Painted Monsters: “Walpurgisnacht”

For the month of October, as part of the Countdown to Halloween, I’ll be revisiting each of the thirteen stories in Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts and suggesting movies that pair well with them, for your viewing pleasure!

Today is a double-feature here at the blog, for reasons that’ll probably become obvious tomorrow. To go along with my earlier post about “Ripperology,” I’ll also be talking about the next story in Painted Monsters, “Walpurgisnacht.”

I originally wrote this story for the Laird Barron tribute anthology The Children of Old Leechbut–and this is just between you and me–I’d already started writing it before I even knew there was a Laird Barron tribute anthology. I started it right after I finished Laird’s second collection–Occultation–just to see what a Laird Barron story would look like if I wrote it.

While writing “Walpurgisnacht” I tried to take the same approach that I normally take when writing stories for Lovecraftian anthologies, which is to take the themes and preoccupations of Lovecraft’s (or Laird’s) stories, rather than necessarily aping their styles or copying down the names of people, places, eldritch tomes, or (squamous, gibbering, batrachian) things. For this story, though, a few of my favorite figures and places (and games) from Laird’s stories found their way in anyway.

“Walpurgisnacht” examines the figure of the witch, and also tackles a couple of people making their way to a hotel for a “revel,” a sort of elaborate party staged on the titular night. It involves Goya and old film and lots of other things I like. There are a lot of films that concern themselves with modern-day witchcraft, deals with the devil, decadent artists, and so on, so there’s a rich tapestry of possibilities to choose from. A couple of personal favorites that I think match the tone of the story pretty nicely are Hammer’s The Devil Rides Out, with Christopher Lee in a rare good guy role (I had to make sure I worked at least one Hammer movie in here somewhere) and Night of the Demon/Curse of the Demon (depending on if you’re in America or the UK), particularly the scenes that feature the sinister Karswell.

For my ultimate recommendation, though, I’m going to go with the more seldom-seen 1971 Satanism flick The Mephisto Waltz. It has a lot of good touches, and moments that feel right at home alongside “Walpurgisnacht,” and the Satanist masquerade ball seems like it would be a perfect fit for one of Henri’s revels.

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