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...


MY NEW NEMESIS



*Genuine headline, see http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/mar/14/local-newspaper-billboard-headlines

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...


THE LEAGUE












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:

http://www.youtube.com/show?p=8V88e-pJdTE&feature=fvsp

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



FESTIVE FEAR













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!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Versatile, don't you know?





















Big thanks, and word up! to a fine Missouri woman - The Girl Who Loves Horror. (http://thegirlwholoveshorror.blogspot.com/) 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 http://thisgirldigshorror.blogspot.com/

Ampersand Comics http://ampersandcomics.blogspot.com/


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