Friday, October 04, 2013


It's a fearsome night on Turner Classic Movies for horror fans, kicking off October in style tonight starting at 5:00 pm PST/8:00 pm EST-- Herk Harvey's Carnival of Souls (1962), followed by George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968), Fritz Lang's The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933), James Whale's The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Terence Fisher's Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), and The Wasp Woman (1959), directed by Roger Corman and Jack Hill. 


From the looks of things around here, you’d never know it’s been a busy month, but it has. Just not in terms of writing, which is reflected in the fact that it’s been exactly a month since I last posted here. (That last post was a long ‘un, though.) It’s been a goodly stretch since the days when I was posting every day, or even every other day—the emerging gray in my beard is testament to the fact that life is different now than it was in 2004, especially as it applies to the energy and inspiration and time I have available to offer Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. Even so, this little hobby, which I started nine years ago next month and never realistically expected to last through to a first anniversary, is still high on my list of priorities. What’s changed is the (ridiculous) notion that I could or should ever try to keep up that initial pace or that, regardless of whatever attention it might receive, the profile of the blog would ever be raised beyond the level of “boutique” status. (Over this past summer a friend described SLIFR, quite aptly and charmingly I thought, as “one sincere pumpkin patch of a blog.”) 

It’s clear, too, just how much social media has changed—at least for me—the urgency I used to feel about my blogging. The interactive aspect of SLIFR has long since been supplanted by the more immediate and unmoderated connections Facebook and Twitter provide, relegating the comments column to a status of something akin to letters to the editor delivered by snail mail. (I’m just grateful, when I do get comments, that they remain as civil and constructive and creative as they ever were.)

But I’m still here. And if September was a month of tumbleweeds as far as SLIFR is concerned, then what of October? It’s a month that lends itself to considerations of matters of the horror genre and, if you happen to love that genre, opportunities to focus on personal observations about it that stretch beyond the usual dabblers’ notions racking up lists of “The 100 Best Horror Movies Ever Made” or “My Favorite Slasher Movie Villains.” And here at SLIFR I’m going to take the time to spotlight not only own posts but a couple of others that I think will be enjoyed by anybody who feels like digging a little deeper into the foundational ground of the season.

Anyone interested in a fully rounded appreciation of the Halloween season this month should be keeping their eyes on the Friday columns of Richard Harland Smith over at TCM’s Movie Morlocks. Richard’s writing on horror is just about beyond compare, and he’s already begun to illuminate the musty crypts and desolate graveyards of Halloween like a day-glo screaming skull. Posted today, his terrific "Gimme That Old-Time Scaryiligion!" eschews the tendency toward the gory and instead advocates for drinking in the rich atmospherics of many great Halloween movies that you may have never seen:

The older I get, the older I want to be. Which is to say that come Halloween I don’t want to be disgusted, I don’t want to disgust others. I want to heighten my senses, not force them into shutdown mode. I want to savor crispness in the air, a hint of woodsmoke on the wind. I want to hear the swirl of autumn leaves and the peal of churchbells from the kirkyard. (Or, barring that, the peal of kirkbells from the churchyard.) I want magic and mystery. I want to be a child again. And when I was a kid, people kept their guts to themselves… At Halloween, I want the cozy. I want to be in for the night, with rain lashing at the eaves, or at least a high wind rattling the shutters. I want the bridge to be out, the authorities unreachable, and several strangers (or at the very least estranged family members) house-bound and vulnerable to attack by the Bat or the Cat or Dracula or the Ghost of something-something.”

Richard is not one to worry about whether his own tastes come off musty to the hardened, grue-encrusted horror fan, and he’s right not to. He’s having too much fun steeping in the mainstream and the marginalia of horror’s history at the movies, and this article proves that he’s off to another strong and spooky start toward concocting a month-long witches’ brew that will be well worth indulging in.

Another cryptkeeper to keep an eye on this month is Bill Ryan, proprietor of The Kind of Face You Hate. Bill is a talented, colloquial writer with a wicked sense of humor and a great and infectious ease with his own voice, and every October he hosts a month-long festival of daily posts on horror fiction, the literary kind. He calls this annual gathering "The Kind of Face You Slash" and it’s usually Bill, keeping very busy, writing the whole month on a whole host of worthy and serious horror writing. But this year he’s doing things a little differently: 

“`The Kind of Face You Slash’ (is) a project that ordinarily finds me writing about horror fiction -- stories and novels and so forth -- every single goddamn day. Ha ha, not that I don't love it! That's going to happen again this year, starting Tuesday, but this year there's a slight twist. For about half of the month, I will be doing what I always do, which is as previously described, but the other half of the month will be filled out with a roster of guest writers. The rotation will be roughly and alternating-days kind of thing, though this part I can't be certain about exactly, but in any case your takeaway should be: half me, half other folks, each of whom I'm very proud to have on board, and whose posts I think you'll greatly enjoy. There'll be bylines and stuff, even.”

Bill starts out with House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (“Stephen King and his son, the horror writer Joe Hill, are described discussing ‘what novel should be considered the Moby-Dick of horror’… The answer they settle on is one of the more curious, both in its impact and in its very existence, horror fiction phenomenons of the last thirty years…”), then gives it over to Andrew Leon Hudson (on John Dies at the End). Bill comes back for Thomas Hinde’s The Day the Call Came and Friday (today) is the domain of Jose Cruz on a collection that sounds fascinating, Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown: A Treasury of Bizarre Tales Old and New edited by Marvin Kaye 

I have no idea what’s on the docket for Saturday—another Bill contribution, as he alternates with his guests all month long—but I do have an inkling about Sunday, as it’ll be my own contribution to the festival, a look at Theodore Roszak’s fascinating, maddening 1991 novel Flicker.

Round these parts, expect to see my review of the long-awaited Curse of Chucky, the sixth installment of the Chucky the Killer Doll franchise (which I celebrating is 25th anniversary this year), as well as a couple of quizzes—a horror-oriented quiz undertaking straight from the catacombs of SLIFR University, and another visual puzzler based on mysterious screen grabs from horror movies throughout cinema history. It won’t be all horror here, though—I’ve got a massive 800-minute Blu-ray box (and accompanying heavy tome) of The Untold History of the United States, the sprawling and provocative documentary written (with Peter Kuznick) and directed by Oliver Stone, sitting on my desk which will most definitely be worth a look. I’ll also be taking some time to look at writer-director Michael Schlesinger’s acclaimed comedy short It’s a Frame-up!  and even, especially if the postseason continues to go well, a look at a couple of baseball movies you may have missed.

And I have it on good authority that the Horror Dads will be reconvening after a long absence for another of our good-natured discussions on matters of bringing up kids in the ominous moonlight of six lifetimes of horror appreciation.

Thanks for hanging around, even during the quiet times around this here pumpkin patch. We’re not done with the harvest yet.


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