The Official Website



Welcome to the official website of UK horror author, Kit Tinsley. Step into the realm of his dark imagination and explore his horror fiction. 

Kit is a fan of all things horror, and lives in Lincolnshire UK



So my new novel is on its way very soon. To get you all in the mood here is a look at the cover art.


The novel is a supernatural thriller that encompasses an artist recovering from a breakdown, a haunted house, a detective on the edge and a seemingly unstoppable serial killer.



The Wilds Is Here

My Latest novel the wilds is available now in ebook and paperback format.

In a bleak landscape, people are vanishing, and the local police are covering something up. Two men, desperate for answers, hunt for the truth. Is a legendary big cat to blame, or is there something else lurking in the wilds.


UK  ebook edition

US ebook edition

UK paperback

US paperback

Non Fiction Book

So my wonderful wife, Siobhan, and I have written a non fiction book together. 'Thirst For Blood' traces the history of the Vampire from it earliest legends, to modern cinema. 





Tuesday Tease

Today, as part of his regular Tuesday Tease feature, the excellent author Michael Brookes has posted and excerpt from ym debut novel 'Beneath' on his website. This gives readers a little taster of the book and also has my bio and links to the book. Please check it out , and also take a look at Michael's own writing, you won't regret it

Go to the feature here

The Wilds Is Coming

So here is the cover design for my second novel 'The Wilds'

The book will be available soon


The Smoke In The Photograph - Sneak Peek

March 23, 2015

Well the time is nearly here for the release of my new novel 'The Smoke In The Photograph'. This supernatural thriller combines aspects of the haunted house genre with the detective/serial killer story. 

The book is released on April 1st 2015 (it's no joke)

For those of you who are impatient like myself her is a little tease, a short extract from the book. 


So for some context. This extract is from one of the early chapters of the book. Julia (an artist recovering from a breakdown) and her husband Steven (a surgeon) have just bought a house that used to belong to a famous photographer. The photographer was murdered, the first victim of a seemingly unstoppable killer dubbed ' The Lincoln Ripper'.  This scene takes place on the day they move in. So without further ado, please enjoy this extract.





Julia was standing at the end of her new driveway staring towards the beautiful new home they were moving into. She smiled to herself. The last year had been very hard. There was a point where it felt as if things would never get any better, that she would never pull herself out of the blackness she had found herself in. In fact, she had even attempted to end her life, so sure was she that things would never improve


Now she was on the threshold of her new life. The perfect house was hers. One with the kind of studio she had dreamed of having since she first picked up a paint brush.


Then there was Steven. He was down there near the house, talking to the removal men. She loved him dearly. He had been so patient with her, and so strong when she needed him to be. She would never forgive herself for what she had put him through. 


He saw her watching him and offered her a a wave. She returned it, with an added kiss blown on the wind.


She looked up at the house. It was large, but not monstrously grand. The red bricks and arched, lead-framed windows hinted at its Victorian origins, but it was not vastly gothic. Instead, the house looked cheerful, and inviting. To Julia, it looked like the kind of house found in the television dramas of her childhood, like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or The Secret Garden.


There was a blinding flash from one of the attic windows. A split second explosion of white light, that left a coloured trace in Julia's vision.


She peered up at the window it had come from, looking to see if there was anyone up there. She could not see anybody. Steven saw she was looking puzzled and waved her over. She walked over to where he was talking to the gaffer of the removal men, Mr Jones.


'Did you see that?' she asked as she got to her husband.


'See what, sweetheart?' Steven said beaming.


She pointed up to the attic window.


'Up there, in the attic,' she said. 'I saw a flash at that window. A really bright light, like a torch or something.'


Steven's smile faded as he was looking at her. She attempted to read his expression. Her paranoia was telling her that he thought that she had imagined it. 


'Are any of your blokes up there?' Steven said to Mr Jones.


The removal man shook his head.


'No, all my lads are on the ground floor till you tell them where you want stuff,' Mr Jones said.


Steven looked puzzled and then shrugged.


'It could have been light reflecting from somewhere.'


'Or the sun trying to poke through the clouds,' Mr Jones added, looking at the grey sky.


Julia wasn't convinced.


'Are you sure?' she said.


'Of course I am,' Jones replied. 'If you want though, me and some of the lads will have a look up there for you.'


'Would you mind, Mr Jones?' she asked.


He looked at her with kind eyes that seemed odd in his rather rugged and weathered face.


'Course I will,' he said. 'And please, call me Marty. Every other bugger does.'


The friendliness and jovial manner finally made her smile again.


'Thank you, Marty. Steven will be happy to go with you. Won't you, honey?'


She noticed a flash of annoyance on her husband’s face at being volunteered for this, but it soon faded and was replaced by a smile.


'Yeah, sure.'


The two men wandered off towards the house, still chatting. Julia stayed where she was and looked back up to the attic window. She felt a few drops of rain on her face, then the soft shower began. As she looked at the attic window, she saw that same bright white flash, like a torch. No, that was not entirely right, it was more like the flash of a camera. Then there was a clap of thunder off in the distance. 


Was that all it was? The reflections from some storm south of the city. She wanted to believe that, and yet part of her was convinced the light had come from within the room.


The rain began to grow heavier, drenching Julia who was dressed for an early summer’s day of work in jeans and a T-shirt. She was thinking about going inside the house, but would rather wait until Steven and Marty had finished checking the attic.


Instead, she ran for the shelter of her car. She unlocked the door and got in the driver's seat. She saw that the house appeared to blur and melt through the rain on the windscreen. She put the key in the ignition and started the engine. Wanting to clearly see the attic, she switched on the wipers.




Steven was confident they were on a wild goose chase as they entered the house. When he heard the clap of distant thunder he was convinced that all Julia had seen had been a reflection. However, he knew his wife. If it wasn't checked out she would never settle. 


'Lovely woman, your missus,' Jones said as they began to climb the stairs. The staircase up to the first floor was big enough for them to walk side by side.


'Yes. She is,' Steven agreed.


'She seems a bit jumpy though,' Marty said.


This was true. Steven had of course noticed. He didn't understand it. The house was her idea. She had practically begged him to agree to it. Then the day they move in, she seems on edge before she even sets foot inside.


He hoped that it was not a sign of things to come here. He knew that she kept trying to convince everyone that she was better, completely recovered from her breakdown. However, Steven often wondered if this was true. Did someone ever really recover from something like that? Or was it always there in the back of your psyche? Like the monster in the closet, waiting until you were contented and unsuspecting before it would leap out and attack.


'Anxious about moving into such a big place, I guess,' he said, not wanting to show his own concerns to anyone, let alone a complete stranger, as nice as Mr Jones seemed.


They came to the first floor and walked over to the second stairway. This one was only wide enough to accommodate them in single file.


Steven went up first. The stairs went straight up, unlike the winding lower staircase. At the top there was a closed door. When he reached it, Steven put his hand on the door knob. He turned back to Mr Jones, who stood right behind him. The removal man nodded.  Steven turned the knob and pushed the door open.


The attic was a substantial open space with wooden floor and magnolia walls. There were four windows on either side, plus two large skylights, meaning that even in the dimness of the storm the room seemed incredibly bright. Each window, including skylights, had blackout shutters that could be closed to make the room totally dark.


The sound of the rain battering on the windows appeared to be amplified by the emptiness of the room. Steven looked at the far end of the studio, to the dark room.


Steven stepped tentatively into the middle of the room. Jones followed behind him.


The removal man stopped and tapped Steven on the shoulder. Steven faced him.


'What is it?' Steven whispered


'Listen,' Jones said.


Standing still, Steven concentrated on the sound of the room. At first, he couldn't hear anything apart from the constant lashing of the rain. It reminded him of a time he had been caught in the middle of a squall when sailing in his youth. His ears then slowly tuned into the sound Jones was talking about. 


'What is that?' Steven said.


The sound was a faint yet rapid fluttering sound. It would continue for a few seconds and then stop, only to start again moments later.


'I don't know,' Jones said. 'It sounds almost like a camera.'


Steven agreed. It did, like a shutter on a camera. The idea sent a shiver down his spine.


'It's coming from over there,' Jones said, pointing towards the dark room.


Steven nodded and the two of them tiptoed cautiously across the bare wooden floor towards the door. The sound grew louder the closer they got. Steven felt the little hairs on the back of his neck prickle up, as if there were a static charge nearby.


Steven felt his pulse quicken as all his senses came to life. His skin reacted to the subtle changes in temperature as they drew closer to the door. He heard the fluttering sound getting louder, and more rapid. The rain pelting against the skylight took on an ominous timbre, like dirt hitting a coffin lid. The sound of his and Jones's shuffling steps across the dusty wood of the floor. Jones's nervous breathing.


When they got to the door, both men put their ears to it. At first it remained silent, and then the fluttering noise came once more, close enough to the door to make Steven and Jones jump back. Steven nodded towards the door handle, and Jones shook his head.


'It's your house mate,' the removal man whispered. 'After you.'


Steven reached out for the door handle, time slowing as he did. It seemed to take an eternity for his fingers to wrap around the handle. Once it was in place on the cool metal, he looked to Jones. The removal man nodded and visibly braced himself. Steven took a deep breath and pushed down on the handle. The door creaked open as he pushed.


Inside the room was utter blackness. It was almost as if the light of the attic dared not enter the room. Steven and Jones peered in. All seemed quiet. The sound of fluttering had ceased. 

Steven saw the light grey shape a split second before it would have collided with his face. As it flew out of the darkness, he had not time to turn or duck. All he could do was throw himself backwards and scream. 


Jones caught him under the arms as it flew out of the darkroom and into the attic. A pigeon. A large pigeon. It flitted about above their heads. Steven stood up and looked at Jones.


As the shock wore off, both men laughed, the relief that the danger had passed, and the ridiculousness of their fear.


'We'd better catch that,' Jones said.




The rain had all but stopped when Julia stepped out of the shelter of the car. It had been at least fifteen minutes since her husband and the removal man had gone to investigate the flashing lights in the attic. She had expected them back sooner. Worry was beginning to creep into her mind.


Suddenly Jones appeared at the window where she had seen the flashes. He opened it and then stepped aside. Steven replaced him at the window. His hands cupped in front of him, holding something. He was making an effort to keep it as far away from himself as he could. Once his hands were outside the window he threw them up, and she saw the pigeon flying up to the sky where it was soon camouflaged against the grey of the day.

Steven looked down at her. He waved for her to come up. Everything must have been fine. Perhaps the flashes had been her imagination after all.

She walked through the house, passing the removal men who were still unloading their furniture from the lorry. She climbed the first set of stairs and then walked to the second. As she climbed the second narrow staircase, she could hear the sound of her husband and Jones laughing.

She stepped into the attic, and was again in awe of the size of the studio. If possible, it seemed even bigger now than when they had first viewed the house. 


'What happened?' she asked.


The men looked at her smiling.


'Well, for one thing,' Jones said with a grin 'your husband shit himself.'


Steven laughed and patted the removal man on the back.


'I wasn't the only one though, was I?'


'That's true,' Jones confirmed.


'What happened?' Julia repeated.


Steven pointed over to the open door of the dark room.


'There was a bloody pigeon locked in there.' 


Julia felt uneasy at the thought of it. It made no sense.


'How?' she asked. 'The house has been empty. No one has used that dark room in six years.'


Steven shook his head.


'I don't know, but it nearly took my eye out.'


'Perhaps it got in there last time the estate agent checked on the place?' Jones offered.


This was plausible, although Julia had got the strong feeling from the estate agent, Criar, that he had seldom checked on the house, and when he did his visits were as brief as possible.


'We could've done it ourselves,' Steven said, 'when we came to measure up.'


Again this was plausible, but Julia remembered that they had only taken the briefest of looks inside the darkroom. Surely they would have noticed a bird that large swooping into the room. However, there was no better explanation, so she decided it was best to accept one of these as the truth.


'Okay,' she said with a broad smile. 'Let's start getting this house sorted.'


Steven and Jones looked at each other and then saluted Julia, making her laugh out loud.






So I hope you enjoyed that little sample of the book, and that it has whetted your appetite for more.  


You can preorder the ebook here from AMAZON


And feel free to come and join the fun at the online book launch party on FACEBOOK


KERB CRAWLERS: World Premiere (contains a few spoilers)

October 21, 2014

This weekend I attended the absolutely brilliant SCARdiff horror convention in, you guessed it, Cardiff. This wonderful event brings together all of those who love the macabre in one place. I was there selling and signing books, meeting new people and making new friends. I took every given opportunity to wander around the event, held in the suitably creepy Masonic Hall. There were authors, artists, musicians, people selling every kind of horror trinket you can imagine, from Ouija boards to squidgy, stress relieving, hellraiser puzzle boxes.

 Amongst the many great moments of the day, my personal highlight was getting to attend the world premiere of Mad Science Films latest movie Kerb Crawlers. 

 We were ushered into the ornate, intimidating and mysterious surroundings of the Masonic temple. There was set up a screen and projector. The films director, James Plumb, gave a brief introduction to the film. Then the lights went down.

 In his introduction James Plumb described the film as being British exploitation cinema or grindhouse. The film certainly has elements of these things but stylistically and thematically reaches far beyond this. 


 The first thing to say is that in a world inundated with found footage horror, Plumb manages to breathe some new life into this style of film. The found footage conceit is used well, and is justified in the plot, not only that it is not invasive in the way so many other found footage movies seem to be. Where as other films seem to thrust the camera as character idea in the audiences face, Plumb seems to hold back and let the story and characters take centre stage over the format.

 On the face of it the film is the story of a group of guys making a snuff movie on commission for some very shady character. The first disturbing thing is how workaday these men are about the task. In fact we spend a lot of time getting to know them and their matey banter before we really know what they are up to. It is alarming that you find yourselves warming to, and laughing along with a group of guys who intend to 'rape,torture, kill' on film. 

 The guys set off in a van to find a victim. After a run in with some prostitutes, they find a young woman on her own. After abducting her they take her to a warehouse. This is where, this being horror land, all hell breaks loose. What follows from here is a mixture of tension, action and gore.

 The film looks great, it's beauty suggested a budget far higher than I suspect it had. There are some wonderful gore effects on the film. The acting is top notch (something that often lets a lower budget film down) and the music is phenomenal. 

 Though it is clear that Plumb set out to make a blood splattered exploitation movie, there are great moments of artistry that set the film apart from contemporaries. One scene that sticks in my mind is a section of the film where they are driving in the van. It is a mix of dissolves of street lights and car lights, quick cuts of roads and road signs. All played out to a pulsating soundtrack. It is an almost hypnotic sequence, which perfectly encapsulates the tiring tedium of late night driving.

 I hope this film does as well as it deserves to, and I recommend anyone who gets the chance to watch it. I am also excited to see what James Plumb and Mad Science Films bring us next. 


11 Little Known Horror Facts You Might Not Know

September 1, 2014

1. Freddy Kruger's middle name is Charles

Created by Wes Craven in the 1984 masterpiece 'A Nightmare on Elm Street', Fred Kruger has been haunting our dreams in his trade Mark Fedora and striped sweater for thirty years now. He has been given several pseudonyms over the years, The Springwood Slasher and The Bastard Son of 100 Maniacs. However the name he was given at birth was Frederick Charles Kruger.

2. Mary Shelley never described how Frankenstein brought his creature to life.

We are all familiar with this iconic scene. The castle laboratory, whirring machine, thunder and lighting. A flash of light and the electricity passing into the bolts in the creatures neck. However, the scene above was first shown in the the Boris Karloff starring universal film version. It is a movie that takes a lot of liberties with the story of the book.  In he book though Shelley gives a rather ambiguous description of the process as being a mix of chemistry and alchemy 

'It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.'

Frankenstein: Chapter Five. Mary Shelley

3. The Loomis Connection.

The surname Loomis is one that appears frequently in horror movies, particularly in the key movies of the slasher genre. Sam Loomis is the name of Marion Crane's boyfriend in 'Psycho', often considered to be the first slasher movie. Dr Samuel Loomis is the name of the psychiatrist desperately hunting the masked killer, Michael Myers, in 'Halloween'. This is of course the film that set up the rules of the slasher movie that were stuck to throughout the 70's and 80's. Finally we get Billy Loomis, the moody boyfriend in the first 'Scream', Wes Craven's 1996 film which brought on a new wave of self referential slashers.

4. Virginia Madsen was actually hypnotised in Candyman.

Candyman is one of my favourite horror films of all time. Based on a short story by Clive Barker, the film deals with urban legends and the nature of belief. There are several scenes in which the lead actress, Virginia Madsen, comes under the spell of the eponymous, hook handed, boogeyman. In these scenes, she looks completely out of it, as though she was in some other state of mind. The reason for this is hat the films director, Bernard Rose, actually had her hypnotised and given a trigger word that he could use to put her back in a trance like state. Rose would walk up to her and whisper the word in her ear just before shouting action.

5. The Blob Actually Happened.

The Blob (1958) is probably most famous for featuring a young, relatively unknown, Steve McQueen. However did you know this tale of flesh eating dessert was actually based on a true story? Well kind of anyway. In 1950  The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that police had discovered a large quantity of a strange,jelly-like, substance. What made the jelly weird was that it vibrated on its own. One of the brave officers explained that when he touched the substance it dissolved leaving behind anodorless scum.

6. Stephen King's Son Starred in One of His Movies.

Joe Hill, the author of horror novels such as 'Horns' and 'Heart Shaped Box' is the son of another horror author, Stephen King. This is quite a well known fact, however did you know that Joe played the little boy in the Stephen King/George A. Romero movie 'Creepshow'? You do now.

7. Dracula Looks a Lot Like Bram Stoker's Boss.

Irish author Bram Stoker is now synonymous with his most famous literary creation, Dracula. The titular Count is as we all know based on the real life Vlad 'The Impaler' Dracul. However when writing he novel, Stoker was working as manager for the famous stage actor Henry Irving. Though the two were friends, Irving had a reputation of being tyrannical to work for.  The following is a description of Dracula from the novel.


'His face was a strong, a very strong, aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils, with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth. These protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years. For the rest, his ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed. The chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin. The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor.'


Now doesn't that sound a lot like this guy? Stoker based the physical description of Dracula on the imposing figure of his boss, Henry Irving.

8. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre wasn't the original title of the movie.

Certain films instantly pass into the realm of legend. Tobe Hooper's 1974 classic 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is certainly one of these. The film exceeds in being an aural and visual assault on the senses unlike anything ever seen. Based in part on some of the exploits or real life serial killer Ed Gein, the title of the film sets it up to become the stuff of hype, cult and legend. However this was not the original title for the film. When hooper was working in the script he title was 'Head Cheese' named after a European dish where meat from an animals head (brains, eyes, lips and so on) are made into a terrine with jelly. In fairness this is a far more disturbing title, but not as instantly attention grabbing as what they went with.

9. Poltergeist used real corpses.

Returning to the career of Tobe Hooper, in 1982 he directed the Steven Spielberg written, and produced horror movie Poltergeist. The film is one of my all time favourites, and should be everyone's intro to horror movies in my opinion. Who can forget that scene in the cemetery  where the father of the paranormally plagued family discovers that his home is built on top of bodies? The message was clear, if you disrespect the dead, you will suffer. Obviously it's a message that the filmmakers themselves missed, as in the scene towards the end where coffins start popping up from the ground and spilling their rotting inhabitants, they used real skeletons! 

10. Sissy Spacek got buried for Carrie.

Nowadays Stephen King is a legend in the field of horror fiction. One of the most successful and prolific authors in the world. Once upon a time though he was a writer who had just had his first novel published. The rights to that novel, 'Carrie' were bought by Brian DePalma. The film was a huge success that has inspired a sequel and two remakes. One of he most memorable scenes in the film is not in the book. Where Susan Snell visits the grave of Carrie White to leave a flower at the end, and the hand shoots out of the ground and grabs her. What you might not know was that this was not done by a stunt woman buried under the dirt. The hand that shoots up from the grave is that of Sissy Spacek, the actress who portrayed Carrie in the film. Spacek was so committed to the role that she refused to let anyone else do it, and insisted on being buried herself.

11. Psycho's bathroom scene was groundbreaking.

As mentioned earlier Alfred Hitchcock's movie Psycho is often scene as the birth of the slasher movie. The film, and the novel it was based on, where inspired by serial killer Ed Gein, ( who would later inspire 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' and 'The Silence of the Lambs'). Perhaps the most famous scene is when Janet Leigh is butchered to the sound of shrieking violins in the shower. This however is not the most groundbreaking bathroom based moment in the movie. 'Psycho' contains the first ever scene of a toilet being flushed on film. It seems trivial now  but actually caused Hitchcock grief with the censors at the time.



You Can Take The Vampires out of Goth, But You Can't Take The Goth Out Of Vampires

August 4, 2014

A friend of mine said to me a few years back that he was sick of 'glampires'. I assumed that he was referring to the overly romanticised representation of vampires that is flavour of the month. The kind of pretty, lovelorn boy vampires that feature so heavily in the Dark Fantasy sub genre, and in one particularly popular teen series of novels and films.  

If this was what he meant, I would have agreed with him wholeheartedly. I have had a life long romance with the undead. The current, watered down, version that is so popular annoys me beyond belief. I wish that they could be reclaimed by the horror genre as a figure of fear. 

However, when I pressed my friend on his meaning, he proceeded to tell me that the gothic tropes of the vampire had become cliched, and he wanted to see a vampire story without them. I again would have agreed if he had been referring to the abomination that was the 'Queen of the Damned' adaptation . That film was aimed squarely at the post numetal generation of goths. The ones who thought that all you had to do was listen to heavy music, put on heavy eyeliner and wear a long back leather coat. These people probably couldn't tell you anything of the Germanic, barbarian tribe that gave us the term gothic, or what it meant in terms of being first an architectural, then literary and then musical genre. They have probably never even heard of The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, or The Mission.

Yet my friend still wasn't through, his theory was that every vampire film ever made was, to a lesser or greater degree, gothic in nature. That was where the conversation ended, however I started thinking on that discussion again recently. It got me wondering if it was in fact possible to remove the gothic from the vampire entirely?

After some pondering I don't think it is possible. Vampires are, by their very nature, gothic creatures. I do not mean in a fashion sense. It would be unusual, but not impossible to present a vampire without the long dark coats, pale skin and so on. What is inescapable is that vampires are creature who survive death by feeding on the blood of the living. They represent life out of death, if that is not a gothic concept I'm not sure what is. 

Our cultural notion of the vampire comes from Bram Stoker and his novel 'Dracula', a book itself written in the gothic tradition. This means that our very understanding of the vampire as a figure is laced with gothic under currents. To some degree every vampire that has come since 'Dracula' owes that fictional Count some debt. 


Therefore the only way I can see of truly removing the gothic from the vampire is to take it further back, to the animalistic creatures of Eastern European folklore. These earlier forms of vampire, like the Romanian Strigoi, are far removed from the suave and seductive undead presented from Stoker onward. The only problem is that in many ways these legends are closer to the werewolf or zombie tradition than that of the vampire. 


Interestingly a more recent film that tried this approach was the wonderful indie movie 'Stakeland'. This beautifully shot and atmospheric tale centres on survivors in a post apocalyptic world that has been overrun by animalistic, seemingly mindless vampires. It plays out like a horror version of 'The Road'. In many ways it succeeds in removing the gothic from the vampire story, and is as far away from the sparkly glampires as you can get. However, the film makes the landscape an integral character in the movie. It is a powerful and threatening presence throughout the film. In this respect it reminded me of the representation of the moors in 'Wuthering Heights', a classic gothic novel if ever there was one.

So in conclusion, in my humble opinion, it is impossible to remove the gothic from the vampire story. Vampires are in their nature, and the rules that we all know, gothic creatures. The only way you could do it, would take vampires so far from what they are they would be unrecognisable.



Has 'Found-Footage' had its day?

July 23, 2014

There was a time, way back in 1999, that 21 year old me though that 'The Blair Witch Project' was the most amazing and innovative thing he had ever seen. The use of the camera as a character, this illusion of reality, drew me into the story in a way that few films had for a long time.

 Flash forward to 2014 and 35 year old me is pretty much fed up to his back teeth with the 'found footage' genre. As much as I still love 'The Blair Witch Project' it seemed to open the flood gates for a never ending stream of pale imitations.

 This sub genre has become the go to style for low budget filmmakers eager to make it big. I can see the appeal. If you have a good idea then it offers a low cost way to get a film made. The problem is an awful lot of  the films that get made in this style are not good ideas, they are not even original ideas.

 Do I think the sub genre has had its day though? In all honesty I can say no, I don't think the found footage genre will never have it's day. Every time I find myself getting fed up of the style another groundbreaking film comes along. Take the wonderful, Spanish, Zombie movie 'Rec'. When I first this film I had not only grown weary of found footage, but also the zombie genre. It came in the midst of the slew of films that followed the likes of '28 Days Later' and the 'Dawn of the Dead' remake. If you had asked me at that point what I would think of a found footage zombie movie, I would have told you it was the worst idea ever, that someone was milking the two most obvious sub genres of horror for all they were worth. However, 'Rec' did not milk either genre, in my opinion it reinvigorated both.

 Then came 'Paranormal Activity', perhaps the first horror film since 'Blair Witch' to live up the hype that surrounded it. Prior to this film haunted house tales had become considered a little old fashioned, but the found footage make over gave the ghost story a much needed new lease of life. I am sure that 'Paranormal Activity' is in no small way responsible for the re emergence of the haunted house story in popular cinema.

 Recently I have been watching a lot of low budget, independent horror movies. I have been growing increasingly unimpressed with the way the found footage genre is saturating the market, to the point where I automatically give a film more praise just for being an actual film, no matter how bad it may be. However, a few weeks ago I saw the best indie horror movie I have seen for a long time, a British film called 'The Borderlands'. Guess what? It's a found footage movie, about a Vatican team investigating a possible miracle in the English countryside, only to discover something much more ancient and evil.

 The thing that we tend to forget is that found footage did not start in 1999, yes 'The Blair Witch Project' brought it up to date, but it was used to a degree in 'Cannibal Holocaust'. Really though it is the oldest trick in the horror genres repertoire.

 Many scholars consider 'The Castle of Otranto' by Horace Walpole to be the first ever horror novel. Written in 1764 this dark, proto gothic tale of madness, murder and spirits presented itself on the first page as a manuscript found in the bowels of a castle. It purported itself to be a true account of events.

 Following on from this was 'Frankenstein' by Mary Shelley, this most famous of novels is told as a tale being recounted as a form of confession. 'Dracula' by Bram Stoker is a novel that relays it's tale to the reader in the form of a series of diary entries, letters and reports. In a very real sense the found footage sub genre is the cinematic equivalent of this literary form, and if it was good enough for Stoker, Shelley and Walpole, who am I too argue?

Body Horror (For Real)

June 1, 2014

I am a week behind with a blog. Last week I was planing a blog about my favourite haunting movies, but illness got in the way. My son, who is two and a half, recently started nursery and he caught hand, foot and mouth disease. It made him a little grumpy for a few days, but nothing major, he barely got a rash. Then last Sunday night I came down with terrible, flu like symptoms. So bad that I left a gig early to come home and crawl into bed. The following day I woke up feeling much better, except for a very sore throat. Tuesday though, the nightmare started. I awoke to find my mouth full of painful ulcers, and blisters. By lunch time I had blisters all over my hands and feet as well.

The next three days are some of the worst I have experienced through illness. I found it very difficult to swallow, due to the blisters in my throat, every mouthful of food felt as though it were laced with razor blades. I couldn't touch anything without feeling agonising pain in my hand, and walking was like I was constantly stepping on a bed of nails. Add to this a constant throb in my hand and feet that was akin to the feeling of severe sunburn. 

I had never even heard of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease before contracting it myself. My initial fear was that it was in some way connected to Foot and Mouth, the disease suffered by cattle. This led me to imagine the government turning up to burn me to stop it spreading as I live in the countryside. Of course HFM has nothing to do wit foot and mouth and is in fact an incredibly common childhood illness.

However, like most incredibly common childhood illnesses the effect on adults is much worse than on the children. It seems such a strange illness though, there is no logical connection between the symptoms, how does a flu like virus give you blisters on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet? It felt like my body was betraying me. It was like the worst kind of Cronenberg nightmare. This tiny, viral invader had got into my body and was mutating it to it's own end. It shows that no matter how strong we are, it is the smallest monsters that can cause us the greatest harm.

I am feeling much better now, the sore throat and mouth ulcers have cleared up completely. The blister rashes on my hands and feet have faded to almost nothing, giving me only a tiny amount of pain now. I will leave you with one more nightmarish fact about HFM that I am dreading. About four weeks after recovery, it is quite common for both the fingernails and toenails to just drop off, creepy shit right there!

Interview: Rich Dutton

May 19, 2014

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing the very talented indie filmmaker and writer Richard Dutton, who is getting ready to unleash his very ambitious debut movie 'Shadows of a Stranger' on the world. Rich and I have been friends for a long time now and I have worked with him on several projects, including 'Shadows' which I am Associate Producer of and I also acted in.

Me: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

RICH: As a very young child I was mesmerised by a lot of films of the time, Star Wars, Superman, Indiana Jones, Flash Gordon etc. etc. and my young mind felt some sort of draw to being a part of those sorts of adventures. Eventually when my mind was able to separate fiction from reality, I then had a big ambition to be an actor. When I was about 10 I started making ‘back-yard’ films with my cousin. He would usually be in control of the camera while I pranced around in front of it. But gradually as I got older I migrated towards being behind the camera as well. I spent a lot of my youth making my own films and, admittedly, made a lot of dross, but it gradually became an important tool for self-expression and learning how to communicate with audiences.

Me: What can you tell us about 'Shadows of a Stranger'?

RICH: Shadows of a Stranger is a project I’ve worked on now for about 5 years. I’d initially written the script back in 2002, and then one day in 2009 I decided to dig the script out again and I thought to myself, You know what? I rather like this story! I showed it to my friend Chris Clark and he had an instant belief in it and suggested we should make it ourselves (even though it wasn’t really written as a film that no/low budget filmmakers like us would take on). Chris came up with a plan to shoot it all on blue screen. Fast forward 5 years and we’ve finally just about finished it.

In terms of the film, it’s a dark, psychological thriller in a similar vein to Se7en, about the friendship between two different individuals that fragile circumstances throw together. One is a washed up private investigator, the other is a reclusive psychic. They team up on a job that promises a big reward, as they search for a stranger, a journey that causes them to do a lot of soul searching.

Me: How did you find the process of making such an ambitious project on such a small budget?

RICH: We knew it was always going to be a major challenge, and at times it was maybe seat of our pants stuff. But I think our bull-headed determination sort of forced the universe into letting it happen for us. I felt early on that if we were going to tackle such a project ‘by the book’ then we’d just get bogged down by the boring practicalities of raising finance and such, so we effectively threw that aside and focussed on the art. We said, This is what we’re doing and we’re doing it… well, like Frank Sinatra did things.

Me: Several famous faces worked on the film with us, how did this come about?

RICH: I think it was a combination of being confident enough in ourselves to think bigger than we’d thought before, of not taking no for an answer, for just going ahead and asking these famous faces the question, and finding that they were actually responding to what we were trying to create.

Chris had known the Rainbow actors Jane Tucker and Malcom Lord for some time, and Chris was talking to Jane one day when she mentioned that she was having dinner with Colin Baker soon, and we just thought Colin Baker… he would be great for this film! So we were really cheeky and asked Jane to have a word with him. 

Me: Looking back now the finish line is in sight, would you attempt something like this again?

RICH:I don’t think so. Shadows of a Stranger was absolutely the right thing for us to start work on back in 2009. I wouldn’t want to repeat the same journey, because we’ve learnt so much, we’ve grown as artists and individuals, and we’re simply not the same people we were 5 years ago. I definitely wouldn’t want to make a film solely on blue screen again, because for a small filmmaking team it’s very time consuming. So I’d want to go about another film differently.

Me: You were writer and co-director on the film, how was it sharing the directing role with your co-director Chris Clark?

I think Chris and I worked together exceptionally well on the film. You often see with famous directors that they’re described as an ‘actors’ director’ or alternatively with others they don’t have an affinity with actors and they’re more about the look of a film.
As I’d written the script and knew the characters, it made sense for me to direct the performances out of the actors. As Chris had suggested the blue screen route and had already worked with these filmmaking techniques, it made sense for him to direct the technical side of things, particularly the camera. Chris gave me a lot of confidence. It was great having a co-director I could turn to.

Me: Where did you get the idea for 'Shadows'?

RICH: As I wrote it so long ago, I can’t quite remember how the initial kernel of the idea for Shadows appeared in my brain. At the time I was very intrigued about the powers of the human mind in terms of psychic abilities, and remember hearing about incidents where police forces worked with psychics to track down criminals. I think it’s recognised by scientists that there is a lot about the brain that we don’t understand, and people generally accept that they have intuitive feelings. So I guess I wanted to explore these ideas and push them as far as they would go, because that would make for an exciting film in my mind!
There was always a spiritual bent to the film, a contrast between characters becoming bogged down in their ‘worldly minds’ as they work 9 to 5 jobs and the trivial concerns that brings, and individuals who don’t quite fit in with that system and spend time in their own natural minds, unpolluted by these worldly and trivial concerns. In some ways I think Shadows of a Stranger is about how those two worlds come together.

Me: As someone who has written both novels and screenplays, like myself, how does the writing process differ for the two mediums, and which do you prefer?

RICH: I enjoy both processes, but I certainly find writing novels a more involved process. With a script you’re effectively writing a blueprint for a final product, and of course the more visualisation you put into it, the stronger influence it has on creating a strong final film. There’s so much more work to be done though once you’ve written a script.
With a novel, other than the front cover, that’s it. There’s your final product. You’re responsible for everything, but it also gives you the liberty of having full control over the portrayal of characters and execution of story. It’s liberating to know that you can go wherever you’d like and have characters do whatever you like. But within that liberty comes a lot of need for discipline. 


Me: How long did it take you to write the screenplay for 'Shadows'?

RICH: I can’t remember how long I spent on the first draft back in 2002. Maybe 6 months or so. The next draft took a few months I guess. So probably around a year at most in all. I was still making changes though even when we were filming. 

Me: With the film nearly finished, what have you got planned for the future? Any other projects in the pipeline?

Well, with post-production starting to wrap up, I’ve been doing a lot more writing recently. I do have a novel that I’ve been meaning to release for some time. It’s currently being read by my cousin, and if he doesn’t find any gaping plot holes, I’m going to release that soon. I’m already working on the sequel to it, too. I’m writing the books as stand-alone stories, but there is continuity to them, so that’s a bit of a challenge.
I’ve also been writing another script this year – it’s been a similar process to Shadows, as I wrote this other script back in 2003, and recently dug it up again and reworked it. This one has undergone a lot more development though.  I think it would make an awesome film, but then I would say that…

Me: Bonus question. If for your next film project you were offered either a) a documentary about the history of blancmange making in France. b) a biopic of the life and times of Harry Styles? Or c.) a sequel to the film 'White Chicks'. Which would you chose and why?

RICH: Wow. Erm… what a decision. The blancmange is definitely out, I’m afraid. I’ve never seen or heard of White Chicks before, so I’m going to guess there isn’t much of an audience for its sequel. A Harry Styles biopic on the other hand… yeah, Harry Styles all the way. I’ll start watching One Direction’s music videos on Youtube right now…



Thanks to Rich for a great interview, to find out more about the film got their website


What's in a Name?

May 12, 2014

The more accurate title of this week’s blog should be what's in a title? As yes we are looking at that awful and oft feared topic of writers, what do I call my book? And when do I pick my title?

Let's face it one of the two first elements that are going to sell your book are the title and the cover design. The old saying is never judge a book by its cover, however we all do, initially at least. If we don't know the author’s work it is the cover design and title that are going to make us pick the book up and read the blurb. If those two things don't grab us and hook us we don't bother.

So a title is a very important part of writing a book, especially for us indie authors as we don't have the editors and marketing departments that help some traditionally published authors pick a winning title.

You need to pick a title that will grab people's attention, rouse their interest and express, along with the cover design, the genre of your book. So as you can imagine, choosing the right title is almost as difficult a task as writing the novel.

When to choose a title? This is a tricky one, some people leave choosing a title right until the end, whereas others come up with a title first. When writing short stories I will often come up with a title first, as a starting point to the story. For example in my short story collection, 'Dark County', there is a story called Fear and Loathing in Skeg Vegas ( a play on the famous Hunter S. Thompson novel, and the nick name of our local seaside resort) came to me randomly, and I had to use it. In that case the title fueled the story.

When writing a novel though it is usually the idea of the narrative that comes first and then the title. However, I have to have some sort of title when I start writing, the words untitled on a document instill a sort of writer block in me. So even if it is a working title. For example when I first started writing my debut novel it was called Blackfriars Crescent, named after the street it was set on. However as I got further into the story I realised that this title didn't convey enough, the real story was about what was below the street, so the title changed to Beneath Blackfriars Crescent ( which I think we can all agree is a clumsy, wordy, God awful title), I then changed it again to just Blackfriars, which I did like the sound of, and it certainly conjured up an image in the mind, but it wasn't the right image. Finally I decided just to call the novel 'Beneath', it was short, snappy, and combined with the great cover art by my father, created a striking first impression.


At the end of the day other people will always like your title more than you do, whatever you choose. You have spent months writing the novel and months agonising over the title. To you it will always seem like the perfect title for your book had eluded you. To your readers though, it will be fresh and new, and completely associated with your book, and hopefully they will love it. You will look at the titles of other authors books and think how you wish you had come up with that title, but I can pretty much guarantee you that the author in question had as much doubt about their title as you do yours.

So in conclusion, it is worth remembering that a great title does not a great novel make, some of the best books ever written have truly terrible titles. However if you're a lesser known author a great title can certainly get people looking at your book, even if they don't buy it, it got you a step closer than all the books they just skipped over.

The 3rd Most Commonly Asked Question to Horror Authors

May 6, 2014

This weekend I went to a convention, whilst there I spoke to quite a few people, and took part in an all author panel Q+A session. It got me think about all the other people I have spoken to, for interviews, at other signings, and even just on a night in the pub.

I have titled this post the 3rd most commonly asked question to horror authors, as I think that question is the most important one, and in some ways it answers the first two questions as well.

So what are the first two questions? I hear you ask. Well number one, is not exclusive to horror, it is asked of any author.

Where do you get your ideas?

If I had a penny for everytime I've been asked that question I would have a few pounds by now. It is a question that has many possible answers, but I think the most honest answer I can give is anywhere and everywhere. Inspiration for stories can strike at any time, and be set off by anything I see, hear or just ponder on. 

The second question

Why horror?

This is often delivered in a tone of derision. People look down on horror, they always have. When asking this question people tend to really be asking 'what is wrong with you, mentally, that makes so you write this sick crap?' The fact is though, all the horror writers I've met have been lovely, sane people. We just perceive things in a slightly skewed way. The fact is I have always loved horror, and the idea that I would end up writing anything else is almost ridiculous to anyone who knows me. 

So we get to the big one, the 3rd and most important question.

What scares you?

By definition of what we do, it is very hard to scare a horror writer through horror fiction, we are so aware of the genre that we have desensitised ourselves to the fear other people get from our work. However, the simple answer is everything scares me, seriously I am terrified of spiders, small spaces, balloons, duffle coats ( well actually I'm not scared of duffle coats, I just don't trust them, long story). I am scared of losing the people I love, to the point that I worry everytime the phone rings that it's a worst case scenario. I lie at awake some nights torturing myself with graphic images of my worst fears running through my head. 

So I use those fears as inspiration for story ideas. My debut novel, 'Beneath', is a supernatural horror story, but at it's heart it is a tale of a man scared that he can't protect his family. It is no coincidence that I started writing it when my wife was pregnant with our first child, and completed when my son was six months old. I channeled my own fears and insecurities into that story.

Why do that? Because writing it down, making it a fiction works to release these worries and fears from my mind. It is often said that the horror genre offers it's audience a form of catharsis, a safe way to face their fears. In my case writing horror does the same thing. So why do I write horror? Because it's good for my mental health. If I didn't I'd probably be in a padded cell by now.

Techno-Horror: Technology as the new supernatural

April 28, 2014

Today we have a very special guest blog from the extremely talented author Michael Brookes, he will be talking about how technology, and fear of it, is making itself the new supernatural threat in horror.


Techno-Horror: Technology as the new supernatural

Horror stories are tales about fear, as such they were among the first stories ever told. Human beings have changed since then, we have evolved into a richly interconnected society and have developed technologies that would seem like magic to our ancestors even just a few generations back. Throughout all that change there are still fears that exist in a place so ancient they are difficult to suppress, although we have found ways to combat them. The fear of the dark is something that still lurks inside many of us, we can banish it at the flick of a switch.

Much of our fear stems from the unknown, we didn’t know what the silver disk in the sky was. What happens when you have scary visions when you sleep? What happens when you die? To try and understand those fears, or to provide comfort we created supernatural entities. Demons were beings sent to torment us, angels to protect us (or wipe our first born depending on who your king was at the time).

Science and technology has helped push some of those fears away from us, or at least weaken the entities we created to protect or torture ourselves. Evil is not a supernatural force, it is simply the thoughts in our head, the actions of the disturbed.

The problem with technology is that it brings change and quite often that in itself causes fear, even more so in that while some people might understand the intricacies of technology or science, most of us do not. We take it on faith that something will work, that someone else understands how things work.

Another human tendency is to anthropomorphise, when our computer crashes we curse it, almost as if it was a malevolent entity deliberately making our lives worse. As we have discovered throughout our history fear of the unknown creates new terrors, now rather than the supernatural we have machines that fill in the blanks, they govern our lives in ways we have no control over. Computers inhabit almost every part of our lives, if a computer gets it wrong then it can cause more than simple distress.

Now imagine if the computer had a will of its own.

If a computer with the right connections sought to cause you harm, how different would that be from being hounded by demons?

Of course computers don’t have their own wills, not yet at any rate. There is an idea called the Technological Singularity, it’s a concept that technology will reach a point where it will evolve beyond our ability to understand or control it. How scary will technology be if such an event ever occurs, in supernatural terms they would deem it the Apocalypse.

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