peter Cushing to porno, the references for Fright Night come thick and fast…

So who the fuck died and made the Babadook a gay icon? With a little help from The Village People we decipher just why this demonic children’s fable cashed in on the pink pound…

Who knew the eternally young Lost Boys would ever hit 30? Well they just did, so reminisce with big hair, 80s power rock, and the dark underbelly of Hollywood paedophiles…

Which witch are you? A badass 90s high-schooler or a psychadelic 70s lesbian with a penchant for S&M? Check out our two-parter on witches in horror, both parts here:

Do you like giallo? We love giallo. What the fuck is giallo? Find out here:

There’s like 37 more episodes for you to get your teeth into over on SoundCloud but you can also hear them via Podbean and Itunes, links below. So listen, laugh, loathe if you must. Get in touch and let us know your thoughts, get me on twitter @jonnylarkin or email us at Screamingqueenz@gmail.com!

JL

http://screamingqueenz.podbean.com

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/screaming-queenz/id1070845275?mt=2

Folk Horror

As a break from the collaboration series, I thought it would be interesting to look at a couple of my favourite bands that have taken inspiration from the obscure world of folk horror.

“Folk Horror” is an unusual term, it usually tends to mean a loose collection of UK films from the 60’s and 70’s, films from the likes of Hammer, Amicus and Tigon. Most of these films would contain themes of Black Magic, Devil worshipping cults, ritual sacrifices, things of that nature. It is a hard genre to pin down and sure to cause many arguments among genre fans. I’ve recently seen one or two articles including more modern films within the folk horror genre. Films like “The Blair Witch Project” would kind of fit as a modern take on a folk horror film I guess, witches in the woods, rituals and sacrifices.

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Equally I’ve seen films like Haxan, which we’ve discussed before, listen here:

https://soundcloud.com/screamingqueenzpodcast/wicca-please-part-2-the-devil-got-inside-me

… and Onibaba considered by some people to be early examples of folk horror dealing as they do with folklore and superstition, except both these films are from outside the UK, so I’m sure that may cause an argument or two! I don’t claim to be an expert on the genre by any means, more of an interested fan, I am a huge fan of Onibaba though so any excuse I get to plug a favourite of mine, I’ll take it.

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We will get around to doing a Folk Horror episode soon I’m sure, one of the films considered to be part of the “Big Three” of folk horror we have already spoken about, that being the Vincent Price classic Witchfinder General. See link above for that episode!

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Undoubtedly the highest profile of the films that traditionally tend to get lumped together under the umbrella term of Folk Horror and one of the greatest horror films ever to come from the UK, also featuring one of the titans of UK horror, is 1973’s The Wicker Man.

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I’ll save going into a full review of the Wicker Man as it really deserves all our input and  I’m sure it will pop up in an episode in the not-too-distant future. While the artists included here might not be to everybody’s taste, hopefully it will at least be an interesting read from a horror fan perspective.

Agalloch

The first band I want to highlight is an American band out of Portland called Agalloch, The band played an unusual blend of styles with elements of Black Metal, Doom Metal, Post-rock and Folk. There’s not really a band to compare them to I don’t think, a genuinely unique band.

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Starting out in the mid-90’s until calling it a day in 2016 Agalloch released 5 albums and numerous demos/EP’s/compilations in their 20 year history. Many of their songs focus on aspects of nature and themes of Paganism and Pantheism, you can see why a film like the Wicker Man might speak to them.

Here’s a typical example of one of their songs. They rely very much on creating an atmosphere to express the darker side of mankind and our strange relationship to nature, at times basking in the beauty of it, but at the same time lamenting that we sometimes go out of our way to destroy it.

In 2008 they released an EP entitled “The White”, for this release they do away with the majority of the other heavier elements and stick almost exclusively to the Folk elements. The White EP contains several samples from the Wicker Man sprinkled throughout, there’s some of my favourite lines of dialogue from the film.

A few years ago Agalloch released another EP entitled “Faustian Echoes” taking inspiration this time from the classic German tale of Faust. The EP ending up being one single song, running time, 22 minutes!

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I was pleased to find that somebody on youtube has edited the song with footage of F.W. Murnua’s 1926 silent classic, which you can see below. I’m quite the fan of the German Expressionist era so I think it’s well worth seeking out the full film if you’ve never seen it. Some of the imagery is simply incredible and would be highly influential on many films in the future, well, the past to us but the future in 1926.

Blood Ceremony

Another band that I believe takes a lot of influence from folk horror are the Canadian band Blood Ceremony.

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Blood Ceremony hail from Toronto, formed in 2006 by Alia O’Brien, the singer/flautist/organist and all-round brains behind the band.

Blood Ceremony have been described as many things in the past, one of my favourites being “Witch rock” They draw on many influences musically, there’s a little Jethro Tull thrown in there with the addition of the flute giving a folky feel to a lot of the material, certainly elements of Black Sabbath are present too. The fact that they’re hard to classify is part of the appeal I think, it’s a bit different and a bit esoteric.

Most of their material draws influence from general horror themes, witchcraft, sacrifices, black magic, that sort of thing. You get quite a strong folk horror vibe from the video I think, with a hint of 60’s psychedelia thrown in. Skulls and rituals and Astrological themed mumbo-jumbo. Wouldn’t be surprised to see a green Barbara Steele pop up at one point.

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Blood Ceremony seem to take a good amount of influence from a pretty obscure W. Somerset Maugham  novel from 1908 called “The Magician” telling the story of Oliver Haddo and his attempts at creating artificial lifeforms by way of sacrifices.

Interestingly enough the famous occultist Aleister Crowley was apparently unhappy with the novel’s main character, believing it to be caricature of himself and accused the author of plagiarism.

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“The Magician” would end up getting it’s own big screen adaptation in 1926, with some even believing that James Whale’s later Frankenstein films took no small amount of influence from it.

I started this article talking about The Wicker Man and sure enough, Blood Ceremony do have their own song about The Wicker Man, it’s interesting to note that this song is unusual in that it’s the only song that Alia doesn’t perform the main vocal duties.

It’s a bit more of a sombre affair in comparison to a lot of their material, but I’m all for variety.

The influence and legacy of these folk horror films can still be seen and felt now. Some might even argue that it’s had something of a revival recently with the likes of last year’s surprise hit “The Witch” and Ben Wheatley’s duo of “Kill List” and “A Field in England”, the latter of which uses a similar Civil War setting as Witchfinder General.

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Speaking of Witchfinder General, if you’ve never seen the video for Cathedral’s song about Mr. Hopkins it’s certainly worth a look,  if only for it’s strangeness.

The influences of horror in general on many bands is huge, and I may get into other bands / film genres at another point if people enjoy this and would like to hear more about the music / horror intersection.

JB