2010: A LOOK BACK IN HORROR
Contrary to what you might have heard, horror is not dead. It is, however, in a decidedly precarious place. The near-dissolution of two iconic genre brands, Leisure Books and Fangoria magazine, isn’t exactly cataclysmic but is without question a deeply ominous development. On the bright side, I received more review requests in 2010 than in the all the previous years combined, proving there is life in the horror halls.
I understand that for most of you the really good stuff was often difficult to locate amid all the retreads and remakes. Nevertheless, 2010 did yield up quite a few goodies for horror fans, from the outrageous environmental catastrophe novel SYLVOW by Douglas Thompson to collections like Brendan Connell’s UNPLEASANT TALES and Michael Louis Calvillo’s BLOOD & GRISTLE to independent movie gems like BURIED and HEARTLESS.
Yes, quality genre entertainment DOES exist, although it has to complete with the not-so-good stuff. This was certainly true in 2010, which contained more than its share of good and bad…
R.I.P. Leisure Books
This is a situation that depresses me more than I can say, as Leisure has been at the forefront of genre fiction for the past decade. It’s naïve, I guess, to have expected Leisure’s reign to continue much longer--think back to Tor Books in the 1980s or Dell’s Abyss line in the 90s, both of which provided first-rate mass market horror before they, like Leisure, abruptly gave up the ghost.
Yes, I know Fangoria is still limping along (following a corporate shakeup that saw longtime editor Tony Timpone replaced in February), but just barely!
Most Prevalent Movie Trend
Most Prevalent Documentary Trend
Most Irritating Literary Craze
In 2010 we got quite a few more obnoxious mash-ups: JANE SLAYRE, ANDROID KARENINA, FUCKING FRANKENSTEIN, LITTLE VAMPIRE WOMEN, WUTHERING BITES, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS PLUS BLOOD, GUTS and ZOMBIES, etc, etc, etc. Even if you accept the arguments of these books’ supporters (that they’re “transgressive reclamations of great literature by the common man” and so forth) I feel safe in proclaiming that this particular craze has officially been done to death.
I understand these books aren’t selling nearly as well as they initially did, a clear sign that the American reading public is much smarter than publishers think.
Most Worn-Out Concepts
Most Hackneyed Publishing Trend
Yet, in an all-too-typical example of the American publishing industry’s behind-the-times thinking, no less than three glossy horror movie review compilations appeared in 2010--TOP 100 HORROR MOVIES, HORROR MOVIE FREAK and HORROR! 333 FILMS TO SCARE YOU TO DEATH--and they weren’t cheap. I haven’t perused any of these tomes, but I don’t believe they’ll do much to displace THE OVERLOOK HORROR FILM ENCYCLOPEDIA, NIGHTMARE MOVIES, INCREDIBLY STRANGE FILMS, HORROR HOLOCAUST, NIGHTMARE USA, SLIMETIME, HORROR 101 or the innumerable websites devoted to the subject (this one included!).
Horror Movie Distributor of the Year
Genre Publisher of the Year
Keep it up, guys!
Genre Reprint of the Year--Pro and Con
True, Centipede did see fit to include some extras in this new edition of MEDUSA, including a newly written intro by Colin Wilson and 13 short stories, but do those things really justify charging nearly a hundred dollars? The collectible market Centipede is mining is currently in trouble, and I think the above pretty much explains why.
Most Prolific Horror Movie Star
Amazing! A Horror Micro-Budgeter that Didn’t Suck!
It was with a fair amount of trepidation, then, that I agreed to review the short film RECOMPENCE by filmmaker Ronnie Carlsson. Surprisingly, I quite liked the film, an impressively sustained forest-set hallucination with gorgeous black-and-white visuals. Still, I’m well aware that films like RECOMPENSE are anomalies in an otherwise unbroken sea of cinematic sludge.
Favorite DVD Release(s)
I also appreciated the much belated digital bow of GRINDHOUSE (2007). It’s taken over three years, but Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s mind-blowing two part tribute to 1970s-era grindhouse cinema is finally available on DVD and Blu Ray in its intended form (i.e. not as two standalone releases), with all the wonderful fake trailers (directed by the likes of Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright and Eli Roth) intact.
Notable Discoveries From Past Years, Filmic and Literary: A uniquely creepy and evocative supernatural drama from Taiwan.
SECRETS OF A SOUL: Amazing psychology-tinged hallucinatory wackiness from 1926.
MR. ARASHI’S AMAZING FREAK SHOW: I’ve known about the similarly titled Suehiro Maruo manga for years, but only recently discovered that an anime version exists that fully captures Maruo’s surreal grotesquerie.
DOGS’ DIALOGUE: An amazing short by Raul Ruiz that incorporates stills and live action to relate its unbelievably overwrought narrative of madness and murder.
The LAIRS OF THE HIDDEN GODS anthologies: An absolutely essential four-collection set of Japanese stories, all inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos.
PLAY LITTLE VICTIMS by KENNETH COOK: A seriously twisted, bleak and macabre ANIMAL FARM-esque allegory.
FROM INSIDE By JOHN BERGIN: An awesome post-apocalyptic graphic novel.
THE BRAVE by GREGORY McDONALD: Simply one of the most powerfully disturbing novels I’ve ever read--yes, it was the basis of the ‘97 Johnny Depp flick, but don’t hold that against it!
Remembering Those Who’ve Passed On
Notable names that have graced the genre only to leave us in 2010 include…
Lisa Blount (1957-2010) Actress: DEAD & BURIED, CUT AND RUN, PRINCE OF DARKNESS
David Brown (1916-2010) Producer: JAWS, JAWS 2, THE ISLAND
Stephen J. Cannell (1941-2010) Producer/Writer: DEMON HUNTER, IT WAITS, THE TOOTH FAIRY
Christopher Cazenove (1945-2010) Actor: EYE OF THE NEEDLE, THE FANTASIST, TALES FROM THE CRYPT
Maury Chaykin (1949-2010) Actor: CURTAINS, OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN, BLINDNESS
Jamie Gillis (1943-2010) Actor: THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, WATER POWER, DIE YOU ZOMBIE BASTARDS!
Peter Graves (1926-2010) Actor: THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, THE CLONUS HORROR, ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES
Bob Guccione (1930-2010) Publisher/Producer: CALIGULA
Cory Haim (1971-2010) Actor: SILVER BULLET, THE LOST BOYS, WATCHERS
Dino De Laurentiis (1919-2010) Producer: THE WITCHES, ORCA, KING KONG (1976), AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION, THE DEAD ZONE, CAT’S EYE, SILVER BULLET, MANHUNTER, ARMY OF DARKNESS, HANNIBAL, RED DRAGON
Sally Menke (1953-2010) Editor: NIGHTWATCH, GRINDHOUSE
Leslie Nielson (1926-2010) Actor: CREEPSHOW, REPOSSESSED, SCARY MOVIE 3
Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) Novelist: WILDERNESS
Arthur Penn (1922-2010) Director/Producer: MICKEY ONE, DEAD OF WINTER
Charles B. Pierce (1938-2010) Director: THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN
Lynn Redgrave (1943-2010) Actress: THE TURN OF THE SCREW, GODS AND MONSTERS, SPIDER
Jean Rollin (1938-2010) Writer/Director: THE NUDE VAMPIRE, SHIVER OF THE VAMPIRES, FASCINATION, GRAPES OF DEATH, LIVING DEAD GIRL, TWO ORPHAN VAMPIRES, et al
Zelda Rubinstein (1933-2010) Actress: POLTERGEIST, ANGUISH, BEHIND THE MASK
Gloria Stuart (1910-2010) Actress: THE OLD DARK HOUSE, THE INVISIBLE MAN, MANIMAL