Northern Souls- Death will tear us apart…

It has been written for a while. My new and first horror novel has been in the works through all of the time I had been writing my first sci-fi novel Orbital Kin and I have been redrafting it a few times in the last couple of years.

What is it about?

You may have seen some photos on my social media, read some short hints about the story. I will tell you a little more now-

In the North East of England a young man named Eric has recently had to deal with the death of his girlfriend Grace. It has shaken his life unbelievably but some things about her death don’t add up or just don’t make sense.

He does see Grace again and it is her message which really starts the story of this book.

Besides this lamented and tragically ended romance there are others dying and disappearing mysteriously around the North East. Bloody trails and rumours circulate along with fears and talk of ancient local myths and legend.

You may have heard of some of the most famous Northern legends about monsters or ghosts such as the Lambton Worm, Tam Lin, The Witch of Seaton Delaval, the White Lady of Blenkinsopp, the death of Cuthbert and others. How much of these old local tales are entertaining fiction and how much of them contain some element of truth?

There may be ghosts, there may be abominations as Eric and his friends move around the North East hoping to save souls while the blood spills, flesh is torn and supernatural forces rise around them.

Northern Souls is due to be published late September/early October 2017 in paperback in all good bookshops.

James E. Parsons has previously published two SF books- Orbital Kin & Minerva Century available now.

 

 

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Frankenstein (2015) Film Review

There have been so many films over the decades based upon the hugely influential and famous book by Mary Shelley. This new version I watched a week ago does change things around just a little and because of this does bring some new things to the story.

This Frankenstein film is directed by Bernard Rose (most famous for directing the first Candyman movie) and starring Carrie-Anne Moss, Danny Huston, Xavier Samuel. The begins right away with the ‘birth’ of the monster, this time called Adam (played by Xavier Samuel). We see that he is created in secret by married scientists Carrie-Anne Moss and Danny Huston. They run tests, try to teach him skills, and he starts life much like a naïve simple child. He does though possess a dangerous increased strength and eventually this almost has him terminated. After struggle, Adam escapes and runs away alone.

After this it moves along in similar fashion to the original story-the monster/Adam meets and accidentally kills a small girl, runs from police officers, blood is spilled as he runs on alone, confused and desperate.

The film is told from the point of view of the monster/Adam and set in our modern world. This does make it fairly more believable and more tragic in some ways. This does contrast in my mind with the large scale, big budget mid-90’s film version starring De Niro as the monster, with huge sets and costumes and set way back around the time that the original book was written.

Adam soon meets a friendly homeless blind-man on the streets who tries to give him advice and help him to understand people and how the world around them works. If you know the story, you can expect that eventually it all does again fall to pieces with increasing death and destruction around Adam. The end is more different to how the tale usually winds up and is trying to say something through the eyes of the monster this time.

Bernard Rose is a very talented director and while this film has a fairly low budget he does take care in crafting a very thoughtful and poetic film, while it does not shy away from explicit bloodshed and gore fairly frequently. It is probably one of the more bloodsplattered versions of Frankenstein on film but this does not ruin the film. Another director doing the same thing, with same levels of blood and gore may have put out a much more simplistic disposable movie. With this version of the classic tale, Rose opens out some different thoughts on man creating man or life in our modern technologically advanced times, but also how such an artificial being would exist, feel, struggle against our fearful, aggressive and shallow world.

James E. Parsons is author of SF books Orbital Kin and Minerva Century both out now in paperback/ebook/hardback in all good bookshops internationally and online from Waterstones, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others. His first horror novel will be published toward the end of 2017.

Hemlock Grove: Season 3 Review

This is the end beautiful friend. The end.

Yes after a couple of months, through all of the crazed hellish gore and melodrama I have reached the very end of this prickly dark show. Was it worth watching all three seasons on Netflix? Was it much better than American Horror Story?

This was the last season, it was due to all end, all various parts of the tale wrapped up and put to an end. Given the nature of the show, of course I did expect that to be a possibly offensive to some, gruesome and tragic ending.

Many people held very mixed views of the show-some seemed to really like it to begin with, others did not really take to the style of it all. Televised at the same time as the American Horror Story was on a successful high through the second to third series, this show is different enough to warrant your time if you are a horror fan.

The second season of Hemlock Grove ends with a very unexpected almost Lovecraft inspired finale, raising the stakes and demands of the final seasons much higher. Did it manage to rise to that challenge?

More of the original main characters (played by the high profile actors such as Lili Taylor and Dougray Scott) had been killed off, with a handful of new characters added to the story. New stranded love interest Miranda is kidnapped at the end of season two and this sets young troubled vampire Roman and his gypsy werewolf friend Peter on the task of finding her and defeating the monster whom stole her and the baby Nadia.

At the start of the season it does begin with Miranda in some distant snowy winter lodge held captive by the very enigmatic (and entertaining as an actor) Doctor Spivak. Soon enough to focus returns to Peter and Roman back in Hemlock where Peter’s cousin Destiny is due to marry her new fiancée Andreas. After two or three episodes the story settles on the unfolding criminal problems of Andreas and tensions between him and Peter. Destiny is still a very good character played by the great Kaniehtiio Horn as she has some regular visions and help for the young supernatural pair on their quest. Most of the series does lack in either vampire or werewolf action or set pieces, relying on what we have seen before and might hope to expect toward the season end. The tragic young sister Shelley is fought over by Roman and Olivia, who becomes more and more insane and manipulative than we’ve seen her yet in the show.

Also in this final season Doctor Johann Price gets more focus as he himself has some kind of personal breakdown probably does to trying to help both Roman and Olivia and seeing some much continual bloodshed and killing around his research work at the Godfrey institute. Around halfway into the season almost all of the expected horror elements seems to have gone and we are left watching a Johann and Olivia individually loose their minds, and below par urban crime heist plot and Roman shagging around yet more woman until he sucks their blood in desperate confusion.

The plot for Shelley opens up and can be read as a new exploration of the Frankenstein’s monster theme. She is torn between the sides of her nasty and selfish family, runs away and finds a short term happiness living on the streets.

Eventually more of the vampire/vargulf myth is built upon and opened up, backstory explored as a new young mysterious lady comes to change the dynamic of events, which does gradually help to maintain an original and interesting direction for the horror aspect of the show.

Now of course I have been watching this series with comparison of American Horror Story and also Penny Dreadful in the back of my mind. Hemlock Grove mostly focuses on younger characters and has a more youthful energy and terror through it. The other major thing which kept it separate from those shows is that it largely stays with the same group of character over all three series. Penny Dreadful also keeps and builds upon the same characters but is set in a very different time period.

So again like the two previous seasons of this show, it does dip slightly half way, and possibly doesn’t offer as much full out horror on screen as many viewers might hope to see. It is however an interesting exploration of a set group of characters, often very Shakespearean with the OTT drama. Also being one of the very first Netflix produced shows, I think that they maybe didn’t really know how far they could take the show, how they would best balance the story all the way through. It could have been better in some ways, it could have done others things differently but it does all conclude in the end.

This is a small screen horror series with some obvious flaws but it does have enough things to make it worth watching I assure you if you are a fan of classic gothic horror such a Dracula, werewolves and old legends with a modern setting and plenty of gallons of blood and dead bodies falling to the floor.

James E. Parsons is author of the science fiction books Orbital Kin and Minerva as paperback, ebook and hardback both available from Waterstones, amazon, Barnes & Noble, WHSmith and all other good bookshops internationally now. His first horror novel is published in 2017.

 

Hemlock Grove:season2 Review

Yes it did take me a while to get down to watching all of season one of this horror show but it has pulled me in and I am heading right on to the very end now.

A few days ago I finished up season two of the show. This is where I try not to drop in any spoilers for those of you yet to watch the show-I’ll try my best. Actually best not read this post until you’re done with season one.

So at the end of the first season a few main characters were killed off, in fact it was surprising just how many continued to be maimed, chopped down, slaughtered in quick succession. There were a few mysteries left to keep us curious and wanting more such as the secret experimental project of doctor Johan and what happened to the baby and where Peter and Roman ended up soon after.

So while the infamous werewolf transformation scene may have been extremely bloody and graphic (plus physically implausible) there was actually very little monster wild wolf action. The focus was mostly on the aftermath of the wolf attacks around town, the tensions between the schools pupils and their suspicions of Roman and Peter, and the tensions between Olivia Godfrey and her brother-in-law Norman. Many secrets to hide while the blood spills and bodies pile up.

With start of the second season and new character in her twenties called Miranda comes to stay with Roman in his new plush house after her car is hit on the near roadside. She soon meets Peter who is working at the car repair place, and they spend time together. Eventually she brings them back together. Peter’s mother Lynda Romancek has been jailed by authorities and so Peter and his cousin Destiny begin to make use of her supernatural gypsy skills and his wolf powers in an attempt to free her. Roman meanwhile finds his own problems as his family history changes him, and his desire for blood makes him desperate.

The two characters of interest in this second season are new girl Miranda, who finds herself trapped  at the home of Roman and curious about what he is hiding and the link with him and Peter. Next we find that Roman’s sister Shelley is alive and on the run, hiding from all and moving in the shadows until she takes refuge in the basement of an abandoned house where a friendly young little boy meets her. Over the season Shelley opens up as a character much more, and she becomes more than the simple vague monster image she had previously been.

There is a shift on tone in this season, and in some ways it works better but only so far. The wicked love triangle of Miranda, Roman and Peter is interesting especially toward the end of the season when all the macabre craziness arrives.

As this show was basically competing with American Horror Story, it wanted to set itself apart with a distinctive style that was not seen in AHS. This is of course the times where Hemlock goes very bizarre and quite Freudian with the horror elements and the family tensions. It remains often very soap opera and camp but this is part of the charm in all honesty.

It is great to see Destiny get a lot more screen time as she really is good fun and could probably even lead her own show. Toward the end of the season it is almost like David Lynch is directing Hammer House of Horrors. It becomes even more ludicrous and funny (intentionally all of the time? This could be debated). You know that this is an over the top macabre and melodramatic show, and if you want just that then that is what you get and it goes up a few more notches.

James E.Parsons is author of the science fiction books Orbital Kin and Minerva Century both available from amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble, WHSmith and other good bookshops internationally. His first horror novel is published in 2017.

Hemlock Grove: Season 1 Review

Yes this OTT bloody small screen show has been finished a while now from 2013 until late 2015, but thanks to Netflix I am binge watching it all over a few weeks. I had started with the first series on dvd a while ago but writing put a stop to it. Well now I’ve got right to the end of this series.

I would think that this series got to go ahead due to the huge success of American Horror Story which began in 2011 showing that what could be done with a long running small screen horror series with a decent budget. An audience is there for this kind of thing, and in big number it would be revealed.

And so along came Hemlock Grove a couple of years later as the first real competition to that show. Whereas AHS for the first couple of seasons was really fairly serious and intense, Hemlock Grove was more of an opened up story, with a variety of characters and tones. It reminds me of a number of horror novels I have read, possibly like some Stephen King or Graham Masterton. The show was executive produced by horror director Eli Roth (he of Hostel, Cabin Fever and recently Green Inferno ) a youngish director always pushing at boundaries of taste, censorship and extreme terror on screen. This gave us some suggestion of the kind of show it might be and also how it would possibly differ or be even more shocking that AHS.

From early on, in trailers and promo publicity we learned about the infamous (and kind of physically impossible) werewolf change scene near the start of the series. This was made out to be one very over the top and gore filled show. Is it more that just that?

Adapted from the book by Brian McGreevy (who also developed and helped write the show) it follows the young gypsy Peter Romancek who moves to Hemlock Grove with his mother. They have some family past there from a long time ago, and soon after started at the local school Peter connects up with spoilt rich kid Roman Godfrey, heir to the Godfrey estate. The research building and company with the Godfrey name works on various kinds of biological research and experimentation. Local teens begin to be found dead more and more as Peter and Roman learn of the secrets each holds from the community around them.

The show looks really great. This was one of the very first made exclusively by Netflix, and it has great cinematography, sets and locations and costume design. The influence of shows such as Twin Peaks and the Hammer horror films can be seen regularly. As it focuses largely on the two teen characters of Peter and Roman, it has a more jaded, melodramatic feel but that also goes for the show in general. The mother of Roman, Olivia is played by Famke Janssen is often acting high camp like a light headed Morticia Adams. It can often feel like The Breakfast Club meets a number of classic modern horror films.

I did feel that the show started slowly, but keeping on with it past the third episode I did get to like what was going on and whole feeling of the show. Yes sometimes the acting may be a little hammy and overdone but it has a number of great genre elements and eventually they explode all over the screen with bloody vitriol.

This first season deals with the hunt for a mystery serial killer of teens, while many at the school suspect Peter, even as a werewolf (which he really is) but he and Roman unite to connect up the clues which reveal a much deeper terror. Other characters come into the show to help and hinder their search.

The show also follows the interconnected tensions and troubles between the two main families and how the past is setting up the present for them.

There may have been a few times after the half way mark when it was getting repetitive but it was still the kind of show that I had wanted to see on television and which is very rare. It can be more like a soap opera than AHS but also it is in some ways more emotional and dramatic, as there are characters that the viewers does empathise with as they attempt to stop the werewolf on the loose and the deadly plans of the Godfrey research empire.

James E. Parsons is author of Orbital Kin and Minerva Century-both available from Amazon, Waterstones ,Barnes & Noble, WHSmith in paperback/hardback/ebook and from other good bookshops. His new horror novel is due in 2017.

 

The year ends, but a future waits…

Here we are now right at the cold, wet and dull end to 2015. While right now things may be grim and dreary outside, there have been a number of entertaining and suprising events, books, films and more over the months.

What have been some of the film/book/game highlights for you?

There have been the huge event films including Avengers:Age of Ultron, Mad Max, Jurrassic World, smaller challenging films including Ex Machina, Chappie. Many of us might probably agree that the cinematic turkey came very early this year with Terminator:Genisys. After several long years and a final parting with original director, Marvel’s Ant-Man made it onto the big screen and was thankfully and surprisingly overall a great fun movie. One of the most anticipated huge sci-fi cinema events was the return of Ridley Scott to the genre with his adaptation of The Martian which pleased a great many.

With new books in genre we had a return to his known loved science fiction style from cyberpunk legend William Gibson with The Peripheral. Serious hard SF author Stephen Baxter continued on with his Proxima/Ultima series, Adam Christopher gave us SF Noir Made to Kill, Neal Asher has his Dark Intelligence-book 1 in paperback in September, as well as recent returns from Jeff VanDerMeer, Gary Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Ramez Naam, John Scalzi, John Meaney, Richard Morgan, among many other in the SF genre.

The horror genre was the master Stephen King offer us more besides the now regular detective noir thrillers and mystery tales he has put out over recent years. Sarah Lotz Three, David Wong’s Futuristic Violence and Fancy suits. Can we still class Dean Koontz as horror? If so, he has, as usual been putting out his well crafted thrill-rides tales. Thankfully there has been real new horror work from the UK legend Shaun Hutson, Ramsey Campbell. The other cult horror author from these parts Graham Masterton has moved away from horror for a while but is now putting out very successful thriller novels on fine form. There is good, more varied horror fiction outthere but a reader possibly really needs to dig around and hunt it down sadly.

With fantasy books, one of the top reliable authors Robin Hobb has continued to put out a new series, we had work from Trudi Canavan, Jim Butcher continued on with his well established and loved urban fantasy tales, Brandon Sanderson, Raymond E. Feist, Joe Abercrombie still establishing his strong fantasy style, Terry Goodkind.

The videogames highlights of 2015 included Halo 5, Fallout 4 in recent weeks, new Tomb Raider, Assasin’s Creed, Witcher3, Destiny built upon the initial established world, the almost perfect Batman game series ended with Arkham Knight.

What made your year, and what are you waiting for from 2016?

 

NIGHTBREED:The Director’s Cut (2014)

This epic horror fantasy film written and directed by the hugely talented artist/author/director Clive Barker was first released in cinemas way back in 1990. At the time that version of the film had been sadly recut and edited under orders by the film studio and producers, to sell it as more of a ‘slasher’ style movie. The real film was never intended to be like that, and at that time so much of the film was abandoned and lost for many years, with most people believing that the original version would never really ever be seen by the public.
After close to twenty five years, and with a sudden amount of sheer luck and then extreme hard work and effort, reels of footage were found and eventually cleaned up over the last couple of years. After a rough cut which was then toured around the UK, USA and other international film festivals, a strong response prompted the eventual successful completion of the closest cut of the film which Clive agrees with.
I personally live in the UK, and so had to get a US dvd copy (no idea when or if it will come out over here yet) and hope for the best. Thankfully I have been able to watch it today.
Nightbreed was adapted by director Clive Barker, who had only just has huge international success with his first horror film Hellraiser, also based on another of this short novels. This film though, while containing monsters and including some bloody and graphic sights, was much more than a simple slasher or gore fest horror flick.
I first saw the cinema cut version recorded from cable tv in the late 90’s, and was already a huge Clive Barker and Hellraiser fan then. As many have stated, that original cinema version of Nightbreed left out so much, and distorted the story vastly. I did though easily love that version because I could see enough original and stunning imagery and characters and pieces of the story between the patchwork structure of atempted slasher flick. I had read the novel Cabal which it was based on, and while I could tell that it was the same story, I knew that there were parts left out, or cut short which was strange enough as it was a fairly short book.
Over the years, reading interviews from Clive Barker I found him and some of the actors and other involved discussing the tragic events which had produced the box-office and artistic failure. Clive knew that the film studio probably did have reels of missing film scenes and footage for years, but would not let him have it. Thankfully, a glorious load of extra footage was hit upon suddenly a couple of years ago-and here we are with the cleaned up and recut version of Nightbreed today.

I did see the rough ‘Cabal Cut’ of Nightbreed when it was shown in some select UK cinemas a year or more ago, and though most of the found scenes and new footage was of fairly terrible visual quality (the film reels having deteriorated over years slightly) it was so great to see more of Midian and more of the monster I had seen pictures of but never seen on screen included in the film.
I sat down this afternoon and enjoyed a restored and spectacular horror fantasy movie, this time a slightly different, coherent and emotional film. Most of the structure of the film is still the same, but there a number of extended scenes and sequences which previously were only a second or two onscreen. This time Midian is a much more wider, elaborate, detailed place, there are dozens more monsters within the caverns below. The relationship between Boon and Lori is deeper, more touching and real. We care for them more, and by the end of the film, it means much more to see them get through the entire dramatic tale.
It does feel less like a simple Friday the 13th rip-off, with Dekker moving back in the narrative in the second hour, and more of the monsters and world of Midian move forward this time. I would agree that yes, there could still be say around ten minutes cut down perhaps, but largely this is a very satisfying, hugely enjoyable dark fantasy movie, now thankfully given the true finish and version that it should have had so many years ago.

The horror to be continued…

So along with all of these current new comic-book television adaptations, and with a few of the major successful big genre series finally ending or being cancelled including True Blood, Once Upon a Time; we have more recently been witnessing the arrival of a few new shows adapted from cult horror movies or also a few in production soon. These include now Evil Dead, From Dusk ’til Dawn, Teen Wolf, Hannibal and others.
We really just can’t stop these shows, and often some of them turn out to actually be surprisingly good. With the reveltion of the Sam raimi cult classic Evil Dead potentially becoming a small screen series (don’t ask me how that might actually work…)should we question which of these cult and fan-favourite horror films should be adapted or not?
Which others could be very well suited to extended small screen series format?
From a few that I personally really like, I wonder if something like Hellraiser or Candyman, Re-animator or Dario Argento’s Suspiria could be great weekly shows? or looking at how the format is evolving, just long extended mini series on outlets like Netflix etc?
Are there some already that have ruined your memories of a much loved classic fear film or just changed too much involving the characters, plots and familiar worlds they come from?
I am not convinced that all classic or cult movies can move from big to small screen successfully, but one or two of these shows do happen give us an interesting new angle on known familiar characters and tales.

Mario Bava-SHOCK -Film Review

I have seen a good few films from the increasingly respected and admired Italian horror and genre film director over the last few years, and now I have recently viewed what was his final film, which even had some help with script and direction from his son Lamberto Bava who soon became a confident and distinctive horror director after his father passed away.
Like Hitchcock experienced changes in pop culture and trends in filmmaking and audiences, Bava also saw that he should need to change as the 1980’s arrived and with SHOCK he emulated films like The Omen and Psycho but with his own familiar visual style still remaining strong.
As this film is now decades old, it does feel slow at times, and the plot and themes may seem far too familiar now but on release it was still quite fresh and new we must remember.
The plot sees a young woman moved into a house with her second husband and small boy who she had with her first. As times passes a number of strange events occur and the boy seems to have some odd behaviour. Accidents take place, mysteries appear, and the house and the truth of the past seem increasingly dark.
Sadly it is obvious that for a film released in very late 70’s, Bava was very much reaching a real serious creative peak but then sadly left us a couple of years after this film.
As usual, the budget seemed fairly low, and this was all in a time before any CGI or computer special effects. All effects in the film are very simple but as usual with Bava surprisingly effective. Images such as her dead husband appearing and then gone in an instant, the blood dripping through bricks and more shock and terrify.
Given how his films are often viewed as cheap and trashy, this final film is actually incredibly psychological, and many of the scenes could be interpreted in a number of ways relating to the connection and trouble between mother and son, the mother’s past, much of the imagery from her point of view and the view of the small son.
This movie really possibly was a great triumphant and creative high swansong for Bava to leave us with.

Dread, full of blood…

Over the last couple of weeks I have been gradually catching up with the lastest big budget creepy tv series Penny Dreadful. Now, when I first saw pictures and heard about it many months back, I was not too interested or did not expect very much at all from it.
A couple of episodes in and…Oh…my…god…
What the heck are these writers doing?
No, this is good, really good overly dramatic splattered gore chills and gothic thrills and creeps. Alright so when I learn that the show throws together a handful of classic mostly well known gothic literary characters, much like Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen I had some doubts. I has not all been fantastic-at times it has dragged, slowed down, seeming slightly lost with plot or direction. But when it kicks off and shacks loose…wow. It gets like Dracula meets the Evil Dead movies.
Really I already admired Eva Green, but she really must have put herself through so much for her extremely challenging, demanding role. Good to also know that Timothy Dalton can still be quite great at times, as an older actor and post-Bond. The Frankenstein character and his monster might not be working totally well, but it still has some moments.
I do look forward to the next series, but am almost really guessing as to just what could happen and where it could all go next.