Thursday, 25 April 2013

Links List

I've been trawling about the internet looking for interesting / informative horror-related sites - here's a few good ones that I've dredged up.  In no particluar order...

Rereading Stephen King
A blog by James Smythe on the Guardian newspaper's website.  He's reading every Stephen King book in chronological order and writing a commentary on each work.  James' reviews are balanced and insightful, and it's intriguing to follow his rediscovery of older works, and the way in which the interpretation of a book can change when revisiting it at a later date. There are also summaries of common Kingian themes and connections, and a handy Randall Flagg alert.  As a bonus, this blog has a Comments section used by readers who universally polite, friendly and well-informed. (Quite a rarity for a Guardian feature, comments on which are generally of the snide / sarcastic / pompous variety!)

Horror Personality Test
Another Guardian link - slightly silly but amusing questionnaire article.  Comments below the line somewhat prove the above point about Guardian readers' comments...

Classic Horror Campaign
A site dedicated to the classic era of horror.  Full of splendid stuff - a campaign to get the golden scream-fests of yesteryear back on the telly; horror-related news; screenings and events, and reviews of pre-'80s horror movies.  It's run by a certain Cyberschizoid, a most gracious chap who even allowed some of my half-baked scribblings to appear as reviews on the site.

New York Times - The Critique of Pure Horror
An article examining the old question: why do so many enjoy horror fiction - an inherently unpleasant medium?  The author (Jason Zinoman) briefly discusses some of the major academic theories surrounding this question, and the article works well as an introduction to some of the works most often cited in horror theory.

Good Reads: Horror
A fairly comprehensive-looking list of books about horror.

 Horror Studies Journal
An academic journal which promises to "inform and stimulate anyone interested in a wider and deeper understanding of horror".  There's an interdisciplinary slant to it, with artforms outside the the more usually discussed film and literature being examined.  The only drawback is the cost - eighteen US dollars per article (about £11.65)  Happily, however, the first issue is free to download! Just avoid the temptation of looking at the contents of later issues, unless your bank balance is squarely in the black.

 Journal of Media Psychology
An article by Glenn D. Walters, Ph.D. entitled "Understanding the Popular Appeal of Horror Cinema: An Integrated-Interactive Model".  I haven't actully read it yet (update forthcoming when I do...), but from first glance seems fascinating.

A rather enigmatic site, that nonetheless has an abundance of useful lists - horror theory books, DVD covers, reviews and the like.

 A Humean Definition of Horror
Another interesting academic article I haven't yet thoroughly read... but shall...  From a quick skim, involves thorough discussion of Noel Carroll's 1990 work "A Philosophy of Horror".  (Also much recommended!)

An upcoming independent film featuring psychological horror, past-life regression and camping on the South Downs.  I came across this project via a poster stuck on a bin, which in my opinion shows admirable dedication to the old-school advertising methods - in your face, Twitter!  (Okay, so it's on Twitter, too: @BacktrackFilm.)

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Review: The Beast Must Die (1974)

The Beast Must Die was produced in 1974 by Amicus – rather wonderfully described on the DVD cover as “the studio that dripped blood.” It is a classic in the “eccentric millionaire invites guests to secluded mansion, horrible deaths ensue” mould. The eccentric millionaire in this case is Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockheart), who invites people he suspects of being werewolves to his country estate (fully equipped with surveillance equipment) in order to fulfil his hunter's ambition of bagging the ultimate predator. Newcliffe gathers his guests and explains to them the reason for his certainty that one of their number is a werewolf – all have been in the vicinity when unsolved animal-like killings have taken place. There is also a werewolf expert, Dr. Lundgen, on hand to enlighten all as to the nature of the beast (a splendid performance by Peter Cushing's cheekbones.)

Our intrepid hero does his best to rile his potentially lupine guests – he points out the full moon, serves up almost raw meat, sprays wolfbane pollen liberally about, and instigates the the exceptionally awkward parlour game of Pass-The-Silver-Candlestick. The wolf thus baited, night falls and the hunt begins...

This is truly a cracking movie. It's short, punchy, entertaining and does exactly what it sets out to do. One of its notably quirky features is the gimmick of the “werewolf break”. At the start, an ominous voice informs the audience that one of the characters is a werewolf, and they must figure out who it is. Helpfully, we the viewers are provided with a thirty second pause in the action to gather our thoughts and decide on a culprit. The film stops and a clock appears, ticking away the seconds in a scene so reminiscent of Countdown that one feels a slight but distinct urge to tackle an anagram or do some mental arithmetic.

Special mention must go to Mr. John Hilling, for providing Lockheart with such superb costumes – his wardrobe including an impressive array of jumpsuits, diamante-studded shirts, PVC jackets and the widest flares ever seen on someone not performing in a glam-rock band.

The Beast Must Die has a thoroughly enjoyable effervescence to it – from the funk-sountracked opening chase to the final dramatic reveal of the identity of the werewolf. It is a film unlikely to ever be regarded as one of the great classics of horror, but by my reckoning is well a worth 80 minutes of anyone's time.