Wednesday 20 July 2011

Zombie Apocalypse heads for Hollywood

The Stephen Jones-edited anthology / mosaic novel, ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, which I was honoured to be part of last year, providing the novella Special Powers, may now get the Hollywood treatment, having been optioned for movie development by Palomar Pictures.

Now, it's always exciting to get a flm option. It's even more exciting to get a Hollywood film option (though I currently have one of those for a different project - and thus far, many months down the line, nothing at all has happened, so it pays not to get too excited). However, it's no surprise to me that ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE is being discused in swish offices down in Burbank.

Despite a plethora of zombie-related material currently doing the rounds, there seems to be no shortage of interest from the Dream Factory on the subject of the shambling dead. Recent productions alone run into double figures, Diary Of The Dead, The Horde, The Walking Dead and The Dead being some of the better known examples (you could even count my own STRONGHOLD - though that movie's only in development; it hasn't actually been made yet). So I'm fairly confident that ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, which has to date sold 13,000 copies, has at least a reasonable chance of hitting our screens sometime in the near future.

I certainly hope so as I think that, from a writer's point of view as well as a reader's, it was a fascinating new take on the reanimated flesh subgenre - charting the progress of a new kind of Black Death as it emerges from a London crypt, swamps Britain's capital, later swamps Britain and then swamps the rest of the world. The other authorial names involved in the original book display the genuine quality that was brought to this project from the beginning: Michael Marshal Smith, Chris Fowler, Kim Newman, Sarah Pinborough, Tanith Lee and Peter Crowther, among many others, all have their say on the matter.

At the end of the day, I'm not holding my breath about this one - as I never hold my breath about any potential film adaptation, but if it was given the right movie or TV treatment, ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE could be something really special.

Meanwhile THE DEVIL'S ROCK continues to roll.

I'll shortly be attending a special screening and Q&A session with the film's director, Paul Campion, over in Guernsey, the island where the movie is actually set. That will be a great night, while the trip should also give my family and I a few opportunities to incorporate into our holiday snaps some of those grim sentinel bunkers that the Nazis erected on the island's coast to defend themslves against an invasion that would never come.

If anyone's actually watched THE DEVIL'S ROCK on the DVD yet, you'll see on 'the making of' documentary that these places can be quite eerie at night. Pauil Campion spooked himself visiting a few of them after dark.

The reviews have continued to pile up as well, and I've managed to glean a few fun soundbites out of them.

The Guardian called us "a refreshingly odd wartime horror".

Mitch Davis at Fantasia compliments our cast for "a trio of borderline Shakespearean performances that captivate with hellish power".

(They could hardly fail with a script like that one, Mitch).

While Theresa Derwin of Terror Tree comments: "The Devil’s Rock is a fine film and deserves more than it's limited cinema release. Apologies if it doesn’t have enough innards for torture porn freaks. This film is a must for occult fans and fans of classic horror with an emphasis on story."

That's it for now. Sorry there hasn't been much activity on this blog in recent days. That's because there's been an awful lot of activity on other fronts. But I'm not complaining. It's always good to have a lot of work. The alternative could be having none at all.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

New Black Book of Horror on horizon

The cover art and Table of Contents for THE EIGHTH BLACK BOOK OF HORROR (pictured) is now available for your perusal.

I'm pleased (and very honoured) to say that I have a story in there. However this blog has never just been about me (honest). The full list of contributors is as follows:

HOME BY THE SEA - Stephen Bacon
BOYS WILL BE BOYS - David Williamson
TOK - Paul Finch
LITTLE PIG - Anna Taborska
HOW THE OTHER HALF DIES - John Llewellyn Probert
MUSIC IN THE BONE - Marion Pitman
THE COAL-MAN - Thana Niveau
MEA CULPA - Kate Farrell

For those who aren't aware, the BLACK BOOKS OF HORROR are edited by Charles Black and published by MORTBURY PRESS.

In terms of style, they basically fill the yawning gap left in genre fiction when the Pan Horror and Fontana Horror anthology series expired. In other words they contain well-written material, but are less interested in being literary and more concerned with frightening or, at the very least disturbing their readership.

To date, the series has introduced the world to such modern horror classics as AMYGDALA by David Sutton, FAMILY TIES by Steve Lockley and Paul Lewis, TWO FOR DINNER by John Llewellyn Probert, and MINOS OR RHADAMANTHUS by Reggie Oliver.

Check one of these volumes out some time. You won't be disappointed.

PS: Before anyone asks, yes, the cover art depicts all the contributing authors' heads severed and left in the sort of neat little pile that Madame Tussaud would have cheerfully documented during la Grande Terreur.

Monday 11 July 2011

Ready for your dose of television poison?

Horror is not normally part of the UK television schedule unless it's the screening of a movie. There is more activity in the 2000s than there used to be in the 1990s thanks to the recent importation of US shows like FRINGE and SUPERNATURAL, but we in Britain can boast precious little home-grown horror TV, particularly if you prefer your H to be delivered in anthology or 'portmanteau' format.

However, this wasn't always the case. Back in an era I'm increasingly seeing as 'the good old days' - the late 1960s through the 1970s and into the 1980s - we were blessed with a plethora of made-for-TV British horror which rarely pulled its punches in terms of gruesome or scary subject-matter.

Brian Clemens's THRILLER ran from 1973 to 1976, and offered us a range of sleazy and grisly tales in which the emphasis was placed firmly on disturbing or frightening the audience (and it almost always succeeded).

ARMCHAIR THRILLER, from Thames, appeared in 1978 and 1980, and featured scripts adapted from famous horror or crime stories. The BBC got in on the act in 1977 with SUPERNATURAL (no relation to the US show), which related stories from 'the Club of the Damned'.

One of the most well-known TV shows of this type, HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR was first screened in 1980 and really pushed the boundaries of television scare-fare, not least in terms of production quality. Probably the best TV horror series of them all for sheer originality was Nigel Kneale's BEASTS; this was first broadcast in 1976 and delivered six free-standing stories, each one drawing terror from the animal world.

But there was one horror show back in that halcyon age, which would probably shock audiences even if it was screened today. In fact, so dark and disturbing were the concepts it investigated that it was very quickly pulled from the schedules and allegedly had its master-tapes wiped on the orders of TV bosses.

DEATH RATTLES was first screened late-night circa 1984, and was the child of a quite rebellious and counter-cultural era in British television. It presented us with a series of contemporary British horror stories, each one concerned primarily with ordinary people living humdrum lives. Yet they horror they experienced - mostly supernatural but not always so - was upsetting to the nth degree.

As with many famous horror films which have supposedly been so dark that their production and screening were plagued with mysterious problems - THE OMEN, THE WICKER MAN, THE EXORCIST being classic examples - DEATH RATTLES encountered difficulties from its outset. Stories abounded during its very low-budget production about nervous breakdowns among staff, unlikely accidents on set, and even hauntings in the studio. When it finally went to air, it was panned by even the most liberal critics for skimming the gutters of human experience.

Subsequently it was removed and almost all trace of it has now been erased from the archive. Rumours persist that rough copies were unofficially made, but I've never seen any, nor know anyone who has.

That's the bad news. The good news is that you can now experience some of the flavour of DEATH RATTLES as at least part of the anthology is shortly to be released in book-form (pictured top left), courtesy of Gray Friar Press.

Several months ago, I was honoured to be asked to transform one of the few surviving scripts into a novella (there wasn't very much of the script left, if I'm honest - so much of it had to be done from fogged memory). Several other masters and mistresses or horror were also approached to produce content, and the result is DEATH RATTLES the book.

I won't say too much more - except that the six novellas it contains are prose versions of six of the spookiest and most bizarre episodes in the series, that it is due out imminently and that it can be purchased HERE.

Just to whet your appetites a little more, here is a full Table of Contents:

Rattling Cages: an Introduction by Stephen Volk

Episode 1: Scattered Ashes - John Llewellyn Probert

Episode 2: Seen And Not Heard - Gary Fry

Episode 3: Antlers - Thana Niveau

Episode 4: The Children of Moloch - Simon Bestwick

Episode 5: Cow Castle - Paul Finch

Episode 6: His Father's Son - Gary McMahon

Thursday 7 July 2011

DEVIL'S ROCK crew face their own D-Day

Okay ... so I arrived at the 20th Century Fox screening rooms in Soho Square on Wednesday evening with mixed feelings: pride - it's not everyday you get to see the London premiere of a movie you yourself have written; apprehension - because obviously you want the movie to wow its audince; and also giddy excitement - because it was a great thing to at last meet many of those involved in the production of THE DEVIL'S ROCK who previously I had only communicated with online, including two of the movie's stars - Matt Sutherland and Gina Varela - and producer Leanne Saunders, among lots of others.

This was an official 'Cast and Crew screening', but we weren't exclusively playing to a biased audience. Agents, film producers and other industry professionals were also present on invitation, so there was still the possibility that we could really blow it, that if we hadn't done our jobs properly people might get up and leave before the final credits. That's the thing you ultimately dread at these events.

Thankfully it didn't happen, and even more thankfully, after the lights had come up again everyone I spoke to had nothing but good words to say. Obviously you can never be 100% sure what people think, though none of these neutral guys and gals would have any reason to lie to me.

We all then adjourned to the Pillars of Hercules just down the road, and a good night was had by all.

So what did I think of it (never having seen it until this moment)?

Well, I lived and breathed the script over the Christmas period of 2009. I had to ignore the snow-storms raging outside, and transport myself back to the summer of 1944 and the eve of D-Day, and then weave into that historical reality the esoteric, the arcane and eventually the horrific. It was a fun but intense experience - and what we were about to see would be the final result. Naturally I was going to be as sympathetic to it as possible.

Okay yeah, those are the excuses out of the way - so what did I think about it?

Well I'm not going to say much, because at the end of the day what is my view worth? It's only the opinion of one person, and it's even less impportant in many ways as I'm obviously totally prejudiced towards the project. But put it this way, I was NOT disappointed.

It was also nice to come home again last night just in time to watch The Vue Film Show on Channel 4, and see a decent feature on the movie - including lots of nice excerpts, plus short interviews with Paul Campion, the director, and actor Matt Sutherland (HERE'S A LINK).

In fact, the programme singled out Sutherland for special praise; he plays Klaus Meyer, a colonel in the 'SS Germanorden', whose job it is to root out and utilise occult artifacts in the cause of the Third Reich - he was described as creating an intense and evil presence on camera (it was also rather pleasing to hear Matt talk about "the great dialogue" he had to work with - thanks, Matt).

On this subject, a lot of folk have actually asked us did this sort of thing really happen. Well, THE DEVIL'S ROCK is obviously fictional, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that certain leading Nazis had a big interest in the war-winning potential of dark magic. Whether it was ever invoked or not we'll never know, but you've got to admit it makes for a great movie idea.

Anyway, thanks to all those on Wednesday night who made themselves known to me and were so complimentary on the script, and an extra special thanks to all those who worked so hard bringing this project to life and fashioning what I think is a very neat little piece of horror cinema.

It's now officially in the public domain, so we'll have to see what everyone else makes of it. Pictured above is the full cover of the new DVD release, which will be available on Monday.

Monday 4 July 2011

Horror wrought in hard, brutal concrete

Another few handful of positive reviews have appeared for THE DEVIL’S ROCK.

We are described variously as “an original gore-soaked delight” and “the best Kiwi horror since Peter Jackson’s ‘Braindead’” (Screen Jabber), “a gory horror, sure, but it doesn’t follow the same old hackneyed plots and its originality comes with some great tension and twists” (Every Film in 2011), and as “nasty and realistic enough to have you deserting the multiplex like an Army defector” (the Sunday Sport).

Total Film meanwhile reckons we have produced “a silly/creepy chamber piece that throws around intestines like sausages in a Punch and Judy show”. Just to maintain the high brow analysis in this latter review, the movie’s lady star, Gina Varela, is then referred as “a horny l’il devil”.

But hey, any publicity is good publicity as they say (sorry, Gina).

It’s a bit pointless posting the links to these reviews in full, as you can find them all on line easily enough by simply googling. Besides, more assessments should follow imminently as we had our official press screenings last night, so we’re all now waiting with baited breath (or should that be nervous gasps).

Meanwhile, SCREAM MAGAZINE will be doing a full feature on the movie in issue 6, which goes on sale on July 28th. That one may well be worth checking out.

Also for those who missed the brief blog I posted over the weekend, HERE is a teaser clip for the movie, a new one which most of you aren’t likely to have seen before.

Lastly, a little bit of factual background info on the movie. I’ve had my attention drawn to this excellent website, FESTUNG GUERNSEY, which details the German fortifications set up on the island during World War II. One of them – the most similar in appearance to the fictional gun emplacement we use in the movie – is pictured above.

These hideous chunks of concrete dot the otherwise pristine Channel Island coastlines, but no longer really serve as a reminder of tragedy, more of major historical events in which the Channel Islands played a leading role, and, as many of them are now open to the public, they make for some fascinating investigation. If you’re interested in the history and archaeology of World War II, FESTUNG GUERNSEY is certainly one of the places you should start.

Friday 1 July 2011

First teaser clip for THE DEVIL'S ROCK

Movie fans may be interested to know that a teaser clip from THE DEVIL’S ROCK has now been posted on YouTube. It's got basically everything you'd expect from a quality occult thriller - including lots of blood, lots of demonic mysticism and lots of candles that burn with evil, smoky flames.

Those interested, can watch the clip HERE.

I think it captures the atmosphere of the film rather nicely.

In another new development, I can now reveal the cinemas that will be screening the movie when it goes on release in the UK on July 8th. They are, as you’ll notice, exclusively part of the Apollo chain:

Apollo Altrincham
Apollo Burnley
Apollo Barrow
Apollo Redditch
Apollo Stroud
Apollo Torbay

Anyone who isn’t within striking range of one of those oh-so-lucky picture houses needn’t worry too much. The movie goes to VOD that same day, and will be available on DVD, under that rather cool cover that I referenced a couple of days ago, on July 11th.

To get a cinematic release is a huge boost for any new movie, even it doesn’t involve every theatre in the UK. It grabs press attention and can be a massive driver of the publicity machine, so though it’s a cheaper and more common route for many horror movies these days to go straight to DVD, I’m totally chuffed that we’re going to get some big screen exposure.

Believe it or not, I haven’t actually seen the finished movie yet. Cathy and I will be attending the special ‘Cast and Crew Screening’ in Soho, London, in the middle of next week, but the press screenings come a little earlier I think, so it looks as though plenty of people will have got to see THE DEVIL’S ROCK before its writer – but Hell, that doesn’t bother me. It all adds to the excitement.