Happy Birthday, Arthur Machen

arthurmachen

“We are standing on the brink of a strange world, Raymond, if what you say is true. I suppose the knife is absolutely necessary?” — from THE GREAT GOD PAN

Arthur Llewelyn Jones, better known to literary circles as Arthur Machen, entered our plain of existence on March 3, 1963. Machen is a bit of a cult figure among horror fans; despite his influence on modern horror, he doesn’t currently have the mainstream recognition that his literary followers do. But without Machen’s impact on cosmic horror especially, it’s a pretty safe bet that we wouldn’t have Cthulhu. Because of that, an entire industry of RPG writers and t-shirt manufacturers should be grateful to him.

Machen’s best-known (and likely most anthologized) work in the horror field is THE GREAT GOD PAN, which you should check out if you haven’t read. If you’re a fan of brain surgery stories gone awry fused with cosmic terror, I think you’ll like it. Both H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King have praised this particular novella, with the latter describing it as one of the greatest horror stories ever written.

Another of his works, THE BOWMEN, inspired the legend of “the Angels of Mons.” THE BOWMEN isn’t horror,  but its effect on the public was pretty damn hilarious and more than worthy of mention. In the story, phantom archers intervened to assist British soldiers during World War I. While Machen steadfastly said that his story was purely fictional, its premise spread as a “true” event. You’ll even find modern books on “the unexplained” uncritically recounting the incident as something that actually happened.

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.

VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN Review

Victor Frankenstein

I liked it. Granted, this is a lighter, more “pop” take on the material — it’s not a “real” horror movie — but a Victorian setting, monsters… I’m a pretty easy mark for this kind of material. I’m sure that some people are grousing about this movie’s lack of fidelity of Mary Shelley’s novel, but if that’s your position, do yourself a favor and don’t watch any Frankenstein movies. None of them are faithful.

The tone I picked up from the U.S. trailer proved to be pretty spot-on: imagine a cross between the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes flicks and later-period Hammer Gothic. I thought Daniel Radcliffe’s Igor and James McAvoy’s Victor had a likable, easy chemistry. I was actually pretty impressed with the monster once he showed up near the end, too. He’s massive and powerful, almost Hulk-like, but realized with better special effects. Plus they kept his visual appearance simple, rather than trying to graft on various contraptions a la the monster in Van Helsing.

I guess what it boils down to is, if you saw the trailers and thought it looked fun, you’ll like the full film. It will probably turn out to be the 2010’s answer to The Bride, but, as I’ve said before, I liked that movie, too.

“Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell”: Holmes vs. Cenobites

Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell

Pardon the phrase, but oh hell yes. Coming in July 2016 from Solaris Books, Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell introduces the Great Detective into the warped mythos popularized by the film Hellraiser. The novel, written by Paul Kane but authorized by Clive Barker, will be the third long form prose fiction centered on the iconic Cenobites. In addition to being a novelist himself, Kane is an expert on Pinhead’s crew, having written the non-fiction book The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy. I’m glad that this is on my radar, especially since it gives me an excuse to mention Hellraiser on Dreadpunk.com.

DESCRIPTION: Sherlock Holmes and the Servants Of Hell

Late 1895, and Sherlock Holmes and his faithful companion Dr John Watson are called upon to investigate a missing persons case. On the face of it, this seems like a mystery that Holmes might relish – as the person in question vanished from a locked room – and something to occupy him other than testing the limits of his mind and body.

But this is just the start of an investigation that will draw the pair into contact with a shadowy organisation talked about in whispers and known only as ‘The Order of the Gash’. As more and more people go missing in a similar fashion, the clues point to a sinister asylum in France and to the underworld of London. However, it is an altogether different underworld that Holmes will soon discover – as he finds himself face to face not only with those followers who do the Order’s bidding on Earth, but those who serve it in Hell: the Cenobites…

Source: Solaris Damns Its Soul With Acquisition of Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell