I liked this. It has the look and feel of a low-budget indie relationship drama. A Duplass brothers film with scares. In fact, it has a lot in common, thematically, with The One I Love, though the relationship is closer to the beginning here than the end.
Quick summary: a newly wedded couple go on their honeymoon to a cabin in the woods by a very picturesque lake. One evening, the wife (Rose “You know nothing Jon Snow” Leslie) is found sleepwalking in the woods, and starts to exhibit unusual behaviour.
Some nice paranoid, is-our-relationship-going-to-be-different-now? stuff in there. Very well shot by director Leigh Janiack. And I liked the genre-hopping conclusion.
Favourite ridiculous line from paranoid, over-sensitive husband: “You’ve never forgotten how to make French toast.” (Kill her! She’s obviously possessed or INSANE!!!! Get out man! ALL is FUCKING lost!)
Lewton Bus Count: 0.
One Last Scare? No. Very understated, Wyndham-esque end.
I also watched:
Quick summary: Playing out entirely on one character’s laptop screen, we watch a bunch of teens skyping with each other after a mutual schoolfriend committed suicide. But someone else is on the call with them.
Yeah, this was great. This generation’s Blair Witch Project – in that low-budget, high-concept, zeitgeisty way – but I think this was a more successful film. I felt this actually had things to say – about bullying and online harassment. And it was structured very smartly. I bet we’re going to get a rash of similar films to this in the same way found-footage movies became a staple after BWP.
As fun as they were, it’s a shame they decided to go for a few OTT Final Destination style deaths as they felt tonally very different to the rest of the film which built up the suspense with expert timing (I bet this film was a nightmare for the editor).
Best “Yes, I work here too” moment: Teenagers explaining to each other what an online troll is.
Lewton Bus Count: 0. Starting to think this tally thing was a bad idea.
One Last Scare? Nope. Two very different contemporary horror films keeping the clichés to a minimum! Oooh, and neither purported to be based on true events.
Tonight: Think I’ll give an RKO studios horror a try this time with Cat People (1942).
Check out the archive of the horror month here.
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
Or “Bill Pullman and his Jaguar Spirit Animal”. This is an odd one. Based on a book, made after Craven’s success with Nightmare on Elm Street, and after Romero’s Dead trilogy had reinvented the zombie film. This goes back to the sub-genre’s Haitian roots, with raffish young Pullman trying to discover how ‘zombification’ works so his employer, BioCorp (I love a good sci-fi/horror evil corporation), can market it as an anaesthetic. So it has the same problem those dodgy X-Files episodes with voodoo have – in that there are some distinctly problematic elements in here. But it’s handling of voodoo and it’s relationship with Christianity is pretty good.
Because a lot of the film’s horror moments take place in dreams or while hallucinating, there are some parallels with Nightmare. Craven really knows how to deliver on these.
There’s a great hand reaching through soup moment. And Bill Pullman gets chased by a chair. Yep. There’s also a prolonged black-screen buried alive scene that reminded me of that bit in Kill Bill 2.
Lewton Bus Count: 1.
One Last Scare? Yes. Leading to a very bizarre fist fight with the antagonist’s smoking body.
I also watched:
The Last House on the Left (1972)
This was thoroughly unpleasant.
I suppose I’m sort of glad that I’ve seen it, considering it’s place in cinematic history, but that was a really nasty watch. There’s some truly inventive direction and sound design in there, and I like that it’s this small exploitation movie inspired by a Bergman film (and media images of the Vietnam war). But all the impressive ideas about violence begetting violence gets lost, for me, in those weird tonal shifts into slapstick after something incredibly disturbing happens. I can see it’s influence on a lot of movies. I bet Eli Roth fucking loves it.
There’s a good Kermode take on the original and the remake here.
Interestingly, both this and The Serpent had the ol’ ”Based on true events” horror staple at the start. Maybe I should keep a running tally of this too.
Lewton Bus Count: 0 (it’s not that kind of film).
One Last Scare? No, just one last tonally jarring sound cue over a depressing freeze frame.
Check out the archive of the horror month here.
TLDR: I’ve decided to spend this October attempting to watch a horror film a day + accompany each movie with a quick drawing.
Since retiring my New Statesman comic – In The Frame – earlier this year, I’ve spent the majority of my time securing illustration work and making sure the next year of freelancing was going to be as comfortable as I could make it. I also set-up the Artists Fight Back list, co-edited and designed a book about Poetry Comics with Chrissy Williams, and drew a Phonogram b-side – so while I have been working on really fun and exciting projects, I still haven’t really worked on anything just for myself this year.
So this is me setting some time aside to do something creative, fun, and with no expectation to do anything with it afterwards.
And to watch a whole load of horror films.
The idea is that I’ll watch a horror film every day during October (usually in the evening, but maybe over lunch depending on how my workload/schedule looks) and then draw an illustration/sketch the next morning as a warm-up before tackling other projects. My hope is to experiment with each drawing and try something different – but we’ll see how I get on and what my time allows. I don’t want this side of the project to become a chore or get stressful, so I’ll aim to spend no more than an hour or two on each drawing.
When I came up with the idea a couple of weeks ago, I asked Facebook and Twitter for recommendations and was overwhelmed with brilliant suggestions. In the end, there were about 90 movies that made the list and I’ve gone through and made a rough plan regarding which 31 I’ll try and watch this month (who knows, maybe I’ll do this again if it goes well). You can see this list here, along with a list of films I’ve already seen and enjoyed so if you have a suggestion that isn’t on either list, I’d love to hear from you. The selection isn’t set in stone and I may change my mind last minute depending on what’s easily accessible via Netflix/getting a lot of endorsements/I’m just in the mood for.
I’ve always loved horror movies and while I consider myself a fan, I have so many blind spots and embarrassing cultural gaps so I’m really excited about filling some of these in. But when I decided to do this, I’ve had people ask “what is it about horror films that you actually find enjoyable?” which is a tough question to satisfyingly answer, but one I should probably try to before I get started, so:
- Horror movies are often low budget affairs which generally make their money back and, more often, make a profit – so it tends to be a genre where a lot of interesting and unique directorial voices make their debuts away from too much studio interference. Which often means, even if the movie isn’t perfect, there are some beautifully directed and ambitious horror films to be discovered.
- It’s a bit of well worn truism, but catharsis. It’s not always comfortable during the running time, but facing your fears and being allowed to experience or explore your worst nightmare (from a place of safety) is a really exhilarating way to spend a couple of hours. Horror films are usually trying to craft a story/mythology around deep-rooted fears or things completely outside of our control. It’s a really comforting thing when you think about it. Right guys?
- Related – it’s an opportunity for a cowardly, shut-in artist like me to pretend to be brave for a little bit.
- There’s something enticing about the purity of the horror film and it’s success or failure largely resting on it’s ability to genuinely scare or disturb despite our knowledge that it’s just a movie.
- On that note, as someone who studied movies for a while, and spends a lot of time watching and reading about them, it can sometimes be hard to turn the analytical side of the brain off when watching a film. When there’s a horror movie that scares me into doing just that, it’s like going straight to the source and feeling like a kid again.
To get me in the mood, I’ve made a little horror playlist. Seeing as my earliest memories of horror films are from this era, all the songs are things that sound like they’d be playing in a club in an 80’s film while the main characters are trying to find help. The playlist is here.
I also re-watched the Mark Gatiss History of Horror doc which can be found on youtube here (I assume it’s okay to link to it if no dvd exists?). Worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. Watching it led to this quick Karloff’s Monster sketch:
In honour of horror maestro Wes Craven, who died earlier this year, I’ll be kicking off the month tonight with The Serpent and the Rainbow – a 1988 zombie film starring Bill Pullman which Craven took on after the success of Nightmare on Elm Street. If I have enough time, I may also watch the more well known Last House on the Left which I’ve also somehow managed not to have seen.
It also only seems right that my first illustration for this is of Craven himself:
If you fancy joining in and watching along with me, or if you have a suggestion – follow me on Twitter here and get in touch!
Similarly, follow my Twitter or subscribe to this blog if you want to be notified when new illustrations have gone up.
The archive of the Horror Month drawings will be here if you want to bookmark it.
I was commissioned by Poppy Magazine to illustrate a piece about technology and banks and Apple Pay. The first image required a large portrait of Steve Jobs:
And the image for the turn:
And here’s the first image as part of the layout. I think it came out really well.
You can read Poppy Magazine online here. This piece can be found in Issue 3.
This year, I’ve been working with Chrissy Williams on editing and designing a book about Poetry Comics with Sidekick Books. It’s called Over The Line and features around 70 pages of all-new Poetry Comics as well as a detailed introduction about the history of the medium. It’s been a really fun and exciting project and we’re extremely proud of the final book.
We were particularly honoured to have Alan Moore give us this quote for the book:
This is that spine-tingling moment when two attractive and sophisticated forms, both admired for their rhythm and sense of timing, eye each other across the cultural dance floor. In Over The Line, at once an insightful introduction and a comprehensive showcase for the emerging phenomenon of Poetry Comics, Chrissy Williams and Tom Humberstone provide the best possible venue for what looks like being a breathtaking tango. I really can’t recommend this venture highly enough, and I’d advise you mark your card immediately.
Here are some photos of the book – with a fancy belly band and lovely cover artwork by one of the interior artists Ioan Morris.
The book launched at Gosh! Comics and the Poetry Cafe in September. The Poetry Cafe currently has an exhibition of the work in the book running until the end of October. Do pop in if you’re nearby – it’s free and is a lovely space to spend time in.
The book is available from Gosh! Comics, Orbital Comics, The Poetry Cafe, and online at Sidekick Books. It should hopefully be getting a wider distribution in more poetry and bookstores soon. Keep an eye on the Sidekicks Books website for more details.
The piece can be read here where, as before, you can see the illustrations in their intended 2200px-wide glory. But here are the small, 700px versions:
The piece can be read here, where you can see the illustrations in their intended 2200px-wide glory. Here they are at a measly 700px because I never really thought this blog’s design through.
Just saw a bunch of Edinburgh previews at ARG Comedy Festival this weekend and looking forward to seeing more at the fringe in August!
After two and a half years of writing and drawing a weekly (except for holidays and double issues) political cartoon, I’m hanging up my Windsor & Newton and moving on to other projects. There are around 120 cartoons (including things like a Christmas special written by Robin Ince) to go back through and read here if you only caught them now and again.
With the Observations section (In The Frame’s home) going through a bit of a rejig in the coming months, and with a new editor there, In The Frame had sort of reached a natural end. I’m really thankful to everyone at the NS who helped get the comic started and gave me the opportunity in the first place, and obviously everyone who offered invaluable assistance over the past couple of years. There’s a part of me that would have liked to have lasted five years and hit that 200 mark, but this has been a perfectly respectable run. And my god, I don’t have to wake up to the Today programme out of professional obligation anymore!
I’m excited to move on to other things but I’ll also miss this job a lot. There were weeks when I could have been braver, or smarter, or funnier. And there were other weeks when I felt proud to be working on this weird little thing. It was a tough routine to stick to every week, but I got a huge amount out of the process and I think that’s clear when you compare the first comic to the last.
I won’t be moving away from political comics. My plan is to still produce an In The Frame every now and then – when there’s the right story and I can’t help myself – and host it here on the blog. But I mainly want to use this time to produce some long-form pieces. One of which I’m researching right now with journalist Valeria Costa-Kostritsky. This is a comic I really want to read so I hope we get it off the ground.
In the meantime, I produced a comic about the benefits of the EU at some point last year and I think that should be going online very soon now the referendum is getting close. I’ll also be producing an extra four pages to that comic with some additional context – expect to see that over the next few months.
Beyond comics reportage, I’m trying to scratch my itch for poem comics as well. I’m working on a new comic with Chrissy Williams which is currently just a bit of an experiment – something we’re just doing for fun – but if it ever gets anywhere, I hope to share it here. Chrissy and I are also co-editing a book about poem comics which will be released in September.
And I’ve also been keeping busy with lots of illustration/design/storyboard work which I’ve finally added to my website and on this blog so click on the illustration link to the right if you’re curious about what else I’ve been up to.
Thanks for reading. In gratitude, here’s a never-seen-before In The Frame that was produced earlier in the year…
And if you haven’t already, you can order a collection of In The Frame from my online store here.
Use the offer code FINALE to get 10% off. To celebrate, there’s also an option that allows you to order the original artwork for your favourite ITF (just specify the title – if it’s already sold I can hopefully find a suitable back-up!).