Thursday, 4 November 2010

Recommendations and Reviews of Recent Readings

I tend to always have a book on the go, the consequence of an inability to fall sleep without reading something and a low boredom threshold when waiting for public transport. My reading material over the past few months has been mostly horror-related, so I thought I'd post up some brief reviews before forgetfulness takes over. Here goes! (List ordered roughly by date of reading.)


AUTHOR: Steven Jay Schneider (General Editor)

REASON FOR BUYING: Wanted some ideas for good horror films to watch. Nice glossy pictures. Could double as doorstop.

LOOK OF THE BOOK: Compact and shiny; well-designed.

ANY GOOD? Yep - does what it says on the tin. The films are listed in chronological order, which makes it easy to identify cycles of horror films, and to see which directors may have influenced others' works. Each movie is given equal space - two pictures (poster and a still), a short two-page description and analysis and some details of cast and crew. The overviews are written by contributors of a high calibre, mainly academics and film critics. Despite the fact that there is an abundance of lists of this kind on the web, I still feel that this was ten quid well spent. And you can't use the internet as a doorstop.

TITLE: Strangers on a Train

AUTHOR: Patricia Highsmith

REASON FOR BUYING: Liked the film; didn't have to pay for this book - nicked it from my dad.

LOOK OF THE BOOK: Pleasant, modern monochrome design.

ANY GOOD? A resounding yes. Highsmith is a fantastic suspense writer - I've read other novels of hers in which nothing much actually happens, yet by which I've sill been utterly gripped. Strangers on a Train is the story of a man striving desperately to extricate himself from a situation, but getting drawn in further despite his exertions. Some of the details of the plot will be familiar to those who have seen Hitchcock's film, but happily that adaptation differs from the book enough that there are still surprises in store for readers who have already seen the movie. A superb read and highly recommended!

TITLE: Velocity

AUTHOR: Dean Koontz

REASON FOR BUYING: Needed a book to read whilst working at a festival; it was in a charity shop and therefore cheap.

LOOK OF THE BOOK: Intriguing ransom-note cover; deceptively chunky.

ANY GOOD? So far from good, it's possible that Darth Vader could use it a rebel-torturing technique, should his choking powers have an off day. The characters are paper-thin, the dialogue between them risible, and the decision to develop the plot almost solely through the experiences of the main character results in the whole exercise feeling like a mildly gruesome "What I Did On My Holidays" school essay. The only reason I managed to finish it is that it's so bloody short. Through the employment of large type, enormous margins and more chapters than you can shake a stick at, this jumped-up short story has been stretched out to cover a mind-boggling 500 pages. There's an actual risk of repetitive strain injury because of the frequency of page-turning. Avoid.

TITLE: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

AUTHOR: Mark Haddon

REASON FOR BUYING: Many accolades received by book; in a charity shop and therefore cheap (I am thrifty)

LOOK OF THE BOOK: Lively blue cover, strangely endearing illustration of dog impaled by garden fork.

ANY GOOD? Yes - it's an engaging, funny and touching book. (Not a horror, mind, although a dog does get murdered.) Christopher - a 15-year-old who has Asperger's - finds the body of his neighbour's dog and, inspired by his hero Sherlock Holmes, decides to solve the mystery of its death. However, his investigation uncovers a great deal more than he expected. Has chapters headed with prime numbers, which is quite cool and also instructive.

TITLE: Under the Dome

AUTHOR: Stephen King

REASON FOR BUYING: Try to read most King books; nifty choice of covers.

LOOK OF THE BOOK: Old bloke looking pensive in a rather nice shirt.

ANY GOOD? Hmmm... it's a tricky one. Pros: interesting premise; good pace; fairly gripping. Cons: some ridiculous dialogue; plot inconsistencies; rather flat ending. For such a long book it feels somewhat shallow - there is very little in the way of backstory, unlike some of King's earlier works (for example, the town histories in The Tommyknockers and IT.) There are quite a few similarities between this novel and The Stand (isolated communities, taking of good / evil sides and the Trashcan Man-esque character of The Chef.) Under the Dome definitely suffers by comparison, and unfortunately comes across as something of a Stand-lite. Not nearly as bad as Cell though, so there's that.

TITLE: The Mind Beyond

AUTHOR: Irene Shubik (Editor)

REASON FOR BUYING: Short stories by well-known authors; portable volume.

LOOK OF THE BOOK: Nice old orange-spined Penguin; proper creepy cover.

ANY GOOD? The Mind Beyond is a collection of short stories from the '70s TV series of the same name, of which I'd never heard. The theme is general freakiness of the brain - telepathy, precognition, telekinesis and the like. It's a pleasantly eerie collection; I especially enjoyed the Daphne du Maurier story "The Breakthrough." Science gone crazy! The TV show can be seen here:
"The Mind Beyond" on the YouTube

TITLE: The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol. 11

AUTHOR: Eiji Otsuka (story) Housui Yamazaki (art)

REASON FOR BUYING: Am a long-time follower of the series.

LOOK OF THE BOOK: Mugshot-style pictures of the main characters; plot-related drawing in the top-left corner.

ANY GOOD? Hell yeah! I love this series, and would recommend it to any fan or horror, comics or both. Kurosagi centres around five university students whose various skills enable them to find and communicate with the dead. Whilst the subject matter is quite morbid, and the imagery often gory, it's never excessive. The plots often touch upon contemporary social issues, or are used to explore the significance of old customs or historic events. It's gruesome, witty, complex and sometimes plain weird. The artwork is also fantastic!

TITLE: The Secret of Crickley Hall

AUTHOR: James Herbert

Ah, Crickley Hall. This one's getting a slightly longer review, so it'll have to wait for another time. Thought I'd best say something about it though, as it is in the picture. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Walking Dead: TV show episode 1

Being a comic book fan, I'm a little disappointed in myself that I haven't noticed the Walking Dead series. I can only suppose that I've been preoccupied with buying House of Mystery and Sweet Tooth, and moaning about Air being axed. But blessed be! The Walking Dead has now been transmogrified into the significantly cheaper (for me) format of a televisual spectacular.

Spectacular it certainly is. Episode one packs in gunfights, gridlocked highways, fields of corpses, fantastically gruesome zombie hoards and tons of aerial shots of the lovely American countryside. It's visually stunning, especially the SFX used to create a certain semi-zombie who spends her screen-time enjoying a nice crawl in the park.

In terms of plot, it starts off pretty much as 28 Days Later Goes to America. Dude's in hospital, dude wakes up in post-apocalyptic hell-hole, finds a bit of shelter, makes a few friends. That being said, it's as good a way as any to kick-start a zombie drama, so I'm inclined to overlook the slight lack of originality.

Now, casting... to British viewers of a '90s vintage, Andrew Lincoln will always be, in our hearts, Egg from This Life. To see the chap you always envisaged as a Northern, London-dwelling law-graduate slacker show up as a gun-toting U.S. sheriff's deputy is a slight shock to the system. To add to the weirdness, Lennie James (who I most vividly recall as a cockney geezer in Snatch), then appears in similar nationality-bending mode. However, this quickly ceased to bother me, which is a testament to strong performances and (to my ears, at least) convincing accents. The good folks of the U.S.A. will naturally have to be the judge of said accents, but Hugh Laurie and those blokes off of The Wire seem to have gotten away with it, so signs look good.

To sum up briefly... The Walking Dead: 28 Days Later meets Dawn of the Dead meets Preacher. Complete with horse. I'm certainly giving episode two a whirl.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Happy Hallowe'en!

A Happy Hallowe'en to all! Take care out there, beware them creatures of the night...

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

More Mark Gatiss - hooray!

Gatiss, my Hero of Horror (see previous post) has been busy - as well as co-writing and acting in the superb BBC production Sherlock, he's made another series for the BBC entitled "A History of Horror". The first episode focuses on the Universal Studios cycle of Frankenstein / Dracula films; the second on the British horror movies of the 60s, including Hammer and Amicus productions. You can watch it on the iPlayer (not sure about the deal for overseas viewers, sorry) - I'd highly recommend it for any horror fan.

P.S. I'm not sponsored by the Beeb or anything... I watch X Factor, you know... (ach, the shame and self-loathing!)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Fairly Creepy Shit I've Seen About the Place

It's not just in books and movies... creepy stuff is all around! Here, for your pleasure, are a few photographs of some odd, atmospheric and freaky things I've spotted around and about the city in which I live:

A cheap and public drug dealership? An extremely budget pathologist's office? Who knows?
Seen outside a local cafe.

Dear God... what lives at number 42?

Secret staircase! There are quite a few in town, to aid with the navigation of the sometimes treacherous hills, but they're certainly fairly eerie.
(View up the stairs)

(View down the stairs from the same spot)

An ominous message on a jar in a shop.

A common or garden creepy-looking entrance to a car park, but I like this one in particular as it belongs to the sleek 'n' modern LA Fitness. Ha!

Masons are weird. I know this - I've read From Hell. Although this chap looks quite normal (if a little overdressed for a Tuesday aftrenoon), bear in mind that this is the first time I've ever seen someone standing outside the Masonic Centre in nine years! Plus he's a Mason...must be up to something, right? Much like these guys...

A rusted entry-phone, a heavy black door. Sure signs that there are sinister happenings afoot...

What's that on the label? Who could dwell within?

"Dianetics & Scientology"?!


A Saw-like piece of equipment perched atop the Overlook of dodgy office blocks. Perhaps about to become spontaneously animate and devour that bird, Mangler-style?

Spotted this on a bench outside a pub. It reads: "I will kill you if you read this". A random public death threat! So extreme and bizarre it's almost endearing.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Back from the dead...

For various reasons, (including, but not limited to - job-hunting, shift patterns, post-festival lethargy, being a bit ill and general sloth) I haven't posted for a while. Henceforth, I shall begin to make amends!

Monday, 16 August 2010

I think this is what happens when you watch too many horror movies...

Do you remember the famous scene from American Beauty, where some bloke films a plastic bag floating about and sees it as proof of the existence of beauty, benevolent forces at work and so on and so forth?

Well, he was wrong. The bags have an altogether more sinister agenda, and I speak from personal experience...

The time: a couple of nights ago, about half eleven. The place: the main road round the corner from my flat. The situation: walking to the shop to get some toffee popcorn (I was going for a lo-tech "home cinema experience".)

There I am, sauntering along merrily. I notice a plastic carrier bag being blown along by the wind - it's moving in a fairly haphazard fashion, roughly in my direction. However, when said bag gets to a point about ten feet away, it veers to the right, speeds up and comes STRAIGHT AT ME.

I have a brief vision of the bag wrapping itself about my ankle, knocking me over and dragging me off the pavement and into the path of a No. 49 bus. It is like the start of some terrible straight-to-video trash horror movie. (I know, however, that if it were to actually happen it wouldn't ever become a movie, just a grimly amusing headline in the style of "Window Cleaner Killed by Giant Pencil".*)

Luckily, there is just enough time to take evasive action. Leaping over the marauding receptacle, I scurry onwards toward the safety of the shop. Going in, I happen to glance back down the road, only to see that the bag has CHANGED DIRECTION and is heading for me once again, billowing eerily all the while.

In the shop. I find the goods I came for, queue for a bit, have a brief chat with the cashier and read the headlines at the newspaper stand on my way out. All this takes at least four or five minutes, and yet... When I get outside, the damnable thing is lurking only few feet away, swirling about impatiently!

Here, however, the drama ends. Being too much of an innate coward to confront the thing, I make my way home skulking along the kerb, using various items of street furniture (bicycle rack; tree; kids hanging about outside Maccy D's) as barriers between it and myself. I reach safety.

But the menace is still out there - and one day, it may happen again...


*Genuine headline, see

N.B. All of the above did happen; I really am the kind of person who gets a bit freaked out by random stuff like plastic bags.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Happy Friday 13th!

Well, technically it's Saturday 14th for me now, but best spooky wishes to all of those in time zones further west! Hope no-one's suffering from friggatriskaidekaphobia...

Friday, 13 August 2010

Heroes of Horror: Mark Gatiss

We all have our horror heroes, and Mark Gatiss is one of mine. Gatiss is best known as a part of the twisted comedy group The League of Gentlemen, but he's had his fingers in quite a few other sinister pies...


For those unacquainted with it, The League of Gentlemen is a television series about the small town of Royston Vasey, and its rather peculiar inhabitants. Whilst the situations in the show are often outlandish and bizarre, the characterisation stays just the right side of grotesque and the tone is definitely more tragi-comedy than farce.

To watch The League of Gentlemen, you can go here:

It'll make you think twice about going to a local shop (or the Job Centre, or the vet, and definitely the butcher's...)


Christmas, according to the telly, is a time for joy, peace, goodwill to all men and roast-from-frozen Iceland turkey crowns. For those wishing for an escape from all the saccharine, there is little respite (traditional EastEnders yuletide misery-fest apart.) The practice of telling spooky stories at Christmas that was popular in Victorian times had fallen out of fashion somewhat... until, that is, December 2000. Happiness was truly forthcoming when there emerged the quite magnificent League of Gentlemen Christmas Special, jam-packed with the horrific and macabre.

The LoG Christmas Special is a horror fan's delight, and contains a shedload of genre references - for example the Amicus-style portmanteau structure and a re-telling of the classic tale "The Monkey's Paw". Chuck in ancient curses, a voodoo cult and 1970s vampires and you're on to a winner.


The eerie-Christmas revival continued in 2008 with Gatiss' one-off tale, "Crooked House". Again in a portmanteau style, it tells the tale of Geap Manor and the terrible events that happened there at three different points in its history. Crooked House is a great, straight-up spook story, and refreshingly un-gimmicky. Having said that, it does manage to make Barratt homes seem quite terrifying, which I believe is a first.

"Crooked House" preview:

(Can even make an offer of tea sound rather chilling!)

Mark Gatiss is my horror hero for several reasons. He has a clear passion for the genre, which always comes across in his work. (He's even written a biography of James Whale - that's dedication.) As an actor, he plays unsettling characters very well - personal favourite being Hilary Briss, the creepy butcher from The League of Gentlemen. Finally, his writing, especially Crooked House, reminds me of some of my favourite Victorian horror stories by authors such as M. R. James - stories which scare you with a sinister whisper rather than a blood-curdling scream.

And so, Mark Gatiss, I salute you!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Versatile, don't you know?

Big thanks, and word up! to a fine Missouri woman - The Girl Who Loves Horror. ( She's kindly given me this versatile blogger accolade, and I am am dead chuffed. Apparently there are rules.....

1) Thank the person who gave you the award. (Ta!)

2) Tell people seven things about yourself

3) Nominate fifteen other blogs to receive said award, and tell them about it.

Being a bit of a newbie to the blogging thing, I'm not sure if I'm even reading fifteen blogs at the moment, so I'll be rolling out number 3 in dribs and drabs. In the meantime, here's those seven things about myself...

1) As it says in my profile, I like robots. The one in my profile picture is a Dingbot, which my brother had back in the 80s. It came with a small map which it could hold and use to navigate somehow - which was at that time one of the most awesome things I'd ever seen. I also love Asimov's robot short stories, WALL:E and Short Circuit. When the machines finally rise up and enslave us all I shall have no fear; I'll be down the robo-disco dancing to Daft Punk and Kraftwerk.

A couple of my robots. I hope one day to have a robot army.

2) I can name all fifty U.S. states - in alphabetical order - despite never having been out of Europe. (I memorised them as part of a bet a while ago.)

3) I have a large gold filling in one of my back teeth - bling indeed.

4) When I was little I crashed my bike, flew straight over the handlebars but managed somehow to land on my feet. I felt like Superman.

5) I could not survive without newspapers or cheese.

6) Although I have no grey hairs on my head, I have found a couple in my eyebrows. I am therefore slightly concerned that I could end up one day looking like a reverse Alistair Darling.

7) Milk no sugar, please!

To start off my list of fifteen, here's couple of smashing blogs:

This Girl Digs Horror

Ampersand Comics

P.S. Proper post actually about horror coming soon. Honest, guv.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Meme questionnaire!

This started life on the Billy Loves Stu blog and has been doing the rounds, so I thought I'd leap right onto the bandwagon and give it a go...

1: In Ten Words or Less, Describe Your Blog:

Stuff thought up when I should be doing something productive

2: During What Cinematic Era Where you Born?
A: The Classic Horror Era (late 30's to 40's)
B: The Atomic Monster/Nuclear Angst Era (the late 40's through 50's)
C: The Psycho Era ( Early 60's)
D: The Rosemary's Baby Era (Mid to Late 60's)
E: The Exorcism Era (Early to mid 70's)
F: The Halloween Era (Late 70's to Early 80's)
G: The Slasher Era (Mid to late 80's)
H: The Self Referential/Post Modern Era (1990 to 1999)

F: The Halloween Era

3: The Carrie Compatibility Question:
(gay men and straight women - make your choice from section A)
A: Billy Nolan or Tommy Ross, who would you take to the prom?
(straight guys and lesbians - make your choice from section B)
B: Sue Snell or Chris Hargensen, who would you take to the prom?

It's been a while since I've seen Carrie, so I'm afraid I had to look up said characters on IMDb... totally forgot that John Travolta was in it! That rules out Billy Nolan then, so it would have to be Tommy Ross.

4: You have been given an ungodly amount of money, and total control of a major motion picture studio - what would your dream Horror project be?

A grand, sweeping mega-epic trilogy of films based on Lovecraft's stories "The Call of Cthulhu", "The Dunwich Horror" and "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" With soundtrack by Death in Vegas. 

5: What horror film "franchise" that others have embraced, left you cold?

I like at least one film from all the major horror franchises, especially the first Saw (Saw II was tripe, and I stopped bothering with them after that.) Do the Hostel films count as a franchise? Hated them.

6: Is Michael Bay the Antichrist?

When the Antichrist pops up in fiction, he tends to show that he has an imagination, something Michael Bay does not possess. Michael Bay is just a massive git.

7: Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Frankenstein Monster - which one of these classic villains scares you, and why?

Dracula; he's definitely the most manipulative and sinister of the three.

8: Tell me about a scene from a NON HORROR Film that scares the crap out of you:

The whole of ET: The Extra-Terrestrial... a mind-curdlingly terrifying film. If I'd been in Elliott's place I would've preferred the queen from Aliens to drop by for a visit than that...thing (shudder)

9: Baby Jane Hudson invites you over to her house for lunch. What do you bring?

A copy of The Dark Knight on DVD because I reckon she'd like the Joker's make-up.

10: So, between you and me, do you have any ulterior motives for blogging? Come, on you can tell me, it will be our little secret, I won't tell a soul.

Don't think so... no world domination plans or anything like that... I do sometimes watch EastEnders whilst posting, that count as a blogging secret?

11: What would you have brought to Rosemary Woodhouse's baby shower?

A good divorce lawyer.

12: Godzilla vs The Cloverfield Monster, who wins?

Neither - the thing from Watchmen would kick both of their arses.

13: If you found out that Rob Zombie was reading your blog, what would you post in hopes that he read it?

Probably just some good music videos?

14: What is your favorite NON HORROR FILM, and why?

Goodfellas. Everything about it is great - acting, pace, story, soundtrack, technique. I could bang on about it for ages, it's just ace.

15: If blogging technology did not exist, what would you be doing? Blathering on about horror to people down the pub, I expect.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Random Recommends

A bit of a short post this week, as I'm about to head off for a nice long weekend of work, so being something of a slacker while I still can!

So, in the spirit of slack (but also general bonhomie), I'm posting up the odds and ends of horror through which I've been happily rummaging over the past month or so.

Here they be...


Deathdream (1974) (aka Dead of Night)

Reasons why it's splendid:

1) It's a rare thing in a horror flick for the characters to behave in any kind of logical fashion; it's almost a genre hallmark to have the urge to shout "don't... do... THAT!" at the screen. I found Deathdream refreshing in that the actions of the characters, though sometimes extreme, always make sense according to personality, backstory and their role within the events of the film.

2) Hits above its (clearly somewhat limited) budget, always admirable.

3) Has one of the most heart-wrenching final scenes ever - if you don't feel like welling up even a bit, you're dead as a vampire in the midday sun.

Lake Mungo

Thanks and praises due to those at All Things Horror for this one - I took their advice and watched it before reading their review, and well worth the watch it was. Lake Mungo is a ghost story told in the style of a documentary, about the accidental drowning of a teenage girl and the effect of her death on her family. It's definitely not a scare a minute sort of horror, but it unsettles in all the right ways. Catch it before the inevitable remake (already in development according to IMDb. Sigh.)


Short stories by Richard Matheson

I never realised how much of Matheson's stories I already knew until I bought a book of them recently. I Am Legend, Stir Of Echoes, Duel, What Dreams May Come, Hell House and numerous episodes of "The Twilight Zone" have all emerged from his writing. His short stories are unusual, imaginative and written in a wonderfully evocative prose style. He also seems to like robots. Yay!

Men, Women and Chain Saws by Carol J. Clover

Writtten in the early 1990s, this book explores gender issues in slasher and supernatural films of the 70s and 80s. Clover challenges some of the preconceptions about horror audiences, the nature of their identification with the characters in horror and the false distiction between high and low forms of horror. This is the work that is generally credited with establishing the concept of the "final girl", and it is an illuminating and thought-provoking read.

Hope that you enjoy the above if you give them a look.

And so, off to work!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Great Moments in Horror: Hans Beckert On Trial

First things first: if you haven't watched Fritz Lang's M, beware! This post will be stuffed to the gills with M spoilers.

M is a difficult film to classify, genre-wise. It contains elements, among others, of police procedural, gangster movie, courtroom drama, kitchen-sink drama, crime thriller and horror. However, as this is a horror blog, it's on the horror that I shall focus.

A brief outline of the plot (for those unacquainted with the film and unperturbed by spoilers) goes thus: there is a murderer of children at large, and a sense of underlying panic in the general public. The police are desperate to get leads, and instigate a crackdown on known criminal hangouts, resulting in losses of custom for the proprietors. The underworld bosses decide they have to catch the killer before the police ruin their businesses, and begin an investigation of their own running parallel to that of the law. Both yield clues, but it is the criminals who locate the murderer first. They take the culprit, Hans Beckert, to a disused distillery and try him in an ad hoc courtroom. Beckert is confronted with his crimes, but he and the man appointed to act as his defence lawyer argue that he is not responsible for his actions as he is irresistibly compelled to murder. The vast majority of those present call for Beckert to be executed, feeling that he will be forever a threat to children if he was handed to the police and incarcerated, but subsequently released. At this point the police arrive at the distillery, having been tipped off by a criminal they earlier apprehended. Beckert is arrested and goes to trial.

The influence that M has had on horror films can be widely seen. For example, Beckert plays a cat-and-mouse game with the police by sending a taunting postcard to them via a newspaper - similar behaviour (though to a lesser extent) to that of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs and John Doe in Seven. The themes in M of vigilante justice and a general distrust of official law enforcement are also recurrent in the genre. Police tend to be well-meaning but sceptical (e.g. The Blob); absent or unreachable (The Blair Witch Project, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), or inept (Psycho, Scream) - it is a rare horror-movie cop who is able to save the day, or even live to tell the tale. The safety net of police protection is whipped away from the protagonists one way or another, and they are obliged to face the threat on lawless terms.

Just as the final girls of slasher flicks are able to confront and defeat the psychopaths that terrorise them only after officialdom had been denied them or rejected, so the criminals in M can succeed in confronting Beckert with his crimes while the police cannot. In the clip below, an underworld boss shows the accused photographs of his victims:

The killer breaks down only when faced directly with the images of his those he has killed. He sees not only his victims, but himself as he truly is. This moment of self-realisation is presaged by an earlier scene in which Beckert is seen staring intently at himself in the mirror, pulling at the corner of his mouth and seeming as if he does not fully recognise the person staring back.

The wide-eyed, manic expression on Beckert's face when reality finally dawns on him resembles that of a movie victim only just realising the full horror of their fate. For him, the terror is compounded by having to face extreme malignancy within himself. Beckert's dark side had been stalking him quietly - now it leaps out from the shadows. Like the terrified victims in countless horror films to come, he flees - screaming.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Beginning

Horror! I like reading it, I like watching it. I like reading writing about horror books, and about horror films. I even like reading writing written about books about horror. So I thought I may as well add to all the writings myself, the result of which is this blog here, Fear of Fiction. Welcome!

I still don't know why I like horror quite as much as I do, but I remember how the fandom started... At about the age of eight I was told the classic "humans can lick too" story (hand-licking-madman-under-the-bed / dog's-head-in-the-shower variation.) It played on my mind for weeks, became something of a horror benchmark, and gave me a taste for the scary stuff.

As an eleven-year-old in the early '90s, obtaining decent horror movies was not an easy task, and so my friends and I would put a great deal of time and effort into getting hold of some of the better films (or, to give them their proper description, "The Scariest Thing You Will EVER SEE, EVER!") The options were generally: a) bribe older sibling into going to Blockbusters; b) rent something shoddy from amoral local newagents; c) learn how to program the VCR and hope Channel 4 might screen something half-decent. The net result was that we didn't get to see many, but then for myself even overhearing a friend at school talking about the film IT was enough to scare the bejesus out of me, so perhaps it was just as well.

The fact is, I was (maybe still am) a massive horror coward. I lasted all of thirty seconds into the Phantom Phantasia ride at Thorpe Park before becoming thoroughly terrified. At the Chamber of Horrors on a family trip to Madame Tussaud's I took one look at the dank stone steps before freaking out and having to walk round the rest of it with my eyes shut, clutching my mother's hand. (I did, however, spend the Tube ride home utterly transfixed by the pictures of said chamber in the guide book - ah, the paradoxical nature of the horrific spectacle!)

The thing that used to scare me most, however, was a book. My mum would sometimes walk me home from school, and on the way was an antiques shop. The shop was on two floors and still had the layout of a Victorian terraced house, so that all the kitchen antiques would be in one room, all the clothes in another and so on. The result when you entered the shop was the slightly unsettling feeling of visiting the house of a person who just happened to own twenty of everything. I can't remember how exactly how I ended up with it, but after one of these antique shop visits I became the proud owner of Dangerous Ghosts by Elliott O'Donnell. This book had everything. It had grotesque faces that appeared on everyday objects, ghostly trains, beheaded queens, omens of death and eerie creatures. More importantly, it had yellowed pages, a worn hardback cover and a genuine old-paper smell. It scared the hell out of me for a long, long time, but I couldn't stop reading it. It seemed to me like some artefact I'd stumbled upon that told a horrible truth, and it fascinated and appalled me equally. The way I felt about Dangerous Ghosts is the basis for the way I feel about all horror fiction, and the reason why I'm still so enamoured of the genre today.

I'll be using this blog to write about the horror I love (and some that I loathe), horror theory I've been reading about and whatever other horror-related items that spring into my brain. I'd welcome any comments, and I thank you for reading!