Friday, 21 December 2012

Top 6: Christmas Horror Films

Christmas, the time of cheer and good will. Well, not here at the Fright Writer's hovel, where the blood runs all year round.

In honour of horror over the festive period I'll be watching Rare Exports, but until then here is the Top 6 Christmas Horror films.

6. Christmas Evil
A Christmas horror laced with humour as dark as the inside of a chimney. Charting the mental downfall of Harry Stadling, a boy traumatised by his childhood memories and obsessed with Christmas. Stadling commits some grisly, gruesome murders using weapons ranging from axes to toy soldiers. Not flawless but still a good film with a role for horror regular Jeffery DeMunn .

5. Silent Night, Deadly Night
Crazed grandparents, sadistic nuns, killers dressed as Santa and Linnea Quigley impaled on wall mounted reindeer antlers, 'Silent Night, Deadly Night' certainly has a lot in it's favour. It's far from a perfect film, but furore around the films images and advertise upon it's release means this one will be a cult classic for a long time to come.

4. Jack Frost
Another film that's become a cult hit. Serial killer, Jack Frost's gets turned into a snowman after his prison truck collides a tanker carrying genetic material (What are the chances?). Its ridiculous plot, terrible acting, comical deaths and cheap FX means this film is so bad it's good. The infamous shower scene with Shannon Elizabeth adds to this film's must see status.

3. Santa's Slay
Never work with kids, animals or professional wrestlers. One of the rules of cinema is let a WWF (yes, I said 'F' not 'E', fuck the pandas, this is my childhood) star near a film and it's much more likely to become a big steaming pile of reindeer crap. 'Santa's Slay,' however, holds up pretty well despite have Bill Goldberg play the not so jolly St Nick. Goldberg grunts, growls and gurns his way through this over the top Christmas farce, but it's an enjoyable ride.

2. Black Christmas
Forget 'Halloween' or 'My Bloody Valentine', this is the granddaddy of holiday slashers. A house of sorority sisters are tormented by by a derranged killer in this Canadian horror classic based on 'The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs' legend. It also spawned the iconic tagline, "If this picture doesn't make your skin's on too tight." 

1. Gremlins
My undisputed king of Christmas horror is Gremlins. It used to be the only terrifying green things likely to upset anyone at Christmas was sprouts, then Joe Dante's Gremlins came along to wreak havoc over the festive period. The film's dark comedic tone is summed up completely by the tragic story of Kate's father and his Christmas demise.

That's my Top 6 Christmas Horror Films, let me know yours.
A scary Christmas to all and to all a good fright.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Rated X-mas

Halloween has been and gone, the end of the year is nigh. That means it's time to remove that slender, severed leg from the blood soaked, silk stocking and hang it from the fire place in anticipation of what deliciously, deviant delights jolly old Saint Nick may leave in it's place.

For those lacking a little inspiration, here are a few things to scrawl on to your list;
Shock Horror Magazine subscription
Top of my list is this British based bi-monthly horror magazine. Perfect for any horror loving little creep, this magazine is stuffed full of high quality, colourful, glossy delights covering every angle of horror. Regular features from the likes of FX master Mike Peel and sultry scream queens Suzi Lorraine and Sarah French are accompanied by the latest news, reviews and interviews. So, whether it's films, games, comics, tattoos or anything else horror related you’re into, this is a must. Grab a year's subscription here, for just £20, and get a free DVD.

Circus of Horrors tickets
Circuses are boring nonsense for child. Well, not this matinee of macabre that is out touring the country again with their new show, The Ventriloquist. These shows really are amazing so be prepared to be blown away. Forget unfunny clowns, this is frights, fun and flesh that will have you on the edge of your seat. Read my review of their previous show and then book tickets.

'Cleaver' mug
My favourite horror film that doesn't exist (a subject that I will post on soon), 'Cleaver' was described as "Saw meets The Godfather 2," its superbly ludicrous and down right brilliant (even if Sir Ben Kingsley didn't sign on in the end). Whilst the film doesn't exist, the mugs seen in The Sopranos do and they are pretty fucking cool. It is a fine receptacle from which to drink your coffee / liquor / blood of a nubile virgin.

Zombie Magnetic Poetry Kit
Poetry. It's all about love and feelings and shuffling, reanimated corpses with a taste for human flesh. Stick these 200 words to your fridge and add some squelching to your sonnets, some horror to your haikus and some blood splatter to your ballads. Whether your a seasoned wordsmith or novice wordplayer then this set is worth it's while. Plus, it will give you something to do when you are trapped in the zombie apocalypse.

Zombie Feet Slippers
What better way to shuffle out of bed in the morning than in a pair of zombie feet slippers? These battered hooves are beyond pedicures but this cold dead flesh will keep your tootsies toasty.

Zombie Movie Maker Set
Film making is hard work. You’ve got your script, but that’s barely even the start. You need cash, a crew, equipment, props, a full cast and extras. Actually, you don’t. This funky piece of kit from Hawkin's Bazaar means you get all you need to commit your masterpiece to screen… (Ok, it may only be a smartphone screen but still) then upload your masterpieces to a wider audience. This a fun set for any wannabe film makers.

I hope you all get what you want this year. May I wish a scary Christmas to all and to a good fright.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Are You Local?

This Halloween marks 10 years since The League of Gentlemen aired its final episode on the BBC. The deliciously dark comedy show was something we had not seen the likes of before, and whose quirky charm has not been matched since.

The show was not so much laced with horror references as it was doused in them. The Wicker Man, Nosferatu, The Exorcist; The League of Gentlemen paid homage to an incredible number of classic horror films and kept the laughter, as well as the terror, rolling throughout.

The action staggered from scene-to-scene, like alcohol induced nightmares, through the streets and buildings warped village of ‘Royston Vasey.’ All the action is held together by bizarre storylines of mysterious macabre including veterinary curses, attic monsters, curious circuses and “Special Stuff.”

In fact the only thing more bizarre than the show’s storylines was its characters. Beastly butcher Hilary Briss, confused, transsexual cab driver Barbara Dixon, non-believer vicar Rev. Bernice, murderous local shopkeepers and minders of ‘precious things’ Tubbs and Edward Tattsyrup, a proverbial sackful of other twisted and tangled personalities and the
oddest and arguably best loved character Papa Lazarou. Lazarou is the minstrel faced leader of a shadowy circus troop and pure Gothicism.

The surreal, dreamlike tone is increased by the fact almost every character is played by a cast of three; Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton and Mark Gatiss (Co-writer, Jeremy Dyson is the only ‘League’ member who does not regularly appear). All four have moved onto big things on TV, film and stage, but The League of Gentlemen and ‘Royston Vasey’ is where they really captured the hearts and imaginations of fans.

The League of Gentlemen is unique. It is the perfect encapsulation of British humour, intertwined with horror heavily influenced Hammer. The show is a British institution and one that is travelling well (it’s gained cult status overseas).

This Halloween, turnoff the lights and immerse yourself in ‘Royston Vasey.’ I promise, once you enter… ‘You’ll never leave.’

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

My Favourite Scenes: Jaws

There are many scenes in ‘Jaws’ that are a contender for my favourite. There’s the beach attack scene containing that amazing ‘dolly zoom’ shot of Sheriff Brody. Then, the first time we see the shark, Bruce (Spielberg’s lawyer inspired nickname for the mechanical shark) rising up from the water below in always its razor-toothed glory. That’s not even mentioning the shooting star, unintentionally captured film.

My favourite scene, however, is far more simple. No clever camera trickery, no celestial happenings, no mechanical man eaters, just 3 men, a boat a fucking great story.

For those not familiar with 'Jaws', what the fuck have you been doing with your life? A Great White terrorises coastal tourist town Amity Island over Fourth of July weekend. With a penny counting mayor unwilling to close the beaches it falls on new Sheriff Martin Brody, marine biologist Matt Hooper and rough, tough, salty sea dog Quint to hunt the water dwelling beast. Whilst Brody, Quint and Hooper bob about in search of the killer shark that’s terrorising Amity, they relax with a drink and a preverbial pissing contest of scar comparisions. Quint reveals a scar that used to be a tattoo, "U.S.S. Indianapolis '45." The mood changes instantly as Hooper recognises the name and Quint remembers everything.

The camera pulls in close on Robert Shaw's Quint, and stays there almost permanently, as he recounts the story with spine tingling horror. A hint of craziness peeks through Quint's voice as he rasps, slurs and mumbles his way through arguably the best monologue committed to screen. The tale of the U.S.S. Indianapolis has the ability to send shivers down the spine of the steeliest of men
and it's all based on a true story.

As an audience we feel the terror, the desperation, the sheer horror felt by the crew of the Indianapolis. We witness the reactions of Brody and the gobsmacked Hooper. Most of all, we get a glimpse past Quint's staring eyes and into his soul, we understand his determination to catch this shark, understand the feeling he holds and the retribution he longs for.

Quint is a remarkable character and interesting from his first scene to his last, but nothing gives more of an insight into the mostly mysterious man than this 4 minutes account of unimaginable terror he and his comrades suffered at the jaws of the beasts.

For all of modern cinemas gloss and shine, for all it's FX and CGI, nothing has ever terrified me as much as one story and three men in a boat. That's why this is my favourite scene, starring my favourite character, from my all time favourite film.

Hooper: You were on the Indianapolis? 

Brody: What happened?

Quint: Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin' back from the island of Tinian to Leyte... just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn't see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that when you're in the water, Chief? You tell by looking from the dorsal to the tail fin. What we didn't know, was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn't even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin', so we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know, it was kinda like old squares in the battle like you see in the calendar named "The Battle of Waterloo" and the idea was: shark comes to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin' and hollerin' and screamin' and sometimes the shark will go away... but sometimes he wouldn't go away. Sometimes that shark he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. And, you know, the thing about a shark... he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be living... until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then... ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin'. The ocean turns red, and despite all the poundin' and the hollerin', they all come in and they... rip you to pieces. You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don't know how many sharks, maybe a thousand. I know how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday morning, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boatswain's mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water just like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he'd been bitten in half below the waist. Noon, the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us. He swung in low and he saw us... he was a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and he come in low and three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and starts to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened... waitin' for my turn. I'll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Book Review: Zombie Holocaust

Zombie Holocaust: How the Living Dead Devoured Pop Culture - David Flint
Never judge a book by it's cover as the saying goes.

When I saw this book poised on the shelf though I couldn't help but be seduced. A cacophony of dream like images of zombies, ghouls, mummies and damsels in distress. Add a title full of mouth-watering promise and it was a book full of potential promise.

I'm disappointed to say though, this book does not live up to his potential.

In his efforts to cover as many titles as possible, Flint adds no substance to the conversation. Films are referenced, but with little critical depth and even less personality.

What little critical view is opined is minimal, slathered in personal bias and filled with contempt for anything that isn't attached to George A. Romero. In fact anything even resembling a review or critical opinion reads like nothing more than Romero propaganda. Flint has plenty of pages in his book for classics, low budget favourites or cult classics, however, he finds no place in his heart for any.


Arguably the biggest disappointment though, is what little connection Flint makes between the films and the pop culture they supposedly devoured. There is nothing beyond a few minor references and nothing in anyway analytical.

Zombie Holocaust does contain some excellent imagery, from film posters to screen shots, but it isn't enough to save it from it's dire lack of content.

Ultimately, Zombie Holocaust is all filler, no maniacal killer. It contains nothing new, different or worthy of note.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


A little while ago I wrote a short story for

The story was based on this poster;

Read the story here:

Monday, 16 July 2012

Top 6: Remakes Better Than The Originals

I've had more than my fair share of rants about horror remakes/reimagings/rehashes of the usual bullshit. However, sometimes (only sometimes), a remake gets it right, hits the nail square on the fucking noggin and makes a film even better than the original.

In a market saturated with remakes, the number of films that live up to their predecessors, let alone surpass them is terribly low but not unheard of. Some films move beyond being simply a remake and add a new edge, originality and life that transcends the original.

Here are my Top 6: Remakes That Are Better Than the Originals.

The Fly
The ultimate in remakes that are better than the originals. Though the original is indeed a classic in itself, Cronenberg's 1986 remake pushes it to a whole new level. A lesser director would have taken the original script, updated the FX and rested on his laurels, that's not really Cronenberg's style though. Darker, bleaker and full of dread, Cronenberg's tale is so much more twisted and visceral with Goldblum the little black cherry on top, twisting a sci-fi film into a his signature body horror.

The Thing
Another 1980s classic that exceeded it's 50s father ('The Thing From Another World'). Whether 'The Thing' is a remake or just a separate adaptation of John W. Campbell Jr.'s 'Who's Goes There?' is open to debate, but without doubt oversteps the original and with some vigour. Never as an open expanse felt so claustrophobic as 'The Thing's' Antarctic terrain.

The Strangers
No doubt both 'The Strangers' and French original 'Ils' are deeply chilling, but there is something about the US remake that is disturbing to the very core by pushing barriers a step further. Part of the advantage of 'The Strangers' is Liv Tyler's innocent, defenceless female lead. Tyler plays the part perfectly and the thought of bringing any harm to something so precious is nothing short of perturbing.


My Bloody Valentine
This is something as rare as a black actor at the end of a horror film or virginal victim in a slash. 'My Bloody Valentine' is a film I enjoyed despite not only being a remake, but also 3D. It's an enjoyable remake of the Canadian classic about a manic miner far more scary than anything the Spectrum ever produced. Teaming Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer once again, it's a fun film, memorable for more than just Farmer's opening scene with Betsy Rue.

2001 Maniacs
Blood,boobs and belly-laughs, don't dare take Tim Sullivan's remake seriously. Camp and deliberately kitsch is what most fun horror films wish they were. '2001 Manics' is filled with horror references played out by horror's finest including Robert Englund's unhinged Mayor, Lyn Shaye's crazed Granny and Christa Campbell's unforgettable Milkmaid, crazy fun to the very end.

Dawn of the Dead
The controversial choice. Zack Snyder and James Gunn tackle a classic and come out on top. Romero is sacred to many (with good reason), but make no mistake, the original is by no means flawless and the remake is just more...enjoyable.

(PS. Before anyone mentions running zombies to me, read my previous post here.)

Honourable mentions:

Two films that are as good as the films that spawned them.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Crazies

So, that's my list, leave me a comment to let me know what you think and any others that would be on your list.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Frighten Brighton

At the time of writing this, some media sources are reporting that tickets for the Wimbledon final are selling for £15,000 with the possibility of history on the cards. However, just 0.1% of that price though will buy you a ticket to experience history in it's own right.

Just £15 will get you a day pass to 
Frighten Brighton, the classic horror film festival.

The festival brings you 5 films, from 5 decades crammed into 12 gory hours on the 11th August at Brighton's Komedia.

If that wasn't enough, the devious little, sultry archangel atop of the horror tree is none other than presenter, B-movie starlet and horror icon 
Emily Booth. The event starts at midday and ends just before the witching hour. 

The first film is 1930s Mad Love, aka The Hands of Orlac, a tale of mutalation, death, lethal obsession and maniacal doctors. It marks the American film debut of Peter Lorre and claims Citizien Kane borrowed heavily from it.

From the 40s is a personal favourite of mine, Cat People. A stylish, slick noir/horror produced by the legendary Val Lewton and containing the original Lewton Bus. It uses Serbian curses and metamorphosis to express the repressed sexuality of it's female lead.

It's seminal classic Them! next. A 1950s creature feature that kick started the "big bug" sub genre that reflected the pre cold war era and picked up an Oscar nom on the way.

It wouldn't be 60s horror without Hammer and so Plague of the Zombies is the representative. A big influence on the zombie genre with it's themes of colonialism and exploitation.

Then, in the dead of the night, the festival draws to a close with 70s low budget, cult classic Phantasm. A strange and weird tale from the mind of Don Coscarelli. The film contains the infamous antagonist The Tall Man, flying spheres and zombie dwarves.

The festival allows you to view not only some great works of terrifying horror but history itself. History in style and techniques, but also because each reflects the era in which they were conceived. All five films give us a looking into the views and perceptions of the society that produced them. Whether it be the sexual repression of women or cold war paranoia, the evolution of thoughts and fears of people through the ages are evident throughout.

Henry Ford once said, "history is bunk" but he never went to Frighten Brighton.