Saturday, 24 February 2018

Helen Grant - Ghost

Helen Grant's story 'Silver' will be appearing the next issue of ST. Meanwhile, she has a new novel out which promises to be a spiffing read. It's published by Fledgeling Press and is set in riural Perthshire, in Scotland, where Helen lives. One Amazon reviewer likens it to Ruth Rendell's novel, which for me is the highest praise. I have my copy (bought with my own money, I'll have you know) and will tell you what I think of it in due course.
"Highly propulsive, incredibly seductive. A masterclass in how to develop intrigue and heighten tension. I loved it." CJ Skuse, author of Sweetpea

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Los Inocentes (2015)

Here is a curiosity - a Latin American film that is not only a supernatural chiller but also addresses the truly horrifying history of slavery. Los Inocentes (rather confusingly titled The Innocents in English) is set in Argentina in the 19th century. It is visually quite sumptuous - director and co-writer Mauricio Brunetti adopts a Merchant-Ivory approach to the setting, a farming estate called Mercedaria. But he also makes clear that there is no need to even scratch the surface to see the violence and fear that must always form the basis of a slave economy.

Mercedaria is owned by Guiraldes, played by the excellent veteran actor Lito Cruz. The man epitomises the brutal slave owner, raping the women and hanging a black boy, Amuda, who has unwisely befriended his disabled son, Rodrigo. Guiraldes wife is apparently a more sympathetic character. But as the story unfolds it becomes clear that she, too, capable of horrific cruelty.

The story unfolds in flashbacks, with the main action set in 1871, and the incidents that lead to the haunting taking place 15 years earlier. Put-upon Rodrigo returns to the family home with his new wife, Bianca, to try and reconcile himself to his parents. He finds his father as vile as ever, his mother apparently insane. The slaves are gone, apart from some household servants. The farm prospers, whereas when Rodrigo was sent away to school it was suffering from terrible drought. What lies behind, or beneath, these changes?

Some fairly conventional ghost story tricks and jumps occur, but with the Jamesian 'detective story' aspect. Why is the decent Bianca apparently being targeted when she loathes Guiraldes? What drove Rodrigo's mother mad? Where are the slaves? The action - leisurely at first, albeit studded with brutal outbursts - speeds up until the finale, which sees the ruin of all Guiraldes aspirations. The innocent must suffer, as the title implies, because blood calls for blood. And there is a fair amount of blood, one way and another.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Ghost Story Petition

Here is an online petition to ask the BBC to 'commit to a full and proper revival of 'A Ghost Story for Christmas''. Will it make a difference? Well, we can try. At the moment it's got over 100 signatures. A few thousand might have a chance of swaying Auntie, I suppose. Anyway, your attention has been drawn to it, good and proper. It's the work of Calum Sherwood, and the full wording is below:
Folk horror has had a resurgence of interest in recent years. 
Numerous articles in the press (See: here, here and here) have charted the growth of interest in the folk horror genre, and it has led to the establishment of a movement of enthusiasts dedicated to its conservation and revival.

'A Ghost Story for Christmas' is often seen as one of the finest expressions of the genre in both its incarnations, during the 1970s and sporadically throughout the 2000s. The last instalment of series was broadcast in 2013. Since then, no commitment has been made by the BBC to maintain the revival of the series. 
Radio Times journalist Alison Graham wrote in December 2017: "The Christmas TV ghost-story tradition fell away a long time ago, but it should be brought back... now is the perfect time to bring back the Christmas ghost story". 
The BBC should commit to a revival of 'A Ghost Story for Christmas'. By only sporadically reviving the series, the BBC is ignoring its own central place in the history of folk horror. 
Folk horror is part of the cultural zeitgeist, and reviving 'A Ghost Story for Christmas' would be very much to the BBC's advantage - celebrating its role as one of the greatest contributors to folk horror television. 
We call on BBC programming commissioners to commit to a full and proper revival of 'A Ghost Story for Christmas' series.