Your source for retro horror movie and book reviews

Posts tagged “Clive Barker

Thomas’s Top Reads: 2017

Now, I’ve never claimed to be a world champ reader. Truth is, i’m probably the world’s slowest reader. I have no shame at being slow, at least i’m reading, right? Any how. As we near the end of 2017, I thought it would be fun to share some of the books I’ve read throughout the year, not including some titles such as Salem’s Lot that I re-read every year. Being a fan of both fiction and non-fiction/history, you ought to find a great assortment here to look through. I’ve been trying to be more diverse in the genres I digest. Maybe that can be a goal for 2018, to read more of everything, not just horror. I’ll also include a short review of each book from myself. Well then, lets get this started shall we?  Continue Reading


Creature Features in Review: Nightbreed (1990)


I’ve always had a soft spot for Nightbreed.

I think I responded mostly to what it was trying to accomplish, to make monsters into sympathetic characters and humans the villains, rather than what it lacked. Even as a kid, I knew there was something fundamentally flawed about it but I held firm to my love for Boone and the monsters of Midian and—maybe more so—to the coldblooded serial killer Dr. Decker. I’d often found myself fumbling to defend the movie I knew it could have been, not the film they’d given us.

Later interviews revealed Barker’s bickering with studio heads who had liked Hellraiser (or at least the money it made them) but felt audiences wouldn’t “get” a movie with monsters as the heroes. They thought it would be too confusing.

The finished film suffered greatly for their tampering. To Barker’s fans, the studio had entirely missed the point. Barker himself said of the theatrical cut, “The movie that was released in 1990 was not the movie I wanted to make philosophically or artistically.”

Still, Barker’s monsters shone through despite the deeply flawed theatrical cut. Barker has not only created some of the most iconic creatures in cinema history (Hellraiser‘s Cenobites, for example, or Candyman), but also the most complex. Barker’s script based on his own novel doesn’t paint these monsters as either wholly evil or tragic victims of an oppressive society. There are shades of gray here. You understand the “monsters” and even sympathize with them.

The first citizens Boone meets in Midian (“where the monsters live,” according to several characters) are Peloquin and Kinski. Peloquin merely sees the human interloper as “meat for the beast,” but his friend reminds him of Midian’s laws.


In essence, Midian is a fully functioning society of “monsters” with all the flaws, culture, history and beliefs of any civilization—the only real difference is they must live out of sight for fear of human judgment and terrorism. Because of how they look. Because of how they live. And it’s not an irrational fear, as events prove in the latter half of the film.

Visionary director Alejandro Jodorowsky called Nightbreed “the first truly gay horror fantasy epic.” There are people who want the monsters of Midian hunted down and exterminated. Think about that. This movie was made and released during the tail end of America’s AIDS epidemic when many people erroneously believed it could be passed along simply by touching someone, and some still considered it a “gay disease.” Magic Johnson had yet to reveal his diagnosis, which some saw as a turning point in the AIDS scare, putting a human face (a very famous human face) on the tragedy.


I can’t say whether or not Barker had this subtext in mind while making the film or if Jodorowsky was reaching, but it does add an interesting layer that makes Nightbreed transcend its flaws and the trappings of the “Creature Feature” subgenre. Another intended philosophy, that humans are the true monsters. Another that our fascination with monsters leads some to wish to be monsters and live among them. Barker spoke about this in a 2014 interview: “Why would you not want to change into an animal? Why would you not want to fly? Why would you not want to live forever? These are the things that monsters do.”

This adds layers to the Creature Feature aspect of the movie not found in many others. In addition to the “normal” monsters, we have Boone (do I need to say “spoilers”?) who is psychic-driven by his psychiatrist, played wonderfully icily by David Cronenberg, into believing he’s a serial killer. When he hides out in Midian he is bitten and transforms into the monster he thinks he is.

We have a man Boone meets in the hospital who so eager to become a monster that his cuts off pieces of his own face to join them in Midian. He seems to be accepted into their group without question, and later we see several more humanlike “monsters” below the cemetery where Midian lies.

We have the most heinous monster of them all Cronenberg’s psychiatrist, who kills families under the guise of his “buttonface” mask.


We see glimpses of Midian’s citizens through the eyes of Boone’s partner Lori as she travels the underground city in search of Boone. Small lizard-like creatures feast on carrion. A sabre-toothed woman drums out a beat on a wall for some unknown reason. Monsters wash the penile humanoid head of a lumpy creature whose body resembles the Kool-Aid Man. A bulbous, greasy Jacob Marley lookalike limps around on a cane scaring people for fun. Another monster feeds his own blood to a jar of live eels. (The music that plays under this scene is phenomenal by the way, quintessential Danny Elfman. Watch the scene here:

Later we encounter their religious leader Dirk Lylesberg, played by Doug Bradley (Hellraiser‘s Pinhead). They even have their own god, Baphomet: a giant living statue far below the earth.

Other monsters have been imprisoned in the bowels of Midian, called the “Berserkers.” These slimy behemoths with football player padding are never explained. They could be criminals or protectors or both. Whichever they are they are let out to charge the intruders, easily overpowering them.


In its creature creation, Nightbreed is difficult to top. The sheer amount of thought put into this world and its inhabitants are a creature designer’s wet dream. Lori’s descent into Midian in particular calls to mind the cantina scene in Star Wars: A New Hope, one of the most iconic establishing scenes in movie history.

Nightbreed definitely has its flaws (the Director’s Cut fixed most of them while adding others), but as a Creature Feature, I’d list it among my favorites.

Bonus Review of Nightbreed: Director’s Cut for interested parties.

If you’re thinking of diving into Nightbreed for the first time I would suggest checking out the Director’s Cut instead. Critics pointed to the uneven direction and lack of characterization to the 1990 release. Little did they know 40 minutes of Barker’s original film had been cut. Until very recently it was thought this footage was lost.

The story of how Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut came to be started in 2008 when Mark Miller, co-head of Barker’s production company Seraphim Films, began to hunt down the extra footage. It was clear from the get-go the heads at Morgan Creek weren’t eager to help. When they finally relented Miller was left with a box full of VHS tapes. All the film they’d shot, according to Morgan Creek bigwigs, had vanished.

But the Monsters of Midian have a cult following. After a lucky group of fans saw the extra footage at something called the “Mad Monster Party” in 2010, the “Occupy Midian” campaign was born. That was the last I’d heard of it from Clive Barker’s Lost Souls website, aside from the occasional brief this-is-what-you’re-missing review from someone who’d seen the cut with the VHS footage inserted.


Then in 2012 Morgan Creek officials miraculously “found” the originally filmed footage after seeing the potential audience (ie. dollar signs). From there, Shout! Factory put together the Blu-ray and DVD version with new interviews and featurettes and released it in 2014.

Fans asked for it and we got it.

I bought the Blu-ray on the day of release and popped it in the PS3 as soon as it arrived. For the most part, the additions work. It’s definitely closer thematically to what Clive Barker—and all of us diehard Cabal fans—had envisioned. There’s no doubt the monsters are the good guys here and there’s a massive amount of sympathy generated for them throughout, despite the few “lawbreakers” like Peloquin who just wants to eat the “Naturals” (humans).

The main villain as in the original cut is Dr. Decker (aka Button Face). He’s a maniac on par with some of the best, though he gets precious little screen time. I’d love to see a prequel movie about him and his murders, his adoption of the mask—which is pretty goddamned creepy—and if he’d blamed any of his previous murders on other patients, attempting to “psychic drive” them into taking the blame as he does to Boone. It doesn’t feel as though his part was beefed up at all from the Theatrical cut but it doesn’t feel like they’ve cut anything from his storyline.


Many of the additions focus on the relationship between Boone and Lori; some work and some don’t. The scene where Dr. Decker has drugged Boone and Boone is hallucinating in his apartment, watching himself from outside his body having sex with Lori (who for some reason wears white lingerie, likely to symbolize her purity or “Natural”-ness), works much better in the original cut. In that cut, he takes the pills and suddenly he’s tripping balls, walking down the highway. We’ve seen all we need to. What they’ve added here doesn’t work, does nothing for the story and harms the film’s pace, front-loading it.

This sequence also features Lori singing to a sold-out crowd in a country bar. The song is “Johnny Get Angry,” whose lyrics suggest she wants a “real man,” but also that Boone could very well be a little abusive. The song itself works fine and has a very ‘90s feel, reminding me of those scenes in Twin Peaks with Julee Cruise—but it’s overlong. They play the entire song. During it, Boone, still tripping, wanders in and becomes confused and frightened. He stumbles off and that’s when we rejoin the theatrical cut where he’s about to be hit by a truck. I think it works well to establish Lori as a character, but it could have been pared down.


The biggest changes are in the big final battle which is more of a bloodbath than anything since the Nightbreed barely get any shots in. This is The ATF Storms the Koresh Compound times a thousand. The police here act like paramilitary, lock-and-loading a plethora of automatic weapons (a Twitter friend remarked on the inordinate amount of guns in Canada since it’s meant to take place in Alberta). The scene in which the cops beat Ohnaka to death, a little man with his little dog, seems just about as traumatizing as in the original film.

Shot in slow motion this Rodney King-style beating during which the victim, dragged out into the sun and beaten, turns to dust, sets the stage for the slaughter to follow.

As Midian explodes it actually seems like a BIG thing, unlike in the theatrical cut where it felt and sounded like a Hollywood soundstage. We hear babies screaming, mothers crying. The earth cracks underfoot with huge, Surround Sound rumbles. By the time Boone finally unleashes the Berserkers we’re rooting for them to take out the human invaders—and they do, in classic monster-rampage style. Another good addition adds clarity to the scene where Boone inherits the spirit of Baphomet, the Nightbreed’s version of God, and becomes the living god “Cabal.”


In the end, when Lori asks Boone to bite him so she can become Nightbreed and stay with Boone, the decision makes much more sense as their relationship is solidly established. Boone refuses, still the good guy even now he’s a full-on monster, and in her desperation Lori stabs herself, forcing him to bite her so she’ll live forever. Hidden in a barn, the surviving Nightbreed speak of Boone/Cabal returning “on the next wind.”  “Johnny Get Angry” plays us out into the credits.

If you’re a fan of the original cut you owe it to yourself to watch Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut. If you’re a horror fan who’s never seen it it’s worth a look. This is the movie that inspired Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs, and in my opinion, it’s a far better film. For creature fans, the Director’s Cut has many more monsters to satisfy your deviant pleasure. All in all, the new cut is a more cohesive story with a lot more focus on Boone and Lori’s relationship and much more sympathy for the Nightbreed themselves.

If it had been released this way originally, it might have spawned its planned sequel instead of just a cult following, a comic series, and a terrible video game.


Duncan Ralston was born in Toronto and spent his teens in small-town Canada. As a “grown up,” Duncan lives with his partner and their dog in Toronto, where he writes dark fiction about the things that disturb him. In addition to his twisted short stories found in GRISTLE & BONE, the anthologies EASTER EGGS & BUNNY BOILERS, WHAT GOES AROUND, DEATH BY CHOCOLATE, FLASH FEAR, and the charity anthologies BURGER VAN, BAH! HUMBUG!, VS: US vs UK HORROR, and THE BLACK ROOM MANUSCRIPTS Vol. 1, he is the author of the novels SALVAGE, EVERY PART OF THE ANIMAL, and WOOM, an extreme horror Black Cover book from Matt Shaw Publications.


How far would you go for revenge? When a six-year-old girl is abused and left for dead by a pedophile known only as the “Rabbit Man” due to the claw marks left on her body, police follow every lead but reach only dead ends.Hungry for justice, her grieving father abandons wife and child on a harrowing journey deep undercover into Miami’s sex offender colony under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. His purpose is simple: to find the “Rabbit Man” among them, and put him in the ground. Months later, with no one to trust and the pedophiles he lives among growing suspicious of his actions, he learns nothing is simple where the monsters live.

Get YOUR copy of WHERE THE MONSTERS LIVE on Amazon for $1.39!!!


Gourmandizing Hulu’s Wondrous Horror Collection

More than any month of the year, October bids us to watch more then normal amounts of horror. We dip into our collective vaults of DVD and Blu Ray frights. And of course, in the Age of Instant Streaming, we’re given the added benefit, though life-draining practice, of watching movies online through sites such as Crackle, Shutter, Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. While these streaming proprietors may in fact be digital vampires, ghost in the machine hypnotists singing sweet lullabies, tempting us to sit hour after hour, binging on our most favorite shows and movies, we cannot deny the often overwhelming selection they provide. Netflix has stumbled a bit in horror selections in recent years, though you can still find a good amount of classic picks.  I’m not a member of Shutter, so I cannot make any kind of comment of their selections. Nor do I watch anything on Amazon. I’m a fan of the cheap, and when it comes to more bang for your buck, both Netflix and Hulu are worthwhile choices for those looking to get away from the endless money pit of cable and dish networks. Its interesting how easy it is to find a best of list on both Netflix and even YouTube, journeymen and women who’ve done the leg work to provide a collective list of top tens or so for us to dabble our curious appetites. However, I haven’t seen many Hulu lists, and I find that strange. Why? Have you been on the horror genre list on Hulu, have you seen? Well…allow me to say, Hulu boasts the largest/cheapest collection of horror movies that would satisfy any deranged loon. The only drawback is that there are TONS of horror movies to pick from. Thus brings us to the point. We need a list. We need a Hulu Horror List. Here, you’ll find not the BEST OF; rather, my own personal picks from Hulu’s dark and endless vault. Enjoy!

lord of illusions

Lord of Illusions (1995): Based on a Clive Barker short story, Private eye Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula) travels to Los Angeles and meets with a new client, Dorothea Swann (Famke Janssen). Swann reveals that she and her husband — famed magician Philip Swann (Kevin J. O’Connor) — have been targeted by a religious cult experimenting with reincarnation. After Philip dies on stage in the midst of a dangerous trick, D’Amour must struggle to protect Dorothea from the ruthless cult members and their newly reanimated religious leader, Nix (Daniel Von Bargen). 

Hellraiser I & II (1987, 1988): These picks are conjoined because they’re perfect watching back to back. Part II picks up not long after the traumatic events from the first flick, continuing the misadventures of would-be twenty-something Kirsty Cotton verses Pinhead and his leather bound Cenobites. If you haven’t indulged in these of Barker’s darker imaginings, please do. It’ll make a great choice among any Halloween marathon listing. Forever classic and haunting.

motel hell

Motel Hell (1980): No list is complete without some gore-heavy satire! Motel Hell is about a brother sister duo, Vincent Smith (Rory Calhoun) and his sister Ida (Nancy Parsons), who run a rural hotel, but they earn most of their cash operating a food stand that specializes in world-famous sausages. After years of success, however, the duo’s upstanding brother, Sheriff Bruce (Paul Linke), eventually discovers the grotesque details of his siblings’ booming business: Vincent and Ida are actually plumping up their hotel patrons, killing and dismembering them and then grinding them into frankfurters.

Cannibal Holocaust (1979): While you’re out watching The Green Inferno, be sure to check out this original masterpiece of fright. Cannibal Holocaust was one of the first steady-cam mockumentaries/found-footage flicks. An American professor flies down into the Green Inferno, to discover the fate of a group of documentary crew. And he found them alright, what was left anyhow. He also found what remained of their footage. Upon his return, the professor watches the grisly footage. Cannibal Holocaust is a fantastic film. Old but still gritty and gruesome, even by today’s standards.  

ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES (1978): If you haven’t seen this one, you probably never will. Pure science-fiction satire, spoof, low-budget flick about over-sized killer tomatoes that go on a rampage killing people…yup.


Candyman (1992): There sure seem to be a lot of Clive Barker based flicks on this list…what does that say about me??? Whatever! Candyman is a classic mythology story about resurgence and racism. Skeptical graduate student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) befriends Anne-Marie McCoy (Vanessa Williams) while researching superstitions in a housing project on Chicago’s Near North Side. From Anne-Marie, Helen learns about the Candyman (Tony Todd), a knife-wielding figure of urban legend that some of her neighbors believe to be responsible for a recent murder. After a mysterious man matching the Candyman’s description begins stalking her, Helen comes to fear that the legend may be all too real.

The Thaw (2009): Not the best among Hulu’s options, but certainly a decent flick. I think the reason why I watched it and included it on my list is that the movie reminded me a lot of the classic X-Files episode from season 1, code named “Ice,” when Mulder and Skully are sent to investigate when a team of geophysicists stationed at a remote Alaskan outpost are killed by a parasitic alien life form. In The Thaw, ecology students discover a prehistoric parasite that has been released from the melting polar ice cap threatens the safety of the world. Again, you may find the acting to be a bit sub-par, but the premise and story is, I thought, pretty creepy.

Cannibal Ferox (1981): Jesus…what’s wrong with me? My list seems to be full of Barker flicks and cannibal films…I think I may need professional help. Until then, if you’re collecting a list of gruesome grind house type movies to add to your Halloween month list, you may want to consider Cannibal Ferox. There isnt much to plot here, just gore, and lots and lots and lots of it. The basic premise is this, a cocaine dealer and an anthropology student fall victim to cannibalistic Colombian natives…boom…there you go, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!


Scanners (1981): Okay…finally, a Cronenberg film! Here you’ll find men and women born with incredible telepathic and telekinetic powers. There are many who exercise the benefits of their special gifts in a safe and judicious manner. However, there is a group of renegade scanners who plan to create a race that will rule the world. If anything, you need to watch this movie for a very infamous scene and nod towards practical effects. Its great! You’ll know it when you see it…

The Beyond (1981): If you haven’t seen this one, you need to. Its a mesmerizing gem that at first feels kinda lack-luster, right? But as the film progresses, so does the bizarre. Its a fantastic journey and somewhat artistic film by famed Italian director Lucio Fulci…and yup, he put zombies in there too!

Demons (1985): A group of people are trapped in a large movie theater in West Berlin that is infected by ravenous demons who proceed to kill and posses the humans one-by-one, thereby multiplying their numbers…..enough said!

Pieces (1982): In this violent and gut-wrenchingly gory flick, set in a Boston university, the story centers on a crazed meat cleaver killer who hacks up hapless women in the hopes of building his dream girl. A throwback to the 70s savage cinema era. If you can stomach this one, you might want to add it to your list, along side every other cannibal flick I’ve mentioned. You can book your therapist after.


Intruder (1989): Nearing the end of the Slasher Age comes a grisly picture, a claustrophobic thriller set entirely in a small supermarket, whose owner is preparing to go out of business. This doesn’t sit too well with one of the staff members, who busily butchers the night crew using the tools of the trade (hooks, axes, knives, power tools, and so on). A fantastic gore and practical effect based horror tune that even cameos Sam & Ted Raimi and the man, the legend, Bruce Campbell!!!

Well, there you have it folks. Not a top pick, but a solid pick from among Hulu’s endless treasure trove of horror. If you have the time, be sure to check out some others on their site. Lots to pick, lots of golden B-flicks as well, and even more classic ones, including: Evil Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Cronos, Carnival of Souls, The Innkeepers, The Brood, and so many more!!

Opus Questions with Duncan Ralston

Greetings Boils and Ghouls, on this episode of Opus Questions we’ll be hearing from the fiendishly talented Duncan Ralston. If you’ve been following this chain of segments on Machine Mean, Opus Questions is all about finding out what horror writers enjoy reading, what books tickle their fancy, what novelizations have terrified them, haunted them, forced them to turn on the light. Opus Questions is also about discovering what books have inspired up and coming wordsmiths of macabre. For every writer has their favorites, the ones they hold dear. Because part of being a good writer, you have to be a good reader. You have to read — prolifically (grammar?).  So, to keep things interesting and to be a bit villainess on my part, I’ve asked my guests to tell us what their favorite books are and why. And they can pick only two. You heard me. Just two!!! (laughs manically) So, without further ado, here is…

Duncan Ralston:

When someone asks “What’s your favorite (book, movie, TV series, song)?” I find the answer about as difficult as choosing what to order when everything on the menu looks good and I haven’t eaten since breakfast. For the sake of Thomas’s request, I’ve narrowed it down to the two books that influenced me to start writing. Stephen King’s Night Shift, and Clive Barker’s Books of Blood were my first journeys into their terrifying minds, and still resonate with me long after reading. They aren’t necessarily my all-time “favorites,” but they’ve inspired me to achieve similar heights in my own writing.

Night Shift was on the shelf at the old cottage, and its creepy cover called to me… You may know the one: the hand covered in eyeballs and wrapped in gauze (this was the double cover, with the eyes peeking out from holes in the flap). It refers to the story “I Am the Doorway,” where an astronaut brings home an alien stowaway that uses him to peek into our world. Night Shift effectively blends science fiction, horror, terror (if you don’t know the difference, pick up his seminal non-fiction book, Danse Macabre), and gross-outs. Most may not be the best King shorts, nor the most chilling, but they are memorable for the far-outness of their concepts, and the sheer amount of adaptations they produced.

Night Shift, Stephen King, 1978

Night Shift, Stephen King, 1978

“Jerusalem’s Lot” and “One for the Road” serve as a sort of prologue and epilogue to the novel, ‘Salem’s Lot. “Children of the Corn,” about a couple who stumble into a creepy religious town where there are no adults, was made into more sequels than it deserved. “Trucks” became King’s directorial debut, Maximum Overdrive, with Emilio Estevez and an AC/DC soundtrack King probably listened to while he wrote the script. My favorite of the bunch when I was a kid, “Battleground” (which I copied from memory for a school assignment on my dad’s Tandy laptop), was adapted well in the Nightmares & Dreamscapes miniseries, with John Hurt as the hitman besieged by the toymaker’s box of animated soldiers.

In a recent reread, I found two decidedly non-horror stories work very well for their surprising level of emotion and honesty. “The Last Rung on the Ladder” is a haunting story about siblings, trust, and suicide. “The Woman in the Room,” the first short film by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Walking Dead), is a sad tale of a man’s inner demons and remorse as he prepares to pull the plug on his dying mother. I have a feeling King, whose mother had recently passed, wrote the story to purge his own demons, and those feelings shine through (darkly) on the page.

The book also stands out in my mind for two quotes about writing that have stuck with me, one from John D. MacDonald, and the other from King himself. In the Introduction, MacDonald wrote that when he met people at parties, someone would always said, “You know, I’ve always wanted to write,” to which he began gleefully replying, “You know, I’ve always wanted to be a brain surgeon.” In the Foreword, Stephen King answers a question in a similar fashion: when asked “Why do you choose to write about such gruesome subjects?” King responds, “Why do you think I have a choice?”

I think he was on to something.

“I have seen the future of horror… and his name is Clive Barker.” This quote by Stephen King was splashed across the covers of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood omnibuses that I happened across at my local library. (For a small town, the Millbrook Public Library seemed to have just about everything a young horror fan required to keep himself sane.) Barker’s short stories are still some of the most visceral and imaginative I’ve ever read. His prose is often spare, but always vivid. It was Barker’s work that inspired me to try my hand at writing fiction outside of school assignments. My first few short stories as a teen were very Barker-esque, featuring sado-masochism and love-starved demons.

Books of Blood: Vol 2, Clive Barker

Books of Blood: Vol 2, Clive Barker

The omnibuses open with the eponymous frame story, in which we learn the Books have been carved into the flesh of a phony psychic by the ghosts of a haunted house. From there we take a ride on “The Midnight Meat Train,” following serial killer Mahogany into the depths of depravity. “In the Hills, the Cities” contains some incredible imagery and heavy metaphor, and introduced me to openly gay protagonists, which is significant mostly because I almost chose Barker’s 1996 novel, Sacrament, as my favorite, a book often criticized by cretins for a handful of explicit gay sex scenes.

There are other stories that return to my imagination like the animated dead from time to time: “The Body Politic,” in which our hands revolt, lopping each other from the oppressive shackles of our bodies and skittering off to conquer the world. In “Down, Satan!” a man seeks the attention of God by building a Hell on Earth. “The Age of Desire” is a chemical aphrodisiac experiment gone wrong. “The Forbidden,” a story about the power of legends, became the basis for one of my favorite horror movies, Candyman. It was Barker’s collection, filled with gruesome imagery, insane twists, poetic style, and in-your-face sex and violence, that made me decide to publish a short story collection of my own.

Stephen King once wrote that short stories are becoming a dying art. Everybody wants longer novels, series, sequels. I believe there will always be a place for them. Anthologies are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in the horror genre. Short stories have the benefit of being read in one sitting. For a writer, there is no better spark for the imagination. Both Barker’s and King’s short stories have been and continue to be a huge inspiration for me and my writing.


I want to thank Duncan Ralston for taking the time and telling us a bit about his two favorite books and how they’ve inspired him in his our disturbed quests. Duncan Ralston is the author of Gristle & Bone, a collection of fantastic and terrifying short stories. His debut novel, SALVAGE, will hit eBooks and paperback shelves this summer. You can find and keep up with Duncan via his website The Fold and/or you can follow him on Twitter and/or Facebook.

Opus Questions with J.R. Park

Next on our insidious list of horror writers is none other than J.R. Park. If you do recall, we’ve been traveling down this macabre road to discover what tickles the underbelly for horror writers, that is, what kinds of books do dark and unusual wordsmiths keep on their shelves? When it comes to writing, one must read. It is a necessity for the trade in which we like to keep. Reading other works helps showcase a range of talent by not only reading our own genre of choice but also other genres. And when it comes to horror writers, we are often found to have a wide assortment of favorite books we like to keep close-by. And because we are “prolific readers”  we can reach into a deep chasm of knowledge and information that helps shape and adds depth to our own stories. So, in keeping things interesting and to be a bit villainess on my part, I’ve asked my guests to tell us what their two favorite books are and why. That’s right. You heard me. Only two!!! (laughs manically) So, without further ado, here is… J.R. Park:

The crafty author of Reinheit asked me to nominate and write about two of my favourite books.  Since he extended the invitation I have been pondering over exactly which two to choose.  Whilst I make it no secret that the books of Guy N Smith was the spark that ignited my motivation to finally sit down and write I didn’t want to repeat myself.  Nor did I want to write about classics that you have read about countless times.  Whilst I have a big love and admiration for Alice In Wonderland, The Picture Of Dorian Gray and The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy, these books have been discussed often. So instead I thought about my horror influences and the books that guided me on to that shadowy path from an early age. My first selection would be House Of Hell by Steve Jackson.  This was book number 10 in the Fighting Fantasy series: a collection of choose your own adventure books with a combat gaming system involved.  Most of the series was set in a fantasy world with the usual goblins, dwarves and elves as well as a breath-takingly imaginative menagerie of original creations.  House of Hell was the odd one out in that it was set in modern times.

House of Hell, Steve Jackson, 1984

House of Hell, Steve Jackson, 1984

In the book you are the central character and after driving through a storm and crashing into a ditch you spy an old house and decide to take shelter.  From this moment the choice of the story is in your hands and you can either knock on the door or wander round the side of the house and investigate this potential place of refuge. Once inside the house things get real nasty quickly.  Wandering through the corridors and different floors you encounter zombies, a hunch back, devil worshippers, fire sprites, severed heads, scary ass demons and more.  At the young age of seven this was spooky fun, made even more creepy by having the submersive element of being able to decide what to do next.  I was so scared of turning the wrong corner that I’d keep my fingers in previous pages so I could quickly go back. Unfortunately this would end up with me marking six or seven sections, running out of fingers and make turning the next page an impossibility. I still have my original book from 1985, horded like a piece of treasure and still love to look over the stunning artwork inside. To this day I never completed the book and vanquished the House Of Hell, but I’ll keep trying. My second horrific piece of prose is the sensual and genre breaking work that is Cabal by Clive Barker.  It was 1990 and although still young I was beginning to read more adult books.  Nightbreed was coming out as a movie and I remember seeing it being written about in computer game magazines of the time.

Cabal, Clive Barker, 1988

Cabal, Clive Barker, 1988

Intrigued by this, but knowing I was far too young to be allowed to watch the film I tracked down the book, discovering it to be called Cabal.  Reading this book I realised horror could be much more than the adaptation of Stephen King stories I had seen played late night on the TV.  Barker offered an intellectualism that I had not encountered in the genre mixed with an eroticism that seeped through the text on the page. I read the first few chapters in my mum’s car as she drove me back from the neighbouring city where I had bought my copy.  By the time we had arrived home I had already been witness to a man losing his mind, overdosing on meds and trying to kill himself by jumping in front of truck, only to end up in a hospital with a lunatic that spouted about monsters before tearing his own face off. The speed of the action was wonderful.  Within a short space of time we had gore, horror and the building of an imaginative mythology. The imagination only flourished from there.  A wave of monstrous outcasts, rejects from society, filled the pages as they banded together for survival.  This was a very poignant sentiment for my young teenage mind at the time. I have read this book more times than any other and the beautiful thing is that I keep reading different interpretations. It was only last year I read that Cabal was considered the first openly gay horror story, an allegory I had not thought of before.  But it fits with the ‘Breed being an underground culture persecuted by the Church, the Police and Psychiatry (something very true for the gay community in the 1980s/ early 90s). Another comment and viewpoint came from the author himself, explaining how it was a reaction of the old, fantastical horror of myth and beasts vs the new horror of hack and slash, human killers. I won’t labour the point any more, but this book has hidden depths, deeper than the 268 pages it is printed on. With a restoration of the ‘directors cut’ of the film and a TV series currently being worked on I suggest you take a look at the source material and read this wonderful novella.

jrpark I want to thank J.R. Park for taking the time to sit with us and discuss the two books that have helped shape how he sees and understands horror. I’ve seen Nightbreed but have yet to read Cabal. I think I’ll be adding a new book to my reading list. Thanks! J.R. Park is the author of horror fiction and strange tales, including both Punch and Terror Byte. Mr. Park is also contributing to a horror anthology titled The Black Room Manuscripts to be released later this year. You can keep up with J.R. Park on his website and follow him on Twitter.

Hellraiser Revelations: a movie so horribly criticized you’ll want to watch and immediately wish you hadn’t

Hellraiser Revelations revealed to fans how far Dimension films would go in retaining the rights to long loved franchise. Opening back in 2011, with one theater screening for the crew and then subsequently released to DVD, Hellraiser Revelations has since been received, unanimously, with negative reception. Film critic Scott Weinberg from Rotten Tomatoes had this to say regarding the new Hellraiser:  “contractually-mandated piece of intentional garbage that exists for no other reason than pure, simple greed…This is amateur hour stuff all the way, and it’d be almost endearingly, stupidly enjoyable if this witless cinematic refuse wasn’t dancing on the grave of a true classic of the genre.” Couldn’t agree more. Watching this movie, you definitely feel how rushed everything was. From the script, casting, and even the one thing marginally making it bearable, the special effects. (More on that later.)

In review, lets take this piece by piece. The film opens with the recently popular “home camera” shot. Friends, Steven Craven and Nico Bradley are taking a trip south of the boarder for a little impromptu getaway, full of booze, parities, and women…keeping somewhat to the whole “pleasures” bit familiar in the Hellraiser lexicon. The “home camera” beginning is, in my humble opinion, an interesting introduction into this new story. Thanks to movies like Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity, if done right, this style of filming is popular and could have created some rather terrifying moments. However, in Revelations, the feeling wasn’t real; it was horrible and cheesy. Instead of having the puzzle-box glowing blue and Pinhead walking into the room all polite, asking for young Nico to come with him to hell, the camera should have been unsteady and full of static. If my horror watching obsession has taught me anything, its that when another dimension is opening up, signals get broken. If hell is at your door step, the camera is the last thing on your mind. And then there was Pinhead, just standing…retarded. Save the duke of pain for a later shot; use the tension home videos are best at with the less is more concept. The only thing you should have been able to make out during this bit of videoing are chains, a flash of spatter and some screams, nothing else.

Revelations continues in a confusing back and forth between the present dinner party and Steven and Nico’s bogus adventure. So much so that a lot of the plot gets lost in translation, with a ton of information being given in the beginning and not enough towards the end. The casting was also horrible. I have a hard time following character portrayal’s, such as: the mother, father, son or daughters when the acting is terrible. And lets not even mention the script, yuk. In the midst of all this B-ness, the only positive thing was the special effects. Thank God they didn’t go all CGI with this one, but again, that was probably due to production time limits than actually making a genuine Hellraiser. Despite the positive,  the gore was still only marginal. The big blemish for me was how white the cenobites teeth were… wow, shiny!   A lot of critics didn’t like the look of Pinhead, but I think the problem has more to do with the guy under the nails (Stephan Smith Collins) then the effects itself.  Just look at him in the picture gallery below. And the list goes on and on. Here are a few more unforgivable mistakes I jotted down during the hour long screening:

1. No Doug Bradley- because the film was being rushed, Bradley didn’t want anything to do with it. Eventually Doug will physically no longer be able to wear the mantle as Pinhead, but that day is still a long way off. But I am thankful he refused this mockery, seeing it for what it is or was going to be.

2. No Clive Barker- originally, neither Doug or Clive had any comment regarding Revelations, but after the movie poster credited to be from the mind of Barker, the Hellbound Heart king released the following statement on twitter:


3. Goofy Puzzle Guardian- sitting down at the bar is understandable, but not showing up at the dinner party with a knife. The guardian should only have a small part on screen, if you want to keep to the original mystery of the character.

4. Obligation trumped Storytelling- as mentioned before, in a mad rush to retain franchise rights, Dimension Film skipped over responsible story crafting and basically pooped this film out with the name “Hellraiser” on the cover.

5. Toilet paper script- enough said….hire real writers!

6. Victor Garcia is no del Toro- there have been many and fine directors south of the boarder, but Garcia just ain’t one of them. His last film was Return to House on Haunted Hill for Pete’s sake!!! Though I doubt Guillermo del Toro would have touched something as graphic as a Hellraiser picture; could you imagine if he had or even Babel (2006) famed Alejandro Gonzalez had directed Revelations with a multiple story concept? Mind = blown!!!

Bottom line: Hellraiser Revelations could have been good. There were some interesting concepts that simply needed further development. Because, I think, Hellraiser fans are ready for a new original story. Its long overdue. But this movies script was awful and needed more time. The actors needed more time researching their characters and motives. The special effects guys needed more time. Everything needed more time. For me, the ending was the only part worth seeing, though I’m still questioning how long it would take to die from a shotgun wound in the gut. Though now regretting it, thanks to how horribly criticized Revelations was, I had to watch it, I was curious. Satisfied and blogged, its now time to delete the last hour and fifteen minutes from my memory.