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

Black-Cat-1941-Crematorium

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.

I must’ve kept the book checked out of the college library for a straight year, constantly renewing it. It gave me a huge uptick in appreciation for classic horror and instilled in me a hunger to dig up the more obscure movies the authors covered. And they covered everything: The Sherlock Holmes movies; the Inner Sanctum mysteries; the supernatural comedy Ghost Catchers; films such as The Secret Key that only count as horror because a star like Boris Karloff appeared in them; historical epics with gruesome content, like Tower of London; plus obscurities The Mad Ghoul, House of Horrors, and the film I’m writing about today.

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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 an edited version as Curse of the Demon).

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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.

In the early twentieth century, Algernon Blackwood entered into a feverish creative period, penning a flood of classic stories and novels from his home in Switzerland. The Lost Valley and Other Stories was first published in 1910 by Eveleigh Nash, London. The novelette “The Wendigo” would turn into this volume’s most enduring and often reprinted story. I consider it a “must-read” for anyone with an interest in supernatural horror literature. But all ten novelettes and short stories in The Lost Valley and Other Stories are worthwhile reading for horror and fantasy enthusiasts. All but one have supernatural themes, and while some are horrific (“The Wendigo,” “The Terror of the Twins,” “Old Clothes,” “The Price of Wiggins’s Orgy”) others are gentle fantasies addressing Blackwood’s deification of nature and his belief in its transformative power (“The Man Who Played upon the Leaf,” “The Eccentricity of Simon Parnacute,” “Perspective”). The singular non-fantasy story, “The Price of Wiggins’s Orgy,” is the most overtly grotesque. The title novelette straddles a line between fear and wonder, making it an appropriate place for readers to begin their journey through Blackwood’s world of the weird.

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The Good Intentions and Failures of Exorcist II: The Hereticu

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.

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 an 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.

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New eBook Story Available: The Shredded Tapestry

The Shredded Tapestry Cover 2

You can now purchase my Gothic horror story, “The Shredded Tapestry,” from Amazon to read on Kindle or the Kindle App.

“Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.” But that is a lie. The Devil may also repay, when he has been falsely accused and long denied…

When highwaymen hold up seeker-of-curiosities Richard Davey on a lonely road in Bavaria, it’s only the beginning of the nightmare. Fleeing from a hissing apparition on the road, Richard finds himself in an old monastery. The monks offer him shelter for the night—but what shelter can there be from a diabolic vengeance in feline shape, seeking redress for a crime that has haunted the monks for over two centuries?

Previously published in the print anthology Candle in the Attic Window and now available for Kindle, “The Shredded Tapestry” is a thrilling Gothic horror story in the classical English tradition from award-winning author Ryan Harvey.

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