Archive for Stephen King


Posted in Events, Eye Candy, Fantasy, Gore, Interviews, Monsters, Movies, News, Rue Morgue, Serial Killers, Supernatural with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 19, 2012 by darklordbunnykins

The DLB recently spoke to Russell Cherrington, the restoration director of Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut, the extended/re-purposed version of Clive Barker’s notoriously troubled second film as a director, for MSN Canada. You can read that article here.

Cherrington, alongside Mark Miller from Barker’s Seraphim Films and effects animator Paul Jones, will be in Toronto tonight (July 19) to present the new Nightbreed as part of Rue Morgue Magazine‘s Cinemacabre film series. The screening starts at 9pm and takes place at the TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King St. West).

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Posted in Devils, Movies, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2011 by darklordbunnykins


Starring Colin O’Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins and Alice Braga

Directed by Mikael Håfström

Written by Michael Petroni

Any movie coming out in January must fall under suspicion. This month and August are Hollywood’s dumping grounds, the time when weak films finally get their chance in theatres alongside critical darlings getting expanded runs after platform December openings.

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Posted in Books, Interviews, Vampires with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2010 by darklordbunnykins

Rightly renowned comedic author Christopher Moore rolled into terrifying Toronto a couple of weeks ago to talk up Bite Me, his final instalment of his unintentional Bay Area vampire trilogy.

Bite Me is the follow-up to 2007’s You Suck which is itself a sequel to 1995’s Bloodsucking Fiends. Briefly, Bite Me follows the misadventures of Jody and Tommy, newly-turned San Franciscan vampires who, in the last instalment, found themselves encased in a bronze statue by their wannabe servant, teen Goth temptress Abigail Von Normal, “Emergency Back-up Mistress of the Greater Bay Area Night.” Newly-released, the couple are separated and must mount any number of challenges, including clouds of vampire cats and ancient vampire hunters, to be reunited.

Here, Moore, who began his career as a horror writer but switched gears when he found more readers were snickering at his work than shivering, talks about vampirism as a useless metaphor, stalking Goth blogs, and the importance of humour in his horror. The DLB interviewed Mr. Moore in the Lobby Bar of the swank Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto.

I understand that you began your career writing horror fiction. Were you disappointed initially that people were laughing at your work?

That was basically it.

That’s gotta suck!

No, no, it was okay! I hadn’t turned a phrase by accident. I was trying to write in a way that I was turning a phrase cleverly, but I was writing horror stories. And what people were laughing at was the way I turned a phrase, and I just went with that. So it wasn’t the shock that ‘oh, you’re stuff’s not scary, it’s funny,’ it was that the funny stuff was funnier than I thought it was. And whether the horror was effective or not, it wasn’t as effective as the funny stuff was. So that’s sort of the direction I went in. You go with what you’re good at, and that’s what I discovered I was good at.

Who were your favourite horror authors growing up?

Richard Matheson, who wrote I Am Legend and The Incredible Shrinking Man and almost all the Twilight Zones; great short story writer. Robert Bloch, who I loved and also had that grim sense of humour. His most famous work is Psycho, but his short stories are brilliant. Ray Bradbury really early on was an influence. And then as I got into my teens, I was actually reading Stephen King. I think Salem’s Lot was… ‘Oh, that’s how you do suspense!’ device-wise.

I read everybody. Poe and Lord Dunsany and all those guys. H.P. Lovecraft and so forth.

Do you have any interest in trying to write a serious horror novel at some point? Do you think that is even possible?

I don’t think it’s possible for me. I certainly couldn’t maintain it for a novel. I might be able to write a straight horror short story, but that’s how I react, that’s my default setting for the world. So I don’t think I could write a whole novel that didn’t have humour in it.

I recently interviewed Joe Hill, Stephen King’s son, and he described humour and horror as “very close allies.” Would you agree?

Well, there’s a relief factor to it. You can take it so high. When you’re writing a novel there’s sort of a – not to sound too high-minded about it – there’s sort of a symphonic structure to it where you go up and down and up and down. It’s not like a short story where you have one effect and that’s all you want to do.

And so the relief, the counterpoint a lot of times is the humour, and the suspense, let’s say, is the engine that drives the story, but the humour are the beats that go along and the counterpoint to the horror. So I think they’re entwined in that way. It’s an interesting observation. I don’t think I thought it as beats before, but the metaphor certainly works, and that’s why.

Chris Moore in Toronto

Your character Abby gets a lot of time in Bite Me. At what point did she start to take over the narrative?

I think I decided for this book that it would be her book because she sort of took over the last one (You Suck). I didn’t design that to happen in the last one, but she became really the vehicle for… Most of the humour in the last one was rhetorical because of the way she talks and reacts. So with this one I decided she was going to be the engine for the book and it was going to be more of her story than the other two books had been, and so right from the get go on this book I knew it was Abby’s book, basically.

Abby is an iconic Goth teen, and I understand that you read a bunch of goth blogs to help flesh out her character.

I did. When I wrote You Suck I read Goth blogs for about 40 minutes every day before I wrote any of Abby’s parts, just to get it by year, sort of to get the idiom by ear. And there were a lot of clever kids writing blogs then, and so there was material to draw from. It was obviously a different vocabulary and syntax than I was accustomed to using, and it wasn’t something where I was going to go hang out with a bunch of kids on the bus to listen to them.

Middle-aged white men.

I know. Creepy. Deeply, deeply creepy. There was a point where my girlfriend would come into my office and look at what was on the screen and she’d go, ‘Oh, the FBI is just going to break the door down, aren’t they?’ And I’d say, ‘Well, no. I’m not really interacting, I’m just lurking like a big creepy perv so it’s fine.’

But basically I think the interesting part of that is when I went back in 2009 to do the next book, the blogs were gone. The world had changed, and everybody was texting or Facebook, updating, and those good writers that I had encountered three years before were not writing, at least not online. So I don’t know what that says about the evolution of the human language, but it didn’t look good to me.

What other research went into writing this book versus, say, the first one?

I did worry about the city having changed because the neighbourhood the main characters Tommy and Jody live in, SoMa, was a lot of industrial lofts and Pakistani restaurants and transmission shops and artists’ lofts and stuff like that when I wrote the first book. And it also turns out to be where the Internet happened. So by the time I went to do the second book, that’s where all the original offices of Google and and all these other places had renovated that area of the city, and they’d become these upscale, modern loft areas and office lofts.

And I was concerned about it, and I actually met with a book group in San Francisco from a book store named Borderlands. They read a different science fiction or horror book every month and discuss it. And I was living in Hawaii at the time. I teleconferenced with them and said, ‘Okay, guys. You live in the neighbourhoods. What should I do about this intervening twelve years?’ And they said, ‘Just ignore it. Just act like it didn’t happen and go on forward.’ So I said, ‘Okay.’ That’s what I did. I went forward as if, well, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not relevant.

Fortunately there weren’t that many cultural references as far as music and things that would really date the first book and the second book because it’s just that any musical references that I’d used in the first were classic rock when they might have been cutting edge at the time.

Was this story always conceived of as a trilogy?

I did the first one basically as part of a multi-book contract. But when I finished writing it I thought I would like to do this again because a vampire story really isn’t really a vehicle for big themes and serious philosophical treatises. It’s just a lot of fun with funny characters. And I thought, ‘I’d like to do this again.’ But my publisher at the time didn’t print many of them, and the book consequently didn’t do that well. And I wanted to keep my career on an upward vector so I couldn’t really write the second one until I had an audience that would buy anything that I’d write. So by the time I wrote You Suck I had that, and they did.

And I just thought You Suck needed… The ending wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it should be, so Bite Me is to wrap it up. And so it became a trilogy sort of on its own. But I’d always wanted to do a second one. It just took career moves to be able to do it.

What was your opinion of vampire fiction prior to writing the first one?

I sort of self-educated in the whole genre – writing in general – but, sure, I had read Stoker’s Dracula when I was fourteen and then all of the things you have to read: Camilla by Sheridan Le Fanu, and you have to read [John] Polidori’s The Vampyre.

And by the time I wrote Bloodsucking Fiends Anne Rice already had, I think, five or six books out, and she had written the history of the vampire race. And I told my editor that when he picked this idea as one of the ones I submitted. I said, ‘Look, she’s already done the vampire history thing. I don’t know that I can do that. And he goes, ‘Well, are her books funny?’ And I said, ‘No,’ and he said, ‘Well, there you go’ and so the decision was made.

But I had a pretty good background, and I think the first story I ever won an award for at a writer conference was a vampirish story about a girl vampire who sort of turns the whole predator thing back on men who are preying on young girls.

Do people put too much importance on vampirism as a metaphor?

Well, they’re looking for it. I know every interview I do somebody asks me why do I think it’s so popular. Typically I’ll say it’s a superhero you can be. Or everybody likes the bad boy. Whatever. It’s an interesting, fun genre to write in because you really are writing about a superhero and he’s got built-in kryptonite of daylight or whatever box of tools you decide to use, whether it’s garlic or stakes or holy water, and that’s always interesting is to have this built-in weakness to either a hero or a villain that has powers. But I don’t think it’s a serious metaphor for life period, no matter how much you want to stretch it. It’s just entertainment and to try to make it anything else is disingenuous.


Posted in Books, Interviews, Monsters, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2010 by darklordbunnykins

Horns author Joe Hill

Joe Hill’s just flown in from London, and it’s not just his arms that are tired. The author of Heart-Shaped Box and the short story collection 20th Century Ghosts was a few hours late flying in to Toronto to promote his new novel Horns (blame an active Icelandic volcano), but he’s here now, and the sharp wit at play in Horns is also on display during our face-to-face, despite his obvious fatigue.

Hill’s energy makes Horns an easy read even though it was a difficult book to write. The story may also be a bit difficult for the horror fans who made Heart-Shaped Box a hit to accept. Even though it’s primary scenario – a young man (Ig Parrish) wakes up one morning after a drunken night out to find horns growing out of his head – sounds profoundly horrific, the book relies more on drama and character than gory shocks to make its points.

Still, there is more than enough black humour and devilish details to sustain the interest of fans of the fantastic.

I understand that you listen to music while you write.

I’ve always been a guy who sits down and cranks the volume up to eleven and writes for six hours, until just recently. In the last couple of years I found myself turning the music off more and more so I can hear the voices in my head when I’m working on a story. And probably the coolest thing about being a writer is you can sit across from a table with someone and say, ‘I sit in a room by myself listening to the voices in my head’ and the person you’re with will be like ‘nice! That’s so creative,’ whereas if you were interviewing an investment banker: So how do you get your stock tips? ‘Basically, I sit in a room by myself and do whatever the voices in my head tell me to.’ Not the dude you want to invest with.

You mention in the preface that this was an easy book to write.

The preface is tongue-in-cheek. I said writing the book was as easy as baking birthday cake and as fun as eating it, but I didn’t mean it. The book was terrible to write. Every day was a new opportunity to screw up. Whenever I was faced with a creative choice, I inevitably made the wrong choice and would write fifteen pages of crap, then have to go back and throw it out.

I don’t want to overplay that because it’s not a hard job like it’s a hard job to roof a house. But Heart-Shaped Box was an easy book to write; Horns was a hard book to write. In the end I’m very proud of the way Horns came out, and I think the end result you’re aiming for is roughly the same, which is that it should fly for the reader, it should be compulsive reading as early as possible and you should keep the gas pedal mashed down, and you should keep people flying through the pages. There may be pages that I spent days working on that will only take you five minutes to read, but that’s what you’re working towards. It’s not about how it feels for me, it’s just about how it feels for the reader.

So Horns was not real fun to write, but I’m proud of it. Every piece of work can’t be easy and thoughtless, and sometimes you have to fight for something.

How important is humour to your work?

Well, there’s a lot of puns. Maybe there’s even too many devil puns. You’ve got the devil in a blue dress before the book is over. What can I say about all those puns. The devil made me do it.

You know, when I was growing up, other kids had posters of athletes and rock stars on their walls, but I read Fangoria magazine faithfully, and most of the posters on my walls glorified the guys who made splatter films. It was stuff ripped out of Fango. It was Tom Savini and Rob Bottin and Stan Winston and George Romero. Those were the guys who were really my heroes.

The special effects guys, when they have a demon alien bursting from someone’s chest, they call that a gag, and I don’t think that’s accidental. You know, when you alien bursts from the chest, that’s the punchline. And horror and humour are very close allies.

And so I do think a horror novel can be fun and can be funny, and can swiftly swerve from the horrifying thing to the thing that gets the black laugh.

But the other thing is audiences respond to things differently. I’ve always been a guy who goes to horror films and would laugh in places where people are… sticking their fingers in front of their eyes, and every once in awhile you’ll run across someone who loves horror novels and will say they have the same reaction. The shock and jolts of horror operate in a very similar way to the shock and jolts of a good comedy routine.

Where did the idea for Horns come from?

I’ve given about eighteen different answers to this question, and every one of them is true. For me, I’m a guy who probably thinks too much about stuff. I pick at ideas like scabs. I’m interested in traditional storytelling forms. 20th Century Ghosts, my story collection of traditional horror stories, isn’t very edgy. It’s edgy in places because of the content, but it doesn’t take an experimental approach.

There’s a tradition of 19th and 18th century American folklore tales about the devil, and these stories, they’re basically all revenge stories, they all basically operate the same way. They’re all about the wicked and the unworthy getting their just desserts on the business end of the devil’s pitchfork. It’s funny because the audience for those stories [are] probably fairly religious, but when they read those stories, they’re rooting for the devil. Even though the devil’s the ultimate bad guy, he is nevertheless the one is going to make sure that the everyday human sinner, the worst of us, get what’s coming to them.

So Horns is very much from that tradition. And you know I had written a lot traditional ghost stories, and I felt it was time to play with one of the other toys in the dark fantasy sandbox, and that would be the devil.

Ig’s primary power is his ability to coax people’s innermost thoughts and feelings.

He doesn’t have to coax, it just comes pouring out. Everyone sees him as their own personal demon, and they can’t wait to pour forth their ugliest secrets and darkest temptations. So you’ve got the doctor who says ‘you patients, all you care about is yourselves’ because what he wants to do is grind up Oxycontin and spy on his daughter’s friends, and you’ve got the little kid who says about her mother, ‘I want to burn up mummy in her bed with matches.’ So Ig, in the first 100 pages, Ig lives this paranoid fantasy where he keeps turning to people for help, and instead of helping him all they want to do is make these terrible confessions, and this is how he comes to realize that he’s inherited the powers and knowledge of the devil.

This is a power you’ve explored in earlier work. Do you have a particular fascination with people’s secrets?

There’s two things about that, but the first thing is this is always the writer’s goal, is to take a character and then peel them away to the essence. This is why we have stories, to examine people’s complexities, and people are mysteries. Raymond Chandler used to say he had no interest in whodunits, he was only interested in whydunits. And by the same token I’m not really interested in whodunits, I’m more interested in ‘who are they?’ And so almost all my stories build to this point of confession where characters finally have nowhere else to go. They can’t hide anymore, and they reveal themselves completely to another character, also to the reader and also to themselves.

And Horns turns that slightly on its head because the book opens with Ig frantically searching for help and faced down with these terrifying confessions from all the people he loves and all the people he thought he could trust. But that’s just the beginning.

It also goes on to suggest that these terrible confessions are not the whole of the picture. And Ig, even though he faces all this darkness, clings to his humanity and stubbornly insists that there’s more to the people he loves than just their worst, and he’s right.

So we get these terrible confessions, but in Horns, unlike some of the other stories, it starts with the point of confession and then winds things backwards and forwards and jumps around to reveal that people are more than just the sum of their worst moments.

I understand that Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis was an influence on Horns. Can you speak to that?

Yeah. I’ve written about Kafka’s Metamorphosis twice, and I still think that it’s one of four or five stories of horror that particularly fascinate me.

I tackled The Metamorphosis for the first time in a story called ‘You Will Hear The Locust Sing’, and the way that came about was I’d just read The Metamorphosis for the first time, I was in Florida, riding a bike around, and I was in bare feet. And I put my foot down on the ground in a mound of red ants and just got the hell chewed out of my foot; it was just like having acid poured on my foot. And it reminded me in The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa turns into a cockroach and then just kind of wastes away depressed and unable to fight for his own life. But most insects have more fight in them than that.

So I ended up writing a story about a kid who wakes up one morning after turning into a giant locust, and far from being horrified and depressed, it thrills him. This is [one of] his deepest fantasies. He’s always wanted to be a giant monster. So that was the first time. And then Horns… takes the same kind of grotesque transformation and examines it in a darker, I think more complete way.

I do have to say that I think a lot of my stories are about ordinary, lost, harmless guys who experience this grotesque transformation and become this thing larger than life and maybe a little frightening but also more powerful and more free. Heart-Shaped Box is partially the story of this abused, lonely country kid who is nobody special until the day when he’s seventeen, he takes his guitar and climbs on a Greyhound bus and goes to New York, and when he gets off the bus in New York seventeen hours later he’s reinvented himself as this guy Judas Coyne, and he becomes this big rock star. Very different kind of transformation in some ways, but in some ways Jude is a rock ‘n’ roll devil and it’s very similar.

And here is Joe talking about whether Horns actually is or isn’t horror…


Posted in Books, Interviews with tags , , , , on March 23, 2010 by darklordbunnykins

The Dark Lord Bunnykins caught up with an exhausted but still sharp Joe Hill this afternoon to discuss his new novel Horns. Look for the full text from the interview this coming weekend when I get a minute to transcribe.

In the meantime, here is a video of Hill discussing the role of the Devil in Horns and whether or not it is actually a horror novel:


Posted in Books, Reviews with tags , , , , on February 22, 2010 by darklordbunnykins


Joe Hill

(William Morrow)

You would think that a book about a man turning into a devil would be pure horror, but Horns, Joe Hill’s second novel, is as much drama, albeit one which uses the supernatural to deepen and amplify the story’s essentially tragic nature.

Horns begins with Iggy Parrish waking up the morning after a drunken bender to find horns growing out of his head. Almost as strange, he finds everyone he meets confessing their deepest, darkest secrets… including their real feelings about him. Iggy, you see, is generally presumed by his neighbours to have raped and murdered his long-time girlfriend Merrin the year previous; the only reason he’s still walking the streets is because his rich parents arranged for incriminating evidence to be destroyed, they assume. Soon enough, though, Ig is able to use his new powers, which include influencing the will of those around him, to find out who really killed Merrin.

Horns author Joe Hill

Hill, in case you don’t know, is Stephen King’s son, and not to belabour the fact or draw ill-informed comparisons (because I haven’t read a book by the elder King in two decades) but he has his dad’s knack for subtle characterization, black humour, moments of sickening violence , and a genuine empathy for human frailty. Fans of King’s work will appreciate his son’s writing, but it succeeds on its own merits, not simply by virtue of who his father is.

The plot of Horns revolves around not simply who murdered Merrin (we learn the killer’s identity pretty early on) but also how and why it happened, as well as its impact on Ig’s life and the life of the entire town. Hill fractures the narrative timeline and uses Ig’s ability to know everything about a person by simply touching them to reconstruct what exactly happened that ill-fated night. But the circumstances of Merrin’s death, of course, are complex, coloured by misunderstanding, self-interest and guilt depending upon whose version of events we are being subjected to. The result is a Rashomon-style retelling of events which turns out to be far more than a simple crime of passion.

The plot’s driver – we continue to read after discovering who killed Merrin because we want to see Ig’s revenge – soon enough becomes secondary to our interest in finding out what will become of Ig. With each page turned, Ig’s transformation into an actual devil progresses. There’s also a metaphorical transformation occurring and it’s sickly fascinating to follow along.

Horns contains its fair share of grisly images and acts of violence, but Joe Hill is not Stephen King. There be monsters here, but Horns is primarily about the darkest corners of the human heart, shining a light into the places in our minds that no one wants to acknowledged.

I guess that is horror, isn’t it?