Horrific Tales from Wales: Interview with Horror and Fantasy Writer Tim Lebbon

May 27, 2011

A family man who loves the Welsh countryside and creating post-apocalyptic worlds, award-winning fantasy and horror writer Tim Lebbon talks Stephen King, creating characters and his various upcoming projects to Awesome Art.

Tim chillin'

With his friendly, warm disposition and details of a normal childhood and teenage years, you would never expect this bearded bespeckled man to have destroyed the world several times over in so many of his horror and fantasy novels. Stephen Volk, with whom Tim has written a screenplay, says of Tim that, “He is the exact opposite of what people might assume a horror writer to be like. He’s charming, funny, loyal, sensitive, passionate about the wonders of science, and always fired up about the next big idea.”

Tim became a full-time writer five years ago. When he’s not chained to his desk writing scary stories, he spends his free time with his wife and kids and watching movies (yes, he loves horror movies, although he doesn’t care for Torture Porn) with a glass of wine or a fine ale like the ones detailed in his novel Bar None.

Delving into horror

“I made my first story up when I was four,” Tim remembers. “I didn’t write it down, but it was about the giant black cat that lived at the bottom of my garden. Even at four I was making up stuff like that.” From then on he was constantly writing, and wrote dozens of unfinished novels during his teenage years. “I’ve always loved horror, I think I just gravitated that way,” Tim admits. Was he a weird teenager? Did a love of horror result in a goth phase or rebellion? “Nah, I was pretty normal really,” Tim remembers. “I wasn’t particularly rebellious.”

Instead of rebelling, Tim took to the books. From an early age he devoured books, and then he discovered horror fiction. “My Mum gave me a book when I was ten; The Rats by James Herbert,” he says. “It wasn’t a book for a ten-year-old really,” he smirks. “It’s pretty gruesome!”

Not your typical kids book...

It was in his teens that he discovered Stephen King. “For a few years there was just Stephen King and James Herbert,” Tim remembers. “I read their books again and again! It wasn’t until I was about 16 that I realised that there were other horror writers.” Nowadays, Tim writes more than he reads, although he still cites King as an influence, as well as Arthur Macken.

Bringing horror to Wales

Tim was born in London in 1969, but only lived there for 18 months before moving to Wales. He is now settled in the small Welsh town of Goytre with his wife and two children. Christopher Golden, an American writer with whom Tim has collaborated, states, “Tim’s family comes before anything.” Tim refers to Wales as his true home. Like Stephen King, who sets the majority of his novels where he lives, in Maine, Tim believes that Wales is the perfect setting for a horror novel.

“If I’m writing a contemporary novel, as opposed to another-world fantasy novel, I generally set it where I know.” Tim mentions Bar None, a post-apocalyptic novel set in Wales where the characters try to make it to the last bar in the world. “Bar None combines two great loves, which are horror and beer,” laughs Tim. “The research for that one was pretty difficult!” he jokes.

Bar None is not the only post-apocalyptic novel that Tim has written. In fact, it appears to be a favourite subject matter for him, from his first novel Mesmer to new novel Echo City. Tim cites The Road as a favourite novel and is fascinated by envisioning the end of the world. “It’s a pretty grim thing to be fascinated with,” he admits.

Blending horror and fantasy

Although Tim loves writing horror fiction, he has become known for his fantasy novels, particularly the series set in the fantasy world of Norella. The first Norella novel, Dusk, won the August Derleth Award in 2007. But Tim is quick to mention that his fantasy worlds are not your typical heroic fantasies.

“I write in the fantastic genre, I guess,” says Tim. “Some of it’s regarded as horror, some fantasy. But my fantasy books are alternative fantasy books. They’re really grim and dark.” Tim admits that while Dusk was well received, some people hated it because it was full of sex, violence and swearing. Furthermore, unlike most typical fantasy novels, there are no dragons, no orcs, and most unusual of all, no magic.

“A lot of fantasy novels tend to contain a magic system,” Tim states. “And fantasy fans are quite perceptive when they’re reading a novel, to make sure that your magic system works,” Tim states. But Tim went against this traditional fantasy system and created a world, Norella, that is devoid of any magic.

“There used to be magic, but the magic was misused by humanity,” Tim says of Norella. “So it withdrew itself from the world. It’s a story of the end of that world in a slow degeneration, not just a big bang.” Tim’s passion for post-apocalyptic horror is just as evident in his fantasy novels as it is in his horror works.

Creating characters

One of Tim’s favourite characters is Kel Boon from Fallen, a fantasy novel from the Norella series. Kel Boon is a middle-aged man who is past his prime, and strives to discover the next big thing in Norella. He is jealous of his companion Nomi, and eventually they become enemies.

“All my characters are human beings,” Tim states. “But you need to make them human beings. You need to give them problems and history, give them aims and give them a dark side as well.” In Fallen, these two main characters are driven apart as they become competitive enemies, resulting in the climax of the novel. “They were both quite unpleasant people,” says Tim. “The two characters bounce off each other so well. They created a real feel to the book.”

With new books being released (Echo City and The Secret Journeys of Jack London are just two coming out this year), and film deals in the bag (Jack London was picked up by 20th Century Fox last summer before the book was even released), it looks like Tim Lebbon is quickly working his way to the top of UK horror fiction, doing for Wales what Stephen King did for Maine. Watch this space.

Tim’s favourite creations

Mesmer (1997)

Written in his mid-20s, Tim’s first novel is well-known for its opening line: “In service stations across the land, the zombies walk.” A line which Tim didn’t actually write. “Everyone kept saying, what a great first line of your first novel! And I said, yeah! I didn’t actually write it. My publisher did,” Tim laughs. His first of many apocalyptic visions.

Beserk (2006)

This novel has been called both a zombie novel and a vampire novel, whereas actually it is just about, as Tim says, “these mad creatures that were invented by the British military and genetically engineered to fight.” The creatures were then buried and, in true horror form, dug up by some unsuspecting victim and brought back to life. Tim says, “It’s an action horror book, with lots of car chases and shoot-ups.”

Echo City (2010 – released in UK July 2011)

Already released in the States and coming to the UK this July, Echo City is cited by Tim as his favourite fantasy novel that he has written. Echo City is a massive city surrounded by a poisonous desert; nothing can get in or out. The city is 50 miles wide, and has layers beneath it, making it like all history built in one big city. “It’s a bit of a mad book,” laughs Tim.

For more info on Tim, his upcoming projects and where to buy his books, check out his website at http://www.timlebbon.net/

One Final Scream: The Scream franchise

May 23, 2011

Before torture porn stole the horror movie crown from slashers, there was the ultimate horror franchise complete with guide-book: Wes Craven’s suspense soaked Scream. Forget supernatural serial killers and creepy Japanese chicks, however camp it may be Scream made audiences jump with strategically timed creepy music and the theory that seemingly normal high school kids are actually horror movie-obsessed deranged serial killers.

Hey there!

After reaching cult-like status can the ultimate slasher collection successfully return with one last memorable punch? Take a deep breath and remember: don’t have sex, don’t answer the bloody phone, for God’s sake don’t ever say “I’ll be back,” and remember, Ghostface’s knife can stab through any door.

Scream

Based loosely on the killings of the Gainesville Ripper, the original half piss-take half blood-fest paved the way for a flurry of spoofs and earned itself a permanent cult-status. Sydney Prescott may be the most annoying character known to man (seriously, dude, how many lives can one chick have?), but hey, you can’t get a much better principal than the Fonz. My favourite bit? Rose McGowan’s garage-door death. Although Drew Barrymore’s 90s bob and sweater combo is also pretty sweet.

Regretting that last donut?

Scream 2

Sydney’s all grown up, attempting to be a college student while making the most of caller ID. Character development in a horror film sets Scream apart from the masses, and the whole playing-on-the-idea-of-horror-movies-now-playing-on-the-idea-of-the-sequel (still with me?) is just a further example of Scream’s deliciously original concept. Not as good as the original, but still a damn good effort.
Best bit: Will Smith’s wifey getting the stab while watching Stab. Oh, the irony!

GIMME BACK MY POPCORN BITCH!

Scream 3

Now this is where it flags a bit. The film-within-a-film and the ‘revelation’ at the end can’t save this from being a mediocre ‘final’ chapter.
But who cares about the plot, I just get too distracted by Courtney Cox’s hair.

Shit, she's spotted a mirror...

Scream 4

Now how the feck is this one gonna work.

How can a generation who will happily watch human centipedes eating each other’s shit flinch at the sight of Ghostface flopping around clumsily in his comical robes!?

LOLZ.

The reality is that they probably won’t. But Scream 4 ups the camp and creates a ridiculously over-the-top ending that makes it a full-blown parody of itself. Pretentious film students will be all over this shiz.

Scream 4 introduces a new set of Woodsboro faces, a ton of iPhones complete with Ghostface apps together with an annoying kid with a webcam permanently attached to his head to make a seemingly new breed of Scream that in reality relies on pretty much the same techniques as the first three films.

Old-school Screamers

New kids on tha block... complete with irritating live blogger

Scream fans will pick up on the mirrored moments from the previous films and in typical Scream fashion (and quite possibly the only reason that most people will want to watch this movie) you’re left guessing right until the end. Will Gale Weathers ever shut her trap? Will Dewey stop being the most useless bumbling cop since Chief Wiggum? Will Sydney bite the dust? One thing’s for sure, you’ll be yelling at the idiots onscreen for the duration of the movie, as always. Enjoy.

Awesome Art isn’t dead yet…

May 11, 2011

…I’m just in exam revision hell. Here’s a little pic of me, shielding myself from the horrors of Public Administration.

NO I DON'T KNOW ABOUT THE FUCKING WELSH ASSEMBLY GOVERNMENT!!

See you all on the other side.

Women in Horror Recognition Month: Awesome Female Horror Characters

February 26, 2011

Women in Horror Recognition Month is nearly at an end, and shamefully I have left it until the last-minute to get involved. Whoopsh!

February is Women in Horror Recognition Month. The concept was created by awesome horror writer Hannah Neurotica, who is also responsible for Ax Wound, a feminist horror zine.

Horror films are chock full of chicks, from final girls to slasher scream queens. But often they are represented as dumb bimbos with blood-drenched boobs.

Some quality filmmaking right there.

And what about the ladies behind the cameras?

Women in Horror Recognition Month celebrates the female writers and directors of horror, as well as the ladies onscreen, who have defied the myth that horror, like heavy metal, is a boys-only club.

Plenty of bloggers have jumped on the bandwagon in spreading the word of the event, including The Girl who loves Horror’s post on Stephen King’s leading ladies and a bunch of awesome posts on Fatally Yours.

From kick-ass super-women like Ellen Ripley to every dimwit blonde who’s killed off in the first half hour, female characters rule the horror screen. I have compiled a list of some of my favorite female characters in horror in celebration of Women in Horror Recognition Month.

1. Sheri Moon Zombie – Baby Firefly (House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects)

The woman I would like to trade lives with, please.

Yeah, we get it Rob Zombie, your wife is super hot. Do we really need to see her arse again?

I’m just kidding. I could look at Sheri Moon’s ass all day. Baby Firefly may be a controversial choice for this list, with her high-pitched squeaky voice and white trash barely there wardrobe, but I bloody love/am ridiculously jealous of Sheri Moon and Baby is the ultimate creation of Rob Zombie’s tongue-in-cheek horror style that many people just don’t get.
“TUTTI-FUCKING-FRUITY!”

2. Linda Blair – Reagan MacNeil (The Exorcist)

OH GOOD LORD MAKE IT STOP!

Yeah yeah so this is pretty obvious. But I think I deserve some recognition for actually putting this picture on my blog. Every time I look at it I crap my pants. Yeesh.

3. Fairuza Balk – Nancy Downs (The Craft)

Now that's what I call PMS.

I was obsessed with The Craft (1996) as an angst-ridden pre-teen. It was definitely one of the influences behind my goth/wiccan/Marilyn Manson-loving phase. Nancy Downs, the ringleader and mega bitch of the gang of teen witches, is performed to perfection by the awesome Fairuza Balk. This is the ultimate teen horror flick for budding goths and wannabe witches.

4. Shelley Duvall – Wendy Torrance (The Shining)

yeesh

The Shining (1980) is one of my all-time favorite horror movies. And one of the (many) reasons for this is Shelley Duvall as Wendy Torrance. Gangly and awkward, she portrays the part of the fragile victim with memorable originality. And what can I say, boy is she ridiculously creepy.

5. Katharine Isabelle – Ginger (Ginger Snaps)

Got any tampons?

Forget Twilight, before the teen vampire craze began there was Ginger Snaps (2000), a film about teenage werewolves. Two teenage outcast sisters, a creepy loner (Brigitte) and an outspoken redhead (Ginger), are obsessed with death and are going through some pretty weird changes during puberty. The film’s tagline states: “They don’t call it the curse for nothing.” What a larf! This low-budget Canadian horror film was an unexpected cult success, and despite the hilariously garbled creature costumes, it is funny, original and suitably blood-drenched.

6. Ingrid Pitt – various characters

BOOBS

The original scream queen unfortunately passed away last year. But her legacy as the heavy-bosomed sexy siren in Hammer horror classics like Countess Dracula and The Vampire Lovers will continue to live on.

Who are your favorite horror movie screen queens?

These two perhaps?

Check out a cool interview with Hannah Neurotica talking about Women in Horror Recognition Month here.

Final Girl Film Club Review: Frozen (2010)

February 13, 2011

Scary things can happen on chair lifts.

The horror, oh the horror!

As part of horror blogger Final Girl’s monthly film club, I took a look at the chilly thriller (‘Chiller’, if you will. Aren’t I clever.) Frozen (2010). Writer/director Adam Green takes a simple concept and turns it into a nightmare scenario: What happens when you’re the last to use the chair lift at a dodgy ski resort and by some screw up you get forgotten about?

The film introduces us to the three main characters briefly and doesn’t bother with much development. All we know is that the girl and one of the guys are dating, and the other guy is a needy stoner who has never had a girlfriend. And, well, that’s about it. The fact that they are never really developed as characters only emphasizes their normality: they could be anyone.

The film relies on tension and a (somewhat) plausible concept to create terror. Think Open Water (2003). Nobody enjoys the moment when your chair lift freezes and you’re left to dangle mid-air, if only for a minute, and Green has tapped into a fear that many would shiver at the thought of. Frozen in mid-air, the threesome watch in horror as the lights of the ski resort are turned off, and they realise that it is Sunday night and the resort won’t open again until Friday. Of course.

....Uh oh.

Right from the start I could imagine the inevitable things that would happen as the three characters swung in the snow. One would definitely need to pee at some point. Someone would probably jump, resulting in disaster. There would most certainly be some skin-freezing-to-chair-lift fiasco a la Dumb and Dumber. One of them would bite the dust pretty speedily. Surprise surprise, all of the above happen.

The film is all about terror through tension, but the use of this tension could have been emphasized a lot more to make it truly unbearable to watch. There is some gore and gross moments but ultimately the horror comes from the thought of the scenario itself. It is a story of survival and making crucial choices, and throughout the film audiences will be wondering, what the heck would I do if it was me stuck up there!? Would I risk the jump? Would I drop my equipment or hold onto it? Would I climb across the cables? Would I wet myself!?

Forget breaking your legs, if you jump you also risk becoming someone's snack. Oh, the stress!

The characters are for the most part, likeable and believable, although listening to the sad singleton stoner mourn his failed love affair made me roll my eyes and wish for his mouth to just freeze up already. At times I was pretty freakin’ bored, but that comes from watching too many gore-fests and being the desensitized viewer that I am.

The main reason that I continued to watch Frozen was purely because I was curious to see what the characters would do. But that is entirely the point of the film, it makes you think about how you would handle such a strive for survival. In any case, you’ll probably never feel comfortable perching your rump on a chair lift again. Better stick to the T-bar lift.

Stay on the ground now, kids, ya hear!?
Showcase T-Bar
Photo courtesy of Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr.

Circus of Horrors Review for Guardian Cardiff

February 4, 2011

Ah, the perks of journalism.

I get to watch awesome stuff like this for free! - Copyright of The Circus of Horrors

Last night I was treated to the theatrical whirlwind that is The Circus of Horrors in Cardiff’s New Theatre, which I reviewed for Guardian Cardiff. What can I say, if you’re a fan of dwarf penis and Rob Zombie style tunes then you’ll be in for a treat.

Doktor Haze was on top form, winning the crowd over with impressive vocals and dirty jokes. In response to one woman who cringed as the sword-swallower displayed his tricks, Haze retorted: “Don’t look so horrified madam, I’m sure you’ve swallowed worse.”

Check out my review for Guardian Cardiff here.

Oh yeah, and then there’s this.

I met Doktor Haze. Oh yeah.

Trauma in Tutus: Black Swan Review

January 30, 2011

Get ready for 108 minutes of pure, raw anxiety.

Uh-oh..

Darren Aronofsky creates a whirlwind of paranoia, intensity and hysteria with the psychological modern gothic thriller that is Black Swan.

Right from the start we are hurled into the life of dedicated yet delicate New York ballet dancer Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman). She lives with her overbearing, equally anxious mother (Barbara Hershey) and appears to have no life outside of the ballet studio. From start to finish, we remain in her intense world and watch as she descends into madness.

Hey there!

Nina lands the role of her dreams, as the Swan Queen in a new version of Swan Lake that is being directed by the somewhat sleazy Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel). In this challenging role, she must embody both the white swan and its evil twin, the black swan. Although she is ideal as the virtuous white swan, she struggles to find within her the ability to play the part of its doppelgänger. Leroy slyly suggests that if she goes home and touches herself this may help her to relax. Did I mention he was somewhat sleazy?

Typically, another dancer in the company, Lily (Mila Kunis), is perfect to play the black swan. Sexy, passionate and tattooed, she is everything that Nina is not and Nina becomes obsessed with her, believing that she is out to steal the lead role.

The first half of the film moves quite slowly, emphasizing the mundane boredom and loneliness of Nina’s life. As Nina slowly loses her mind in trying to find her dark side, Aronofsky plays with the audience, challenging us to question where reality ends and fantasy begins. As we are seeing the story unfold through Nina’s eyes, it becomes impossible to know what is happening for real and what are Nina’s paranoid delusions.

Just how many Nina's are there?

Black Swan is a claustrophobic thriller about obsession and fear. Fear of sex and passion, fear of losing control and fear of imperfection. If the film’s constant feeling of biting anxiety isn’t enough, there are plenty of moments that will make for an extremely uncomfortable audience. There is frequent body mutilation, skin picking and bloody toes. Two such scenes involve Nina slowly peeling skin off of her fingers and Winona Ryder (as jaded ballet dancer Beth) jabbing a nail file into her cheeks. There is also a particularly intense masturbation scene that you definitely wouldn’t want to watch with your mother. You will be gripping your seat while also cringing into your popcorn throughout this movie.

Portman transformed

So is it worth the hype? Portman is certainly brilliant, and the film’s success is ultimately down to her performance. The film itself isn’t particularly scary, instead it is seriously heavy viewing and not recommended for the fragile or squeamish. The melodrama, blood and eroticism of this overwhelming film are certainly intoxicating, but won’t be for everyone.

I can’t say that I’ll be rushing back for a second viewing, and it isn’t quite as captivating as Requiem for a Dream, but Black Swan has got ‘Oscar winner’ written all over it.

The Dark Side of Disney

January 21, 2011

I’m just going to go ahead and admit it: I freakin’ love Disney movies. As embarrassing as it may be for a horror blogger to admit, I have no shame in proudly declaring my love for The Emperor’s New Groove (the funniest movie, like, EVER), or admitting that Beauty and the Beast was on my Christmas list alongside Hammer Horror classics.

Disney has always been controversial. First of all, parents drop like flies and ‘good’ characters are sent to their graves. Then there’s a whole issue of allegations of creepy hidden meanings, racist content and scenes that are deemed too disturbing for kiddies. Disney has always had a dark side.

One of the earliest Disneys, 1929’s The Skeleton Dance, is a creepy short film featuring eerie ghosts and cawing crows, while Gothic imagery is rife in Disney classics like Beauty and the Beast and Snow White. I decided to take a look at some of the scariest Disney scenes and delve into the horror that lurks behind the magic.

Click on the title links to see the horror for yourselves!

Trippy Terror
Two of the scariest scenes in Disney look as though they were dreamt up by some dope-fueled ’60s hippy.

Dude… can you see those pink elephants too!?

Pink Elephants on Parade
Dumbo (1941) is a pretty scary movie straight from the start, channelling the whole ‘creepy carnival’ vibe. But the freakiest moment comes when Dumbo and his mouse pal Timothy drink too much booze unknowingly (who would have thought it, drink spiking in Disney), and end up hallucinating about petrifying pink elephants.
Heffalumps and Woozles
For those of you unfamiliar with Heffalumps and Woozles, they are the Winnie the Pooh version of elephants and weasels. The song of the same name appeared in the Disney musical film featurette, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968). Poor Pooh bear has a nightmare vision of creepy elephants and weasels who morph into different shapes and colours and are hell-bent on stealing Pooh’s precious honey. At least there’s sort of an explanation behind this one, it was the ‘60s after all.

Totally Traumatizing
Everyone remembers the Disney films that traumatized their kiddie souls for life. Surprise surprise, they always involve the death of a parent.

I. WILL. NOT. CRY.

The Massacre of Mufasa
Even those with hearts of stone would find it hard not to blub uncontrollably when the ultimate ‘good’ Disney character meets his end in The Lion King (1994). He’s bold, brave, full of good advice and not to mention fuzzy and freakin’ adorable. I can still remember watching it at a friend’s birthday party back in the early ‘90s, and Mufasa’s death resulted in a roomful of traumatized toddlers.
Mummy Bambi Bites the Dust
The word ‘meadow’ will forever have terrifying connotations for anyone who witnessed the trauma that was Bambi (1942). I can’t decide which is worse, Bambi’s mum getting slaughtered by hunters or the blazing forest fire scene. Either way, it’s quite possibly the most disturbing of all Disneys.

Truly Terrifying
Then there are the scenes that are, well, just plain scary.

Can’t we just watch Aladdin!?

Fantasia: Night on Bald Mountain
Let’s face it, Fantasia (1940) is just freaky all over. But wizards, sorcery and broomsticks gone mad can’t compare to the terror of Night on Bald Mountain. The demon Chernabog summons restless souls from their graves in a horrific Gothic vision that would terrify any tot.
Pinocchio: Stay off the Booze kids
You can’t deny that Pinocchio (1940) has underlying morals: Don’t fall in with the wrong crowd or you’ll turn into a jackass. Literally. Pinocchio hits the booze, starts gambling and puffing on cigars with his naughty pal Lampwick on Pleasure Island. He and his delinquent friends are then transformed into donkeys to be sold into donkey slavery . If this terrifying scene doesn’t stop kids from smokin’ and drinkin’, then I don’t know what the hell will.

What Disney films do you think are the most horrific?

Spine-tingling Suspense on Stage: Ghost Stories at The Duke of York’s Theatre

January 12, 2011

It’s a rare occasion when a theatre audience squeal with fright as soon as a voice asks them to turn off their mobiles before a show begins. But when you’re waiting in anticipation to watch a play that describes itself as ‘London’s scariest phenomenon’ and warns its audience in advance that they will have to keep reminding themselves that it’s only a show, it’s inevitable that you’ll be a tad bit jumpy. And rightly so.

Talk about tantalising advertising...

The secrets of Ghost Stories have been successfully shielded from the public. In fact, they are even hidden from the audience right up until the performance begins, with the show’s program revealing zilch about the storyline. After the final curtain falls on the stage, the audience is asked to keep the secrets of Ghost Stories. Clearly, the appeal of the show is the mystery that surrounds it.

Ghost Stories is currently running at The Duke of York’s Theatre in London (appropriately enough, the theatre is supposed to be haunted), and was devised by Jeremy Dyson, who co-created The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Andy Nyman, who has worked with Derren Brown. Together they have created a piece of theatre that mixes suspense, tricks of the eye, fact and fiction, audience interaction and heart-racing fear, all packed together nicely into 80 minutes. 80 minutes that you will literally spend on the edge of your seat terrified that some hideous creature is going to land on your lap.

The allegedly haunted Duke of York's Theatre

Perhaps I should divulge some of the plot detail, but I knew nothing about the storyline of Ghost Stories before I went to see it and that was what made it so engaging. Let’s just say that it involves a skeptical University Professor and a series of haunting stories.

Despite what the show promises, it won’t leave you disturbed for days. Instead it is rife with terrifying tension that may not stay with you long after you leave the theatre, but it sure as hell will get you in the moment. The acting is compelling and humor is key throughout, with the audience laughing just as often as they were yelping.

Just some of the media success that Ghost Stories has generated

What struck me most about Ghost Stories was how brilliantly clever it was. Obviously the mystery and media attention has helped considerably in getting the audience’s fear rising before they are even led to their seats, but once the show starts the techniques used to raise terror levels are fascinating. The audience becomes involved with the show immediately and this continues throughout, making us forget that we are, in fact, an audience in a theatre. Lighting and sound are used to their full effect, but it is the use of mind-numbing suspense that makes the show. It will drive you absolutely bonkers, but in the best possible way. Dare to blink and you might miss the moments of terror.

Ghost Stories is running at The Duke of York’s Theatre until June 2011. Click here for ticket info.

‘They don’t make them like this anymore’: Iconic Illustrations in The Art of Hammer

December 31, 2010

They sure don't.. — Creatures the World Forgot, 1971

Hello there. Do you love classic horror movies that are more tongue-in-cheek than torture porn? Heaving breasts and damsels in distress? Books that don’t let pesky words get in the way of pictures!? If you’re nodding along in enthusiasm (and hell, who wouldn’t be), then The Art of Hammer will be right up your dark alley.

The Art of Hammer cover

The Art of Hammer was published in October 2010, and is bursting with colourful pictures of Hammer horror film posters spanning from the ’50s to the ’70s, including classics such as Dracula and One Million Years B.C. to more obscure features like The Snorkel and The Shadow of the Cat.

The book begins with an introduction to the history of Hammer horror, from the initial critical response that scorned them to their now cult status as classics. Almost 300 poster images from Hammer’s archive are featured in this substantial book, and many are extremely rare. It’s got beautiful illustrations, brilliant taglines (‘Sledge-Hammer suspense to shock you from your seat!’ and ‘What strange power made her half woman — half snake?!’ being two such gems) and lets not forget plenty of boobs. This is the ultimate coffee table book for horror and hammer fans alike.

Here are some of my favourite posters from the book:

Awesome. Just Awesome. — The Curse of Frankenstein, 1957.

Death by deep-sea diving!! — The Snorkel, 1958.

The classic — Dracula, 1958.

Scream of Fear! 1961

Feck the film, I want my free Rasputin beard!! — Rasputin the Mad Monk, The Reptile 1966.

Freaky feline — The Shadow of the Cat, 1961.

'It's all in good fun, of corpse!' — The Old Dark House, 1966.

Hammer hot chicks — One Million Years B.C., SHE, 1966.

He sure has.. — Dracula has Risen from the Grave, 1968.

Those were the days.. — When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, 1970.

The horror world lost a legend this year, RIP Ingrid Pitt — Countess Dracula, 1971.