Panic Fest is in the rear view and everything else is up ahead, so it’s been a week or so of catching up around here. There’s been a lot to catch up to, as well, as a lot has been going on kind of while I wasn’t looking.

For starters, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales received a very generous review from Christine Morgan over at The Horror Fiction Review, which refers to my “consistently excellent quality and skill,” so of course I appreciate that. I also learned that my story “The Granfalloon,” which originally appeared in Darker Companions before being reprinted in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year Volume 10, is being taught in an Advanced Creative Writing workshop that’s being offered by Richard Thomas!

Speaking of stories doing well for me, my story “The Hurrah (aka Corpse Scene)” made the Locus Recommended Reading List. I think this may be my first time on the list, and right now you can vote for my story (along with stories and books by lots of other authors) right here. (You don’t have to have a subscriber number, just a name and email address.)

I was interviewed by author Gwendolyn Kiste (whose novella Pretty Marys All in a Row I really enjoyed) at her website, and I was able to sneak in the first official mention, I think, of my next book-length project, which is a sequel to Monsters from the Vault called (of course) Revenge of Monsters from the Vault. It should be out later this year, covering 60 more classic (and not-so-classic) horror and monster movies from the silents to the ’70s including devil bats, ape fiends, space invaders, old dark houses, haunted stranglers, invisible dinosaurs, and a whole lot more!

(On the subject of my film writing, I also unwittingly discovered that I am cited extensively in the Wikipedia entry for John Carpenter’s The Thing. This thing I wrote eight years ago is getting me a lot of traction lately. It was also mentioned in the commentary track for the Scream Factory Blu of Someone’s Watching Me! and quoted in the Devil’s Advocate volume for In the Mouth of Madness.)

Most recently, the full table of contents was announced for Pluto in Furs, an anthology forthcoming from Plutonian Press, which will feature my story “Stygian Chambers” alongside tales by Gemma Files, Jeffrey Thomas, Adam Golaski, Richard Gavin, and many more.

That’s what’s been going on in the last few days, and there’s more on the way. I have other story sales that I can’t announce just yet, not to mention my appearance next month at The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird in Atlanta. I’ll also be a guest at the NecronomiCon in Providence in August, but more on that later…

 

home_eyes_2019Once again, Panic Fest has come and gone. Well, not actually. As I write this, it’s still going on for two more nights of extended programming, but I’ve made it out for the last time, and not just because temperatures are supposed to get to literally below zero over the next couple of days, with windchills that can purportedly cause frostbite in minutes.

Panic Fest is a special time for me. Sure, it’s awesome to have a local horror film festival right here in my own town, let alone one that’s been named one of the best in the country. But that’s not the only reason. It’s not even just because all my awesome local film friends are in one place at the same time, even if we probably actually see each other less than we would the rest of the time, because we’re running around trying to catch as many movies as we can. It’s a special time for me because it marks an anniversary.

I’ve talked at some greater length about it in the past, but it was as I was leaving the house to go to Panic Fest 2015 that I got the phone call that set into motion the series of events which culminated in my dad’s death and several years worth of intervening therapy and… y’know, heavy stuff. Panic Fest felt like the last weekend for a long time where I got to just go be happy, and so every year it stirs up a lot of sometimes conflicting emotions, but I always love it, and I loved it this year, too.

Thanks in part to extended programming, not to mention the Screenland’s two fancy new screens, I got to see more movies this year than ever before. Total for the entire Fest was 11 films if you count Satan Place, which I watched at the kickoff event thanks to the folks at Magnetic Magic, plus one shorts block and about half of a live-reading of an adapted (we’ll say) version of the screenplay for Jason Takes Manhattan, which was a hoot.

Besides that I saw St. AgathaBook of MonstersGagsLuzThe LuringThe WindOne Cut of the DeadLords of ChaosThe Golem, and Starfish. Highlights of the Fest were definitely One Cut (which must be seen to be believed; go into it as cold as possible), Gags, and Starfish, but most of what I saw was good. The highs may not have been quite as high as last year, but the lows were also not as low, and overall it was a good crop. You may see me write more about Gags down the road, too. We’ll see.

Phil Gelatt convinced me to give Letterboxd a spin shortly before the Fest, so I’m on there. I haven’t reviewed the Panic Fest movies yet, and I may not, but if you want specific thoughts about any of them, feel free to DM me or email me or whatever.

One specific highlight of this year’s Fest was getting to meet Charles Pieper in person. He and I had been in contact via Twitter, and he invited me to take a look at his short film “Malacostraca” because we were both fellow monster aficionados.  I checked it out, dug it, and recommended that he sub it to Panic Fest, which he did, and it got in, and I got the pleasure of seeing it on the big screen and hearing a guy in the front row loudly exclaim “Jesus!” as the credits rolled. So that was fun.

 

I published my customary year end wrap-up back at the end of December, but in it I realize that I perhaps gave somewhat short shrift to my publishing accomplishments for the year, so I decided that a more in-depth post on the subject was in order.

Of course, the biggest writing news of 2018 was the publication of Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales, my third collection of short stories about ghosts, monsters, and sometimes the ghosts of monsters, and my second through Word HordeGuignol contains fourteen (14) strange tales, four (4) of them appearing in print for the first time.

Counting those four new stories, the total number of new stories I published in 2018 is nine (9). I also had two (2) reprints this year. “Goblins,” which originally appeared as a bonus story in the deluxe edition of Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings from Strix Publishing was podcast at Pseudopod just in time for Halloween, read by none other than the Old Gent himself, Leeman Kessler, and my story “The Granfalloon,” originally in Darker Companions, was reprinted in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, marking the second time one of my stories has made it into that esteemed volume.

Other stories that came out in 2018 include “Hollow Earths” in Chthonic from Martian Migraine Press, “The Pepys Lake Monster” in Test Patterns: Creature Features from Planet X Publishing, “No Exit” in Lost Highways from Crystal Lake, “Masks” in the second issue of Forbidden Futures, and “The Hurrah (aka Corpse Scene)” at The Dark. That doesn’t seem like a ton of new fiction, but I’m proud of every one of them, and of the original stories that appeared in Guignol. I’ve also been hard at work on some other stories and projects that should be seeing the light of day in 2019.

In 2018, I was also lucky enough to get to pen the introduction to Amanda Downum’s long-awaited short story collection Still So Strange and I started publishing more of my film writing in places other than here, including reviews at Signal Horizon and Unwinnable. I’m particularly proud of this one.

There’s more stories, more film writing, and more monsters coming in 2019. In the meantime, if you’re so inclined, you could always throw a few bucks into my proverbial tip jar to help me keep doing this.

This has been a rough year in the Grey demesne. We started 2018 on a raft of health problems that we rode well into the middle of the year. And even once they were (mostly) resolved–honestly, do health problems ever really get completely resolved?–we spent the rest of the year paying for them. I lost a big paying client. And in spite of my best efforts we still haven’t tunneled into the timeline where Howard the Duck is president.

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On the plus side, though we stand on the cusp of 2019 bruised, battered, and low on health potions, the teeth of the universe haven’t yet torn the charge from our atoms. I ran a game of Iron Kingdoms in 2018, and we just completed out last session. Two of the characters were incapacitated, and one of the two who remained standing was holding on by the narrowest thread. That’s kinda how it feels like we’re going into 2019.

Which is not to say that the year wasn’t full of good things, too. I went to Panic Fest and the Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird, which meant that I got to visit the Winchester Mystery House for the first time. I watched a lot of movies and made some new friends. I found a weird board game in the trash and took a picture of In the Mouth of Madness that I had always wanted to take. I became the Monster Ambassador at Signal Horizon and published stories in seven different venues, including my second appearance in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year. I had a whole book come out!

Of all the things I’m proud of in 2018, however, I think I’m most proud of the small things I did that were steps outside my comfort zone. I carved jack-o-lanterns at Halloween, made a necklace that I love, and made divinity, an overly sugary candy concoction that I remember fondly from my childhood. I didn’t do any of those things entirely by myself. Grace helped me with all of them, sometimes overtly, as with the divinity, and sometimes just by giving me the confidence I needed to try something that I might not be good at right away.

I watched 269 movies in 2018, 163 of which were new to me, keeping with my goal of watching more new-to-me movies than not each year. Of those, roughly 35 were released in 2018. My biggest months were October with 39 movies and, thanks to a couple of marathon days, December with 33. My favorite movies that were released in 2018 were, in no particular order, ErrementariLowlifeTigers Are Not AfraidAvengers: Infinity WarBlack Panther, and Apostle. There were a lot of movies I really wanted to check out that I haven’t gotten a chance to watch yet. The last movie I watched in 2018 was The Boxer’s Omen (1983), which was a good way to close out this weird and crappy year.

I didn’t read very many books in 2018, but of those I did read my favorite was probably Caleb Wilson’s Polymer, which I recommend very highly. The first book I read in 2018 was Kaibyo: The Supernatural Cats of Japan and the last was Matthew M. Bartlett’s Of Doomful Portent.

There’s probably a lot that I’m forgetting as I pen this end-of-the-year wrap-up, but honestly I’m just in a hurry to show this garbage year the door. Don’t let it hit you in the ass on your way out, 2018!

 

 

Christmas is behind us now, for those who celebrate, though the New Year is still a few days away and we’re now locked in the holiday limbo period between the two. For myself, I’m playing catch-up around the house and trying to fight off a (hopefully minor) illness in time to go watch Full Moon movies on VHS all day this Saturday, a more exciting prospect than any mere holiday could ever provide.

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So, what better time for me to mention a few things that have been happening while I’ve been busy with this or that. For starters, I made a second appearance at the Legends of Tabletop podcast where I was interviewed by Leah Bond and I was a guest at the Horror Pod Class podcast along with Sean Demory where we all talked about Candyman, Jordan Peele’s forthcoming remake of same, Clive Barker in general, “In the Hills, the Cities” in particular, and lots of other topics.

(Speaking of Jordan Peele, the trailer for his next film dropped on Christmas day and it is glorious.)

The Horror Pod Class is put on by the folks at Signal Horizon, who are good enough to have me on staff as a Monster Ambassador. In my ongoing efforts to sully the sanctity of that title, I recently reviewed the Arrow Video Blu-ray of Bloody Birthday and before that the Blue Underground release of Maniac, neither of which I had ever seen before diving into them. I promise that I’ll have some more appropriately monster-iffic content coming in the near-ish future.

Speaking of the not-too-distant future, Panic Fest is somehow almost upon us again already and, as I do every year, I will be in attendance making the rounds and watching awesome movies. If you’re local to Kansas City or planning to come in for the Fest, let me know and hopefully I’ll see you there.

Then, in March, I’m going to be a guest once again at the Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird, which is being held at the Silver Scream FX Lab in Atlanta, Georgia. First, though, I’ve got to survive the last few days of 2018…

 

Putting this here because I’m going to get asked more than once, and I need a place to point people back to for the next four months or so. The trailer for the new Hellboy movie just dropped and, yeah, it’s scored to “Mony Mony,” which, as I said on social media, is certainly a decision, anyway.

If you want my take, I think that the trailer is the wrong tone to start off with, but there’s also nothing in it that guarantees a misfire in theatres. I do like that most of the stuff we can only see for a few seconds is straight out of the comics but, beyond that, we’ll just have to wait and see.

But I’m not here to talk about the trailer, not really. What I’m here to talk about is the existence of this movie at all. As someone who is at least on speaking terms with some of the principals involved, I can tell you with as much certainty as one can ever muster about a Hollywood deal to which one was not directly privy that there was never going to be a third Guillermo del Toro Hellboy movie, regardless of anything he might have said. If there was, the day when it was possible was in the months following the release of Hellboy 2, and that day is long behind us now.

And, speaking from my own personal perspective, there never should have been. Hellboy 2 has many fine qualities, to be sure, but it fails as a sequel to the first film and even more as a Hellboy movie.

Guillermo del Toro’s first film was the best Hellboy movie that we could have gotten at the time, given the realities of comic book adaptations in 2004. In fact, I would argue that it played a big (and largely unsung) role in getting us from there to here. But things have changed a lot in the last decade, both in the movies and in the comics, and a Hellboy adaptation made now has the opportunity to cleave closer to the source material than Del Toro’s version ever could have.

Will this movie be the one to do it? Only time (and definitely not a brief teaser trailer) will truly tell.

I had actually never heard of The Magician prior to seeing a .gif of it on Rhett Hammersmith’s Tumblr. The .gif—a sculpture of a devilish faun collapsing onto actress Alice Terry—was enough to get me to track down the film. Long considered lost, The Magician didn’t get any kind of home video release until it was put out on DVD by TCM in 2011, which is the version I watched.

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It’s a shame that The Magician isn’t better known. While it may never quite reach the gothic heights of such silent horror classics as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, Faust, Haxan, and so on, The Magician is, at worst, one rung beneath those, and at its best can give them a run for their money.

Directed by Rex Ingram, who was once called “the world’s greatest director,” The Magician was shot on location Paris and Monte Carlo, and in Ingram’s studios in Nice, France, giving it an unshakably European feel and a sense of scope and modernity that is denied to many of its stagebound contemporaries and even the talkie horror films that would follow it.

Ingram adapted The Magician from the 1908 novel of the same name by M. Somerset Maugham, who was, in his turn, purported to have based the titular magician on Aleister Crowley. In fact, Crowley actually wrote a critique of The Magician the year that the novel was released, in which he accused Maugham of plagiarism. Perhaps ironically, the critique appeared in Vanity Fair under the pen name “Oliver Haddo,” the name of the magician from Maugham’s novel and Ingram’s film.

Both film and novel tell the story of Haddo (played by Paul Wegener, of The Golem and others), a “hypnotist and magician” who is attempting to use an alchemical formula to create new life. In order to complete his experiment, however, he needs the “heart’s blood of a maiden.” Enter sculptor Margaret Dauncey, played by Alice Terry, Ingram’s wife and frequent collaborator. We are introduced to Margaret before any of the other characters, in the scene that produced the .gif which drew me to the film in the first place.

The massive satyr sculpture that crushes Margaret is the first of many indelible images in the film. Others include an almost Boschian scene of Dionysian revelry which also would have been right at home in Haxan, complete with a “dancing faun” who ravishes a girl in front of a decidedly yonic archway, reminding us all that there wasn’t a Hays Code yet in 1926.

When Aleister Crowley was accusing Maugham of plagiarism, he listed a variety of works, including The Island of Doctor Moreau. Conspicuously absent from the list is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, yet the shadow of that novel falls heavy over the cinematic version of The Magician. While the definitive film version of Frankenstein was still several years away, many of the elements of it are already present here, including a climax in an “ancient sorcerer’s tower” on a dark and stormy night, not to mention the eponymous magician’s diminutive assistant.

Haddo’s laboratory may lack the modern amenities and galvanic equipment of James Whale’s Frankenstein, but the bones of the monster are already in place. Most Frankenstein films don’t end with quite such a brawl as this one does—making good use of Paul Wegener’s somewhat hulking physique—though they do often feature the climactic inferno that we see here.