Ginger Nuts of Horror
Over the years apocalyptic films have come in all shapes, sizes and genres. Starting with the 1950s science-fictions, and moving into the epic and overwhelmingly patriotic and Americanised apocalypses of the 1990s, contemporary apocalyptic movies are now in the fashion of combing stories about the end of the world with dark comedy.
The latest apocalyptic film, Open Grave, comes to DVD this October embedded deeply into the genre of horror. Starring Sharlto Copley in a chillingly scary and gruesome role, Open Grave proves to be a VERY different apocalypse to any we have seen before.
Here we look back at the very best apocalyptic movies.
To mark the start of a new series of film reviews on Ginger Nuts of Horror, which starts with a review of Open Grave here is a career retrospective of the films star Sharlto Copley.
Sharlto Copley exploded onto the scene out of nowhere in 2009 in his powerful portrayal of Wilkus van der Merwe in District 9. Since then, the South African actor has gone from strength to strength, appearing alongside the likes of Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper in emotionally intense, nefarious and hilarious roles. On 13th October Copley leads in the haunting horror chiller Open Grave, available on DVD and digital download courtesy of Signature Entertainment. Here’s how his career panned out...
HORROR UNCUT: Tales of Social Insecurity and Economic Unease, edited by Joel Lane and Tom Johnstone (Gray Friar Press).
This anthology arose out of the editors' horror at the austerity measures the Con Dem government has imposed. The stories in it represent an imaginative response to these hard times, by acclaimed writers of weird fiction, such as Alison Littlewood, Gary McMahon, Thana Niveau, David Williamson, Anna Taborska, John Llewellyn Probert, and Laura Mauro.
Some stories deal with the immediate effect of the crisis on the housing market and the effect this has had on people in the construction industry. Other stories focus more on the instability of the financial markets, but in very different ways.
Not all of the tales are specific to the recession though. Many of them tackle the austerity measures that have arisen apparently in response to the banking crisis, though I’d argue that ‘neo-liberal’ politicians, particularly the Conservatives, saw the situation as an opportunity to further their political and economic objectives: now that the immediate threat of economic meltdown seems to have faded (for now!), privatisation and cuts to services continue unabated, if anything intensifying as the Tory Right becomes more and more assertive.
The fiction in the book explores these themes through characters we can all relate to. Stephen Bacon’s haunting tale shows the rapid change in the economic and social landscape, with long-established household names like Woolworths vanishing almost overnight, through the eyes of a young man just released from prison, with his own demons to face…
Some tales use a satirical approach to mock the government’s propaganda about their cuts being all about ‘fairness’ to ‘hard working families’. David Turnbull’s story suggests how this kind of language serves to persuade exploited people to buy into Tory ideology. Other stories, like Anna Taborska’s and David Williamson’s, while still using gallows humour, show the cruelty of austerity in a starker and more brutal fashion.
Robert Aickman argued that the ghost story was aesthetically superior to the mere tale of ‘physical horror’, occupying a lofty metaphysical plane, transcending and subverting the materialism of modern life. However, Stephen King’s view, that horror’s major underlying theme is ‘economic unease’, is as true of classic supernatural tales from the golden age of the ghost story as it is of any modern-day urban horror story from the mean streets. Edith Wharton and L.P. Hartley both wrote powerful tales about successful businessmen’s misdeeds coming back to haunt them. Supernatural Tales editor David Longhorn began a review of the new Shadows and Tall Trees anthology by asking, ‘Is modern horror obsessed with property values?’ The answer is yes! And it always has been. Why do people in ghost stories usually move into haunted houses? Because the rent is lower. The exception that proves the rule is the wealthy couple in Edith Wharton’s ‘Afterward’, a rare example perhaps of ghosts improving property values…
The Eighties horror boom coincided with the monetarist era, and much of the dark fiction of the time reflects this. One of the most powerful examples of this is Ramsey Campbell’s stark and claustrophobic psychological horror novel The Face That Must Die (1979, revised in 1983). Recently, authors from the current generation of ‘small press’ horror fiction creators have turned to themes of social deprivation (Gary McMahon’s Concrete Grove trilogy of novels from Solaris Press) and economic uncertainty (Gary Fry’s novella The Acceptable Face of Tyranny from Spectral Press) with startling and memorable results. Horror often thrives on hard times, allowing people to see their real fears play out in the form of fantastic imagery. So perhaps the age of austerity might have the positive side effect for the genre of ushering in a golden age of horror. Who knows?
As for the effect of the fiction in this book on the subjects it explores, again who knows? Few would argue that a small press horror anthology can change things. On the other hand, speculative fiction does scare those in power: look at the reaction of the Conservative Party to Hilary Mantel’s story ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher’! And they’re not above using fiction for their own ends, as shown by Chancellor George Osborne’s cynical mimicry of Trainspotting’s ‘Choose Life’ sequence, drawing a memorably expletive-laden response from its author Irvine Welsh…
Finally, there are two events to mark the publication of Horror Uncut:
Twisted Tales of Austerity (Friday 24th October, 12 noon at Manchester Deansgate Waterstones)
Hallowe’en with Horror Uncut (Sunday 26th October, 7pm, the Cowley Club, London Road, Brighton)
Or to buy the book from Gray Friar Books, go here:
I realize I'm preaching to the choir here, defending horror on a website devoted to it, but stick with me for a minute.
Recently I found myself in a heated debate with someone who claimed to dislike horror. "What did you think of Silence of the Lambs?" I said, having heard this claim a dozen times before.
"That's not horror," the supposed horror hater said.
"Okay. Well, did you like Misery?"
Review: A Walk Among The Tombstones
Look at the posters for A Walk Among The Tombstones, and it appears to be one of the least impactful films of 2014. Why? Well, it's because the poster features Liam Neeson holding a gun, and we've seen that story about a hundred times before. The image calls to mind yet another two hours of Neeson kicking ridiculous amounts of ass. While that's usually fun, it does get old at some point. Alas, this is not that point, because despite its somewhat misleading promotions, A Walk Among The Tombstones is more of a slow-burning detective tale than an action flick. As Matt Singer at The Dissolve summarized nicely, this is "just good old-fashioned sleuthing." Go figure.
Basically, this film is the story of former NYPD cop Matt Scudder (Neeson), now a deeply brooding, recovering alcoholic who works as a sort of unofficial freelance detective. Scudder is called upon by a high volume drug dealer whose wife has been kidnapped and gruesomely murdered, despite the dealer having paid a hefty ransom. Scudder hesitates to take the case, but ultimately dives in due to the horrific nature of the crimes. Naturally, he winds up against a bigger case than he bargained for and as he gradually uncovers information on the killers and their previous, similar crimes, he and those around him grow ever closer to mortal danger.
All in all, it's a fairly run-of-the-mill outing despite a refreshingly calm performance from Neeson, a very strong supporting cast, and some pretty gut-wrenching crime. That being said, A Walk Among The Tombstones does a few things well enough to warrant mention in a review.
First of all, it grounds its characters in something resembling reality. Films like these can only land their heavy-handed punches if we feel something real in them, and in this one that's pretty much how it goes. No one (even Neeson) is immune to danger or betrayal, everyone has flaws, and everyone, at some point or other, is playing catch up while being in over his head.
Next, the film doesn't try to get too cute, and these days that's saying something. Sit through the first hour and you'll be rifling through scenarios in your head, trying to think of some ingenious twist or mind-blowing scheme that's just below the surface. This is the case with most films in the thriller, detective, or action genres, with the trouble being that more often than not the big surprise falls short—not clever enough for its own build-up. Well, A Walk Among The Tombstones skips the whole process. Yes, that means it's a little simple at times, but it's oddly enjoyable to sit through a tense crime film that thrills with atmosphere and creepiness rather than attempting the twist of the century.
But where the film really excels is in following through on its name with some genuinely creepy, back-to-basics graveyard action, and that's something scary movie fans will eat up. To be clear, most of the film doesn't actually take place in graveyards. However, when the camera ventures between the tombstones, we get the kind of creeping action that has been sapped from graveyard scenery by comedies, misfiring action films, and even video games in the past decade or so.
Indeed, try to think back on the last graveyard scene you saw and it's comedies that come to mind, for many. Films like Zoolander and Old School have had what amount to be mock funerals, turning daytime graveyard scenes into sources of laughter. Even the hit FXX comedy sitcom The League recently opened its sixth season with a funeral home and graveyard setting, complete with coffins flying open unexpectedly and all those cheeky shenanigans.
Gaming, too, has turned graveyards from chilling ghost story/horror settings into cartoonish backdrops. The Plants vs. Zombies online arcade and app phenomenon is the most significant example. The game uses grave plots and cheesy gravestone graphics as obstacles for cartoon zombies—but this is far from the only example. Any number of zombie games can be pointed to as additional instances in which graveyard scenes become somewhat-comical. In fact, the Betfair Casino is even hosting a "Full Moon Fortune" slot game that combines werewolf horror with a graveyard-themed backstory to enrich the atmosphere of the casino experience. Even the James Bond console game Everything Or Nothing ventured into a graveyard for one memorable level (though to be fair, that was a pretty creepy level).
The point is, while there will always be obscure ghost stories and small-scale films that do the setting justice, most mainstream action in films, on TV, in gaming has seen graveyards robbed of their creepiness in recent years. And A Walk Among The Tombstones sets this straight with some graveyard-heavy action that manages to be both original and terrifying. Between a mysterious graveyard groundskeeper wading through a pond raking up bags (of chopped-up body parts) during a grey fall day, and a late-night, pitch-black gunfight complete with shattering stones and ominous confusion, the tombstones in this film are used wonderfully. It's not a ghost story, and it only borders on horror with no supernatural forces at work. And yet, for what feels like the first time in a while in cinema, this film uses a graveyard to deliver genuine scares and thrills. Given the title, that's the main way in which the film delivers.
To celebrate Hellraiser's birthday on September 18 (an apt date as it seems as after today we will have all eternity for the soul of Scotland's nation to be torn apart) some of horror's finest and unwashed have dropped in to give their thoughts on this iconic film.
There is also two special additions to Kit Powers My Life In Horror series of articles which can be found by clicking on the following links
WE HAVE SUCH SIGHTS TO SHOW YOU
THE DEVILS ADVOCATE
Ginger Nut's reviewer Charlotte Bond has also written a review which can be found here
CHARLOTTE OPENS THE BOX
And the wonderful Chantal Noordeloos, Hollands finest horror export has also writtern a review.
CHANTAL SAYS THE UNMENTIONABLE
And why don't you check out these classic interviews with The Chattering Cenobite and The Female Cenobite
CLICK READ MORE FOR SOME THOUGHTS FROM THE GREAT UNWASHED ON HELLRAISER
In a counter review to Kit Power's comprehensive review of Hellraiser and Chantal Noordeloos shows why she doesn't think Hellraiser stands up in a modern world.
Up until about a month ago, if you would have asked me what I thought of Hellraiser… I would have gushed and told you how awesome it was. I was a big fan of the first three films and I really loved everything about the demonic series. How can you not love the Cenobites that dance the fine line between pleasure and pain?
And then I made the mistake of watching it again… Spoiler alert: teenage memories were ruined. I don’t remember how old I was when I saw it for the first time, but I was young enough to be terrified. Now that I’m old and jaded, all I could see were crappy special effects and even crappier acting. Not even Doug Bradley (who still is the best pinhead ever) could save this movie from the awkward stares and uncomfortable 80’s montages. The film is slow… not good slow, not the kind where you get a nice build up and you get stuck into the characters before the story really begins… it’s the kind of slow where you find yourself wondering what the hell happened to the plot?
The idea behind Hellraiser is still pretty good, though I do feel it could use a few more layers to lift it to a higher level. I know the Barker fans will crucify me for this one, but my love for Hellraiser has died a thousand painful deaths. More painful than Larry’s demise when he opened the puzzle box. Sadly I must conclude that for me Hellraiser is just not the kind of movie that can stand up against the test of time. *runs and hides from the fans*
Chantal Noordeloos lives in the Netherlands, where she spends her time with her wacky, supportive husband, and outrageously cunning daughter, who is growing up to be a supervillain. When she is not busy exploring interesting new realities, or arguing with characters (aka writing), she likes to dabble in drawing. In 1999 she graduated from the Norwich School of Art and Design, where she focused mostly on creative writing. There are many genres that Chantal likes to explore in her writing. Currently Sci-fi Steampunk is one of her favorites, but her ‘go to’ genre will always be horror. “It helps being scared of everything; that gives me plenty of inspiration,” she says. Chantal likes to write for all ages, and storytelling is the element of writing that she enjoys most. “Writing should be an escape from everyday life, and I like to provide people with new places to escape to, and new people to meet.”
Hellraiser – The Movie
When I was a kid, I wasn’t even allowed to watch Labyrinth as my mother deemed it too scary. Horror movies were not welcome in our house, my mother’s attempt to shield me from them (yeah, see how well that worked). So I missed Hellraiser first time around, which meant when I finally watched did, I came to it having seen many more modern horror movies. I felt that it got off to an impressive start. The opening music was far grander than I was expecting and set the scene for something truly great and the music quality continued unabated. When I got to the resurrection scene, the music was so familiar, I Shazamed it, only to discover that it was in fact the original soundtrack, and my knowledge of it was through its reuse in many later productions. Having read the book, I knew Frank’s background and thought the flashbacks were handled well without breaking the overall build-up of the opening sequences. Once you got past the big hair, billowy blouses and baggy trousers, the characters were convincing. Clare Higgins’ interpretation of the bold Julia particularly appealed to me, and it has to be said the make-up department did a wonderful job with her startling eye make-up and hair. There was no comic book set design like Nightmare on Elm Street. Instead, the film focussed on a definite plot and strong character development, which for me made it stand out from its contemporaries. Unfortunately, the overall quality decreased around the time that Kirsty got her hands on the box. The downfall, like so many horror movies, was that once you actually see the monsters, they start to be less scary. It seemed that once Clive Barker began with his special effects budget, he really went to town, at the expense of the character development and tension which he had built up so beautifully at the beginning. Less would have been more, and when the Cenobites first appear, their sinister words would have had greater effect if spoken in hushed tones in a dark room, rather than in the maelstrom of wind machine and dry-ice that Barker uses. And of course, the problem with special effects is that they are the first thing to make a film seem dated. In summary, the soundtrack is definitely going to find its way into my library and while I would watch this film again, I expect I’ll end up doing the washing up by the end.
- Charlotte Bond
Charlotte has had several short stories published in various formats from print to electronic and even audio. She has a novella out with Screaming Dreams publications, and a short story anthology due out this year. She is currently working on a novel and some radio productions.
Charlotte is thrilled to join the Ginger Nuts of Horror team, and is looking forward to indulging in two of her favourite things - reading new books and spouting opinions.
Originally from North Yorkshire, Charlotte now lives in Leeds and that's as far south as she's prepared to go. She is married and lives with a small child and a very fluffy cat. One of them is a small bundle of hurricane-level energy which tears up everything it passes; the other leaves hairballs wherever it sits. It is left up to the reader to decide which is which.
With Halloween fast approaching it’s time to dig out the best scary stories we can find and what better way to do that than with a few horror comics.
Because there are far too many of these terrifying titles to choose from we’ve picked what we think are the top five worth checking out. Be warned though as these aren’t as easy on the eye as bingo memes and may leave you a little mentally scarred.
First up is a taste of the orient with legendary Manga creator Junji Ito’s Uzumaki. Uzumaki is Japanese for Spiral. The plot centres on a small town and it’s obsession with spirals of various sizes and types.
It’s a rather abstract tale that leads to some quite grotesque and tragic scenes that are genuinely horrifying to behold. With an unforgettable ending and a cast of endearing characters, you won’t regret starting out with Uzumaki. There’s even been a film adaptation if you can’t get enough of the spooky spirals.
Written by Alan Moore, the famous mind behind the likes of Watchmen, V for Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Neonomicon is a stark contrast to Moore’s previous works. It centres around two FBI agents and their investigation into a cult and horrible events following their discovery.
This dark tale plays heavily on the Lovecraftian mythos and it’s filled with sex, violence, nightmare inducing monstrosities and a story that leaves you questioning your own sanity.
I got though the Zombie apocalypse and almost survived it. Well, a version of it anyway. I wasn't there for the big battles or the panic of a global pandemic spreading from country to country. Nor was I there for the collapse of global systems of economics and power and water suI got though the Zombie apocalypse and almost survived it. Well, a version of it anyway. I wasn't there for the big battles or the panic of a global pandemic spreading from country to country. Nor was I there for the collapse of global systems of economics and power and water access. Somehow I slept through all of this, and walked straight into the aftermath. Small groups of survivors scrabbling for what supplies they can in a world where humans had been bumped down a notch on the food chain.
So what the chuff am I talking about?