Archive

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!

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!