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!

“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.

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!

“Ripperology” was written for Ross Lockhart’s first Word Horde anthology Tales of Jack the Ripper. When he first invited me to write something for the anthology, I wasn’t about to turn him down, but I also wasn’t sure what I had to contribute to the reams and reams that have been written about Jack over the years. Luckily I found some inspiration in the quote from Candyman that opens the story, and I wrote a sort of odd, oblique piece exploring the lasting fascination with Jack, even after all these years.

There are plenty of movies out there about Jack the Ripper–I’m personally still fond of the 2001 Hughes Brothers adaptation of From Hell, in spite of its many faults and limitless distance from its source material–but none of them seem quite right for the story that I told here, which concerns itself less with Jack himself and more with his legacy. So for this story, I’d recommend pairing it with the movie from which it took its epigraph, Candyman.

Candyman remains my favorite Clive Barker adaptation, in spite of being one of the ones that he didn’t have a hand in adapting himself. It strays pretty far from its source material as well, but unlike From Hell, most of the changes that Candyman makes are actually improvements.

If you really want an unusual take on Jack the Ripper–albeit one that has very little in common with my little story–try the very first episode of the wonderful Kolchak: the Night Stalker, called simply “The Ripper,” which I believe is streaming on Netflix right now.

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!

Of all of these movie pairings, this one is, without a doubt, the easiest. You see, “The Murders on Morgue Street,” which is one of the three stories in Painted Monsters that’s entirely original to the collection, is essentially just an adaptation of the movie that I imagined when I read the Crestwood House book of  the 1932 Bela Lugosi version of Murders in the Rue Morgue. So it’s really the only movie that I can imagine pairing with this story.

Those Crestwood House books were my first introduction to most of the classic monster movies of the 30s, 40s, and 50s, long before I ever actually saw any of them, and poring over those black-and-white stills, imagining the movies that they went with, had a huge formative impact on my imagination. There’s a paragraph in Joe Lansdale’s intro to Baltimore: The Curse Bells that seems appropriate here: “Reading it also brought to mind the Universal horror films of old, with their wonderfully gothic sets and shifty-eyed peasants and shambling monsters and fluttering bats. This film on paper, this comic, goes where your mind went when you saw those films as a kid, goes where the film didn’t, but you think it did, because at that age your mind is fresh and open and full of light and shadow, all of it moving about in savage flickers, having not yet settled and found its civilized position. For everything you see with your eyes at that age, your mind’s eye sees a hundred times more. Our personalities and imaginations are forming then; there are open doors through which light and shadow come.”

Unlike Lansdale, I didn’t get to see any of these movies as a kid, but the Crestwood House books served the same function. I paged through them–and later through other books like them–saw the stills that they contained, like snapshots of stranger worlds, and my mind built stories from them, imagined the universe to which they must belong. Don’t worry too much about repetition, though. “The Murders on Morgue Street” bears about as much actual resemblance to Murders in the Rue Morgue as that movie does to the Poe story that is its namesake. Which is to say, not much. Those Crestwood House books may have shaped my imagination, but apparently not always too accurately.

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!

“Night’s Foul Bird” marks the first of the stories in Painted Monsters to be set in a time and place that allowed me to specifically reference actual movies in the course of the story, so it’s (obviously) packed to the gills with titles and imagery from the silent horror films of the 1920s, especially the big, grim German ones. The story was originally written for the “wings” themed issue of Innsmouth Magazine, and was produced in audio form at Pseudopod. Where “The White Prince” dealt with vampire imagery from early novels, “Night’s Foul Bird” deals with the vampire as it appeared in the early cinema, which was often very different from what came to be the norm after Bela Lugosi’s genre-defining turn as Dracula.

The most obvious pairing for this tale would be the Lon Chaney/Tod Browning London After Midnight, but unfortunately for all of us, that’s maybe the most famously lost film of all time, and while there’s a “reconstructed” version floating around that uses the original script and film stills, it just isn’t the same. So we’ll just have to move on to some of the other movies that are mentioned in the story. The next two stops are both films by German director F.W. Murnau: Nosferatu in 1922 and Faust in 1926. While both contain stark and often beautiful images that show up in “Night’s Foul Bird,” Nosferatu is the most obvious choice for a film pairing, thanks to its early and striking cinematic treatment of the vampire.

Of course, if you’ve already seen these classics, or if silent movies just aren’t your thing, you can always fast-forward a few years to the age of the talkies and check out Tod Browning’s undersung Mark of the Vampire, which boasts a great Lionel Barrymore performance, and is essentially a remake of London After Midnight, albeit with a somnolent Lugosi in place of Chaney’s iconic vampire makeup.

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!

The second story in Painted Monsters is also the one that has probably the least connection to cinema. “The White Prince” was written for Steve Berman’s incubus anthology Handsome Devil: Stories of Sin and Seduction, and when I wrote it what I had in mind were the early treatments of vampires in novels and stories.

That said, just about any cinematic adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula seems like it would be an appropriate pairing. Most people have probably already seen the 1931 Bela Lugosi version and the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola version, so to go along with your reading of “The White Prince” I recommend the Spanish-language version that was filmed at night on the same sets that Lugosi and company were using to film their version during the day, or the 1979 version starring Frank Langella, whose hands do more acting than most actors who portrayed the sinister and seductive count throughout the years.

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!

It’s still October 13 (for about another hour), so what better time to begin my countdown of the thirteen tales that make up Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts. We’ll begin with an old favorite, the oldest story in the book, in fact, though this is also its first time in print: “The Worm That Gnaws”

“The Worm That Gnaws” was written partly as an exercise in atmosphere, but mostly to see if I could capture a certain accent: the thick Edinburgh accent associated with movie grave robbers and resurrection men. It was first produced as an audio version at Pseudopod, way back in 2009. Ian Stuart nailed the voice so perfectly that it remains my preferred version of the story, and also guarantees that I can never read it aloud myself; there’s not way I could even come close to doing it the same justice that he does.

I’ve always loved grave robbers and resurrection men–those individuals, long of need and short on scruples, who provided cadavers for the medical schools of old. Probably partly inspired by the real-life duo of Burke and Hare, grave robbing pairs made frequent appearances in the early horror cinema, often providing comic relief. A good example can be found in the opening minutes of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.

There were a few movies made that were overtly about grave robbers, including The Flesh and the Fiends and The Doctor and the Devils, but my favorite is probably also the earliest, a 1945 adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson story The Body Snatcherproduced by Val Lewton and directed by Robert Wise. The film stars Boris Karloff in a meatier-than-usual role as a sinister grave robber named John Gray, who no doubt went a long toward influencing the character of Wolfe in “The Worm That Gnaws.”

When I first wrote this story, I had not yet seen Glenn McQuaid’s brilliant 2008 horror comedy I Sell the Dead, which is probably good, because if I had, I might have thrown in the towel and assumed that everything that needed to be done with grave robbers and supernatural horror had been done. While the story was written with those movies from the 30s and 40s in mind, there’s probably no better film to pair it with that McQuaid’s own love letter to the (sub)genre. Plus, if they ever were to adapt “The Worm That Gnaws” to the screen, I can think of much worse people to play Wolfe than Larry Fessenden.

Lo, I come stumbling forth from my crypt to inform you that I am once again participating in the Countdown to Halloween this year, and while I’m off to something of a late start, I plan to keep the ball rolling a little more reliably than I have in past years. To that end, I have a plan.

As you may have noticed, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts was just released on an unsuspecting populace, and I’ll be spending the whole month promoting it in a hopefully-not-too-annoying way. While other authors have paired their stories with soundtracks or cocktail recipes, my own sphere of expertise and the theme of my collection suggest some other possibilities, so for the remainder of the month I’ll be discussing each of the thirteen stories in Painted Monsters and suggesting movies that go well with that story.

Painted Monsters was conceived as a follow-up to my previous collection, certainly, but also as a sort of crash course in the history of horror cinema, as told through stories inspired by movies from across the decades. From silent films to found footage, there’s hopefully a little something for every horror or weird fiction fan in Painted Monsters. I’ll be suggesting movies both obvious and not-so-obvious that either influenced the stories or that simply pair well with them. To get you started, the title and epigraph of the collection come from the 1968 Peter Bogdanovich film Targets, which provides a pretty succinct dissertation on the way that horror cinema was changing from before the 1960s to after. It’s also a good place to begin your viewing.

If you pre-ordered your copy of Painted Monsters direct from Word Horde HQ it should be shipping out as we speak, so you’ll have it in your hands directly. Once you do, follow along as I take you through each story in turn, and we also watch some horror movies–some classic, some forgotten, some ridiculous, some sublime–together!

I’m a few days back from the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and sufficiently recovered as to make a token effort at a wrap-up post. As always, I had a great time at what is consistently my favorite convention/festival/gathering of the year, with my only complaint being that there is never enough time for all the people I want to see, movies I want to watch, and things I want to do. (Nor, for that matter, enough money for all the things I want to buy.)

Of course, the big news for me this year is that Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts is now a real, actual, physical book that real human beings (including myself) have now seen and touched and–given how long some peoples’ flights home were–maybe even read! My fantastic publisher was in attendance, and he brought a box of books so that we had copies to sell and sign at the mass author signing event on Saturday morning. I got to flip through my new book–which, if anything, looks even better in person–and smell that new book smell. It remains a pretty heady experience.

I actually flew into Portland on Wednesday night, and Mike and Lena Griffin were kind enough to pick me up from the airport and give me the run of their place Wednesday night and all day Thursday until it was time to fetch Justin Steele from the airport and deposit me at the Banfield, where I was rooming with some of my oldest and dearest friends, Reyna and Gavin Sparby. Our room at the Banfield this year was remarkably free of kicked-in doors, blood stains, or millipedes, though we overheard someone reporting a “mysterious pool of liquid” in one of the other rooms, which sounded about right. The greatest mysteries our room contained were a massive, faux-leather headboard about as big as the bed itself, a missing toilet paper roll holder, and a bathroom mirror that was clearly doing an inadequate job of covering up a hole in the wall. Oh Banfield, you are as inextricably a part of the HPLFF experience as anything.

While we were waiting for the HPLFF proper to kick off, the Kickstarter for Simon Berman’s latest project The Book of Starry Wisdom launched on October 1. I contributed an essay to this incredible tome, in which I talk about “The Call of Cthulhu,” Descartes, In the Mouth of Madness, and epistemological certainty. You’ve got until the end of the month to get this thing backed, and there are some nice stretch goals waiting in the wings, so everybody take a break from reading this and go throw some money into Simon’s hat so he’ll stop beating me.

The biggest change between this HPLFF and previous years is that I actually watched any movies this year. I had gone in with one big goal: to see City of the Dead aka Horror Hotel, a black-and-white 1960 Christopher Lee picture that I’d never seen before. Unfortunately, fate stood in the way, and my reading was scheduled opposite its only showing on Friday night. And because Amanda Downum and I are real, big time professionals, we did not put up an “IOU one reading” sign and go see Christopher Lee instead.

Later that evening, however, I did see the first of four feature films and a handful of shorts that I would watch over the weekend, making my total HPLFF 2015 film viewing almost fully double the sum of all the film viewing I did at both previous HPLFFs. That first night was Extraordinary Tales, and I also caught Final Prayer (aka The Borderlands), which Trevor Henderson has been on me to watch forever, as well as Black Mountain Side and a Greek film called The Winter. All of them were solid except The Winter, which would have made a good short, but felt stretched at 105 minutes. Black Mountain Side–about which I knew literally nothing going in–turned out to be my favorite film of the fest, and it seems that I wasn’t alone, since it took home the statue for Best Feature Film. Most of the actual shorts I saw were disappointing, and I was unfortunately compelled to miss The Mill at Calder’s End, since I was moderating a panel on cosmic horror in film at the time.

Maybe the best thing I got to see at the whole festival, though, was a live performance of Ask Lovecraft, in which I got to ask Lovecraft how many fish he could name. I am ashamed to say that I had never actually watched any episodes of Ask Lovecraft prior to this, though I knew Leeman from Facebook and from the TOC of Resonator and various other interactions, and getting to hang out with him in person–both in and out of character–was one of the real treats of the whole festival for me. In some ways, I’m glad that this was my first exposure to Ask Lovecraft, because getting to see it live for the first time was a unique pleasure.

The festival had a lot of other highlights, including a big robot named D.A.G.O.N. that hugged Simon and told him “There there, human. It’s okay that your life has no meaning.” As has been the case at previous festivals, most of the time that I didn’t spend doing something else I spent eating delicious food or hanging out on the back patio of the Moon & Sixpence. There were people I got to see a lot of and, as always, lots more people I didn’t see nearly as often as I would have liked. I did shake Jeffrey Combs’ hand, and also ran into him in the upstairs bathroom of the Hollywood Theatre. I know that he got passed a copy of the special HPLFF issue of Strange Aeons magazine, in which I wrote an extensive appreciation of his work, but it might be for the best if he never reads it, since I lovingly discussed Doctor Mordrid at some length.

Speaking of extensive, Monday while I was still wrapping up my festival, a very lengthy round table that I did with Adam Cesare before leaving went live on his monthly Paper Cuts column over at Cemetery Dance Online. In it, we hash out our favorite movie monsters of each decade, and discuss items of important interest like whether or not Michael Myers is a monster, my panhandling skills, swearing in PG-13 movies, whether or not metaphors count as monsters, and that comic book rack from The Mist. Because we are really good at staying on topic, is what I’m saying.

Since I didn’t fly out until Monday afternoon, Amanda and Josh and I went exploring at the Witch House, which was down a long trail full of fallen trees straight out of the spider pit sequence from King Kong. In spite of everything that movies and stories have taught us, we survived the experience, and Josh even found $20, which we assume meant that the witches were pleased with us. We also made the obligatory stop by Powell’s books, and discussed the necessity of an app that replaces the navigational voice on our phones with the Deer God from Black Mountain Side.

Upon arriving home, I had the pleasure of announcing that I’ll be hosting a FREE screening of Dario Argento’s Deep Red at the Tapcade here in KC, where you’ll have a chance to win copies of both Painted Monsters and Giallo Fantastique! More on that as it draws closer, and I return ever more to what passes for a human state around these parts. As for the HPLFF, apologies to all the people I failed to mention in this post, it was a joy and a pleasure as always, and I’m already looking forward to next year!