The past is a different country

XeroxferoxIt’s hard to believe now, but there was a time, just a couple of decades ago, when British horror fans risked criminal prosecution simply for possessing videotapes of movies which are now readily available on Blu-ray from reputable high street retailers. The sheer absurdity of this draconian clamp-down helped fuel an explosion in the number of small press magazines devoted to the genre, many of which crossed my desk during the years I produced my monthly ‘Fanzine Focus’ column for The Dark Side.

One of the other magazines I wrote for back then was Headpress (“The Journal of Sex Religion Death”), whose publishing wing eventually grew to incorporate a range of film guides and cultural analyses. Among 2013’s releases was John Szpunar’s Xeroxferox: The Wild World of the Horror Film Fanzine, a selection of interviews with key players on both sides of the Atlantic — myself included, although that hasn’t biased my favourable opinion of its value as a revelatory window into social attitudes during a particularly oppressive period in this country’s cultural history.

Book review: Bedlam by Harry Adam Knight

Brosnan-BedlamBedlam by Harry Adam Knight

[From Critical Wave #28, 1992. ‘Harry Adam Knight’ was a well-known front for Leroy Kettle and the late John Brosnan. This hardback edition is currently available via Amazon.]

 

There are many occasions on which a reviewer opens a book full of optimism and enthusiasm, only to have them dashed upon the reef of the author’s creative limitations. The reverse is rarely the case, although this horror novel from one of Britain’s more successful pseudonymous teams certainly qualifies.

Indeed, as Stan Nicholls observed in the October Dark Side, there’s a case for arguing that Bedlam is actually a science fiction novel, since its plot revolves around such genre elements as psychotropic drugs, psychic manipulation and telekinesis; still, it’s the manner in which these ingredients are blended which no doubt persuaded Gollancz to apply the ‘horror’ tag, and the liberal splashes of sex and gore will most definitely please fans of that particular literary vein.

Where this book rises above contemporaries such as Shaun Hutson’s ludicrous Captives or Guy N Smith’s endless reworkings of his ‘Crabs’ sequence, however, is in its imaginative plotting and its precision when dealing with the more blood-soaked scenes; true, certain of the images cut to the bone, the trail of carnage left by enhanced sociopath Marc Gilmour reminiscent of the shattered London in the first volume of Alan Moore’s Miracleman, but there’s always a sense of purpose in their use.

The irony, of course, is that Bedlam – as the authorial acronyn implies – was probably never intended to overstep its genre niche. But it has, and the end result may not be a Great Novel in the sense of a glowing TLS critique, but it’s a damned sight more fun than most of the tedious tosh served up for the Bookers and their ilk.

Book review: The Seduction of the Gullible by John Martin

seduction_gullible2The Seduction of the Gullible by John Martin

[From Critical Wave #34, 1994. Originally released by Procrustes Press, Seduction of the Gullible – its revised title – is now available from the Dark Side imprint, Ghoulish.]

 

Several years in the pipeline, through no fault of its author’s, this genuinely timely cocktail of informed journalism and film analysis finally lets one of the horror genre’s leading movie critics sink his teeth into the lies, damned lies and Tory-backed scare campaigns which placed “video nasty” in the dictionary and allowed the BBFC to effectively outlaw an entire generation of European horror movies.

Just how valuable this guide to the players and key films involved is has been underlined by the absurd scaremongering over the James Bulger case (where links with Child’s Play 3, dismissed by the police involved, continue to be drawn by parties more interested in political capital than the truth) and more recent revelations that BBFC chief James Ferman has sacked his team of 13 examiners rather than accept their pleas to liberalise the classification structure. These are dark times, but Martin’s worthy investigations offer illumination to those whose eyes are not firmly welded shut.