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Midsommar: Folk Horror Trip of the Year

Welcome to Trippy Sweden!

With its many striking tropes, shocks and grotesque elements, the folk horror sensation Midsommar has become a big talking point among fans of weird and psychedelic movies, and my favourite of the moment. Here is an in-depth article I wrote for the excellent Sweden-based psychedelic culture site The Oak Tree Review, run by Henrik Dahl.


 

The noun ‘trip’ and the adjective ‘trippy’ have long been embedded in the language as generalised indicators of anything that is weird, far out, uncanny or whatever, and when it comes to movies they are customarily overused. But with regard to those genuinely trippy cinematic journeys, the ones which connoisseurs know, love, recognise and seek out, then we have to dust off those words once again because there are none better.

Movies which are simpatico with the psychedelic experience have been around long before alternative culture flourished in the 1960s, tapping into a collective unconscious thread, perhaps, from the shorts of Georges Méliès through to mainstream entertainment such as The Wizard of OzFantasia and fortuitously big budget art films like A Matter of Life and Death. The direct impact of the ’60s gave us 2001: A Space Odyssey and a slew of films featuring actual showcased trip sequences, including Easy RiderAltered States and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, together with hippyish alternative cult movies such as Performance and The Holy Mountain.

Those same terms of reference boosted the sci-fi sub genre cyberpunk, with the riffs of Philip K. Dick echoing through TronTotal RecallThe Matrix and A Scanner Darkly. Then there’s the freeform, madcap quality of early Surrealist films such as Un Chien Andalou and The Seashell and the Clergyman, pointing to the later works of Buñuel – notably Exterminating Angel and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. The French art film tradition, including Cocteau’s Orphée and Le testament d’Orphée, Resnais’s Last Year at Marienbad and Rivette’s Céline and Julie Go Boating also project that same dream/fugue/ trip quality. With all this feeding through, by the early days of the twenty-first century, we had a clearly established phenomenon – the postmodern weird mind-bending movie that nods to psychedelic experience, regardless of whether drugs are present or absent.

Of these the standout example is David Lynch’s Möbius strip surreal-noir masterpiece Mulholland Drive, quite rightly voted the greatest movie of the century so far. Lynch has never taken drugs, but then neither did Salvador Dali, yet in the works of both of these artists the sensibilities are there to see, getting knowing recognition from those who are ‘experienced’. Lynch’s splendid dive into a hallucinatory netherworld where higher dream logic has supplanted quotidian cause-and-effect and linear space-time is, to coin a word, definitively trippy. There are many other examples from the last twenty years, too numerous to discuss, and each of us will have favourites. My own are Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void, Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York and Lars von Trier’s Melancholia.

Read more on: The Oak Tree Review

 

Reviews In The Machine : An American Werewolf In London (1981) by Roger Keen

November 10, 2018 Leave a comment

A retro review for the guys at Machine Mean, Thomas and Chad, looking fondly back at a favourite horror film of yesteryear.

Machine Mean

werewolf1An American Werewolf in London

Watching An American Werewolf in London now, one of the first things that strikes you is how long ago 1981 was, and how much the world – specifically England – has changed since then. This is partly due to the observational eye of American director John Landis, achieving a detached touristy perspective on the closed community of East Proctor in rural Yorkshire, with its shifty paranoid locals who talk in broad accents and fear strangers; and also taking in the sights and sounds of swinging London – Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and not forgetting the seedy crepuscular interior of a Soho porn cinema. Notable too is the appearance of Jenny Agutter as love interest Nurse Alex Price, then still at the height of her nubility and fantasy material for legions of young men after a string of scantily clad roles in movies such…

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Literary Stalker, Metacrime and Metafilm

Guest post for The Haunted Reading Room, which travels the meta-road from highbrow Borges and Martin Amis to the popular culture of Wes Craven’s Scream series and Joe Hill’s stories, relating it to the writing of Literary Stalker. Thanks to Mallory Heart for hosting.


 

Though Literary Stalker is primarily a psychological crime/horror novel about revenge, another important aspect is the metafictional dimension, the nested novels-within-novels and the self-conscious play with the different levels of the ‘real’ and ‘fictional’. When I mention a word like ‘metafiction’ I can almost hear the groans of some readers, expecting to get a lecture on highbrow postmodernist writing of the kind practised by Borges, Nabokov, John Barth, Doris Lessing and Martin Amis…to name but a few. Or on films by the likes of Fellini and Truffaut. Yes, all that self-referential deconstructionist stuff hardly conjures up a vision of a fluent entertaining read or watch, but still the principles of metafiction have filtered down into the mainstream somewhat, and have also reached works of popular culture.

Read more on The Haunted Reading Room

 

Theatre of Blood (1973) w/ author Roger Keen

‘Theatre of Blood and Literary Stalker’, my guest post for Machine Mean on the Blog Tour, deals with the key influence of the film on the book, whilst performing a review and an analysis of what we love about this classic. Big thanks to Thomas S. Flowers and Chad Clark.

Machine Mean

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I had the basic plot idea for Literary Stalker – a bad writer with grudges who takes revenge on selected colleagues – many years before I wrote the novel, but it remained on the back burner because it seemed too simplistic. Then I had the further idea of making the work a pastiche, with showcased references to films and other novels, very much in the style of Quentin Tarantino. Having fun developing this, one film in particular popped into my mind – one I hadn’t actually viewed for decades, but which I remembered fondly from way back in the 1970s and ’80s. It was Theatre of Blood, and I got the DVD and re-watched it, several times. The rest, as they say, is history. 

The blueprint of a vengeful actor, dispensing justice to the critics who’ve disparaged him, using Shakespeare’s plays, matched my idea; but rather than simply copy…

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