Although we've been absent for a considerable length of time from the blog scene, we've been keeping at it with watching and reading horror in both film and literature, respectively. And of course there's still oh so plenty on our to-do list. Here's an abridged rundown of what we've viewed in the more recent months during our hiatus. – We'll try to come back to these later on and write more in-depth reviews or commentaries. Consider this the first entree, so dig in.
'The Cabin in the Woods' (2012)
When you think you've seen all that horror has to offer, 'The Cabin in the Woods' takes many of the tried and tired subgenres and then turns them on their ear, like your ol' Nanna did when she caught you swearing. I had some inkling of what the premise was, but had only guessed at the tip of the iceberg. This is one film that we can confidently feel safe to say you won't be able to predict. Also, kudos to the filmmaker's nods to 'The Evil Dead' movies and guest cameo, albeit brief, with Sigourney Weaver. This was a fun ride, and it was apparently so for those making it.
'Creature from the Black Lagoon' (1954)
We've been meaning to see this Universal Studios classic for some time, but it wasn't until reading Gary Myers' "Understudy" in the 'Shadows Over Innsmouth' anthology that gave us just the right push. The creature itself, that is, the Gill-man, was an impressive costume, both in its appearance and functionality underwater. Not too many made during the fifties can make that claim. And we've been on a serious H.P. Lovecraft kick with all things Innsmouth, so this really hit the sweet spot. In certain respects, we would even favor this film over 'Dagon' (2001).
'Mary Shelley's Frankenstein' (1994)
Speaking of creatures, here is another movie that features one of its own. This little gem took us by surprise, as we had heard very little about it. And while the names Kenneth Branagh ('Hamlet') and Robert De Niro ('Taxi Driver') don't instantly bring "horror" to mind, it was all pulled off rather well. And there was a rather impressive line-up of actors, ranging from Tom Hulce ('Amadeus') to Ian Holm ('From Hell'). Our only real complaint is that Helena Bonham Carter's ('Sweeney Todd' and 'The Corpse Bride') physical appearance as the Bride was rather disappointing.
'The Thing' (2011)
Having been fans of John Carpenter's 'The Thing', we awaited this prequel with an equal measure of anticipation and trepidation. Admittedly, animatronics and movie make-up will almost always trump CGI in our book. But it wasn't too cumbersome with the latter, which was a relief. And speaking personally, I had to smile when seeing the inclusion of the alien spaceship deep in the Antarctic ice. That hails back to 'The Thing from Another World' (1952) and actually included a number of other bits that I recognized, which were also carried over. It adapted much of what made its two predecessors good movies.
'The Woman in Black' (2012)
When we come back to this film, we'll have to make an attempt at watching the 1989 adaptation, albeit both are based on Susan Hill's novel, much in the same way that both 'The Thing's and likewise 'The Thing from Another World' are with John W. Campbell's novella, "Who Goes There?" Surprisingly, it wasn't hard to watch Daniel Radcliffe without thinking Harry Potter. (If anything, Elijah Woods kept coming to mind.) While his performance was certainly noteworthy, hands down the best part of the film had to be the Eel Marsh House itself. If you've seen it yourself, you'll understand why.
AMC's 'The Walking Dead' (2010-present)
'The Walking Dead' has been a mixed bag for most, and while friends of ours have found plenty at fault with it, we still enjoy the series. Could certain changes have been made for the better? Sure. But as far as comic book adaptations goes, this sure beats the hell out of a lot of them. (Seriously. Look at 'Spider-Man's Green Goblin and ask how they go from the illustrated designs to a sorry, Power Ranger knock-off. With a little make up, Willem Dafoe's face would've been fine.) We're still working our way through season two, so it's always possible our opinion might change. We'll see.
John Carpenter's "Cigarette Burns" (2005)
Eighth episode of 'Masters of Horror's second season, "Cigarette Burns" made us think of Robert W. Chambers' 'The King in Yellow' stories, in certain respects. Instead of a play, however, we have a rare film that drives its audience mad. It could also be said that "Cigarette Burns" resembles Carpenter's 'In The Mouth of Madness' (1995), which we loved due to its obvious Lovecraft overtones. Lastly, while Udo Kier makes an appearance his screen time is regrettably kept short. (Coincidentally, this episode happens to star Norman Reedus, who plays a regular on AMC's 'The Walking Dead'.)
Season six of USA's 'Psych' has included some comical homages to horror films, specifically episodes "This Episode Sucks" and "Hereeeee's Lassie". If James Roday and Dule Hill in full costume as 'Interview with the Vampire's Lestat and Blacula isn't enough for fang fans, it also guest stars Corey Feldman ('The Lost Boys'). And while "Hereeeee's Lassie" is essentially a parody of Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining', there are additional little Easter eggs slipped into the episode, like pregnant neighbor Rosemary ('Rosemary's Baby').
Stephen King's 'Bag of Bones' (2011)
Ugh... Firstly, we're definite fans of Stephen King stories, so make no mistake. 'IT' (1990) the mini-series still ranks among our top horror favorites. But 'Bag of Bones' was nothing if not predictable, as much as we wanted to like it. (SPOILER ALERT) It didn't take much foresight to predict Pierce Brosnan's character was related to the cursed men, for starters. And let's be honest folks, having an author protagonist is a tiresome trend that occurs pretty regularly in King's work. Yes, it was integral to the plot, but come on. Enough with the writer characters, King.
'Adventure Time' (2010-present)
Cartoon Network's series 'Adventure Time' started with an outbreak of candy people zombies, so it was fun to see this idea brought back to life in 3x07a, "From Bad to Worse." Together with the murder mystery in 3x06b, "The Creeps," these two episodes comprised part of Cartoon Network's 2011 Halloween specials. – Speaking for myself, I particularly enjoyed these episodes as they're the closest I can get to watching horror films with my girlfriend.
'Shadows Over Innsmouth'
Published by Del Rey Books and editted by Stephen Jones, this anthology includes seventeen stories all inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," along with that as well. Some are hits, others are misses. But that's to be expected, really, and the hits really make this book worthwhile. "The Big Fish," "Daoine Domhain," and "The Innsmouth Heritage," were among my personal favorites. Be assured that a detailed Darkley Niche review will be in the works.
'Tales Out of Innsmouth'
As mentioned earlier in our two cents on 'Creature from the Black Lagoon', we've been indulging in Innsmouth-inspired stories. And while we haven't yet finished this anthology, shorts such as Gary Myers' "Understudy" have already made this read a worthwhile venture. Additionally, "The Weird Shadow over Innsmouth," which begins the book, was made from fragments of early drafts and reworked into a cohesive narrative by John Glasby. It's offers an interesting insight, although the story itself is a little repetitive, as is to be expected.
'The Whisperer and Other Stories' by Brian Lumley
Referring back to the previous book, this particular anthology is the reason why we put a pause on 'Tales Out of Innsmouth'. If it was to take a vacation from Innsmouth, guess again. "The Return of the Deep Ones," similar to most of those told in 'Shadows Over Innsmouth', spreads their tainted influence over to the shores of Britain. So far, so good. However, we may soon be swapping this for another of Lumley's anthologies, 'Return of the Deep Ones and Other Mythos Tales', and resume reading from there.
That's all for now, our Darkley Niche faithful, but we hope it is enough to rekindle the embers of those followers who have been patiently awaiting this long-overdue post – like Cthulhu in his deathless sleep. We'll aim to keep this weekly to biweekly, if able. A film or book review may well be in order, come next time we write again. Until then, dream darkly readers.