Author Archives: Eric Ian Steele

About Eric Ian Steele

Screenwriter, author, comic book and film aficionado, and zombie poet.

Making the horror movie

Sorry if my posts have been a little scarce recently. The reason, however, can now be revealed…

We’re making a horror movie!

Yes, that’s right. I’ve gone from the ceaseless self-torture of writing movies to the even worse self-torture of writing and directing movies!

The film will be the first made by our brand new production company, Vamoose Film Productions Ltd. This is a UK-based production company, making films in Britain!

Our first film started out as a “small” project and quickly exploded into a full-on feature film as everyone I told the story to wanted to hear more. “But there is no more” I would say. “Well, then go and write some more!” they said. So I did. The result is… well, I’ll save the exact title for later for now. 😉

Best of all, this will be a new British horror film. And it’s on a subject very close to my heart. To say any more would be telling, but those who know me well should be able to guess by now!

We have all been working like demons to get the shots done on time, and it’s not been without its trials and tribulations. But we’re about 85% of the film done now. It’s involved special effects makeup and even wild  animals. But we’ve saved some of the most ambitious elements for last.

Meanwhile here’s a behind-the-scenes shot from the set to whet your appetite! But who is that handsome guy in the glasses?

IMG_1235

 

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Rave reviews for Nightscape!

Today I wanted to share with you some of the reviews coming in for my short story anthology, “Nightscape”, published by Parallel Universe Publications. It’s been a long haul, but people are saying how much they enjoy this book.

Here is the most recent review:

“A great collection of short stories ranging from horror to science fiction, surely not to disappoint fans of any genre. Psychotic animals, mystic horrors and Hollywood vampires are just some of the creatures to stalk its pages, I highly recommend it.”

Other readers have compared it to “The Twilight Zone”, with its blend of sci-fi and horror stories.

“Sure to be one of the greats some day!”

“A horror anthology well worth your attention.”

“Mr. Steele will not fail to delight.”

Here is a sample of the stories to be found within:

“Black Annis” – a troubled married couple inherits a cottage once owned by a legendary witch.

“The Groaner in the Glen” – a Roman legion encounters a supernatural menace deep in ancient Scotland. 

“Indian Summer” – a young woman paralyzed in a car accident hires a gardener with magical “green” fingers. But is he all he appears?

“Charlie” – a beloved pet develops disturbing new appetites when the family’s controlling patriarch dies.

And more!

You can read a FREE sample of “Nightscape” here: http://a-fwd.com/asin-uk=0957453523

Thanks for looking!

TOP 9 FILMS THAT DESERVED A SEQUEL

There are many film franchises that seem to go on forever. Many of which we could well do without.  However, once in a while a movie comes along that deserves  a sequel but for one reason or other never had another instalment made. So without further ado, here is my top pick of the best movies that deserved a sequel but never got one…

 

Magnificent poster… sort of pretty good film.

DOC SAVAGE (1975)

Old was new again in the 1970s. If Star Wars channelled the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon serials of the 1930s, then Doc Savage channelled, well, Doc Savage! The mightiest of pulp heroes was reborn with former TV Tarzan Ron Ely stepping into the jodphurs. Also known as The Man of Bronze (he likes bronze things) we catch up with Doc meditating in the Arctic beside his own private igloo-come-secret-headquarters before he gets a message that the world is in peril. Doc assembles his team of – ahem – experts, including national stereotypes from around the world (the Brit carries an umbrella, the Irishman has red hair and carries a pig etc etc) to stop an evil cult unleashing animated green snakes on the population while they search for El Dorado. Yes, it’s that kind of a plot.

What makes Doc Savage so good, however, is the hokey sense of humour. We see Doc pull a bullet out of a wall with such force that his bulging bicep tears his own shirt apart. And the finale which features Doc employing dozens of different kinds of martial art, each with its own subtitle, will make the kid in you chortle for more.

At the end of this rip-roaring adventure, we are told Doc Savage will return in Doc Savage and The Arch Enemy of the World. Unfortunately, the producers lied. There were indeed plans for a sequel, but despite being directed by the great George Pal (War of the Worlds) the film suffered from negative reviews and a sequel was abandoned.

Will it ever be made?

Probably not. Since 1975, several attempts to make a new Doc Savage film have failed. Notably, Frank Darabont and Sam Raimi have all tried to resurrect the project, but so far none have succeeded. At the age of 80, Ron Ely is probably not a contender to reprise his earlier role. However, we do already have a “Doc Savage remake” in the form of none other than Indiana Jones. The titular hero of several films is undoubtedly closely based on Doc Savage and other pulp heroes of the time!

 

FLASH GORDON (1980)

“Flash! Flash, I Love you, but we only have 14 hours to save the Earth!”

So says Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) in what is to date the best live action version of the iconic pulp fiction character Flash Gordon. The movie sees Flash (Sam J Jones) and his compatriots Dale and Zarkov (Topol) land on the Planet Mongo to try and stop the evil alien dictator Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow). The film sees Flash go from hero to zero to hero as he is killed (!) then resurrected, only to unite the tribes of Mongo and overthrow Ming’s rule. But Ming is not quite dead. As the closing credits roll, we see Ming re-emerge offscreen from his “magic” ring and start to cackle with evil laughter. “The End?” asks the title card.

Sadly, yes it was. Although a terrific, fun movie with a legendary Queen soundtrack, Flash Gordon was not a huge success compared to its large budget. Added to this was a reported falling out between star Jones and the producers. Hence a sequel was never made. Since then we’ve had a lacklustre TV series and a superb animated version. But so far we have yet to learn what happened when Ming returned.

Will it ever be made?

Well, the hugely successful gross-out comedy Ted (2012) saw Jones once again donning the lightning-bolt in a dream sequence where he rides his skycycle with Mark Wahlberg on the back. Jones retuned again as himself in Ted 2 (2015). But with an ageing cast who have since become successful in their own right, it seems unlikely that we’ll ever get to hear Prince Vultan’s imperious voice belting out “Gordon’s alive?” again any time soon. We’re more likely to settle for a CGI-heavy reboot.

 

I literally cannot believe that I never mentioned Hawk the Slayer before.

HAWK THE SLAYER (1980)

The early 1980s were a strange time. Take this British fantasy film starring the mighty Jack Palance as the evil Zoltan (Hmm, that name seems familiar) who murders the beloved of straight-laced Hawk, who promptly puts his eye out with a torch. Zoltan, quite understandably peeved at this, raises an army to go around and pillage stuff in the service of an evil sorcerer/demon/ the Devil (?). Our hero Hawk responds by raising a rag-tag band of mercenaries (was there ever any other kind?) including the last elf, a giant (well, a very big man anyway), a dwarf, a one-armed bloke with some kind of wicked semi-automatic crossbow-thingy, and a witch who likes letting off party streamers. Cue Armageddon.

It sounds like I’m poking fun at this film, and I am. But I still love it dearly. The score is a fantastic mixture of electronic synth-pop craziness that is more than a little like Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, and the last elf in the world is a great character. There are also some terrific British character actors such as Patrick Magee and Roy Kinnear who ham it up to the max. And we get to see Palance at his scenery-chewing finest.

We end with Zoltan’s mentor/demon/whatever recovering his body and promising he will live again. But will he?

Will it ever happen?

Believe it or not, it almost has. As late as 2015 a sequel called Hawk the Hunter was rumoured to be in development with a budget of $5 million. However the Kickstarter campaign failed and so far attempts to make the sequel have gone quiet. But with Rebellion, the game company that owns British comic 200AD planning to release a game based on the property and a potential TV series in the works, anything is possible!

 

You may be cool, but you’ll never be Peter Strauss and Molly Ringwald on an alien desert planet cool.

SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE! (1983)

Ah, the Eighties. Among other things, it gave us two Hollywood icons: king of the TV movie Peter Strauss and princess of coming-of-age movies Molly Ringwald. So it was inevitable that at some point they would appear in the same sci-fi movie together!

The movie is an enjoyable-as-hell Mad Max clone set in outer space. Strauss plays an interstellar bounty-hunter (Wolff, with two “f”s ) who lands on an irradiated planet full of mutants and Road Warrior leftovers looking for three shipwrecked (or is that space-wrecked?) rich girls. Along the way he picks up Ringwald, who does her typical dishevelled-waif-who-later-turns-into-fanciable-princess thing. Add a rabid Michael Ironside into the mix as warlord Overdog (was there ever a better bad guy name?) and you have the awesomeness that is Spacehunter! Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, it was filmed in 3D!!

Will it ever be made?

No.

I love this movie. It is cheesy, but the practical effects mean that it has dated pretty well. There are a lot of very derivative ideas, but so what? It’s a hugely entertaining movie that is basically wish fulfilment. It’s also the kind of film I wish they made more of nowadays. An adventure yarn and nothing more with no pretensions of grandeur. I would love the hell out of a sequel starring Mr. Strauss, but I doubt very much whether he would pick up that mantle again, especially as he is now a successful citrus-farmer and former horse ranch owner. Animated series, anybody?

 

BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986)

Okay, at this point if I have to tell you very much about Big Trouble in Little China, the John Carpenter movie with Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall and James Hong, we are in big trouble ourselves. Briefly, the plot is an insane mash-up of martial-arts movie, 1970s exploitation film, action film, comedy and supernatural horror featuring a truck driver (Russell) who goes up against centuries-old supernatural bad guy Lo Pan to recover the girlfriend of his Chinese-American friend (Dennis Dunn) and her reporter friend (Cattrall in her best film role), along with bus-driver and warlock Egg Shen. Got it? Good.

The film ends with Russell famously leaving Cattrall (what a dope!) and heading off in his trusty rig, the Pork Chop Express, driving into the night and issuing a salutary warning to other CB radio users that there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in anybody’s philosophy. Cue an oriental demon that crawls up the back of his truck, hungry for revenge!

Will it happen?

Very possibly!

Although there has been a graphic novel follow-up, Dwayne Johnson (yes, that one) was reportedly attached to develop a remake. Carpenter responded by saying he was “ambivalent” about the project.  Phew. However, as late as 2018 Seven Bucks Productions confirmed they are developing a sequel, no less, with Russell in the lead! Let’s hope it happens, as nobody can replace Russell as hard-boiled but inept actin hero Jack Burton.

 

The Goonies, making overweight kids everywhere feel terrible about their bodies.

THE GOONIES (1985)

Another film that should hopefully need no explanation, this movie about a bunch of high school losers following a treasure map was one of the best adventure films of the 1980s. With a memorable soundtrack and feel-good performances the film was a bone-fide sensation.

Will it happen?

There have been as many rumours about a Goonies sequel as there are clues to One-Eyed Willie’s treasure. Director Richard Donner and the film’s stars have said yes and no several times. Why on earth no sequel was made nearer the time is a mystery. Several of the cast such as Josh Brolin and Sean Astin have gone on to bigger and bigger roles, making a reunion unlikely. But… you never know. As recently as 2017 former stars were saying a remake would happen, although original writer Chris Columbus played down such rumours. But with a slimmed down Chunk and Brolin currently playing Thanos… well, I’m not going to say one way or the other.

 

Spooky but fun: Loose Women – I mean, Hocus Pocus.

HOCUS POCUS (1993)

This massively enjoyable film has become a Halloween favourite. A live-action Disney picture like the ones they used to make, it stars the irreplaceable Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and rubber-faced Kathy Najimy as three witch sisters who get a second chance at life one Halloween, provided they sacrifice a sweet little girl. Her brother, however has other ideas, as does a reanimated cat. The witches cause mayhem in the modern American town, but it’s all good, clean spooky fun along with some killer songs from Midler and Parker. The film ends with the witches ending up as toast while the family gets a much-deserved happy ever after, even the cat.

Will it be made?

It seems everyone wants a sequel except the studio. Stars Midler and Parker have both said they would return to reprise their roles. The film suffered from negative reviews on release but has a strong fan base on home video that has made it a family favourite. There has even been a novelisation set 25 years later. As of 2017 screenwriter Mick Garris said he was working on a sequel, but this turned out later to be a remake, which has yet to materialize. But if it’s one thing we have learned, thanks to the success of Twin Peaks and Tron Legacy, it’s that long-delayed sequels can work. Let’s hope Disney sees sense and gives us another helping of the Sanderson sisters rather than a sloppy remake.

 

    Tron Legacy. Like Tron, only more so.

TRON LEGACY (2010)

For some reason, this film is often underrated or overlooked. Yet it stands as one of the most visually stunning sci-fi films of recent years and has a phenomenal soundtrack from Daft Punk that has become the background to many a car advert.

The film is a direct sequel to ground-breaking 1982 Disney film Tron about a computer programmer, Flynn (Jeff Bridges) who is zapped into his own machine and forced to play video games for his life. The sequel follows Flynn’s son (Garett Hedlund) who is similarly zapped while searching for his dad, who has been missing for over 20 years. Turns out dad was trapped in the video world after one of his creations (also played by Jeff Bridges but digitally de-aged) seized control of the computer domain.

The film is full of stunning SFX and set-pieces, such as the all-new light-cycles, while new discovery Olivia Wilde sets the screen alight as kick-ass pixie dream girl Quora. Shot in 3D, the films used some experimental FX which perhaps do not stand up well to repeated viewings, but as a sci-fi film with a real heart and soul, which takes the original further, it is a highly satisfying and entertaining ride.

Will it happen?

Who knows? There has already been an animated cartoon series. For several years Disney has been on and off about the project. Its stars and director joseph Kosinski have repeatedly said it is or is not happening. The latest status for the project is that it is in “cryogenic freeze”. But just like Tron himself, here’s hoping that you can’t keep a good program down forever.

 

Gremlins (1984). Cuter than their CGI cousins.

GREMLINS II (1990)

The original Gremlins (1984) was a breakout summer hit that was, sadly, classified as a 15 in the UK, meaning I didn’t get to watch it in the cinema. However, this loveable tale of homicidal mutant creatures on the rampage in a small town one Christmas has become a holiday favourite. It spawned a sequel in 1990 that was, shall we say, not up to par. Despite the presence of Christopher Lee, the second tale set in a biotechnology lab lacked the charm of the original, with its ho-hum premise and its constant riffing off other Hollywood films – notably the Rambo trilogy.  It seemed like we had heard the last of the friendly little Mogwai and his rather more disturbing alter-egos.

Will it be made?

Probably.

For the past few years, Gremlins 3 has been gaining more and more traction. Its star Zach Galligan has been actively campaigning for a practical effects-based sequel. Ideas such as Gremlins in Vegas and Gremlins in the White House (God, please no) have been mooted.  Writer Chris Columbus has suggested the story go into some very dark places indeed.  It seems we may get a Gremlins sequel, but not the one we imagined. That little Mogwai is always full of surprises…

So there ends my top 9 films that deserved a sequel. Do you agree with this list? Have I left anything out? Let me know, and I may just have to write a sequel!

New Projects for 2019!

Hi all,

Well, 2019 is getting off to a good start.

The great news is that we finally got an editor for my short horror film, tentatively titled CODA. What is CODA about? Sorry, that’s a carefully kept secret, until we’re ready to spill the beans. So please bear with us. All I can say is that it features a haunted object that has never before graced the silver screen! Curious? We hope so.

I spent the first week of this year helping out on another film shoot, this time for a short drama film that I had helped to rewrite. Check out this exclusive picture of the cast and crew below. Busy bees that we are!

All-focus

As usual, I’m up to my eyes in writing projects. I was incredibly grateful to be included in the Ginger Nuts of Horror website’s series of posts about legendary horror rock icon Alice Cooper, which finally ended this month. “Super Duper Alice Cooper” details the film about Alice Cooper’s life. You can read the entire blog post here:

http://gingernutsofhorror.com/alice-in-summerland/super-duper-alice-cooper-by-eric-ian-steele

I also got invited to participate in a very cool up-and-coming online horror project . Details will be forthcoming!

Last but in no way least, I have some VERY exciting news that I am just itching to share with you! Argh! The suspense is killing me! But be patient and all shall be revealed…

See you soon!

 

My Year In Books 2018

Let me come clean. This is not a list of the best books of the year. Instead, this is the time of year when I look back over everything I’ve read in the past 12 months. This year I went for some classics and tried to read outside my comfort zone, which is of course science fiction and horror. The results were… interesting.

I also read a lot of short fiction, which is not included here, so bear that in mind. Anyway, here are the novels I read this year and what I thought about them. Maybe you agree. Maybe you think I’m wrong. If so, let me know why!


The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty  

Okay, so this is firmly in my comfort zone. But I had to read this horror classic. I have a confession to make, though – I never really thought the film was scary. Maybe this is because I never saw it until recently, and it has dated rather badly. I also thought the film was a little one note – Regan is possessed, end of story. However, the book was much better. It was subtle, with great characterisation as Regan’s mother has to accept that something supernatural has intruded into her world of fashion magazines and modern living. The priest Damien Karras is also three-dimensional and tragic. When the exorcist himself reappears late in the novel, we know things are about to get a lot worse. A lot of things that don’t make sense in the film make perfect sense in the novel. And when the audiobook is read by William Blatty himself, you know you’re in for a wild ride! Great stuff.

The Hunger by Charles Beaumont

Charles Beaumont was a huge influence on me thanks to Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone series in the 1960s. Although he died tragically young, he left behind a substantial body of work. The Hunger is a collection of horror, sci-fi and dramatic short stories. Right from the start you know you’re in the hands of a master. His “The Crooked Man”, which describes a future where heterosexuality is illegal, is disturbing in its plausibility, and contains a sting that sticks around long after the story ends. The most memorable story for me was “The Hunger” itself, a tale of the soon-to-be victim of a serial killer. The ending is as unexpected as it is inevitable. Beaumont created stories of real depth but with a wicked twist in the tale. A tragedy he died so young.

Casino Royale and Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming

Having never read the original James Bond novels I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I got was nothing like the films. Casino Royale is closer to Daniel Craig than Roger Moore’s pulp superspy. I was surprised how low-key and believable these stories were, nothing at all like the blockbuster movies. Bond himself is little more than a cypher. However, the novels’ structure intrigued me. In Act One our hero plunges into the world of espionage, which is alternately glamorous and exciting (casinos or the Harlem underworld). In Act Two something horrible happens to either our hero or his friends, resulting in some kind of brutal torture or maiming (I was shocked to see long-time Bond ally Felix Lightner meet a grisly fate early on). In Act Three Bond enacts bloody revenge on the bad guy, only to find a bitter sweet ending at best in this murky, treacherous world of spying. Not at all the knowing wink-to-the-camera Hollywood endings we have come to expect. A refreshing new look at an old hero.

 

A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four and The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Homes is a character most people are very familiar with thanks to the movies and TV shows. But, as with James Bond, the original novels are very different. Whether your Sherlock Homes is Hollywood legend Basil Rathbone with his deerstalker and pipe, or Guy Ritchie’s  action hero, the real Sherlock Homes is a different breed altogether. Introduced as a “consulting detective” in the first novel, A Study in Scarlet, we learn that Homes has spent years perfecting methods of criminal detection. These methods are a combination of the chemical, procedural, or the use of deductive reasoning. It is surprising to see that they are totally grounded in reality. Seeing Homes crawling across the floor studying footprints or taking hours to think about how a house could have been entered is a far cry from the superhuman crimebuster we know from films. It was a joy to see his methods being explained by Conan Doyle. The real Sherlock Homes is a refreshingly different from his cinematic counterparts as the real James Bond is from any of his onscreen incarnations. Well worth reading these for yourself and getting acquainted with the real Mr Homes!

Time and Again by Jack Finney

How could I not read this? The book that inspired one of my favourite stories, “Somewhere in Time” by Richard Matheson. This fantasy novel by the writer of “Invasion of the Bodysnatchers” concerns our hero Si Morley, a man’s man of the 1950s, who is recruited by the government to be part of a top secret project – one that aims to perfect time travel by self-hypnosis. As he travels back to 1882 in New York, we are treated to an incredible display of world-building, as Finney recreates the details of life there in astonishing detail. One can imagine Finney himself went back in time to bring us this story, which of course has a bittersweet ending as most time travel stories do, because while he’s back in 1882, Si Morley falls in love…

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

I’d never read this classic piece of Americana. While sometimes the heavy accents got in the way, I thoroughly enjoyed this tale of the adventures of a boy in a small American town in the mid-19th century. Twain gives us a true insight into childhood, making his hero Tom a convincing protagonist. Adults could learn a lot about child psychology by reading this book. Twain tells the story with humour without ever being condescending toward his cast. And he spins a rattling good yarn!

The Elementals by Michael McDowell

McDowell was a popular horror author in the 1970s before Stephen King. It’s easy to see how influential he was on King himself, especially in his tale of small American towns or isolated communities under threat from a supernatural menace. The Elementals begins with a startling visual image – three houses on a secluded beach in the Deep South. One is empty; no-one ever goes inside for a reason. At the rear of this house a massive sand dune has built up that threatens to engulf the building. The houses belong to a rich, Southern family. But when a cynical New York cousin and his young daughter come to stay, the daughter ignores the warnings and climbs the sand dune, breaking a window pane in the house and letting the evil  escape. A highly original premise with some genuinely creepy moments. My first exposure to McDowell, and certainly not the last.

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

I’d read the reviews on this one, where readers said it was the most disturbing novel they’d ever read, that they hadn’t wanted to finish it but had forced themselves to read to the end. Gauntlet thrown. What I wasn’t prepared for was Ketchum’s stark, journalistic style. This is the story of a young girl and her even younger sister who are orphaned and sent to live with the woman who lives next door to the protagonist, a teenage boy. The woman is normal enough, even if she does lets the narrator and her own two sons drink beer and treats them like adults. But when the girls arrive, things turn nasty. The woman’s jealousy of the girls turns to hatred. She and her sons tie the girl up and subject her to physical and sexual abuse that just gets worse and worse. Allegedly based on a true story, the story is so grim that I had to stop reading for a while before going back to finish it. By the end, I felt like I had achieved… something. The narrator certainly does not take pleasure in the torture and becomes the instrument of vengeance in the third act. But I came away from this uncertain what to think. Part of me felt this was an important story, one that shows how a sadistic monster lurks in normal people, and how conformism lets these monsters escape. But part of me wondered if we needed to read about such graphic torture, and whether the novel went too far in trying to shock.  Whatever it was, it was certainly a challenging read.

Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

Not satisfied with that grim tale, I embarked upon what people have called a modern classic. Herman Hesse’s tale of a man who believes he was once a wolf intrigued me. The audiobook was read by Peter Weller, star of Robocop, whose soporific tones put me to seep more than once! The book begins with the son of a landlady telling how he met this peculiar character, the Stepppenwolf, whose name (Henry Haller) is a play on the author’s. Haller is unable to socialize properly, and leaves behind a journal. We then read the journal. At this point, the pretence the novel makes of being a story breaks down – Haller reads a book about himself that he finds, and reality breaks down completely with no explanation in Act Three. There were lots of great ideas – such as the idea that we are complex individuals containing many different personalities that change radically over time. But it read more like Hesse’s own philosophical tract than a story. That’s the problem with postmodernism for me. A story should be a story in my opinion. It’s better to teach by showing than by telling. I did enjoy the book. But it was way too clever for its own good. The story could have been told in half the time and said just as much.

Vittorio the Vampire by Anne Rice

This year I went to New Orleans for a few days. So what could I do but take a long a copy of one of Anne Rice’s vampire novels? My tour included the author’s old house in the Garden District. Having read her earlier book set there, The Witching Hour, it was a thrill to see the places in the novel for real. Vittorio was a different experience. I love vampire novels, and Anne Rice can write beautifully about them. This book also contains some beautiful prose. The story is simple – in Medieval Italy a young nobleman’s castle is raided by undead who kill his family. He falls in love with one of them who then turns him into a vampire. Then things get weird… He is obsessed with a painting of angels, and we see that in his confused state of mind the angels become real. They lead Vittorio through his adventures. The end. I wasn’t sure what to make of this. It felt like Rice was indulging her Catholicism rather than telling a real story. The point seemed to be that angels were real. But Vittorio could have been a much more interesting tale. It seemed a shame to waste all that research telling a story that was half-formed at best.

Chocky by John Wyndham

Confession number two: I have never read Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham’s most famous book. However, I have read a couple of his others (The Chrysalids, The Kraken Wakes) so I knew what to expect. Wyndham writes cosy disasters – some world-changing event happens in leafy middle England to middle class protagonists. In this, I was not to be disappointed. Chocky deals with an alien presence that possesses the narrator’s son. At first, it is dismissed as an imaginary friend, until the effect on the boy can no longer be ignored. Chocky is neither helpful nor harmful – it merely is. Wyndham takes a very simple idea and spins out a clever plot full of intriguing moments and exciting twists. It’s terrific to see something truly alien intrude into Middle England. This was made into a successful TV series in the 1980s. I will be rooting it out and watching it. Great fun!

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

I always like to read a Dickens book around December. It gets me in the festive mood. In this novel, we are in the French Revolution, and aristocrats are being sent to the guillotine by peasants who have seized control of France. Amid this turmoil, one innocent aristocrat, Charles Darnay, is imprisoned in the Bastille after coming back to France to help a friend in need. Enter Sidney Carton, a dissolute English lawyer whose life has been spent in drink and profligacy, and who happens to be an absolute double of Darnay. Like most, I knew the story, but Dickens’s superb storytelling made the Revolution a living thing. His characters are vivid and unique. Although a melodrama, Dickens’s style is never better than here. The final chapters are quite moving – especially the scene where a Frenchwoman who  is a major revolutionary turns up at Darnay’s wife’s house, ready with a pistol to have her imprisoned, only to find her way blocked by the English maid Miss Pross, who valiantly defends her mistress. By turns comic, dark and very emotional, this is one of the best Dickens books I’ve read. A masterpiece of literature by one of the greatest novelists who ever lived.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner

With Christmas fast approaching, I thought I would listen to the audiobook of a children’s story that has been widely praised. The Weirdstone is set in Alderly Edge in Cheshire, England – a place associated with legends of King Arthur and the wizard Merlin. Garner takes this legend and weaves round it an original myth of his own involving the titular stone and two children who spend the vacation there. Cue adventures with goblins, shapeshifters, dwarves and wizards who all want the Weirdstone. But where is it? Rip-roaring adventure stuff that is never dull for a moment, this is a great kids’ story. I was reminded of both Tolkien and CS Lewis, although the story lacks the depth of these two and it ends rather abruptly. Thankfully, there are a plethora of sequels!

So there you have it! My year in books. A year of ups and downs, but never a dull one.  There were some great classics here as well as some unexpected gems. Maybe some of them will find their way onto your reading list next year. If so, tell me about it!

 

The Best Alternative Christmas Movies!

A while ago I made a list of the best alternative Christmas movies for fans of sci-fi and horror. With New Year’s Eve rapidly encroaching, I thought it might be fun to revisit the list and give you some more top non-traditional Christmas films to watch. Or if you have seen them maybe you never realized some of them they were set at Christmas time. Anyway, here goes..

Will the real Santa please stand up? Things get grim in Christmas Evil (1981).

1.Christmas Evil (1980)

Yes, this is definitely a Christmas movie. But don’t be fooled by the video-nasty title. This is actually a very believable story about a Santa who’s had enough and goes on a berserk rampage. The twist is that the villain is treated with sympathy, so that by the end of the movie his inevitable demise is actually rather tragic!

3. Silent Night Deadly Night  (1984)

Made at the peak of the slasher craze, this is a very effective movie. Take for instance the scene where a creepy catatonic old man in a nursing home waits until nobody else is around, then starts talking to the kid, telling him a very nasty Christmas tale. All the slasher tropes are here in this 80s pic, along with one particularly bad-tempered Santa and his axe!

 

Carollers. Don’t feed them after midnight. Gremlins (1984)

2. Gremlins (1984)

Something about hordes of tiny green monsters overrunning a small American town and eating the occupants just screams Christmas, doesn’t it? This horror comedy was deemed too scary for  British kids in 1984, apparently, leading to it being classified as a “15” certificate here in the UK!

4. Black Christmas (1974)

The granddaddy of many an inferior rip-off, this slasher about college girls stalked in their own sorority house has a killer twist… the killer is calling his victims from INSIDE the house! A superior genre film that boasts an excellent cast of B-movie stalwarts such as John Saxon and Margot Kidder.

5. Dead of Night (1945)

The creepiest British horror films ever made is actually a portmanteau film comprising four short stories told by several people who find themselves compelled to travel to a strange house. The film becomes progressively darker, but the first story involves a young girl who plays hide and seek in a big old house one Christmas and gets more than she bargained for. A fantastic and eerie movie that also features the world’s scariest ventriloquist’s dummy!

 

Jack Deth saves Christmas in L.A. And yes, that is Helen Hunt dressed as an elf.

6. Trancers (1985)

Future cop Jack Death (yes, that’s his real name) travels back in time from Future L.A. to 1985 L.A.  and possesses he body of his ancestor in order to stop a cultists who turns his followers into zombies. Yeah. This cult favourite with Tim Thomerson spawned a plethora of dreadful sequels, but the original is fun and also features a young Helen Hunt. It’s also set at Christmas time in Los Angeles, which explains why Jack fights a a zombie Santa!

7. Krampus (2015)

Fun horror comedy that focuses on a dysfunctional family (aren’t they all these days?) who gets a visit from the wrong kind of Christmas spirit. Filled with great effects and the most evil gingerbread men you’re ever likely to meet!

8. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Was this the film that started Johnny Deep’s obsession with funny hats and weird hairstyles? Very possibly. But it’s also a great Tim Burton film fun of comedy and general Burton-esque weirdness and Gothy-ness. Oh, and it features Christmas.

9. The Children (2008)

Rather disturbing tale in which Christmas is ruined by a bunch of kids who are infected by a virus that turns them into homicidal maniacs. Just like every other Christmas then.

 

He’s knows when you’ve been naughty. The original Krampus in Rare Exports (2010)

10. Rare Exports (2010)

Scandivanian forest workers comes across something that is not exactly Santa Claus frozen in the ice in this  great, bleak horror comedy. As it eats its way through the locals, their eventual solution to the problem is ingenious to say the least. Bizarre Finnish fable with a unique take on Christmas!

So there you have it. An alternative list of Christmas movies to tickle your fancy, your funny bone, and even the most ardent gorehounds. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

 

Experiment Nine has all the fun of the fair!

Today, I thought I’d share with you a picture of one of the actual locations used in “Experiment Nine”, the Kansas City fair.

Experiment Nine is about genetically created vampires who escape from a secret government project into America’s backwoods, only to find themselves hunted by an obsessed detective as well as by their former captors. 

The book is available on Amazon here: http://a-fwd.com/asin-uk=B07F6S2YSZ

Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt, exclusive just to those reading this blog post!
 

The Fair

Just outside the city, a fairground burned brightly at the foot of darkened hills – an enormous glowing cartwheel of people, toys, rides, music, and noise.

“Jason!” prey called to him.

The girl ran up to him. Her high heeled boots made heavy weather of the damp ground. Twilight danced on her golden earrings. He admired her long, brown hair, fashioned in a style copied from a celebrity magazine. She caught up to him, grabbed him, swung him around, breathless from exertion.

“Why didn’t you wait for me?”

“I like to see you run,” he said.

“Are we going down there?”

Jason caught her young, porcelain face in gloved fingers. He squeezed, just hard enough to tease. Prey liked that. The wind tossed her long hair, the elements laughing at this child, but she didn’t hear them.

“Soon enough. Why, you scared of being alone?”

“Not while I’m with you.”

Her body was firm but pliant. She had a small tattoo above her left wrist. It looked like a heart. It shouldn’t have bothered him, but it did.

She did not see his hunger. They never did. They mistook it for a sexual appetite. They wanted a fantasy, someone who would whisk them away from their humdrum lives for a few hours.

“You feel safe?”

“Why not? I got you to protect me.”

“You’ll need more than that, honey.”

Mona reached out from nowhere, grabbed the girl’s neck, and snapped it savagely.

It didn’t take much effort, but the resultant sickening snap was more stomach-churning than even she had imagined. She saw the girl’s long, immaculately brushed hair on the ground, her feet now lying at odd angles, one high heel snapped, her woolen tights torn, and she felt pity. She surprised herself that she could feel anything at all

“You better drink it before it’s cold,” he told her.

But she turned her head aside. “I lost my appetite.”

 

 

I hope you will agree that these aren’t ordinary vampires. 

Here’s what others are saying about Experiment Nine:

“Author Eric Ian Steele has again accomplished what he does so well: merging old legend and myth with a new and modern creation story to develop believable monsters that you find yourself cheering for!”

You can read more of Experiment Nine here: http://a-fwd.com/asin-uk=B07F6S2YSZ