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.
EVEN MORE FESTIVE FEAR
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!