<![CDATA[Ginger Nuts of Horror - FEATURES]]>Thu, 17 Aug 2017 09:21:32 +0100Weebly<![CDATA[MASTERS OF HORROR, AND WHY I AM QUITTING THE GAME BY MATT SHAW.]]>Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:39:07 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/masters-of-horror-and-why-i-am-quitting-the-game-by-matt-shawBY MATT SHAW
Anthologies are not a new idea. If anything, they are becoming two a penny. Every week someone is releasing another anthology filled with authors who are hungry for their name to be seen in a book that they, wrongly, believe will be seen by more people than if they released their story on their own. If you hadn’t guessed, I am not a fan of anthologies in general. Too many publishers out there prey on desperate, mostly-new authors - give us your work for free and new readers will come flocking to you. It doesn’t work like that though, especially in this day and age.
What was once a thriving marketplace is going the same way as extreme horror. It’s the same with conventions, and I know I will annoy a fair few people by saying this: You can have too much of something. With so many titles to choose from, so many conventions - people are spoiled for choice. When they make a decision and realise it’s a quick cash-in job, they lose faith, and the genre’s reputation is damaged a little further. There is no thought behind what people are releasing these days. People who were once readers become writers and they, in turn, become publishers and “experts” in their field - rushing out anthology after anthology with the same names involved. Good luck to them, and I truly mean that. The market is a cruel, unforgiving place and if you abuse the system too long, or mock the readers with rushed releases and general crap - all the hard work you put into it gets damaged.  The only question is: Do you become bored before the public are bored of you are do you tire first? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that this is why I quit.

Now you might be asking why I am quitting this game. I prefer not to think of it as “quitting” as such as - instead - taking a step back with a grin on my face while I look for the next thing. You see, publishers are so pre-occupied with releasing their next anthology - the same as convention organisers are pre-occupied with their next show - they are can’t see the bigger picture. The audience is spreading thin, and they might not admit it, but they’re most likely desperate to see something new come in. Thankfully, I have a few ideas up my sleeve but - I can’t go into it until a plan is formulated and the actual book is out there. After all, if I put my thoughts down here, tomorrow - someone else will be claiming similar thoughts as their own. That is what this community is about now sadly.

Hell, there was an argument on Facebook not so long ago where an anthology was announced (another one) and an author was turned down for it. The very next day, he had announced a similarly themed anthology, and all hell broke loose with the other publishers saying he was ripping them off and blah blah blah… Now, this might paint a bleak picture for you, especially if you’re new in this area, but just watch. People you think are close to you will soon turn. You will be chewed-up, used, abused and spat out before you realise what the hell just in happened. And even when you cotton on to certain ways, you will also see new ways of tricking people crop up too.

Another example: How about an anthology that promises to give x amount of profits to charity? You are not paid to appear in the anthology, and only x amount goes to the charity so what happened to the rest of the money?! Yep - authors are being ripped off (again). Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent. Not everyone on your “friend-list” will be out to get you. Thankfully I have made some great friends through this game but - sadly - there will be more than you will realise.

Speaking from personal experience again, I’ve seen a backlash in the first 24 hours of this title being announced. Other authors calling me “arrogant” for calling the book “Masters of Horror”, people questioning the right for certain authors to appear in such a title as - in their opinion - they aren’t exactly masters… The writing community is an ugly place and more bitchy than the notoriously bastard-like film industry. 

Another reason to leave the anthology compiling to someone else is also to do with Kindle Unlimited. When you release an anthology, you sometimes use original stories and sometimes use re-prints. Well, if an anthology comes out that contains a re-print, and the author has also decided to publish the same story as a stand-alone short then - well - you aren’t allowed to have the title in Kindle Unlimited. This also happens if you have paid for an original story. Eventually the author have some rights back to the story and can publish it elsewhere (either in another anthology or by themselves) and - hey presto - you’re pulled from Kindle Unlimited again. A program that is seemingly designed to lined Amazon’s pockets only, forsaking the publisher and the authors. With seemingly more people moving over to Amazon’s reading program, it has had a direct impact on actual book sales. It raises the question: If people have Kindle Unlimited - will they bother purchasing a book that’s not part of the program or will they just go out of their way to find one that is a part of the scheme? It’s a question I can’t answer, but I have my suspicions.

So anyway.

“Masters of Horror” will be the last anthology that I put together and, with that in mind, I have decided to try something a little different with it. Unlike other anthologies out there - including some I have released myself - there is no theme other than each story needs to be set in the horror genre. The only rule I put in place: Paranormal Romance is not welcome.


If you take a look at Amazon’s horror charts, it is filled with such titles. Covers depicting the ripped torsos of studs, some dolly-bird cuddled up to them and titles suggesting it’s a werewolf love story, or something similar. It’s a depressing sight for someone who’s heart is black and filled with “old-school” horror of ghosts, things that go bump in the night, psychological horror, serial killers, extreme horror and - God - the list is endless. And it’s because this list is endless that I have approached a number of different authors to get involved with the book (and I approached a lot more than those who simply agreed and appear in the title but sadly a good number were too busy with their own projects).

Brian Lumley, Adam Nevill, Guy N. Smith, Ramsey Campbell, Gary McMahon, Shaun Hutson, J. R Park, Peter McKeirnon, Jim Goforth, Wrath James White, Craig Saunders, Matt Hickman, Sam West, Kit Power, Daniel Marc Chant, Matt Shaw, Adam Millard, Anton Palmer, Clare Riley Whitfield, Jaime Johnesee, Jeff Strand, Andrew Freudenberg, Shane McKenzie - to name but a few. Although the book is up for pre-order, there are still some authors left to submit their work to me. I won’t jinx it and name them but - trust me - there are some more heavy hitters (even though one of the funny comments I have seen stated a certain reader - completely clued up on horror and the genre - has heard of none of the mentioned authors above…).

​In these names, you will find masters of their craft and different styles of horror, and it’s the style-point that is important to me: I want to bring back horror to the readers. This book exists because I want to remind people what horror is really about. There are no sparkling vampires; there are no cute werewolves, there are no witches trying to romance people in the modern world… There are just stories designed to strike fear, play on your mind, make you uncomfortable and keep you awake at night… This is what horror is really about. Come with me, one last time, and remind yourself what horror really stands for. 
Masters of Horror

A selection of some of the finest horror writers of today were invited by Matt Shaw to bring him their twisted tales for this anthology. A book put together with the sole purpose of reminding readers what the horror genre is really about. Each author was told they could write about any subject matter they wanted so long as it was set in a world of horror. The only rule they had: No Paranormal Romance. Vampires do not sparkle, werewolves do not date, Witches do not scour Tinder for Virgins and ghosts do not declare their undying love whilst tidying the apartment... This is horror...

<![CDATA[MOVIE NIGHTMARES: FILMS THAT HAVE BEEN SCARING AUDIENCES FOR GENERATIONS.]]>Tue, 08 Aug 2017 06:48:40 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/movie-nightmares-films-that-have-been-scaring-audiences-for-generations]]><![CDATA[John WIck 2 - Keanu Reeves’ Greatest Action Roles]]>Wed, 14 Jun 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/john-wick-2-keanu-reeves-greatest-action-roles
There are few action stars as iconic or that have enjoyed as much longevity as Keanu Reeves. Although he established himself as a star in the stoner comedy, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, he quickly rose up in a series of brilliant action films such as Point BreakSpeed and of course, The Matrix. About two decades after these legendary roles, Reeves is still at the forefront of the genre, partly thanks to the success of the John Wick series, which reminded many people why they loved him in the first place. To celebrate the home release of John Wick: Chapter 2, we thought we’d round up his greatest action roles from over the years.
Point Break (1991)

In the same year that he starred in the sequel to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Keanu Reeves proved that he could be so much more and excel in different genres thanks to Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break. It is easily one of the greatest action films of the 90s, and one that has aged exceptionally and somewhat surprisingly well considering that it centres on a FBI agent who goes undercover to catch a gang of surfers that may be bank robbers. Despite the ludicrous set-up, Bigelow is able to create a high-adrenaline thrill ride full of majestic visuals, which utilizes Reeves and his co-star Patrick Swayze perfectly.
Speed (1994)

It is often said that the best action films have a simple but brilliantly executed premise, and this has never been more true than in Speed. Here, Reeves plays Jack Traven, a young police officer who must prevent a bomb exploding aboard a city bus by keeping its speed above 50 mph. Speed is unique in that it is able to create such intense energy, suspense and fun, and then completely sustain that for two hours. Beyond that, its success lies in its masterful knowledge of when to embrace the insanity of its premise and when to show restraint.
The Matrix Trilogy (1999-2003)

The Matrix trilogy is marked by a vast array of exceptional qualities, from its philosophical underpinnings to its iconic aesthetic and action sequences; it’s safe to say though that none of the films would have worked half as well without Keanu Reeves at the centre. In the role that he was born to play, Keanu is easily able to pull off Neo’s hapless bewilderment as he’s thrown down the rabbit hole at the beginning of the series, together with his growth into ‘the one’, a character capable of bringing down the matrix and destroying the controllers.  
Constantine (2005)

In this cult classic, Reeves stars as supernatural detective John Constantine who helps a policewoman prove her sister's death was more than a suicide. While originally seen by many as a disappointing adaptation of the graphic novel Hellblazer, the film has risen in esteem over the years and has a hell of a lot going for it. It is visually outstanding and deceptively thoughtful as well as uniquely grounded in theological action/horror. As for Keanu Reeves, he seems happy to slyly parody the persona he established in The Matrix Trilogy.
John Wick (2014) and John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

A film centred around a hitman who comes out of retirement to exact revenge on the men who killed his puppy had no right to be as inventive or exhilarating as it was. And the same certainly goes for the sequel to that premise. However, thanks to masterful direction from Matrix stuntman Chad Stahelski, the creation of a subtly different futuristic world and a pitch perfect performance from Keanu Reeves, both films defied all expectations to become some of the best of his career. Perhaps an equally great accolade is that both films easily feature some the best fight sequences of Reeves’ lengthy career.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is available to own on 4k ultra hd blu ray™,blu -ray & dvd from June 12 and digital download from June 9

<![CDATA[TAKING ME AWAY FROM THE HORROR:PANOPTICON, ISIS]]>Thu, 08 Jun 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/taking-me-away-from-the-horrorpanopticon-isisBy Jonathan Butcher 
I recently tried to explain to my girlfriend why I felt that a certain album was “important” to me. I gave it an off-the-cuff shot, floundered, lost my way, and then gave up without satisfaction.

It got me thinking: why exactly did I think of the album Panopticon by the band Isis as an “important” feature of my life? Why not just say, “It’s awesome”, or “It’s ace”, or any one of the other overused complimentary adjectives that I apply to the things that I enjoy? The conclusion I came to was what gave me the idea for writing this article: because, for every one of those 59 minutes of the record’s playing time, Panopticon takes me away from the horror.

This isn’t going to be a journalistic article, where I describe the band’s intentions, the album’s concept or where it hit in the Billboard charts; it’s simply going to be my own personal reflection of what will no doubt be my lifelong love for 7 pieces of devastatingly affecting music.

​The horror

Most of us from the horror community are painfully aware that life isn’t always a delightful Disney-themed wonderland. Bad things happen to good people, there aren’t always happy endings, and suffering is an undeniable feature of the human experience. Many of us have probably encountered depression at some point, and many will use the horror genre itself to soften the blows that life rains down on us by offering a distraction, a place to wallow, a pressure release, or a cathartic path towards the acceptance of life’s darker moments.

Also, watching or reading about heads popping off and big, scary-ass tentacled beasties is pretty fucking cool.

But there are also times that, for me, reading or watching horror has the opposite effect. I have always loved, and assume that I always will love, the horror genre, but for all that adoration I cannot spend every waking moment immersed in blood, pain and the dying. I need comedy, I need realism, I need innocent animation, I need wonder, I need kink, and I need thought-provoking, mind-expanding entertainment too.

Each of these moods (as well as many others) tick some of the boxes that I need ticked depending on my mood, but there is one place I can venture at any time, because I know that Isis’s Panopticon will always offer me a rewarding hour

The progression

When I turned 17 or 18, I developed a close friendship with my pal Mike that allowed me to develop my weirder, more extreme genre interests. Up until then, I had kept my love of both horror and heavy music “under the radar” to a certain extent, as I’d never had a strange enough, sick enough, mature enough mate to share it with. Then Mike came along, and I moved from watching horror films on my own to viewing Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Miike Takashi’s Audition with a partner-in-crime. My musical tastes also shifted from Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach to the blast-filled supremacy of Emperor and Anaal Nathrakh within the space of a year.

It wasn’t just the foul and depraved that I discovered more about during this time. Our shared love of the metal magazine Terrorizer also introduced us to audio obscurities that were less horrifying, but no less mind-expanding, than the grindcore and extreme metal I was becoming aware of.

At some point during this year of musical discovery, I heard Isis. Their album Oceanic did not move me immediately, but I could not deny that it was unlike anything I had ever heard before. It was at about this time that I discovered that music did not have to have traditional verse/chorus structures. Black metal and death metal had hinted at this, but for the most part even more epically-structured bands such as Opeth and Nile offered definable structures that echoed elements of traditional song-writing.

Isis were different.

Isis were often said to play “post metal”, but for me there is no genre term that does them justice, as there are also shades of hardcore, ambient, drone, post-rock, shoegaze, sludge and the avant-garde to be found throughout their discography. Their sound was no doubt heavily influenced by the sonic behemoths Neurosis, but without the attention-demanding vocals and with more organic, less abrasive shifts between musical passages. There were also shades of bands such as Swans and Godflesh, and even some Tool (the bassist of whom, Justin Chancellor, appears on Panopticon). Isis’s legacy continues to influence bands such as Russian Circles, Cult of Luna and Pelican, who have taken what Isis did and shaped it into new forms and moved it in new directions.

For me, that first listen to Oceanic failed to give me that heart-stopping shock of intensity and revulsion that I craved from extreme music. It ebbed and it flowed, and while it had heavy moments there were also passages of tranquillity. There were even moments of – ewwww – “beauty”, that just did not cut it for me at the time.

A few years later, the parts of Isis that I had disliked became the reasons for my now long-standing love of the now-departed band, which has helped me through dark times and bright, and added an edge of the epic and majestic to a life of the usual ups and downs. And it all started when I put Panopticon into my old compact disc player and pressed “play”.

The album, and why it matters to me

I remember that first listen. By a strange twist of fate I must have had the player on shuffle, because I heard the haunting build of its 4th track, Wills Dissolve, first, and assumed it was the album opener. I do wonder if I would have loved the album with such instant intensity if my initial impression had been the crushing barbarism of the opening notes of its real first track, So Did We.

In reality, the album begins with a brief but steamrollering barrage of distorted guitars and abrasive roars. These are not the violent, aggressive growls of a death metal vocalist, though; Aaron Turner’s howls are drenched in pain, yet somehow soaring and empowering too. Like the album’s brutal attacks and its oddly reassuring interludes, the effect of Panopticon’s monolithic guitars, the intricate yet delicately balanced drum work, and Turner’s simultaneously hopeful yet life-drained cries, the contradictory elements are what keep me coming back over the years. Somehow, Panopticon simply feels … honest.

Unlike songs that aim to describe a consistent mood or tone, each of Panopticon’s tracks is a journey that touches numerous points of the emotional compass. There is melody and harmony but also near-atonal singing and bludgeoning riffs, and this balance of the ugly and the shimmeringly gorgeous never fails to give me the equilibrium I need from life. It’s an album that feels detached from archetypal emotions such as happiness and sorrow, and offers perspective by giving me a panoramic view of my own life, an acceptance of tragedy and fear, and an embracing of all that has happened and all that is yet to come. That’s life, it tells me. Beautiful and awe-inspring, suffocating and claustrophobic yet limitless and expansive.

It won’t be for everyone, though no record ever is. However, for anyone who has ever felt the resonance of an album that dares to pursue its own singular vision of what music can be and has succeeded in creating something momentous, I recommend sitting down sometime and listening to Panopticon from beginning to end. I hope that for those 59 minutes, you can also see why it takes me away from the horror.
Out of interest, what do you listen to or watch that takes you away from the horror, when all that gore and suffering becomes a bit too much?
The album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xA2AJIiw0p8
 and while the effect is hardly optimistic I do find it invigorating and cathartic.
'Like all the best extreme horror, What Good Girls Do leaves you with the urge to go and bleach your soul after reading...'
Alex Davis, creator of Film Gutter

She lives with no name.
She has never left her room.
All she has ever known is pain and abuse.

Until now.

Today, she will breathe fresh air for the first time, feel sunshine against her skin and even witness human kindness.
But she has a point to make – a bleak, violent point – and when she meets her neighbour, Serenity, she finds the perfect pupil.
Forced to endure a lesson distilled from a nightmarish existence, Serenity must face unflinching evil, witness the unspeakable, and question her most deeply-held views, until at last she has no choice but to fight for her family’s survival.

<![CDATA[BOOK EXCERPT: BLACK PANTHEONS: COLLECTED TALES OF GNOSTIC DREAD]]>Mon, 22 May 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/book-excerpt-black-pantheons-collected-tales-of-gnostic-dreadBY CURTIS M. LAWSON 
Curtis M. Lawson's debut collection is a menagerie of supernatural horror and weird fiction that drops imperfect characters into an uncaring universe, inhabited by malevolent deities. In these pages you will find devouring gods of the yawning abyss, Japanese demons who sway mortal souls, and digital hells of man’s own creation. 

Follow into the darkness and walk among the gods of the Black Pantheons. There is magic where they live, in the emptiness between the stars.

Loni watched the horse through her binoculars. Shifting auroras reflected off its pearlescent mane, sending a cascade of prismatic brilliance across its ivory coat. Hands, smaller than Loni's own, held on to its silver reins. She found herself jealous of the other child riding the majestic creature. She yearned to be out in the nighttime summer air, bounding forward, up and down with each fluid stride.

Her jealousy faded into anxiety as the horse rounded the bend and disappeared. Loni knew it was a foolish thought, but she feared it may never return. In less than a minute, it's white coat and pearl mane came back into view. Having the creature once again in her line of sight was enough to bring a smile to her face.

Moments later, before it could make another lap, the horse slowed its pace and froze in mid gallop. A grownup came into Loni's binocular view, helping the child off the creature's back. Loni wondered who would ride it next.

The sound of rubber on rubber from the seals around her bedroom door cut her thoughts short. The little girl rested her binoculars on her lap and turned her attention to her mother, who had just entered the room.

"Hey sweetie. Time for bed," Loni's mother said with a sad smile that did not match her happy tone. Her mother's smiles were always sad. Loni knew that was her fault, despite what anyone said. She hoped her mother might be happy again, after she was gone.

Loni stole one last glance with her binoculars before placing them on her nightstand. Her mother looked out the window, nodding her head in sympathy.

"I know you really want to go to the carnival, baby," she said stroking Loni's auburn hair. "But that place is crawling with germs. It's too dangerous."

"Everything is too dangerous," Loni replied with a pout.

A crease came across her mother's brow.

"That's not fair, Loni."

"Nothing is fair," Loni snapped back.

Loni's mother took a deep breath and sat down next to her. She placed her arm around the indignant child and pulled her close.

"You're right. Everything is too dangerous and nothing is fair." Her mother's tone was sad and sincere. "But this is the hand we've been dealt, honey."

Loni laid her head down in her mother's lap and took in the lights and sounds of the carnival across the street. The clang and bang of the rides, the wild music, and the excited screams of children- healthy children- filled her mind with wonder.

"I don't want to be sick anymore, mommy," Loni said in a heartbreaking tone.

"I don't want you to be sick anymore either, baby."

With gentle hands, Loni's mother stroked her hair. The sadness and anger in her young heart did not vanish, but it softened at her mother's touch. She closed her eyes and exhaustion pulled her deep into the black.

Loni's eyes shot back open of their own volition. Only seconds had seemed to have passed by, but her head now rested on her pillow rather than in her mother's lap. The strobing lights and the music of the carnival had been replaced by white flashes of lightning and crashing booms of thunder. Her room itself was dark, save for the single blue "on" light of her air purifier.

Just outside of Loni's perfect, sterile environment, a beautiful thunderstorm raged and howled. Rain drops battered her window, tap-tap-tapping on the glass like a child on a sugar high. The glow from the moon and the street lights refracted in the rivulets of water streaming down her window, creating tiny auras of yellow and white. To Loni, they looked like bitsy fairies beckoning her outside.

Careful to keep as quiet as possible, Loni crept out of bed and carried her binoculars to the window. The carnival was nearly lost between the darkness and the rain. What was visible looked even more magical beneath the cloak of the storm. The pirate ship which normally swung like a pendulum, now stayed its course as the storm raged about it. The Ferris wheel, too tall and proud to hide behind darkness or rain, swayed this way and that way against the winds. Bits of red canvas tents and giant, rainbow light bulbs would appear with each lightning strike, then vanish back into the night.

Most important to Loni, she could see the carousel. Most of the steeds were invisible in the eventide storm. The emerald dragon, the powder blue unicorn, and all the other ostentatious animals seemed content to hide away in the wet darkness. Her horse though, the one with the subdued, snow white coat and wild, nacreous mane, stood out like a beacon in the black night. More called attention to the horse than just its stark contrast to the darkness surrounding it. It almost looked like it was moving with a life of its own.

Loni brought the binoculars to her eyes and gazed out into the storm. Tiny rain drops grew into fat blurs. She twisted the focusing ring, and found the carousel. There on the circular platform, the white horse stood, no longer one with the golden post of the ride, but tied to it like a dog to a stake. It thrashed and pulled against its bondage, desperate for freedom. Despite the horse's struggle, the rope would not yield.

She lowered the binoculars and rubbed her eyes. A few seconds passed and she brought them back to her face. Through the lenses Loni looked into the thrashing horse's eyes. The animal's intense, equine gaze seemed to call out to her for help.

"I'm coming," she whispered.

Loni did not wake her mother for help, nor did she change out of her pajamas. She didn't put on shoes, or a slicker, or anything remotely reasonable. No, the little girl simply left her room, barefoot and clad in thin cotton. Dressed as such she made her way.

Loni ran on her tippy toes down the hardwood hallway, past her mother's room and toward the front door. She found herself wishing there was carpet to soften the sound of her steps, but carpets held dust, and mites, and germs- all the things normal kids never had to consider, but were anathema to sick little girls.

Despite the sound of her tiny footsteps, Loni made it to the front door without incident. Her mother did not stir.

With a trembling hand, she spun the deadbolt. It unlocked with a click that was both satisfying and frightening in its volume. Loni waited in stillness, sure that her mother would dash out of her room at the sound. A few moments passed though and Loni's mother did not appear.

Letting out a deep breath, the little girl turned the lock on the knob and opened the door. Without giving it much thought, Loni crossed the threshold of her safe, sterile home and walked into the wild.
Cool rain, and fierce wind battered Loni's clothes and skin. It felt nice. It felt free.

Across the street, on the lot next to Saint Andrew's, was the carnival. It was asleep, under a blanket of storm and night. It was beautiful in its slumber.

Loni closed the door behind her and stepped out onto the sidewalk.

It was a different world on the other side of the threshold- a primal, wild world. Street signs shook and rattled on their poles. Newspapers flew like epileptic gulls. Somewhere beneath the din of the storm a horse whinnied and neighed.

The little girl ran across the sidewalk and into the shallow stream that flowed across the asphalt beyond. Her small feet splished and splashed along as she rushed heedlessly across the street. With an amazing quickness, her thin pajamas became saturated and were plastered to her skin. She flung her head back, partly to get her wet hair out of her face, but more as gesture embracing the freedom of the moment.

Saint Andrews, with its morbid, stone facade faded into the storm. For a moment, the cross upon the steeple stood out against a flash of lightning, but Loni payed it no mind. She had never understood the God and church thing. In her short life, she had never found prayer to help her condition nor faith to quench her fear. No, the macabre temple held nothing for her. What she wanted was just adjacent to God's house.

The chain link fence around the carnival grounds was locked. A heavy chain twisted between two metal posts and came back unto itself with the help of a large padlock. Luckily for Loni, whoever had locked up for the night had not counted on an intruder of such slight size. There was a bit of slack in the chain and Loni wiggled one part of the gate until a space opened up, just big enough for her to squeeze past. She sucked in her stomach and wriggled through.

A beautiful sort of melancholy enshrouded the carnival grounds. No glow radiated from the over-sized light bulbs that decorated the rides. Their colors were obscured by darkness, muted into varying, grayish hues. The fryolators, hot dog rollers, and popcorn machines stood cold and still. Not a hint of junk food nor the whisper of rock n' roll lingered in the air. These things had been replaced by the smell of ozone and the music of the storm.

Loni walked past game booths that had been closed up for the night, the rain playing a steady beat on the aluminum grates that guarded their prizes. She continued between the sleeping giants of a Ferris wheel and roller coaster. The little girl's eyes did not stray to these sights. Instead they were set forward on the pale horse, struggling to free itself from the carousel.

The other animals, all paired in twos as if the storm would last forty days and nights, sat quiet, dead-eyed, and complacent. The dragons held no fire, the unicorns no magic. Even the ebony, negative image twin of Loni's would-be steed sat motionless like a broken nag.

They were sheltered and secure beneath the carousel's tent, and each seemed happy that way. The wild, ivory horse, by contrast, found no comfort in the confines of safety. Loni understood this. A smile crossed her face.

Somewhere beyond the storm Loni thought she heard her mother call her name. She looked back toward her house to see the lights on in the windows. A thunderclap boomed along with a flash of lightning, cutting off her mother's cries.

Loni turned away from her house and continued toward the gorgeous, desperate creature before her. A puddle the size of a small lake lay between her and the horse. With bold, carefree steps she half ran and half skipped forward. Water splashed up around her, higher than her head. Reaching the carousel, Loni placed a small hand on the horse's face. Its hair was soft and damp.

Calm, reassuring whispers leapt from Loni's mouth to the horse's ear. The beast ceased its frantic struggle and brought its face down to her's. It nuzzled the little girl's cheek. Loni kissed its wet nose and wrapped her arms around its neck.

A thick rope of braided gold tied the creature to the carousel. Loni reached up to a knot tied around a silver loop in the horse's saddle. With steady, patient hands she untied the rope, as easy as she would with a tangled bit of shoelace.

"Loni!" Her mother's voice carried on the wind. There was terror and desperation in it. Hearing that tone in her mother’s voice pained her heart.

The little girl looked back through the darkness and storm, back across the carnival grounds and toward her home. The lights were on in the windows. Warmth, love, and safety radiated out from her house- a gilded rope binding her to a sterile prison.

Loni loved her mother, deeply and truly. She also knew that she didn't belong in that house any more than her horse belonged on this carousel. She wasn't a dead-eyed, plastic animal meant to last forever- neither of them were. They were living creatures, and they would live wild and free, if only tonight. She hoped her mother would learn to do the same.

A quiet goodbye slipped from Loni's mouth as she placed a foot into the pale horse's stirrup.
Curtis M. Lawson's debut collection is a menagerie of supernatural horror and weird fiction that drops imperfect characters into an uncaring universe, inhabited by malevolent deities. In these pages you will find devouring gods of the yawning abyss, Japanese demons who sway mortal souls, and digital hells of man’s own creation. 

Follow into the darkness and walk among the gods of the Black Pantheons. There is magic where they live, in the emptiness between the stars.

<![CDATA[QUIET HORROR, UNQUIET HORROR, DISQUIETING HORROR BY PAUL STJOHN MACKINTOSH]]>Sun, 21 May 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/quiet-horror-unquiet-horror-disquieting-horror-by-paul-stjohn-mackintoshby Paul StJohn Mackintosh
I read a lot of weird fiction and weird horror. Since I was drawn into reviewing the stuff for Teleread.com and elsewhere, I’ve been reading it not only constantly, but semi-professionally. A while back, I was lucky enough to land a detailed interview about my own new book, and horror in general, from John Linwood Grant on his greydogtales blog, where I came out with some statements, largely inspired by all that reading, which I’d like to qualify and clarify. I also digested some extended comments on the interview on the Facebook group for Thinking Horror, which nudged me towards saying more...
Primarily, I want to go into more detail on my previous comments about quiet horror, compared to other types of horror. This isn’t intended as a blanket criticism of quiet horror as a sub-genre (whatever my reservations about pressing any definition of a sub-genre into service as a marketing category), but more as a prophylactic against lazy, pedestrian, or otherwise imperfectly realized quiet horror, as well as a reminder that other styles of horror do exist, with reason. If anything, it’s a plea for some – but not all – quiet horror writers to spread their wings and raise their game, as well as a cautionary note about the sub-genre’s shortcomings.

This is also an inquiry into the influence of Robert Aickman, who seems to be becoming as much of an exemplar and model for current horror authors as H.P. Lovecraft was a decade or two ago, and into just where that could be leading (or misleading) some writers. In his introduction to the 2014 Faber & Faber edition of Aickman’s first collection, Dark Entries, Richard T. Kelly claims that “he was the finest horror writer of the last hundred years,” and that “at times, it’s hard to see how any subsequent practitioner could stand anywhere but in his shadow.” So it’s obvious that some savants have great expectations, at least, of his influence.

Many, many delineations of quiet horror seem to lean on what it isn’t – which is usually much more clearly defined than what it is. As Selena Chambers said in a recent round-table on quiet horror, “when we think of Horror, we think of the visceral: gore, blood, mutilation, slasher, demons, devils, and monsters.” Against this, she contrasts “the more implicit aspects of the horrific that to me are more spiritual, philosophic, symbolic, mythological, metaphysical, etc.” This isn’t to pick fights with Selena Chambers’ fine body of work, but merely to highlight this heavily underlined contrast. And here’s Paula Cappa in 2013 extolling quiet horror: “Quiet horror stories do not feed you blunt visceral violence: no gore-is-more philosophy; no bloody slasher meisters, no cheap thrills. Quiet horror hits a high key when it stimulates the intellect (sometimes even to the point of being a tad cerebral).” Once again, she weights her definition of quiet horror heavily towards what it isn’t, rather than what it is. And, she continues, “often, this quiet darkness will hold a message that is not only cleverly hidden but also symbolic. That ‘Ah-ha’ moment is one we all love to experience.” And elsewhere on the Kboards, she says, “I just can’t handle all the blood gore that’s out there.”

Blunt visceral violence? Blood gore? Sounds like the Old Testament to me. Or tragedy – Greek or Jacobean style. Or Zola. Rabelais is visceral. So is Tom Jones. More on that below, but in summary, why privilege the exclusion of blood and viscera from horror, when they slop and slosh around the commanding heights of Western literature?

The obvious, no-brainer argument cited in 2016 in Publishers Weekly, “links many readers’ reflexive disinterest in horror fiction to their dislike of slasher stories and movies.” One consequence is the shuffling aside of horror into other genres that you’re more ready to be seen in public with. Look at Tor’s 2016 Halloween reading list of “9 Horrifying Books That Aren’t Shelved as Horror.” But once we move past the presumed kneejerk reactions of a broad reading public, which many writers and literary folk appear to presume on without actually checking that kneejerk reflex, is that really the end of the story about a preference among writers and committed horror/weird fiction fans for quiet horror, or even the emergence, or re-emergence, of that category?

One other reason, which Joyce Carol Oates kindly put on the table in her October 31, 1999, New York Review of Books article on H.P. Lovecraft, “The King of Weird,” could be the principle of tacit contract. There, Oates affirms that: “Readers of genre fiction, unlike readers of what we presume to call ‘literary fiction,’ assume a tacit contract between themselves and the writer: they understand that they will be manipulated, but the question is how? and when? and with what skill? and to what purpose? However plot-ridden, fantastical, or absurd, populated by whatever pseudo-characters, genre fiction is always resolved, while ‘literary fiction’ makes no such promises; there is no contract between reader and writer.”

Actually, I don’t think that’s so. With some literary fiction, at least, and its readers, there is an all too obvious tacit contract – a social contract. Look at Jonathan Franzen, and his advocates and promoters – who apparently weren’t that ready to sign up for Paul Beatty’s brilliant, subversive satire, which still managed to win the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction and the Man Booker Prize. As The Guardian’s writeup of Beatty’s win asserted, a large swathe of America’s supposed literary reading public “have little patience for work that plays with their own expectations of what a book might be.” The tacit contract which that swathe signed up for appears to involve grooming their intellectual vanity, while reinforcing and validating their felt social pre-eminence by flattering their sensibility and refinement. Not all literary fiction is guilty of that bad bargain – but then not all genre fiction is guilty of reaching a mechanical resolution in obedience to its own tacit contract. And I’d shudder to think of horror, or any other genre for that matter, signing up to the Franzenesque social contract, for its particular set of deliverables. Even if it is the contract insisted on by some supposed gatekeepers of the walled garden of serious literary status.

Robert Aickman fits into that quiet-versus-nasty dichotomy in more ways than just the most obvious one of being an almost caricature snooty Brit, as man and writer. M. John Harrison, a fellow Brit cut from a very different cloth, came up with a penetrating insight into Aickman in a 2015 interview with Twisted Tales, that his “obliquity and reserve” amounts to “symbolism that doesn’t quite mesh with – or even entirely admit to – its own subject matter. For me the Weird was always a kind of perverted or broken Imagism.”

What does Harrison mean by that? Short of asking the guy, here’s my interpretation. Central to Imagism was the Ideogrammic Method, “a technique expounded by Ezra Pound which allowed poetry to deal with abstract content through concrete images.” In Aickman’s case, the concrete images are his often extraordinary and ambiguous situations and occurrences. And the perverted or broken part? The underlying abstract content or subject matter that Aickman doesn’t want to admit to, or coordinate his images with.

How does this personal and stylistic issue chime with the Franzenesque bargain of supposed literary seriousness? Well, one way is that if you have a knack for a certain tone, a certain feel for significant omissions, it can be surprisingly easy to produce mysterious, allusive, cryptic fiction. You can even seem profound. You can win kudos for being, as China Miéville dubbed Lovecraft, “a neurotically acute barometer of society’s psychic disorders,” without having the number-crunching nous to actually graduate from barometrics to models and simulations of those disorders. All you need do is project a vague obscurity that readers can beam their own imaginative projections on. It’s a technique, maybe even an artful one. Is it actually that… uh… deep?

Aickman himself provides a justification for his obliquity and reserve, which I haven’t seen bettered anywhere else in his writing, in the first story of his first collection, Dark Entries, published in 1964. In “The School Friend,” he puts these words into the friendly, sympathetic mouth of the protagonist’s father: “‘Mel,’ said my father, ‘you’re supposed to write novels. Haven’t you noticed by this time that everyone’s lives are full of things you can’t understand? The exceptional thing is the thing you can understand. I remember a man I knew when I was first in London . . .’ He broke off. ‘But fortunately we don’t have to understand. And for that reason we’ve no right to scrutinise other people’s lives too closely’.” I can’t imagine anyone except perhaps Robert Fordyce Aickman seriously advocating that conclusion as a worthwhile position for a writer to hold, never mind a writer of the inexplicably strange, but I strongly suspect that Aickman did adhere to it. There’s plenty more in his critical writing along the same lines, which I’ll go into below. But how can a writer be hailed, as Peter Straub did, as “this century’s most profound writer of what we call horror stories,” when he implicitly and explicitly refuses to inquire explicitly into the mysteries of the human heart? Where’s the profound in that?

Aickman did at least work around his lacunae with tremendous, conspicuous, artfulness, but more subsequent quiet horror than I’d like to see seems to me to be stylistically unambitious, in a way that much current horror writing, gloriously, isn’t. And I’m not talking about subtle shifts of perspective or narrative voice, I’m talking about full-on experimental prose. I’ve tried not to mention too many current names in this article so as not to press-gang perfectly good writers into either side of an argument they probably won’t want to take sides in, but I can think without effort of at least three modern weird horror authors I’ve read in the past month alone who produce fantastic original prose that is conspicuously unquiet. (And yes, to be fair, I can think of one equally gifted writer of quiet horror – who promptly polevaulted midway through a shortish collection from quiet to utterly disquieting unquiet.) Some quiet horror writing, alas, looks to me to be in too much danger of striking the Franzenesque bargain of not upsetting expectations.

Or let’s hear China Miéville on a different kind of tacit bargain: “One of the ways of panning for credibility in the pulpstream is to nod and wink at the reader that one is far too sophisticated to not know what one is doing, using all these popular devices. At its worst, this becomes a tedious nodding at the audience: I’ve called this the postmodernism of philistines.” In contrast, he advocates “retaining the firefights and cliffhangers,” precisely “because the tradition of page-turning storytelling is exciting and interesting.”

Quiet horror, unlike those firefights and cliffhangers, seems to me too often to be just written in a quiet tone. This isn’t just a matter of setting, drama or lack thereof, or presence or absence of incident, or gore, or scale, or scope. I’d hesitate to describe any of Poe’s classic horror tales as quiet, even when they contain no massive dramas, no cast of thousands, no earthquakes, simply because of their sustained hysteria, the compacted breakneck style that does such a good job of acting out as well as describing insane frenzy. Plus, intimation (not imitation) makes for poor differentiation. If you are writing in the same general milieu and register as your peers, and excluding certain imaginative resources and literary devices from your work, keeping to the same tonal palette of muted shades, the same pianissimo dynamic, you are going to need very distinctive personal gifts and ideas to be able to stand out from the crowd. Not all quiet horror writers possess those – or perhaps, their individual gifts could flourish better outside quiet horror.

That’s one instance of what we might be missing out on when we keep quiet. I also spoke in my greydogtales interview about Lovecraft’s espousal of The Cult of the Capital Letters. What I meant by that was his success in world-building, all those proper nouns for improperly improbable Things. China Miéville outlined what’s at issue here in his grudging tribute to Tolkien: “His genius lay in his neurotic, self-contained, paranoid creation of a secondary world. That act of profoundly radical geekery reversed the hitherto-existing fantasy subcreation … It’s precisely this approach, the subject of most scorn from the ‘mainstream’, which is Tolkien’s most truly radical and seminal moment. His literalised fantastic of setting means an impossible world which believes in itself.” The fabulous fabulisitic vigour to build worlds across multiple stories, or forcefully enough in a single tale to detain readers within that imagined world, seems too often lacking in much quiet horror. Even Aickman does it – for example, in “The Wine-Dark Sea” or “Niemandswasser.” And yes, world-building is all about fulfilled tacit bargains – even more so when those worlds are reamed out into entire franchises. But I don’t have an issue with bargains as such – so long as they’re open and honest ones. And much of the best fiction in any genre always teases, plays with the reader’s expectations, threatens to unpick that grand bargain, keeps the audience on tenterhooks by artfully withholding the bargained-for resolution. Escapist bargains? Snobbist bargains? Take your pick.

M.R. James is another horror writer who’s an escapist world-builder in a different, very charming way. And what lies beneath his delightful unity of tone and period colour? A surprising diversity of period, setting, and subject matter. A series of suggestively sketched schemata that outline the supernatural premises of the stories without killing off the sense of mystery and wonder. A crawling thing of slime. A tentacled monster that sucks your face off. A Bluebeard who cuts the beating hearts out of living children. Was that really what genteel Edwardian readers signed up for? Regardless, that’s what they got. Some quiet.

Another aspect to the quiet-versus-unquiet debate, picking up from that point about M.R. James, is the intellectual content of horror stories – in the sense of the actual working out of overtly articulated ideas or premises. Personally, I do love fantastic horror that typifies the definition articulated by Tzvetan Todorov, where “the text must oblige the reader to consider the world of the characters as a world of living persons and to hesitate between a natural or supernatural explanation of the events described.” That hesitation and ambiguity creates a delicious push in a story towards a resolution that may or may not actually come, and the doubt around the basis of events can reach to the deepest levels of existential or philosophical doubt. But that isn’t in any way to decry more overtly supernatural horror, and horror of any kind that hinges on an armature of explicitly articulated ideas. And yes, horror that too explicitly spells out the supernatural rationale [sic.] for its uncanny occurrences, or the various rules that vampires or ghosts are or aren’t constrained by in this particular story, often loses the imaginative nimbus of wonder, but writing that works out new implications of ideas, and even uses ideas to inspire the imagination, can often gain more than it loses, as well as exhibiting a mind that genuinely does have the power to reason, well, a little bit profoundly. Look at John Langan’s The Wide, Carnivorous Sky, for example. (And yes, that’s breaking my own embargo on living examples, but it’s too good to miss.)

Development of ideas can obviously be done in a quiet context, even through a datadump, but often it fits just as well into a more physical, dramatic exploration of those ideas. You absolutely can have unquiet horror that’s more than a tad cerebral. Fiction without such a skeleton of ideas isn’t necessarily lacking in depth or value, but fiction with it definitely has unmistakable solidity and substance. And fiction that hints at underlying prophetic profundity through sleight of hand, but never actually delivers on deep insights, despite the many hints and nudges, disconnects and void spaces, in its narrative? Weeelll …

Aickman might well not have agreed. He certainly spent much ink in his series of introductions to the Fontana Books of Great Ghost Stories arguing against any intellectual approach that seeks overt explanation and articulation, eulogizing the submerged nine-tenths of unconscious mental experience, and declaring that the ghost story “need offer neither logic nor moral,” and that “everything that matters is indefinable.” That may or may not be so, but it definitely indicates what we might lose if we stick too closely to the mode of Aickmanesque quiet horror. H.P. Lovecraft, meanwhile, produced some of the most philosophically provocative modern horror – provocative enough to have inspired works of actual philosophy – in a pulp fiction ambience of tentacled jellies from outer space.

Then there’s the question of truth to personal experience, which situates a fair share of the quiet horror I’ve read within the same social setting, and even the same area code, as the author. What informs and inspires each writer’s imagination and talent is always a personal matter, but why feel any obligation to Stick To What You Know, when for one thing, mainstream literary fiction no longer heeds that obligation, and for another, what you know, at the most immediate remove, consists of real horror probably far beyond what you could dream up from first principles? Aleppo. ERs. Drive-by shootings. Social disintegration to match any horror seen in Dunwich. The great dying of over 50% of all animal life within the past half century. If you live the kind of quiet life where quiet horror is the only kind you are ever likely to personally encounter, then you are very lucky. And I don’t mean just lucky in the personal sense, though that certainly helps. I mean lucky in the social, economic, geopolitical, even historical sense. Unquiet horror, or at least horror with a broader compass, is one of the genres that might help your imaginative sympathy with, and understanding of, the other, very real, horrors outside your immediate comfort zone. Aickman would probably not have agreed: among the bad reasons he lists for choosing to read ghost stories, “the worst is the quest for a sadistic thrill, something that is better sought in a daily newspaper.” But there are far more positive reasons than sadism, despite Aickman’s repeated assertions, to read unquiet horror.

Writing of W.B. Yeats, Edmund Wilson referred to the literary style of the 17th century as a “personal thing” which “fitted the author like a suit of clothes and molded itself to the natural contours of his temperament and mind.” Aickman to me seems a self-conscious artist to a degree that perhaps even now still isn’t fully appreciated, but no great thinker, and I fear that some of his fans encounter the one, but come expecting or hoping for the other. And his style I find cut far too tight and narrow for my taste. It cramps my style, period. And I’d hate to think of other writers fitting themselves into that mould unless it really does suit them personally, or unless they have very clear and well-thought-out reasons for doing so. Mere awe at his artistry really isn’t enough.

Thomas Ligotti, a horror writer profound enough to have written an entire work of pessimistic philosophy, insists that “literature is entertainment or it is nothing.” For most of literary history in the West at least, the canonical literary forms, the exemplars, were the epic or the tragic. Neither of those was remotely quiet. And horror is one of the genres that can still tap into the resources of wonder and terror, visceral entertainment and sublime pathos, that fuelled those forms. Only since the Industrial Revolution has quiet literature stepped to the fore. If literature, for most of the time that literature has existed, whether written or recited, didn’t feel any onus to be quiet, why should we now?

Paul StJohn Mackintosh, 25 February 2017; updated 11 May 2017

<![CDATA[BOOK EXCERPT: EMERGENCE BY R.H. DIXON]]>Wed, 03 May 2017 05:05:15 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/book-excerpt-emergence-by-rh-dixonBY R.H. DIXON 
Today's book excerpt is from R.H. Dixon's latest novel Emergence R. H. Dixon is a horror enthusiast who, when not escaping into the fantastical realms of fiction, lives in the northeast of England with her husband and two whippets.

When reading and writing she enjoys exploring the darknesses and weaknesses within the human psyche, and she loves good strong characters that are flawed and put through their paces. Her favourite authors include: Shirley Jackson, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Joe Hill, Susan Hill, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen King and George R. R. Martin.

When not reading and writing she enjoys travelling (particularly wildlife-spotting jaunts involving bears, wolves and corvids), painting and drawing pet portraits, collecting skulls and drinking honey-flavoured Jack Daniels.

R. H. Dixon primarily writes horror fiction, but also has a set of three light-hearted paranormal fiction novels published. The Sunray Bay Trilogy is a foray into the whacky world of vampires, werewolves and zombies, each episode coloured by her cheeky sense of humour. (See under ‘Paranormal Books’ tab)

Her debut novel, Amazon UK Best-selling Horror Comedy ‘Slippery Souls’ (Sunray Bay Trilogy, Book #1), was short-listed for the Writing Magazine’s Self-publishing Award 2012.

If you enjoy dark, psychological horror – inclusive of disturbing nightmares and ghosts – don’t miss this haunting story of a father’s downward spiral into despair and questionable madness. 'When his six-year-old daughter Seren starts talking of a ghostly woman who visits her room each night, young widower John Gimmerick isn’t too concerned. After all she already has an imaginary friend. But when his own nightmares begin to merge with reality and when unexplainable things start to happen around the house, he realises that by revisiting the home of his childhood he’s stirred up things he’d tried hard to forget – as well as something that should never have been stirred in the first place. In order to save his little girl from an evil that speaks only of death, reclusive John must now face up to the horrors of his past. And what he discovers runs deeper and is far more terrifying than he could ever have imagined…'
Emergence Excerpt
John slid the hot baking tray onto the middle shelf, looked at his wristwatch and set the oven’s timer for forty-five minutes. He slung the checked tea towel over his shoulder and called, ‘Coming, ready or not.’

Tiptoeing into the hallway, he listened. There were no creaking floorboards or door hinges. No creeping footsteps or muffled laughter. When a thorough search of each downstairs room and cupboard proved fruitless he went upstairs, checking first the sewing room. Emily’s large holdall was lying on the floor, items of her worn clothing and underwear scattered about the carpet next to it. The spare duvet he’d found in his mother’s airing cupboard was a messy heap on top of the futon. A perfect hiding place. He lifted it. 

Seren wasn’t there.

Next he went to his mother’s room. ‘I’m closing in on you, kidda.’ His voice broke the brooding presence of the house which buzzed in his ears; a susurration of expectancy. He looked under the bed. She wasn’t there. Inside the mirror-fronted wardrobe. Not there either. Creeping back out onto the landing he went to the final room, the room with the mould, the room of his childhood, and put his hand on the doorknob. 

‘I wonder where she can be.’ He grinned, expecting to hear a stifled giggle. 

None came. 

He opened the door and was confronted by a brashness of black, grey and red. Barcoded wallpaper wrapped the room on all sides, an attack on the senses, and bedding on two single beds, as black and degenerate as the Devil’s moustache, smelt of teenaged boys. His brother’s red Tamiya Hotshot was sitting in the middle of the room, facing him. He remembered it well because he’d got one of the biggest poundings of his life for having broken it, back in the nineties. He’d taken it without permission and accidentally smashed it head-on into Stuey Griggs’ Clod Buster.  Stuey’s monster truck had survived the collision but the shiny plastic casing of Nick’s Hotshot had splintered and the front wheel alignment had been damaged beyond repair. Yet now here it was, good as new, purring beautifully as though talking to him on some animistic level.

What the fuck is wrong with me?

John gripped the door to steady himself and looked up. In place of the tasselled light shade there was a rectangular hole in the ceiling. A black opening into the nefarious oblivion of the loft, which had no business being in this room. The hole was wrong in its simplistic nature, it was too deliberate and square to be an accident. From this angle it was impossible for him to tell what horrors were living up there, or indeed what might come down to stay.

But that’s okay because none of this is even happening.

He rubbed his temple, not taking his eyes off the hole for a second in case it should change or disappear or swallow him whole.

Just another episode. It’ll pass.

The sound of scurrying overhead denoted small feet on wooden joists.


A short burst of excited laughter announced she was still playing hide and seek.  

‘What the hell are you doing up there?’ he demanded.

She didn’t answer.

Clambering onto the bed, concern overruling any hesitancy he might have felt, John put his hands through the hole in the ceiling and gripped wooden boards at either side for leverage, managing to resist an almost insurmountable urge to pull away when grit and cobwebs settled around his fingers. He took a deep breath, bent his knees and sprung off the mattress, hoisting himself upwards. Old dust caught at the back of his throat, a layer of dry staleness that made him cough. Darkness greeted him wholly as he settled onto his hands and knees on unseen joists. All around him was a blackness that seemed to have substance, like the insidious dark inside the cundy. A blackness he thought might consume him if he stayed still for too long.

‘Seren?’ His voice came out an urgent whisper. He hoped it wasn’t loud enough to make grim things in the dark stir. He held his breath and listened. Nothing stirred. His eyes tried to adjust, desperately wanting to see, and after a while he thought he could make out the blacker silhouettes of rafters above him. Then he decided he was probably wrong and that his brain was playing tricks as it was wont to do of late.

Then a light flickered on. 

He blinked rapidly against its abruptness. A small orange flame that tinged everything round about with insipid colour and texture blinded and disorientated him all over again. Seren was crouched in the corner furthest away from him, her face a sullen mask of shadows above the large burning candle she held in her hands. 

‘What are you doing?’ he asked, afraid to move away from the hole in the ceiling in case he got lost in the dark, dusty chamber that shouldn’t even be there. The toe of his right shoe was hooked below the ledge, anchoring him to the ceiling of the black and grey striped bedroom below.

Seren didn’t answer. 

‘Come on, kidda, let’s go,’ he urged, rubbing his face where silvery spider trails, imagined or not, tickled.

She made no attempt to move and held firm to the candle even though hot wax ran down the backs of her fingers.

‘Our fairy cakes are almost ready.’ He held out his hand to her. ‘Come on, let’s decorate them together.’

Her face tilted downwards so the flame chased away some of its shadows, and John saw her handicap: she wasn’t wearing glasses. Groaning at the prospect of what he must do, he brought his right foot fully into the darkness and began to shuffle along the two parallel joists towards her. ‘Stay there, sweetheart. I’m coming for you.’

‘No. I have to stay here now.’ Her voice was eerily monotone, almost as expressionless as her face.

‘Stop playing games, it’s not funny.’

‘It’s not supposed to be. I belong to Her now.’

John stopped crawling. It felt like an intrusion of insects was scattering beneath his skin, as though a stone in his mind had been disturbed, thus revealing their hiding place. He shivered. ‘Who?’

‘You know.’

‘I don’t.’ He started inching forward again, his arms leaden, knees hurting and the wood rough against his hands. 

‘You should.’

‘Pack it in, Seren, this really isn’t…aaargh!’ As John put his hand down something spiky pierced his skin and drove straight through the meaty flesh of his palm. For a moment he couldn’t move. The sensation of metal scraping against his bone rendered him paralysed. Then adrenalin kicked in and he slowly, quickly, agonisingly prised his hand away from the protruding prong in the joist. Hotness welled in his eyes and white flashes of pain blotted out the dark. Losing his balance he fell sideways, clutching his wounded hand to his chest. Blood poured freely, coating him with sticky warmth and dripping into darkness, feeding unseen monsters. He thought he might crash through plasterboard and into the bedroom below, but thin wooden slats supported him as he landed on his side in the groove between the two joists. He sucked in air through clenched teeth and looked up. 

Seren was still hunkered in the corner. She made no attempt to go to him and he watched in terror as she brought the candle up to her face and puckered her lips.

‘No, Seren. Don’t.

She blew. 

The candle’s flame went out and John was surrendered again to a darkness that touched his soul with all the horror of loneliness. At almost the same time cold breath swiped his cheek in hoary swirls of rancid decay, and, as he retched at the smell, wet corpse lips brushed the outer rim of his ear. He thought he might die. Curling up tightly he willed the plasterboard beneath him to give out, wanting to see the noisy walls of the bedroom below because, even though they were wrong, he could deal with them better than he could deal with this. But the boards remained intact. He couldn’t imagine that he’d ever make it back to the hole, not without the halitosis of death breathing on him again. And he didn’t dare move in case witches’ fingers snagged his hair and clothes to pull him even further into their domain. This time, because of the noise he’d created and the excitement he’d caused, monsters had definitely stirred. He could feel the presence of evil just as surely as he could feel his own heart exerting itself, offering his blood up freely to the unknown. Clenching his eyes shut, preferring the darkness inside his own head to the darkness surrounding him, he waited and listened. Not daring to move. Not even to swallow. 

When nothing had breathed on him or touched him for a long while, finally he unfurled and opened his eyes. ‘Seren?’

But she wasn’t there. He could sense that now. Perhaps she never had been. He was all alone, with the scritchy-scratchy darkness that teased him with its swelling magnitude and threatened him with new horrors. He reached out and grabbed the joist his shoulder was wedged against, planning to use it to feel his way back to the hole. He had to get out. But as his hand gripped old, dry wood a crackle like that of a Geiger counter erupted, an animalistic growl that made his body shrink back and his skin bristle painfully. The throaty sound came from everywhere and nowhere, swooping down from somewhere amongst the rafters perhaps and bringing with it a strong smell of rot and decay. John found he could no longer breathe and was beyond all comprehension when a sickly, decrepit, old-woman voice croaked into his ear: ‘She’s mine.’
If you enjoy dark, psychological horror – inclusive of disturbing nightmares and ghosts – don’t miss this haunting story of a father’s downward spiral into despair and questionable madness. 'When his six-year-old daughter Seren starts talking of a ghostly woman who visits her room each night, young widower John Gimmerick isn’t too concerned. After all she already has an imaginary friend. But when his own nightmares begin to merge with reality and when unexplainable things start to happen around the house, he realises that by revisiting the home of his childhood he’s stirred up things he’d tried hard to forget – as well as something that should never have been stirred in the first place. In order to save his little girl from an evil that speaks only of death, reclusive John must now face up to the horrors of his past. And what he discovers runs deeper and is far more terrifying than he could ever have imagined…'

<![CDATA[COMPETITION TIME: WIN ONE OF TWO COPIES OF XX]]>Thu, 27 Apr 2017 10:21:52 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/competition-time-win-one-of-two-copies-of-xx
To win one of two copies of this horror anthology film all you have to do is leave a comment in the comments section telling us which horror icon you would love to give a kiss to.  

                                              This Competition is open to Residents of the UK ONLY

XX is a new all-female helmed horror anthology featuring four dark tales written and directed by four fiercely talented women:
  • ̈  Annie Clark (St. Vincent) rocks her directorial debut with “The Birthday Party”
  • ̈  Karyn Kusama (The Invitation, Girlfight) exorcises “Her Only Living Son”
  • ̈  Roxanne Benjamin (Southbound) screams “Don’t Fall”
  • ̈  Jovanka Vuckovic (The Captured Bird) dares to open “The Box”

  • Award-winning animator Sofia Carrillo (La Casa Triste) wraps together four suspsnseful stories of terror, featuring a cast including Natalie Brown, Malanie Lynskey, Breeda Wool and Christina Kirk. 

XX is a new horror anthology featuring four murderous tales of supernatural frights, thrills, profound anxiety, and Gothic decay. Written and directed by four fiercely talented women the film stars female leads and is framed around innovative animator Sofia Carrillo. Vigorously challenging the status quo within the industry, this collection of tightly coiled short films by some of horror’s most influential women offers a refreshing jolt to the senses.

“Wildly entertaining cinema.”
Bloody Disgusting
“Rich, interesting, and rife with surprisingly fresh perspectives on the genre.”
“A ghoulish chronicle of the monstrous, the mysterious, and the morbid”
Paste Magazine 

Special features: Director interviews Genre: Horror
Language: English
Runtime: 78 mins (approx.) 
RRP: £12.99
Cat no: SODA369 
<![CDATA[Video Game Review:  Resident Evil VII   Biohazard]]>Wed, 26 Apr 2017 12:14:08 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/video-game-review-resident-evil-vii-biohazardBY GEORGE DANIEL LEA 
​Good God. Good, sweet Azathoth, Baphomet; whatever demon and/or divinity you hold dear...
To think I'd be sitting here now, about to sing the unambiguous praises of a new Resident Evil title...barely a year ago, I would have proclaimed it an impossibility, the franchise one of the many beloved dead littering the wastelands of video gaming's murdered from within, by their own creators, no less.
Arguably since Resident Evil 4, the series has arguably been in decline; a victim of the constant, corporate desire to cater to the widest possible demographics, thereby alienating established audiences and diluting their own product and reputation. The urge to draw in the “Triple-A,” Call of Duty crowd finally culminated in the chimeric, frictionless abomination that was Resident Evil 6, what many believed (and even more hoped) would be the final nail in this zombie's coffin.
Then, sometime mid last year, the first trailers hit. Not only the first trailers, but a playable demo.
To say that we perked up and cocked our heads like wolves scenting blood is an understatement. Stylistically, what the trailers and demos betrayed were a far, far cry from anything that had gone before. In terms of atmosphere, this was not the hokey, B-movie japery we'd come to expect from the franchise. In their place, a dingy, depressive, foetid atmosphere; a sense of decay and genuine threat more suited to the franchise's contemporary and long-time counterpart, Silent Hill. A first person gaming perspective, imagery more redolent of films like 7 or Jacob's Ladder than Night of the Living Dead.
A genuine spark of excitement, of hope.
Then, the revelation that the game would be one of the first to utilise the new VR technology; a peripheral tailor made for horror. Hope becoming fervent, almost desperate; a new Resident Evil, the benchmark for a new and burgeoning state of video game immersion; perhaps, perhaps the title that would lift mainstream video gaming horror from its doldrums and set it high once more.
Then, at last, release, first exposure. 
​For the purposes of this review, I must make it plain that I'm writing from the perspective of someone who experienced this game via the Playstation's VR helmet; a factor that is far from essential to appreciate it (at least, according to the testimonies of those who've played it without) but that enhanced the experience so much for me, it was almost virginal: for the first time in as long as I can recall, a piece of media made me genuinely scared; tense and trembling and paranoid, heart racing, hands slick with sweat...all this in the first few scenes and chapters.
First of all, the VR experience, which could have so easily been just another empty gimmick like so many similar efforts before it. I find it difficult to describe how much this adds to the experience; the degrees of depth and shade and dirt; the shadows you feel you could tumble into, the dust and grime in the air, the physical, adrenal terror you experience when something lurches out of them wielding knives or chainsaws or their own severed arms. It is, potentially, the way forward for horror; nothing after this will do that doesn't provide the same facility; the same depth and range of immersion, the same heart-bursting sense as of being sealed off and alone in this dismal, hideous world with some of the most threatening characters and creatures I've ever encountered in a video game.
There is more here than a mere 3D effect; the helmet has a capacity for isolating you as the player; locking you off from waking reality, tricking your mind into projecting you into the virtual world you are exploring. In the case of Resident Evil VII, that world is a dismal, cockroach-infested, polluted, cannibalistic Hell-hole populated by characters and creatures that, unlike in previous titles, are no longer confined to their particular areas: it is no longer a case of working your way through this set of rooms and corridors, avoiding the familiar patterns of zombies and Hunters and chimeras; most of the entities in the game can and will follow you, the more human able to open doors and windows, to burst through walls, to come up through floors and manipulate the environment in all manner of insane and lunatic ways. Others are randomised, appearing according to their own peculiar algorithms in places that might have previously been safe or secure. Unlike previous Resident Evils, the familiar “safe rooms” are gone, deliberately undermined throughout the game so as to keep the player in an almost constant state of tension (a side note on this: playing the game in the VR made me so tense, I had to take very regular breaks in which I could physically feel myself trembling, my joints aching with stress, temples throbbing with anxiety. I would advise anyone wishing to experience the same to take regular breaks, and to avoid the experience altogether if you happen to have heart conditions or nervous issues). 
​It is terrifying. Absolutely, gut-wrenchingly, soul-shudderingly terrifying, and not in any way that I've ever encountered in a video game before: even in the likes of System Shock 2 or Silent Hill 2 (two of the most distressing titles in existence), I never felt as though I did not want to open doors or explore particular corridors; the horror and tension were always of a more distant kind, no matter how intense, outweighed by the knowledge that I was playing a video game, and therefore was obliged to explore the environment or simply stop.
Resident Evil VII, at least via VR, is a different beast: I did not want to open doors, to leave whatever temporarily safe little hidey holes I found; I did not want to go and explore that noise or that shadow glimpsed out of the corner of my eye, that flicker of movement. The immersion of the VR headset inflamed my animal sense of self-preservation, tricking my imagination into making the world and its threats more real than I imagined it ever would or could. If you ever wanted experience a semblance of what it would actually be like to be trapped inside a horror story; to wake and find yourself physically immersed in a nightmare, this is it.
The game itself is immediately a far cry from anything else under the Resident Evil banner, so much so that you'd be forgiven for thinking that this is a reboot of or alternative to the established universe (it isn't; there are some loose connections to the original games and their mythology, though the game is more than capable of standing on its own, story wise). The tone, the focus, the rhythms of storytelling...all different; more redolent of certain contemporaries and competitors of Resident Evil whose parent companies have recently embarassed themselves by undermining and potentially aborting through their incompetence, their lack of understanding of the material they have in their hands (rest in peace, Silent Hill). This is a highly deliberate and necessary move; in order to thrive again, Resident Evil had to necessarily divorce itself from what had gone before; to reinvent itself with close reference to the quantum leaps that have occurred in independent video game horror since its last instalment. Thus, the game boasts certain familiar elements (enough to make it very much a part of the franchise) but is sufficiently removed from all predecessors to be its own, unique entity: all of the faintly silly, overly baroque lock and key puzzles are here (finding certain emblems and icons to unlock doors, solving puzzles to open secret passageways etc etc), but the environment that frames them is entirely unique, as is the sense of atmosphere in which they occur: no longer expansive mansions and unlikely, secret research complexes, much of the action takes place within a single household (albeit suitably expansive): a derelict, seemingly-but-not-quite abandoned plantation manor in the depths of what look to be dense swamplands as one might find in certain locations in Louisiana. The “Resident” portion of Resident Evil had long since ceased to have any significance whatsoever in the franchise's last instalment, but here is restored and revitalised, arguably more significant than it ever was before: not only is much of the game set within the same, small location, but much of its threat and central tensions derive from a single, consistent source:
The Family. If you've read or heard anything of this game, you may have come across quite a few tales concerning these guys: a Texas Chainsaw Massacre inspired family of inbred cannibals (keep an eye out for those horror movie references, by the way: everything from Alien to The Blair Witch Project has its moment), they make their debut in the game's early chapters as the denizens of this Hell hole; not only unpredictably insane and uniquely violent, they also seem to have the unusual capacity to survive the most unlikely traumas, such that an early dinner scene (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre all over) sees the patriarch of the family sawing off his own son's forearm as though it's nothing, the boy reacting as though he's doing nothing more than pinching him. Not much later, the true extent of their immunity to harm not only do you bury axes in shoulders, impale and burn and blow their brains out, they still keep coming back, and, after a few set pieces and appearances, become randomised, active entities within the house: they can appear almost anywhere, they follow and stalk you, giving their own little clues as to their proximity (most often fleeting glimpses; sounds, stray chords of music), the player having to learn the lay out of the house in order to lead them astray; to find hiding spots in which to curl so that the family members grow bored and wander away. These moments are the most hideously tense in the entire game, especially since the classic gameplay of Resident Evil has been turned on its head: barring a few story-essential set pieces, the game does not expect you to stand and fight; it wants you to run, run and hide; to practice stealth, to use the environment to your advantage. This is a far cry from how the original games were played and the nature of their horror, which relied upon a similar sense of vulnerability, but encouraged you to fight your way through; that increasingly equipped your character to the point whereby early enemies became almost redundant.
That is not the case, here: whilst the house contains numerous other genetically modified monstrosities, the family are the ones who will keep coming, no matter what you do to them: they will follow and chase and harass until you are dead or they can no longer find you, requiring the player to get used to the lay out of the house; to keep in mind certain safe spots and hidey-holes (none of which are completely effective; all of them can be violated, depending on a variety of factors in game). This makes the entire experience one of escalating tension; you don't know what is going to be waiting behind any given door or down any given corridor, even if you've walked it before. Sound plays as much a part in this as the game's visuals (which are gorgeous, by the by); the player has to pay attention to ambient and environmental cues, to the minimalist soundtrack (which only kicks in when something significant is in the offing; another removal from the original games), attempting to pre-empt what is going to happen; which direction threat is likely to strike from. Even then, the game still surprises, with characters and creatures bursting out from beneath the floors, seeping through walls, falling from the ceiling...every effort has been made to avoid any particular area within the house from becoming “safe;” to give you time to catch you breath or calm your nerves. 
​This is, perhaps, the point at which the game differs so markedly from its predecessors, all of which were based around similar structures of reaching particular “safe points” from which to procede or spread out and explore. That is not the case, here; spaces you might assume to be safe are not, or become areas of activity and threat in short order. You must be constantly aware, active and dynamic in order to survive, and be able to utilise your environment in ways never seen in a Resident Evil title before.
Certain familiar mechanics are still in place; the menu and item system is a refined version of that from previous Resi titles, with similar mechanics of examination, combination; minor puzzle solving, utilising the right item at the right juncture etc. Most of the logic puzzles that Resi fans havve become familiar with are still very much in evidence; pleasant callbacks to a somewhat more innocent time, that serve to enhance the horror of the situation by contrast rather than detracting from it.
The most significant changes refer to how you conduct yourself as the player; before, Resi titles relied upon a certain degree of familiarity; you would wade through the same corridors and rooms and hallways over and over until you'd gotten the placement of enemies, traps, doors and hide-aways down pat, rendering those spaces somewhat less threatening or impassable than they previously were. Nullifying those areas usually consisted of wasting the enemies that occurred there, with variations on that theme found throughout the series as it progressed.
Here, the emphasis is entirely different: though some enemies occur in pre-determined places and patterns (mostly for the sake of initial introduction), they are no longer confined to those areas, able to either open doors and climbs ladders etc (in the case of the more human enemies) or seep through walls, vents, ceilings and floorboards in the instance of the more...abstruse monstrosities. They are also all far, far more threatening than most enemies in previous Resi games; it is no longer a matter of emptying a set number of bullets into an enemy and watching its head explode: here, standing and shooting will get you murdered very, very quickly. More akin to Silent Hill, Amnesia and any number of independent titles (from which Resi VII draws more than a little inspiration), the most effective way of dealing with most enemies is by not dealing with them at all; running and hiding, making use of the environment, mapping out the house and its surrounding environs so as to make use of “safe spaces,” hidey-holes and the like...there is a greater sense of immersion and natural occurrence when it comes to the enemies in this game; they are not merely presented as roadblocks to progress or even as potential hazards, but as parts of the environment itself. In order to succeed, the player is going to have to familiarise themselves with how the environment works; to know where they are running and into what, so as not to flee one terror only to hurl themselves headlong into the arms of another or a dead end. Combined with the natural tension of the situation, the shock of enemies bursting through walls, doors and falling from the ceiling, this is heart-attack material of an entirely other order, especially with the enhanced immersion provided by VR equipment.
Again, I cannot emphasise enough how visceral and evocative this experience is in VR; the sense of depth and dirt, of darkness, decay and physical grime is uniquely oppressive; you imagine you can almost smell the dank and rotting wood, the filth in the air, feel the cockroach carcasses crunching beneath your feet. It is a dirty, filthy, moribund and nihilistic piece of work, enjoyment of which will largely derive from the player's ability to appreciate those elements. For those who find such things too oppressive, who like a promise of hope or potential redemption in their horror, this is not the game for them.
Flaws? Like all Resi games, it does tend to run out of steam in its latter chapters; when everything is finally established, the mysteries of the setting plot, characters and the mechanics of play unravelled, it loses some of its ability to shock or surprise; as is a consistent flaw in every Resi game to this point, the latter sections of the game are somewhat unsatisfying, as it doesn't quite go where you'd hope it would and the actual mechanics that have been established up to that point are almost entirely abandoned for something much more generic and familiar. 
That said, the experience as a whole and for the majority of its play time is so novel, so tense and fascinatingly unpleasant, these are the most minor flaws in an otherwise sublime resurrection.
Resident Evil, riding high in (arguably redefining) the echelons of horror once more.
Who would have ever believed? 
<![CDATA[HORROR FILMS REDISCOVERED ON THE BFI PLAYER]]>Wed, 19 Apr 2017 11:43:58 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/horror-films-rediscovered-on-the-bfi-player
In 2010 the BFI published their Most Wanted list, a tantalising countdown of 75 British films classified as ‘missing, believed lost’. Of all these forgotten gems (which ranged from silent Hitchcock to '60s pop), nothing excited horror fans more than the inclusion of José Ramón Larraz’s 1974 little-seen cult classic, Symptoms. Selected for the 1974 Cannes Film Festival before promptly falling into cinematic obscurity, this claustrophobic Repulsion-esque chiller, which tells the uncanny tale of a young woman’s descent into madness at a remote English country mansion, was long confined to the blurry terrains of VHS bootlegs and online rips. Now lovingly restored and looking better than ever, Larraz’s infamous curio is available for all to enjoy on BFI player. And so, to celebrate the long-awaited arrival of a neglected genre classic, here are 5 more horror gems waiting to be discovered on BFI’s online platform. Let the nightmares begin...
The Night Has Eyes (dir Leslie Arliss, 1942)
One of only a handful of British horror films produced during WWII, this delicious slice of gothic melodrama (think Jane Eyre meets The Old Dark House) stars James Mason as Stephen, a reclusive composer living in an isolated mansion on the perennially misty Yorkshire Moors. When two lost women stumble on his property, Stephen offers shelter and a place to stay. But as romance blossoms between the taciturn recluse and one of his new guests, so too does the macabre truth of Stephen’s dark past. Also released under the more salacious titles Terror House and Moonlight Madness, this atmospheric chiller was given the BBFC’s dreaded H-for-Horror rating when it was released in 1942, possibly thanks to its surprisingly nasty conclusion. As ever, Mason makes for a broodingly effective leading man, while special mention should also go to Tucker McGuire for her scene-stealing role as man-hungry schoolteacher Doris. But the real stars are the Moors themselves – evocatively captured by Gunther Krampf (famed cinematographer whose work included Pandora’s Box and The Hands of Orlac) – which reek of dread and dark foreboding.

Fiend Without a Face (dir Arthur Crabtree, 1958)
Something of a cause célèbre when it was first unleashed in 1958, Arthur Crabtree’s low-budget monster mash was deemed so outrageous, and so morally reprehensible, that it actually sparked debate in Parliament, where questions were raised as to how a work of such supposed depravity had passed through the censors in all its gory glory. Years later, and of course the shock value has diminished. But while the film may not still possess the power to appal with quite the same ferocity, it remains one of the most wonderfully twisted little sci-fi shockers of the period. The plot (typical of the atomic obsessed sci-fi pics of the time) concerns an army of nuclear-powered flying brains (complete with spinal cords) who attack a US military base. Naysayers might dismiss this off-kilter British production as little more than a mindless (!) special-effects showcase – but when the climactic scenes are so unhinged and the stop-motion effects so glorious – who cares? If it all sounds frankly preposterous, that’s because it is. And wonderfully so. 

The Night of the Hunted (dir Jean Rollin, 1980)
Of the 50-odd films directed by Euro-sleaze connoisseur Jean Rollin over the course of his illustrious career, The Night Of The Hunted might stand as his most idiosyncratic, and, in many ways, most beautiful effort. A far cry from the saucy vampire pics he is perhaps best known for, this anomalous head-scratcher blends erotic horror with austere science-fiction (not unlike the early works of David Cronenberg) to tell the story of a young amnesiac woman being held in a strange asylum seemingly against her will. As perversities and murders begin to mount around her, she must make sense of why she is there and how she can escape. As with most of Rollin’s films, the end result is by no means perfect - the leisurely pacing can be testing at times (the lengthy sex scenes in particular feeling unnecessarily drawn out) - but for those of a more patient disposition and an keen eye for the perverse, this clinical shocker is quite unlike anything else, replete with scenes of abject terror which will not be quickly forgotten.

Heartless (dir Philip Ridley, 2009)
The long-awaited third feature from Philip Ridley (following his extraordinary sun-drenched slice of American gothic The Reflecting Skin, and the lesser-known, but equally fascinating backwoods allegory The Passion Of Darkly Noon) saw the London-born filmmaker return to his home turf with a Faustian morality tale set in the East End. Jim Strurgess plays Jamie, a socially awkward teenage outcast born with a large heart-shaped birthmark on his face, who discovers a gang of demons are plaguing the streets of his hometown. As one would expect from one of horror cinema’s true visual poets, Heartless is a feast for the eyes, steeped in fertile symbolism and menacing atmospherics. But perhaps most memorably, it is a richly empathetic piece of work, which succeeds as much as an unconventional character study as it does an unnerving and eccentric horror film.

The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (dir Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani, 2013)
An audacious exercise pure, unadulterated style, this modern day giallo from the gloriously twisted minds of directing duo Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani (Amer) is one of the most visually imaginative horror films of recent years. Following the unexplained disappearance of his wife, a man is thrown into a web of mystery and intrigue as he attempts to uncover her whereabouts. Traversing the labyrinthine halls of his ornamental apartment building, he encounters its various inhabitants, whose tales of sensuality and sadism play out before him. In this dreamlike (or should that be nightmarish?) world, traditional narrative gives way to a more sensory, instinctive approach to storytelling, resulting in an experience which can be as perplexing as it is hypnotic. For those with a taste for something different, this truly singular work delivers devious surprises with every blood-splattered frame. Watch it loud. On the biggest screen you can.

Michael Blyth

Symptoms is available on BFI Player, here