In the Mouth of Madness on Blu-ray and Other Reasons to Go Stark Raving Mad

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

In the Mouth of Madness Blu-ray coverIn the Mouth of Madness (1995)
Directed by John Carpenter. Starring Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, Jürgen Prochnow, David Warner, Bernie Casey, John Glover, Peter Jason, Charlton Heston.

“Believe me, the sooner we’re off the planet, the better.”
— John Trent (Sam Neill) in In the Mouth of Madness

John Carpenter is a master filmmaker, one of the most influential genre directors to emerge from the cloudburst of creativity of the 1970s. You’d be hard-pressed to find a science-fiction or horror fan who doesn’t have one of Carpenter’s movies in his or her list of Top [Fill in Number] Films list.

But Carpenter’s popularity has created the illusion that his films achieved greater financial success when first released than they did. The unfortunate truth is Carpenter has had only a few outright hits: Escape from New York, Assault on Precinct 13, and Halloween are the most notable. Halloween throws off the curve: Carpenter’s third feature, it grossed $65 million during its initial domestic run against a budget of $325,000 — and it continues to generate revenue to this day. Halloween also influenced genre movies immediately, igniting the massive “slasher boom.”

But many of Carpenter’s finest and most beloved movies did middling-to-flop business when they premiered. The Thing, rightfully considered his masterpiece, was a financial disappointment for Universal in the summer of 1982. Big Trouble in Little China was an outright box-office disaster. And through the ‘90s, Carpenter could not catch a break with anything. After 2001’s Ghosts of Mars did a spectacular belly flop (a worldwide — yes, worldwide — gross of $14 million against a $28 million budget), Carpenter went into semi-retirement to play video games and watch the Lakers. He has only returned to directing for two episodes of Masters of Horror on Showtime and the barely released and very uninteresting feature The Ward in 2011.

However, the march of appreciation for his movies in their post-premiere years continues. I believe we can now safely deposit one of his 1990s movies in the vault of John Carpenter Classics: In the Mouth of Madness, which debuted on Blu-ray last week. Carpenter fans have often dubbed it the director’s last great movie, and although I hope that’s incorrect and he still has a surprise waiting for us, the title seems apt. I certainly haven’t seen anything Carpenter has done since that remotely approaches it in quality.

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Adventure On Film: Planet Of the Apes

Monday, October 28th, 2013 | Posted by markrigney

original.0I missed nearly all the seminal pop culture of my youth. When in eighth grade Andy H. asked me which I liked better, AC/DC or Pink Floyd, I honestly couldn’t answer the question. I was also much too tongue-tied to ask Andy if he’d ever heard of Doctor Who, which I’m quite sure he had not.

Anyway. One of the major events that I missed was Planet Of the Apes. True, Planet is from 1968, and I was only born in ’67, but even so, kids at my school through at least my sixth grade year sported Planet Of the Apes lunch boxes, thermoses, backpacks, and t-shirts. Planet Of the Apes (whatever it was) was cool.

My hipper-than-I friends informed me that Planet regularly played in re-runs on TV, and of course there was the short-lived spin-off series made specifically for the telly (1974). How was it that I had missed all this? Simple: I was building dams in the tributary streams of the Olentangy River, using whatever was handy: stone knives and bearskins, that sort of thing. I knew better than to explain.

Now that I’m older than Methuselah, or at least rapidly catching him up, I figured it’s time to see precisely what I’d missed.

And you know what?

If it weren’t for the execrable presence of Charlton Heston, it’s not half bad.

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The Weird of Oz Wishes You a Happily Horrifying Hallowe’en

Monday, October 28th, 2013 | Posted by Nick Ozment

Don’t fear the Reaper. — Blue Oyster Cult

Fall 2013 062

Visitors to our house on Hallowe’en are greeted by a presence.

Oh, I’ve loved being spooked, terrified, creeped out since I was knee-high to a werewolf and not much bigger than Bigfoot’s foot.

Okay, sometimes I chickened out; it got too much for me.

I have a vague recollection of my Grandpa Yontz, who died when I was very young, taking me into one of those spookhouses somewhere along the side of the road. We got a few feet into the dark, narrow entry hall. Up ahead to our right, glowing heads hung suspended in air (recalling it decades later, and now being something of a scholar of spookhouses, I can exactly identify the effect: polystyrene mannequin heads, the kind used to display wigs, strung up on fishing line beneath an ultraviolet light). Even then, I knew they weren’t real, but that’s as far as I got. I just couldn’t bring myself to plunge further into that black unknown. I ignored my grandpa’s reassurances, pulled my hand away from his, and darted back for the entrance.

Within a year or two, a real horror visited us: my grandpa was snatched away in a traffic accident on a narrow road coming back from a camping trip on the Mogollon Rim. In the face of reality, pretend horrors aren’t so scary after all, and I never again turned away from a spookhouse or a scary movie.

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Goblins, Demons, Zombies and Fights Aplenty: A Review of The Blue Blazes

Monday, October 28th, 2013 | Posted by James McGlothlin

The Blue Blazes-smallIn this quickly changing Internet-obsessed publishing market, Chuck Wendig has shown himself to be a successful and versatile writer as a game designer, a screenwriter, and as a novelist as well. He is also known for some helpful books on how to be a better writer. The man also knows what makes a good author website!

Besides his many authorial talents, I first heard about Wendig from buzz concerning his Miriam Black series and their cool covers from Angry Robot. Unfortunately, I haven’t read any of those yet. You know how it is with that “to read” pile or compiled list at Goodreads.com.

But then I saw the following blurb from Adam Christopher concerning a new upcoming book from Wendig:

The Blue Blazes is exactly my kind of supernatural mob crime novel: dark and visceral, with an everyman hero to root for and Lovecraftian god-horror to keep you awake at night… this is the good stuff, right here.

Noir-ishness and Lovecratian horror? Sold! I immediately bought my first Wendig novel and began to devour The Blue Blazes upon receiving.

This book centers upon the character Mookie Pearl, a big-fisted lug who works for a crime syndicate in modern day (or possibly near future) New York City. Mookie is not a regular wiseguy though. He mainly works in the Underworld — no, not the usual euphemism for organized crime. Mookie works in the Underworld: a place crawling with the undead and monsters, some of which have come in contact with the regular world, though often staying down in the tunnels and caves below New York.

Though Mookie is built like a tank, he also has access to a special underworld drug called “blue blazes” — a blue powder that, when rubbed on one’s temples, turns you into something of a superhuman. Given Mookie’s build, it seems to turn him into a non-green version of The Incredible Hulk.

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Try a Free Cold and Dark Adventure

Monday, October 28th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Cold and Dark-smallLast week, I talked about a promising new RPG of science fiction horror, Cold and Dark, from Chronicle City Games.

I say promising because any time an RPG includes stats for alien beasts that scuttle around remote asteroids, deadly secrets from ancient star-faring civilizations, and the threat of genocide through an infectious madness, you know you’re in for some great gaming.

Shortly after the post went live, I heard from Angus Abranson at Chronicle City:

The article on Cold & Dark is great, thanks. The only thing I’ll add is that (yesterday) we posted up a free 65-page Quickplay for the game which also includes an adventure so people can ‘try before they buy.’

You can download the Quickplay via our webstore here.

Woo-hoo! What makes a great game even better? Free stuff! Thanks, Chronicle City. You’re all right.

It’s our duty to pass this news along to you, naturally. Because we look out for you. Especially in regards to great games and free swag.

Now you have no excuse not to check out Cold & Dark. I expect a steady stream of reader reports on epic gaming sessions. Especially ones in which you neglected to bring along sufficient ordinance and your team ran out of ammo somewhere in a dark corridor far, far below the surface. Those are my favorite.

Good hunting, people.


Black Gate Online Fiction: Dark Muse by David C. Smith

Sunday, October 27th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Dark Muse-smallBlack Gate is very pleased to offer our readers an exclusive excerpt from Dark Muse, the new noir thriller from David C. Smith.

Jack Mathis, a bright young book editor in Chicago, has found the next great American writer. Yet this anonymous genius is inspired to create in the darkest way imaginable: he picks his victims carefully, murders them gruesomely, then gives them new life in the best stories Jack has ever read.

The writer knows all about Jack. All about his wife. Knows everything. He has more stories in mind, too. Jack wants them. What is he willing to do to get them?

David C. Smith is the author of twenty-two novels, primarily in the sword-and-sorcery, horror, and suspense genres, including The Witch of the Indies (1977), Oron (1978), The Sorcerer’s Shadow (1978), and The West is Dying (1983).

David is the co-author, with Joe Bonnadonna, of Waters of Darkness, also available from Damnation Books. Read a free excerpt here.

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by David Evan Harris, Janet Morris and Chris Morris, John C. Hocking, Michael Shea, Peadar Ó Guilín, Vaughn Heppner, Aaron Bradford Starr, Martha Wells, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, E.E. Knight, C.S.E. Cooney, Howard Andrew Jones, and many others, is here.

Dark Muse was published by Damnation Books on December 1, 2012. It is 206 pages and currently available in trade paperback for $17.99, and $5.95 for the digital version.

Read a complete sample chapter of Dark Muse here.


Publishing and the Luck of Timing

Sunday, October 27th, 2013 | Posted by Joseph McCullough

Thermopyale Last Stand of the 300-smallAlthough publishers don’t like to admit it, there is a large amount of luck involved in the sales of most books. No one really knows when (or even how) a book is going to catch fire in the public imagination and charge to the top of the bestsellers list. Publishers can help. They can advertise; they can push to get the book on the shelves, but they can’t make the public buy it.

In many ways, Osprey Publishing relies less on luck than most publishers. Since most of our books are based around long-running series that have an established following and fan base, we can generally predict, with some degree of accuracy, how well a given book will do. That said, sometimes we are surprised. Personally, I’m still baffled as to why Warships of the Anglo-Dutch Wars 1652-74 has sold so well. And sometimes, we are just lucky…

A few years ago, we published Thermopyale: Last Stand of the 300 right about the same time the movie 300 came out. Sales for the book went off the charts. Not too long after, we released Zombies: A Hunter’s Guide right about the time The Walking Dead first hit television screens. Another instant hit.

This leads to the obvious question: Why don’t we time our books to come out at the same time as big budget movies or television shows? Oh, we’ve tried. And we’ve been burned. In the book trade, it is necessary to announce your book at least a year before publication if you want it seriously considered for placement in the stores. Now, movie releases are usually announced even sooner than that, but they often don’t stick to their release dates.

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DRACULA Has Risen From the Grave…Again

Saturday, October 26th, 2013 | Posted by John R. Fultz

Dracula-NBC-banner

The Original Vampire is back. No, I’m not talking about Christopher Lee in the 1968 classic Dracula Has Risen from the Grave. This time, Vlad Tepes Dracula has risen in a most unexpected and delightful place. Television.

Last Friday, just in time for Halloween, NBC aired the pilot of its new limited series Dracula, starring the great Jonathan Rhys Meyers. The show is a “re-imagining” of the original Bram Stoker novel and is supervised by show runner/head writer Daniel Knauf (HBO’s Carnevale). Currently, it is set to run as 10 episodes seeped in blood, romance, and horror, driven by the vampiric charisma of Ryhs Meyers. He stole the show in the BBC’s legendary Gormenghast mini-series, but is perhaps best known for his award-winning role as Henry VIII on Showtime’s The Tudors.

So, is this new incarnation of Dracula any good? The pilot episode is immediately engaging, with its crypt-raiding, blood-soaked resurrection, its turn-of-the-century London, and its decadent world of aristocracy and privilege. The classic story of DRACULA is entirely familiar, so the producers/writers have gone out of their way to put interesting twists in the story and freshen up the legend. New blood indeed.

Dracula-CloseUpIn the first of several clever twists, Dracula isn’t really the villain in this story. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times–our modern culture tends to worship the outlaw, venerate the villain, and glorify the gangster. TV has been moving this way ever since The Sopranos changed television with its shades-of-grey morality and fascinating criminal protagonists. So the trick here is to make Dracula a sympathetic lead without completely stripping him of his “monster” status and thereby turning him into a “sparkly vampire” a la Twilight. Fortunately, the producers of Dracula manage to pull off this feat in a skillful manner. This Dracula is hungry for some bloody justice.

Dracula (posing as an American industrialist in London) is out to annihilate the Order of the Dragon, a secret society of elitist conquerors who have always hidden behind the Cross (i.e. Christianity). He assembles a “list” of modern-day members, accusing them of murder, rape, torture, and the wholesale slaughter of innocents. Ironic that a man remembered by history as “Vlad the Impaler” would be so against these savage practices.

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Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow

Saturday, October 26th, 2013 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The King in YellowOctober draws to a close and so it’s time to turn to horror and the supernatural, to the weird tale and the things that cannot be known. Today, I want to look at one of the founding classics of the weird, Robert W. Chambers’s collection of linked short stories, The King in Yellow. Published in 1895, it was celebrated by H.P. Lovecraft, who used some of the book’s ideas in his Cthulhu mythos; in fact, the book’s inspired a mythos of its own, complete with a wiki site, as well as any amount of further fiction, music, and games. You can find it for yourself online.

The book’s made up of ten short stories, plus a poem supposedly extracted from a play called The King in Yellow. The first five tales mention the play to varying extents, and all have other fantastic elements, as well as a horrific or weird tone. The sixth story is a set of brief prose poems, while the final four stories are basically mimetic and seem to have nothing to do on a plot level with the first five — though they have certain motifs and themes in common. The play which links the first five stories, the group I’ll call here the ‘mythos stories,’ is said to drive mad anyone who reads it; it’s not clear if it has ever been performed. The first tale’s clearly set in the ‘future’ of 1920, so by extension the following four must be as well (a sculptor mentioned in the first story turns up in the second). The second story features an odd fluid that can turn anything immersed in it to stone. The third and fourth seem to have characters from the play crossing into the real world, while the fifth deals with a timeslip — a blurring of past and present — and also has a character who seems at least tangentially related to the play.

But the primary interest in these stories is the play itself, and the strange things it contains. We never get a plot summary, or character list, or even a description of its themes. Only hints and names. Hastur. The Yellow Sign. The Pallid Mask. “Carcosa, where black stars hang in the heavens; where the shadows of men’s thoughts lengthen in the afternoon, when the twin suns sink into the Lake of Hali.” The sinister King in Yellow himself. What does it all add up to?

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Bravery, Duplicity, and Sheer Dumb Luck: Larry Elmore’s Snarfquest

Saturday, October 26th, 2013 | Posted by Elwin Cotman

moresnarf

“A comic quest for wealth, power, and all that other good stuff.”

In sixth grade, I had an arts teacher named Mrs. Bateson. She gave us an assignment where we had to research a famous artist and deliver a monologue from their perspective. We had to print out pictures of their work for the class, and also dress like them.

The artist I chose: Larry Elmore.

This would have been in the mid-1990s, when the Internet was nascent and there was not a lot of info on a still-living, still-working artist. Nevertheless, a lady who worked with my father hopped on this thing called Yahoo, found what must have been the world’s only Larry Elmore fansite at the time, and provided me with a pretty comprehensive biography of TSR’s most famous artist. This included info on the commercial work he’d done up until falling in with those crazy RPG guys.

How do you dress like Elmore? Well, he’s from Kentucky, so I wore denim. What examples did I bring of his work? I already had plenty. I brought along six or seven Dragonlance novels, along with a copy of a strangely titled graphic novel called Snarfquest. I’m pretty sure I got an A on the assignment.

Karen Russell wrote a nice essay for The New Yorker‘s sci-fi issue about how she was a Shannara kid. Maybe I should have read past the Scions of Shannara series, as that was obviously what the Pulitzer nominees were reading. With no disrespect to Terry Brooks, I was a Dragonlance kid, through and through.

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