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halloween

Tonight is Walpurgisnacht, which, if it means nothing else, means that we’re at the halfway point on our trip back around to Halloween. Along with your bonfires and whatever else, I recommend some seasonally appropriate reading to mark the occasion. As you probably already know, I’ve got a story called “Walpurgisnacht” that takes place tonight and which initially appeared in The Children of Old Leech, though you can also read it in my second collection, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, both of which are available from Word Horde. Want a taste? You can read an excerpt from the beginning of “Walpurgisnacht” right here.

And speaking of Word Horde, this auspicious day also marks the debut of Mike Griffin’s, well, debut collection, The Lure of Devouring Light, published by, well, you guessed it.

If your reading card is all filled out for the night, might I recommend a suitably witchy film for your Walpurgisnacht enjoyment? Suspiria is always a good bet, but may be too familiar. Hammer’s The Witches is a little less often-seen, and is a particular favorite of mine. And though I don’t actually remember much about it, I’ve now got an ingrained soft spot for Virgin Witch, thanks to a late-night viewing with Simon Berman of Strix Publishing on the heels of the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival a couple years back.

Whatever particular form your libation or revel may take this evening, happy Walpurgisnacht to all who celebrate! Tend to your bonfires, watch out for strange shapes in the sky, and beware of music from beneath the ground. See you all in May, when we’re on the downhill slope toward All Hallow’s Eve.

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I’m saddened by the passing of Wes Craven, though I don’t think I ever followed his career assiduously enough to be considered a fan. Like any other horror buff my age, Scream was a big deal for me when it hit theatres, even though prior to it I’m not actually positive I had seen more than maybe one or two Wes Craven films. Of course, I grew up with Freddy, just as I did with Jason and Michael Myers, but, like with those other two, I grew up with the sequels to the original movies, and never saw the ones that started it all until I was already an adult. I’ve still never seen any of Craven’s pre-Nightmare films, except the so-bad-its-good Swamp Thing. Maybe this will be the impetus I need to finally check some of them out…

If A Nightmare on Elm Street was the only thing that Wes Craven had contributed to our collective mythology, that would have been enough to cement his position as a legend in the field. While its legacy may have been diluted by sequels, the original Nightmare on Elm Street remains one of the weirdest and most potent horror films ever made, with imagery as indelible as any ever committed to celluloid, and ideas that are more surreal and bizarre than you would imagine possible in something that launched a franchise and effectively built a movie studio.

Of course, Nightmare isn’t Wes Craven’s only legacy. He’d already made a name for himself by the time Freddy Krueger slunk onto cinema screens, and he continued to create horror flicks long after, giving him one of the most consistent filmographies in the business. And while that filmography is loaded with as many duds as gems, it’s difficult to deny Craven’s impact on the genre. As Kim Newman said on Facebook, “Wes Craven reinvented horror at least four times – most directors don’t even manage it once.”

It’s impossible to talk about Craven without talking about Scream and Nightmare, but a big one for me from his “lesser” works has always been The Serpent and the Rainbow, starring a pre-Independence Day Bill Pullman. And of course, we need to mention best/worst movie contender Deadly Friend.  As Ross Lockhart observed, who else would have given us this ridiculous thing?

So here’s to you, Wes. Given some of the dominant themes of your oeuvre, it seems somehow inappropriate to say “rest in peace,” so instead I’ll content myself with celebrating the work of a master of horror, and second Thomas Boatwright‘s suggestion that we consider this the official kickoff of Halloween for this year.

Once again, Halloween has come and gone, and we’ve got a whole year to wait until it comes around again. Normally, this time of year leaves me feeling melancholy, but this year has been remarkably good. We’ve had an open house over the weekend, which has kept me busy and extended the feeling of the holiday through the beginning of November. Also, a realization that I had sometime last year is helping out a bit, too. In thinking about the tradition of ghost stories at Christmas, I realized that looking at Halloween as the end of a spooky season had it all backward. Halloween is the gateway to the spooky season, when nights are long and cold, and everyone huddles around the light and tells stories of why they’re afraid of the dark. November and December are ghost story weather, it’s as simple as that.

So this year I’ve tried to view the passing of Halloween as the beginning of the ghost story season, and that’s already helped to make the days a little brighter gloomier, and the nights a little spookier, so we’re off to a good start.

brideLast night, I sat in a full theatre and watched Bride of Frankenstein on the big screen. This morning, I woke up to gray, rainy weather. The day before my birthday, and two days before Halloween, and it finally really feels like October.

There’s nothing left to be said about Bride of Frankenstein, and if there were, I probably wouldn’t be the guy to say it. I love the movie by now, unabashedly, though I think Son or maybe House of Frankenstein are my sentimental favorites of the Universal Frankenstein flicks. Bride has so much great stuff going on, though, and for all that Elsa Lanchester is beautiful and iconic and amazing as the titular character, the best contribution that it made to Frankenstein canon, for my money, is the equally iconic Dr. Pretorius (“no such name”), who appears at the door as a figure of death as if summoned, and takes Frankenstein away from his marital bed to help him make monsters in the night. Whose name is invoked again and again, as if to conjure him. Who comes from nowhere, and who gets all the film’s most wonderful lines, save maybe a few gems left to Karloff’s monster or to Elsa Lanchester playing Mary Shelley in the beginning.

I went with a group of friends and fellow writers, at least one of whom had never seen the movie before. He had the same stupefied reaction that I’ve observed in everyone–myself included–who I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Bride with for the first time. It’s just that kind of movie.

In the opening sequence of Bride, Lanchester’s Mary Shelley is prompted by her husband and Lord Byron to finish the tale of Frankenstein’s monster on a dark and stormy night, which she agrees to do, saying, “It’s a perfect night for mystery and horror. The air itself is filled with monsters.” If that phrase doesn’t sum up Halloween perfectly, I don’t know what does. I’ve said before that Halloween is the one time of year when the world in real life most closely resembles the way it is in my head all the time, and I remember Eric Orchard once saying, “I could always use more bats and jack-o-lanterns in my world.” That goes double for me.

I’ve got one more post planned before the season is over, but the next couple of days are likely to be busy, so if you don’t hear from me again, happy Halloween all, and I hope you watch at least one scary movie and read at least one spooky book to commemorate the occasion.

Everyone reading this already knows that Halloween is my favorite holiday, right? And that the worst day of the year, at least in some respects, is November 1st, because it means the longest possible time until more Halloween. Well, it’s not quite two Halloweens in a year, but there’s apparently an Internet initiative underway to turn May 26-27 (or more specifically, the night in-between the two) into the Feast of the Long Shadows.

The name comes from a 1983 movie called House of the Long Shadows. By all accounts it isn’t very good (though I’ll admit that I’ve yet to see it, myself), but it has the distinction of starring Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee. Not just some of the greatest actors ever to be associated chiefly with the Gothic and horror genre, but also some of the genre’s greatest statesmen. We may never see their like again. As it so happens, those three dignitaries are also the reason for the celebration, or at least the reason for the choosing of the date. Vincent Price and Christopher Lee were born on May 27th, while Peter Cushing was born on the 26th. Certainly, it seems like a confluence worth noting.

The initiative, started by Italian author and critic Franco Pezzini and director Max Ferro, aims to make the Feast “a celebration of the creative strength and cultural import of the arts of imagination, of horror and wonder.” That’s definitely an idea that I can get behind. And having another celebration of the mysterious, the monstrous, and the macabre situated roughly opposite All Hallow’s Eve will make the wait for the next Halloween a little more bearable. So from now on, I’ll be celebrating the Feast of the Long Shadows on the evening of May 26th, probably with some movies featuring one or more of those esteemed personages mentioned above. I encourage everyone else to do the same, and spread the word. It’s a holiday worth having, and if enough people get behind it we can make it happen.

(Thanks to excellent author and editor T.E. Grau for introducing me to the notion.)

Happy Halloween, one and all! I’ve been at work all day, and I’m going to a party this evening, so I’ll keep this short, but it wouldn’t be right to let Halloween go by and not say something. So I’ll give you some seasonally appropriate links.

For starters, however you feel about Trick ‘r Treat, there’s really no more seasonally appropriate movie around. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend giving it a look, and if you have, there are a plethora of short films from the same director produced by FearNET that are available on YouTube. There’s also the original animated short film that started the whole shebang off, which you can see right here:

If you’ve already seen Trick ‘r Treat, or are otherwise looking for more stuff to watch this most ghoulish of seasons, the Onion AV Club is doing their annual 24 Hours of Horror movie marathon list, this time with the great Joe Dante. And while you’re at it, you can also check out last year’s list with Edgar Wright. One of these years, I’ll do up my own list, but this year won’t be that year.

(I haven’t actually gotten to read all of Dante’s list yet, but I’m looking forward to finishing it up soon. And I think I own most of those movies, so if I was insane I could actually do the marathon!)

Maybe the most exciting thing to happen so far today, though, for me and anyone else who is unhealthily obsessed with the work of Mike Mignola, is that Dark Horse released a free 119-page digital sampler of a bunch of their horror titles, including a new Baltimore story, B.P.R.D. 1948, and, best of all, a new preview of Hellboy in Hell!

That’s pretty much it for me. Have a safe and happy Halloween, and I’ll see you back here in November for the start of my Hitchcock marathon, and more of the same. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a drawing that artist Chris Sanders (of Lilo & Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon, among others) shared on his Facebook, and that has become my new favorite Halloween drawing of the moment.

Tomorrow is my birthday. In spite of the subject line up there, I’m actually turning 31. But it seemed appropriate anyway, not only because tomorrow is the 30th, but because tomorrow is the end of my being 30. In some ways, it was a pretty big year for me. Probably bigger than I’ve yet realized, since I still feel kind of in the midst of it. It hasn’t really sunk in that it’s my birthday tomorrow, and that Halloween is only two days away. It still feels like the beginning of October, or maybe even earlier than that.

I don’t know how much time I’ll have for introspection or anything else in the next couple of days. With any luck, I’ll watch a movie or two, and maybe you’ll hear about that. Then in November I’m going to start my aforementioned experiment to try to rectify my ignorance of Hitchcock’s canon, and I’ll definitely be updating about that as it goes along.

I’ve been asked about presents, but I’m really doing pretty well and there’s not a lot that I need in that department right now. If you really want to get me something for my birthday, the best thing would probably be to go ahead and pre-order a copy of Fungi for yourself, if you haven’t already. As before, I recommend the hardcover. My collection isn’t up for order just yet, but I’ve turned in the final proofs, and so it should be heading to the printer. If you’d like to save up your birthday cheer for that, it should be available for order any day now.

If you already ordered Fungi, then thank you. And if you have an overabundance of goodwill toward me and more money to spend, then I’d recommend picking yourself up a book by one of my very good friends. It’ll make me happy, and you’ll have a fantastic book to read. You’ve probably already heard me talk about Molly Tanzer’s A Pretty Mouth, but it bears repeating that it’s one of the best new books I’ve read in a while, and I just got my copy of Every House is Haunted, the debut collection from Ian Rogers, and so far it is excellent (and is the first time, to my knowledge, that I’m mentioned in the acknowledgements of a book). I haven’t yet gotten my copy of Richard Gavin’s latest, At Fear’s Altar, but his previous collections are among the best contemporary weird fiction I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and this one promises to be his best yet.

You’ll hear from me again before then, but I hope that everyone has a happy Halloween, and those of you on the East Coast (and everywhere else, frankly), stay safe.