Ginger Nuts of Horror
Horror, in all its gruesome, ghastly forms, has a reputation for being one of the most cliché-ridden genres out there. Unless you are switching on a film in order to switch off your brain – which can be fine – there are few things more frustrating than enjoying a tense, blood-curdling scene, only to have that atmosphere collapse beneath the weight of one hackneyed, unrealistic trope.
Since Scream’s (1996) postmodern take on the slasher film, the billion-dozen Scary Movie (2000-) sequels, and Joss Whedon’s brilliant Cabin in the Woods (2012), horror cinema has become haunted by the ghost of its own predictability. We can all name the popular slasher clichés – half-naked women tripping over lumps of air, groups splitting up unnecessarily, black characters dying first, and pot-smokers and marathon-shaggers following suit quickly after. Many of these have faded like exorcised ghosts since being recognised and parodied, but what about the clichés that persist, or those that have arisen in the last 10 years?
In an attempt to answer this, here is my 110% subjective list of tired tropes and enduring cliché’s that I would love to see impaled, dismembered, and buried forever, without hope for a sequel.
....and are generally uninteresting as antagonists, owing to their almost cartoonish uber-villainy (they would not be out of place in certain Marvel comic franchises).
Never heard of this one? Not surprising. An obscure, dirty and extremely short lived franchise from the days of the Dreamcast and original X-Box, Condemned: Criminal Origins is a bizarre hybrid of first person not-quite-shooter, point and click adventure and survival horror.
Billed as another step in the evolution of horror in video games, the original game follows the exploits of Detective Ethan Thomas who operates in a world of urban filth and decay; a world that is crumbling down around his ears, its dissolution almost inevitable. The game makes a point of emphasising how close society has come to total collapse; radio broadcasts, TV news reports and snippets of overheard conversation emphasising the almost mindless violence that is escalating beyond all control or containment, the abandonment of civilised mores by otherwise perfectly “normal” people who, within a space of days, become just other examples of the human vermin infesting every street of every city; the inability of sociologists, politicians, priests and philosophers to explain the phenomenon, leaving humanity only one step away from descent into total chaos.
THE LAST WITCH HUNTER is the intense, action-packed sci-fi adventure starring Vin Diesel, Michael Caine, Elijah Wood and Rose Lesley, from the visionary Director Breck Eisner and the producers of 300, Riddick and the Fast & Furious franchise.
Hundreds of years ago, the mighty warrior Kaulder (Diesel) vanquished the all-powerful Witch Queen, thus defeating the witches who had wreaked bloodshed on the world for centuries once and for all. But in moments before her death the Witch Queen cursed Kaulder with immortality, forever separating him from his beloved family.
Michael Caine plays a priest and ‘keeper’ of Kaulder. Caine has also been known to play other ‘keeper’ type roles in films such as The Dark Knight and Kingsman: The Secret Service. To mark The Last Witch Hunter arriving on Digital HD from 29th February, courtesy of Entertainment One, we chart Caine’s roles and responsibilities throughout his career.
In 2014 an English writer by the name of Rich Hawkins came to my attention. I stumbled across a Facebook post that saw some friends talking about a novella he had written. The novella was Black Star, Black Sun and had been published by a small press called April Moon Books based in Ontario, Canada and run by Neil Baker. I am a huge fan of small-town horror stories, and particularly when they have Lovecraftian overtones. That creeping sense of dread, the dark clouds that seem ever present in the skies, the untrusting appearances of the locals and the claustrophobic feel of a town and its people that forbids you to leave. These are all the sorts of ingredients that I love to read about-maybe it is because I am from a small village in the north of England where the locals often frown upon any stranger that dare enter their sacred town.
thus the Cheshire Cat becomes a kind of mangey, gangrel sage
Games about mental illness and depression are becoming increasingly vogue these days, thanks in large to the efflorescence of subject allowed for by the independent market. There is no onus on video games to be “action packed” or particularlty violent; to conform to the templates or standards enshrined by historical markets anymore. Thus, video games are becoming more and more a medium of inner expression, of art.
Games such as Dear Esther, The Binding of Isaac, Braid, I'm Scared, Tick-Tock, Fran-Bow, Undertale et al all serve to subvert what players have come to expect from certain genres and, indeed, from the format itself. In terms of story, subject, structure and even mechanics, they are highly experimental, strange and distorted affairs, not perfect by any stretch of the imagination; often deeply flawed by the technical and financial constraints they are working under, but draing to tread waters that video games have barely dipped a toe into before.
American McGee's Alice was the first video game I ever played that included mental health as its primary theme and subject: a fairly obscure but increasingly cult title from 1999, Alice serves as both a sequel to and adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.
Mark Matthews’ All Smoke Rises perfectly encapsulates horror
as a reflection of real life.
To celebrate the launch of Mark Mathews latest novella All Smoke Rises, Ginger Nuts of Horror is proud to be given the opportunity to bring to you Kealan Patrick Burke's introduction to this sequel to the excellent Milk Blood.
The prequel to All Smoke Rises was given a glowing review on Ginger Nuts of Horror. Please read on and if you like the sound of the book please consider purchasing it through the Amazon links contained within this article.
"...a twisted, Clive Barkerian hellscape,
it is a place of the most twisted sadism, the most sublime torture,"
One of the more obscure and less well regarded early releases on the original Playstation, Shadow Man was a loose adaptation of the comics by the same name; a strange, sprawling, metaphysical adventure that borrowed heavily in terms of its mechanics from the likes of Tomb Raider, as all third person, action adventure style games of the era did, but was structurally more akin to Soul Reaver, which it is often compared to, quite unfavourably.
Whilst it's true that the game itself is nowhere near as polished or as coherent as that title (nor does it boast the truly amazing writing and voice work that made Soul Reaver such an unusual beast of the era), there is something uncanny and ineffable about the tone of the game; the feeling that it evokes.
Shock Totem Publications is an American small-press. They specialise in dark fantasy and horror. The press was founded in 2008 by author K. Allen Wood. Ken is assisted by John Boden, Sarah Gomes Wood, Catherine Grant and Barry Lee Dejasu along with numerous staff writers.
The debut issue of the magazine Shock Totem: Curious Tales of the Macabre and Twisted was first published in July 2009. Since then, Shock Totem has released a string of quality magazines, novels and a collection of short stories by Mercedes Murdock Yardley.
With Issue 10 of Shock Totem soon to be released into the wild, I thought that I would take the opportunity to talk briefly about this excellent publication.
My love affair with Shock Totem came about purely by accident. I was trudging through the pages of Amazon looking for something a little different. Recently, I had been dieting on King and Koontz but decided it was time to take a break. I came across a book titled Ugly as Sin by James Newman-a writer whom I was unfamiliar with. I absolutely loved the cover and was keen to find out more. The synopsis told of a disfigured wrestler (Nick Bullman) who becomes re-acquainted with his daughter after a distressed phone call concerning his granddaughter. Often described as “White-Trash Noir” this is a superb novel about redemption, loss and family that hits hard and has an ending that will knock you over! The writing, characterisation and atmosphere created are all first class and to this day Ugly as Sin remains one of my favourite novels.
I devoured the book in no time at all. I discovered that the publisher was Shock Totem; a press I was unfamiliar with but soon became a huge fan of (and still am) I visited their website and found that they had also released another book by Mr Newman – The Wicked. The Wicked is a wonderful homage to 80’s style horror novels and again cemented James Newman as a serious talent. The press also produced a series of magazines. I thought it best to start with issue 1 which featured conversations with John Skipp and William Ollie, poetry, and some wonderful dark fiction shorts from Kurt Newton, Jennifer Pelland and Mercedes Murdock Yardley. I was blown away by the quality of the publication; everything from the content to the stunning artwork that graced the cover.
I soon acquired every back issue of the magazine and have been a fan ever since. Through this publication I have discovered some incredible talent and I suppose that I have these guys to thank for awakening me to the wonder that is the small-press. Later issues have featured Bracken MacLeod, Kevin Lucia, Adam Cesare, Cody Goodfellow, Damien Angelica Walters and many, many more. You could pick up any one of their issues and not be disappointed.
Recently the team released Zero Lives Remaining – A strictly limited hardcover novella by Adam Cesare that comes housed in a classic VHS case featuring artwork and photos and comes signed by Adam himself. I have one of these and let me tell you it is THE greatest limited edition book that I have ever seen!
Has anyone ever asked you why you choose to read, write or watch horror? Perhaps it's because I'm a woman, or maybe people are just nosy and judgmental, but it seems like every time I tell someone my preferred reading or film genre, this question comes up, and usually not in a nice way. Not that I feel it is anyone's business why I choose to read and watch the things I do, but I'm here to answer the question, “Why horror?”
I believe my childhood has a lot to do with my love of horror, despite the fact that my parents rarely ever read or watched horror. My first horror-related memory is when I was around four-years old. My dad was lying on the sofa watching a rerun of the old Bela Lugosi film, Dracula. I remember lying in the space between his legs and the back of the sofa, hiding my eyes and feeling absolutely terrified. It's odd, because I remember the experience being very exciting too. Other than that, until I reached middle school, horror was a non-existent part of my life. In middle school, however, everything changed.
Unless you were hiding under a bush or under some rock you couldn't help but watch the car crash of the Spectral Press blow up last week. As a result of this, I have been doing a lot of soul-searching as to how Ginger Nuts of Horror deals with the small press, it has been a long hard process and one by which I haven't come to lightly. This horror review website was set up to promote the works of the small and independent presses, however,recent events such as this and numerous stories of other small presses having somewhat dodgy practices I have a number of decisions with regards to the relationship Ginger Nuts has with the small press.