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But a funny thing happened…

Sorry about the “interruption of service,” so to speak.  I had some personal matters to attend to, and then I had to plan for the Dragon Con Horror Track.  And some of it can be attributed to that old bugaboo of mine, “overthinking it.”

When I coined the term “dreadpunk,” it was partially satirical.  I knew that sooner or later, some jackass was going to take the things I liked and give them a shiny new name, so I figured that jackass might as well be me.  But I also wanted shorthand for (say it all together, gang) “contemporary Gothic and Victorian-inspired Horror, Dark Fantasy, and Spooky Pop Culture.”

This time last year, we were in the middle of what appeared to be a new boom of new Gothic entertainment: PENNY DREADFUL had been renewed for a third season, Guillermo del Toro’s CRIMSON PEAK was being readied for theatrical release, and VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN looked like it could be breezy fun.  As we all know by now, PENNY DREADFUL ended on a frustratingly half-assed note, CRIMSON PEAK underperformed (even though it is gaining a cult audience), and VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN exploded on contact with the box office.

But a funny thing happened while all of this was going on: people began to embrace the term “dreadpunk” — many of them strangers, such as the administrator of the Facebook page Dreadpunk = Gothic Horror (and I love that self-explanatory title).  While some of these folks have placed an undue emphasis on Cthulhu*, overall they are getting more right than wrong.  Refreshingly, a large part of “getting it right” has been an embrace of the humorous, quirky streak that is embedded deep in dreadpunk’s overall DNA — the works of Edward Gorey, Charles Addams, and, of course, Tim Burton.

I have long said that dreadpunk is an entertainment aesthetic rather than a subculture, but I think that the term can apply to the fandom of this material as well.  And even if you write the term off as utterly ridiculous, hopefully you’ll enjoy reading the site if you’re a fan of “contemporary Gothic and Victorian-inspired Horror, Dark Fantasy, and Spooky Pop Culture.”

* To be clear, I am a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction. However, his work is more properly termed “cosmic horror” whereas dreadpunk is primarily rooted in Gothic horror and fantasy. There’s definite crossover — Chaosium’s CTHULHU BY GASLIGHT was an early inspiration of mine — but Cthulhu and co. have a sizable fanbase without swallowing up this one, too.

BUBBA HO-TEP: Not Dreadpunk

I’m no genre fascist but I have no idea why BUBBA HO-TEP keeps getting brought up in discussions about dreadpunk. It was mentioned once during a discussion (thanks to rum), and reporters and bloggers have consistently cited it as a “key dreadpunk work” ever since. While its recurring presence plays into my random sense of humor, I’m just going to say it: BUBBA HO-TEP is not dreadpunk. And to be clear, that’s no judgment of its merits; I think Epcot, lasagna, Godzilla, and AC/DC are all pretty cool but those things aren’t dreadpunk, either.

THE WITCH Review

The WitchThe much-buzzed about movie THE WITCH went into wide release in the U.S. this weekend. I’ve been looking forward to this movie ever since it was announced that its director, Robert Eggers, was mounting a remake of NOSFERATU. The fact that a lot of horror fans got excited about this rather than sighing wearily had me intrigued; THE WITCH must be something special.

Now that I have seen it, I can verify that THE WITCH is a beautifully crafted film. The scene compositions are wonderful, the acting spot-on, and the lack of “potential franchise!” storytelling is refreshing. The subtitle “A New England Folktale” is apt as this movie captures the flavor of legends about the dark arts. If you ever wondered what WGN’s SALEM looked like with the glitz ripped off, THE WITCH is your movie.

With that said, this movie’s “scare factor” is being way oversold. Make no mistake — THE WITCH is absolutely a horror film. However, it relies on a feeling of unease rather than easy jump scares. The most frightening moments are, much like in Jack Clayton’s THE INNOCENTS, the presence of things that just shouldn’t be there.

What THE WITCH brings to the table is how well-made it is. I can see why people would be excited about Eggers remaking NOSFERATU. I can see how his skill set would translate perfectly to Graf Orlok and friends. I’d love to see Eggers tackle vampires the same way he handled witch lore here, but I wish he wouldn’t waste his time with another remake of NOSFERATU.

So there you have it: THE WITCH is highly recommended, but approach it with the right frame of reference.

It’s scary stuff!

John B. Dutton has written an article, “Dreadpunk. It’s scary stuff,” about this website and its aesthetic. John recaps the salient points (including the tongue-in-cheek aspect) and weighs in on dreadpunk and what it means to him.

Another article is Mark Gelineau’s “Dreadpunk, or ‘Now I Have a Name for That!'” Mark wrote this almost a month ago, so apologies for linking to it so late in the game.

Thanks, John and Mark!

Relax, folks.

First of all, thank you to everyone who is actually visiting and reading the site and judging it on its actual contents.

The Daily Dot ran an article spotlighting my Dragon Con panel “Dreadpunk: The Gothic Horror Revival” — thanks, Daily Dot! — and it kicked off an interesting reaction.

Most of the writers I have heard from get what I’m going for here. “Period Piece Gothic Horror Created by Modern Writers and Filmmakers” is a mouthful and would make a lousy URL.

But some others are up in arms over what they view as subcultural appropriation. I have even been accused of being unaware that the concept of Gothic Horror already exists.

:facepalm:

Relax, folks. It’s just me and my friends having fun. If you don’t like the term, don’t use it. “Dreadpunk” is not a replacement term for “Gothic Horror.” Think of it as a subset describing contemporary macabre works with a historical setting or aesthetic.