This Is Not the The Black Cat Movie You’re Looking For

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Happy October! I’m resurrecting horror movie articles from my old blog and revamping them. This article is reworked from a 2013 post.

One of my favorite discoveries in my college library was the volume Universal Horrors: The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931–1946 by Tom Weaver, Michael Brunas, and John Brunas. The 1990 book was one of the first to look at the entire canon of Universal’s horror and mystery pictures from their Golden Age and treat them as something more than the “kiddie TV entertainment” they were once relegated to. I grew up watching these movies on weekend afternoons, but until Weaver et. al I knew little about the behind-the-scenes tales of their making.

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This Local Courtyard Under the Sway of Satan … Or So I’m Told

The real world horrors you discover in October might be lurking right outside your office door. The terrors crawling beneath the stones of your workplace, the cultists scheming just out of sight.

By day I work from the fourteenth floor of a building in Costa Mesa, CA (walking distance from my apartment, which is almost unheard of in Orange County) located near the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. This is the courtyard located behind the building:

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Pass Those Runes, Please: Night of the Demon

Night-of-the-Demon-UK-Poster

Happy October! I’m resurrecting horror movie articles from my old blog and revamping them. This article is reworked from a 2008 post.

British Horror doesn’t begin with Hammer Film Productions, as much as it might seem to. The same year Hammer released their Gothic breakthrough, The Curse of Frankenstein, another influential UK horror film reached screens and helped ignite the British terror flood: Night of the Demon (released in the US in a edited version as Curse of the Demon).

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October Is Hammer Horror Country

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I belong to the class of people known as the “October Folk.” Our favorite month of the year is the tenth. It’s more than just a casual favorite—to us, the month feels more alive than others, the creative batteries are the most charged. It’s a social time but not a crowded time; an energetic period but not an exhausting one. It’s crisp, beautiful, and draped with the wonderful touch of the eerie we all need more of in our lives. Or at least the October Folk do.

Horror films are a major part of the celebration of October for us. But not any horror film will do. We each have special favorites that speak more of the season to us. For me, the special October seasoning comes from Hammer Film Productions, the British studio that from 1957 to 1976 crafted a special type of Gothic film. Hammer epitomizes the romanticized and fairy-tale terror that’s so pleasant to my palate this season.

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The Lost Valley and Other Stories by Algernon Blackwood

NPG x2992; Algernon Henry Blackwood by Howard Coster

My favorite author of the “weird tale,” and by extension supernatural horror in general, is Algernon Blackwood. Blackwood was enormously popular as an author of ghost stories—or so they were classified—in the early decades of the twentieth century, and his legacy has stretched on through the many authors who learned their sense of the supernatural and the transcendental through his work. He was a direct influence on my Gothic horror story “The Shredded Tapestry.” With the possibly exception of M. R. James, Blackwood is the author most suited toward quiet reading on October nights.

Most readers came across Blackwood’s work in anthologies of ghost stories or in “Best of” collections like Penguin’s Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Tales. Small presses have brought out editions of Blackwood’s original collections as they were first published. The Complete John Silence Stories contains the full text of John Silence—Physician Extraordinary (1908), and there are also small press editions of Incredible Adventures (1914) and the volume I’m looking at here, The Lost Valley and Other Stories (1910), the fourth of Blackwood’s original collections. Since most of Blackwood’s work is in public domain, you can find ebooks containing almost all his short stories—with more or less adequate formatting—including the ones I’ll discuss below.

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The Good Intentions and Failures of Exorcist II: The Heretic

exorcist-II-heretic-linda-blair

Happy October! I’m resurrecting horror movie articles from my old blog and revamping them. This article is reworked from a 2013 post.

John Boorman has directed a number of classics, including three personal favorites, Point Blank (1967), Deliverance (1972), and Excalibur (1981). But lying like an oily stain in the middle of his career is the 1977 box-office disaster and audience-loathed sequel, Exorcist II: The Heretic.

But it’s not universally loathed. Martin Scorsese has expressed admiration for the film: “I like the first Exorcist, because of the Catholic guilt I have, and because it scared the hell out of me; but The Heretic surpasses it. Maybe Boorman failed to execute the material, but the movie still deserved better than it got.” Genre critic and historian Kim Newman acknowledges the film isn’t a success but that it does manage to be interesting.

I lead toward Newman’s perspective. Exorcist II: The Heretic contains fascinating ideas, wonderful visual moments, and a excellent score. It’s also weirdly off-kilter, unevenly acted and scripted, and edited on a bad glue-sniffing trip. It’s no surprise audiences in 1977 laughed it off the screen during its opening weekend.

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