R.I.P. Graham Joyce

Graham Joyce portraitI’m reluctant to log in to Facebook or Twitter anymore, as it seems quite often the first thing I see is the news that another colleague or friend is gone, and the frequency of such sad news over the past few years has been terrible.

Today, I was devastated to hear that Graham Joyce has passed away. In addition to being a phenomenal author and a great guy, his frequent spirited updates about the cancer he was enduring were, to say the least, inspirational. Somehow he turned the darkest event in his life into a source of humor, so much so that he frequently had me chuckling about a subject that’s never funny.

I read his novel THE TOOTH FAIRY in my teens (it ranks as one of my favorite horror/dark fantasy novels of all time) and have been a fan of his books ever since. I am also, and will continue to be, a fan of the man who wrote them, for all he taught me about where to find the light in the dark.

R.I.P. Graham, and thank you. You, and your words, will be deeply missed.

Movie Review: BLOOD GLACIER (2013)

Since I’ve been covering a lot of foreign movies in my lists lately (here, and here), it seems only proper that my first full film review in ages should continue in that vein. This time it’s the Austrian creature feature BLOOD GLACIER, directed by Marvin Kren and written by Benjamin Hessler, the team who brought us the quite excellent RAMMBOCK: BERLIN UNDEAD.

Blood GlacierRAMMBOCK was a very low-key and intimate zombie film. BLOOD GLACIER, as can probably be gleaned from the very Syfy-like title, is anything but. And while it may sometimes seem a natural progression for a filmmaker to go from low-key to loud for their second feature, I can’t help but wish, after seeing BLOOD GLACIER, that Kren and Hessler had resisted the urge and stayed true to their roots.

The premise of the film is simple (and more than a little familiar to anyone who has ever seen THE THING, the not-quite-as-bad-as-expected Val Kilmer vehicle THE THAW, or Larry Fessenden’s decidedly underrated conservation-minded chiller THE LAST WINTER): Scientists working in the Austrian Alps discover that a glacier is leaking a liquid that appears to be affecting local wildlife.  Without spoiling it too much, this “effect” means that various types of local wildlife get a lot of mutated grossness bursting out of them that then decides to infect, or eat, or both, our unfortunate scientists. In the meantime we get some heavy-handed ecological education on how we’re fucking up the planet (that would have made for a more terrifying movie.)

There are a lot of laughs to be had in BLOOD GLACIER. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that was intentional, and so it hurts the film. The first reason for this is not the fault of anyone involved: the dubbing. Dubbing is generally a crapshoot, and it’s why I avoid it whenever possible. Sometimes it works, more often it doesn’t, and in the case of BLOOD GLACIER, it reduces a moderately interesting creature feature to MST3K-levels of absurdity. The dull, emotionless, mismatched voices are painful to listen to, and one wishes they had gone with subtitles instead so at least some of the integrity of the film could have been maintained (I watched this on Netflix, so maybe the DVD has the option of subtitles over dubbing.) It’s hard to take a film seriously when someone dies and the actor expressing his concern for the survivors sounds like Tommy Chong on the toilet. I can’t even comment on the performances (which seemed fine) because I was too distracted by the voice work.

I did, however, love the hilarious (and intentionally so) line, which ranks up there as one of the strangest and funniest I’ve ever heard in a horror movie: “Stop eating that banana while you’re crying!” WTF?

The second reason the film falls flat is in the special effects work. If done right, a low-budget does not always equal terrible effects, or an absence of scares, and to be fair, Kren does his best to hide his monsters or just show squishy glimpses of them for the first half of the movie, but when at last we see them in their full glory…ouch. They look like shopping carts covered in fur and gore with bad Halloween masks tacked onto the front of them (the goat-thing is particularly awful). The CGI creatures are only marginally better, but even the titular glacier looks bizarre whenever an actor stands before it, like the digital effects guys couldn’t figure out how to balance the colors.

All that being said, I have to admit that BLOOD GLACIER is fun. It’s just not fun in the way I’m sure the filmmakers wanted. It isn’t, however, bad enough for me to write them off as an interesting duo to watch. RAMMBOCK was good enough to ensure I’ll check out anything else they do, and indeed is what led me to BLOOD GLACIER in the first place. This film just seemed a little too ambitious for the budget, and the addition of horrendously comical dubbing didn’t help in the least. I may, however, revisit it if subtitles are available on any future editions to see if it makes a difference. Sadly, I suspect it might not, but if you’re in the mood for some badly rendered hand puppets chowing on people who sound like they’ve been smoking crack in an air balloon while being reminded that we’re basically all a bunch of bastards who are destroying the planet, this just might be the horror film for you.

4/10.

7 Irish Horror Movies Worth A Look

When I emigrated from Ireland in 2001, I couldn’t have named one horror film my country had produced, except for maybe Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves, and whether or not that’s even horror, or even entirely Irish, is open to debate. But, perhaps due in no small part to the economic decline in my homeland, which historically and globally tends to incite creative types to express themselves with renewed fervor, a number of Irish horror films have cropped up on our screens over the past few years. And while of course there are duds, more than a couple of them are very good indeed, and leave me excited to see what these filmmakers come up with next. Here’s a list of those I think are worth your time:

In Fear1. IN FEAR – 2013

The setup for this is a typical and familiar one: Loving couple gets lost in unfamiliar territory and find themselves stalked by someone/something. It’s how this is handled, particularly toward the end, that helps differentiate IN FEAR from standard fare like WRONG TURN, WOLF CREEK, THE HITCHER etc. Using the dreary fog and rain-shrouded countryside to maximum effect, director Jeremy Lovering pulls us into the mood and keeps us there with some interesting, nihilistic twists on a tired premise.

2. DARK TOUCH – 2013Dark Touch

After the violent deaths of her parents and younger brother, a young girl is taken in by her neighbors, who soon find themselves tormented by inexplicable occurrences. Aided in no small part by an incredibly convincing and therefore all the more disturbing performance from child actor Missy Keating, DARK TOUCH makes for an uncomfortable viewing experience (as it always is when the subject is child abuse), but director Chad Crawford Kinkle plays things with a measured and often clever hand. And while the bulk of the film is quietly sinister, it’s book-ended by a pair of truly unsettling sequences.

grabbers3. GRABBERS – 2012

The only comedy-horror that appears on this list, GRABBERS will appeal to those of you who count TREMORS and ATTACK THE BLOCK among your favorite sci-fi horror films. In a preposterous (or is it?) conceit, a ragtag group of islanders discover that the only way to avoid getting chomped by the squid-like aliens who have laid siege to their island, is to hole up in a bar and get drunk, as apparently the aliens can’t drink blood that has been tainted by booze. Works for me. The proceedings are helped enormously by the humor throughout, as well as game performances by all concerned, and some excellent special effects.

4. THE ECLIPSE – 2009the eclipse

At the opposite end of the scale from squishy aliens and exploding heads, we have this quiet little gem, about a lonely widower who makes a connection with a novelist and romance blossoms. But as soon as he decides to love again, he begins to suffer strange paranormal visitations (one of which had me jumping a foot off the couch.) The entire movie rests more or less on the shoulders of the always excellent Ciaran Hinds (GAME OF THRONES), who brings the appropriate amount of gravitas to the proceedings. A sad and creepy story, as likely to have you weeping as jolting in your seat.

MV5BMzIwMTQ2NTAyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDIzMjQ0OA@@._V1_SX214_AL_5. CITADEL – 2012

CITADEL uses its low budget and central premise–that of a young father stricken by agoraphobia after failing to save his wife from a gang of violent youths–to great effect. Like the main character’s affliction, the mood in CITADEL is suffocating, and director Ciaran Foy ratchets up the tension by slow degrees until it’s almost unbearable. Reminiscent at times of David Cronenberg’s THE BROOD without the gooshy biology, CITADEL has plenty to say about societal decay and the fears of being a parent too, which only adds to the terror.

6. ISOLATION – 2005Isolation

Despite the hokey premise (which is actually presented better than it sounds) of a remote Irish farm being the epicenter of gruesome experiments on livestock, there’s a lot that actually works here, from the mood and solid performances, to the creature effects. And while it loses something toward the end, the journey to get there is lots of splattery fun. Just be sure you’re not eating while watching it. Seriously.

wake wood7. WAKE WOOD – 2010

With an obvious debt to THE WICKER MAN and PET SEMATARY, WAKE WOOD is almost a very good movie but falls just a little short where so many low budget horror films do: in the ending. Still, there’s a lot of creepiness here, starting with the central idea that if you lost a child, you could, with certain sacrifices, get them back. That’s always a harrowing setup for a film, and this one is no different. With good performances by Aidan Gillen (another GAME OF THRONES alumnus) and Eva Birthistle, and the by now requisite foggy rural landscape to deepen the mood, you could do a lot worse than WAKE WOOD.

So there you have it, my list of seven Irish horror movies I consider worth a look. Let me know what you think in the comments below, and if there’s any justice, I’ll be able to do another list of good Irish horror movies not too long from now.

5 (Really Good) Horror Movies You (Probably) Haven’t Seen

Every time I come across an article online which lists a certain number of horror movies “You Haven’t Seen”, invariably I’ve seen all of them, and I suspect so have most self-respecting fans of the genre. That might well prove to be the case here, but I thought it high time I cast some well-deserved light on a few of the more obscure ones that may have slipped beneath your radar. If even one of these is unknown to you and you end up loving it as much as I did, then I’ll consider this blog post a success.

Rabies1. RABIES (KALEVET) – 2010

When I first saw the trailer for this Israeli horror film about a brother and sister who have fled their home, only for one of them to find himself caught in a psychopath’s trap, it looked well-shot and acted but little else. I assumed it standard slasher fare until I read the reviews and realized that this was another in a long line of examples of studios trying to market a hard-to-classify film to a wider audience. The trailer is grossly misleading, so much so that I suggest you don’t watch it at all, and go into RABIES with no idea what you’re going to see. It’s superbly well done, and not at all the kind of film you think it is. To say any more would be to ruin it, so check it out if you can find it.

2. SLEEP TIGHT (MIENTRAS DUERMES) – 2011Sleep_Tight

Directed by Jaume Balaguero, the guy who brought you [REC], [REC] 2 and the upcoming [REC] 4: APOCALYPSE, one might be forgiven for assuming this Spanish thriller would be balls-to-the-wall gore, but it’s anything but. Instead, SLEEP TIGHT, about a night porter who decides–for no other reason than he can–to make the life of one of his residents hell, finds Balaguero in a quieter if no less vicious mood. This one’s a bit of a slow burn, but the payoff is absolutely worth it. One of the most disturbing films I’ve seen in years, and hardly a drop of blood in sight.

MV5BMzIwMTQ2NTAyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDIzMjQ0OA@@._V1_SX214_AL_3. CITADEL – 2012

The first of the two Irish horror films on this list, CITADEL uses its low budget and central premise–that of a young father stricken by agoraphobia after failing to save his wife from a gang of violent youths–to great effect. Like the main character’s affliction, the mood in CITADEL is suffocating, and director Ciaran Foy ratchets up the tension by slow degrees until it’s almost unbearable. Reminiscent at times of David Cronenberg’s THE BROOD without the gooshy biology, CITADEL has plenty to say about societal decay and the fears of being a parent too, which only adds to the terror.

4. JULIA’S EYES (LOS OJOS DE JULIA) – 2010julia's eyes

Don’t let the “Guillermo Del Toro” presents tag fool you, in terms of visual style and story, this movie has more in common with Dario Argento. When Julia begins to lose her sight–a congenital defect she shared with her recently murdered twin sister–it gives the filmmakers all kinds of opportunity to play with the things Julia, and we, sees. And while it takes a jarring left turn in the third act, enough mystery and horror have built up in the previous two to make this one of the better genre films to come from Spain in the past few years.

Isolation5. ISOLATION – 2005

The second of two Irish horror films, this one can be classified as a gorefest. Despite the hokey premise (which is actually presented better than it sounds) of a remote Irish farm being the epicenter of gruesome experiments on livestock, there’s a lot that actually works here, from the mood and solid performances, to the creature effects. And while it loses something toward the end, the journey to get there is lots of splattery fun. Just be sure you’re not eating while watching it. Seriously.

So what do you think? Have you seen any of these movies, and if so, what did you think of them? Do you have any recommendations for little-known horror movies others might have missed? If so, share them in the comments below.

Next time, I’d list my top ten favorite Irish horror movies (you probably haven’t seen those either…)

 

OFFLINE: IN THE FLESH Available Now

Now available on Amazon and Smashwords…

The Internet has brought us all closer to together. Strangers are just a click away. But despite all the risks, sometimes love can blossom amid the chaos. Every day, millions of people find the one they were meant to be with, their soul mate, their one true love.

But on the Internet, where anyone can pretend to be someone or something other than what they really are, the only thing more dangerous than trust, is love.

In this sequel to the popular short story OFFLINE, and presented as a transcript of Facebook messages in the wake of tragedy, this time the communication leaves the confines of the Internet world, and we are shown what happens when two strangers connected by burgeoning love, meet each other IN THE FLESH.

http://www.amazon.com/Offline-Flesh-Kealan-Patrick-Burke-ebook/dp/B00MXD2K2I

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Offline-Flesh-Kealan-Patrick-Burke-ebook/dp/B00MXD2K2I

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/469225

THE NOVELLAS, Free From 8/18 – 8/22

From tomorrow, Mthenovellasresizedonday 18th August, my collection THE NOVELLAS will be available as a free digital download at Amazon.com. The book collects together four of my best novellas, “The Tent”, “Seldom Seen in August”, “You In?”, and “Midlisters”. It is also currently free for subscribers to Kindle Unlimited.

Here’s the description:

An omnibus collection of four novellas by Bram Stoker Award-winning author Kealan Patrick Burke (Kin, The Turtle Boy).

Featured in this book are:

THE TENT

The perfect getaway…

The perfect place to hide…

Hocking Hills, Ohio is an oasis for campers, hikers, nature enthusiasts, and for those who just want to get away and lose themselves in the wild.

And as long as you follow your guide’s advice and stay within the permitted areas, you can expect to survive the night.

Because deep within the dark woods, something insidious awaits, something few have ever seen, something ancient, unknowable, and insatiable.

If you go down to these woods today, you won’t live to see the sunrise…

YOU IN?

For years the Wickerwood Inn has stood abandoned, home to nothing but dust and the trapped echo of past celebrations…and tragedy.

For a down on his luck ex-gambler, the inn’s reputation is a thing of myth, and certainly not reason enough to turn down the first paying job to come his way in months. The inn will soon be renovated in preparation for a new lease on life. So tonight, from midnight till six, Peter Haskins will watch over the machinery.

And he will soon discover that there is something else in the hotel with him, something that needs no new lease on life, for it has never died.

And never will.

SELDOM SEEN IN AUGUST

Wade Crawford is not a good guy. He’s a bank robber and a ruthless killer, and now three people are dead and Wade is on the run. With the cops hot on his heels, he breaks into a seemingly ordinary house in a seemingly ordinary neighborhood to hide and wait on word from his partner.

But this neighborhood is far from ordinary. Indeed it has a very specific purpose, and soon Wade will discover that life in prison would be preferable to the hellish torment Seldom Seen has in store for him.

MIDLISTERS

Meet Jason Tennant, a writer of violent horror novels whose career is mired firmly in a maddening swamp of frustration somewhere north of nowhere and south of success. He is a midlister, those thankless souls who labor in the shadows of sometimes better, sometimes luckier writers, and it’s starting to take its toll.

Meet Kent Gray, wildly popular author of a string of so-called “sex-fi” novels. He’s wealthy, handsome, and the object of Jason Tennant’s professional jealousy.

Welcome to Baltimore, Maryland, and the Aurora Science Fiction & Horror Convention, where these two men, midlister and bestseller, will meet for the first time, and the midlister motto “Better Read Than Dead” will be put to the ultimate test.

Purchase your copy of THE NOVELLAS at Amazon.com.