Imagine if you will that the BFI had a disreputable cousin, a Northern Grindhouse with tastes a little darker and stranger. With staff who love their movies with a passion that borders on religious zeal, who know you by name and welcome you in as they throw the doors open at midnight. Whose programming runs the gamut of worldwide genre film making, praising the strange, the unusual, the weird and forgotten.
Sounds good? Then step inside the ELECTRIC DREAMHOUSE! A new cinema imprint from PS Publishing and Editor Neil Snowdon. Settle down and get comfortable as we raise the curtain on our ‘MIDNIGHT MOVIE MONOGRAPHS’—an ongoing series dedicated to outstanding genre titles that just don’t get the attention elsewhere. Electric Dreamhouse is a PS Publishing imprint, and Midnight Movie Monographs is an ongoing series. It’s a new cinema imprint dedicated to outstanding genre titles.
Written by genre authors, film makers and some of the finest critical voices on the scene, bringing a unique perspective to films they love, these are not dry academic texts. They are passionate, incisive, and inspiring explorations that go deep, from writers who know and love the genre inside out. Expert— indeed award winning—practitioners in their field.
Intelligent, accessible film writing is part of what keeps the subject fresh, vital, alive. In recent years it seems to have fallen through the cracks a bit. It’s still there, but you have to go looking. Academic Film Studies and the ‘Cultural Elite’ have built linguistic walls of arid language around our favourite films, while Mainstream Media speak mostly in sound-bites and exclamation marks.
Film is a universal language. A synthesis of all the great Arts, with the ability to speak across boundaries of class, race and age to move us, inspire us, illuminate our deepest fears. Film is Art with a capital A, but none of the social and cultural snobbery that implies. Film writing should be the same. Passionate. Incisive. Intelligent. Accessible. These are our watch words. Roll film.
The titles so far in the series are below:
THEATRE OF BLOOD by John Llewellyn Probert
It is notoriously difficult to mix Comedy and Horror. Rare are the examples where one element does not overpower the other: BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS, EVIL DEAD 2 . . . ATTACK THE BLOCK? But perhaps no film gets it so spectacularly right as THEATRE OF BLOOD. And perhaps no actor has ever embodied the twin masks of Comedy and Tragedy so perfectly as Vincent Price in what is, arguably, his finest role.
A perfectly pitched, deliciously arch slice of Gothic Grand Guignol, with a supporting cast that reads like a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of British character actors. Acclaimed Horror Author John Llewellyn Probert, puts his favourite movie on the slab, cuts it open and pokes around inside to examine it in forensic detail.
MARTIN by Jez Winship
In 1968, George A. Romero changed the face of Horror cinema with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. But it would be a decade before he caught lightning in a bottle again.Romero spent those 10 years honing his craft on a series of documentaries and low budget features that would culminate in the global phenomenon of DAWN OF THE DEAD in 1978. But MARTIN, made immediately beforehand, in 1977, is his unsung Masterpiece.Mature, controlled, and devastatingly effective, MARTIN is one of the most astonishing character studies ever committed to film. The tale of an alienated young man who may, or may not, be a vampire (a stunning performance by John Amplas); it is, by turns, disturbing, shocking, and heartbreaking.
TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME by Maura McHugh
Reviled by many on initial release, David Lynch’s prequel to the game changing TV series TWIN PEAKS, is in fact a brutal, beautiful movie that doesn’t pull its punches in dealing with the tragic final days of Laura Palmer, the High School sweetheart whose murder was the series core mystery. Incest, child abuse, the nature of identity and reality are all part of a narrative that is pure Lynch in execution.
In the years since release, the film has garnered a growing following of cinephiles who recognise the film as a masterpiece in its own right, every bit as emotionally devastating as the more lauded MULLHOLLAND DRIVE. As Lynch returns to the world of TWIN PEAKS for a new TV series, author, screenwriter, and critic Maura McHugh looks deep into the films mysterious heart.
DEATH LINE by Sean Hogan
A cave-in during construction of the London Underground seals a group of workers in forever. Abandoned to their own devices they feed on each other to survive. Transformed by plague, incest, and disease their descendents emerge as cannibalistic beings with a language of only three words: “MIND THE DOORS!” As the last of the underground men loses his mate to a wasting disease he is compelled to seek food, and a new bride, from the platforms above… With his debut feature, Gary Sherman —like George Romero, Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper—channels his despair and anger at the cultural and political zeitgeist to create a confrontational low-budget genre movie that lashes out at the conservative establishment. In every possible way DEATH LINE is an ‘underground’ classic.
Despite an increasing amount of critical support and high profile fans Gary Sherman’s DEATH LINE remains something of an anomaly in British Horror Cinema, an ugly duckling; its face doesn’t quite fit. Made on a shoestring budget in early 1972, its initial reviews were divided, the Daily Mail called it ‘a sick and sick-making film’. Despite a successful London run, the film seemed destined to be an eccentric but mostly forgotten genre footnote (it was recut and retitled as RAW MEAT in America). And yet, it has survived and, in recent years, thrived; rediscovered and embraced by new generations of genre fans who recognise that this satirically angry critique of the English class system feels far more like a spiritual cousin to the ’70s American New Wave of Horror than the traditional Hammer gothics and cosy Amicus chills that were the norm in Britain at the time.
And the ace up it’s ragged, dirty sleeve? It’s funny too, with a performance by Donald Pleasence unlike anything else in the genre. Perhaps only THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE attempts anything similar in its mix of black comedy and visceral cannibal slaughter, and even then, DEATH LINE is both funnier and more overtly gory than Tobe Hooper’s subsequent film. Join Sean Hogan as he leads you deep into the tunnels under London to examine a genre classic…
SPIRITS OF THE DEAD by Tim Lucas
Dismissed as a ‘gloomy and sentimental hack’ by American and British critics in his day, Edgar Allan Poe was nonetheless revered in France as a ‘poete maudit’ and ‘master of the short story’ by Charles Baudelaire, praised as a ‘sublime poet’ by Mallarme, celebrated as a ‘lucid theoretician of poet effects’ by Valery. The difference could not have been more stark. And yet, when the filmic poets of European Cinema came together to adapt Poe’s stories for SPIRITS OF THE DEAD (Histoires Extraordinaires) they were largely derided, with only Fellini’s ‘Toby Dammit’ segment receiving unanimous praise, while the American adaptations of Poe’s stories, by Roger Corman and AIP, received both popular and critical acclaim. Fitting then, that the wheel should come full circle, as US author and Critic Tim Lucas mounts this compelling re-examination of a film which he has long defended as a Classic of the genre, and which in his own words ‘changed his life’.
Embracing the poetic and the sublime, Lucas takes to task the common misconception that this is a film of parts, to look at it as a richly imagined, sensual, cohesive, and poetic whole. A film which aims for something ‘other’ than straight forward scares, that eschews the clinical Freudianism of the Corman movies, for something more deeply felt. Poe himself claimed that “a poem deserves its title only inasmuch as it excites, by elevating the soul.” For Tim Lucas, SPIRITS OF THE DEAD does just that.
LES VAMPIRES by Tim Major
1915, and in America D.W. Griffith is breaking new ground with his BIRTH OF A NATION, charting a path for the next century of US Cinema, as an art dedicated to narrative clarity and cohesion/certainty. Meanwhile, in France, the absinthe dream of the Belle Epoque was coming to an end in the nightmare of the First World War, and yet in the midst of it all, films were still being made.
Already famous for his amoral crime serial FANTOMAS (1913), Louis Feuillade embarked upon LES VAMPIRES on location in Paris, even as the War came close enough that German guns could shell the city. It was to be his masterpiece, and—in a way—the antithesis to D.W. Griffith. Feuillade’s was a cinema of uncertainty, of ambiguity and unease, even as it embraced comedy, metatextuality, breaking the fourth wall to wink at the audience/make us complicit. It is oneiric, poetic, sensual, and uncanny.
Born of the French literary and artistic heritage of the ‘fantastique’ it would, in it’s own way, set the course for the future of French film as a cinema in which ambiguity remains a defining characteristic, and a central pleasure to be embraced. Join novelist Tim Major as he explores the dreamlike underworld of Louis Feuillade, the original femme fatale, Musidora, and her gang ‘The Vampires’…anything can happen, nothing is certain, in LES VAMPIRES.
Find out more HERE and look out for a review of the next book in the series John Connolly’s HORROR EXPRESS soon.