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Black Static #52 (Magazine)

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Black Static 52

Black Static 52 CoverEdited by Andy Cox

Published by TTA Press


Carole Johnstone’s Wetwork draws back the curtains on Black Static 52’s fiction salvo, placing us alongside Scottish cops DI Lowry and DS Farquharson – our narrator – as they go about their days in a city afflicted with a deadly pandemic.

Said pandemic results in the infected turning into raging, zombie-like “sleepers” – but here, their existence is very much blended into the background. Rather than focus on the zombies, Johnstone gives us plenty of time to get to know the curmudgeonly but endearing Lowry and the fish-out-of-water Farquharson, making for a solidly involving character piece through and through.

Whilst the almost perpetually angry Lowry wants nothing more than to bust every potential criminal he comes across, the seemingly more controlled Farquharson has some deep, dark demons of his own – and Johnstone lets them unfold at an expert, thriller-like pace.

Some may find the phonetically-written Scottish drawls of various characters to be a little hard to “ken” (understand), but Wetwork is more than worth the effort, as it builds to a stunningly effective, tense, skin-crawling and “shout out loud” shock of a finale. This one’s a stunner.

Damien Angelica Walters steps up next, with Deep Within the Marrow. Here, our young narrator, Courtney, is forced to move into a new home when her widowed mother marries a similarly bereaved man, who has a daughter of his own. Standoffish and reticent, the other daughter, Alyssa, creeps Courtney out – often appearing in her room at night to deliver cryptic threats and (apparently) stage elaborate scenes that would indicate Courtney sleepwalking.

Walters’ story is very well written, packed full of excellent metaphors and impressive turns of phrase, but its climax and dénouement are just a little too fantastical and odd to have the desired creepy effect. It feels incompletely formed, lacking a solid grip on exactly what it’s saying.

Robert Levy’s The Oestridae sees another homestead upturned by change – this time by the disappearance of matriarch Marlene, who one day vanishes, leaving her grown children Billy and Dara behind. Around a month later, the pair are surprised by the arrival of an aunt they didn’t know they had – Aunt Lydie.

Immediately, Lydie takes a shine to Dara, but not much of a liking to wannabe surgeon Billy… and things gradually get worse from there. The woman seems to be more than she’s letting on, and her dark, icy stare and increasingly debilitating effect on Dara force Billy down a path of extreme action if he is to save his sister from what may just be a family curse.

Absorbing and pacey, The Oestridae is a great read, sporting excellent characterisation and some very chilling imagery. One character’s night-time visit to the fridge for a drink of water is almost breathtakingly horrifying in its implications, and the villain of the piece jumps from the page with her barely-concealed malignance.

Michelle Ann King’s My Sister, the Fairy Princess comes up next. Following the death of their mother, sisters Daisy and Ann are reunited after decades. Growing up, Ann had always believed that there was something special about Daisy – that she was a changeling, an otherworldly being masquerading as a child.

Given the length of this piece, dishing up any more details would likely give the game away – but suffice it to say that this very short tale ticks the required boxes, but doesn’t necessarily rise above baseline genre expectations.

Finally, Ralph Robert Moore gets bleak with Trying to Get Back to Nonchalant. In this one, ex-boxer Hal takes a chance on asking his doctor’s attractive receptionist out on a date – spurred on by the fact that her usually-reserved young daughter takes an immediate shine to him.

Things start off and continue well – but whilst Moore gradually reveals to us the brutish layers remaining underneath Hal’s initially pleasant surface, he also shows us the young daughter, obsessed with the notion of cancer and the necessity for its presence to be made obvious – even if she only assumes it’s there.

Like the most uncomfortable genre stories out there, Trying to Get Back to Nonchalant starts on a crest of human hope and gradually strips down to a blackened, damaged core – leaving us stranded on a cruel plane with only a darker horizon in sight. Great stuff.

Alongside the fiction entries, Black Static 52 gives us a Q&A with author Paul Meloy and the usual gamut of book and home video reviews that are sure to pad out your “to buy” list. Stephen Volk talks about his Ghostwatch inspirations in his column, whilst Lynda E. Rucker speaks of her recent experience writing for the stage – not to mention the gloriously stupid comment of a critic from The Guardian who stated “… the horror-story format is not ideal as a vehicle for serious ideas.”

But then again, what more can you expect from such a pompous rag, I suppose.

Anyway – another fabulous issue for Black Static, right here. Get it.

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Fearsome Facts

Fearsome Facts – Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

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Sir Christopher Lee returned to portray the charismatic count of Transylvania in Hammer’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) for the first time since taking on the iconic role in 1958’s Horror of Dracula – an eight year absence. 

And while Lee endured a love/hate relationship playing the Carpathian Count over the years, the actor reluctantly tackled the role a total of 10 times for the Silver Screen. Three of those performances came outside of the purview of Hammer Horror, but this list is dedicated to the first Hammer Dracula sequel to feature the return of Christopher Lee in the lead role.

Now, here are 5 Things You May Not Know About Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

5. Dracula: Speechless

Dialogue never played a crucial part in Christopher Lee’s portrayals as Count Dracula, but this film is the epitome of that contentious notion. Lee doesn’t utter a single word during Dracula: Prince of Darkness’ 90 minutes of run time. In interviews over the years, Lee said that he was so unhappy with his lines that he protested and refused to say them during the filming process. “Because I had read the script and refused to say any of the lines,” Lee said in an interview at the University College of Dublin.

However, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster insisted that the original script was written without any dialogue for Dracula. There was even a theory that circulated for a time which postulated that Hammer could not afford Lee’s growing salary, so the studio decided to limit the Count’s screen time. Did this lead to the demise of Dracula’s dialogue? Regardless of whom you want to believe, Dracula is the strong, silent type in Prince of Darkness. 

4. Double Duty for Drac

Hammer Film Productions doubled down, so to speak, on the production and post-production aspects of Dracula: Prince of Darkness. First, the studio filmed the vampire flick back-to-back with another project titled Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966). In doing so, Hammer used many of the same sets, actors – including Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer – and crew members to shoot both motion pictures.

Second, Dracula: Prince of Darkness was featured in a double billing alongside the film The Plague of the Zombies (1966) when it screened in London. Insert cheesy cliche: “Double your pleasure, double your fun with Doublemint Gum.” 

3. Stunt Double Nearly Drowned

Dracula: Prince of Darkness introduced a new weakness in the wicked baddie, but it nearly cost a stuntman his life. During the film, it was revealed that running water could destroy Dracula. Wait, what? Apparently, leaving the faucets on at night not only prevents frozen pipes, but blood-sucking vampires, too.

All kidding aside, it was during the climactic battle scene in which Christopher Lee’s stunt double almost succumb to the icy waters on set. Stuntman Eddie Powell stepped in as the Count during that pivotal moment, as Dracula slipped into the watery grave, but Powell was trapped under the water himself and almost died.

2. Lee Loathed What Hammer Did to Stoker’s Character

Christopher Lee’s return to Hammer’s Dracula franchise was a stroke of genius on the part of producers, but Lee was more than a little reticent when it came to initially voicing his dislike for playing the iconic role. As mentioned above, a lot of speculation swirled around the lack of dialogue given to Lee in the Prince of Darkness script. And if you don’t count the opening flashback sequence, which revisits the ending of Horror of Dracula (1958), Count Dracula doesn’t appear on screen until the 45-minute mark of the film.

Dracula’s lack of character, and presence, began to affect Lee particularly when it came to signing on to play the character in the three films following Prince of Darkness. Indeed, the lack of meaningful character development led to Lee initially turning down Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and Scars of Dracula (1970). Lee said in countless interviews that he never got to play the real version of Count Dracula created by Bram Stoker, at least via Hammer Studios. This was a true disappointment to the late actor.

But Hammer guilt Lee into taking on the role over and over again, because the studio claimed to have already sold the aforementioned films to the United States with Lee’s name attached to the projects. Hammer informed Lee that if he didn’t return the company would have to lay off many of their workers. The tactic worked, since Lee was friends with many of the Dracula crew members. Fortunately for fans, Lee kept coming back for blood.

1. Faux Pas

Outside of the character of Dracula only appearing on screen for the last half of the movie, Dracula: Prince of Darkness had even more pressing issues that unfortunately survived all the way to the final cut of the film. One of the most appalling of these occurrences happens during the picture’s climatic confrontation. Watch the skies above Dracula and you will see the trail of a jet-engine plane staining the sky.

Another faux pas occurs in this same sequence when Dracula succumbs to the icy waters. Watch closely as the camera’s long shot clearly reveals the pivots holding the ice up underneath Chris Lee. Finally, watch the dead girl who is being carried during the opening funeral sequence. She is clearly breathing and quite heavily at that.

***

Which Dracula: Prince of Darkness moments did you find the most interesting? Were there any obscure facts you would have enjoyed seeing make our list? Sound off on social media!

 

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Carnivore: Werewolf of London Howls on VOD

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Joining the ranks of The Curse of the Werewolf, An American Werewolf in London, The Company of Wolves, and Dog Soldiers, Carnivore: Werewolf of London is the latest in a long series of fantastic British werewolf movies. Directed by Knights of the Damned’s Simon Wells, the film focuses on a couple trying to save their relationship by taking a vacation in a remote cottage, but rekindling their old flame soon proves to be the least of their worries as they learn that something with lots of fur and lots of teeth is waiting for them in the surrounding woods.

Carnivore: Werewolf of London stars Ben Loyd-Holmes, Atlanta Johnson, Gregory Cox, Molly Ruskin, and Ethan Ruskin, and is available to purchase now on Google Play, Amazon Video, iTunes, and Vudu, although it doesn’t appear to have received a physical release as of yet.

More information about Carnivore: Werewolf of London is available on the film’s official Facebook account, along with a ton of production photos.

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John Carpenter … NOT DEAD!

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We currently live in a world of false alarms. Within the last several days we’ve suffered everything from warnings of doomsday to Rotten Tomatoes accidentally celebrating the passing(!) and career of the very much still alive John Carpenter.

That’s right, kids; earlier today RT tweeted, “John Carpenter would have been 70 years old today! We celebrate his birthday by looking back at his five favorite films.” The tweet… has since been deleted.

We are here to tell you… John is very much alive! Alive and well, even. Carpenter himself responded on Twitter by alerting the site that “despite how it appears, I’m actually not dead.

This is great news indeed. One of horror’s best and brightest is still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Now then, let’s take this time to celebrate the man’s birthday PROPERLY by talking about our favorite films of his. Speaking personally for myself…

Prince of Darkness is a movie that both unnerves and scares the hell out of me. One of Carpenter’s most thought-provoking works is just as frightening now as it was when we first received that grainy transmission as a dream from the year…

Tell us your favorite Carpenter movie in our comments section below.

…and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOHN!

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