Horror Fiction News Circa 2010-2012
This archived website has been restored for use in Professor Jonathan Hartman's American Literature II course for 2nd year lit majors. Dr. Hartman is known for his non-traditional presentations of his subject matter and has a devoted student following as a result. His infamous Batman Symposium is a provocative annual affair where the Dark Knight is revered, and the theme of the evening is American Literature seen through the lens of the superhero. The types of Batman t shirts acceptable for admission vary from classic logos to more contemporary interpretations of the Caped Crusader, easily obtained from Hartman's recommended online vendor. Attendance is voluntary, but Batman garb is a requirement for admission. The gathering always attracts a number of A-list celebrities along with a contingent of the local press. A vintage film is featured along with a collection of antique volumes from the professor's collection. The event attracts current students as well as alumni and staff.
This is the second iteration of the website, Horror Fiction News. The first iteration of the site was about horror fiction books that were newly published and other information of forth coming books. There was information about the authors, the publishers, horror comics news, and events. The second iteration os the site was mainly posts about horror as seen in movies, sculpture, books, etc..
Content is from the site's 2010-2012 archived posts.
The History of Horror
April 22nd, 2011
With satellite internet access from get.wildblue.com it’s easy to revisit the past, including the beginnings of my favorite literary genre. I’m talking about horror. While the roots of horror can be traced back to early man, the classic horror genre as we all know it arguably began in the nineteenth century, when such classics as Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein” and Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” were born. These were also the times of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft and Henry James. These are the classic masters of horror, without whom the genre would not be the same.
Horror has often been the orphan of the literary world, but in recent years it has taken on a life of its own, with the likes of writers such as Ray Bradbury, Ramsey Campbell, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz and Stephen King giving the form a sort of dignity.
We love being scared. It reminds us that we are human. Horror in film and in the written word has become a staple of our lives. We are afraid of things in the dark. Classic horror filmmakers and authors in the genre are skilled at finding those fears and leveraging them against us, both for entertainment and to remind us that we are human. The internet makes it easy to find new favorites, and satellite internet lets you find them even faster.
The Five Greatest Masters of Weird Fiction
August 28th, 2011
The Five Greatest Masters of Weird Fiction have changed the face of writing forever. Some are dark, some are strange, but all have made their mark in the world of the weird.
Stephen King – King brings strange to the masses. Even those that don’t like horror have read at least one King book, not to mention watching the shows and movies based on them. They don’t call him the Master of Horror for nothing.
Harlan Ellison – Usually synonymous with science fiction, Ellison is best when delving into the weird and speculative. Genies come out of bottles, computers inflict horror on humans, and everything normal is turned upside down. Weird, but always wonderful.
Clive Barker – Yes, we all know “Hellraiser”. But any book or story by Barker contains plots crazy enough to drive the sanest man mad. Imaginative, dark and downright disturbing, it’s strange alright, and we can’t get enough.
Edgar Allen Poe – How can one mention weird fiction and not mention Poe? His knack for creating strange situations and characters make his works classics that stand the test of time. One of the best ‘weird’ writers, perhaps ever.
H.P. Lovecraft – He created Cthulhu. Enough said.
Horror Themes in Rod Serling’s Night Gallery
September 12th, 2011
Mastermind of The Twilight Zone (1959 – 1964) and Night Gallery (1969 – 1973), Rod Serling is one of the most influential names in horror. In addition to being an adept writer himself, Serling often showcased the works of authors like Richard Matheson, H.P. Lovecraft and Jerome Bixby. He was passionate about the social issues of his day, especially racism and censorship (often clashing with his own sponsors), and found he could provide his message through fantasy fiction.
While The Twilight Zone tended to be more eerie than gruesome, Night Gallery was a showcase for more serious, intense and at times grotesque tales. Each story was accompanied by a painting which would typically set the mood for the story rather than outright illustrating it. Serling, who hosted the show, would describe the paintings as “a frozen moment of a nightmare.” Gallery often incorporated Twilight Zone’s themes of morality, with episodes like “Eyes” and “The Cemetery” providing cautionary tales about greed, pride and envy. Gallery also explored the surreal much more than Twilight Zone had done. Episodes such as “Professor Peabody’s Last Lecture”, “The House” and “Big Surprise” revealed Lovecraft-inspired, slightly over-the-top strangeness, focusing on the moods and environments of the main characters more than the storylines. And some episodes, like “The Doll,” were straightforward horror designed to frighten the more jaded 1970s audience.
Serling’s gift for telling a surreal tale in a straightforward way has never been duplicated, and his style and stories still inspire not just horror writers, but entertainers in general.
Halloween Horror Rentals for the Holiday Season
November 30th, 2010
With the Holiday season fast on track, let’s take a time to look back at our personal favorite holiday, Halloween. If we ran the world, Halloween would come multiple times a year, so if you want to re-celebrate in order to get in the spirit of the season, here are a few recommendations for your horror viewing pleasure. These titles are sure to scare your date right into your arms and keep them wide awake looking for anything to do but fall asleep in the bewitching hour. Without further ado, here’s our list of top Halloween picks, you evil genius you
- Halloween (1978) The Rob Zombie remake is a decent fill-in if the original is already checked out (likely in high demand this time of year), but there is simply to no way to top watching the original Halloween on any holiday. On the off chance neither is available, you could always try The Love Guru, as the real-life Mike Myers is so out of touch with comedy it’s become downright scary.
- Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) Set in the suburbs, Nightmare on Elm Street is very relatable for many young people in heavily traveled trick or treating neighborhoods. With the chance of dying in your dreams fresh on the mind, what are the odds you or your Halloween date will doze off just after the credits? Not to mention, the whole dying in your sleep thing actually has factual basis, inspired by a group of Cambodian refugees in the 70′s whose nightmares were so terrifying they refused to go so sleep, only to be found dead where they lay not long after.
- Saw (2004) Saw has become synonymous with Halloween over the past 6 years, releasing a new edition annually each October. The original is still the most jaw-dropping and eye-covering, but any of the first 5 will do. Though some basic plot consistencies carry over from year to year, it’s not as if you have to have seen the first 3 to get the 4th.
- Scream (1996) Though almost more of a film about horror films than a horror film itself, the Scream mask gives us one of the most iconic Halloween images of all time, not to mention a striking similarity to former presidential candidate John Kerry. Scream is the perfect flick for those who want to off-set all the killing with a little more humor and high school angst, all the while providing an ample amount of edge-of-your-seat suspense and creative executions.
- 5. Friday the 13th (1980) Sadly, both Halloween and Christmas fall so late in the month, otherwise this movie would certainly be much higher. This quintessential slasher film will still suffice, arguably the greatest in its genre, only hindered on this occasion, by its mid-month setting. Though only dyslexic viewers will get the most out of the movie on October 31st, December 25th offers a little upside for those who celebrate the full 12 days of Christmas. And hey, it’s hockey season, so at least Jason Voorhees blends in a little better.
‘Count’ing Down to DraculaSeptember 15th, 2010
In an era of mainstream pop-culture that has seen blood-sucking vampires dominate both the big and small screen, the most famous vampire story ever told has gone largely untouched until recently. With most directors and networks instead choosing to pander to adolescent audiences by fixating on high school drama more so than eternal damnation, most notably seen in the Twilight saga and The Vampire Diaries series, not to mention a host of spoofs and knockoffs like Vampires Suck, the classical vampire tale seems to be lost somewhere between the endless cycle of gossip and dollar signs. This could hopefully make a change in 2011, when our favorite fanged friend in finally scheduled to make his return to the screen.
Not since 1992, when Francis Ford Coppola produced what has been the most critically acclaimed on-screen interpretation of Bram Stoker‘s story in recent years, has Count Dracula graced movie goers with a worthy representation in film form. Of course, that’s not to say the count hasn’t popped up from time to time across a selection of other related movies (i.e. Van Helsing). Coppola’s film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, starring Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins and Keanu Reeves, was faulted by some for being too drawn out, however, it is universally praised for its look, feel and close adherence to the original novel, winning 3 Academy Awards along the way.The newest Dracula movie, titled Dracula: Year Zero, strives to restore critical cinematic praise to the good vampire name. The film will be directed by Alex Proyas (director of I, Robot, Dark City, The Crow, among others), with actor Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans) attached to the lead. Early reports believe the movie will be a hybrid between Stoker’s book and historic account Vlad III Drakyula (pronounced Dracula), better known as Vlad the Impaler, allegedly the inspiration for Stoker’s title character. Worthington is reportedly playing the real-life Vlad, though it will be interesting to see if makes a vampire crossover as Proyas blends both elements of the story. Filming is set to begin early next year in Australia.
Best Horror(ish) Films of 2009 (continued)September 13th, 2010
3. Drag Me To Hell This is the exact type of horror movie, god willing, there should be more of. Drag Me To Hell is a horror movie that quite simply knows it’s a horror movie and doesn’t try to be anything more than a horror movie. From grotesque to even painful to the eye (quite literally) on-screen action, the movie gives horror audiences exactly what they pay for. Not to mention, Drag Me To Hell goes so far as to leave audiences with a wholesome moral Borat would be wise to heed, “no matter how bad your day, beware how you treat gypsies.”
2. Paranormal Activity This mockumentary contributed to one of the most enjoyable in theater viewing experiences in the history of horror film. Technically released in 2007, the final theatrical cut didn’t make its widespread debut until 2009. One of the most profitable films of all time, filmed on just a 15,000 budget, the lower grade, amateur feel gave the film an additional sense of credibility, luring audiences even deeper into the film’s authenticity. Set up as the lost footage of a young couple who had recorded the series of haunting phenomenons occurring around them, the events taking place between dusk and dawn progress from trivial to terrifying as the paranormal powers grow stronger.
1. Triangle A perfectly blended head-scratcher slash horror film, unfortunately Triangle has likely only been seen on DVD by most American audiences, released in theaters in the UK and later in the US at Screamfest Film Festival. Though each viewer might walk away with their own interpretation of exactly what he or she saw on-screen, that doesn’t take away from the edge-of-your-seat experience felt throughout the story. Trapped somewhere between Memento and Ghost Ship, thankfully more closely reminiscent of the former than latter, this high seas adventure will leave you excited to re-fill the popcorn to watch it again, even if only to sit back and say “Wait what?”
Best Horror(ish) Films of 2009September 9th, 2010
While 2010 is well past its midway point, perhaps it’s time to reflect on the year 2009 and the gems it gave the horror genre. While traditionally the late fall/early winter season is when most horror, or even darker satire films for that matter, make their way into theaters, so far this year seems to be mostly rainbows, butterflies and smiles, greatly lacking in skin-piercing suspense. Without further ado, enjoy this brief trip down memory lane, counting down the best horror flicks last year had to offer.
5. Jennifer’s Body Ok, perhaps Jennifer’s Body could never pass for an epic horror film in the classical sense, but when Megan Fox is cast as a flesh-hungry demon, at least for a certain target audience, it can be hard to get too nitpicky. Amanda Seyfried and Fox actually deliver strong performances in what is a very enjoyable movie assuming you go into it well-adjusted expectations. For viewers who don’t take themselves to seriously, enjoy a bit of gore and aren’t above watching a sexually charged man-eater devour her prey for an hour and a half or so, this is well worth the Redbox rental.
4. Zombieland This horror-comedy is a quirky flick best described as a combination of 28 Days Later, I am Legend and Vacation with a helping hand from the Wedding Crashers rulebook, a comparison meant as more of an ingenious compliment than indictment on account of ludicrousness. Starring Woody Harrelson in arguably his most agreeable role since Kingpin, also joined by the incredibly likable duo of Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone, Zombieland tells the tale of the few survivors of a mad cow disease outbreak that has turned the world into the lost land of, you guessed it, zombies. With each group member living by their own code of ethics and survival guides, the ragtag crew is both pulled together and pushed apart by the differing values that have helped them to get along in this post-apocalyptic environment.
The Book that Broke Ground on Horror HistorySeptember 9th, 2010
For anyone who legitimately enjoys the horror genre, not to mention any aspiring horror writers (both book and script), a healthy diet of the history of horror fiction is likely a prerequisite to fully appreciate the modern day works, including many of the stories that have inspired today’s writers and filmmakers. To broaden your horizons on horror from a historical perspective, it might be in your interest to pick up Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto, written in 1764, which paved the way for current tales from the crypt, even horror classics like Frankenstein and Dracula that may seem age-old in their own right.
Castle of Otranto sets the stage for many themes, motifs and tactics used thereafter. Widely considered to be the first gothic novel, the mother ship from which the horror genre sprung forth, Walpole actually set up the story so as to appear to be the translated findings of an ancient manuscript rediscovered in the library of long-ago family in northern England. In an effort to ground his supernatural references and outlandish claims that readers of the time might have found objectionable or foolish, rooting his work in a dated document was a strategy to lend credibility to his writing. Similar tactics are employed have been employed across all fiction, but are particularly applicable in world of horror as most stories run the risk of losing touch with reality or a sense of believability if they don’t stem outward from some sort basic of truth. Anytime you see the words “based on a true story” accompanying a trailer, opening chapter or credits, thank Walpole for his ingenuity in recognizing that most people who enjoy a good ghost story want to be taken to world in which they aren’t tied down by steadfast laws of nature. While some might consider his creative license with the truth misleading, Walpole merely gave the audience a stepping stone from which to enter new heights of imagination.
Be advised, though Castle of Otranto is an interesting story, it is anything but an easy read. However, if you can stand a bit of longwinded narrative and outdated vocabulary, its groundbreaking significance is more than worth checking out at your local library.
Pre-20th Century Horror Fiction Reading ListSeptember 9th, 2010
By many expert opinion (and perhaps a little non-expert opinion as well) this list explores the most influential works in the style and content of modern horror writing and filmmaking. The following books and short stories are must reads for any serious fan of the genre:
The Monk, by Matthew Lewis (1796) The Monk depicts the downfall of a well-respected, god-fearing, law-abiding monk, establishing a theme that can be traced all the way up to today’s horror films. So prevalent is the general storyline, it is almost considered a horror clich to have the central protagonist portrayed as the epitome of purity and upstanding moral fiber only to be lured down the path of sin and into an underworld of treachery.
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley (1818) Trivia buffs out there might know that in Shelley’s story, Frankenstein was actually the name of the doctor who created the monster, not the actual monster who was brought to life (referred to instead as Frankenstein’s monster or Frankenstein’s creation). This is only one of many stark differences between Shelley’s original and today’s reinterpretations, which makes reading the 1818 version like finding eye-opening pictures of parents in their teens/early 20s.
Dracula, by Bram Stoker (1897) Through the countless reincarnations of Dracula both on paper and on-screen a touch of the original is often lost. Before vampires were restricted to the shade, the original Dracula was much more powerful enjoyed shape-shifting powers and some scholars even speculate Count Dracula may have been among the world’s first werewolves (finally offering a compromise for the whole two-sided Twilight debate).Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson (1886) Stevenson’s tale helped lay groundwork for the modern psychological thriller, lending itself to both the supernatural potential for mental disorder and the ability to house two distinct characters in one bodily entity.
The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Fall of the House of Usher, by Edgar Allen Poe (1843,1843,1839, respectively) While The Tell-Tale Heart and The Fall of the House of Usher are must-reads in that they are two of the most famous often alluded to works of arguably the greatest horror writer of all time, The Pit and the Pendulum is unique in that it follows the typical dos and don’ts for the genre at the time, but applies it with no supernatural element, with just the sheer fear of terror and torture driving the narrative. This short story allowed for more realism in novels and films to follow (i.e. Saw and The Strangers).