Archive for December, 2015
One of my nieces, just before Christmas, posted a link to an article about how housecats are really none-too-stable predators and, if they were large enough, would probably kill us. But we knew that already, didn’t we? It’s part of their charm, like they’re little vampires.
Suppose, however, it wasn’t cats, but children. One’s own children, perhaps, who at first seem to precipitate accidents — a misdirected sled sliding down a hill — but which escalate into causing real harm. Or maybe just mischief, but which somehow turns lethal.
And suppose they’re doing this intentionally, intending to kill us.
If we were parents, could we believe the truth? Or would we fight to believe, as the woundings and deaths pile up, that it has to be somebody else’s fault?
This is the premise of the British film THE CHILDREN (see “10 Films to Peruse for Your Christmas Holiday Watching Pleasure,” December 13): “A family anticipates a Christmas filled with sledding, laughter and hot cocoa as they head to their vacation home in the secluded backcountry. The holiday cheer takes a turn for the worse after a mysterious flu-like virus sweeps through the kids, and one by one the children become deadly. Now, amidst suspicion, mayhem and murder, the parents must fight for survival against their own twisted offspring.” And, oh yes, while police are called after the first actual death, the roads are hard to get through due to snow, so don’t expect them to arrive any too soon.
And remember, imagine that they’re your children — or maybe some of them nieces or nephews. One flaw is that it is an extended family and there was some confusion, at least for me, keeping straight who’s related, and how, to whom. Also, as a film of this sort probably must, it starts a bit on the slow side.
Nevertheless it becomes intense with, I think, the character of Casey as the key. She’s the one teenage daughter, neatly caught between the two generations, who didn’t want to be there in the first place. Rebellious, yes, but also the one who can be objective — who is first to figure out what’s going on — who through this begins to re-bond with her mom. And it’s she who I found myself following.
Will she be able to keep her mom alive? Will she survive? There are loose ends aplenty — are those neighboring families’ children we see briefly at the end? Is this ending up something like Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS? But the focus by now is squarely on Casey and Mom, and. . . .
Well, the film’s not perfect, but for a different kind of night-after-Christmas horror — no demon Santas in this one — it makes for a delightfully creepy, subversive holiday package.
(While as for the piece on cats, press here.)
Well, maybe not strictly Cthulhuesque. The guidelines read, “Technology gone wrong. Madmen playing with science beyond their control. Alien creatures with malign intent. Welcome to DARK HORIZONS, where the future is lost.” And the story I sent, “Dark of the Moon,” was a reprint originally published in THE CHILDREN OF CTHULHU (Del Rey, 2002), so maybe it’s not too far from that either. Be that as it may, the word came back from editor/publisher Charles P. Zaglanis at 7:09 p.m. (EST? PST? does it matter?) on Christmas Day. “Loved the story, please fill out and email the contract back to me.”
So Saturday, later today, I’ll see to the contract — and, gee, it’s like a Christmas present! But then why not, I did get a rejection from someone else the day before, on Christmas Eve, which I suppose means that art knows no strict calendar-based boundaries. Or is that commerce?
Be that as it may, DARK HORIZONS is to be published by Elder Signs Press and is currently scheduled for Fall 2016. As such, it will be a companion volume to STREET MAGICK: TALES OF URBAN FANTASY (cf. December 5), also due out in Fall 2016 and with my story “Bottles,” a vampire tale of late 1950s Cambridge Massachusetts (originally published in 2004 in CROSSINGS, by Double Dragon; appearing as well in THE TEARS OF ISIS). Oddly, both stories also have something to do with Russia, “Bottles” with fear of the USSR in a Cold War setting and “Dark of the Moon” about a multi-national near-future lunar expedition told from the point of view of a female Russian crewmember.
And of “Dark of the Moon,” an even worse fear.
Some of these we’ve seen before (cf. December 13, below), but what the heck, it’s already Christmas Monday! So herewith, for your Yuletide run-up nightmare pleasure, by Katie Rife, “The night Santa went crazy: 18 killer Santas from TV and film” via AVCLUB.COM. Kudos for this one to Mike Olson on Facebook’s ON THE EDGE CINEMA, and to see for yourself, one need but press here.
(My favorite, I think, may be number 13, 1999’s “Xmas Story” from FUTURAMA: Xmas is now a holiday of fear after a Santa ’bot programmed to separate the naughty from the nice was recalibrated way too far on the “naughty” side in the year 2801. With his sensors registering everyone he sees [except for Dr. Zoidberg] too naughty to live, the humans of the future spent their Xmas Eve indoors, singing carols with lyrics like, “You’d better not breathe, you’d better not move / You’re better off dead, I’m telling you, dude / Santa Claus is gunning you down.”)
What shall we call it? Another pre-Christmas literary treat, this one especially for pet lovers perhaps? Be that as it may, “Did You Know Charles Dickens’ Pet Raven Inspired Edgar Allan Poe?” by Julia Mason on HISTORYBUFF.COM, brought to us via Joel Eisenberg and Lisa Morton on the HWA’s Facebook page, lays out the skinny: “We recently discovered that Charles Dickens had a pet raven named Grip. The illustrious avian appeared as a minor character in the author’s 1841 serialized mystery novel, BARNABY RUDGE. This is, in and of itself, the best news ever. Then we found out that Dickens’ pet inspired Edgar Allan Poe to write ‘The Raven.’ Which basically makes Grip a literary god.”
Forget such staples as giant lizards or apes, or even big sharks or killer insects. Here are some creatures that are entirely real, yet half unbelievable — and in some cases quite photogenic. 50-foot jumping miniature reindeer to pull Santa’s Sleigh, maybe, or overgrown squid the size of school buses? Sea-going unicorns? Man-eating monkeys (perhaps not by choice, but if you’re what’s around. . .). And best not neglect the poisonous platypus! For more, click here for “Believe there’s nothing left in nature that can surprise you? Guess again,” by Heather Libby via UPWORTHY.COM.
And see now if you can just dream of sugarplums on Christmas Eve!
If it’s thematic weight, Oscar-worthy performances or richly textured visuals you’re after, then JACK FROST probably isn’t the film for you. If in place of those loftier ideals, you’ll settle for a wise-cracking homicidal snowman, then step right up folks. With zero pretension to anything other than the basest Z-movie thrills, this is awfulness to cherish, and awfulness it possesses in spades — but it’s about a giant killer snowman, so stop your griping.
So says Matthew Thrift of the 1997 movie JACK FROST (absolutely not to be confused with the Michael Keaton film a year later) in “10 Great Christmas Horror Films” via BFI FILM FOREVER. That’s extra dark horror films, of course, to in the compiler’s words “[d]eck the cinematic halls with boughs of blood-soaked holly.” Some of the standards are there, to be sure, like BLACK CHRISTMAS, GREMLINS, and the 1972 TALES FROM THE CRYPT (the inspiration for 1984’s SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, among others). But there are others I’ve not seen myself such as Finland’s RARE EXPORTS or CALVAIRE from Belgium, so perhaps I’ll join you in watching some of these myself.* To see the whole list, one need but press here.
The picture above, by the way, is also from 1997’s JACK FROST.
*In fact, I’ve just ordered British director Tom Shankland’s THE CHILDREN (number 9 on the list), promised to be delivered by December 22.
Came the announcement late Friday evening from Publisher Max Booth III:
Starting now and lasting throughout the weekend, all Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing titles are 20% off. Purchase now and get them in time for Christmas.
Featuring books by T Fox Dunham, David James Keaton, John Foster, Kurt Reichenbaugh, Vincenzo Bilof, Jessica McHugh, Craig Wallwork, James Dorr, Sue Lange, Jay Wilburn, Rafael Alvarez, Matthew Dexter, Eli Wilde, and Polly DeVine.
My Rudolph in the reindeer pack is, of course, THE TEARS OF ISIS, 2014 Stoker® Fiction Collection Nominee, starring along with the Egyptian Goddess such luminaries as La Méduse, Maria Sanchez, the vampiress Ms. Celaeno, the Bone-Carver, Cinderella’s Godmom, the Ice Maiden, Waxworms, the Christmas Rat, more. . . . But see for yourself by clicking its picture in the center column!
Then from there, if one wishes, one can find other books in the PMMP store (look for stories by me as well in SO IT GOES and BLEED!). But please do consider THE TEARS OF ISIS — “The Christmas Rat” will be forever grateful.
And for all selections, this weekend only, be sure to enter the discount code HOLIDAY20 at check-out.