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painted monsters

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!

While “The Murders on Morgue Street” was original to this collection, I had already written it before I started putting Painted Monsters together, it just hadn’t been published anywhere. “Strange Beast” is the first of a pair of stories I wrote explicitly to finish out this book. Its title is a reference to the actual definition of the word kaiju, a term that for most of us has long been synonymous with giant monsters.

The most obvious movie to pair with “Strange Beast” would be Pulgasari, the Korean giant monster flick whose real-life making of backstory inspired my tale. But I’ve never actually seen Pulgasari–somehow it seems like watching it could never live up to that behind the scenes drama–so I guess we’ll have to cast our nets further afield. The next most obvious place to look seems to be someplace like Cloverfield. After all, my “notes toward a book about a documentary crew making a movie about the tragic events behind the making of a movie” approach to “Strange Beast” obviously owes a lot to the found footage format that’s become popular in recent years, and there aren’t a lot of found footage kaiju movies. (This is probably a good thing.) But I also don’t much like Cloverfield, so instead I’d be more likely to suggest Troll Hunter, a movie whose monsters are somewhat more modestly-sized, but whose documentary conceit is much more credible. And just a much better movie, all around.

The biggest cinematic influence on “Strange Beast,” though, has nothing to do with found footage and nothing to do with kaiju. It’s an episode of the 1976 Nigel Kneale-scripted British horror anthology series Beasts called “The Dummy.” In it, a suit actor who plays a monster in a series of successful movies has a nervous breakdown in which he begins to identify with the monster that he’s playing. Take that episode, put it in a blender with the strange true events that led to the creation of Pulgasari, and you’ve got the genesis of “Strange Beast.”

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!

Art by my good friend Trevor Henderson.

Art by my good friend Trevor Henderson.

“Persistence of Vision” may be my most successful story to date. Originally written for Silvia Moreno-Garcia‘s Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse, for which I was an honorary Canadian, it also snagged me my first (and thus far only) appearance in Ellen Datlow‘s Best Horror of the Year. It’s also probably the most overt of the movie-influenced stories that I’ve done on the countdown so far, featuring a film blogger narrator who tells the story about the way I normally talk–by comparing everything to movies.

As such, there are a lot of references to films scattered throughout “Persistence of Vision,” but the big influences here come from a pair of films: Kairo, which we got as part of the J-horror boom kicked off by the success of The Ring, and its somewhat lackluster American remake from a few years later, Pulse. As the unnamed narrator says in the story, “starring that girl from Veronica Mars and that guy from Lost. Well-known prognosticators of the end of the world.” As such, I’d recommend Kairo to go along with “Persistence of Vision,” though if you’re completely allergic to subtitles, Pulse won’t hurt either.

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!

This is a weird one…

I wrote “Lovecrafting” in response to Jesse Bullington‘s invitation for me to submit something to Letters to Lovecraft, a Lovecraftian anthology with a particularly unusual logline. Rather than drawing our inspirations from Lovecraft’s stories or beasties, we were asked to read his seminal essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” select a passage, and write a story in response. As I was reading back over the essay, I was struck more than I had been previously by Lovecraft’s racism and racial essentialism, but also by this odd streak of what I can only call proto-geek pride, as he continually asserted that there was something very unique and special about people who loved supernatural literature. So the passage I ultimately chose was:

“The appeal of the spectrally macabre is generally narrow because it demands from the reader a certain degree of imagination and a capacity for detachment from every-day life.

… and “Lovecrafting” was the result. Weird less for its plot than for the manner of its telling, a story with a jumbled chronology, done in a combination of film-treatment-like-segments broken up by portions of fictional weird tales, complete with intentionally incorrect uses of five-dollar-words. At first glance, that might appear to produce a story too mired in its own literary antecedents and gimmicks to pair well with film, but in this case just about any Stuart Gordon Lovecraft adaptation would fit the bill perfectly. And while From Beyond might match better with the odd and ephemeral monsters of “Lovecrafting,” I think I’m going to have to go with the original Re-Animator as my official pairing pick.

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!

I don’t write a lot that could be considered science fiction, as you may have already noticed if you’ve been reading through Painted Monsters up to this point. My obsessions tend to be rooted in the past rather than looking toward the future. So when Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula Stiles asked me to contribute something to Future Lovecraft, I started and rejected several ideas before finally settling on the one that would become “The Labyrinth of Sleep.”

I’m a fan of Lovecraft’s Dreamlands stories, and I feel like they don’t get enough attention, even in today’s incredibly Mythos-saturated publishing environment, so the idea for “The Labyrinth of Sleep” was basically to combine those tales with the dream-entering technology posited by a variety of movies over the years. Probably the first one that most people think of will be Inception, and certainly there are elements of Inception‘s heavily-armed dream heisters in the “dream hounds” of “Labyrinth,” but I’d say that this story probably owes more to stylized J-Lo vehicle The Cell or even 1984’s Dreamscape with its stop motion snake man, which left an impression on me as a kid, though I haven’t seen it in over a decade.

While I had intended to write a story evoking the Dreamlands, the titular Labyrinth itself–and certainly the structure at its heart–probably owes more to William Hope Hodgson’s House on the Borderland than to anything that Lovecraft himself ever did. Since that’s never been adapted to film, however, try the 1971 adaptation of Jean Ray’s Malpertuis for a similar feel.

While I know that I’m supposed to be pairing movies here, not recommending additional reading, if, like me, you can’t get enough of Dreamlands stuff, it bears mentioning that I recently read Amanda Downum‘s incredible Dreamlands/King in Yellow novel Dreams of Shreds and Tatters and it was everything that I could have asked for and more. Highly recommended!

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!

“Remains” was originally going to appear–under a different title–in my previous collection, Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings. You can read about why it didn’t in the author’s notes at the back of the story. It eventually did show up in the “lost” 13th issue of Strange Aeons Magazine, available only to backers of the 2014 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival Kickstarter. Besides that, Painted Monsters is its only time in print. As such, it probably owes less to movies than any other story in this collection, besides maybe “The White Prince.”

The biggest debt in “Remains” is to Clive Barker’s story “The Last Illusion,” which was my first introduction to the notion of using a previous supernatural experience to prime a character for their current predicament. “The Last Illusion” was adapted (and expanded) to film as Lord of Illusions, a project both much more ambitious and much less successful than its source material. It also proved to be Barker’s last directing gig–at least so far–possibly because it was frequently kind of terrible, in spite of moments of great promise, hampered in no small part by its Lawnmower Man-esque CGI segments. Still, it’s not a bad companion piece to “Remains,” especially in its opening moments.

For a more successful film that also maps onto “Remains” in ways that hopefully become obvious after reading the story, we only have to go a step to the left to Clive Barker’s first feature-length attempt at adapting his work to the screen, Hellraiser.

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!

Though I wrote “The Red Church” for Giallo Fantastique, at the time that I wrote it I hadn’t actually seen very many Gialli, though I had been doing a lot of reading about them. Shortly after I wrote the first draft of this story, I saw Suspiria for the first time, and it obsessed me in a way that few other films ever have before or since. From there, I tracked down a lot more Giallo films, though my experience with the genre is still much narrower than I would like.

Because I hadn’t seen very many Gialli when I wrote “The Red Church,” it’s inspired less by any particular film than by the sense of menace and strangeness that is their hallmark as much as the justly-famous kill sequences for which they’re most often known. It was the lurid colors, strange scores, and sense of constant and omnipresent menace that impressed me when I began watching Giallo films, and it’s what I think Ross was able to capture to perfection in Giallo Fantastique, which remains one of my favorite anthologies, in spite of the fact that I’m in it.

Now that I’ve seen a few Gialli, I feel like I can recommend some installments in the genre that pair well with “The Red Church.” Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace and my favorite of Dario Argento’s “straight” Gialli Deep Red. (Suspiria remains my favorite of Argento’s films, but it’s kind of its own weird thing). Another movie that I’d be remiss not to mention in conjunction with “The Red Church,” though it isn’t really too much like a Giallo film, is the German thriller Anatomy. It’s been a few years since I saw it last, so I’m not going to vouch too strongly for its quality, but the conspiratorial tone of it struck me at the time, and I know it was one of my first introductions to the notion of plastination, which obviously impacted the writing of “The Red Church” quite a bit.

Speaking of Deep Red, for those of you who’re local to the Kansas City area, I’ll actually be hosting a FREE screening of it tonight at the Tapcade, where you’ll also have a chance to win copies of both Painted Monsters and Giallo Fantastique. So whether you’re an old Argento fan, or you’ve never seen a Giallo before in your life, there’s no better place to be tonight at 8pm!

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.