With just over a week to go until this year has been put to bed, I thought I should put together a post about the highs and lows of Ginger Nuts of Horror and the beard behind it.
Like every other year this has been a mixed year, but thankfully the highs have more than outweighed the lows. So let us get the lows out of the way first.
I was planning to do a Top 5 Horror Films of 2015, but it appears that most of the movies on my list were released prior to 2015. So excellent ones like Starry Eyes, Spring, Clown, Babadook, Digging Up the Marrow, Willow Creek, and all the other great to mediocre horror movies I saw this year that I thought were shiny and new were from last year.
And when I look at what was praised from this year—very little, so far—I wonder if maybe 2015 was a step back from the banner year for horror that was 2014. What did we get? A whole lot of warmed-over sequels, like Insidious 3, Paranormal Activity 8 or whatever number they're at now, Human Centipede 3, and a sequel to I Spit On Your Grave (why?), a handful of anthologies (Tales of Halloween was riddled with horror movie cliches, and I couldn’t get through the first ten minutes of A Christmas Horror Story), the moody yet hugely underwhelming It Follows, and Cooties which, while fun, just wasn’t up to par with the best horror-comedies like Shaun of the Dead, Tremors, Arachnophobia, etc. etc. I have yet to see Crimson Peak, Krampus, The Boy and Goodnight Mommy, movies that have received high praise elsewhere. Hopefully they’ll make a posthumous 2015 list once this year is dead and buried.
So, instead, I will countdown my Favorite Horror (Period) of 2015, including books, television, and movies. And here they are, in no particular order:
As the days grow shorter, the nights get darker and the Christmas preparations get more frantic, there’s nothing better than to unwind with some Christmas ghost and horror stories. Here at Ginger Nuts, horror and Christmas fan, Charlotte Bond, has her top recommendations for Christmas chills. There’s something for the whole family, even the littlest members!
Author and Reviewer Dos and Don’ts
I’ve learned a lot working with the Ginger Nuts team over the past year. I’ve learned that there are some truly caring people in the horror genre. Without the help of people like Jim Mcleod, Kit Power, Duncan Ralston, Paul M. Feeney and countless others, I wouldn’t have made it very far on this site. Jim took a chance on me, a lowly American writer, who wanted to be part of something bigger and far more important than anything I’d ever been part of before. To this day, I don’t consider myself anywhere near as good as the other reviewers on this site, nor will I ever be that good. Quite frankly, I’m not sure why Jim keeps me around sometimes, but I am forever thankful that he does.
Paul is always there with an encouraging word when I’m struggling with a review, and Kit is just an amazing writer who someday I hope to emulate, and therefore, I hang on his every word. Duncan can always make me laugh and reminds me that some things just aren’t worth worrying about. Again, there are many others who have helped me along my journey, and trying to name each one would undoubtedly result in leaving someone out, and I won’t let that happen. You all know who you are. And I love you to bits.
A day doesn't go past where my inbox isn't filled with review requests, sadly, despite the best efforts of myself and the team of reviewers 90% of the books received will never get reviewed. At the moment of writing this even if all the review team reviewed one book a week, it would take us around three years to review every book that has been submitted. And when I receive on average six to eight requests a day this backlog is never going to go away.
I personally don't have the time to review a book a week, sadly the site is now so big the admin demands are almost a full time job. So when it comes to reviewing books I generally only cherry pick the ones that really capture my attention. With that being said here are the next five books on my review list......
(if you are interested in purchasing any of these books please click on the title or the cover image. This will take you to the Ginger Nuts Amazon account, and we will receive a small percentage from every purchase)
Fear The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season is out now on Blu-ray™ and DVD, courtesy of entertainment One
A vampire’s never just a vampire. Through decades of fascination and elaboration, these classic bloodsuckers have divided into camps with vast variety. Today we have savage incarnations that leave bloody wakes, idealized seducers, and all manner of inhuman leeches and manipulators. They’re all vampires, whether they take the shape of Rice’s Lestat or Murnau’s Nosferatu, but their breeds grow more fractious by the year.
Just as there’s no one type of vampire, there’s no one vampire tale. Certainly certain vampires and their plots tower over the undead masses, but these creatures’ abilities and versatility provide so much fuel for nightmares that there’s always another morbid twist to explore. We could dismiss these as just blood-soaked monster stories, but vampires tap into something intimate, begging to know not just what, but how, we desire.
We’ve got Michael Myers, Freddy, Jason… scary dudes none of us would want to bump into at night. Yet they could be lurking around that corner just waiting to hack you up. Werewolves, zombies, John Carpenter’s The Thing, not to mention the genius design of those aliens in the classic Alien film series, are all frightening as hell and the stuff of nightmares. And clowns *shudders*. Clowns, man.
But what about those characters, those truly and deeply fearsome characters that we’re all in danger of falling victim to because we just haven’t acknowledged them for the monsters they are? I’m not talking about those obvious dangers, I’m talking about the ones that may pose an intellectual/emotional threat as well as a physical one… those dark and dangerous creatures that have slipped under the radar under the guise of drama or even comedy.
Buckle your seatbelts, Ginger Nutters…oh, and spoiler alerts.
When I started work on Joe Coffin, the first in my series of UK set vampire novels, I maybe should have paused and asked myself, Does the world really need another vampire novel?
Because, you know, put like that, it probably doesn’t.
But then vampires, more than zombies even, and certainly more than werewolves, persist in our imagination, in our nightmares, in our fear of the dark. Zombies are a relatively recent phenomena in popular consciousness, and werewolves can only manifest once a month, and seem to stick in the public mindset about as often.
But vampires? Oh hell, they’ve been around since like, forever.
And so I wondered, Why is that?
If I asked you to picture a vampire in your mind, the image you come up with will probably vary, considering your age and your gender. Maybe Christopher Lee for those of us old enough to remember the Hammer Horror movies. Or, for the younger amongst us, and especially girls, maybe Robert Pattinson in the Twilight Saga.
But I doubt any of you would come up with this image.
Read Bram Stoker’s Dracula though, and this is pretty much how he is described:
‘. . . hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see . . . was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth.
These protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years. For the rest, his ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed.’
All right, I exaggerate somewhat in that photograph, but I hope you get my point. The description of Dracula doesn’t exactly conjure Christopher Lee, does it? And it is even further removed from the chiselled features of Robert Pattinson.
Vampires, it seems, have the ability to change appearance and character to fit with the age they are born into. And this, I think, is part of their enduring appeal.
From the eroticism of Carmilla, an LGBT story that existed over a hundred years before the term had been invented, through the arrival of the archetype in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and on to the embodiment of that novel in the Christopher Lee Hammer Horror movies, the feminism of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and and finally the sexually chaste but oh so romantically inclined Twilight vampires, the one element that seems to connect all vampires everywhere (well, almost all) is sex.
We can probably lay the blame for that at Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s feet. His novella, Carmilla, was published in 1871, a decade after homosexuality had been delisted as a capital offence, and pulsated with the horror of sex. Le Fanu’s explicitly lesbian vampire walks through walls, shapeshifts into a cat, loathes Christianity and steals the lifeblood of young women.
A perfect embodiment of the terror of homosexuality that existed in the 1800s, perhaps.
Twenty-six years later Bram Stoker took this element of sex and used it in his novel, Dracula. Just look at how Jonathan Harker describes the women in Dracula’s castle, who he fears far more than the count himself:
"All three had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips."
The chaste Lucy Westenra is transformed into a raging seductress once she becomes a vampire, the ‘Bloofer Lady’ who wanders London at night preying on the innocent. But even before she was bitten, Lucy was showing signs of repressed sexuality. After all, she has marriage proposals from three men, and all on the same day!
Even Buffy the Vampire Slayer, initially a cool, teenage shoutout for feminism, succumbs to the traditional vampire tropes as our heroine falls in love with handsome vampire Angel.
And sex is everywhere in the Twilight movies, even if it is desperately repressed, held back until it can be expressed within the sanctity of marriage.
Whereas in True Blood, the TV series based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels, the sexual urge is finally set free. Boy/girl, girl/girl, boy/boy, it doesn’t really matter.
When I started writing the first chapter in the first Joe Coffin book, I really had no idea what was going to happen. Two children are exploring an abandoned house, and as they crept through its gloomy rooms and halls, I was just as in the dark as to what they might find as they were.
But when they eventually opened that final door, and crept into the darkened room, what did they see?
Well, I don’t want to spoil it for you too much, but let’s just say it fits in with the theme of what we have been discussing here.
The sexual urge is a driving force in the Joe Coffin books, and not just for the vampires, either.
And maybe that’s why we can always embrace another vampire book. Because until we can give up on our obsession with sex, we will never give up on our love of vampires.
I am currently running a giveaway for a Kindle Paperwhite, until December 9th. As a bonus, everybody who enters gets a free ebook copy of Joe Coffin Season One. It’s been getting some great reviews, not least from Gingernuts of Horror’s very own David Dubrow.
So, if you fancy a free vampire novel, and the chance to win a Kindle Paperwhite to read it on, click the link below to find out more and enter.
Win A Kindle Paperwhite courtesy of Ken Preston
THE HEART AND SOUL OF HORROR REVIEWS