***Warning, mild spoilers for The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires***
Vampires are my favorite monsters. I love how they represent a dangerous, alluring mixture of lust, power, sin, and death. I cannot get enough of how they are compelled by their desperate thirst even as they leverage human weaknesses to seduce victims.
Likewise, I’ve always appreciated author Grady Hendrix’s nuanced understanding of monsters and horror tropes. He possesses an uncanny ability to tap into pop horror elements, investigate how they work, and map them onto our lives. He did it in Horrorstör and My Best Friend’s Exorcism, both of which I loved. So, when I heard that Grady Hendrix, author of some of my favorite horror novels of the past few years, I was stoked.
I wasn’t disappointed—not only was The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires worth the wait but it is now my favorite Grady Hendrix work. As a longtime fan, I find it his most mature, compelling, and satisfying work. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires represents a new level of his craft, where he has successfully dissected the vampire archetype, crafted compelling and realistic characters, and breathing new life into an old story. And he didn’t sacrifice any of his trademark dark humor or his love for gross-out scenes.
Right now in Austin, Texas, film lovers from all over are converging to revel in their love of film. But not just any kind of films–weird films. Gory films. Films that make people squirm in their seats one minute and laugh out loud the next. I’m talking about Fantastic Fest 2019, the largest genre film festival in the United States.
Fantastic Fest 2019, as in past years, is devoted to horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and “just plain fantastic movies from all around the world.” Further still, the festival “is dedicated to championing challenging and thought-provoking cinema, celebrating new voices and new stories from around the world and supporting new filmmakers.” Over the years, the festival has put its money where its mouth is, having screened the world premieres of John Wick, There Will Be Blood, Zombieland, Split, and Apostle.
This year, Fantastic Fest 2019 has several notable films, including the world premieres of the latest Stephen King adaptation In The Tall Grass and horror anthology The Mortuary Collection. I’m particularly excited for Nic Cage’s Color Out of Space, The Lodge (from the team that scarred me forever with Goodnight Mommy), and documentary Scream, Queen! My Nightmare On Elm Street. Also, if I’m being honest, this Wrinkles the Clown documentary looks wild.
The majestic peak of Alto del Perdón, also known as the Mount of Forgiveness, overlooks one of the most idyllic and picturesque countrysides in all of Spain. Located on the storied Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, between Pamplona and the town of Puente la Reina, Alto del Perdón basks in brilliant sunshine. An eye-catching metal sculpture, erected to honor past, present, and future pilgrims, sits at the top of the mount. The pilgrimage route itself leads to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, where Catholic lore states that remains of the Apostle Saint James the Great lie. The Camino is always filled with pilgrims determined to complete the 500-mile journey to on foot. It appears to be no more than a chalky and rocky dirt trail. But the trail itself is revered as a spiritual journey, one that will open the pilgrim’s heart and mind to some long-awaited truth.
Alto del Perdón does not, at first glance, seem like the kind of setting in which to open a traditional ghost story. But C.S. O’Cinneide did not set out the write a traditional ghost story with her debut novel, Petra’s Ghost, out now from Dundurn Press. Though O’Cinneide draws upon both travel tales and ghost stories for her debut, Petra’s Ghost is a refreshing spin on both of these classic narratives. (You can learn more about O’Cinneide’s inspiration for her novel by checking out the interview I conducted with her.) The result is an engrossing, creepy tale of the people who run away from the dark secrets haunting them and seek forgiveness on the Camino.
Guys, what did we do to deserve this many horror movies in a single month?!?! I’m overwhelmed with all these new August horror films! From a ton of VOD films (of varying quality) to some solid theatrical releases, the August horror cup runneth over.
For my part, I’m excited for Ready or Not, Scary Stories
to Tell in the Dark, Tigers Are Not
Afraid, and The Divine Fury.
Watch those trailers and many others after the cut!
Petra’s Ghost, written by C.S. O’Cinneide, has a U.S. release date of August 13, 2019. It will be published by Dundurn.
Petra’s Ghost starts off with a young widower standing on a windswept hill. He holds a plastic baggie. It is filled with the ashes of his deceased wife, Petra. He has carried her all the way to Spain, to the sun-baked and arduous Camino de Santiago, so he can complete the pilgrimage and scatter her ashes. To say goodbye. It should be easy—find a picturesque spot, open the baggie, and let his wife fall from his fingers.
But it’s not that simple. He feels guilty; he’s the only one who knows how Petra really died, the only one who knows he’s responsible for her death. Now, he keeps seeing strange things. A shadowy figure out of the corner of his eye. The apparition of Petra in broad daylight. She seems to be following him. She seems to be getting closer. The widower knows that, sooner or later, he will have to make peace with Petra. And he’s not the only pilgrim who is haunted by the ghosts of the past.
I don’t know about you, but every year I make a resolution to read more horror novels. I experience varying levels of success each year (because life happens). Not that it stops me from buying more and more horror novels and adding to my already out-of-control horror novel collection.
Sigh. There are just too many intriguing horror novels out there, and so little time.
But I feel optimistic about this year! Really, I do. I am making a concerted push to read more in general, especially when it comes to my beloved horror genre. Just as I saw in 2017 and 2018, this year will see the publication of a ton of cool horror novels and novellas, so I certainly won’t have any problems finding good options. Choosing among them will be a different story, however.
All in all, there are 15 horror novels that have caught my eye so far, with something for everyone. Specifically, I’m interested in Caitlin R. Kiernan’s latest haunting short story collection, The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan; Josh Malerman’s new dystopic vision, Inspection; the gothic-inspired nightmare PEtra’s Ghost by C.S. O’Cinneide; Grady Hendrix’s delightful-sounding My Mom’s Book Club Killed Dracula; and the arresting A Lush and Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs.
“Remake”—the very word inspires the most dramatic of eye rolls for horror fans. That’s because so many horror remakes are unnecessary. All too often, remakes are based on films that were wonderfully crafted, and some producer somewhere is trying to make a quick buck by dragging a good movie’s legacy through the mud.
Seriously, how frustrating is it when a solid, well-made horror classic, like 1982’s Poltergeist, gets remade? Poltergeist didn’t need a remake! And if someone just had to remake it, couldn’t they have created something better than the 2015 remake?
But then, again, how cool is it when a horror remake actually adds to or improves upon the original horror film? As much as I love Dario Argento’s Suspiria, it has its flaws. Luckily, the remake of Suspiria paid homage to the original, avoided copying the original’s aesthetic, and dove deep into the plot. What resulted was an original film that preserved the original’s legacy and stood on its own.
Or take the most recent news about the remake of Candyman, a good film that could have been great. It’s set to be produced by Jordan Peele and promises to dig into the power of the Candyman mythos against the backdrop of the now-gentrified area where the Cabrini-Green housing projects once stood. With Peele at the helm, I’m optimistic that this remake will cover a lot of new ground when it comes to racism and class differences, which is sadly very relevant.
That got me thinking—what are some other horror films that deserve a remake? What are some films that were good but not great, full of potential that shouldn’t be wasted? For whatever reason, be it a shoe-string budget, uneven writing, or production troubles, tons of horror movies never reached their full potential despite having most of the parts to do so.
When I first heard about Grady Hendrix’s novel My Best Friend’s Exorcism, marketed as a cross between Heathers and The Exorcist, I just knew I had to read it. I love 80s nostalgia as much as the next person (since I am just barely a child of the 80s). I also love making fun of the 80s, what with the awful clothes and hair, the rampant and self-conscious conservatism, and the general tackiness.
And sure enough, My Best Friend’s Exorcism pays homage to this decade as much as it pokes fun at it. More than that though this novel is heartfelt and creepy, treading into the well-worn territory of fraught adolescent relationships. The result is a book whose nostalgia runs deeper than the pop culture references it deploys throughout.
Do you hear that? It’s the sound of Halloween approaching, which means it’s time to start choosing your horror novels for autumn. You only have 75 days left to pick a scary read!
With so many horror novels out there, it can be hard to choose. Don’t worry though, because I always come prepared with great recommendations. If you’re looking for a horror classic to curl up with, I got you covered with my Classic Spooky Reads or Modern Horror Classics post. If you’re looking for a unique female voice to keep you up at night, my female horror writer litspo post is worth a look. And you can always check out my blog on new horror releases from the first half of 2018.
Even better news—I noticed that tons of intriguing, spooky sounding horror novels were slated for release in the latter half of 2018. Since I hadn’t covered any of these books in my previous post, I thought they merited a whole new post, and just in time for those of us looking to find the perfect scary fall read.
After seeing Hereditary a few weeks ago, I left stunned, thinking that I hadn’t seen a horror film like Hereditary in a very long time. So much happened, much of it overwhelming in its emotional punch and terror. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I gave up trying to decipher things and instead just let memories of it come to me. It is one of the most genuinely horrific films I’ve seen recently. It’s also one of the most depressing films I’ve seen in a long time.
After weeks of not knowing how to write this review, I finally managed to lean into the film’s complexity. Hereditary is so good at unfolding itself, at managing what information it offers the audience and when. Not only does this model make for excellent slow burns, but it also mirrors the disintegration of the family as their first loss spirals into unimaginable horror. It is a tragic story, really, a film about a woman that unwittingly enables and fulfills her family’s nightmarish fate.
As far as horror movies go, Hereditary isn’t focused on entertainment, though I found the film entertaining in and of itself. No, Hereditary is more focused on using its story and characters to create a fundamentally unnerving experience. It explores how we are at our most vulnerable around our family members, and despite our fervent beliefs that we can ignore the scars and outrun the past, we can’t always. Continue reading