"Thus fortified I might take my rest in peace. But dreams come through stone walls, light up dark rooms, or darken light ones, and their persons make their exists and their entrances as they please, and laugh at locksmiths."
So did any of you guys watch the Bram Stoker Awards live stream last night? Well, we here at The October Country sure did and we gotta say we found the event to be magnificent. The presenters and winners alike all proved themselves to be an entertaining bunch, providing along the way marvelous insights about our humble little beloved genre that would make any horror hound smile (even though Dorchester Publishing didn't go down in flames as I had hoped, eBooks sure did, yay). It was a first for the event (the live stream) and here is hoping that it won't be their last. I know that us fans of horror literature really appreciated the glimpse we got into the world of the horror writing elite. It would be really awesome if somewhere down the line, someone like the Chiller network would pick the event up for a live telecast. In this day and age, horror fiction could use all the exposure it can get. We can hope.
First things first though, our hats off to the behind the scenes men and women who pulled the stream off without a hitch. I imagine that there were about a dozen things that could have went wrong and thankfully nothing did. It was great from beginning to end. Secondly, The October Country would like to say congratulations to all the winners and all the nominees. Dollars to donuts, we'll be out their scooping up your award winning and nominated work very soon. Because honestly, we can't wait to crack those book jackets and see what frightening visions you have in store for us. Also, dear readers, you'd do well to follow suit so get down to your local library or bookshop already. Again, congratulations guys and gals!
Superior Achievement in a Novel
DARK MATTER by Peter Straub
Superior Achievement in a First Novel (tie)
BLACK AND ORANGE by Benjamin Kane Ethridge
CASTLE OF LOS ANGELES by Lisa Morton
Superior Achievement in Long Fiction
INVISIBLE FENCES by Norman Prentiss
Superior Achievement in an Anthology
HAUNTED LEGENDS edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas
Superior Achievement in a Collection
FULL DARK, NO STARS by Stephen King
Superior Achievement in Nonfiction
TO EACH THEIR DARKNESS by Gary A. Braunbeck
Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection
DARK MATTERS by Bruce Boston
Superior Achievement in Short Fiction
THE FOLDING MAN by Joe R. Lansdale (from HAUNTED LEGENDS)
HWA Specialty Press Award Goes to Dark Regions Press
Angel Leigh McCoy Awarded 2010 Silver Hammer Award
Michael Colangelo Awarded 2010 Richard Laymon Award
Ellen Datlow Awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award
Al Feldstein Awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award
"Someone in this village is practicing witchcraft. That corpse wandering on the moors is an undead, a zombie."
I've said once and I'll say it again, the Bram Stoker Awards is just about the only awards ceremony that means anything to us nerds here at The October Country headquarters. The Scream Awards seem to be nothing but an industry hype machine to sell mainstream, bad "horror" movies (Twilight anyone). The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films? Please! Nah, the one and only horror awards ceremony wherein the nominees are selected and voted upon by their peers (their fellow authors), real fans of really good horror, appears to be The Bram Stoker Awards. Which is why we trust in it so much. I've yet to read a single novel with the Bram Stoker namesake emblazoned across its cover (either nominee or winner of one) that has let me down. Period. If they didn't outright terrify me they disturbed me, if they didn't disturb me they made me think, if they didn't make me think they set my imagination ablaze. But mostly, they've done all those things at once and more and so I'll forever be grateful to the Horror Writers Association for stirring up such an event. For creating for us readers a means of knowing how and where to find the very best of the best. Screw the Oscars. My dream is to one day walk down the red carpet of The Bram Stoker Awards as a guest in my spiffiest of spiffy duds and then proceed to lose my damn mind throughout the night, hooting and hollering as the winners are announced. Seriously, it's one for my bucket list.
So, it is with great pleasure and excitement that I get to announce that the next best thing is about to happen. The Horror Writers Association would like all fans of finely crafted fictional frights to know that they are going to be airing the ceremony live at 9:30PM, this Saturday, June 18th! Yeah, that's right, you'll finally get the chance to rub elbows with the likes of Peter Straub, Jeff Strand, Joe R. Lansdale and many more, even if it's from the comfort of your home. I've already got my popcorn (plus the idea that there may be a handful of Ricky Gervais-esque public take-downs of Dorchester Publishing is too good to pass up).
Please use this link: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/horror-writer-awards to join in the festivities.
A list of this years nominees can be found here.
But the fun doesn't have to begin and end on Saturday. Those in the Long Island, New York area (or those of you able to travel) can enjoy the many other events planned throughout June 16th - 19th. Here is the official website for Stoker Weekend 2011.
No plans this weekend? Never heard of the Bram Stoker Awards? Haven't picked up a book since high school? You only read Stephen King or Dean Koontz? King Horror Writers Association who? Well then, let's enlighten ourselves for a moment shall we?
Each year, the Horror Writer's Association presents the Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement, named in honor of Bram Stoker, author of the seminal horror work, Dracula. The Stoker Awards were instituted immediately after the organization's incorporation in 1987. While many members, including HWA's first President, Dean Koontz, had reservations about awards for writing -- since the point of HWA was for writers to cooperate for their mutual benefit, not to compete against one another -- the majority of members heavily favored presenting awards, both to recognize outstanding work in the horror field and to publicize HWA's activities.
To ameliorate the competitive nature of awards, the Stokers are given "for superior achievement," not for "best of the year," and the rules are deliberately designed to make ties fairly probable. The first awards were presented in 1988 (for works published in 1987), and they have been presented every year since. The award itself is an eight-inch replica of a fanciful haunted house, designed specifically for HWA by sculptor Steven Kirk. The door of the house opens to reveal a brass plaque engraved with the name of the winning work and its author.
The Stoker Awards, like the Oscars, are non-juried awards. Any work of Horror first published in the English language may be considered for a Stoker during the year of its publication. The HWA membership at large recommends worthy works for consideration. A preliminary ballot is compiled using a formula based on recommendations. Two rounds of voting by our Active members determine first the finalists, and then the winners. The winners are announced and the awards presented at a gala banquet held in conjunction with HWA's annual conference, usually in June.
Between 2001 and 2004, the awards were presented in twelve categories: Novel, First Novel, Short Fiction, Long Fiction, Fiction Collection, Poetry Collection, Anthology, Nonfiction, Illustrated Narrative, Screenplay, Work for Young Readers, and Alternative Forms. Beginning with works published in 2005, however, the awards are given in eight categories: Novel, First Novel, Short Fiction, Long Fiction, Fiction Collection, Poetry Collection, Anthology, and Nonfiction. In addition, Lifetime Achievement Stokers are occasionally presented to individuals whose entire body of work has substantially influenced Horror.
Congratulations to all the nominees from all of us here at The October Country.
Additionally (and as we always say) if you were to pick up just one horror novel this year dear reader, make it a Stoker nominee.
One Morning in New England, 1940, the entire population of Friar New Hampshire - 572 people - walked together up a winding mountain trail and into the wilderness. They left behind their clothes, their money, all of their essentials. Even their dogs were abandoned, tied to posts and left to starve. No One knows why. A search party dispatched by the U.S. Army eventually discovered the remains of nearly 300 of Friar's evacuees. Many had frozen to death. Others were cruelly and mysteriously slaughtered. The bodies of the remaining citizens are still unaccounted for. Over the years, a quiet cover-up operation managed to weave the story of Friar into the stuff of legends and backwoods fairy tales. The town has slowly repopulated, but the vast wilderness is mostly untracked, with the northern-most stretches off limits to local hunters and loggers. In 2008, the coordinates for the "YELLOWBRICKROAD" trail head were declassified...
And that my friends, is pretty much all the history or back story you are going to get from filmmakers Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton regarding the strange events at the heart of their cerebral, independent horror film, Yellowbrickroad. From the outset you should know, this isn't so much a story about discovery or revelations, it's a story about ideas and surreal concepts. Or rather, it's about the journey, not the destination. The mystery doesn't so much unfold as it does build. Think, David Lynch by way of Stephen King if they were both still enrolled in art school and had yet to fully harness their voices (perhaps an irrelevant comparison, as both men were arguably in full command of their creative muscles even then, but you know what I am saying).
Onto the scene and into this promising premise arrive our determined husband and wife team of Teddy (Michael Laurino, Past Life) and Melissa Barnes (Anessa Ramsey, The Signal), hellbent on unraveling the secrets behind Friar's mysterious disappearances for the purposes of a book they wish to publish. They quickly assemble a capable team of explorers that consists of their intern (Tara Giordano), a pair of cartographer siblings (real life brother and sister Clark and Cassidy Freeman), a representative from the Forestry Department (Sam Elmore), their close friend Walter (Alex Draper, Joshua, Mimic 2) who handily is a professor of behavioral psychology and lastly, a vaguely sinister resident of Friar with shadowy motives who is insistent on tagging along (Laura Heisler). Things start off promisingly enough (for both the team on screen and the viewers) as the pioneers embark from the trail head located within the town's dusty old Rialto theater (swoon) wherein it is revealed that the left behind copy of The Wizard of Oz has been re-watched to the point of unplayability. From there, the journey quickly moves into the encroaching New Hampshire forests and you know if you've seen even a handful of these films, that few if any of them, will be coming back.
What first appears to be a slow start to the proceedings reveals itself to be Yellowbrickroad's entire approach to the whole of its material. The director / screenwriting team of Holland and Mitton aren't interested in false jump scares in the least and bless them (to the best of my recollection) never once attempt to throw any the audiences' way. There are no threats bursting from the darkness of the woods accompanied by some bombastic musical stings here (there is no score either for that matter). No, their approach is to let the story's inherent creepiness slowly tighten the screws in both the characters' and our minds. It's an approach so applaudable in this day and age of CGI distractions and attention deficit editing that it's a damn shame they are only halfway successful at handling the film's deliberate leanings. They casually build to the films first unsettling occurrence (eerie music from another time and place begins to fill the air of the surrounding forest, stemming not from one isolated location but seemingly brought forth by the land itself) by allowing the audience to organically get accustomed to the characters for 30 some minutes. First with repeated scenes of them palling around campsites and then through the use psychoanalytic video interviews with their resident headshrinker (a nod to the found footage sub-genre that this movie amazingly resisted becoming). So when the aforementioned odd event finally does occur, it literally chills the blood with its implications of grander, nearly cosmic horror to come.
However, it is here where Yellowbrickroad takes a detour down the wrong path. Not only does the film never build on this initial event save to merely reuse it for most of its remaining running time, but the film never builds to much on a whole. There is no third act race to the finish. There is no climatic showdown. All approaches which would be fine if the material from beginning to end were compelling enough to warrant this restraint. Unfortunately (and hypothetically) it is in concept but not in Holland and Mitton's execution of it. The thing of it is, is that Yellowbrickroad has a terrible sense of pacing.The film literally ebbs and flows for most of the last hour. Something rather startling will occur that will get our blood levels up and then the movie rewinds for more ponderous walking through the woods or introspective pit stops along the path. Again, an approach that has merit but not when the characters, despite the script's many attempts at their development, are so uninteresting (it doesn't help that the movie kills off its most lively lass first). This would've been the sensible approach considering that the threat on the Yellowbrickroad comes not from outside, but from within, as the winding, never ending trail our characters are traveling, literally begins to unravel their minds, turning them against one another in delirious fits of psychotic insanity. However again, the characters in question are just too damn drab so much of this falls flat. Honestly dear readers, I imagine the less patient amongst you will be bored to tears.
I've reserved my biggest complaint for Yellowbrickroad till last and that is this. Despite the film's many commendable attempts at subtle scares and a genuine sense of unearthly atmosphere, the movie on a whole is one big missed opportunity and nowhere is this more apparent than with the handling of its Wizard of Oz motifs that in truth, is the the flick's bread and butter. I was never expecting (nor wanting) a dark, horrific retelling of Victor Fleming's musical masterpiece (that film's source material by L. Frank Baum is at times ghastly enough). However, I can't wrap my head around why they would go some places (the scarecrow makes a frightening appearance) and not others (no Tin Woodsman, no Cowardly Lion, and most unforgivably, no damn witch). If nothing else, the prospect that the filmmakers had within their grasps the means to make some very disturbing creative salutes to that much cherished classic and then content themselves with plodding along rather then running with that opportunity, is wholly frustrating. I'm not telling anybody how to make their movie. I recognize my place. I'm the nerdy guy sitting in front of my computer free from having to say any of this to anybody involved in the film's production and they are the ones sweating behind a camera trying their damndest to make a mark with their tiny independent film. I get that. I appreciate and respect that dichotomy. But c'mon guys, ya couldn't have just gone for it? Just a little? Not even Toto? David Lynch's Wild At Heart had more Oz allusions and that movie wasn't even titled after a locale from that fabled land of dreams and nightmares.
In the end however (but not the film's end, that's just a lark) I did enjoy myself throughout most of Yellowbrickroad's running time (when I wasn't busy being disappointed that I wasn't getting blown away by it). Despite the filmmakers' mishandling of their own engaging concept, there is much to admire sporadically throughout for fans of dreadfully creeping ambiance. The aforementioned ghostly music really works for about a whole act at raising the hairs on one's arms before building to its (and the movie's) most fiendishly hallucinatory, brilliantly weird moment at the halfway mark (and yes, before retreating with its tail between its legs again). The actors are engrossing whereas their characters aren't so much. And Bloody-Disgusting truly should be applauded for making some very adventurous, outside the mainstream acquirements (Cold Fish and Atrocious wait in the wings while Rammbock is out now on DVD) for their new distribution arm Bloody-Disgusting Selects. It's a striking release tableau that many other likemided distributors could do worse than emulate (After Dark anyone). Even though this particular film is a mixed bag, it should be noted that after the film ended I spent the better part of an hour in bed tossing and turning it around in my brain. Partially criticizing the end result and partially applauding the fact that many of the film's finer moments really stuck with me. Recommended to the most accommodating of viewers, oftentimes Yellowbrickroad will likely frustrate you to no end, but because some of it works wonderfully, it will also make you think twice before stepping foot into those tree lined rolling hills. Even the seemingly serene and sunlit ones.
5 Skulls - The Best
4 Skulls - Very Good
3 Skulls - Good / Average
2 Skulls - Poor
1 Skull - The Worst
"How does Brundlefly eat? Well, he found out the hard and painful way that he eats very much the way a fly eats. His teeth are now useless, because although he can chew up solid food, he can't digest them. Solid food hurts. So like a fly, Brundlefly breaks down solids with a corrosive enzyme, playfully called "vomit drop". He regurgitates on his food, it liquifies, and then he sucks it back up. Ready for a demonstration, kids? Here goes..."
Hard to believe that twenty years ago tonight I was sitting alone in my dark bedroom, staring at the glowing TV screen bidding adieu to what was then and forever shall be my favorite television show ever aired. Or I was trying to muster up a fond farewell because in truth I was rather distracted by having the blanket pulled up to my eyes and concentrating on breathing through what still is to this day, one of the most terrifying hours of television I have ever sat through (the other most terrifying thing was likewise brought to us by the same show midway through it's run, the revelation of Laura Palmer's killer). I've watched a lot of genre television in my time, and nothing has yet to match the sheer surreal power and horror of Twin Peaks' final hour.
Yes, it's true. Your humble host was a Peaks freak all the way back when he was a child. I loved it. I obsessed over its many cryptic meanings and shadowy clues. Its atmosphere chilled me straight the bone and I still haven't come off its high. I doodled the hieroglyphics from Owl Cave on my 4 grade notebook in home room all the while humming the theme song under the teacher's voice. I daydreamed about James Hurley (James Marshall) sweeping me off my feet and stealing me away on his roaring Harley not to mention cracking cases with none other than Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan). I over identified with Laura Palmer for many unsavory reasons and cried for her loss. Also, I was forbidden to watch any of it, but time and time again, I managed to sneak nearly every episode in. But most importantly, for the duration of its 29 episodes and a pilot, I was hopelessly and delightfully, lost. Never in all of broadcast television's history has there been a show so wonderfully and out-of-it's-damn-mind weird (seemingly, sometimes for the sake of it) and I'd hedge a bet that there never will be again. Though it lost viewers in droves when things really got really strange (leading to its premature demise), Twin Peaks' influence on pop culture is felt to this very day. Even now, the demand for every second of Angelo Badalamenti's stunning and creepy music is high, and David Lynch himself has taken to the call, releasing rare and unheard tracks from the show on a weekly basis over on his website. The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer written by David's daughter Jennifer, after being out of print for eons is due to be republished soon. There is still an outcry on a daily basis across the web to see Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me's deleted footage (over an hours worth) finally released. Twin Peaks has been cited as an influence from everything from The X-Files, Carnivale, LOST, Fringe, The League of Gentlemen and dozens upon dozens of others. There has even been recent talk of ABC considering bringing the property back to life on the small screen (without Lynch and executive producer Mark Frost and without being a continuation of the previous incarnation, I say hell no).
Despite the show's continued popularity (as old fans and new revisit it with reruns on cable TV and DVD), the fact remains that Twin Peaks was years ahead of its time and ultimately cancelled way too early in its life as a result. Something that I still mourn to this day and as the shows anniversary of going off the air is tonight, I think we could all use a little cheering up to keep that cold, hard reality at bay. Thus, I present to you The October Country's very first contest / free giveaway. The rules are simple. Below is a gallery of images from episodes of Twin Peaks. They could be be images from any episode ranging from episode 1 - 29 (the pilot and the movie have not been included). Also, there could be more than one from the same episode. All you need to do, is let me know in the comments which image (15 total) is from which episode (numbered numerically corresponding to the photo's identifying letter) . That is all. The person with all the correct answers will win a free copy Twin Peaks Season Two on DVD (pictured above), still sealed and unused. Sound nice? Okay then, good luck dear readers!