Here we have the latest edition of my annual “Look Back in Horror” overview. If this survey is shorter than those of previous years it’s because, quite simply, very little of note occurred in the horror field during 2012.
For more info see my 2012 Year in Horror movie and (upcoming) book listings, but right now let’s take a look at the following…
R.I.P. Theatrical Distribution
Last year I chided Bloody Disgusting.com’s theatrical distribution arm for, among other things, its scant weeklong booking of THE WOMAN in a single LA theater. Funny: these days that would be considered a success! Note the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it theatrical bows of such independently made 2012 horror flicks as THE MOTH DIARIES, INTRUDERS, TWIXT and V/H/S, which are noteworthy for the simple fact that those films actually made it to the big screen at all.
Clearly the days when an independently made and distributed genre item like HALLOWEEN or THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT could compete with the majors on actual movie screens are long gone. It seems that horror moviemakers of the future will have to make their mark online or on home video, which of course brings up an even more pressing problem: DVD sales have bottomed out and internet streaming has yet to fully catch on, so just how does one get a horror indie before an audiences these days?
R.I.P. Bookstore Sales
Just as big screen film distribution has largely gone AWOL, so too, it seems, has traditional bookselling. This is to say that while print media is still alive, bookstores have largely vanished (we all know that Borders went belly-up in 2011, and Barnes & Noble isn’t doing too well), as have many of the publishers we used to rely on for horror fare (most notably the much-missed Leisure Books). It’s no surprise that most of the top genre publishers–PS Publishing, Deadite Press, etc–operate almost entirely online, with no bookstore distribution to speak of.
As one who tries to avoid mail order whenever possible, I can attest that there are drawbacks to online commerce, but also some distinct advantages. It’s democratized the business, breaking for once and all the hold of the book distributors who decide what gets placed on bookstore shelves–an Amazon.com product page, after all, pretty much looks the same whether it’s devoted to a self-published book or a glossy item from a major publisher.
Noteworthy Trends (Filmic)
The Found Footage movie craze has long since run its course, but don’t tell that to today’s horror moviemakers, who in 2012 delivered a record number of BLAIR WITCH PROJECT/PARANORMAL ACTIVITY-inspired Found Footage entries: see AREA 407, GREYSTONE PARK, APARTMENT 143, THE BAY, CHERNOBYL DIARIES, THE APPARITION, V/H/S, BIGFOOT COUNTY, GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2, [REC] 3, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4…and that’s only a partial list!
Moving into the DVD arena, we find an even more annoying trend: that of double dipping. The practice of repackaging previously released DVDs is nothing new, but it’s reached epidemic proportions amid genre-friendly outfits like Synapse, Cult Epics, Blue Underground and even Criterion. Is this due to the downturn in the DVD market or do those companies believe there are no interesting horror movies left to put out? If the reason is the latter I’ll have to call bullshit, as I know of quite a few worthwhile films that have yet to receive their due on DVD, and which would arguably make for more worthwhile releases than an umpteenth edition of IN A GLASS CAGE, ZOMBIE or MANIAC.
Finally, amid all the complaints I’ll offer 2012’s filmmakers a minor compliment: for whatever reason there were very few remakes. Tributes and homages yes, but in a most unusual development the remakes were kept to a minimum in horror movie land (although not in the mainstream sphere, which subjected us to new and unimproved versions of GREAT EXPECTIONS, TOTAL RECALL and RED DAWN). This reason for this is most likely due to the simple fact that most every noteworthy horror movie of past years has been remade already, while the long-in-the-works ROBOCOP and HELLRAISER remakes are proving quite problematic.
Noteworthy Trends (Literary)
Double dipping, it seems, isn’t limited to the DVD arena. Quite a few previously published novels found their way back into print in 2012, including Guy Endore’s classic WEREWOLF OF PARIS, a newly minted hardcover of which joined Pegasus’ 2012 reissue of Peter Straub’s MRS. GOD, about which I’ve already ranted at some length. Creation Oneiros put out new editions of H.P. Lovecraft’s AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS and THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD, as well as Arthur Machen’s “Great God Pan,” while Elektron Ebooks, my favorite publisher of ‘12 (see below), got into the reprint business with new editions of Nikolai Gogol’s “Viy,” J. Sheridan LeFanu’s “Carmilla,” Sacher-Masoch’s VENUS IN FURS an H.P. Lovecraft’s SUPERNATURAL HORROR IN LITERATURE. The problem? Most of the titles listed above are readily available in print, if not online (and from Project Gutenberg, moreover, meaning they’re free).
Some reprints I can get behind are the English translations of various Japanese and French classics that appeared in 2012. They include Kurodahan’s English edition of Edogawa Rampo’s 1930s classic THE FIEND WITH TWENTY FACES and the University of Hawaii’s version of the same author’s STRANGE TALE OF PANORMAMA ISLAND (which credits the author as “Edogawa Ranpo”), Elektron’s e-text translations of the French Gilles de Rais bio-novel TRAGEDY IN BLUE and J.K. Huysman’s SORCERY IN POITOU, and not one but two English language versions of Arthur Bernede’s French crime classic BELPHEGOR: THE PHANTOM OF THE LOUVRE, courtesy of Black Coat Press and Creation Oneiros. Good stuff, all of it–keep it up, guys!
My choice this year is a newbie: the UK-based e-text outfit Elektron Ebooks. Within a year Elektron has become the publisher whose output I’ve been perusing more than any other, featuring as they do essential genre texts like Lautreamont’s SONGS OF MALDOROR and Gaston Leroux’s BALAOO, as well as reprints of difficult-to-find Creation Press titles like James Havoc’s SATANSKIN, Count D’Irancy’s THE NUN and Stephen Barber’s TOKYO trilogy. As if all that weren’t enough, Elektron also gave us Bram Stoker’s long-lost 1901 revision of DRACULA and GRAVEYARD SPECTRES, a new collection of stories by MALPERTUIS’ Jean Ray.
The only problem? Despite putting out a steady stream of titles throughout 2012 (all available in Kindle form on Amazon) Elektron hasn’t updated their website since April!
Kinji Fukasaku’s wildly controversial BATTLE ROYALE has admittedly been quite ubiquitous on DVD, but until last year those DVDs were only available in import (or bootleg) form. 2012 marked the film’s first-ever legitimate DVD release in the US. Anchor Bay did the honors, braving both controversy and accusations that the film was a copy of THE HUNGER GAMES (even though BATTLE ROYALE actually appeared several years prior to the HUNGER GAMES books and movie). The 3-disc set they put out was a good one, containing extensive behind-the-scenes footage and the so-so BATTLE ROYALE II, not to mention some nifty cover art.
Favorite Discoveries, Literary and Cinematic, from Past Years
AFRAID TO DEATH By MARC BEHM: I was belatedly acquainted with many fictional masterpieces in ‘12, and while this intense evocation of extreme fear may not quite reach masterpiece status, I feel it does qualify as a neglected classic.
ANYHOW STORIES By LUCY CLIFFORD: Darkly evocative Victorian parables of loss and despair that were ostensibly written for children.
AURA By CARLOS FUENTES: This Mexican reverie is, quite simply, one of the greatest horror novellas of the 20th Century.
THE BLACK CUPBOARD By CLAUDE SEIGNOLLE: Another great novella, a French import that took until 2010 to be translated into English.
THE DELICATE DEPENDENCY By MICHAEL TALBOT: Wow! A long out-of-print 1980s paperback that turns out to be possibly the finest vampire story of the past 50 years!
THE EYE OF PURGATORY By JACQUES SPITZ: H.G. Wells meets H.P. Lovecraft in this long neglected (in the U.S.) French mind-roaster about a man who can see what things will look like in the future.
THE MARTYR By DAVID MELTZER: One of the most disturbing novels I’ve read lately, a dramatization of the Sylvia Likens murder that outdoes most of the others (which include Jack Ketchum’s classic THE GIRL NEXT DOOR).
STRANGLER VS. STRANGLER: Serbian madness that mixes B-movie silliness with grade-A filmmaking–a cult movie legend waiting to happen!
SWEET EVIL By CHARLES PLATT: Peerlessly nasty and unflinching erotic horror that was intended for the fuck book market, but somehow wound up appearing as a mainstream paperback.
TRANCE: I’ve been hearing about this German-made sickie for years, and it turns out that everything I heard about it was true: it’s profoundly gruesome yet also quite artful and evocative.
Remembering Those Who’ve Passed On
R.G. Armstrong (1917-2012) Actor: RACE WITH THE DEVIL, THE CAR, EVILSPEAK, CHILDREN OF THE CORN, PREDATOR
Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) Novelist/Screenwriter: DARK CARNIVAL, THE OCTOBER COUNTRY, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (novel and film), THE HALLOWEEN TREE
Bob Brooks (1927-2012) Director: TATTOO (1981)
Harry Carey, Jr. (1921-2012) Actor: BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA, ENDANGERED SPECIES, GREMLINS, THE EXORCIST III
Leonardo Cimino (1917-2012) Actor: AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION, V, THE MONSTER SQUAD, THE SEVENTH SIGN, THE HUNGER (TV)
John Clive (1933-2012) Actor: A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, QUEEN KONG
Gary Collins (1938-2012) Actor: KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, THE SIXTH SENSE (TV), THRILLER, TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED, KILLER FISH, HANGER 18, BAYWATCH NIGHTS
Harry Crews (1935-2012) Novelist: A FEAST OF SNAKES, SCAR LOVER
Richard Dawson (1932-2012) Actor: MUNSTER, GO HOME!, THE RUNNING MAN
Gene DeWeese (1934-2012) Novelist: THE WANTING FACTOR, A DIFFERENT DARKNESS, THE ADVENTURES OF A TWO-MINUTE WEREWOLF
Tony DeZuniga (1932-2012) Comic Book Artist: WEIRD WESTERN TALES, JONAH HEX, SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING, WEIRD MYSTERY TALES
Michael Clarke Duncan (1957-2012) Actor: THE GREEN MILE, THE SCORPION KING, SIN CITY
Jake Eberts (1941-2012) Producer/Financier: THE HOWLING
Tomas Evjen (1972-2012) Producer: DEAD SNOW
Jamaa Fanaka (1942-2012) Writer/director: WELCOME HOME BROTHER CHARLES (a.k.a. SOUL VENGENACE)
Leonardo Favio (1938-2012) Screenwriter/Director: EL DEPENDIENTE
Jon Finch (1941-2012) Actor: THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN, MACBETH (1971), FRENZY, THE LURKING FEAR, DARKLANDS
Jonathan Frid (1924-2012) Actor: DARK SHADOWS (TV), HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, SEIZURE
Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012) Writer: AURA, BURNT WATER, VLAD
Robert Fuest (1927-2012) Director/Production Designer: THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHILBES, DR. PHILBES RISES AGAIN, AND SOON THE DARKNESS, THE DEVIL’S RAIN, REVENGE OF THE STEPFORD WIVES
Ben Gazzara (1930-2012) Actor: BLOODLINE, SUMMER OF SAM, 13
Jean “Moebius” Giraud (1938-2012) Graphic/Conceptual Artist: ALIEN, THE EYES OF THE CAT (LE YEUX DU CHAT), MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
Andy Giffith (1926-2012) Actor: GO ASK ALICE, WINTER KILL, SAVAGES
Tonino Guerra (1920-2012) Screenwriter: A QUIET PLACE IN THE COUNTRY, CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD
Harry Harrison (1925-2012) Novelist: MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM!, SOYLENT GREEN, STONEHENGE
Bill Hinzman (1936-2012) Actor/Director: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE MAJORETTES, SANTA CLAWS
James Isaac (1960-2012) Director: THE HORROR SHOW, JASON X, SKINWALKERS, PIG HUNT
Jack Klugman (1922-2012) Actor: THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE OUTER LIMITS
Sylvia Kristel (1952-2012) Actress: ALICE OR THE LAST ESCAPADE, DRACULA’S WIDOW
Johnny Lewis (1983-2012) Actor: ALIENS VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM, ONE MISSED CALL
Herbert Lom (1917-2012) Actor: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962), MARK OF THE DEVIL, DORIAN GRAY, COUNT DRACULA, MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE (1971), ASYLUM, DARK PLACES, AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS!, THE DEAD ZONE
Richard Lynch (1940-2012) Actor: GOD TOLD ME TO, THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, WEREWOLF, BAD DREAMS, ALLIGATOR II, PUPPET MASTER III, HALLOWEEN (2007)
Chris Marker (1921-2012) Director: LA JETEE
Lupe Ontiveros (1942-2012) Actress: CANDYMAN 3, DARK MIRROR, CRAWLSPACE
Martin Poll (1922-2012) Producer: THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY, NIGHT WATCH, THE SAILOR WHO FELL FROM GRACE WITH THE SEA, HAUNTED SUMMER
Deborah Raffin (1953-2012) Actress: GOD TOLD ME TO, THE SENTINEL, DANCE OF THE DWARFS, GRIZZLY II, SCANERS II: THE NEW ORDER
Carlo Rambaldi (1925-2012) Special Effects Artist: A LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN, DEEP RED, KING KONG (1976), ALIEN, NIGHTWING, POSSESSION, KING KONG LIVES, CAMERON’S CLOSET
Spain Rodriguez (1940-2012) Cartoonist: ZODIAC MINDWARP, ALIEN APOCALYPSE 2006, NIGHTMARE ALLEY (graphic novel)
Lina Romay (1954-2012) Actress: DAUGHTER OF DRACULA, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, FEMALE VAMPIRE, JACK THE RIPPER, FACELESS, LUST FOR FRANKENSTEIN, HELTER SKELTER, VAMPIRE JUNCTION
Tony Scott (1944-2012) Director/Producer: THE HUNGER (movie and TV series), THE FAN, STOKER
Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) Author/Illustrator: WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
Sage Stallone (1990-2012) Actor/Distributor: THE EVIL INSIDE ME, REFLECTIONS OF EVIL, THE MANSON FAMILY, CHAOS
Danny Steinmann (1942-2012) Director: THE UNSEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING
Boris Strugatsky (1925-1991) Novelist/Screenwriter: STALKER, DEAD MOUNTAINEERS’ HOTEL
Susan Tyrrell (1945-2012) Actress: THE KILLER INSIDE ME (1976), ANDY WARHOL’S BAD, FORBIDDEN ZONE, NIGHT WARNING, FLESH AND BLOOD, DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD, FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM, THE HITCHHIKER (TV), TALES FROM THE CRYPT (TV), BUDDY BOY
Gore Vidal (1925-2012) Novelist/Screenwriter: KALKI, CALIGULA
Koji Wakamatsu (1936-2012) Director: THE EMBRYO HUNTS IN SECRET, VIOLATED ANGELS, DARK STORY OF A JAPANESE RAPIST, CATERPILLAR
Samuel Youd (a.k.a. John Christopher; 1922-2012) Novelist: THE DEATH OF GRASS (NO BLADE OF GRASS), THE POSSESSORS, THE LITTLE PEOPLE
Richard D. Zanuck (1934-2012) Producer: SSSSSSS, JAWS, JAWS 2, THE ISLAND, SWEENEY TODD, DARK SHADOWS (film)