“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and writing about George Lucas’s work, especially his Star Wars films; I hold this six-part series in extremely high regard, especially the prequel trilogy. In my Bright Lights Film Journal article Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith: George Lucas’s Greatest Artistic Statement?, I discuss the breadth of Lucas’s extratextual reference and his brazenly unique sensibility. In George Lucas’s Wildest Vision: Retrofuturist Auteurism in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), I pay serious mind to Lucas’s interest in cinematic form and his avant-garde background, unpacking the ways in which his early experimental projects inform his later work.
For the purpose of this dialogue I wanted to hear input from several of my favorite film critics. I categorize Disney’s spin-off entries separately from Lucas’s work, given the corporation’s decision to disregard his existing outlines, but some of the contributors acknowledged the new films’ relation to (or distance from) the existing saga. I decided to pose broad, open-ended questions about these films, hoping to open up the possibilities for conversation as much as possible.”
“I had never heard of Mike Thorn before reading this collection. He has a bright future in horror and I can’t wait to read his forthcoming work. The pages are filled with tentacles and other monstrosities. The stories are clever and witty. The characters are all too real. The monstrosities are smart. The dialogue is great.”
Read the full review in Cedar Hollow Horror Reviews.
Art by Alex Landers, 2018
For her website One Critical Bitch, visual artist, critic and playwright Alex Landers wrote the most in-depth review of Darkest Hours yet. Read it here. Some of my favorite excerpts:
“As an opener, the short and sweet ‘Hair’ provides the special kind of hook that makes you afraid to continue, but somehow calls for multiple readings of its beautifully grotesque sentences. We are often made to believe that the unimaginable is the most terrifying, but the images Thorn conjures up are so horrifically imaginable that they’ll give you pause. And if you’re a true fan, you’ll probably push on.”
“Think again on Theodore’s desire: his hair lust is, in itself, horrific. But its his genuine, honest excitement as a lust-driven human that is both relatable and totally unmanageable. As hair grows on Theodore, so does our want for more: more grotesquerie, more cringeworthy vocabulary, more dunks in the hair-laden tub. It’s ingenious, really, in its metaphor for the genre itself. Horror can be an acquired taste – one that has the tendency to grow on you.”
“Darkest Hours is horror for horror people. For the ‘confirmed ghost story and horror film addict,’ if you will. But It’s also for people with strong emotions and a desire for philosophical thought. Funny, how horror often is.”
Huge thanks to Alex Landers! If you enjoy insightful and beautifully written criticism, hers is a site to follow.
Lydian Faust uses an intensive, boundary-pushing therapy session to frame her debut novella Forest Underground. The book’s “action” occurs mostly in the content of testimony and memory, but what Faust underlines most explicitly is the unexpected connection between two traumatized women—the doctor and the patient.
I’m impressed by Faust’s decision to use this structural approach to tell this story—she maneuvers through both the frame narrative and the use of multiple P.O.V.s with confidence and style. The novella benefits from her choice, because the closing revelations necessitate that readers are familiar with both main characters’ backstories.
Faust plays gleefully with many of the horror genre’s tropes—she delivers on the perverse/sacred space for ritual murder, dark familial pasts, forbidden asylum rooms, and the indeterminate line between perception and reality. She seems to be as interested in horror’s applications to her characters as she is in the characters themselves.
There are a number of noteworthy things going on in this book, not least of which is Faust’s deliberate choice to navigate tricky structural terrain. There’s also an obvious interest in human psychology and the lasting impact of trauma and violence, and a sense for the ways in which horror can accomplish things not available to other genres.
Click here to buy your copy.
“Maybe there are no gods at all.”
In her new novella Church, author Renee Miller fully commits to urgent plot development. She demonstrates obvious attentiveness to the impact of each scene’s beats and shifts, while also keeping constant sight of her overall narrative design. At under 200 pages, the book focuses always on energy and movement, and it’s all the better for it.
There’s an overarching plot about a religious cult’s psychological strangle-hold on a young woman named Carol, and her Catholic boyfriend Ray’s attempts to wrestle her free. When it comes to the cult’s machinations, Miller trusts wisely in our post-Jonestown massacre knowledge and the ever-present residue of Satanic panic. She doesn’t over-explain, instead delving into the cult’s belief system only when absolutely necessary. The results are something like a whacked-out, grown-up version of Robin F. Brancato’s young adult novel Blinded by the Light (1978). I can dig that.
Maybe what’s most interesting about this book is its management and depiction of hierarchies, both physical and psycho-spiritual. Miller pits intrepid Christian protagonist Ray against badder-than-bad cult-master Darius in a swift and tightly plotted war, and the book never pauses unnecessarily to take in the scenery. There’s a scene near the end that finds the characters arguing about the nature of evil, and at this key moment Miller slyly subverts some of the previously established expectations about religion and morality.
This is most definitely the work of a knowledgeable and experienced thriller writer. Miller delivers completely on the genre’s promise of suspense, conflict and shock, writing in lean, speedy style. The book is impressively readable; producing something so damn digestible is no easy task, and for that reason I give Renee Miller major kudos. Church is worth your time.
Order the book on Amazon.
Jennifer Loring and I co-wrote a domestic Satanic thriller for BEHIND THE MASK – TALES FROM THE ID, a new anthology edited by Steve Dillon, and it’s now available on Amazon! Also features stories by Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Algernon Blackwood, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Allan Gunnells and Jeff C. Stevenson (whose work has been praised by the likes of Dean Koontz and Jonathan Kellerman)… and many other exciting contributors.
Click here to order your copy.
I contributed a piece to the 10th edition of MUBI Notebook‘s end of year poll, which calls upon Notebook writers to pick both a new and an old film seen in 2017 to create a unique double feature.
Read my Kiarostami/Lumière pairing here.