Thoughts on the Scary Stories Movie

The new Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark film has broken my personal record for being the third book-to-film adaptation I’ve ever actually been hyped for. I mean, this means as much to me as a film adaptation of my own books would. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, if you’re not familiar, are a trilogy of books by folklorist Alvin Schwartz and artist Stephen Gammell. Its legacy is being one of the most banned and challenged children’s series in recent history, compiling folklore, ghost stories and urban legends and retelling them in a nightmarish and surreal tone.

Scary Stories has been challenged by a number of American and international school boards for its raw and unrelenting depictions of cannibalism, black magic, violence, death and the undead. The Grimms could get away with it but Schwartz and Gammell couldn’t, the reason being that there’s something these books have that the Grimms didn’t… and that’s the signature artwork.

The disturbing artwork is the primary reason it was banned. Gammell’s work is stunningly beautiful from a technical perspective, but often featured grotesque, deformed humanoid monsters and scenes of surreal horror that were difficult to describe even as an adult. Obviously, they gave a number of children unlikely and specific phobias, but that hardly stopped them from loving the series.
There exists an alternate version with more subdued artwork by Brett Helquist that is largely, and unfairly, disliked by fans. Brett Helquist is a great artist, but his style is not the most suited to this collection, in my opinion. I feel the artist caught an unwarranted amount of hell for his work on the rerelease, seeing as Helquist was just doing his job, and his illustrations were good. They just weren’t Gammell’s.

Stephen Gammell’s notorious illustrations are one of the driving forces behind my desire to create. I had and have never seen anything vaguely akin to his style. It can’t be replicated, by anyone who retains their sanity, at least. Something interesting is that Gammell is quoted as being bemused that so many children found the illustrations scary, believing they were far too unrealistic to creep anyone out. About that…

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When I heard that the plot of the upcoming film, which comes out in August, would involve teenagers in a haunted house, I was devastated… I thought, oh God, they’ve turned my beloved into another cheese-laden summer slasher movie… but I was relieved quite a lot when I saw who the directors were and the monsters’ visual appeal in the trailers. I was severely anxious for a minute there. My reaction was about to become a horror story of its own, but I’m less doubtful now. Continue reading “Thoughts on the Scary Stories Movie”

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Book Review – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Screenplay) by J.K. Rowling

★★★★ 4 Stars

Series: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplays
Genre:
 Fantasy / Adventure
Publication Date: November 18th, 2016
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

“My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.”

In my honest opinion, the Fantastic Beasts series was a fantastic way for Rowling to rejuvenate the Harry Potter universe and spread its branches in fresh, inventive directions. It needed this after Cursed Child, which I didn’t particularly like and thought was a mishandled retcon of the original novels. Like virtually every witchy soul in this strange little world, the novels remain amongst my favourites, and if ever somehow they don’t age well for me in years to come, I will forever be fond towards them.

Screenplays, by their nature, aren’t exactly “engaging” in the way a novel is, but it’s fun and a quick read nonetheless, and the movie the script goes with is really entertaining. Fantastic Beasts wins where Cursed Child faltered. The characters are consistent, moreso because they are new characters that haven’t really been a major part of the series before, and because Rowling herself actually developed and wrote this one in its entirety. Cursed Child took established characters from the novels and… descended into strange, fanfiction-like caricatures of them. Traumatic flashes of My Immortal and its infamous poetic prose dashed through my head the entire time with that screenplay. Continue reading “Book Review – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Screenplay) by J.K. Rowling”

Musings on Dreams and Classic Monsters

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This is peculiar and specific, but it’s something I’ve noticed with hearing people’s dreams, what they often have nightmares about. I’ve noticed there’s always a certain monster that’s prevalent to that particular person’s nightmares. It’s usually a classic one, like vampires or werewolves, I think because there’s a form of those in most cultures, and a lot of this century’s generations have grown up around horror movies. Even if they never watched them, they saw horror movies everywhere in posters and references, and now online. Vampires seem to be really common. I have had some insane dreams that I recall having some kind of vampire before.

Everyone has their individual classic monster. My personal one is actually zombies. If there’s a threat or presence I recognize in a dream, it’s often zombies or mummy-like humans. No clue why. I don’t recall ever being scared of zombies. Mummies, yes, at least as a kid. But it’s more frequently zombies, and I used to think zombies were like an ideal beauty standard or something.

Okay, maybe not that far, but I did love the way zombies looked. Continue reading “Musings on Dreams and Classic Monsters”

Book Review – Death is a Bloodstained Shadow by B. B. Frank

Death Is A Bloodstained Shadow: The Giallo Cinema Chopping List

★★★ 3.5 Stars

Full Title: Death is a Bloodstained Shadow – The Giallo Cinema Chopping List
Genre: Horror / Nonfiction
Publication Date: November 5th, 2015
Publisher: Videogeddon

If you didn’t know, giallo is a subset of horror-thriller film, set apart by its blend of both psychological and visceral themes. Giallo is considered the grandfather of the slasher film genre and had a significant influence on modern psychological horror. Most giallo are Italian or Spanish, and in fact giallo is just ‘yellow’ in Italian – the genre named after the colour most mystery paperbacks were at the time these movies started to become popular, in the early 70s. Giallo posters tend to be outrageous, beautiful and psychedelic. Vibrant infernal colours abound.

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Death is a Bloodstained Shadow is a pretty solid list – it goes beyond the mainstream Argento and Bava into more obscure gems (or ironically enjoyable grubby rocks, depending on your personal taste), and the poster art is extremely entertaining. Many remind me of pulp book covers from around the same era.

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However, the eBook version could be better and less cramped, and some crucial info is missing. The actors are never listed and there isn’t any DVD information! I know that several of these are likely to be extremely expensive and difficult to find in print, especially outside of Europe. Nonetheless, an engaging look at a much-loved genre (at least by me, anyway.)

One more neat fact and I’ll leave you to be scarred by this artwork – the Dario Argento film Phenomena, known also as a butchered version called Creepers, was the inspiration behind one of the innovating survival horror series, Clock Tower. Dario Argento’s filmography is, in fact, a fantastic place to begin if you want to get into the giallo genre, as they are the easiest to find and for the most part masterpieces of their time.
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