If you ask the wrong person, you’ll no doubt be told that the horror genre is going through something of a revolution right now. That it is moving away from its traditional reputation as the trashy and pulpy outcast of the literary world. A recent article in the Guardian prompted some people on Twitter to celebrate the fact that horror was finally becoming political and literary. Well, that’s one way to admit that you don’t know anything about horror fiction. It also has nothing to do with the actual article. The basic argument of that seems to be, look at these minority voices who are now writing horror novels. Just because someone who isn’t white is writing a certain genre doesn’t mean it is only just becoming political. It’s just becoming more diverse and rightly so.
I know it was the big thing back in 2015/6 but I never read The Loney. I’d never read anything by Andrew Michael Hurley until I read Starve Acre. Although, I did almost buy a copy of his bestseller but I always have so many other things to get through. It definitely sounds like my kind of book. As a fan of traditional gothic fiction, I never find contemporay gothic fiction to be anything special. Whenever a book is described as being terrifying or haunting, I’ve only ever been disappointed. I just don’t know what it is but they just lack that scare factor. Once again, his latest novel has been hailed as a spine chilling read and I was unconvinced. However, so many people on Instagram have been raving about it that I had to give it a chance. Plus, as usual, I really loved the book design. Even it it sucked, I could at least have another pretty book to add to my collection.
It’s been a while since I last logged into NetGalley. It’s mainly because I hate the pressure of it. I would always get overexcited and request loads of books. Then I’d never be able to read them in time and feel guilty. I lost access to a lot of books and, consequently, my rating went down. So, I walked away and decided to read the books I wanted to buy. Then I realised that NetGalley were offering audiobooks. How perfect? I find it much easier to fit in an audiobook in my schedule. So, I went on and requested a bunch. This was the first one that I got and I was really happy. I’d been interested in this collection but, I admit, I’d been left scared after The Wall didn’t really do much for me. Could this collection be as good as it sounded?
Years ago, I started watching this film but, for reasons I can’t remember now, I never finished it. I also never went back to it. So, in an attempt to justify my Disney+ subscription, I decided to finally finish it. Plus, it seemed like a good companion for my review of The Willoughbys on Tuesday. The stop motion animation is a full-length remake of a short film that Tim Burton made in 1984. The earlier film got him fired from Disney because it wasn’t deemed suitable for a young audience. Of course, Disney changed their tune after Burton found future success as a director. They released his short for home video release in 1992 and as an extra with the DVD of The Nightmare Before Christmas. After signing a two-picture deal with Disney, Burton made a stop motion animation version based on the original film. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really think much of Corpse Bride when I watched that, which might explain my reticence to watch this. I love Burton’s style but sometimes his narratives can be a bit much. But, I can’t resist a good literary homage.
Like the original short, Frankenweenie is filmed in black and white. Mostly because the film is both a parody of and homage to the 1931 film Frankenstein. Meaning it’s based on the super popular gothic tale written by Mary Shelley in 1818. The narrative follows the basics set out by the 1984 short but with a few exciting embellishments. Victor Frankenstein is a boy without many friends. In fact, he only has one. His family’s dog Sparky. After Sparky meets a grisly fate, Victor has the idea tom reanimate him for his science fair project. The idea was given to him by his science teacher. Victor finds a way to bring Sparky to life but his fellow students find out about his revived pet. What will happen when they start to force Victor to give them the secret to bringing animals back from the dead?
Tim Burton wanted to make the original film using stop motion animation but it was seen as too costly. This time, he had the clout to get it done, so we get to see his original artwork come to life. Burton has always had a flair for the gothic and his designs here are glorious. The film pays homage to the horror films he loved growing up and there are plenty of references to catch. Victor’s science teacher, Mr Rzykruski, has been designed to resemble Vincent Price and one of his schoolmates is called Edgar E Gore. We always knew that Burton was a fan of the genre but this film is everything we could have expected. It’s made with love and care, which makes it impossible not to fall for its charms.
It’s not a flawless film and the ending does get a bit messy and muddled. I guess this is to expected when you make a feature film out of a 30-minute short. However, none of these imperfections is so bad that you can’t ignore them. This is a film that is full of energy and fantastic little details. This was a passion project for the director and the end result is a delightful one. The stop motion animation brings the story to life and the world Burton creates instantly draws you in. It’s not the greatest film that Burton has ever made but it doesn’t matter. It’s a lovely story that clearly meant a lot to its creator. And who wouldn’t relate to the story of a young boy desperate to bring back his childhood pet?
As a children’s film, this works on quite a few levels. It has some horror elements in it but there’s nothing too scary that a younger audience won’t be able to enjoy it. It’s got plenty of humour and happier moments to make sure nobody gets too scared. The story is pretty slick and doesn’t waste any time unnecessarily. It might not look the same as the rest but this is a classic Disney film. You could argue that Burton has reigned in his weirdness here, which is a valid point. But I don’t think that matters. This film wasn’t supposed to be about pushing things too far. It was about his boyhood love of horror films and presenting something that could recreate that feeling for a new generation of children. On that basis, it does exactly what it needs to and it does it really well.
I’m not a fan of horror films. I never have been. When I was a child, I used to freak out about everything. My sisters still make fun of me for not being able to watch the part of The Neverending Story with the creepy eyes in the cave. The first time I watched Jurassic Park I couldn’t sleep because of the spitty dinosaur. I’m happy to say that I’m much better now but I still can’t be bothered with most contemporary horror films. They’re just a load of jump scares put together with a super flimsy and silly plot. Either that or torture porn like the Saw movies. It’s just not something I want to spend my time watching. Which means, next week on October 31st, I won’t be enjoying a horror movie fest. I might see if I can find a classic to watch but I’d rather spend the night reading a scary book. So, for this week’s Friday Favourites, I wanted to list some of my top spooky reads for Halloween.
I’ve never read anything by Ruth Ware before. If I’m being honest, the only reason that I bought this book was because of the edition of the book I found. The page edges had keys on it and I couldn’t resist. I love a sprayed or illustrated edge. I guess it also intrigued me that the title was clearly creating a connection between this book and Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. A good ghost story is just the thing to be reading on cold October nights so I decided to give it a go. I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t expect much from this book. I’ve read many psychological crime thrillers over the years and each one has been painfully obvious. Call me egotistical if you will but I went into this book assuming that I would have it all figured out by the end of the first chapter. I blame growing up on Agatha Christie novels and adaptations. I know I’d actually be rubbish at solving a crime but, in my head, I’m a younger Jane Marple.
I’ve been a bit behind all week so I was forced to watch my TBT film when I got home this evening. Of course, what I actually ended up doing when I got home from work was sit in front of Amazon Prime Video and go through a load of films I didn’t want to watch. So, it was lucky that I came across this Jeff Goldblum comedy-horror when I did. Otherwise, I’d still be going scrolling through every film. You should all know I’m a huge fan of the Goldblum and I’ve watched him in a lot of dodgy films over the years. So, why not try another one? At least the comedy-horror theme fits in with my Tuesday review. And it was short. That has started to be my major criteria for picking a TBT film. The less time I have to spend watching it the better. I just need to get my schedule together so I don’t have to watch the film on the day I post. But I’ve been saying that for years.
I’ve had a copy of this film sat around for months waiting to find the perfect time to watch it. I was contemplating doing it for Halloween but, last week, the Japanese zombie movie got a limited release in America. So, it seemed like the perfect time to give it a watch. Plus, I didn’t really have time to watch anything new last weekend, so it was an easy fix. And it means I can get a more diverse range of films into my life in 2019. It’s not like I mean to ignore foreign films. I live in Yorkshire and, according to the people who matter, we Northerners don’t appreciate subtitles. I was listening to a podcast recently that tried to shame anyone who had watched Roma on Netflix and not during its limited cinema release. These were, obviously, people who live in London and have an easier time of seeing foreign-language and indie film releases in the cinema. I mean National Theatre Live has barely just made it up here. I know it’s on me to catch-up once films are released but there is still a point to be made about the release of foreign-language films. But not one that really matters right now. I’ll rant about it later.
These days I have such a focus on reading the ever-increasing number of unread books on my shelf that I so very rarely indulge in rereading old favourites. And, as Oscar Wide put it so wonderfully, “if one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” As book lovers, we should all take time out every so often to read books that have already given us joy. I know people who will never reread books and I get it. If the thrill you take from reading is to find out the end of the story then reading something again is futile. But, I always think that rereading gives you a chance to really appreciate a book. To really take in the intricacies of the writing style. Although, I do tend to struggle when reviewing books I’ve already read. Even if I’ve never reviewed them before. I don’t know why. I guess already knowing that you like a book means it’s difficult not just to gush about it. Plus, I’ve never been that good at it anyway I suppose.
Emotionally, it’s been an up and down kind of day. I’ve gone from being tired, super stressed, happy, and then weepy. Every little thing has set me off today and, this evening, one simple email nearly destroyed me. I guess I just need a bit more sleep tonight. So, the plan is to finish this up and head to bed with a good book. There’s nothing that can’t be solved by that. But first we have to get down to business. October kind of got away from me this year. I had such plans to read plenty of horror books but, thanks to the dragging nature of Notes on a Nervous Planet, I ended up only starting one. To be fair to myself, it was one that I had been wanting to read for a while but it’s still kind of disappointing. Especially every time I walk past the pile of spooky books I’ve got still waiting for me to get started on. Both the pile and I know it’s not going to happen now but that doesn’t stop us pretending. I have such unhealthy relationships with the books on my shelves… actually, better make that floor.