Saturday, 19 May 2012

Woods where witches and monsters roam!

More interviews this week. Well … part three of my in-depth interview with THIS IS HORROR, one of the coolest horror sites on the Net. Yet again I blather my views on various aspects of the genre, though I focus more in this final section of chat on THE DEVIL’S ROCK – how it came about, how we devised the movie’s look, feel and ethos, etc – so please feel free to pop along there and check it out.

In case you’re wondering what relevance this has to the spooky woodland above … well, here’s the thing: it doesn’t.

In actual fact, this creepy coppice, and the various others that you see pictured at regular intervals in this column, are location shots taken by film director Paul Campion in advance of pre-production for our next movie collaboration, DARK HOLLOW – the adaptation of Brian Keene’s best-selling novel of the same name.

DARK HOLLOW is set in the heart of rural Pennsylvania, and for those who haven’t yet read it, it concerns a small country town on the edge of a dark and sinister forest, from which a magical entity emerges with extremely unpleasant intentions. It has much to do with arcane rustic folklore – most of it unique to Pennsylvania – and will be heavy on atmosphere and mystery (not to mention gore and sex, but both of those feature prominently in the novel as well, sometimes both at the same time, so blame Brian for that, not us).

For all this, it may surprise American readers of this column to learn that these pictures were not snapped in the Keystone State, or in fact anywhere in the USA, but over here in England’s New Forest, a deep, mysterious and much tangled stretch of woodland, originally planted as a hunting chase by William the Conqueror, who demolished half a dozen occupied towns and villages first in order to create the space, and slew any poor Saxon who objected. It now covers a vast area along the South Coast, encompassing the counties of Hampshire and Wiltshire. Perhaps in recognition of its violent origins, one English king – William the Conqueror’s second son, Rufus, was murdered in its gloomy depths – and his damned soul is supposedly still seen riding a black ram along the meandering footpath to Hell. Ghosts, goblins and other apparitions reputedly abound in its leafy dingles, and tales of witchcraft are commonplace there even today.

If all that isn’t strange enough for you, check out the image on the right – it’s the inn sign for a lovely and ancient pub in the heart of the forest, The Trusty Servant. In case you were wondering, it isn’t supposed to be demonic so much as allegorical – it depicts the Hircocervus, a mythical monstrosity said to represent something unreal but understandable. (I’m sure students of philosophy can enlighten us more on that).

Okay, I suppose all of this must seem like a bit of a diversion from our pre-production schedule involving DARK HOLLOW, but I only mention it to illustrate that, even when UK-bound, we are treating Brian’s weird and scary subject-matter with the utmost respect.

In other recent news, I was pleased to see my chapbook of last year, KING DEATH, published by SPECTRAL PRESS, get short-listed for a British Fantasy Award in the capacity of Best Short Story. These days, I’m a bit too long in the tooth to get too excited by this sort of thing. I had three short-list nominations last year, in various capacities, but ultimately none of them won the big prize, and this year I’m up against stern opposition in the form of Simon Bestwick (for Dermot from Black Static), Michael Marshall Smith (for Sad Dark Thing from A Book of Horrors), Adam Nevill (for Florrie from House Of Fear), Rob Shearman for Alice Through The Plastic Sheet from A Book Of Horrors) and Angela Slatter (for The Coffin-Makers’ Daughter from A Book Of Horrors). So it’s going to be another tough contest.

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