Posted on Leave a comment

Suffer the Little Children (Part 1)

As I’m sure is the case with many Madness Heart readers and fans, I took to reading early. My childhood hunger for words was bottomless, and thus at some point when I was mature enough my parents stuck a Stephen King novel in front of me, and that was that. It was off to the races.

Salem’s Lot. The Stand. It. Many of my earliest lessons in “adult” cognition and the opaque, complicated ballet of “adult” emotion came from King’s books. This was, in part, a function of natural childhood development and a reason why reading is so beneficial, but also in part a function of King’s specific and extraordinary gift for voice. He can articulate a character’s internal motivations and train of thought better than almost any modern author I’ve read, even after all these years, and when I was a young man this helped me to develop my own empathy and ability to listen. I will always be grateful to Stephen King for that.

Continue reading Suffer the Little Children (Part 1)
Posted on Leave a comment

Viral Recommendations

As a novel strain of coronavirus struts across the globe, stretching its spindly spider-legs from horizon to burning horizon, how are you doing? Have you been following the new s and staying up-to-date on how to avoid infection? Have you been, perhaps, hoarding toilet paper? (If you’ve been doing that, knock it off by the way) If you are anything like me, you’ve been split between the need to stay informed and the desire to withdraw completely from the acid bath of stress and negative stimuli that the news can be at times. Thus it is with some trepidation that I make the following suggestion, although I do stand by it: have you considered mixing some plague-related media into your diet of fiction?

Continue reading Viral Recommendations
Posted on Leave a comment

Horror and Murder Ballads (Part Two)

Last week, we briefly touched on murder ballads: the beautiful folk song tradition that celebrates murder, darkness, and the dire consequences of bloody actions. Even if you’re not familiar with the term or the genre as defined by the nerds and weirdos who study music, you’ve heard these songs. “Long Black Veil” (hell, 90% of Johnny Cash’s catalog), “Frankie and Johnny,” “Pretty Polly,” “Down in the Willow Garden,” the list is vast and the subject matter pretty uniform.

Continue reading Horror and Murder Ballads (Part Two)
Posted on Leave a comment

Horror and Murder Ballads (Part One)

The dazzling variety of experiences to which we are subject as humans can be both intoxicating and bewildering – no less so when one narrows down life into something as “simple” as music. From grindcore to noire jazz, the range of sonic experience that can be defined as “listening to music” is so vast that it is almost useless as a classification (take, for example, the broad and blurry borderlands in which noise music or industrial travel). But there’s more to music than just sound, right? And although sound itself can bridge the worlds of music and horror – think of artists like Fantômas or even Black Sabbath – but what about that all-important component of both life and horror, story?

Continue reading Horror and Murder Ballads (Part One)
Posted on Leave a comment

Magickal Morality and Horror

A marveilous newtrality have these things mathematicall, and also a strange participation between things supernaturall and things naturall. – John Dee, Astrologer, Mathematician, and Sorcerer

Not all horror is supernatural. Broad swaths of the genre rely only on human nature (or Nature-nature) to provoke dread. From psychological horror to plain, straight-ahead, good-old-fashioned slasher movies, it is often the mundane world that provides the biggest frights. A significant portion of horror and dark fantasy, however, are undergirded by magick. They operate according to supernatural or supernormal forces that can be shaped, directed, and (often poorly) controlled by humans and other creatures. In horror, as in other approaches to the fictional idea of magick, a question seems to then naturally arise. This question takes the form of a distinction that must apparently be made between good or benign magick – often shorthanded as “white” magick – and bad or malign magick – often shorthanded as “black” magick. In short, in a world haunted by such potent power, what happens when the “bad guys” get their hands on it versus when the “good guys” do?

Continue reading Magickal Morality and Horror
Posted on Leave a comment

“The Babadook” and the Private World of Mothers

February is Women in Horror Month, and all month long, Madness Heart Press has been offering a deal whereby 100% of profits from books by female-identifying authors go to those authors – Madness Heart’s way of trying to promote the community of female horror creators and to highlight their frightening, fantastic contributions to art. If you, like me, enjoy the finer things in life – namely, eating those finer things if they slow down long enough – make sure to check out Rachel Rodman’s Exotic Meats and Inedible Objects. Do you like poetry, particularly of the angsty, rip-my-guts-out variety? Be sure to check out just break my heart already. by Lemons Clemons!

Continue reading “The Babadook” and the Private World of Mothers
Posted on Leave a comment

Rebirth of the Shtick: Reimagining 1980s Horror on Shudder

If you are not a subscriber to Shudder, I don’t fault you for it. With Hulu, Netflix, CBS All Access, Disney+, and now uber-niche streaming services like ConTV, Crunchyroll, and Shudder available, there’s a lot to choose from when picking a content provider. Since these services cost money in most cases, the expense can also add up quickly (and, as we all know, you’d much rather take that money and put it to good work in the Madness Heart Press Patreon, wouldn’t you?). As a result, it’s a worthwhile exercise to point out the ways in which some of these services stand out – such as Shudder.

Continue reading Rebirth of the Shtick: Reimagining 1980s Horror on Shudder
Posted on Leave a comment

Review: ‘Dracula’ (2020)

This week marks my first contribution in writing to the Madness Heart Press Patreon, which you can check out for as little as $1 a month. I’m covering Icons of horror, and this month, I talk at length on Dracula! In previous posts here at Madness Heart (like this one, for example), I’ve talked at length about my love of vampire horror, in particular, the progenitor of the genre, Bram Stoker’s magnificent 1897 novel Dracula. More than perhaps any other story in horror – and certainly more than any other novel – Dracula has proved itself to have staying power. The sort of staying power, in fact, that is usually a feature of myth or religion rather than an original literary invention cooked up by a single author. Dracula has been made into movies (so many movies), novels, comic books, video games, you name it. Stoker’s creation has been imagined as a puppet, a musical, and a puppet musical. Obviously, the misadventures of Jonathan and Mina Harker tapped into a rich, salty vein of human emotion, one whose pulse and spray still nourish fans 123 years after its publication.

Continue reading Review: ‘Dracula’ (2020)
Posted on Leave a comment

Getting Six Feet Deep with Phantasm (Part Three)

In two previous posts (you can find parts one and two here), I’ve discussed the unique time in American horror cinema that spawned the movie Phantasm, and commented on its sequels, cinematic influences, and the troublesome character of Ol’ Reg. Phantasm is a franchise that stands out from standard slasher fare because of its dream-like imagery, the unreliable reality of its characters’ experiences at any given time, and just generally because, in short, it out-weirds the competition. That’s a distinction that I have a hell of a lot of respect for.

Continue reading Getting Six Feet Deep with Phantasm (Part Three)
Posted on Leave a comment

Getting Six Feet Deep with Phantasm (Part Two)

In my previous post on Phantasm, Don Coscarelli’s surreal 1979 journey into the cosmic horror of Morningside Cemetery and its sinister keeper, the Tall Man, I wrote that “one of the reasons Phantasm is so beloved of horror goons is that its improvisational, less-than-slick qualities lend it a tremendous feeling of authenticity.” That was true of the first film, which was made largely by amateurs and on a bare-bones budget. The authenticity question becomes more complicated when one looks at the four other films in the Phantasm franchise. There is still much to be learned from the films’ longevity and some of the unique elements that have given the franchise staying power and kept it, for all its warts and failings, fresh. As fresh, one might say, as a newly dead corpse given over to the tender mercies of Jedediah Morningside and his pan-galactic empire of shrunken zombie slaves.

Continue reading Getting Six Feet Deep with Phantasm (Part Two)