Sunday, 28 June 2009

Recently Published...

My first book, Beyond Hammer: British Horror Cinema since 1970 was published mid May this year by Auteur Publishing:

Though they are often critically neglected, British horror films make up a significant and steadily growing body of genre works within a nationally grounded cinema. Deeply rooted within the Gothic tradition, these post-Hammer Studio films place their antagonistic threats within contemporary Britain, allowing werewolves to roam the Moors and isolated islanders to practice Pagan sacrifice, hiding a family of cannibals behind the white tiled walls of the Underground, or unleashing a virulent plague that causes zombies to stumble through middle class suburbia. The juxtaposition between these unreal elements and the vivid Britishness of characters and locations has led to a collaborative body of work that examines the modern fears of contemporary Britain. Accessible to the general reader, Beyond Hammer provides new critical readings of classic, contemporary, and lesser known films of the post-Hammer British horror canon. Chronologically ordered, these chapters feature new and engaging readings of The Wicker Man, Death Line, An American Werewolf in London, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Hellraiser, 28 Days Later, The Last Horror Movie, Shaun of the Dead, and The Descent.

The book is currently ranked 24 (out of 100) in the Amazon Best Sellers list for books on Horror Cinema.

To purchase Beyond Hammer: British Horror Cinema since 1970 please follow one of these links:

Columbia University Press

Auteur Publishing

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Current Commissions

Recently completed the Tim Burton essay for Splice and that has now been forwarded onto the editor. The second draft of the Alien 3 chapter is now finished and awaiting proof reading before being sent to the publisher. Have begun work on the Doctor Who chapter for the Cambridge Scholars publication.

Recently Viewed...

Resident Evil: Extinction (Russell Mulcahy, 2007)

Where as Resident Evil (Paul W.S. Anderson, 2002), with its countless zombies, skinned dogs, and mutating monsters was a reasonably acceptable adaptation of the console game, its sequel, Resident Evil: Apocalypse (Alexander Witt, 2004) was bad. Very bad. Too bad to discuss. So, as dictated by the Law of Diminishing Returns, the third film of the trilogy would be, by definition, appallingly bad. But surprisingly it’s not. In fact, it’s a guilty pleasure to watch Alice tool up with an array weapons and slice, dice, maim, shoot, decapitate and obliterate as many zombies as she possibly can within the ninety minute run time.

Although the film begins, cryptically, at the start of the original film, the plot soon gathers pace as the concept of the world devastated by the T-Virus outbreak is established and the band of hardy survivors of this New World are introduced: strong women with big guns are paralleled with equally strong men who have as equally big guns. And whilst this all seems perfunctionary for contemporary films of this type, it does lead to some cracking set pieces involving the search of an abandoned hotel, a Birds-esque assault by a mass of infected crows, and a multitude of zombie encounters. Whilst all this is going on above ground, below ground the Umbrella Corporation continues their insane biological experiments in an effort to reverse the effects of their virus. It is here that the quality of the film suffers as this sub plot is strongly reminiscent of Romero’s classic Day of the Dead: an increasingly mad scientist captures zombie specimens, puts them in a corral and then attempts to educate them. All of this is compounded by the fact that the Umbrella facility is basically a huge underground military complex that is not too dissimilar to the underground silo of Romero’s film.

Whilst all this does detract from the overall quality of the film’s sense of originality, it still delivers in spadefuls of action, suspense and gore, as well as in its imagery: Alice attempts to leave the Racoon City mansion are a sterile juxtaposition of cold clean whites and deep blood reds, the darkness of the abandoned hotel punctuated with pockets of gold light and the ariel images of the millions of zombies stumbling through the wastelands all add a classy visual depth to the film. Such a quality is unsurprising as director Russell Mulcahy called the shots on Razorback (1984), Highlander (1986) and The Shadow (1994).

In all, a good little film that certainly delivers as long as you don’t expect too much from the potential the franchise has to offer.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Notebook Extract

I always carry a notebook and pen with me. When travelling, waiting to meet someone or just sitting enjoying a cup of coffee, the notebook comes out and is used to jot down ideas, sentences, paragraphs and memos for possible commissions and personally instigated texts. What follows is a recent extract from my current notebook...

The Dark Half: King and Romero in Crisis

The Dark Half continues Stephen King's 'writer in crisis' concept as a means of exploring the act of authoring horror fiction: The Shinning and Misery (and to some extent Desperation) have as their protagonist a novelist who is trapped within a remote environment: Jack Torrance and his family are trapped within The Overlook Hotel whilst the severely crippled Paul Sheldon of Misery is held hostage by his 'Number One Fan', Annie Wilkes. As Torrance immerses himself deeper into insanity to sustain himself, so Sheldon uses his fear to write what turns out to be his best novel to date.

Of the two novels, The Dark Half bares the strongest resemblance to Misery: In both narratives the novelist kills off their best selling character (Sheldon's Misery Chastain and Beaumont's pseudonym George Stark) in order to write more 'serious' literary works. Their literary deaths are, however, short lived as each returns, in one form or another, to punish their creator. One cannot help but see these texts as King critiquing (and fearing) his own success - the paranoia of reprisal from the established audience (let alone a critical response) as well as the anxiety of how one is perceived as the creator of disturbing and violent acts: In Misery Sheldon writes for an audience of one, Annie Wilkes, yet as his 'Number One Fan' she is representative of all of Sheldon's fans (implying that readers of such fictions are as deranged as those within the novels) where as George Stark represents that dark secluded part of the writers personality that enables them to produce such horrific works of fiction.

As the threat to each writer increases, those around them are systematically killed and so implicate a sealing of the fate of the writer. Their only chance for survival ironically remains in their ability to write: Sheldon is aware that if he continues to write Wilkes will not kill him and so provides him with the opportunity to conceive of an escape plan where as Beaumont must confront his alter ego and write with him in order to prove that the dark and violent acts of the George Stark novels come from him and not his alter ego.

Within the novel King provides the reader with a multi layered text, one that is symbolically written in an almost schizophrenic style as it shifts from placid descriptions of the Beaumont's family life to the graphic descriptions of Stark's murders. As a novel of seemingly two halves one cannot help but continue to draw comparisons with the author himself, one who opted to publish some of his darker, more violent texts under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman.

Whilst King's critique is internalised and centred upon the self, Romero often presents an externalised analysis, using his characters and their isolated entrapment to deftly examine contemporary cultures decline into consumerist violence. Whilst doing this Romero, like King, makes use of images of extreme violence and gore to emphasise his point: the grotesquely decaying zombies of the Dead trilogy are the ultimate consumers, explicitly indulging in acts of mindless cannibalism.

Current Comissions

Final Draft of Alien 3 chapter nearly finished. It just needs few descriptive details adding for coherence and the film dialogue quotations checked. Tim Burton essay proof read and needs very few, very minor changes. Commissioned earlier this week to write a text for Electric Sheep for their forthcoming issue: a comparative text between Requiem and The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Recently Published

The Spring 2009 edition of Electric Sheep features my DVD review of The Carnival of Souls.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Recently Viewed...

Mum and Dad (Steven Sheil, 2008)

Having missed the last bus home, Polish immigrant Lena accepts a co-workers offer to stay over. Once in their house, she is knocked unconscious, drugged and bound. Waking up to a literal house of horrors, Lena is held captive by a family of psychotics: Dad rules with kind words and a meat tenderiser whilst Mum cooks dinner and tortures the children. Labeled a Mummy's Girl, Lena is forced to undergo torture, humiliation and degrading tasks as she is forcefully integrated into the family unit.

One could criticise this film for borrowing heavily from Tobe Hooper's seminal The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and relocating it into the quiet and depressing suburban enclaves of Britain: Dad appears abruptly from behind Lena and knocks her unconscious with what may be a meat tenderiser, the family scavenging from the airport cargo holds and offices, Dad dressing up as a woman (or as Mum, make-up and all) as he prepares to have intercourse with one of his victims, the Christmas decorations made of flesh and bone, the hideous family secret that is kept upstairs (who is wheeled out for the climatic celebrations) and the film's violent conclusion are all shocking moments that recall Hooper's film. This is not to suggest that Sheil's film is not without its own original and horrific content: Lena witnesses and experiences a whole array of appalling moments, including torture by knitting needle, a grotesque masturbation sequence, sadistic sibling rivalry, possible cannibalism and the ever present threat of rape. Where the film succeeds is the plausibility of its abduction premise and its use of the Heathrow airport location - the constant drone of landing/taking off planes functions as a cruel reminder of Lena's origins, plight and her attempts to escape.

As a British film grounded in a British location, the film functions as a perverse Kitchen Sink drama in which the young children are in constant conflict with their elderly parents. Sheil constructs a thoroughly believable domestic setting and atmosphere which only adds to the horror and compounds Lena's increasingly desperate situation. More disturbingly, there are scenes which recall the Fred and Rose West case and function as a reminder to the viewer of the horrors that have taken place behind the close doors of suburbia.

Current Commissions...

Completed the First Draft of Vincent and Victor: Two Short Films by Tim Burton for the Short Films edition of Splice (due for publication Winter 2009) yesterday. Whilst waiting for this text to be proof read, work will begin on the Final Draft of This is the place where everyone dies: Reading the Gothic in David Fincher's Alien 3 for the Gothic Science Fiction publication with Napier University.


Welcome to James Rose’s blog, a repository for his published works, current commission news, ongoing projects and general observations on Horror and Science Fiction film and television.