Tuesday, March 03, 2015

What We’re Reading: Motion Picture-Related Horror

Horror stories infused with elements of the supernatural and, by design, created to fill the reader with a sense of dread and foreboding, have been around for as long as people have gathered around fires in the dark. The first published horror novels date back to the 18th Century, with horror becoming a true phenomenon in the 19th with the publication of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818), the works of Edgar Allan Poe (1820s-1840s), The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886), The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890) and Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897). 

The development of the moving picture in the late 19th Century led to early experiments in moving images designed with fright in mind. Film pioneer Georges Méliès made The Haunted Castle in 1896, widely considered the first horror film, but it was certainly not the last! Putting a group of strangers together in a darkened room with their collective attention focused on “the silver screen” was, and is, a situation too good not to exploit! For more than a century, many of our favorite movie “monsters” have come from the pages of horror short stories, novellas and books.

In The Cutting Room: Dark Reflections of The Silver Screen, short story collection editor extraordinaire Ellen Datlow has gathered a collection of motion picture-related horror stories that puts film and the film industry center stage, shining lights into the darkened corners of studio lots and sound stages, bringing things often best unseen into the clear view of the reader. Of particular note are:

"The Hanged Man of Oz," by Steve Nagy: Nagy uses an urban legend about someone committing suicide on the set of The Wizard of Oz as a jumping-off point for an incredibly creepy story.

"Cuts," by F. Paul Wilson: When a novel is adapted to film, cuts must be made. What if there were consequences?

"The Thousand Cuts," by Ian Watson: We’re used to editing film, and can piece together the narrative from what’s presented on screen. What if editing began to happen in our daily lives? 

"Dead Image," by David Morrell: It’s generally accepted that we only get one chance at our lives and we must live with the choices we make. What if a film icon got a second chance? 

"each thing I show you is a piece of my death," by Gemma Files and Stephen J. Barringer: It is generally accepted that images have power. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much more powerful can a moving image be?

"Onlookers," by Gary A. Braunbeck: Movie making can be magical, and sometimes that magic can last for years and years. . .

"She Drives the Men to Crimes of Passion," by Genevieve Valentine: Are stars made or born? One director is about to find out. . .

This is a must-read collection for horror fans, especially those who are film buffs or who work in the entertainment industry! But be warned: This is a collection you’ll want to read with the lights on bright and, if possible, at least a bit before you have to go to sleep!

Ellen Datlow has been editing wonderful collections of fairy tales, fantasy, horror, and science fiction short stories for more than 20 years. Other collections include Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, Supernatural Noir, Blood and Other Cravings, Inferno: New Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, Snow White, Blood Red, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror annual collection and the upcoming The Doll Collection (arriving this spring).



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