A LOOK BACK IN HORROR: 2009
Here it is, my second annual look back at many noteworthy events in the world of horror film and literature, as well as a listing of the recently deceased. Let’s being with…
The Hottest Writer--in Print and Film: That would be the
83-year-old Richard Matheson, who despite not having published anything
new in several years has attained newfound popularity.
Favorite Literary Discovery: The 1969 French novel
JEANNE’S JOURNAL by Mario
Mercier, published in English in 1972, is a remarkable
evocation of perverse eroticism and fantastic invention. I’d never heard
of JEANNE’S JOURNAL before January of ‘09, but it’s now up there among
my all-time favorites.
Favorite DVD: Troma’s new edition of Buddy Giovinazzo’s 1986
SHOCK is my pick for DVD of the year. The flick remains a
wrenching evocation of urban desperation and psychosis, and has finally
gotten the presentation it deserves.
The Little Publisher That Could: It’s hard to believe that not
too long ago I’d never heard of the UK-based PS Publishing. Obviously
that has changed in the years since, particularly this last one.
Most Overhyped Film: You know the answer to this one--or have you
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY supposedly made countless people afraid
to go to sleep at night?
MIA Films Released: For whatever reason, in 2009 several recent
films that had been held off the market (in some cases for years) were
finally released theatrically or on DVD.
Most Overhyped Book: Months before its publication THE STRAIN by
Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan was heralded as a publishing
landmark, and a transcendent masterpiece that reinvented the vampire
mythos for a new generation. The advance reader copies featured glowing
testimonials from booksellers across the country raving about the book
and (more importantly) predicting massive sales.
Most Overdone Trend: I’ve got nothing against vampires in film or
literature, but they have kind of been done to death. Now, with a
dozen or so pulp vampire sagas cluttering bookshelves, the
above-mentioned novel, a popular vampire-themed cable TV series and
numerous vamp movies all appearing in 2009, the trend has grown
A Film that Actually Lived Up to Its Hype: Last year I heard tell
of a French import called
MARTYRS that was said to outdo 2008’s outrageously vile
INSIDE, and just
about everything else, in ugliness and sheer nausea. I scoffed at those
claims, figuring no film could possibly be that nasty.
Most Unfairly Neglected Publications: Two of my favorite books of
2009 were put out by the UK’s Creation Books, but neither made much of a
Biggest/Most Expensive Book: That’s easy--it’s the late Carl
Jung’s long-suppressed RED BOOK, a massive 18x12-inch hardcover that
retails for around $200.00(!). The history of THE RED BOOK is complex:
it was drafted back in the 1940s and then forcibly held off the market,
only coming to light in 2009 in an initially limited edition.
Wonkiest Publication: JOHN DIES AT THE END by David Wong first
appeared in 2007 as a trade paperback from Permutus Press. Before or
after that, or possibly around the same time, it was made available
online as a free e-text--and then in 2009 it was repackaged in a
prestigious hardcover edition by Thomas Dunne Books.
All-Around Coolest Publisher: For the second year in a row that
honor goes to Leisure Books, who continued putting out solid novels by
many of the genre’s top authors in affordable mass market editions.
Where’s Clive Barker? I ask this only because Mr. Barker made
some extravagant promises about his 2009 output, including a few new
films (of which the only one we got was the none-too-inspiring BOOK OF
BLOOD) and a third volume of his ABARAT saga, which Barker predicted
would be finished back in April. He also intuited that his long awaited
literary opus THE SCARLET GOSPELS might be nearing completion at last.
Busiest Scream Queen: This year we have a surprise winner--it’s
61-year-old Dee Wallace (formerly Dee Wallace Stone), best known for her
appearances in the
original HILLS HAVE EYES, THE HOWLING, E.T. and CUJO. I was
of the opinion that Ms. Wallace, like many starlets of her age group
(Karen Allen, anyone?), was played out, and yet in the past few years
she’s appeared in a slew of independent horror flicks.
Remembering Those Who’ve Passed On: Finally, in the world of film and literature those who’ve graced the horror genre only to leave us in 2009 include…
Dom DeLuise (1933-2009) Actor: THE END, HAUNTED HONEYMOON
Dominick Dunne (1925-2009) Producer/Novelist: THE PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK, THE TWO MRS. GRENVILLES, A SEASON IN PURGATORY
Philip Jose Farmer (1918-2009) Novelist: IMAGE OF THE BEAST, LOVE SONG
Farrah Fawcett (1947-2009) Actress: SATURN 3, EXTREMITIES, THE BURNING BED
Lucy Gordon (1980-2009) Actress: PERFUME
John Hughes (1950-2009) Writer/Director: CLASS REUNION, WEIRD SCIENCE
Michael Jackson (1958-2009) Singer/Actor: BEN, MICHAEL JACKSON’S THRILLER
Karl Malden (1912-2009) Actor: CAT O’NINE TAILS, METEOR
Ed McMahon (1923-2009) Announcer: DAUGHTER OF HORROR
Ricardo Montalban (1920-2009) Actor: STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN
Brittany Murphy (1977-2009) Actress: FREEWAY, CHERRY FALLS, DON’T SAY A WORD, SIN CITY
Charles H. Schneer (1920-2009) Producer: IT CAME FROM
BENEATH THE SEA, 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS
Ron Silver (1946-2009) Actor: THE ENTITY, BLUE STEEL
George Simpson (1944-2009) Novelist/Screenwriter: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF FLIGHT 412, GHOSTBOAT, THIN AIR, BLACKBONE
Ray Dennis Steckler (1938-2009) Filmmaker: THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES, RAT PFINK A BOO-BOO, SINTHIA THE DEVIL’S DOLL
Gale Storm (1922-2009) Actress: REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIES
Patrick Swayze (1952-2009) Actor: GHOST, DONNIE DARKO
John Updike (1932-2009) Novelist: THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK