Tag Archives | Horror

Mandy Sneak Preview in Dublin

Be one of the first people to see Panos Cosmatos’ newest film at a Mandy sneak preview screening on September 13 in Dublin, California.

Mandy Sneak Preview

Join the members of Legion M, the worlds first fan-owned entertainment company, for a sneak preview screening of Mandy at Regal Hacienda in Dublin, California! Mandy is an action horror film directed by Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) starring Nicolas Cage and Andrea Riseborough (Birdman, Oblivion). It is one of the last films scored by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (Arrival). Be one of the first to see what’s sure to become one of the most talked about films of the year.

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Review: The Hawkline Monster by Richard Brautigan

As part of r/horrorlit’s Horror Novel a Day writers, I’m pretty sure of two things: I took on too many novels (six total) and my definition of horror is suspiciously broad.

Hawkline monster

Hawkline Monster image courtesy of Grant Hanna at http://granthanna.com

Take The Hawkline Monster by Richard Brautigan. It’s more of a gothic western novella than a horror novel. (It is in fact subtitled A Western Gothic.)

But isn’t deception a solid component of plenty of good horror? I don’t mean my deception of being well-versed in horror novels; I mean the deceptive simplicity with which Beat poet/author Brautigan offers the story. By the time you turn the first page of a chapter you’re almost to the next one. Events unpack in sentences so efficient Hemingway would weep:

The voyage from San Francisco to Hawaii had been the most terrifying experience Greer and Cameron had ever gone through, even more terrible than the time they shot a deputy sheriff in Idaho ten times and he wouldn’t die and Greer finally had to say to the deputy sheriff “Please die because we don’t want to shoot you again.” And the deputy sheriff had said “OK, I’ll die, but don’t shoot me again.”

“We won’t shoot you again,” Cameron had said.

“OK, I’m dead,” and he was.

Characters deceive the reader and others; someone exists and then doesn’t; twins’ identities meld and split fluidly. The nature of the Hawkline Monster itself is a creative bit of fearful imagination from a haunted poet whose life ended in suicide. The places the monsters hides…!

My journey to The Hawkline Monster began with this PWxyz entry.  Gabe Habash’s passionate recommendation might have led me to make a note of the book (from the blog: “Honestly, I’m working really hard to not slip into hyperbole here, to refrain from lapsing into a vocab commensurate with the heights of my appreciation for it. This book is the real deal. I can’t recommend it enough. … Do yourself a favor and give him a try. If you don’t like him, I’ll eat my shoe like Werner Herzog.)” but what urged me to buy the book immediately was Habash’s insistence that only Cronenberg could do justice to a hypothetical film of the story. Cronenberg’s film style is very much to my tastes (the guy’s acting– Cabal, Last Night— also assures him a big warm soft spot in my heart).

While I initially read the book through a Cronenberg filter it was impossible not to love the sparse style on its own merits. One of the ways simplicity aids horror is to lull and fool: the process of reading involves moments of “Uh huh… unfolding as expected… wait, WHAT?” A character dies not through violence but through identity obliteration. (To voluntarily kill a part of yourself that has served its purpose is not terror, but to undergo involuntary mental manipulation is. This book has both.) The monster fights with anger and light. Ice caves under the house keep the grounds in a perpetual state of freeze even in summer. A basement lab holds The Chemicals, the final experiment of a Harvard scientist who enjoyed his teaching position until one of his experiments got loose and ate the family dog in front of the neighbors’ wedding party. A 1902 setting allows for Wild West elements like gunfights, hired guns, hanged men, and brothels. It is a flavorful read.

“All the things that happen are like children’s pranks except the child has supernatural powers,” says one character, and if there’s one thing that horror teaches us it’s that children with undue power wield it in horrific ways (thanks, Twilight Zone). While nighttime shivers are unlikely, The Hawkline Monster deserves a place in a thoughtful horror canon on the basis of its dissection of what is frightening and how to write about it.

Mixed media: The sanctity of books

nightfilmSo there’s this book. It’s about a scary filmmaker and his scary films. This premise is not without promise. But what earned it a spot on Gawker is its accompanying smartphone app that offers up additional material when you scan certain pages. Furthermore, the book itself incorporates images throughout.

The book, Night Film by Marisha Pessl, was brought to my attention via Reddit, where horror writer Grady Hendrix dismissively introduced it as being “… full of cheap gimmicks because ‘just’ being a book isn’t enough anymore, apparently.”

The problem seems to be twofold:

1.       The extras are poorly executed (bad acting seems to be a factor).

2.       Books are sacrosanct texts unsullied by graphic components. Unless you’re a child, in which case images are presumably okay. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, you’re on notice.

The first time I saw film bleeding into a horror novel in a way that detracted significantly from the text was Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box. It’s one thing to shudder at a flickering ghost moving toward you in jump cuts when you’re watching a Japanese horror film, where the trope began. It’s quite another to read it. It’s a film technique, not a literary one, and bringing the one to the other is frequently ineffective. I’m reminded also of Zombie Island by David Wellington which contains description of shining a flashlight over a room and jerking back to catch something that moved just out of sight. These are visual tropes, not literary ones, and in both these cases I’d say the trespass of known film scares into text results in an awkward un-scare.

Why shouldn’t a book offer more than letters on a page? Great contemporary authors have played with books’ physicality in a way that ensures readers are hyperaware of the division between story and object. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer.  A Humument by Tom Phillips. Peshl herself says over at Omnivoracious that “I write with a 360-degree experience, full of music, visuals, ripped-out articles and images.”

Also huge these days are book trailers. When major releases are presaged by YouTube videos, can Night Film truly be blamed for offering relevant film scraps throughout the book?

I come not to praise or bury Night Film. I haven’t read it. But whether this is a sign of the publishing apocalypse, a vibrant strike for books as experiences beyond the page, or merely a marketing trick, I’m ready to welcome successful multimedia novels.

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