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Friday, October 16, 2015

Review and Interview: Gateways to Abomination and author Matthew Bartlett.

Out of the blackest woods comes Matthew Bartlett’s self published collection Gatesways to Abomination. In Northeast USA a small town is under siege by an occult radio station. Emitting signals like gothic nightmares it corrupts the entire area in its dark spell. Evil rebirths, goat headed warlocks, things lurking in the night, Gateways is a series of vignettes that delight in startling mutations and personal dooms. Incredibly fun to read for the dark hearted. One of the best books I have read this year, this book by itself legitimizes self publishing. The writing style reminds me a bit of the early 20th century french transgressive writers like Bataille and Genet… but which a decidedly gothic aesthetic like a Machen or a Lovecraft. Bartlett is one of the most exciting new authors out there, Gateways to Abomination is a modern masterpiece of weird horror. With exquisite prose Gateways to Abomination’s macabre visions will keep you going back again and again to it’s infested pages. I have managed to track down Matthew Bartlett in his ghost haunted shack out in the fetid swamp lands and got him to answer a few questions on the books and films that have influenced him.

Plutonian: Gateways has a dedication to being transgressive and assaulting the reader with dark surreal imagery. Not really wasting time with any filler background story, it gets right to the point. Gateways seems influenced by French writers like Lautreamont and Bataille. What are your thoughts on mixing weird horror with dark eroticism and transgressive fiction?

Bartlett: It wasn’t a conscious effort on my part to be transgressive – I was trying to do something different, I think, a kind of distilled horror, and at the time I was writing the stories, I was doing so for myself and a few like-minded people. I didn’t think they would ever go any farther than that, so I had license to do whatever I wanted, and what I wanted to do was to bother people, for lack of a better word. There was no direct influence from the above-referenced writers, and, in fact, I must admit I haven’t read them. But having taken a look, I intend to now. So if my stuff gets weirder after 2016, it’s your fault.

Plutonian: John Carpenter made some masterpiece films with his takes on modern witchcraft, technology and paranoia. Gateways deals with a sinister radio transmission, mixing the occult with the modern. Did films like Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, In The Mouth of Madness, and Prince of Darkness have an influence on your writing?

Bartlett: While I liked In The Mouth of Madness, I have to say that Prince of Darkness and Halloween 3 were more direct influences, in particular the latter. At the time I was writing Gateways, I was curious as to the fate of AM and FM radio—with the advent of satellite radio and the prevalence of MP3 players, it seemed like terrestrial radio might be a medium in its death throes. And that fit in quite well with the theme of the vengeful dead trying to use black magic to fulfill an ancient prophecy in a modern world. The thing about radio, it’s not a communal experience, for the most part—the family doesn’t exactly gather around the radio anymore. It’s company in the car. It’s a kid in his room, moving the dial around. Whatever you see around you fades into the background. It’s like reading, in that it can put pictures in your head, but it has the added element of The Voice. The Voice can be conspiratorial, insinuating, persuasive, seductive.
Plutonian: Gateways has a dark mood to it that reminded me of early horror from the 20’s and 30’s that dealt with darkness, madness and black magic. Did films like Haxan, Dracula, Vampyr have an influence on you?
Bartlett: Funny you should mention it. I put Haxan and Vampyr on while I was writing, with the sound down. The look of those old movies, in particular Haxan, absolutely informed a lot of the more grotesque scenes in the book.
Plutonian: Gateways seems to take as it predecessors early weird fiction dealing with survivals of witch cults like The White People by Machen, The Festival by Lovecraft and The Salem Horror by Kuttner but also seeks to outdo them. What are your thoughts on the early weird tale and how it impacts your writing?
Bartlett: At the time I was writing, I hadn’t read much in the way modern or current weird tales at all. I’m not saying that with defiant pride or anything like that; it’s just the way it happened to be for me in the mid-aughts. My inspiration came directly from Lovecraft, Machen, Kuttner, Derleth and the like, along with other less likely, non-horror sources. The idea that even today these old cultists and shamans and ghouls and warlocks are still working their way through time right up to the present was very appealing to me. Still is. I also like the idea of the studious or bookish man falling prey to those old cults—that kind of protagonist suits me more than any kind of modern Everyman. A study is more evocative of horror than a “man cave”—for me, anyway. You mention “The Salem Horror.” I get out to Salem a few times a year, and all so much history is right there on the face of the city, and I’m not talking about the Halloween trappings, the banners, the decorations. Those are just a facade. The old houses, the narrow streets, the ancient cemeteries – you can squint your eyes and see old Salem. It’s wonderfully easy to picture all manner of diabolism going on there while everyone was busy putting innocents to death over in what is now Danvers. That Kuttner story could take place now; in important ways, Salem has changed little..
Plutonian: Gateways certainly feels like a Fulci film with its occult menace and its visceral dooms. Gateways could almost be considered a pseudo sequel to Fulci’s City of the Living Dead and The Beyond. Did Italian filmmakers like Fulci, Bava, and Argento have an impact on you?
Bartlett: Argento, definitely, especially Suspiria—that music!-- and Deep Red. As far as cinema goes, throw in Rosemary’s Baby and Don’t Look Now. There are great gaps in my horror reading and viewing—Fulci and Bava fall in those gaps--but that gives me more to check out in the future, and more inspiration.
Plutonian: If you could pick one director to adapt Gateways into a film…living or dead…who would you pick?
Bartlett: That’s a good question. I have to cheat a bit by going with a collaboration: Ben Wheatley and Ken Russell.
Plutonian: Do you have any films you traditionally watch around the Halloween season?
Bartlett: I do. Halloween and Halloween 3. Pontypool. Trick R’Treat. House of the Devil. Nosferatu (the Herzog version). The Funhouse. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
Plutonian: What new projects do you have coming up?
Bartlett: I’m wrapping up the writing for my Muzzleland Press release “Creeping Waves,” which should come out early next year. It’s a sequel of sorts to Gateways, and it starts to get at certain questions:  What is the Real Leeds? How does one get there? There were peeks at the Real Leeds in Gateways and in Rangel, and more are forthcoming. Also I’m working on stories for a hardcover collection for Dunham’s Manor Press. The working title is “The Stay-Awake Men and Others.” After that, there’s talk  between me and an excellent writer about a collaborative project that will be, let’s say, unique.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Film Spotlight: An interview with experimental horror filmmaker James Quinn.


           Today we have an interview with experimental horror filmmaker James Quinn. He is making a film called Sodom and Chimera ( trailer above ) and it looks amazing. To finish his film he is trying kickstarter to try to raise the cash. So we are going to have a talk with him and if you are able and want to support the indie horror film scene please think about helping him out. Information on how to contribute will follow the interview.

1. Can you tell us about your film Sodom & Chimera?
Sodom & Chimera is an experimental horror film that visualizes the experience of schizophrenia. I believe it is the first film that tries to do this that is created by an actual schizophrenic. The film is not like other schizophrenia films, it focuses more on delivering the actual feeling of madness and going crazy, instead of telling a story that is built on human interaction. The film will have different chapters, with every single one showing a different side of the illness. For instance, Chapter III is going to be one big psychedelic trip, while Chapter IV will be less psychotic, but more subtle, with elements of a classic horror film. It will focus on the paranoia and delusions, providing a feel like reality is losing it's structure, which will intensify as the happenings become more and more bizarre and frightening. So basically, there will be very few moments in the film where you can relax, it's going to be very intense almost all the way through.

2. Love the title. How did you come up with it?
The title is something that I put much thought into. It was only after a significant amount of scenes were already done and I decided to split everything in chapters, that I started thinking about a name. I had previously started reading The 120 Days of Sodom, and the word “Sodom” just got stuck in my head. First, I decided to use it in the title of Chapter III, which is now called The Law of Sodom/The Eviscerated Mind. Sodom of course referring to the actual Sodom and Gomorrah. One day, the word chimera came to my ears. I had never really thought about it much before, but it instantly hit me. In the end, it was the perfect metaphor. Sodom stands for the downfall, in this case the downfall of the mind, and Chimera for the figments, the insanity, the madness, and, as a chimera is also a very dark mythical figure, for the evil and vicious. Besides that, it's an obvious play of words on Sodom & Gomorrah, which I also really liked.

3. Is this your first film and if not what other work have you done?
This my first feature film. I have finished another project earlier this year, an eight minute short film. This month, I will get information on whether it is going to be premiered at a certain film festival or not, then I will release more information about it, the title and some images of the film. All you need to know about it for now is the following: It's about a man trying to deal with his awful past by dedicating his life to god, only to face a horrible truth. It is completely different than Sodom & Chimera. While S&C is a film that is full of noises, loud music and grotesque imagery, this film is very nihilistic, quiet and completely in black and white.

4. Do you prefer film or digital?
Well, up until now I have only shot digital, as it was the easiest way so far, and it enabled new ways to shoot scenes for Sodom & Chimera. But I am very neutral on this subject, I think both options have it's positive and negative aspects. What I'm going to use for my next projects, I don't know yet. Time and budget will tell.

5. What are some of your favorite weird/experimental/horror films?
I have lots and lots of films from these genres that I like. Some major influences were David Lynch's Eraserhead and Inland Empire, even though my film is very different from these. But those are the two films that got me into surreal and strange cinema. I also got heavily inspired by the imagery of Lars von Trier's Antichrist, a film I absolutely love. It has these beautifully looking shots that look like moving paintings, and I tried a similar approach in my film. You can even see it in the trailers, there are several shots of woods, which are all very dark and thick looking. Other films I love in this genre are Karim Hussain's Subconscious Cruelty and The Abandoned, also two films that inspired me a lot, Taxidermia, Enter the Void, Tetsuo, a very important film to me that influenced some of the fast black and white shots, Begotten, Donnie Darko, the short film Haze, I also love french films very much, not only classic stuff like Martyrs, Irreversible and I Stand Alone, but also more subtle and weirdly disturbing flicks like À ma soeur! (Fat Girl) and Dans ma peau (In My Skin). Also I like lots of classic films, like the ones from Jodorowsky or Luis Buñuel. I could go on endlessly here, I have so many favorites as I've seen so much already. I'm really into abstract cinema and those I listed are only the tip of what I've seen. Some more classic and less weird horror films that heavily influenced S&C are The Shining and the newer The Canal. Also partly very surreal, but most importantly very creepy and atmospheric films, and atmosphere is what I'm going for.

6. What's next after Sodom and Chimera?
I have several projects in mind. I'm not sure which will come first, but I have tons of stories ready. One film that I've already started writing for instance is about misfortune. It tells different stories of people that have things happening to them that are emotionally crushing or just downright horrible. This is a film I really want to do, just not sure yet when exactly. Other projects include a story about a woman who is dying of cancer, when suddenly her husband reveals a shocking secret that completely changes their relationship until something horrible happens, a story about a man who, after witnessing several incidents of death, tries to actually “live” more, which takes a bizarre turn, and one that covers a subject that many people don't think about a lot, which is the private thoughts of people, showing different human beings and what's going on in their head, stuff that no one ever gets to know, focusing on the dark and sinister. There are several more, but I won't list all of them. I'm going to try to get them all made though, sooner or later. After the last chapters of Sodom & Chimera have been done writing, I will immediately start working on the next story. Hopefully, it will be easier to get the next one made, the process of creating Sodom & Chimera has already been a very long one with lots of obstacles. And it's still not done yet. It will most likely be released in 2016 though, if everything goes right of course. That is a date that I feel is very realistic and I'm hoping for it to be the first half of 2016. But in the end, as always, time will tell. 

Here is a link for his kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1314278794/sodom-and-chimera-an-experimental-horror-film

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Review: The Infusorium by Jon Padgett


From Jon Padgett, creator of Thoman Ligotti Online comes The Infusorium. In the back woods an old factory still stands. Long abandoned but seething with a kind of unlife. Black fog chokes the nearby town. Strange skeletons are found in the soil. A dark mystery unfolds. The Infusorium is a lot of spooky pessimistic fun. A chapbook from Dunhams Manor Press, it’s a quick read full of surprising twists and turns and left this reader quite excited about Jon Padgett’s forthcoming short story collection from the same publisher, The Secret of Ventriloquism. These chapbooks sell fast and I recommend interested readers grab a copy before they sell out. The Infusorium is pure macabre pulp at its finest.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Review: After by Scott Nicolay


After is a new chapbook out from Dim Shores Press, one of the leading Weird Fiction publishers. In After, by author Scott Nicolay, we are presented with a woman whose life is in a kind of free fall and only getting worse. An abusive boyfriend, kids gone to live their own lives, the death of a close friend. And then Superstorm Sandy hits. The story centers around her going to check out the damage of her house while the town is still considered a disaster area and evacuated. She, maybe strangely, decides to stay in the deserted house to get away from her abusive boyfriend. The story then descends into a Ballardian exploration of psychological landscapes and unconscious fears and desires. The story examines cycles of abuse and how someone who is abused will seek out another abuser to get rid of the current abuser and just keep being trapped in that cycle. But at the same time After pays homage to pulpy monster stories and has a lot of fun with the “unknown creature” plot. NIcolay also uses some siege dramatics ala George Romero. And like in a Romero film… not everything ends in a happy ending. All in all another masterwork from one of the most interesting writers in the Weird Horror field. Definitely recommended.                 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Eclipse 2015


Some thoughts on the eclipse of 2015. I traveled to a old hilly cemetery, full of old trees, serpentine trails and hidden grave sites. The moon was a sliver of light and darkening fast. I found a secluded spot I could comfortably watch the lunar show. After about a half hour the moon turned into a dark ashen burning cinder in the sky. The graveyard went black. The stars were more pronounced surrounding the dark orb. The sound of a chill wind blowing through the leaves. Wispy ghosts of clouds floating past. A sense of terror and awe came over the world. A autumnal excitement took me over. It was like for a short time I was living in a horror story. A pale red light fell upon the world. Any moment the dead could rise or alien things could filter down from the stars. As a ‘horror person’ I seek those moments in life and art. A mix of terror and awe. At that moment of the eclipse, the graveyard was my church, the moon my god. Some people like horror for the gore and the sense of pushing boundaries. Some for the jump scares like a roller coaster. These are not my people. My people are the ‘autumnal‘ people, the people who look for a dark transcendence. An encounter with the things that whisper from the shadows. People who find comfort in the darkening world. People who wait for the ashen moon. For about an hour, the dark world revealed its secret face, and we recognized it as our own.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Dream Collections

I have always been a huge fan of lists. Best 10 lists, best of the year list, etc. I also like to create imaginary fiction collections that I would publish myself.. if I was not broke. So anyway.. here's my current one:

Morella - Poe
Bianca's Hands - Sturgeon 
The Spider - Ewers 
Axolotl - Cortazar
The Faces at Pine Dunes - Campbell 
The Festival - Lovecraft 
Flowers of the Abyss - Ligotti 
Metamorphosis A - Kiernan 
Vrolyk - Samuels
The Voice in the Night - Hodgson
The Forest - Barron
The Metamorphosis - Kafka 
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream - Ellison

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Cinematic Broodmothers

       There is a genre of horror referred to as ‘body horror’. It’s different from ‘gore horror’ and ‘erotic horror’ by its point of attack. Gore is about being visually assaulted by images of what's kept hidden inside the skin, and erotic horror is about teasing you with what lies in the shadow of eroticism without ever showing you. Body horror is the revelation that our own bodies are completely alien and unknowable to us. Life is an inescapable labyrinth of flesh and confusion. Two modern sages of this wisdom are David Lynch and David Cronenberg.

First Lesson: The Labyrinth of Flesh

David Lynch’s early cinematic work are poems of Body Horror. His first feature-length film Eraserhead details the adventures of Henry Spencer, a man who learns that his lover is about to birth them a baby, well at least they think it’s a baby. A fever dream of dark hallways, mutated bodies, infested landscapes and swamps of sexuality, Eraserhead is a nightmare of being caught in the procreation factory. Henry walks around in a state of perpetual confusion. Embryo’s in the bed, mysterious people appearing to him as in a dream, black planets, and black places. We live in a strange place. We were born into a drama of squirming flesh fighting to live on a barren rock in the nothingness of space. The purpose of life is to create more life. From microbes to things crawling unto ancient shores to things that fuck and think, the life urge overtakes all it sets its sights on. Contrary to its seemingly dark mood, Eraserhead takes pleasure in the flesh factory that is the Earth and shows all the dark delights of mutating flesh and lust in the night. Where did life originally erupt from and what is its natural home? Lynch’s films would answer, “ Somewhere in the unknowable darkness. “


Second Lesson: A Tumor of the Mind

David Cronenberg’s early films like Shivers and Rabid are biological tragedies about the attempt to escape the life/death cycle of mortality and the dangers of trying to escape our physical destiny. His body horror films mainly focus on men and women of science trying to fundamentally alter what it means to be human by altering the body. In Shivers it's about trying to reduce consciousness through a parasite that takes over and transforms its host into a purely sexual being, ushering in a transformative sexual apocalypse. Rabid is about a plague that makes its hosts into mindless killers, with a hapless surgically mutated plague carrier caught up in an addiction to blood, using her sexuality to entrap victims and spread the disease. Both films show that the body politic rules over social politics. The origin of society is the human body. And its desires and obsessions form the structure of society.

The mutability of the flesh and how it can be rearranged. What we take to be ‘us’ changes over the years. And there is no stable boundary between ‘us’ and the outside world. We are made up of viruses and other intruders as much as we are made up of blood and skin. And Cronenberg casts a clinical look at human desires as a virus would look. Like how love is an organism's desire to change and be changed. “ Disease is the love of two alien kinds of creatures for each other, that even dying is an act of eroticism. “ - Shivers. Human life is a day to day theatre of penetration. From bodies to other's emotions to advertising to media to bacteria to pharmaceutical drugs. We are penetrated by a thousand things every day. How do you reserve a sense of self? Is there a self? It seems that Cronenberg’s films answer, “ We are defined by what we desire to penetrate us. “  

Body Horror is crucial to our understanding of this world we are born into. Questions of why the human race acts like it does and why we exist are dealt with by Body Horror. Horror cinema acts like a soft voice in the night talking about things you don’t want to think about in the daylight hours. These films whisper to their audiences, “We humans are walking diseases. Born in the nothingness of space. We humans are meant to spread and infect. And it is both heartbreaking and beautiful. “