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Guest post: William Meikle and The Ghost Club

A guest post today, from William Meikle, whose new book “The Ghost Club” promises to be a rip-roaring attempt to recreate the voices of classic Victorian writers like Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson and Oscar Wilde!

Finding the voice

By William Meikle 

In my new collection THE GHOST CLUB I’ve undertaken the task of writing a collection of supernatural stories as told in the voices of famous Victorian writers like Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, Oscar Wilde and many others. It’s probably the most ambitious piece of work I’ve ever attempted.

The Victorian bit was the easiest. I grew up on Wells and Verne, Doyle and Stevenson, and that slightly formal, slightly clipped tone is one that I’ve practised many times in my own Holmes stories over the past few years, and it’s a voice I fall into quite naturally given all my reading from the period. Because of that, I found the Doyle and Wells stories to be the ones where I felt most at home when it came to the writing. The Doyle one went fastest, not surprisingly, even although I chose Lestrade rather than the dynamic duo, and it was helped in that I had a location I was familiar with, along the London Embankment around Cleopatra’s Needle. The Wells came as soon as I chose the subject; an early scientific experiment in color theory and vibrational mechanics gone wrong. Once again I had found my way in quite easily.

The Stevenson was more problematic, but as a fellow Scot I got into his particular more relaxed voice by finding the right character, a sick Scots boy in need of a story, and as soon as I had that, RLS took over the reins and led the way.

Those were the first three stories I wrote, and I thought I was into the flow of it and knew how the rest would proceed. Then the trouble started.

I had a little list of all the writers I wanted to be part of the club, and didn’t want to do all the ones I thought might be easier first, so I decided, being in the zone, to go for Tolstoy. I warmed up by reading War and Peace and realized I’d forgotten about the endless descriptive passages of balls and parties, officers and gentlemen and the doings of trade and traders. As for my story, all I knew at the start was that it would be a ghost story, and take place during one of the Empress’ balls. So I started, describing the Empress, the ballroom, the kitchens, the courtiers and I got so bogged down that fifteen pages in I hadn’t even started to tell the story. I had found Tolstoy’s style, but not a voice I could use to get in and out of it quickly enough to avoid an epic. I was starting to think I had bitten off more than I could chew, but then I was helped out by a compatriot from the past, and a voice I knew well. A Scotsman, several Scotsmen, turned up and began to tell their story of the ball, seen from a different viewpoint, and suddenly, all the description and finery were put in their proper context, and a story wove its way through all the Russian magnificence. Not many of the original fifteen pages survived, but enough did that I think I caught the mood I wanted to. But by then, I’d spent enough time with Tolstoy’s way with a sentence and needed something lighter.

My next stop was Twain, a different fellow entirely, far more abrupt, far more sarcastic and with nary a hint of sentimentality. But I found he was just the right chap to rescue me from the labyrinthine Russian court, and I was swept along in a tale of gambling, treachery and revenge on a riverboat that flowed so smoothly I was almost sorry to see it go.

Haggard and Kipling came quite easily, more of the semi-formal, clipped tones I mentioned earlier but with each chap’s peculiar flourishes and tics.

Then came Helena Blavatsky. I’ve long been fascinated by her writings on Theosophy, but when it came to writing a story in her style, I found her rather intimidating, but the story came almost the way I imagined her speaking, slightly hectoring, eager to be believed and a peculiar amalgam of history and occult fiction.

After the seriousness of the Theosophist meanderings, I cleansed the palate with something altogether lighter and frothier. Getting into Wilde’s style was the most fun I had in the writing of these stories — not the style of Dorian Gray, but more in the style of his shorter, more comic works. The voice, a playful, lilting thing in this case, came almost immediately and the story was written in a single sitting that left me with a big smile.

Margaret Oliphant’s tale became personal when I found that it was less of a voice I needed, more of a song. it’s built around the Scottish folk tune Fine Flowers in the Valley. Finding the voice for the story came as much from Downtown Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs than from fiction, but it turned out to be the right one for the tale.

Henry James was one I’d been putting off till near the end, for he’s a writer I’ve always had trouble reading due to his convoluted way with a sentence. But coincidence stepped up and helped me in this case, for I won a copy of Dan Simmons’ THE FIFTH HEART in an online competition, and in it, Henry James is so well described that I lifted the voice from his character in that book, and found that it led me straight into a tale of a haunted chess set that once again almost wrote itself.

I was nearly done. Checkov was easy for me; I understand drinkers, and railwaymen, and drinking railwaymen. I also, living as I do in Newfoundland, understand cold winters. Once I had those aspects, and paired them with some Russian fatalism, that tale too flew by in a single sitting.

I’d left two till last. Stoker because I knew what I wanted to write right from the start, and Verne, because I had no idea how to approach it. I went with Stoker first, and a wee ghost story. Here the voice was simple, for I wanted it to read like a trial run for Dracula, i.e. a story told in epistolary fashion. It’s a tale of old friends, of loss and sorrow, and it’s the saddest thing I think I’ve ever written, but it’s also full of Irish sentimentality, and Stoker’s rather brusque voice led me through to the end.

And so, I was left with Verne, and little idea how to proceed. In the end, I went with Harryhausen-style effects, and thought of it as a ’50s movie rather than a Victorian story, and that allowed me to indulge my passion for improbable rocketry, derring do, and a very French approach to scientific enquiry. In the end, I might not quite have got Verne’s dispassionate scientific voice into the tale, but it feels right to me, and it’s the closest I was going to get.

And there it was, all done.

It’s a simple premise.

In Victorian London, a select group of writers, led by Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker and Henry James held an informal dining club, the price of entry to which was the telling of a story by each invited guest.

These are their stories, containing tales of revenant loved ones, lost cities, weird science, spectral appearances and mysteries in the fog of the old city, all told by some of the foremost writers of the day. In here you’ll find Verne and Wells, Tolstoy and Checkov, Stevenson and Oliphant, Kipling, Twain, Haggard, Wilde and Blavatsky alongside their hosts.

Come, join us for dinner and a story.

Read a sample and buy the book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077SWFLZM

THE GHOST CLUB MEMBERS AND THEIR STORIES

Robert Louis Stevenson Wee Davie Makes a Friend
Rudyard Kipling The High Bungalow
Leo Tolstoy The Immortal Memory
Bram Stoker The House of the Dead
Mark Twain Once a Jackass
Herbert George Wells Farside
Margaret Oliphant To the Manor Born
Oscar Wilde The Angry Ghost
Henry Rider Haggard The Black Ziggurat
Helena P Blavatsky Born of Ether
Henry James The Scrimshaw Set
Anton Checkov At the Molenzki Junction
Jules Verne To the Moon and Beyond
Arthur Conan Doyle The Curious Affair on the Embankment

Available on 8th December 2017 in paperback and ebook from Crystal Lake Publishing.

‘In the past, we’ve had the Diogenes Club, the ‘Club of the Damned’, and even Peter Straub’s ‘Chowder Society.’ Now we have THE GHOST CLUB by William Meikle. And it is, quite simply, a delight. Not only has the author displayed his knowledge of and love for the writers of yesteryear, but in creating ‘The Ghost Club’ our host has produced his own collection of unknown and previously unpublished short stories ‘by’ Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Leo Tolstoy, Bram Stoker, Mark Twain, H. G.Wells, Margaret Oliphant, Oscar Wilde, H. Rider Haggard, Helena P Blavatsky, Henry James, Anton Chekhov, Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle. I say ‘unknown’, when I mean – of course – that all the stories are written by Mr Meikle in the style of the aforementioned authors; and the entire experience of reading this collection is like sitting with him in an old fashioned study, with a roaring fire, guttering shadows and a snifter or two of brandy as he unfolds his ‘Ghost Club’ tales. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.’ – Stephen Laws, author of GHOST TRAIN, SPECTRE and DARKFALL

 

Available from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077SWFLZM

 

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Author interview – Chukwunonso Ezeiyoke

Today it’s my proud privilege to introduce author Chukwunonso Ezeiyoke. A Nigerian-born writer, he is one of a wave of Afrofuturist writers who have recently been taking the world by storm. Afrofuturism has been defined as “a cultural, aesthetic, philosophy of science and philosophy and history that…  addresses themes and concerns of the African diaspora”.  Writers of these stories typically use magic realism, fantasy, supernatural and science fiction to achieve their aims, and share a highly distinctive prose style that is both fresh and engagingly non-Western. 

Chukwunonso’s first story collection, “The Haunted Grave”  is in print from Parallel Universe Publications and contains eight stories with themes such as the real origins of the AIDS virus, a man who is possessed by himself,  and a particularly nasty family curse passed on through sexual activity. The stories are original and totally believable, told with a matter-of-factness that makes them all the more chilling.  Even stranger is that Chukwunonso is such a very nice guy to meet, with a highly infectious laugh. Not the kind of person you would immediately think capable of writing such grisly fiction!

 

ES: First of all, please tell our readers a little about yourself and what you write.

CE: I am Peter Chukwunonso Ezeiyoke. Although I only write with Chukwunonso and then my surname Ezeiyoke. From day one, I tended to avoid using my name Peter in my writing. I see my writing coming from an intimate place and Peter for an unknown reason failed to capture this essence. Perhaps because Peter is for officialdom.  The name used in school, at work and other serious places. Nonso, an abbreviated version of Chukwunonso was the in-house name left for close friends and family. In a way, the name Peter got alienated from this intimate fondness I associated with writing. I write all sorts of things: fiction and non-fiction. In non-fiction, I love literary criticism especially if approached from the angle of the Philosophy of Literature. I fell in love with literary theories after reading Language and Habit of Thought by A. Akwanya. The book blew me off my feet. I also enjoyed Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Poetics. And then Kant and then Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy. ES: And what are your preferred genres as a writer?

CE: Horror and fantasy. Science fictions as long as it doesn’t focus so much in the science but rather on the emotions of the characters. I really love writing horror.  I love a slow burner. The beginning of my stories often sound realistic/literary until the demon comes to party.

ES: What is your favourite childhood book?

CE: I can’t really say one book, but I think that The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola was fascinating, mythical and hilarious. The Bottled Leopard by Chukwuemeka Ike stayed with me long after I finished reading it. Then Cyprian Ekwensi’s An African Night’s Entertainment.  Chike and River by Chinua Achebe was our childhood national anthem so was Eze Goes to School by Onuora Nzekwu. I bet that everybody that grew up in Nigeria around the time I was born must have read them.

ES: How long were you a part-time writer before your became a full-time one?

CE: I can’t call myself a full time writer even now. Writing is yet to pay my bills. But I often see myself as a committed writer in the sense that I take it seriously and tend to create time for it. I haven’t been that committed to writing like the way I am now. It is something I began newly. I started to write when I was like eleven or twelve, but then I had a yearning stronger than writing: to become a catholic priest. This consumed my life until I was like 21 when I started having a vocational crisis because of some existential questions. Then writing became my only solace to escape reality. Finally, in 2014, I made up my mind that I wouldn’t become a priest after about 15 years in the seminary. It was at this point that I became a committed writer because I realised that there was nothing else in life that fascinates me like writing. I started being a serious writer by doing my MA in Creative Writing.

ES: That’s fascinating, and I suppose it shows just how important writing can be to people. Thank you for sharing that story. What has been your hardest scene to write to date?

CE: A rape scene that I wrote as part of my MA in radio drama.

ES: And what was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

CE: Hahaha… I went to a bar with a friend. Then we ate fresh fish pepper soup with some chilled drink.

ES: Good answer! I like to include animals in my own stories from time to time. As a writer, what animal would you choose to be your spirit animal?

CE: A tiger

ES: Very cool! And now what are your writing habits? Any good ones?

CE: I am good at breaking any habit I formed.

ES: And how many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

CE: I think I end up with one every month.

ES: Wow. It sounds like you are very prolific. That is very inspiring. When you have had a work published, do you read your reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

CE: I read them. I like feedback, no matter what. It tells me that at least people read what I write. Obscurity I think is the worst thing to happen to a writer rather than neglect reviews.

ES: That is a very philosophical attitude to take. I wish I could be like that!  Well, thank you very much for taking part in this interview, and I for one really look forward to reading your next book!

 

If you haven’t read it yet, Chukwunonso’s collection of stories “The Haunted Grave” is available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle. I thoroughly recommend it as a superb work of fiction. If you want an introduction to the wonderful world of Afrofuturism, or if you just want a really good collection of modern horror stories, I suggest you pick up a copy, as he is certainly an author to watch! 

IT (2017) Reviewed!

It’s been a long time coming (no pun intended), but finally cinemagoers can watch another adaptation of Stephen King’s IT!

The last time was a forgettable TV mini-series of 1990, noteworthy only for the portrayal of the menacing clown Pennywise by cult actor Tim Curry. In that adaptation the filmmakers attempted to adapt King’s massive horror novel about a group of adults slowly remembering how they battled a shape-shifting monster as kids.

The book is huge and distils all of Stephen King’s work into one story. Everything is here as King literally throws the bathroom sink at us: monsters, kids, the small town with a curse etc etc. It’s a masterpiece of horror fiction, spanning two generations with multiple time shifts. Which is perhaps why it has proven so difficult to film.

In the latest version, the action is shifted from the 1950s to 1988. The film opens with a atmospheric sequence in which young Bill’s brother Georgie encounters Pennywise in the storm drain. It’s a powerful scene, horrific and violent.  It does what some of the best horror movies do, which is make us wonder just how far is this film prepared to go?

But does IT (2017) have what it takes us thoroughly scare us? Is it destined to become another classic Stephen King adaptation in the footsteps of Brian de Palma’s Carrie, the infamous Tobe Hooper TV series ‘Salem’s Lot, or Stanley Kubrik’s The Shining?

First, the scares: yes, it is scary. Horror fans rejoice! Pennywise played by Bill Skargard is the creepiest clown imaginable. The way the character moved was downright unsettling and truly suggested something unnatural. Kudos to the filmmakers for making the worn-out trope of the killer clown scary again!

The child actors are all very believable, especially hypochondriac Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), motor-mouth Richie (Stranger Thing’s Finn Wolfhard) and girl next door Beverley  (Sophie Lillis). A very important consideration that was mostly missing from the 1990 miniseries and, in fact, many films involving children. The kids all played their parts exceedingly well.

The action is set in 1988 instead of decades earlier – presumably so that younger audiences can “relate” more. A dubious choice but it doesn’t hamper the story  much, except that some of the novel’s best moments stem from IT assuming the form of 1950s B-movie monsters. But it’s easy to overlook such things because the movie looks gorgeous. And the opening scene establishes the tone so perfectly.

The film has some amazing visuals. When Pennywise attacks it was genuinely unsettling.  There were some great original moments also, which came as a nice surprise to those of us who had read the book. In fact there were so many scares that the audience kept jumping in their seats all night, followed by nervous laughter. 

However… and this is a big however… the film falls flat in several places. These weaknesses hampered my enjoyment of the film because they were so glaring. These were mainly questions of plot logic and unbelievably stupid choices by the main characters. And it was frustrating because it could all have been put right so easily.

King’s novel is quite daring in its realistic depiction of childhood. I didn’t really get that from the movie.  We never see the kids being kids. Instead they become rather shallow characterisations of children (the motor mouth, the quiet leader, the skeptic, the hypochondriac). We get one scene of Bill’s father being annoyed after Georgie’s death. Other than that, nothing. We get one scene of Stan being put under pressure by his rabbi father. Then nothing. We get one scene of Mike’s life. We get no scenes whatsoever of Richie’s home life. Only Eddie and Bev have an arc. The filmmakers boil the kids down to their bare essence. They could have lost a few of the “montage” sequences instead and made up for this with actually meaningful moments. Instead it feels like a “paint by the numbers” approach to character.

More unforgivably, the kids have a habit of going “slowly towards” an unimaginable horror, presumably so we the audience can get a closer look, rather than turning tail and trying to escape. I found myself groaning inwardly every time someone walked slowly towards yet another life-threatening manifestation of IT. One would have thought that the filmmakers would have learned such lessons in the 1980s themselves!

The annoying thing is that all this is perfectly dealt with in the book. There were plenty of added scenes which didn’t really serve any purpose other than to provide another flashy visual. The writer and director could have used those scenes (scare as they were) to provide some more meaningful storytelling. Carrie has very few scares, but the ones that are there stick in the mind long after the film is over.

The directing style itself was a bit clumsy in places. Plot clues tended to “THUD” onto camera – sometimes literally. There were far too many “Jump scares” that weren’t really needed when the film did so well in setting up an atmosphere of terror. LOUD NOISES also proliferated (see what I did there?) and again, they were unnecessary.

As mentioned earlier, the movie is set in 1988. The problem with this time shift is that all through the movie I was asking myself: why choose 1988? The back end of the 80s had little of quality. Why not set it in 1985 or even earlier? (like Stranger Things – a series to which IT clearly owes a great deal) At least that way we could get some great 1980s soundtracks, hilarious fashions and great movie references. Instead we get a montage to… The Cure (?) and a couple of shots of a movie theatre advertising Lethal Weapon 2. Really? Why not choose some better material from a decade that had so much? It didn’t really feel like the 80s.

The film tries hard to get that Stand By Me vibe. But for me, it  lacked the innocence and playfulness of childhood. The kids ogle Beverley for a few minutes, but that’s about it. Ritchie is funny in places but his “antics” get ridiculous, like trying to steal a bandplayer’s French horn in the background of a scene. We don’t see any authentic scenes of them playing as children. For me this was a major flaw. Especially when King’s novel deals with this so well. It could easily have been rectified by adding a few little moments to existing scenes, such as the kids building a dam in the Barrens. The novel is terrific at depicting the terror of childhood. But apart from a nice scene with Eddie and his momma, there was little of this in the movie. A little more attention to the source material would have helped.

As stated there were many plot holes. I won’t elaborate on these save that two very big ones occur near the end of the movie, leaving a huge incident involving the missing children completely unresolved. Again, a little more care with the script would have helped. I’m not solely blaming the screenwriters as they are often just doing what they are told (or have the decision taken away from them altogether by the production team), but the criticism stands.

However, for all these problems, there was a lot to like in IT. The film is genuinely frightening. Special effects often delivered the scares. There were some great ones too. The opening scene, an incident involving a movie projector, and a moment involving a headless corpse were all terrific moments.

But good moments do not a great movie make. King’s novel is more than just fodder for a Friday night scare. IT is a very complex novel about childhood. This film wanted nothing more than to be a popcorn horror movie. In that the filmmakers succeeded. But IT could have been so much more! This was a shame, as with a little more work this film could easily have been a classic instead of an instant payout.

Having said all that, I did enjoy the movie a lot. The scares are so well done and there are so many of them that I could almost forgive the other mistakes. The best horror films make you feel like you’re experiencing a world out of a nightmare. In this, IT did not disappoint. The whole thing feels like a fever dream with some great, surreal imagery. It is certainly a slick, well-oiled fear machine.

So is IT a classic?

The novel deals with some difficult childhood issues (bulling, abuse, first love, isolation) which are only alluded to in the movie. Undoubtedly IT has enough genuinely scary, gruesome moments to satisfy any horror lover. But the film lacks depth and characterisation, and the filmmakers themselves generate several major plot holes. However, IT is still a very watchable horror movie.  I would say that IT is worth seeing just for the slick Hollywood effects and the many scary moments.

Still curious? Go see IT and judge for yourselves. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Overall: 7/10

Nightscape reviews & Fantasycon 2017!

Well, here is a nice surprise. A review of my horror short story collection NIGHTSCAPE, no less!

The reader calls several of the stories “gems” and “fabulously suspenseful”!

You can check out the reviews along with synopses of the stories here:

Or you can just go ahead and find the entire book here:

There will be more news coming soon. Not to mention a special post on Fantasycon 2017.

Fantasycon is the annual convention run by the British Fantasy Society. This year it’s in Peterborough, near Cambridge, England. It takes place from September 29th – 1st October. I’ll be speaking on panels and giving an author reading along with some uber-talented individuals, many of whom are very well known in the fields of horror and fantasy writing. Come along and join the fun!

NIGHTSCAPE!

Today I’m very proud to announce that my latest collection of horror short stories, NIGHTSCAPE, has been released by Parallel Universe Press in this glorious hardback edition!

In this collection of nine unsettling stories you will read about…

A  man who returns to his childhood home to find that there’s something very wrong with the family pet…

A woman with schizophrenia who becomes enamoured with an abandoned children’s toy…

A Roman legion which marches into first century Scotland only to come face to face with terrifying creatures from ancient myth…

Three outcasts who are waiting to be sacrificed to a monstrous creature after a nuclear war has wiped out civilization…

A widower who turns to black magic to bring back the lover he lost in a horrific car crash…

A troubled married couple who inherit a cottage once owned by a legendary Leicestershire witch…

And more!

So if you love horror short stories in the vein of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and Clive Barker, you’ll enjoy NIGHTSCAPE. And who knows, maybe it will enjoy you!

Currently available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and direct from Parallel Universe Publications.

10 Most Underrated Horror Films

We all know about mega-hit horror movies that have spawned whole franchises, such as “Halloween”, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “The Conjuring”. But what about the more obscure horror movies? Those which are critical successes but commercial failures, or films that were just plain overlooked? Here is my list of some of the best underrated horror movies.

10. They  (2002)

Director Robert Harmon is best known for the seminal Rutger Hauer movie “The Hitcher”. However, this suspenseful supernatural thriller was released with just a whisper. The plot revolves around a woman who remembers that as a child she was afraid of monsters in the dark.. now the monsters are back! The film has some standout moments, including the opening  and a very scary swimming pool scene that owes a debt to the Jacques Tournier classic “Cat People”.

9. Mean Creek (2004)

This could have been marketed as “Deliverance for kids”. Some bullied children decide to befriend their tormentor and, along with a much older sibling, take him into the woods where they plan to humiliate him. Things do not go as planned. Some terrific performances from the kids and some wonderful plot twists make this a classic. Yet somehow it failed to ignite moviegoers. Surely it deserves a second life on DVD.

8. Wolfen (1981)

Based on a Whitley Strieber novel, featuring an Oscar-winning cast that includes the likes of Albert Finney and Gregory Hines, and directed by none other than the director of “Woodstock”, this not-a-werewolf story is an eerie, atmospheric creature-feature. The distinctive night-vision “monster’s- eye point of view” shot would prefigure the Schawzenegger hit “Predator” years later. A must-see for horror lovers.

7. Fright Night II (1988)

The original was a hugely enjoyable breakout hit and the first of the 1980s vampire classics. Yet while it continues to delight audiences, the sequel proves much harder to get hold of. Which is a shame, because it’s a great film. There are some terrific vamps here, including one very ugly werewolf! Roddy McDowell once again is superlative as Peter Vincent, making this a great sequel. Sadly neglected.

6. Island of Lost Souls (1932)

Everyone knows the Universal Monster movies such as James Whale’s “Frankenstein” and Todd Browning’s “Dracula”. But this eerie adaptation of H.G. Wells’ tale “The Island of Dr. Moreau” gets less respect than it deserves. Charles Laughton gives a bravura performance as the mad doctor who turns animals into men. Nowadays the film might be a little creaky in parts, and you have to wonder why they didn’t use a thrilling soundtrack in places. But the beast-men are fantastic, and the whole mood is one of dreamlike terror. Well worth tracking down.

5. From Beyond (1986)

Fresh from the success of “Re-Animator”, director Stuart Gordon (who would later go on to direct “Honey I Shrunk the Kids”!) employed some of the same cast in this very loose adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s extremely short story.  Sadly, it isn’t as well known as it deserves to be. Dr. Tillinghast invents a mahcine that allows you to see into another dimension. Unfortunately, its inhabitants also see into ours! Cue two hours of great pre-CGI SFX, and a plot that just keeps on getting darker. The movie is true to the spirit of the original story, but with added Barbara Crampton (for those who like that sort of thing)! The movie and the effects were much more “out there” in the mid-80s. But the acting and sardonic wit are enough to keep modern audiences interested as well.

From Beyond Poster

4. Tenebrae

Dario Argento is a name horror fans will be familiar with, mainly for the classic “Suspiria”. However, in my opinion “Tenebrae” is actually the superior film. The plot is simple and echoes other Argento films: an American horror novelist travels to Italy where he finds someone is offing people in the manner of his own books. But this audacious horror/thriller contains some masterful set pieces, such as the single take shot of a murder on a multi-storey building, and the final twist is awesome. Add to that the music of Goblin, and this is a masterpiece of horror cinema that should be rediscovered!

3. Hellraiser II

“Hellraiser” was the film that launched Clive Barker’s career. Yet the second film is in many ways a better movie. The story takes off where the first film ended, with a power-crazed psychiatrist bringing back from the dead the first film’s memorable femme fatale, played by Claire Higgins. This time she’s more fatal than femme, lacking skin for most of the movie. Character actor Kenneth Cranham steals the show, however. We also get to see where the Cenobites come from, which is cool. Everything is bigger in this sequel, including the imagination, yet most people only remember the lamentable, straight-to-video sequels.

2. Prince of Darkness (1987)

John Carpenter made horror history with “Halloween” in 1978, and directed such cult hits as “The Thing”, “Starman” and “Big Trouble in Little China”. “Prince of Darkness” has all the hallmarks of a great Carpenter movie: it’s a siege in a building, there are great special effects, the cast is solid, especially Donald Pleasance as the priest, and it also features Alice Cooper! Yet for some reason it remains one of Carpenter’s more obscure movies. Perhaps a scathing review by UK film critic Barry Norman at the time did its box office chances some damage. Which just goes to show critics don’t know anything, because this film is one of Carpenter’s scariest, with a shock ending that will play on your mind for some time to come.  You’ll never look at your reflection quite the same way again!

1. Martin (1978)

My final film on this list of underappreciated horror movies is by the King of the Zombies himself, George A Romero. George passed away recently, and with him passed a great horror director. Most people know him for his hugely influential “Dead” trilogy of zombie films, which virtually created the shambling, flesh-eating ghoul as a modern myth in popular culture. However, my favourite Romero film is actually the much quieter “Martin”. Played by a young John Amplas, Martin is a character study of a modern vampire… or is it?  Amplas is superb as the cold, alienated killer who may or may not be one of the undead. The film itself is shot in documentary style. It has this wonderfully earnest quality to it, and will leave you guessing for a long time to come. If you haven’t seen “Martin” I recommend it. It’s an uncompromising movie, even in the rather uncomfortable opening scene. But it’s also one of the very best vampire movies ever made.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this selection of obscure classics. All of these movies deserve much more love, so go out and rent or buy them. Just don’t watch them alone in the house at night, and especially not in the dark!

10 MARVEL SUPER-HEROES WHO DESERVE THEIR OWN MOVIES!

We’ve seen the X-Men, Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, The FF, Guardians of the Galaxy, and even Ant Man. On TV we have Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Daredevil. But there are plenty of less well-known Marvel Super-Heroes who possibly deserve their own movies. Here’s a selection of some of the best candidates:

Image result for richard rider nova

Nova

Teenager Richard Ryder (because every superhero needs an alliterated name) gets blasted with a space ray and turned into a human rocket! Nova was never much more than a Spider-man clone. In the Psychedelic Seventies he fought such far-out cats as The Sphinx, Megaman (whose key attribute was having no face), and The Condor (a guy with wings) amongst others before becoming a member of the less-than-super New Warriors. James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy introduced us to the Nova Core of Xanthar, the alien race that gave Nova his powers. But surely anyone with a costume this cool deserves his own movie?

 

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Dazzler

Interesting fact: Dazzler was supposed to be a movie right from the start. The character was ushered into the pages of X-Men purely to plug an onscreen character who was to both sing and act! The movie and the songstress never materialized, but Alison Blaire, a disco queen who can shoot light out of her body, became a regular member of the X-Men. With the rocking ’70s soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy, and her discotastic costume, has the time finally come for the Dazzler to shine?

 

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Moon Knight

Of all the characters in the Marvel Universe, few have undergone so many changes as Moon Knight. Appearing in Werewolf by Night #32 as a mercenary who was given a silver costume to hunt down the titular werewolf, Marc Spector morphed into a caped crusader to rival even Batman, before becoming endowed with supernatural powers courtesy of Egyptian god Konshu, dying, being resurrected, being briefly possessed by a demon, infected with lycanthropy, and even suffering multi-personality disorder from the pressure of adopting too many disguises a-la Mission Impossible!

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Captain Britain

The good captain was designed by Marvell UK in the 1970s to be Britain’s answer to Captain America. Unfortunately, he had a shaky start. Given a magic staff by Merlin (yes, the King Arthur one) Brian Braddock becomes a superhuman powerhouse who fought the Red Skull alongside Steve Rogers. The series hobbled along until scribe Alan Moore reinvented the character in the 1980’s as a strapping blonde mimbo who survived rather than won his battles against foes far cleverer than himself. Later stories had him joining comedy superhero team Excalibur alongside several former X-Men. But maybe it’s time Cap had his own movie. Heck, it worked for Ant-Man. Interesting factoid: his sister is Betsy Braddock, aka Psyclocke!

 

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The Son of Satan

Yes, you heard right. It’s fair to say that Marvel in the 1970s was… experimental. One of the better inventions of that time was Daimon Hellstrom, the son of Satan himself! Debuting in the pages of Ghost Rider #1 Hellstrom is constantly at war both with his own infernal nature and his demonic dad. He eventually got his own series before it was cancelled due to a panel that was considered too blasphemous ever to be reproduced! Surely a character this dark deserves his own TV show!

 

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Power Pack

Louise Simonson and June Brigman created this unique superhero team of children. The Power family find themselves in the middle of a secret war between the warlike alien Snarks (who look like walking crickets) and the peace-loving Kymellians (who look like sea-horses). When a Kymelian sacrifices himself to save the kids, they each gain one of his super-abilities. The series was ground-breaking for its realistic psychology, showing the kids scared, brave, petulant and spoiled, just like real kids. I have a soft spot for Power Pack. It’s my very favourite comic, and I’ll personally love to see it become a live action movie, if only as an antidote to all the dark and depressing fare that’s been served up recently.

 

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Machine Man

Here’s a character who’s better than he looks. Aaron Stack, a.k.a. Machine Man, is an unusual comic book superhero, because he’s a robot! X-51 is a sentient and rather sensitive android. When his creator is killed, he decides to go off and tackle crime, along with his Go-Go-Gadget arms and legs. Created by comics legend Jack Kirby in the back pages of “2001: A Space Odyssey” , X-51 was also memorably drawn by Spider-Man artist Steve Ditko. There’s something both moving and creepy about a character trying to pretend to be human, even down to wearing a latex face mask and dark glasses! One of Marvel’s more interesting characters.

 

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Howard the Duck

I know what you’re thinking. But try and forget the sickeningly-sweet George Lucas aberration and think more along the lines of a rather adult ALF. Now you’re closer to Steve Gerber’s bizarre vision of a duck trapped in a world not of his own making. Hailing from another dimension, cigar-smoking, wise-cracking Howard finds himself in Cleveland and up to his feathers in trouble. The comic was a satirical take on superheroes that sometimes had to be read to be believed. Vegetarian supervillain, anyone?

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Doctor Zero and Saint George

In the mid-1980s Marvel’s mature comics line, Epic, launched a series of titles outside the Marvel Universe. “The Shadowline Saga” involved a world where superheroes were non-existent, but where a second race lived alongside our own. Possessing awesome powers, some of these were sinister, others heroic, but none were what they seemed. Cue Doctor Zero, an immortal who pretends to be a superhero. Is he really a supervillain, or does he have a more Machiavellian scheme for the human race? Saint George, meanwhile, is a human priest who is given a suit of technologically advanced armour and sent on a crusade to rid the world of dangerous “shadows”. Each series, along with another about a super team called “Powerline” ran for a limited time before being wrapped up. But the series crated some memorable characters and had some interesting artwork by Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz (of TV’s “Legion” fame), and just might be something fresh and different compared to the existing Cinematic Universe. Time for a change, anyone?

 

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So there you have it. Plenty of weirder options for Marvel to explore. And I haven’t even mentioned Alpha Flight, Ka-Zar, The Human Fly, Killraven, The Living Mummy, Skull the Slayer, or Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner! Do you agree with my choices or have I left out anyone you’d like to see? Maybe you have a burning desire to see a West Coast Avengers movie or to witness the Avengers clash with the Squadron Supreme? Food for thought for the movie gods at Marvel Studios.