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Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Exorcist - A BBC Radio adaptation.

I'll let you into a secret - I don't like compiling 'best of lists'  and like reading them even less. I find them often lazy, cliched and lacking in any sort of innovation or interest. If I was however to sit down and waste a few moments of my precious time and come up with a top 10 or (god forbid) top 20 list of my particular all time favourite classic horror movies, The Exorcist would never be in it. I know I know, I can hear the gasps of disbelief and derision now across the length and breadth of Classichorrorland (it's a lovely place to live, but we only allow a select few in) ..."But it's the greatest horror film ever!!"......"But people ran screaming from the cinema when it was first shown!"......."But what about the spinning head, projectile vomiting and copious amounts of The power of Christ compels you!!?????" Yes, I can hear the chorus of abuse about my blasphemous comments (see what I did there?) about its divine (sic) right to be regarded as the greatest ever horror film. Of course we all know the real header of that list would be a straightforward toss up between The Wicker Man or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, depending on my mood and what day of the week it happened to be. However, that's a debate for another time.

Don't get me wrong, It's not as if I hate The Exorcist - on the contrary I rather like the film, I would even go as far as saying that it would be somewhere in my all time top 30......probably. The plot is clever, the atmosphere is deliciously claustrophobic, the acting (particularly from Lee J. Cobb and Max Von Sydow) is sublime and the pre-CGI camera trickery is still spookily effective. Moreover, the impact of the movie (and the 1971 novel of the same name), not just within the horror genre, but in a much wider effect within popular culture is undeniable. Indeed, back in 2003, the movie was voted into second place of a UK television channels '100 Greatest scary moments'.......and dear god help us with THOSE insufferable TV lists.

And therein possibly lies part of the problem that I have with the movie. The fact it has become SO ingrained in the public consciousness, SO overly quoted and referenced, SO closely associated with a couple of notable visual effects that have now become cliched and ultimately SO revered within and without the horror community. All so much so that I now find it difficult to think about it, or even watch it without being able to dispense with all the '100 best of' nonsense that accompanies it. It's a good movie, maybe even a very good movie - but is it the greatest ever? I simply don't think so.

So when the good old BBC announced that for the very first time they were producing a radio adaptation of the story for airing on Radio 4, I was intrigued. Actually, I would go as far as saying that I was more than a little pleased at the prospect of the visual cliches being stripped away and leaving us with the task of visualising the text for ourselves as we would have done when reading the book. I was bordering on feeling excited when I saw that the adaptation was going to rely heavily on the written source material of the novel rather than the cinematic screenplay. Excellent!
"The Power of........." oh, you know how it goes.
So armed with a glass of wine (or two) and a nice comfy chair (I know it doesn't sound very Rock and Roll BUT it was 11 pm on a school night) I made myself ready for the first of the two-part adaptation. 

From the outset is was obvious that Robert Forrest's adaptation was taking a distantly different approach to the story than the movie version did. I've often felt that the most interesting of all the story's characters is that of the tortured Father Karras, indeed the book gives far more time and texture to his narrative than the film ever did, which instead decided to focus more on the possessed girl as the central figure. As a result of that decision, the folklore surrounding the movie more often then not includes reference to the escapades of Linda Blair's Regan rather than the far more compelling story of a man trying to battle with his own demons and faith. In doing that the movie missed out on the novel's central premise that Karras, and not Regan was the actual target of the demon - she was but a disposable vessel for the demon to torment, attack and ultimately destroy the priest's faith. 

Robert Glenister as Karras and Ian McDiarmid as Merrin - 
apparently queuing for the toilet....
The beauty of this adaptation was by returning to the source material we now experience the vast majority of the plot from Karras's point of view - and this is a master stroke. Through the power and intimacy that radio can bring, and with it Robert Glenisters' masterful performance, we hear every syllable of anguish and self-doubt in the priest's voice. We experience the pain of the guilt he feels, not just for the possible neglect contributing to the death of his mother but also in the very real possibility that he may forever lose what little faith in god that he has left. This exploration of a man battling with not only his own personal demons but the physical demon that inhabits Regan is deeply satisfying because it perfectly captures the sub-text of the story - the battle not just between good and evil but more specifically, it is the battle of wits and will between Karras and the demon.

However, this adaptation of The Exorcist is not just about character study, the core of the story is of course spine-chilling horror - and this is where the true power of radio comes into its own. Because the bedroom scenes of the confrontation between the priests on the one side pitting their wits, faith and sanity against the demon are quite simply some of most effectively chilling experiences (through any entertainment medium) that I've ever experienced. 
She may look like a nice person 
- but she's a bit of a devil

This is due in part to the simply stunning performance from Alexandra Mathie, who playing the demon, conveys perfectly the chilling menace and sadistic taunting of the evil spirit as it plays with the mind of poor Karris. It says something of the scrupulous and meticulous nature of the production as a significant amount of time was apparently spent on working with the actress to learn how to speak backwards. The chill factor of a radio production such as this rests on the effectiveness of its pivotal role and this is achieved in absolute abundance here. As excellent as the rest of the cast are (and they ARE) it is the performance of Mathie that seals the deal. She is simply magnificent.

The genius of what the BBC have achieved here is simple. By putting to one side the cultural phenomenon that is the cinematic version and retiring to the source text, they have used the power that only radio has to further focus attention to the psychological torture by the demon towards Father Karras. The tension is slow to build up as the story gradually unfolds until you wonder what that feeling is that you're experiencing well into the proceedings. You soon realise that there has been a unhurried, chilling and claustrophobic feeling of venomous proportions that has grabbed hold of you by the throat and refuses to let go.

Well that's all good and perfect then? Well no, there a couple of minor quibbles that I experienced in the two hours of listening. Lydia Wilson as Regan gives a thoroughly fine performance as the foul-mouthed possesee of the man down-under. However, at no point are we ever convinced that Regan is actually 12 as Wilson's voice (as good as she is) simply isn't young enough. As a consequence we lose a little of the unease and chills that we should be experiencing at the thought of a young, innocent 12 year old girl spewing forth (sometimes literally) and acting out her range of demonic profanity and depravity as she suffers under the will of the demon.

There are also at some of the 'non-possession' scenes where there are a couple of examples of less than satisfactory sound effects, which came as something of a surprise from a contemporary production by the BBC. However, these are but minor quibbles. The sound effects more than come into their own during the bedroom scenes (as it were), I may never hear the sound of a bed banging and feel the same way in quite the same way again.

I simply cannot recommend this highly enough. It's been half a day since I listened to the extraordinary climax of The Exorcist and I am still coping with the pernicious thoughts and emotions that are still there concealed in my mind ......... and soul.

At the date of writing this the two-part adaptation is still available on on the BBC iPlayer until the end of the week - catch it if you can!


Lydia Wilson and Alexandra Mathie
Author - William Blatty

Father Karras - Robert Glenister

The Demon - Alexandra Mathie

Regan - Lydia Wilson

Chris - Teresa Gallagher

Merrin - Ian McDiarmid

Kinderman - Karl Johnson

Karl Johnson and Bryan Dick
Dyer - Bryan Dick

Karl - Gerard McDermott

Willie - Christine Absalom

College President - Paul Stonehouse

Frank - Ben Onwukwe

Sharon - Hannah Wood

Director/Producer - Gaynor MacFarlane

Adaptor - Robert Forrest

Saturday, 15 February 2014

We Belong Dead Fearbook

After reviewing the latest issue of the truly excellent Space Monsters Magazine in my previous blog entry of wonder, I subsequently received a message from Mr Eric McNaughton, the grand-master and all round dictator of the equally fabulous classic horror zine of We Belong Dead.

Now my long suffering  reader will know that not so long ago I penned a rather excellent, and some (well me) might say profound piece on We Belong Dead’s rise from the ashes of publication history to be reborn after a period of sixteen long years – and a triumphant return it was. In fact the return from the dead in the shape of Issue 9 was such such a success that it was decided to produce a collection of all the best bits and put them together into some form of, er, collection. It was to be called the The Official We Belong Dead Fearbook (see what they did there? - genius).

Although he didn’t say so in as many words, it is quite clear from our discussion that Eric was rather impressed with the blog article on Space Monsters magazine and so suggested that I might like to review Fearbook. Well, at least I think he 'suggested', there was quite possibly in retrospect some dark sub-text to his request that I just cannot seem to put my finger on.

So I recommend that you see for yourselves as the conversation ran something like this.....

Mr Eric McNaughton: Now then laddie!

Me: Er, yes my lord?

Mr Eric McNaughton: About that article that you tried to write on the wonderful Space Monsters Magazine?

Me: Erm, tried?

Mr Eric McNaughton: Yes, tried. It's a brilliant magazine that deserved much more than the frankly embarrassing attempt that you put together. I know that you tried your best so I suppose that counts for something. Well allright, I may be possibly being a little harsh, some parts of it were almost acceptable.

Me: Thank you, I think.......

Mr Eric McNaughton: So I'm giving you one more chance to redeem yourself and try to put together at least a few words with more than two syllables on my magnificent We Belong Dead Fearbook.

Me: Thank you Mr Sir - you know I won't let you down!

Mr Eric McNaughton: Well actually we all know that you probably will. However the Fearbook is my collection of my favourite selection of articles from the long out of print editions from 1993-1997 - so making sure people know about this chance to own some classic horror history is falling for the time being (so help me god) on your shoulders.

Me: Ok Mon Capitan, anything else that I should know?

Mr Eric McNaughton: In it’s 5 year incarnation WBD went from an amateur, shoddily printed zine to a slick, professional looking mag. It was indeed a learning curve, but along the way we assembled a most talented group of writers and artists, many of whom still contribute to the 21st century WBD. If you look at issue 1 almost the entire issue was written by myself, but that soon changed from WBD 2 onwards as our popularity grew. The production of the zine was very old school, remember these were the days before internet and email! I would have to type up ALL the articles which were mailed to me, do all the page layout by hand literally using scissors and glue! I remember my delight when I finally managed to get an electronic typewriter to put together issue 7! How the world has changed!

Me: Blimey, somebody has some passion!

Mr Eric McNaughton: Thats right my good man! Now get cracking on with it and don't cock it up for once  - remember, I know people!

So on that not so veiled threat on my personage I began to read the whopping 120 page Fearbook and immediately began immersing myself In its nostalgic loveliness. As I initially 'flicked through the pages' my eye caught one particular feature hiding away on page 43 -  simply called, TV Horror. The introduction for which from Neil Ogley goes as follows; 

"During the first incarnation of We Belong Dead, I had the idea of pulling together a listing of all the BBC2 Horror Double Bill seasons to form an article for the fledgling fanzine. (I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who had that idea.) As a youngster, like many others I was often allowed to stay up to watch horror movies and I loved the weekly offerings that ran regularly throughout the summer. "

"Back then most people thought the horror double bill seasons ran from 1975 until 1981 however it seems that even though the BBC skipped a season in 1982, a final series of double bills was broadcast during the summer of 1983 although this season was entirely made up of the classic Universal horrors from the 30’s and 40’s all of which had been shown before, predominantly in the 1977 season Dracula Frankenstein & Friends."

And what do you know? That particular paragraph could have actually written by me (though possibly not nearly as well), because the scenario that Neil described was something that completely parallelled my own introduction to the wonderful world of horror. I've mentioned in previous articles in this blog of wonder that I've often traced back my initial introduction to horror by being allowed to stay up late during one childhood Saturday evening to watch Son of Frankenstein from Universal Pictures. It's a long cherished memory of mine, however, the problem has always been that I've never been able to remember exactly when this took place. That is until now, as this little snippet from the Fearbook shows. 


Saturday 2 July 1977

23.05-00.25 Dracula (Universal1931) 
00.25-01.35 Frankenstein (Universal 1931)

Saturday 9 July 1977
22.50-00.00 Bride of Frankenstein (Universal 1935)
00.00-01.25 Brides of Dracula (Hammer 1960)

Saturday 16 July 1977

22.45-00.15 The Mummy (Universal 1932)
00.15-01.05 The Wolfman (Universal 1940)

Saturday 23 July 1977

22.10-23.45 Son of Frankenstein (Universal 1938)

23.45-01.10  Kiss of the Vampire (Hammer 1964)  

There you have it, the official birthday of the Fifth Dimension blog could very well be said to be ten minutes past ten on the 23rd July 1977 - how brilliant a discovery is that?!

I can hear what you are saying - "OK, big deal but is a relatively small piece of nostalgic memories really important enough to write about?" Well yes it blooming well is because nostalgia is exactly what this joy of a magazine is all about. It perfectly recaptures the plethora memories that we all of a certain age have when we discovered and experienced the wealth of horror from what many remember as the classic age of the genre.

Don't misunderstand me, my love of classic horror doesn't mean that I regard the more contemporary fair as necessarily being sub-standard and not worthy of consideration, On the contrary, each decade since the 1970's to date has seen some magnificent examples of movie making. Moreover, the current independent horror scene is as rich and exciting a period in terms of creative ambition as any time I can remember. No, what I love about this zine and others such as Space Monsters Magazine is that here we have a group of like-minded individuals who are reliving their personal recollections of creepy discovery, and with it, taking us along with them for the ride of a horror lifetime. Something which I and many others have no trouble in relating to and identifying with.

Classic horror needs to be kept in the wider public consciousness - this is magazine is the perfect way to do that.

The 120 page of classic horror loveliness is far too detailed for me to be able to review each and every marvellous article - but I will for now briefly mention three pieces of personal note.

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA  by Eric McNaughton

This article from Eric originally appeared in the very first edition of We Belong Dead and has been revised and updated for the reproduction in the the Fearbook. It's a lovingly detailed appreciation of what I would regard as the best movie version of the Gaston Leroux's classic 1910 novel, and the one that features one of the giants of the classic age of horror, Lon Chaney.

Phantom of the Opera (1925) may put off some people by the fact is is silent and made in black & white, but that would be a mistake. It is a powerful creepy and highly atmospheric production that I and many others are still affected by when viewing in this, the most modern of ages. 

The piece is a delightful loving account, not just only of the movie itself, but also of the behind the scenes work ranging from Chaney's legendary attention to detail in preparation in make-up to his influence on the direction of the film. Eric clearly loves the movie, its theme and location and the article is simply a genuine joy to read.


I've never disguised my almost-clean and respectful love of Miss Pitt and her contribution and legacy to British horror. Gary W Sherratt, who wrote this marvellous piece in the 1990's, when Ingrid was still with us, obviously shared that love too.

The article isn't just lovingly written it is also accompanied (as in the rest of the publication) by a delightful collection of Photos, film posters and lobby cards of the genuinely delicious and talented woman who's horror legacy was thankfully is as strong now as it was when she was still alive. 

The effect of any article can often be measure in how much it makes one think - and after reading this lovely account I think I'll now go my Ingrid Pitt collection and watch the whole damn lot this weekend!

Dan Gale compares Romero’s original classic 1968 Night of the Living Dead with Tom Savini’s 1990 remake in the eighth edition of the magazine. 

I along with every horror fan has their personal views on the qualities (or need) for remakes of classic movies. Indeed, a previous piece or two in this very blog of wonder has compared the merits of the odd remake with its predecessor. Dan Gale provides a well balanced and at times blackly humorous of the two movies and even (perish the thought) manages to say a few kind things about the remake - I know!!
What stands out about the article is that it takes place in the pre-Walking Dead and general Zombiethon climate that seems to exemplify a large chunk of contemporary horror. Reading this particular article in an age when Zombies hadn't been done to death (see what I did there?) is a peculiarly refreshing experience and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

For those of you who are wanting to purchase a copy of the We Belong Dead Fearbook then go TO THIS LINK

The We Belong Dead Facebook page can be found RIGHT HERE

Issue 12 of We Belong Dead is due out very soon!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Space Monsters Magazine

Issue number 3 - excellent, but no Maddie Smith though....
"Space Monsters is dedicated to classic sci-fi, fantasy and monsters in movies and television from the black and white silent era through to the colourful early eighties! 80 black and white A5 pages with full colour front and back covers packed with the very best movies and TV shows from a bygone era.  Featuring features, reviews and artwork from many of the same cast and crew of popular classic horror magazine We Belong Dead,  Space Monsters Magazine has become a huge hit with classic sci-fi and monster movie fans!"
A bold claim in terms of quality and quantity it could be said, from Richard Gladman, the head honcho of Space Monsters Magazine... hmmmmm, a bold statement indeed. 

So when Mr G decided to place a request on Space Monsters Magazine's Facebook at HERE for some genuine requests for reviews of his magazine I thought that I might be able to accomplish two things - firstly to test and challenge the claims of the magazine in my usual biting and insightful way (shut it!). Secondly, it's also a golden chance for me to be genuine once again (the fact that I received a free copy has absolutely nothing to do with my opinion, positive or negative). There are some in my real life away from this blogging lark that may suggest that I'm a compete charlatan  and impostor - but she's only saying that because she knows me....

I may have said it before, but when I was younger and all growing up I was something of a nerd (as opposed to being older and all grown up AND as much of a nerd as ever). The 1970's and 1980's provided a truly rich source of magazine based material for a young nerdy boy (stand in a corner and clean out your mind!) and in my case it was no exception. Perhaps the first magazine I can remember developing an obsession for was the Planet of the Apes publication which was released when I was but a slip of a lad. The magazine accompanied the short-lived spin off television series of the 1970's and was chiefly responsible for my lifelong obsession with the whole Apes movie series, TV series, animated series and remake series......I think you catch my drift.

In those pre-internet days magazines like that and others such as The Six million dollar manAmazing stories and the daddy of them all, Starburst, provided me and other like minded obsessives one of the few links to genres that back in those relatively technologically prehistoric days didn't have the level of acceptability that they may have now. I'm not saying that nowadays our sci-fi, fantasy and horror obsessions are no longer looked down upon - there is still an element of barely disguised snobbishness on some faces when you tell them that you are currently reading/watching the latest piece of science fiction or horror. However, it is safe to say that nerds and geeks are a lot cooler these days than when I was growing up and faced an ever constant tidal wave of in no way concealed derision that I would rather read Philip K.Dick and watch Space 1999 than 'something proper'.

I mentioned some time ago, when I was lucky enough to review copies of the We Belong Dead, just how refreshing it was to see that this modern digital world hasn't completely overshadowed the more traditional forms of publications. For against all considered opinion, paper-based genre magazines seem to be enjoying something of a renaissance with sales and interest being nicely complimented and enhanced by the digital medium. Indeed, I was wandering around a certain movie store just a couple of weeks ago with a friend (yes I do still have friends, surprising I know) where I witnessed a veritable plethora of genre magazines which seemingly catered to every taste that we could possible want...... well most, because as in those dim and dark distant days, apart from such notables such as the wonderful Starburst magazine, classic British themed science fiction and horror still seems to find itself in the lower rankings of publication importance.

But it seems that the tide may well be turning, because in Space Monsters Magazine we have a publication that not only deals with classic Sci-Fi, Fantasy and horror, but even better, a good deal of it's content is British based - hurrah!!

Lets just sit a while and look
 at this picture shall we?....

Now it won't come as much of a surprise to those who have previously read this blogging piece of wonder to hear that  when it comes to Science Fiction I have three particular loves (well three that I can actually talk about without having to consult my already overworked legal team); Classic Sci-Fi & horror, British Sci-Fi & horror and thirdly, absolutely anything featuring the delicious Madeline Smith. 

The third edition Space Monsters Magazine has two of those three important factors - I will sincerely attempt to give an impartial and considered appraisal of the magazine even though there is absolutely no sign of her deliciousness. It may that Maddie may have appeared in issues 1 or 2, however that's not really good enough as I don't have my hands on those two particular copies.

If I was the magazine editor my main stipulation would be that each and every issue should include some reference to her deliciousness. I do acknowledge that it does sound as If I have some dangerous and creepy obsession with Miss Smith and I do seem to appear as if I'm in need of some clinical help.......well, there's a queue for those who believe I'm in need of some psychological help, so get in line :-).

So what sci-fi/fantasy & horror delicacies have in store for us in issue 3 of Space Monsters Magazine ..... well let's find out shall we?

The first thing that caught my eye in regard to the magazine was the stunning layout and artwork (of which a great deal has been specially commissioned) - it quite simply looks amazing. I have only the PDF copy to go by but the paper copy (which I hope to get my hands on soon) is beautifully adorned with not one, but two choices of truly wonderful cover art.
"Bride of Frankenstein in Outer Space"

One example is the one at the top of this blog and the second cover is this stunning piece of artwork by Woody Welch. This and other works from the magazine's artists such as Ash Loydon Trevor Talbert give the overall feel of the magazine a wonderfully rich and textured artistic quality.

Not only that, but there is a veritable plethora of original cinematic stills, poster art and lobby cards, some of which I've never seen before which makes even the most hardened of nerds feel as if he or she is wandering through a veritable science fiction and horror themed Aladdin's cave of wonder. It's all a true feast for the eyes which perfectly compliment the range of articles and features. 

If I was more clued up on Internet copyright I would right at this very moment be downloading and saving each and every one of the posters, cards and film stills for my own personal collection. But of course I'm not doing that. I am however very very jealous and rather intimidated by the range of visual talents on show, they're just showing off and it's not fair.

I will genuinely be getting in touch upon the completion of this blog entry with Mr Welch to obtain a signed copy of the 'Bride of Frankenstein in Outer Space' - and that is in no way sycophantic hyperbole.

A stand-out feature that immediately caught me eye is the magnificent 15 page feature examining the appearance of Frankenstein in the movies. It's written by Sascha Cooper, who according to the background info in the magazine is a professional actress, dancer, psychic medium, writer and owner of Crimson Horse Theatre Company based in Brighton. Yep, definitely again someone who is far too talented for her own good - or in other words, makes me inconsolably jealous and insecure.

The Frankenstein movies produced by Universal Pictures were perhaps my first true horror loves, so this article naturally caught my eye first. It's a gorgeously thoughtful and well researched examination of not only the movies themselves, but also of the literary background and influences dating back to the birth of the story from the story telling competition between Mary Shelley & her band of poetic deviants. 

This wonderful article takes us on a detailed and captivating journey from that initial telling of scary stories that were initially intended just to pass the time during a period of bad weather, through those magnificent Universal Pictures films featuring the genius of Boris Karloff. The piece finishes at the point where we see Shelley's originally tortured  creation now treated as an object of slapstick comedy in the 1948 Abbot and Costello meet Frankenstein - about as far away from the original story but, as the writer nicely argues, still with it's legitimate horror merits. I can't wait for the follow up article which takes up the story from the 1950's when the simply stunning Hammer productions created new paths in Frankenstein lore.  

The Lovely Joan in a bit of a pickle
However, please don't think that this magazine is simply an elitist high-browed view of classics of the genres that you and I love. There are plenty of features that are intelligent yet still fun and enjoyable purely for the sake of being so - an example of which is a lovely piece on the fabulous 1970's big Bug movie Empire of the Ants

Ernie Magnotta provides us with an entertaining write up of this wonderfully (often unintentionally) funny low budget movie. I must admit to always loving this film which features a young and decidedly scrumptious Joan Collins. She plays the role of a decidedly unscrupulous a real estate agent who cons unsuspecting individuals to buy property on an island which is going going transformed into a getaway for the rich and prosperous jet set.

Things however quickly go more than a little pear shaped for Miss Collins' character as it soon transpires that the island is full of intelligent giant carnivorous ants (Naturally). The special effects are pretty ropey, even for a 1970's B movie, but despite that (or probably because of it) the film is a perennial favourite viewing experience of mine and many others. 

A favourite movie given the entertains review treatment that it deserves - a genuine treat.

Emily Booth given the Woody Welch
treatment - as it were.

There is of course much much more, including pieces on French animated feature Fantastic Planet (1973), Ultraman (1966), One Million Years B.C. (1966), Moon Zero Two (1969) - which is a truly wonderful 'Space Western' that I first saw in my teens on one freezing cold winter's evening and to this day I cannot understand why this movie has never reached a wider audience. As a result, I was overjoyed when I saw that this movie was being given the loving treatment that is finally deserved. 

Believe me, I haven't even began to scratch the surface of the plethora of other material in the issue. 

Issue 3 of Space Monsters Magazine is a near perfect visual and literary feast for classic horror and classic sci-fi fans alike. It is obvious that this is a true labour of love for Richard and his team who clearly feel passionately about the genres and subject matter contained within each and every issue. This isn't simply a case of superficial nostalgia for a past age of classic television and cinema, yes it is a genuinely lovely to look at appreciation of gems from out past lives, but there is a genuine show of talent and obvious attention to detail to the features in the magazine.

If that wasn't enough, part of the obviously talented team of writers and artists one particular writer happens to be the truly lovely Emily Booth, presenter de delicious from The Horror Channel, who pens columns on her favourite examples of horror film and television. It is all genuinely excellent stuff.

Now if we could only improve Space Monsters Magazine further in the upcoming issues with some Maddie Smith................

Where to buy Space Monsters Magazine?....well seeing as you're asking .......Here is a list of some fine online and traditional purchasing establishments depending on whether you want the PDF version of the wonderful A5 sized paper edition.

Classic Horror Campaign – 

Dead Good Publishing Ltd (Digital Version) –

The Cinema Store – 5 Upper St Martin's Lane, London WC2H 9NY

Camden Film Fair – Saturday 22nd February 2014

Ninth Circle – various festivals and events throughout 2014

Psychotronic Store –

Scare Store – 

Suspect Video – (605 Markham Street * Toronto * Ontario * Canada * M6G 2L7)

London Film Memorabilia Convention – Saturday 29th March 2014

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Diabolis of Dublin - a vampire novel by Michael Mulvihill

When Michael Mulvihill asked me to review his most recent novel, Diabolis of Dublin, I was somewhat cautious, perhaps even reluctant. 

This wasn't anything to do with the quality of Michael's writing, most definitely not. After all I thoroughly enjoyed his first horror novel, the excellent Siberian Hellhole, the proof of which is in a much earlier earlier blog entry which if you are interested can be found HERE. 

No, the actual problem was the subject matter...........Vampires, blooming Vampires.

There were two particular things that provided the formative inspirations for my love of horror- the first was Universal studios productions of the Frankenstein movie series with Boris Karloff in his iconic splendour. The first movie I can ever really remember staying up late for (& well past my official bedtime) was 'The son of Frankenstein' which scared the living hell out of me and meant I didn't sleep for a week ( in fact I refused to sleep in my room alone) - it was wonderful! 

The second and possibly greater influence on my horror devotism (I'm not sure if that's a word, but I'm keeping it) was that of Dracula. Even from a very young age I, like many others, had had a fascination with all things vampire. For example I can distinctly remember reading one particular book, when I was about 10 years old, on Vlad the Impaler and other inspirations for the bloodsucking vampire myths. It had an effect on me like few other books have ever had - it opened up a world of these wonderfully terrifying creatures of the night. 

Then as my love of horror movies grow so did my love of the various incarnations by the likes of Lugosi, Lee, Langella et al, each in their different but wonderful portrayals of the eponymous Count. For me, vampires in movies such as the delectable Hammer films and a plethora of other incarnations meant that vampires were generally what symbolised all that could be perfect about the horror medium. They could be grotesque and nasty, they could be terrible and sadistic, but they could also be deliciously complex and occasionally textured and sympathetic creations. Whatever they were, they always symbolised one thing- what horror could really be.

That is until Twilight - bloody Twilight. Bloody Hell.
Now, I could cheerfully fill up endless rant-fuelled pages about the damage I think that twilight did to the reputation of vampires in terms of authentic horror story telling. Even typing the word 'sparkly' in relation to that abomination of book and movie series makes me turn a little queasy - and as for the memory of being dragged by my daughter to see one of this monstrosities at the cinema, sat in a packed auditorium and being only one of two males in the whole place is something that makes me feel more than a little traumatised. I know there are some that disagree with me (Michael Mulvihill himself will do so shortly) in the view that the effect of Twilight (and to a certain extent even the likes of Buffy the vampire slayer and Angel) has been to sanitise the whole Vampire genre. They have been transformed from blood sucking demonic creatures of the night into coiffured and perfectly formed specimens of souls who's only torture is to pine longingly at the object of their particular affections - god it's enough to chill me to the bone......and not in a good way.

So in recent years we have seen the once all-powerful vampire transformed into a simpering, whimpering love sick individual who has flawlessly pale skin, a penchant for chilled transfused blood and who sparkles rather nicely when finally bumped off either by another simpering vampire or occasionally a muscular pretty-boy Werewolf. The Vampire as a classic personification of horror has now been usurped by the Zombie though a veritable plethora of entertainment mediums , though there are signs that the genre may be feeling the beginnings of a backlash in some quarters. I'm not saying that this is all the fault of Twilight - but it is!

So when I received a copy of Micheal's book I was rather intrigued on two levels. Firstly would he be able to match the quality of his first book, Siberian Hellhole. Secondly, and for purely selfish reasons, more importantly, would he be able contribute to rekindling the view and genuine love of Vampires?

Let's see shall we? First a brief little overview.......a synopsis if you will.


It is the month of October and Dublin is preparing to celebrate “The Bram Stoker Festival.” But little does Dublin know it has a Dracula of its very own. 

Lucis Diabolis has just consumed the blood of the inner cities underclasses. The junkie hordes which inhabit the city have provided a meal for Diabolis that is less than gourmet. Having talked to demons and seen the ghosts of those who were violently killed in the city centre, the vampire returns to his home. 

On entering his tomb in Mount Jerome the consequences of consuming such impure blood begin to emerge. He spends his day experiencing side effects akin to the dreaded delirium tremens. When Diabolis emerges from his tomb he feels only slightly improved. He contemplates the rich, noble, aristocratic heritage, of Mount Jerome Cemetery and laments the wealthy people of long ago who are now underneath the ground in graves. Diabolis wishes that these aristocrats were alive so he could eat and drink their refined, noble blood. 

It dawns on the vampire Lucis Diabolis that the cure for having consumed such horrid blood is simply to consume noble, rich, affluent blood. This will surely enliven and heal his system entirely.But how is the vampire Lucis Diabolis to find such blood? 

This is Diabolis dilemma, especially in an era where blood is so blatantly mixed, rendering true, noble blood, harder and harder to obtain............

Well that all sounds rather fab and dandy doesn't it? And yet I wasn't just going to take the writers word for it, because in science fiction/fantasy and horror blog summer school the first lesson of reviewing is that one actually should read or view the material for oneself before providing an opinion. It's a rather earth-shattering revelation but I thought I would give it a go  - and so read it I did.

I am more than happy to say that Michael Mulvihill's second novel does not disappoint, in fact I would as far so say that I enjoyed it even more than his first venture into horror. Siberian Hellhole was a beautifully crafted story that suffered only very occasionally from the authors obvious psychological technical knowledge getting in the way of the narrative. However in Diabolis of Dublin we witness the evolution and maturity of a writer and his craft moving ever towards an ever increasing level of confidence, and with it, skill. Not only has he crafted a lead character in Lucis Diabolis who simply oozes a delicious combination of evil charm and sadistic power, he has set the story against a backdrop of a city that Michael obviously knows well, and loves. I have never been to Dublin, but as a result of Michael's exquisitely detailed and textured description of both well known and lesser known locations, I feel like I now know the place. 

We are presented with a darkly eerie and exciting reading experience as we follow Lucis around Dublin in his quest to feed and rid himself of his infection. Michael Mulvihill is fast developing a style of prose that is both engaging and darkly atmospheric as he skilfully creates a tale of traditional tale of terror without ever succumbing to parody or cliche. 

Will this appeal to many of us traditionalists who yearn for a resurgence of nasty, violent vampire behaviour? Indeed it will. Do you like your lead vampires with barely concealed levels of grotesque depravity? Well here you have him. Do you like your horror writers who not only produces horror as it it should be written but also treats his subject material and reader with a genuine sense of respect? Well here he is.

Diabolis of Dublin is a traditional vampire story set within a contemporary location. It works beautifully. It is both beautifully written and expertly presented by a writer who is improving with his every work. This is exactly how tales of vampires should be - dark, threatening and deliciously frightening. I'm not sure if it will appeal to the legion of Twilight readers - and that we should be eternally grateful for methinks

I don't regard myself as a writer, more a scribbler of abstract thoughts and self-indulgent opinions within this blog. This isn't false modesty, I sincerely believe that I simply don't possess what it takes to be a writer of fiction - for one thing I don't have the patience ( or the talent!). 

Consequently I thought it would be nice to have a wee looksee into the mind of the writer and find out a little about what makes him tick and as luck would have it, Michael kindly offered to answer some of my inane questions to offer up a unique and considered insight into the formulation of his craft. Add to that a rather cheeky sense of humour - let Mr Mulvihill be assured that his assertions that I love Twilight and Justine Bieber are libellous, slanderous and any other 'ous' I can think of and that my legal team are fast working on an appropriate response that may well end up in court......either that I might just stick out my tongue at him and shout "Liar, liar pants on fire!!"

(Me) So Michael, what inspired you to become a writer on an already competitive & some would argue, saturated genre?

"My answer to the latter part of that question where you say an already “competitive& some would argue, saturated genre” is that I never factor these things in when I am writing something.  I just write and things like competition and saturation I don’t care about, I have a desire to tell stories.

We live in a new world, a world of technological innovation at a time when writers and readers are experiencing a revolution which I have dreamt of since I was a young adult where the constraints placed on writers could be lifted.  I can say thank goodness they are.  What I want to convey to you is that writers are free and thank goodness they are free to write what they want. Writers no longer have to be under the s and m chains and whips and torments of traditional publishing.  Stuart this wonderful change has come. So lets address the more from the heart aspect of this question, “What inspired you to become a writer” as you say in your question, and obviously in view of me being horror writer, which is implied in the asking of this question. The horror genre becomes very natural to my personality.  I am very obsessed with life and death. 

I write horror because I believe this genre has the great power to say things which are very true to the human  condition, this is what makes me want to write horror. I am acutely aware of mental illness, addiction, because of my academic interests.  I am all too sadly familiar, because of my clinical work, of the horrendous traumas our fellow human beings have inflicted upon each other. 

Writing horror also helps me to give therapy to myself.  The Ancient Greeks believed that the best type of therapy for oneself is plenty of writing and plenty of reading and exercise so this what I do. 

In vampire horror I can attack the false pretences that a vampire is a supernatural creature that has a full grip on immortality.  If this is so why are they afraid of daylight?

With vampire literature I can also show how transient life is.  There is so much I personally can play around with.

I have been writing horrific stuff since I was 17 for so many reasons.  I may be an exclusively horror author all my life.  But a lifetime is still a long, long time, at least I sincerely hope it is. "

(Me)  Diabolis of Dublin is your second novel. What lessons did you learn from the experience of your first book, Siberian Hellhole?

" I have learnt from writing Siberian Hellhole that I can write one book a year or at least one hundred thousand words a year. 

Maybe I can write much, much more.  I learnt that I do prefer novels than the short stories I write.  

But having said that I do think that my short story “Resting Without Peace” which is in issue 66 of is a good example of a short story I wrote.  After writing Siberian Hellhole my main focus is now on writing horror novels. But every year I intend to publish short stories in BP and when I feel comfortable with the range of short stories I have published I will chose the best and put it into one volume and see what the horror community/reading community think. So the first lesson I learnt was focus and goal setting in my writing.

The second lesson I learnt is that people we would think represent the traditional mainstream, like people in National Newspapers and traditionally published authors have loved Siberian Hellhole and so now I see that it is not a futile exercise for me to at least submit Diabolis of Dublin to traditional publishers, this is the reason why I unpublished it from Kindle.  I will publish it again if I have to, but judging from the reactions of my work it has become a conviction that my work deserves to be mainstream published and yes I desire it, so I must give it a go.

I learnt from writing Siberian Hellhole that I am not finished with The USSR or Post USSR, Russia or the former bloc countries. I could write and research so much about this, I really have an interest in this place.  Definitely I will write some book that will either be set in Siberia or a former Soviet Republic either in the Soviet Period or during Glasnost, or such a novel will be inspired by the immense education I got from researching it.

Siberian Hellhole was set in Siberia.  But I know as a writer I need to challenge myself. Diabolis of Dublin” was done from a lesson I learnt from Siberian Hellhole.  People kept asking me why am I not basing my stories in Ireland since I am Irish? What can I say, the gauntlet was thrown down to the author and the gauntlet was answered."

(Me) Some within the horror community view examples such as the Twilight series as a terminal nail In the coffin of vampires. So why did you choose to write a vampire novel?

" This answer may seem pedantic.  But I want to be focused and address every part of these questions and statements you are giving me.

So lets talk about Twilight.  (I bet visitors to your blog just love Twilight, The Vampire Diaries and Justin Bieber, Beverley Hills 90210, hunks and cheer leaders, the whole high school scene and fashion, and that’s cool! And that shows you how well I know your readers right)

Look here Stu, more and more publishers want writers to pull genres together.  This is what Twilight is.  It is a mixture of teen angst, high school drama meets vampire, meets stunning good looks meets the fashion cat walk, designer clothes meets fashion style, meets horror, and what you get is what some mainstream publishers want, and what some people of our time call, ‘great writing.’  This is also the era where some people want to kill literature and all things literary.  In these times writing quality matters less than “The High Concept.”  If you can pull big themes together, do a vulgar lab based clone job on them, pushing as much as you can together, and if your novel sounds like an extension of a movie script, this is what is most desired by the mainstream.

In contrast I believe writing should be intelligent and it should be beautiful.  But this is out of bounds with conventional mainstream writing which seems to be stylistically cloned from other best selling writers.  If it sells well it has to be brilliant and definitely superior to something that does not sell so well.

Is twilight the nail in the coffin of the vampire genre? No.

Look I know your readers love Twilight and want more of it so they will be sad to know I have never watched it/read it. But they will be demanding me and possibly torturing me to read it and watch every one of the series.  But I also want to say that this type of torture should be made illegal under some article of UN Human Rights Law.

So why do I say no the Twilight series has not done a destructive job to vampire horror?
Number One, Horror is a special genre.  Horror has its own publishing houses, its own movie makers and its own production companies that are dedicated to making horror that is not mainstream. These non mainstream genre people will always make non mainstream stuff, some of which will feature vampires or vampire related themes like “Midnight Son” 2012 which are absolute gems.  I really loved “Midnight Son.”

The beauty of our genre is that our genre proves that something does not have to sell millions to gain cult classic status, nor does it have to be on some silly bestseller list, or to be widely applauded.  My favourite vampire piece is Abel Ferrara’s “The Addiction.”

These are examples of non mainstream exquisite vampire stories and I don’t care home much Twilight has sold or any of that nonsense, because I know in my heart of heart the makers of Twilight can’t tie the shoe laces of the makers and creators of “The Addiction,” and “Midnight Son.”

Now people might say okay Mike these are great examples of the horror genre.  I would also cite examples of mainstream vampire fiction and cinema that has done the genre proud. I believe “True Blood,” “Let Me In,” “Let The Right One In” are great examples of adult vampire horror.  I believe that “The Vampires Assistant” is a great example of young adult vampire horror. 

I also believe that the horror genre for children is thriving and in respect of that may I site “Monsters House,” “Coraline,”  “Paranorman,” “Hotel Transylvania,” all of these examples of our genre will inspire the next generation to do fantastic things with horror and of course with vampire horror.  So Stuart it takes more than a nail in the coffin to kill a vampire and please tell that to those out there who do not know this about our beloved vampires. "

So why did you choose to write about vampires?

" I have studied and completed six higher level degrees of a sociological, psychological, philosophical, psychoanalytical quality.  I am relieved to say that Bram Stoker was also studious and research orientated in his approach to writing so at least I am not alienating myself when I say my approach to horror is a very studied and thought through approach.
I am a qualified and practising part time clinical hypnopsychoanalytical therapist with a specialisation in anxiety, trauma, stress, worry and mild depression.  I remember when I was studying hypnotherapy I was extremely excited because I knew once I would finish it I would be done with my studies and I could recommence my creative writing endeavours.

At this time of my life, I watched a documentary about PTSD amongst war veterans and the psychiatrists treatment of the condition in psychiatric facilities using hypnosis.  This documentary 1946 “Let There Be Light” remember was made before psycho-pharmacology was introduced to the market in the 1950’s.

My studies as you may guess are endeared and tied in to the horror genre. I have studied truly horrific things.  One of the exam questions for the course asked me to analyse the character of Bram Stokers “Dracula” in view of Freud's personality types: oral, anal, phallic, genital.  I knew Freud at the top of my head. I spent all my twenties reading him.  All I had to was read Stokers book.  In the answering of this question I knew I simply had to write horror about vampires.  

You see Stuart I have no other choice, vampire horror brings out the side of me as a creative horror writer that is philosophical, psychoanalytical, literary, sociological, macabre, Gothic, grotesque, and much, much more.  Vampire horror simply I believe brings out the best in me."

(Me) Diabolis of Dublin is set in the city that you've been a resident of for some years now and the affection that you have for the place really seems to come across. How inspiring is the city for you as a writer?

 " Dublin inspires me, Ireland inspires me.  My home city and country inspires me because I see a city of three decades, three different worlds three different places.  And I also know of a Dublin and Ireland before I was born which possibly inspires more than just the Irish.

I know the Dublin pre -boom, in the 1980’s when we were decidedly poorer and more unemployed than our European counterparts.  When we were less wealthy, less materialistic, and when there was much, much less homicides and suicides. This was the Dublin and the Ireland were abortion and divorce was illegal and the Catholic Church were powerful. 

Of course in the South we were always cognisant of that place up North, that part that was compromised in the formation of The Irish Republic back in the days of The Easter Rising, Michael Collins and his battle for Irish Independence, the oppressive Black and Tans and our fratricidal civil war. That fratricidal civil war was all over The North.  And when I was growing up right until the start of the 21st century this province that was a part of the UK showed me what bloody, raw, terror, horror and degradation the human spirit can rise down to.  No wonder being an Irish man I have a strong appetite for the Gothic and the horrific.

I also know the Dublin of now, the Dublin of post-boom, of recession, of austerity, it is a Dublin where the poor are getting poorer, the rich are getting richer and the middle class are being cut by a million cuts.  Austerity is very ugly.These factors and more have profoundly inspired my writing.  I guess after Diabolis of Dublin, I can really call Dublin home, I can genuinely be called a Dublin writer and an Irish writer.

No doubt being a Dublin man, being an Irish man has really shaped this second novel. 
I am deeply inspired by change, sometimes I get nostalgic for the past, or I despise the way things have gone. Now I don’t have nostalgia for the Ireland of the 1980’s, but it seems like overnight roughly 1997 when the Irish economy changed.  The Irish became wealthy and something has changed within the soul of the people.  Suicide is too, too common, people are, I really have to repeat changed.

Dublin is a violent place. Violent homicides, and ordinary homicides, were rare in Ireland.  Your readers might think since when is a homicide not violent? Recently we had in Dublin a man burnt to death whilst sleeping in a camp in a park, we also had another man who was stabbed and his heart and pieces of his lung were eaten in the first case of what is believed to be cannibalism.  So a less violent homicide, an ordinary homicide?  Well, I am almost laughing at the term.  I know that we had one man going into a farm and killing a son and a man with a shot gun, but you see his methodology of homicide was less ferocious.  Look homicide in Ireland when I was a kid was rare.  Now it is every week.  It is deeply shocking.

There are so many histories in Dublin and in Ireland that have shaped the novel “Diabolis of Dublin”  it touches on so much of what is uncomfortable and sore about Dublin and Ireland.  You could say I am using the Vampire Diabolis to show you my city.
The case for Dublin being a worthy setting for a novel is immense.  The case for an Irish man being a horror writer is even more acute.  Dublin was transformed by our literary king James Joyce into a city that could produce the wanderings of Ulysses, a mega sized novel.  James Joyce lived only up the road from me in Brighton Square Rathgar, where I am communicating this interview with you Stuart.  I could go on and on, suffice to say Bram Stoker lived some time in Rathgar in Orwell Park, Oscar Wilde the great wit amongst other things he lived two miles down the road in Merrion Square. 

I think that yes absolutely if you want to write good horror Dublin can indeed be your host.  And Irish people are gifted at being dark, morose, macabre, Gothic and morbid.  I would definitely like to raise the point that Wilde's work “The Picture of Dorian Grey” is extremely dark, it is about split personality and it reminds me of “The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”  It is absolutely awesome from my perspective that this city bred the likes of Wilde and definitely Bram Stoker, for me he is the Father of Vampire Horror. "

(Me) So what is the next writing project for Michael Mulvihill?

"My third novel is very weird, I am enjoying writing it, I am reading The Mask of Insanity to help me this is a psychiatric book about psychopaths (sorry Stu I am not reading Twilight yet).  And yes this third novel is about vampires and it is set in Dublin.  I should not say much more because it is not wise to speak about concepts for a book which has not been finished. I think that you may understand this. 

I can also say that I have been watching tonnes and tonnes of documentaries about the Soviet Union.  I am obsessed with dystopias and with ideologies of social constructs with messianic and megalomaniac dreams that say Heaven shall be created and you end up in hell.  I do believe the West has this pretension that it is heaven whilst the east is hell.  But people in Greece are eating out of Garbage bins and in Chicago there is 21000 people homeless, so you do see how the West is Heaven as per old, old Western Propaganda.
I am also trying to write a fourth book, yes at the same time. It will tackle the issue of alienation and dystopia in a far less “Hunger Game” fashion because I am uninspired by this, and I don’t believe that this is a truly good example of dystopic. fiction I might be wrong, please feel free to vigorously disagree and I won’t mind in the least.  But I think a true dystopia will really open ones eyes.

I want something, some example of dystopia that feels more real but also blends well with the horror genre.  But this is something that needs thinking and needs research and it is something which unlike the third novel which I have written maybe forty thousand words of, I have written no words of this but I know I will.  It is banging against my heart and shouting at me to get a move on and I promise I will.

Sometimes people when they say they like the dystopia genre they like it only for entertaining purposes.  The dystopia I intend to create will be very, very oppressive and disturbing and real, frustrating, paranoid and crazy at least I hope it will.

Stu my next project is horror.  Don’t think just because you mentioned our bellowed “Twilight” that I will start writing first love romantic vampire stuff, vampire meets human, falls in love, and says, “hi human we can be friends, I no longer drink your kinds blood, I have gone tee total on ripping flesh apart. I much prefer to fall in love with the view to having sex with you instead, though I have been dead these past five hundred years.”

All this enterprise would be of course for your beloved blog fans to scream and say, “O My Goodness it is so, so wonderful. "

So there you have it - a fabulously detailed, informative, intelligent and considered set of answers from a talented and thoughtful writer.

Any of my blog readers who took offence at being labelled lovers of Twilight,The Vampire Diaries and Justin Bieber, Beverley Hills 90210, hunks and cheer leaders, the whole high school scene and fashion can forward their legal complaint on to me and will of course take the appropriate litigating action towards Mr Mulvihill. I may admire him and his work but I also have a reputation to consider........

Hang on a minute though - nothing wrong with Cheerleaders - right?