Archive for October, 2010

The Big C anthology

Posted in Guest-blog, News with tags , , , , , , on October 31, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Yesterday, I announced in a somewhat oblique manner that I had been asked to provide a cover painting for a forthcoming book – well, I can now reveal that it is The Big C anthology, to be edited by Willie Meikle and Stephen James Price (of Ghostwriter Publications), dedicated to raising awareness of cancer and money for cancer charities. Here, Mr Meikle explains why he decided to put this together.





—()—

My Dad has cancer. More than one kind in fact. He’s fighting hard, but cancer is a devious bugger. It hides, it lurks, and it pounces when you think it’s down and defeated.

Cancer is a monster.

I write about monsters, and have been doing so for a long span of years. Just recently I’ve started thinking more about why and taking a harder look at my motivations. A look back at several recent things I’ve done was revealing. The Invasion features an alien invasion that comes in the form of an organism from space that eats anything in its path, transforming it into something different and unnatural. My short story The Colour that Came to Chiswick features a colour out of space that gets into beer and, when consumed, eats the drinker away from the inside out. A story sale to another anthology features gross body changes and loss of identity, and even my current work in progress, ostensibly just a little creature feature disaster story, features genetic modification leading to crawling chaos. I may not have been consciously aware of it, but it’s obvious to me now that the Big C has been on my mind.

Cancer has been a presence in my life for as long as I can remember. I first came across it in the late Sixties. My Gran’s brother came back to town to die with his family. I was fascinated by this man, so thin as to be almost skeletal, wound in clothes that were many sizes too large for his frame, his skin so thin that I could see his blood moving… not pumping, for it had long since stopped moving enough to keep him alive long. He rarely spoke, just sat by the fire as if trying to soak up heat, his eyes frequently wet from tears, not of sadness, but of pain. He lasted for months in that condition until it finally took him and I knew then that cancer was a monster.

Since then it has taken others, both friends and family, a young mother with two pre-teen children, a cousin who was like a big brother to me, and a girl I never got to know for she was taken before her twentieth birthday. Other family members are still fighting. There’s my Dad, who meets it all with a good humour that is humbling, and my godmother who has battled bowel cancer into remission twice.

Cancer is a monster. I can’t fight it for them. But as a writer there is something I can do.

Just yesterday the idea came to me. I’m not the only one who writes about monsters. Maybe together, there was something we could all do. The idea grew and grew in my head and wouldn’t leave me alone. So I did something about it.

I’ve been discussing a possible cancer-themed anthology with Stephen James Price who has taken over Ghostwriter Publications. He’s agreed in principle to a POD paperback and ebook release, all proceeds to cancer charities. Steve and I will be joint editors (and possibly contribute a collaborated story.)

Provisional title is THE BIG C.

I’ve been inviting some writers I’ve always wanted to work with and whose work I admire. I’m proud of these virtual friends, as they’re coming through for the project with enthusiasm.

Recruitment is going well. Provisionally signed up so far I have: Gary McMahon, Scott Nicholson, Steven Savile, Steve Lockley, Steve Duffy, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Allyson Bird and John Shirley.

And we’ve got a cover artist signed up too… Simon Marshall Jones. He does great work that’ll be perfect for the book.

I’m still waiting to get decisions from others I have invited, but I already feel energised and ready to take the project on.

Cancer is a monster.

I plan to fight it the best way I know how. Watch this space.

—()—

I am really rather chuffed that I was asked to provide a cover for this endeavour – my wife Liz went through an ovarian cancer scare last year, and her mother and aunt died through the disease’s ravages. So, even if Wille was unaware of this before he asked me, this project is something that actually has some relevance to me and my nearest and dearest. Which makes it even more important that I produce my best work – I already have an image in mind for this, one that I feel will express the dread this disease holds for many.

The book will be published next year, in time for the convention season. Keep checking here for regular updates.


Even MORE news…

Posted in News on October 30, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

I have just received another painting commission – to do a portrait of horror writer GARY MCMAHON…. looking forward to going completely batty on this one and creating something that will truly reflect both him and his writing… I’m already buzzing with ideas…

I’ll be starting on it in the new year (as I have so much on in the meantime) and when I do, there’ll be progress reports on both this blog and Gary’s, so you can watch the painting taking on a life of its own… so look out for that!

(Maybe this could be the start of yet another new venture… horror author portraits… who knows, eh?)

Onwards and upwards, as they say!! =D

Spectral Press subs – imminent availability

Posted in News on October 30, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Okay, so the new bank account has been opened, which means that within a week or so, you’ll be able to pay for privilege of having the whole of the first year’s publications sent right to your door (I have to wait until the debit card comes through before I can set the Paypal account up). You’ll be able to pay through that site, and each sub will cost £10UK/£12EU /$20US/ $25US RoW (all prices inclusive of postage and packing). Individual chapbooks will be available for £3.50UK/£4EU/$8US/$12RoW (again all prices inclusive of p+p).

Please email me at spectralpress@gmail.com for expressions of interest or further details.

Spectral Press is definitely on its way!!

Some quick news…

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , on October 30, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

I’m not sure just how much I can say or not say at present, so I’ll just give a quick hint here of something else I’m now involved in… I’ve been asked to provide the cover painting for a charity anthology, scheduled to appear sometime next year in time for the convention season. What I will also say is that, judging from some of the messages already flying into my inbox there are some exciting authors already on-board, with some potentially mind-blowing ones put forward as possibles – if they say yes, then it looks set to be THE anthology of 2011.

Talking of such things, Simon Kurt Unsworth gave a charity reading for Cancer Research at his local shop-branch in Morecambe on Thursday evening. On top of that, some of his wife Wendy’s legendary cakes were on sale too. Much money was raised, but they could always do with more. There were some limited edition chapbooks available of his story The Pennine Tower Restaurant – I don’t know whether there are any of them left, but it might be worth your while contacting Simon to see if there are any still for sale. They only cost £3, a £1 of which goes toward Cancer Research UK’s continuous efforts to find a cure for this devastating disease – thousands are affected every year, and it’s all too likely that every one of us will know someone who has been so affected, or will be. You can contact him through his blog here.

Now, it’s become apparent that I have a whole pile of books here waiting  to be reviewed – so this is a forewarning that I will be going through them this weekend and prioritising which ones I will be looking at first. As I mentioned elsewhere, I will be cutting back my reviewing activities to a more manageable level next year in order to concentrate on my other projects – however, I am a man of my word and there fore I will review what has already been sent to me. I won’t be giving up reviewing entirely, as I enjoy it too much. Apologies to anyone who has sent material but not seen a review yet – I may be tardy, but my reviews are thorough and in-depth.

That’s it on the news front today – there may be a main blog-piece later, but I am opening a bank account for Spectral Press this morning, so I have no idea when I’ll be back. In the meantime, please feel free to wander around the rest of this site, while I go and indulge in some breakfast before venturing outside.

Books galore….

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , on October 29, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Just a quick post to tell you about some books I received today, which were:

For review –

The Call of Kerberos (Twilight of Kerberos Book 2), by Jonathan Oliver (Abaddon Books)

The End of the Line, by Various, edited by Jonathan Oliver (Solaris Books)

Especially looking forward to the latter, as I have heard some great things about it and I am attending its launch in London in November- autographs aplenty, mateys… =D

I also received a rather nice book this morning, one that I have already reviewed – Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits and Other Curious Things by Cate Gardner (Strange Publications). It was signed, of course, by Cate and she also thought to include a signed bookmark, too. But, what really makes it special is what’s on the back cover – above an excerpt from the introduction by Nathaniel Lambert is a quote from my review of the collection, posted at Beyond Fiction some months ago and reposted here a month later. That has really made my day,  even after I managed to lock myself out of the house earlier…. and accidentally insult Steve Duffy by forgetting to include his name in the list of Spectral authors in the previous blog (and of course, I am now suitably contrite)…

Spectral Press update and other plans…

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on October 29, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

It’s been a while since I posted anything about my Spectral Press project , so I thought it a good idea to let you all know what’s happening. So here goes:

For starters, this is the line-up for the first year’s publications:

What They Hear in the Dark, by Gary McMahon (April/May 2011)

The Abolisher of Roses, by Gary Fry (September 2011)

Nowhere Hall, by Cate Gardner (January 2012)

More details and blurb about each very soon. There’ll only be the three in the first year, mainly to judge the kind of reaction to what Spectral has to offer. If it looks like the imprint will be successful then I will increase the frequency to every quarter. My aim, eventually (and this is only maybe), is to publish a chapbook every two months OR two every quarter.

The subscription price for the first year is £10 – I’ll be working out the price very soon for both the rest of the world and the $ price for the US. I’ll be setting up the new bank account tomorrow so that within the next week or two I’ll be able to start accepting subscription payments should anyone wish to take one out.

Other writers who have either agreed to write, or have expressed an interest in writing, for Spectral Press are (in no particular order): Alison Littlewood, Steve Duffy, Thana Niveau, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Steve Lockley, Stephen Volk, Mark West, John Llewellyn Probert, Johnny Mains, Simon Bestwick, Nicholas Royle, RB Russell, Willie Meikle and Angela Slatter. Something for everyone there, I should think. Plus it’ll keep the imprint going for a while….

Jumping the gun maybe, but I am also thinking about Spectral Press in the longer term. This is more of a visualisation exercise than anything else, but this is what I would like to see happening with the imprint.

As well as the main Spectral Press chapbooks, I envision two other, parallel series further down the road:

Spectral Old Masters – republishing ghostly and supernatural tales from the early part of last century and before. I don’t quite know how to go about sourcing public domain/out-of-copyright stories (which, intially, I think they would have to be due to financial constraints) so any help in that quarter appreciated. I imagine them to look something along the lines of the main Spectral line, but with more of a Victorian/Edwardian feel to them.

Spectral Pulp – this would be more of a fun line of chapbooks, giving authors a chance to write something they wouldn’t normally attempt as an hommage to the ‘golden age’ of 50s and 60s pulp publishing. This could take the form of a hard-boiled detective story, or a fantasy story, or maybe a science fiction one, accompanied by some lurid and gloriously technicolour cover artwork that reflects the kind of thing that used to grace newsstands and airport lounge book-racks back in the day. The more outré the better in the last two cases….

Even without the two other ideas coming into being, I’ll be plenty busy enough. This ultimately means that next year I will be cutting back on the reviewing (although the books I have here now will be dealt with, I promise), as I want to concentrate on making Spectral Press the success I think it deserves to be, plus I want to resume my own story-writing. I’ve neglected the latter for far too long, I feel. I have many stories, and story ideas, that I’ve been toying with over the last four or so months, none of which have got very far because of time constraints plus certain personal issues that have deigned to intervene. Those latter are now slowly being resolved, so I should have more time to deal with reviews and Spectral business.

At any rate, I hope you can all join me on-board this exciting new venture. I am definitely looking forward to getting the first chapbook out next year – it promises to be quite an interesting ride.

Old vs New

Posted in Books, Film, General Musings with tags , , , , , , , on October 28, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

A couple of blogs back, in my review of the final episode of BBC4’s A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss, I intimated at the end of the first paragraph that my tastes in horror have changed over the years. Thinking about it since, I have come to realise just how much they’ve actually changed, more so than I thought. Which, I happen to think, is a very good thing.

Wind back about 20 – 25 years ago. Then, I wasn’t much of a horror film fan, although I loved reading horror – Brian Lumley, Ramsey Campbell, TED Klein, HP Lovecraft, and Clive Barker were amongst my favourite authors. I absolutely revelled in the verbal bloodshed. Films, however, were a different matter. I was incredibly squeamish, and always had been. I remember a particular event, when I was around nine or ten, when one of the Sunday colour supplements ran a feature on open-heart surgery, accompanied by photographs of the operation. I distinctly remember feeling dizzy and nauseous after reading it, almost fainting in the process. My parents laughed, obviously thinking it was highly amusing.

Don’t get me wrong – I did watch horror films occasionally, but they were mostly the Universal/RKO Pictures ones. I loved all those oldies, principally because I owned all of the Aurora ‘Monsters’ model kits, with their glow-in-the-dark hands and faces. I was an avid collector of those things, much to the dismay of my parents, I should imagine. Even in my early twenties, my preferred horror-fare was print based, along with those fairly ‘safe’ b&w films.

Then, sometime in my mid-20s, a friend introduced me to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead film, championed by no less a figure than Stephen King himself. That first time I barely made it though the first twenty minutes, in part because of the expectations I’d gained from reading the video cover hyperbole. A couple of months later, I rented it out, and got a little further in this time, but still bailed out way before the end. Third time, some months later still, and I got through it all, and you know what? I loved it.

Then, of course, I wanted more – much more. And the more horror films I saw, the more horror I wanted to see. After a time, simple scares were no longer enough. I started buying Fangoria magazine on a regular basis, and I learnt about all these films that were available over in the US, the stills of which seemed to imply that much bloodiness abounded in them. Some of these films, I discovered, were almost impossible to get over here because of censorship issues, or those that were available were heavily cut. I was adamant that I would only see the uncut versions. Eventually I found a video search service that not only found them for me, but also supplied me with many of the banned films (including the so-called ‘video nasties’).

And so, that was the pattern of my film viewing for years thereafter. I went looking for more and more extreme films, just to push my boundaries. Then, no more than a couple of years ago, I started to tire of it all – in fact, I got to the point where I could barely watch any kind of film ( something which occasionally still happens today). Over the last year especially, my horror reading tastes have also changed – mainly, I think, after having become a book-reviewer, where I’ve come across the more subtle and imaginative takes on what horror can be. Additionally, I’ve started reading older authors (older as in beginning of last century rather than anything to do with a writer’s age) and reading them has given me a greater appreciation of how they were able to imply horror effectively, without recourse to gory pyrotechnics.

I think it’s got something to do with age and growing up, this whole shifting of tastes thing. Don’t get me wrong, I still think there’s a place for the Saw-type films of this world, but I have to say that such things no longer have quite the same appeal for me as they once did. Certainly, in the wake of Mark Gatiss’s recent series, I am inclined to go back to all those old films and watch them again. I think it’s also got a lot to do with the peculiar atmosphere and ambience, qualities that appear to be better created through b&w films than colour (that’s not always the case , of course, and is an entirely subjective opinion). Plus, the cut-away at the very last second in some scenes suggests something more horrific than that which was probably intended. I like having to use my imagination, rather than having it served up on a platter to me.

I’ve no doubt a certain amount of nostalgia for the old-style of film-making plays its part, too. In these days of CGI and ultra-realistic effects, it’s far too easy to make things look so real that it could be a documentary. You know, however, that it’s all done very cleverly with computer trickery, and that knowledge often blunts the enjoyment. It takes the fun out of it. Those b&w films can be genuinely creepy and horrific in a way that’s missing from modern horror.

I realise that today’s horror films reflect current concerns and are extrapolations of them, and therefore most definitely have a place. But I can’t help thinking that, even given that, I get far more enjoyment and a lot more spooky thrills from the old ones. Plus, in some ways, the lack of ‘sophistication’  in those oldies (but only in comparison with modern films – many b&w films of yesteryear were very sophisticated in their own way) lends them a certain charm. Some of them worked very cleverly within the range of the restrictions placed on film studios back then, bypassing them in surprising and innovative ways. I sometimes feel that present-day audiences dismiss them too readily out of hand, simply because a) they’re old, b) they’re shot in b&w and c) they don’t show things explicitly enough. Perhaps modern horror films (or maybe cinema in general) has taken the edge off of our ability to bring something to the viewing experience.

This new-found appreciation of more subtle horror will manifest in ways other than just in my film-watching and reading tastes – I’ll be doing much more than that. If things go to plan, then I’ll be more than just reacting, I’ll be returning the pleasure that stories and films like those old b&w ones have given me. Keep your eye out on this blog for more information as and when it becomes available – good times are ahead….

Are reviews useful?

Posted in General Musings with tags , , , , , , , on October 27, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

In this blog-post, I want to talk about something that I’ve been pondering for a little bit – whether reviews affect sales in any way, either positively or negatively. Here, I am not talking about my reviews in particular, but just about reviews generally. There’s a specific reason why I’ve pondering this, which I will explain below.

As many of you know, until the beginning of this year, I ran a record label, an enterprise which I’d started in 2007 – 2008. As is the nature of such things, one of the ways in which to broadcast your product’s existence to the world is to send out review copies to magazines, webzines and radio stations, in the hope that some of them will do a write-up on them. And so, when I released the very first CD, from Swedish noise outfit Keplers Odd, I sent a goodly number of them out, here, there and everywhere. And indeed, within a month or two, the reviews started coming in.

And every one of them was a positive one. Even some nationally- and globally-distributed magazines thought that not only was the music itself good, but the whole package spoke volumes about the careful thought that had gone into every aspect of the release. One or two reviewers even hailed FracturedSpecesRecords as a promising new star in the underground music firmament, with a bright future ahead of it. Needless to say, the elation (and the vindication) sent me off on a high.

Every subsequent release had exactly the same thing happen – universally positive reviews (except one for the very last release – but that was still only one out of something like a hundred reviews altogether…). And each one of those releases I thought would be the breakthrough CD, the one that would kickstart FracturedSpaces into a regularly-selling concern. In parallel I was also running a small online webshop, selling not just my own CDs but those from other labels as well – with the uniformly positive reviews then it would only be a matter of time before more people would be visiting the website and that would be helping to pay for itself, too.

Alas, even after two years and a lot of money spent, the dream of making even a small living from the business turned into something of a nightmare. Sales were abysmal, even with the universality of acclaim for the label. A lot of the blame for its ultimate failure must be laid at my door – I admit that. Inadequte understanding of the market, for one. Releasing too many CDs for another. But there were other factors involved, like bad timing – launching a record label at the start of a recession wasn’t one of my better ideas.

But still, I would have thought that a good review would have had some positive influence on sales of the CD, in just the same way that a bad review would dent the figures negatively. I have had a few people say that one of my book reviews has actually persuaded them to buy it, for instance. So, the fact that even with good reviews people were still reluctant to buy the CDs (recession notwithstanding) came as somethng of a surprise. Perhaps those who buy music are either incredibly fussy or just more careful with the money they have. If they’re faced with an unknown quantity, they go for what they’re familiar with instead.

The experience has taught me some valuable lessons – this is why, for instance, Spectral Press is going to be on a much smaller scale. Additionally, the writers on the roster are either well-known or are starting to become noticed. They already have track records and fan bases. My ambitions this time are quite modest. I have plans for the imprint, but they will only come to fruition if things take off.

What I am asking you out there, both writers and publishers, is whether reviews have affected sales of your books either way. Also, have the readers among you ever been influenced by a favourable review of some book, enough to persuade you to go out and buy it? Is it, perhaps, just a case of  the markets in question simply being two very different demographics ie, the music-buying public is very different to the book-buying one? Therefore, that priorites are different as well. Also, did the depths of last year’s recession bring in an added sales-depressing effect, regardless of any positive reviews garnered?

By the way, I am not denigrating the efforts of reviewers here – quite the opposite, in fact. Publishers rely on them to do two things: make the public aware of new publications and to grade the quality or otherwise of the books in question. Sometimes, it’s a thankless task, because you occasionally get sent books which are so bad they’re practically unreviewable. I am not saying that reviewers can make or break a book (or CD), but that they can affect how it’s received and perceived by potential purchasers. How do any other reviewers feel about the points I have touched upon here?

Next year I will once more be putting myself (and my writers) at the mercy of the reviewers, as well as the book-buying public. I am hoping, of course, that Spectral Press will be an unqualified success for all concerned, and that any good reviews forthcoming will positively affect the sales. Being on this side of the table has given me an indication of how it all works, but my experience with FracturedSpaces necessarily affects how I see things as well. I do feel that book buyers, with horror book buyers in particular, are distinctly different to those who are more into their music. Only time will tell, though – and, whatever happens, I am excited to see what the future holds for Spectral.

Dark Fiction Magazine: Press release

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , on October 26, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

My good friend and Beyond Fiction collaborator Sharon Ring (who is also the driving force behind the Dark Fiction Review webzine), has joined with Del Lakin-Smith to launch a new online magazine, Dark Fiction Magazine. Who better to tell you all about it than Sharon herself:



LONDON, MIDLANDS AND MANCHESTER, UK, 26 Oct 2010Dark Fiction Magazine (www.darkfictionmagazine.co.uk) is pleased to announce the launch of a new service for fans of genre fiction. Beginning Oct 31st (Halloween), Dark Fiction Magazine will be launching a monthly magazine of audio short stories. This is a free service designed to promote genre short fiction to an audience of podcast and radio listeners. A cross between an audio book, an anthology and a podcast, Dark Fiction Magazine is designed to take the enjoyment of short genre fiction in a new and exciting direction.
Dark Fiction Magazine publishes at least four short stories a month: a mix of award-winning shorts and brand new stories from both established genre authors and emerging writers. Each episode will have a monthly theme and feature complementary tales from the three main genres – science fiction, fantasy and horror.

Co-founder Del Lakin-Smith said: “I love reading short stories, and with the increased uptake of mobile and portable devices this really is a growth area. But like many I find I don’t have as much time as I would like to read, so I tend to listen to many podcasts on the go. The idea of replacing my podcasts with high quality, well performed audio short stories is something I find highly appealing, so Sharon and I set about making that a reality.”

Sharon Ring, co-founder of Dark Fiction Magazine, said: “From technophobe to technophile in less than two years; I spend a great deal of time working online. To while away those hours, I like to listen to podcasts and drink copious amounts of strong coffee. Now, while I don’t recommend you drink as much coffee as I, I do recommend you check out what Del and I have created. We love podcasts; we love genre fiction; we built a site to bring the two together.”

The theme of Dark Fiction Magazine’s first episode is The Darkness Descends and will feature four fantastical stories:

  • Maybe Then I’ll Fade Away by Joseph D’Lacey (exclusive to Dark Fiction Magazine)
  • Pumpkin Night by Gary McMahon
  • Do You See? by Sarah Pinborough (awarded the 2009 British Fantasy Society Short Story Award)
  • Perhaps The Last by Conrad Williams

Lined up for future episodes are Pat Cadigan, Cory Doctorow, Jon Courtenay, Grimwood, Ramsey Campbell, Rob Shearman, Kim Lakin-Smith, Ian Whates, Lauren Beukes, Mark Morris, Adam Nevill, Gareth L Powell, Jeremy C Shipp, Adam Christopher, and Jennifer Williams, among others.

With a team of dedicated and passionate narrators, a central recording facility and a love of genre, Dark Fiction Magazine delivers a truly outstanding aural experience.

Dark Fiction Magazine will also be producing special editions with seasonal stories and topical issues, competitions, flash fiction episodes and novel excerpts. Each episode aims to shock and delight, to horrify and confound as Dark Fiction Magazine takes its listeners on an aural tour through the world of genre fiction.

Dark Fiction Magazine is a collaborative project, created and developed by Del Lakin-Smith and Sharon Ring. For further information, contact Del or Sharon at
editorial@darkfictionmagazine.co.uk

TV REVIEW: “A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss: ep #3”, BBC4, Mondays @9pm

Posted in Reviews, TV with tags , , , , , , , on October 26, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Out of the three episodes, I was least fussed about seeing this one, as I’m not a particularly a fan of ‘modern’ horror films (although, as always, there are notable exceptions). If it had been broadcast a couple of years back, then the story would have been the opposite. Not so long ago, I loved all the slasher movies, the gory bloodbath films and the viscerally bloody cinematic spectacles that both the independents and Hollywood were dishing out. However, these days I am much more at home with the older, more suggestive movies, the ones where imagination plays as much a part of experience as anything that’s actually put on screen (and the reason why my tastes have changed is for another blog).

However, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It did show clips from a few particular ‘modern’ favourites of mine, like The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead, but even these are less reliant on viscerality than they are on implication and psychological horror. The same goes for David Cronenburg’s films, also discussed. Although his films are wetly disgusting, they still have an intellectual underpinning that elevates them above mere superficial gory viewing fare, an aspect that was well brought out by Gatiss.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, adapted from Robert Bloch’s novel of the same name, is where this episode started, as it helped to redefine the thinking of film-makers in the wake of its release – it was still a big studio production, though, with adequate financing to help it along. However, it also paved the way for the advent of the modern horror-shocker as we know today. Gatiss rightly then points to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead as the film, a thoroughly and unashamedly independent production, that truly encouraged imaginative film-makers to push things further and also make the point that you didn’t necessarily require a big budget to create something special. It also strongly emphasised that you didn’t need to be part of the studio system in order to make films that a) had impact and b) made money – all it required was creativity, imagination and ingenuity.

Fim-making is very different today – CGI has democratised the industry in such a way that the ingenuity displayed by the Romeros, Tobe Hoopers, William Friedkins, David Seltzers and John Carpenters of the world is no longer an essential prerequisite. And that has been to the detriment of the industry ( a view I believe that’s shared by Gatiss). Gatiss decided, then, that his history should end with 1978’s Halloween, although I think that’s jumping the gun a bit (see below). It’s undoubtedlyan influential film, but for all the wrong reasons. Even Carpenter was self-effacing enough to acknowledge that it spawned a legion of cheaply-made, unimaginative excuses to splash as much gore in pointless celluloid catalogues of murder and mayhem (and that self-effacement at least earned him a little bit of the respect back he lost after his comments about Val Lewton). As he said, Halloween was made cheaply and made money – but that formula doesn’t always work out, as many subsequent would-be Carpenters discovered.

Although not mentioned, but which nevertheless I think was very subtly implied, this trail ultimately lead to the infamous slew of ‘video-nasty’ films that emerged in the mid eighties. I’ve seen most of them in my time, uncut, and although many are laughably mediocre, some of them are informed with a mean-spirited nastiness that has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Certainly, even today, the pushing of the bounds of both taste and people’s nerves forces film-makers to enter into territories where there shoudn’t be any need to go.

Having said that, although the point at which Gatiss stopped his history was necessarily a personal choice and in some ways a correct one, as Stephen Volk rightly pointed out to me there have been excellent films [from that same era and*] since Halloween, such as Carrie and Hellraiser for example. Gatiss did reference some newer releases, such as the Ring films, The Devil’s Backbone and The Orphanage, but these are all foreign-made, rather than either American or British. Just why that is, is anyone’s guess, but, for my part, I believe it’s because there’s less emphasis on cheap thrills and more on creativity and artistic sensibilities in these countries. I think that mentions at least of some of the better films of the last two or three decades would have been a good idea, rather than leave one with the impression that after Halloween nothing good has come out of horror cinema, when it undeniably has. Maybe this is where a fourth instalment would have been useful.

Despite  the many omissions, of either notable studios or films, this has indeed been both a meritorious and welcome series. It’s one of the drawbacks, I suppose, of the TV medium, limited by both time and budgetary constraints – there will always be something that will get left out. Overall, however, this has been a useful survey of genre cinema (with the two previous episodes my particular favouroites, on reflection) and I can only hope that somewhere along the line something deeper and more detailed will be attempted. And that it won’t just be commissioned in time for Hallowe’en either.

(*Text amended to reflect the comment made by Stephen Volk below – and my reply)