A SERBIAN FILM director talks to Girls and Corpses!

 Srđan Spasojević, director of the (in)famous A SERBIAN FILM gave a nice interview for the summer issue of the Girls and Corpses magazine. The questions were quite spirited, and so were the answers, so it certainly deserves your attention. I came accross scans of these pages and decided to share them with those of you who missed this issue.
How to read it? The best way is to save these JPG scans to your computer and enlarge them more than blogger allows here.


Ghoulish RUE MORGUE!

            The new, December issue of the RUE MORGUE magazine is on stands, and has several articles and reviews by yours truly. Yes, there are even more pages of my texts than in the notorious SERBIAN FILM-inspired focus on Serbian horror cinema which I wrote for the #106 (see details on that HERE).
            It's a real Ghoul's OCCUPY THE MORGUE STREET! Here are my contributions to #129:
My article on the first Nort American release of the long-in-limbo occult thriller which premiered 1996. I met its director, Julian Richards (Last Horror Movie) at this year's Grossmann film festival in Slovenia, and he explained the reasons for the delay and talked about his influences (Arthur Machen, THE WICKERMAN...), about merging of urban environment and paganism etc.

This book earned the Spotlight in THE NINTH CIRCLE section dedicated for book reviews. More than a mere book, this is a huge, unique study of music scores in SF, Fantasy and Horror films by the leading expert in the field, Randall D. Larson. He explains the background of this endeavor and provides an exclusive list of undeservedly neglected, lesser known, unsung masterpieces of horror scores which are not so often invoked in the discussion of the best ever. 
The very same NINTH CIRCLE also contains my review of BOOK OF CTHULHU II: the latest, and certainly one of the very best Lovecraftian anthologies out there! The second volume of The Book of Cthulhu (edited by Ross E. Lockhart) exemplifies the richness of Lovecraft's legacy: gloomy terror, mystery, thrills, vivid action, chilling visions, satire, SF, humor... all of that, and then some, is crammed into more than 400 large pages awaiting readers eager for some apocalyptic horror! See the review for the best titles singled out!
            Among the book reviews you'll also see one devoted to SPEAKING OF MONSTERS, an anthology of essays about monstrosity in horror fiction and film. My essay on HIGH TENSION is selected for this prestigious book from Palgrave Macmillan. Therefore, I did not write the review, but its review in this issue remains Ghoul-relevant. More details re: this book are to be found HERE.
            Just when you thought there's too much Ghoul in this issue, on the very last page the regular CLASSIC CUT is devoted to a somewhat forgotten or at least neglected, unsung near-masterpiece, THE OTHER (1972) by Robert Mulligan. In this essay I'm pointing towards the timeless qualities and influences this film has had on further development of horror, especially when it comes to the "creepy kids" subgenre, and even more – to the "big twist" horrors...

            Talking about my contributions to RUE MORGUE, here's what I wrote about for them in 2012, in reverse order (latest first):
=== Popular Revenants: The German Gothic and Its Internationcal Reception, 1800-2000

#127: 100 Years of Universal
=== European Nightmares: Horror Cinema In Europe Since 1945

=== The Vampire Film: Undead Cinema,
===Stefan Grabinski's On the Hill of Roses

===Laird Barron's The Light is the Darkness
===The Literature of Terror (1980)

===Laird Barron's The Croning

===Film Violence: History, Ideology, Genre

Here are the full contents of #129, whose highlight & cover story is devoted to the "CABAL cut" of Clive Barker's studio-butchered NIGHTBREED.

RUE MORGUE, Issue #129

Two decades ago Clive Barker's Nightbreed was taken out of his hands and butchered by the studio. Now, thanks to a dedicated fanbase, the visionary Cabal Cut takes form.
PLUS: Interviews with actors Simon Bamford, Hugh Ross, Anne Bobby and Nicholas Vince.

Genre legend Lance Henriksen taps Native American folklore for his first comic series, To Hell You Ride.
PLUS: Dark Horse editor-in-chief Scott Allie on building the company's horror line, and more!

Two of the men behind Silent Night, Deadly Night gift us with their fond - and not-so fond - memories of the scandalous 1984 slasher flick.
PLUS: Director Steven C. Miller on the remake.

Hitchcock director Sacha Gervasi explains how making a rock doc got him behind the camera on a star studded biopic about the Master of Suspense.

"What is this place?"

30 Days of Night creators Niles and Templesmith reunite; Gregory Lamberson spearheads new eBook format with upcoming novel; "Sleepy Hollow" to get biker makeover in Chopper Movie.

Weird stats and morbid facts. Sick Top Six: Barker's Beasts and Bad Guys

Day of the Dead Corkscrew, Nevermore Body Company Three Witches Line, Frankie And His Bride Salt and Pepper Shakers, and Ouija Shoes.

CineMacabre features Julian Richard's Darklands, plus reviews of Frankenweenie, Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines, The Hole, Airborne, FDR: American Badass, Werewolf: The Beast Among Us, Bloody Tease, Blood Oath and Tied In Blood. Reissues reviews They Live (1988), The Night of the Devils (1972), The Complete Bob Wilkins Creature Features, House of Dark Shadows (1970) and Night of Dark Shadows (1971).

In The Vault: Gifts that Keep on Killing.

Dug Up: Hard Rock Zombies.

Features Haunted Horror, plus reviews of Ghost #1, The Pound: Ghouls Night Out #1, Sleepy Hollow #1, Rachel Rising #11 and Billy The Kid's Old Timey Oddities and the Orm of Loch Ness #1.

Spotlight: Musique Fantastique: 100 Years of Fantasy, Science Fiction & Horror Film Music. Library of the Damned finds a new Christmas horror classic in Brom's Krampus: The Yule Lord. Plus, reviews of The Forrest J Ackerman Oeuvre, Speaking of Monsters: A Teratological Anthology, The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia: Volume 2, The Book of Cthulhu II, Hunter Shea's Swamp Monster Massacre, Mark Morris' Vampire Circus, Nicholas Vince's What Monsters Do and R.L. Stine's Red Rain.

On Display: Marc Hagan-Guirey's Horrorgami.

Menu: Frank 'N' Flesh.

Featuring the strange sounds of Corpusse. The Devil's Playlist explores the Darker Side of Christmas. Plus, reviews of Silent Hill: Revelation OST, Truth or Dare OST, Dead Souls OST, Alain Leonard and Alex Wank, Cradle of Filth, Swamp Thing, Theologian, Malignancy, and Satan's Wrath.

Features reviews of Resident Evil 6 and You Are The Maniac!

The Other (1972)



             One of the highlights of the 7th Festival of Serbian Fantasy Film in Belgrade was the first Serbian Zombie Walk.
            It took place on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, 20th October 2012.
            The team of about 20 zombie-makers was supervised by the living legend of Serbian make-up effects, Miroslav Lakobrija (T.T. SYNDROME, SRPSKI FILM, ...PORN GANG, ZONA MRTVIH etc) - pictured below:
            Dylan Dog, famous English (Italian) investigator of the occult & occasional zombie killer, was also in Belgrade. 
            The festival's special guest was the Italian EFX maestro, Sergio Stivaletti, responsible for the zombies in DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE and for gore & visual effects in almost everything Argento's done since PHENOMENA.
            Stivaletti was head of the jury which awarded the best zombie make-up.
            Here's the winner! The one on the left, that is.
            I was there, too – but without make-up. I didn't need it.
            The walk was accompanied by a cheerful atmosphere of carnival – nothing strange for Serbs, who are used to sing & dance & make fools of themselves in face of adversity and apocalypse.
            Here's a video with some of the moments from the Belgrade Zombie walk.

            Plus, some more pics to give you the idea of the event. Enjoy.
            P.S. Click on a pic to see it bigger!




PRAY (2006)

Country: Japan
Genre: Horror
Running Time: 1H 17M
Yuichi Sato
Tetsuji Tamayama, Sanae Miyata, Asami Mizukawa...

*(*) (2-)

Story: Two twenty-something kidnappers take their prey (a tiny and very unscary little girl) to an abandoned school. When they call the girl's parents, they're told that their only daughter died a year ago. In the meanwhile, the girl  disappears, and the desperate amateurs must chase her down the endless corridors. Later on three more of their friends appear so that there would be some more 'cannon fodder' for the ghostly kills... In the abandoned school no one can hear you pray...

Review: PRAY attempts to be different. PRAY wants to be a ghost flick with a difference. PRAY believes in the audience's eternal desire for twists. Alas! The stress is on 'attempts', 'wants' and 'believes'. The end result, however, is yet another lackluster attempt to cash in on the J-horror ghost craze.

Oh, yeah, it is different in the sense that the characters are not chased by ghosts in their apartments but in a deserted school. Is anything gained by this environment? Not really. This particular school is a far cry from the really creepy one in HAUNTED SCHOOL 4 (a very well made little horror that I strongly recommend over this one!). The building and its interiors are mind-numbingly mundane and utterly devoid of creepiness that more accomplished directors, like Shinya Tsukamoto or Shimako Sato, were able to invest in their spooky schools in HIRUKO THE GOBLIN and EKO EKO AZARAK, respectively. The cheap direct-to-video shots deliver a boring murky setting with no deep shadows or inventive stylization. There is neither atmosphere nor eye-candy, just plain boring building that the characters roam through endlessly.
And yes, they attempt to 'surprise' you with some twists here. There is even a blurb on the back cover of this DVD which says: 'A ghost story with a twist... followed by another. And another...' After watching the film itself, I was reminded of that old joke, when a reviewer says something like: 'This film is incredible in its stupidity! It's amazing that anyone could watch more than 15 minutes of this nonsense!' and then they make a blurb which says: 'This film is incredible ...! It's amazing!' Well, something like that happens here. Yes, there is a twist after a twist here, but the fact that they are piled one after another is not necessarily a good thing. As all great films with a twist or two in them have demonstrated, twists are effective only in stories with characters to care about. And there's nothing remotely like that in this flick.  In PRAY, the twists are merely a lazy device, mechanical and ultimately self-demeaning. After an hour-long boredom of watching some dispensable ciphers run around the corridors you just won't care.
To sum up: no characters; no story; no suspense; no atmosphere; no real frights; no gore to talk about; no inventive kills; no eye candy; no memorable set-pieces... Why should anyone bother? To 'enjoy' the drab environment of an abandoned school in which all the inventory is somehow still there? To discover that a person can be 'killed' by merely cutting his hand off? How's that for an inventive (or physiologically, medically correct) kill? To be surprised by the 'couldn't care less' twists? Why, really? I cannot recommend this quickie to anyone but the most die-hard completists of Japanese horror. Everyone else should pray for the release of something worthier.


Leonard Maltin's offenses against horror

Leonard Maltin is the arch-priest of mediocrity, and his movie guides are perfectly suited for the commonest of common denominators – for those who worship only the well-established classics and who walk only the well-trod paths. Nothing wrong with those per se – it's not like no great film ever won an Oscar or has been moderately successful at the box-office (there were a few instances of both during the previous decades!) – but more often than not, the real greatness lies behind the veil of the "good taste" and "wholesome family fun".
Especially with a genre like horror – which is all about transgression and breaking down the taboos.
No wonder, then, that Leonard Maltin's greatest and most grievous missteps in his Blind Man's Guides to the Blind have to do with – horror films!
Of course, even such an exponent of the average like Maltin had to recognize a few classics too obvious to ignore, so he was reasonable towards titles like those below:

ALIEN (1979) ***1/2 (only in the updated editions; originally it was given ** ½ !!!)
BIRDS ***1/2
NOSFERATU '22 ***1/2
NOSFERATU '78 ***1/2
JAWS ****
            More often than not, horror classics are underappreciated: EVIL DEAD got only **1/2, while EVIL DEAD 2 is awarded with ***. CANDYMAN got *** but Maltin claims that it's "from Clive Barker’s novel The Forbidden": someone should teach him a difference between a novel and a short story! The excellent EXORCIST III got merely **, while there is absolutely no excuse for giving merely *** for pure perfections like HALLOWEEN and PEEPING TOM!
            This guide is updated every year (all quotations in this post are from the 2010 edition!). However, Maltin has yet to recognize the existence of modern Japanese horror classics like TETSUO, BATTLE ROYALE or AUDITION, although all of them have been available on US DVDs for many years. Also, it would be nice if someone told Maltin about one of the greatest Spanish directors – Agusti Villaronga – and his many excellent films. It's hardly likely that someone like Maltin would appreciate IN A GLASS CAGE with something more than *1/2 but still, it deserves to be reviewed at least.  
Plus, you'd search in vain for CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST in Maltin's guide (or for any other Italian cannibal film): only "tasty" fare here, it seems. Even if for some insane reason you care to see what Maltin had to say about one of the best slashers ever made - ALONE IN THE DARK (1982) – you'd be disappointed. Maltin will only guide you to Uwe Boll's same-titled crap.
            Anyway, here are quotes of the stupidest, most myopic and inaccurate estimates of great horror films in Maltin's 2010. guide. I arranged them in order of my personal list of best horror films ever made. If you depended solely on "guides" like Maltin, you'd think that some of the following titles are just a bunch of disappointing, crappy flicks, average at best… But how can the epitome of the AVERAGE recognize the GREATNESS?
            Lo and behold – senor Maltin guides you from now on!

Fly, The (1986)
Goldblum is just right as slightly crazed scientist who tests himself in a genetic transporter machine - and starts to evolve into a human fly. Extremely intense, sharply written remake of the 1958 movie that (unfortunately) goes over the line to be gross and disgusting.

Shining, The (1980)
Intriguing but ineffectual adaptation of Stephen King’s thriller about a man who becomes off-season caretaker at isolated resort hotel—and almost immediately begins to lose his mind. Nicholson goes off the wall so quickly there’s no time to get involved in his plight. Some eerie scenes, to be sure, but the film goes on forever.

Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The (1974)
Travelers in rural Texas encounter crazed family of bizarros who have a committed though unusual sense of what cuts of meat you need for good barbecue. Sweat-inducing, claustrophobic, unrelenting suspense-comic-horror film. Classic and nowhere nearly as violent as it’s reputed to be. Narrated by an unbilled John Larroquette.

Thing, The (1982)
Remake of 1951 film about Antarctic outpost terrorized by an alien organism. More faithful to the original story, but nonstop parade of slimy, repulsive special effects turns this into a freak show and drowns most of the suspense.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988-British)
Confusing, tedious sequel begins immediately after first film ends. Teenage heroine literally goes to Hell in effort to rescue ill-fated father, but encounters opposition from her revived stepmother
and an occult-obsessed psychiatrist. But Hell is a boring, dusty labyrinth. Almost as gruesome as HELLRAISER (it’s not a sequel to HELLBOUND), but nowhere near as entertaining.

Hellraiser (1987-British)
Robinson and Higgins move into a roomy British dwelling, unaware that his half brother is hiding upstairs in a kind of gelatinous/skeletal state; soon the beast is forcing her to lure stray men back to the house so he can replenish himself with their blood. Grisly but stylish directorial debut by famed horror novelist Barker; ugly fun all the way.

Nightmare on Elm Street, A (1984)
Several teenagers discover they’re all having nightmares about the same character, scar-faced Fred Krueger—a kind of ghost who can enter their dreams at will, and kill them in macabre ways. It’s up to surviving teen Nancy (Langenkamp) to try to stop him. Imaginative premise given routine treatment, but this box-office smash led to a handful of sequels and a TV series, Freddy’s Nightmares.

Dust Devil (1993-British-French)
In Africa’s Namibia Desert, evil spirit Burke, trapped in human form, must kill to enter a spiritual realm; he meets Field, fleeing an unhappy marriage, and is pursued by policeman Mokae. Interesting
premise, good acting partly offset lethargic pace, pretentious approach.

Angel Heart (1987 –US)
Two-bit private eye Rourke is hired by mysterious De Niro to track down a missing man, which leads him into a serpentine investigation— and a kind of emotional quicksand. An American Gothic yarn, full of striking, sensual, and frightening images, though after a while it bogs down. Intriguing, if not terribly appealing.

Santa Sangre (1989-Italian-Mexican)
Grotesque story about an entertainer whose act consists of performing as the arms for his armless mother; he’s also an unwilling murderer. Made in luxurious color with dreamy art direction, this lacks the intellectual charge of Jodorowsky’s earlier films.

Hardware (1990-British-U.S.)
Somewhere in the post-nuke future, desert scavenger McDermott presents some android remains to Travis; eventually, the stuff rekindles what is apparently its life mission —to destroy all living things (and the Travis pad, besides). Surprisingly well made, but recalls many earlier (and better) films. Heavy violence nearly earned this an X rating, before it was trimmed.

Deep Red (1975-Italian)
There’s style to burn in senseless horror thriller with Hemmings on trail of sadistic psycho killer. Flashy, bizarre murders set to pounding rock soundtrack. Aka THE HATCHET MURDERS; original Italian version, PROFONDO ROSSO, is longer and much more violent.

Lost Highway (1997-U.S.-French)
Bizarre Lynchian story that makes Twin Peaks seem as easy to follow as a Sesame Street episode. Basic plot involves Pullman as a jazz musician who, believing his wife is having an affair, suddenly finds himself the main suspect in her murder. Or is he? Or was she? Lynch fans will have fun trying to figure it out; others will find it incomprehensible. Blake is particularly enigmatic as a mystery man with a bad makeup job.

They Came From Within (1975-Canadian)
* 1/2
Bizarre, sexually oriented parasites run rampant through dwellers in high-rise apartment building with plenty of gory violence quick to ensue. First ‘‘major’’ film by cult favorite Cronenberg sets the disgusting pattern for most of his subsequent pictures.

Videodrome (1983-Canadian)
Genuinely intriguing story premise —about pirate cable-TV programmer (Woods, in a dynamic performance) who’s mesmerized by bizarre, untraceable transmissions that have hallucinatory power. Unfortunately, story gets slower —and sillier— as it goes along, with icky special effects by Rick Baker.

High Tension (2003-French)
French import about two girls trying to escape from a perverted serial killer in the isolated countryside was one of the most acclaimed entries in a seemingly endless series of ’70s slasher-film revivals. While many of its frightening images and suspenseful, cleverly orchestrated sequences live up to its title, an unsatisfying final twist makes it seem even more dated than the movies it emulates.

Brood, The (1979-Canadian)
Eggar eats her own afterbirth while midget clones beat grandparents and lovely young schoolteachers to death with mallets. It’s a big, wide, wonderful world we live in!

Cemetery Man (1995-U.S.-Italian)
Zombies rise from the dead a week after their demise, and it’s ‘‘Cemetery Man’s’’ job to kill them again, with the assistance of a grotesque mute companion. Based on an Italian comic series, Dylan Dog, a promising concept becomes overwhelming and repetitive. At times outrageous, funny, sexy, and disgusting, with a startlingly enigmatic and fascinating ending.

Basket Case 2 (1990) C-89m.
Van Hentenryck and his monstrously deformed twin brother take refuge in a house of freaks, but are tracked down by tabloid reporter. Arch, pseudo-hip film totally lacks the conviction of the first; icy cold.


ON THE HILL OF ROSES – Stefan Grabinski

July 2012
134 pages

From the standpoint of English-speaking world, Eastern and central Europe remain The Dark Domain teeming with creatures unknown and unknowable. The Iron Curtain has long gone, but the language barrier remains, and numerous great authors, living and dead, still dwell in the shadows of obscurity, waiting for their works to be translated into English. Stefan Grabinski (1887-1936) is just one of such writers still waiting for a full recognition.
In his native Poland he was an oddity while alive, at the dawn of the 20th century. He was a writer without roots, without tradition to rely on, an outcast. One Polish reviewer noted: "His short stories could easily be translations realized beyond our borders." His predilection to imaginative, dark fantastic and poetic horror made him a foreigner in his own country. He wrote: "For nine years no one deigned to notice I was creating a new type of literature previously unknown in Poland, that I was a pioneer of fantastique in the strictest meaning of the word, a neo-romantic fantastique of a spontaneous and autonomous character." Typically, he is one of those authors rediscovered and recognized only long after their death.
His tales are told "in an old-fashioned style evoking the bygone era of provincial pre-war Poland, mixing elements of the supernatural with realistically depicted scenery, filled with a lingering lyricism suddenly rent by violent images, and laced with a menacing sense of entrapment and frustrated eroticism", as a foreword to one of his collections says. Sadly, his fate in the English-speaking world seems consigned to rare, pricey, slim, hard-to-find small press editions such as Motion Demon (2005) and In Sarah's House (2007). The only English edition of his tales which was substantial in both number of stories collected (not less than 11!) and number of copies printed, with a reasonable price and tolerable availability, remains The Dark Domain (1993) from Dedalus.
The latest collection of his stories, On the Hill of Roses, has just been published by Hieroglyphic Press: it is a lovingly produced, slim but beautiful volume, sewn and jacketed hardcover limited to 300 copies. This means that if you're intrigued by this review, better hurry before it's sold out.
            The contents are made of the full selection of Grabinski's original edition of On the Hill of Roses (Na wzgorzu roz, 1918) – plus one additional tale, "Projections", from his 1930 collection Passion (Namietnosc). These 134 pages contain a solid introduction into Grabinski's world of eccentric, alienated characters in the grip of either insanity or fantastic events which bring them to the verge of losing their minds – or lives. In either case, just as in Poe's best stories, they try to remain lucid and to analyze that which refuses to be named and defined; they try to contain the uncontainable, to understand that which surpasses them, and are usually crushed by the dark forces from within or without.
            On the Hill of Roses opens with a Foreword by Mark Samuels and a helpful Introduction by Miroslaw Lipinski, Grabinski's leading translator and proponent. These are the stories within the beautiful covers designed by Eleni Tsami.
            On the Hill of Roses: A solitary man is attracted to a walled-in garden with opulent scents. But there is a ghostly secret waiting there, and another smell – smell of death – becomes more prominent towards the end.
The Frenzied Farmhouse: This archetypal story of a Bad Place (TM) somewhat prefigures Lovecraft's "The Colour from out of Space" – although the origin of the "evil" which affects the inhabitants of a secluded farm remains shrouded in mystery: "K. maintained that in certain places certain events had to occur. In other words, that places exist whose character, nature and spirit await the fulfillment of events connected with them..." 
On a Tangent: A man's obsession with omens and signs turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and he is led i.e. he leads himself through a series of "accidental" encounters and portents to a grimly grotesque conclusion. 
Strabismus: A rather unconventional story of a split personality (or is it a Doppelganger? or a spirit possession?) about a man pestered by his complete opposite, and later haunted by his spirit from a walled-in room next to his own. This story is also in The Dark Domain. All the others are available in English for the first time in this collection.
Shadow: A man looking for a meaning of life and working on a treatise on "Symbols in nature" comes across a strange unmoving shadow image on a window of an isolated cabin in the woods. Intrigued by the mystery of the figures frozen in the act of violence, he befriends the old man who inhabits it, hoping to unravel the secret of the shadowy crime from the past... A haunting tale in more senses than one.
At the Villa by the Sea: Another atmospheric story about a past crime which refuses to stay in the past. A man's visit to his old friend at his isolated villa awakens the "ghost" of a poet killed there many years ago who won't stay buried.
Projections: Another lonely bachelor comes to his doom, this time through his attraction to the ruins of an old nunnery and to the signs of past Satanic shenanigans in its dungeons. The ending is original in its sadism and uncommonly gory for otherwise mostly restrained Grabinski.
* * *
On the Hill of Roses offers a number of delightfully old-school tales of the dark fantastic and chilly horrific which, at the beginning of the 20th century, created the missing link towards such later practitioners in the similar vein, like Robert Aickman and Thomas Ligotti. If you like them, you should definitely treat yourself with some Grabinski. He looms like a shadow from out of time and from behind the iron curtain – a spicy, exotic, Slavic Catholic taste of horror for demanding palates. His doom and gloom will certainly be refreshing in the midst of the feelgood light entertainment that passes for "horror" these days.   
Note: Some of the illustrations inspired by Grabinski's works used in this post are by Ryszard Wojtynski; more of them, here.