Book Review: The Weird

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories
Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
Tom Doherty Associates
(c) 2011 by the authors

It’s kind of tricky reviewing an anthology, especially one where multiple authors are involved. What are you reviewing? The individual stories? The editorial choices involved in their selection? The presentation? I’m just going to go with the overall principle of “Should you get this book?” Rather simple, but for an amateur reviewer like myself, it will do.

The Weird is a massive collection of – well, you can’t really call it “horror”, because the stories are generally more unsettling than outright scary. Think “Tales from the Darkside” rather than “Tales from the Crypt”. There are 110 stories in the book’s 1100+ pages, dating from 1908 to 2010. Included are authors you should have heard of (Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft), authors that horror buffs should know (Clark Ashton Smith, Daphne du Maurier, Algernon Blackwood), and authors that will be new to you (Augusto Monterroso, Stefan Grabinski, Haruki Murakami). There’s an amazing variety; only two authors get to have two stories. Many of the stories are translations; it’s great to see so many “non-English speaking” authors and other cultures being represented

Continue reading

Advertisements

Another Halloween Miscellany

It’s that time of year again! Way back when I first started this blog, I became one of the “Cryptkeepers” at the Countdown to Halloween in an effort to bring traffic here. Haven’t figured out if it worked.

Be that as it may, I’ve been posting a few Halloween things in the Octobers since. You can check them out with the “Halloween” tag over in the “Tag Cloud” on the right. You might also find a few scary movies under “Movie Reviews”.

For this post, I’ve just got a few odds and ends for the season that don’t justify their own post.

Continue reading

Movie Review: Sandkings (TV, 1995)

With the success of such syndicated shows as Star Trek: The Next Generation and Tales from the Crypt, Metro Goldwyn Mayer decided it was the right time to bring back its old anthology series, The Outer Limits. The one hour show would first appear on the cable network Showtime, and then be released into syndication.

All they needed was a good story – one that could handle being extended into a 90 minute movie. They found it in a George R.R. Martin novelette, “Sandkings”. The 1978 story would have to undergo some major adjustments in order to work on TV – not the least of would be that it had to work within a TV budget.

The original story is an award-winning horror tale where the protagonist is a right proper cretin who deserves everything that happens to him – but I’m not going to talk about that. Not even about how the movie is different from the story. One has to treat the movie on its own – and if you have to have read the book to understand the movie, then the movie hasn’t done it’s job.

Anyway….

Continue reading

Halloween: Then and Now

If, like me, you are “of a certain age”, you can readily remember how Halloween used to be very different.

And if you’re feeling cynical, you can easily come up with a list like this.

Mid September:

THEN: Go into the attic or basement, looking for the box that has the kids’ sweaters. Hope it doesn’t take long to find, and that the sweaters still fit. Wonder where you put the Halloween decorations.

NOW: Go online to find the this year’s fashion in Fall clothing for the kids. Pay extra for priority shipping, because your kids need them NOW. Check the return policy in case they screw up and you have to return them. Don’t order Halloween decorations; you don’t want to max out your credit cards right now.

Continue reading

The Real Scream Queen

There’s a lot of press coverage this week about Jamie Lee Curtis and the remake/reboot of the classic horror film Halloween.

Now Curtis is indeed a fine actress, and her performance in the original Halloween did indeed contribute greatly to its success….

But her entire reputation as a “scream queen” rests only on that single role, in that movie and all its sequels and remakes and reboots and rehashings…. I hardly see a single character, no matter how many films you portrayed that character in, as sufficient justification to elevate one to the highest level in the Pantheon of Horror.

Especially when true horror aficionados know who their Empress is.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the One and Only “Gothic Girl”:

Barbara Steele.

Do You Like Scary Movies?

It’s that time of year when film critics and fans trot out their lists of the greatest horror movies of all time. They’re usually pretty good, and one can generally predict which ones will be in the Top Ten.

Brazilian film critic and cinephile Diego Carrera approached the topic from a different perspective. Noting that from their very beginnings, movies tried to shock and startle people, he picked one important “horror” movie for every year from 1895 to 2016:

Careful viewers will note that, strictly speaking, not everything on the list qualifies as Horror. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, for example, is a comedy. But they’ve all got their moments that are at least unsettling.

You are free to disagree with some of the movies Carrera’s included. But keep in mind, it’s based on the YEAR, and isn’t intended to be a list of the “greatest” (even though many of them would be on such a list).

So check it out, and see if there’s something there that you haven’t seen yet….and then check that out!

Counting Down to Halloween

Last year I participated in the annual “Countdown to Halloween” , sponsored by the blog with that name. Alas, I gave out all my candy (as it were) then, and don’t have anything to contribute this year.

But all those posts are still there (look for things tagged “Halloween”), and the blog is still doing its annual Countdown.

So if you want to get more in to the spirit of the season, check out their links to the dozens upon dozens of nostalgia buffs, craftspeople, artists, and movie lovers who are once again sharing their love for all things spooky with us.

From Action Figure Barbecue to Your Final Answer, there’s plenty to check in on every day!

Dia de los Muertos

Because Halloween isn’t over until the dead have their day…

By the way, a tip of the warlock’s hat to all the other Cryptkeepers for sharing all their wonderful music, movie reviews, artwork, photography, commentary, and Halloween collectibles with us. It was a serious distraction at work checking in on everyone! I’d also like to thank everyone who stopped by here. I hope you will continue to do so – I’m hoping to be posting just as often during December for Christmas. And I am going to keep posting movie and book reviews, as well as my thoughts on baseball, and whatever else crosses my mind.

Vincent Price

Horror movies haven’t generally gotten any respect from the Oscars. Yeah, the Academy has tossed a handful of nominations to the genre over the years, but wins for anything other then technical matters have been few and far between. Back in 2010, they  attempted to make up for this with a montage of clips from classic horror movies. It was pretty decent – Jaws, The Blob, Nosferatu, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dracula, The Shining – but there was one colossal and unforgivable oversight….

Where was Vincent Price?

Continue reading

The War of the Worlds – The Other Broadcasts

Orson Welles’ radio play based on H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds is arguably the most famous radio program of all time. The Mercury Theater’s 1938 dramatization was so effective that people thought it was an actual news broadcast, and panic ensued. Though there is much debate over how widespread that panic was, it cannot be denied that many people thought that the Martians were actually invading. Wells at first claimed it was just an honest attempt at giving listeners an entertaining fright that got out of hand. Years later, he changed his tune to say that it was a deliberate attempt to show that people shouldn’t always take what they hear, see, or read in the media at face value.

If it indeed was an experiment in mass psychology, the results were dramatic. While a major principle in scientific research is that any experiment must be reproducible, it’s likely that no one would want to reproduce this particular experiment. After all, who wants to deliberately cause a panic? And given the notoriety of the original broadcast, any scientist or radio producer would be hard-pressed to find virgin ears on which to conduct a follow-up.

No one is going to fall for the same stunt twice, right?
Continue reading