Sublime Horror

Celebrating the best in horror

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss – national identity and sacrifice in the good old days

Ghost Wall opens with a human sacrifice. She is led, unblindfolded (because she knows what is coming), to the sound of chanting and drums, “unsyncopated with the last panic of her heart.” Her family and neighbours look on as the men take a blade and cut away her hair, and then place a rope around her neck. “There is an art to holding her in the place she is entering now, on the edge of the water-earth, in the time and space between life and death, too late to return to the living and not time, not yet, not for a while, to be quite dead.”

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Queering Prometheus in Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse

Robert Eggers’ new horror The Lighthouse exhibits a close familial bond with the themes and ideas explored by its older sibling, The Witch (2015). Having watched the film, it makes sense to personify the Lighthouse. It’s not simply a structure or setting, like the Witch’s lair in the woods; the lantern room represents the fleshy heart of the film, its relentless rotations setting the pace for the plot’s quiet development like a steady heartbeat (sometimes uncomfortably noticeable; most times a silent, immutable truth).

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Dark Spring by Unica Zürn – a devastating and disturbing coming-of-age

It is hard to know where to begin with Dark Spring. This novella was written in 1968 and proceeded the suicide of its author by just a few years. It is autobiographical (Zürn has said that it’s based on events from her own childhood) yet there is a clear separation between the narrator “I” and the author “I”. Continue reading

Remember The Dead at Halloween and Christmas review – a collection of rarely seen seasonal ghost stories

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for ghost story enthusiasts. We are spoiled! Both Halloween and Christmas offer the same spooky potential, not only for new tales to tingle the spine but the reemergence of the old. Rather apt of course, as a major supernatural trope is the past crashing in on the present.

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Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon by James Lovegrove review – a felonious Father Christmas

It was over a year ago that I last reviewed one of James Lovegrove’s Sherlock Holmes pastiches. Going into it, I will admit, I was sceptical. Not only can pastiches be poorly done, but this particular book was not an ordinary pastiche. While, I have subsequently learnt, this wasn’t a new concept, Lovegrove had transported Sherlock Holmes into the world of Lovecraft, a bizarre mash-up that, on paper, should never have worked. To my surprise and delight, it did. Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon, however, is a more conventional Sherlock Holmes story, but it still has plenty of ability to surprise and delight in almost equal measure.  

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The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman review – a story that didn’t need to be told

The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman is a novel based on a true story. Well, true in that the story is a genuine bit of local folklore, one that seems to have captured the attention of the internet, but that’s where the truth probably ends. The legend goes that in the early 1900s, in Kentucky, a young girl called Mary Evelyn Ford and her mother were believed to be witches by the local townsfolk. Rather than let the law deal with the pair, the townsfolk burned them. The mother was buried far away from the town in a forest, while the daughter was buried in Pilot Knob Cemetery. The young girl is said to be buried in a lead-lined coffin, covered in gravel and concrete, with the grave surrounded by an iron fence of interlocking crosses to keep her from rising again.

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The Lost Ones by Anita Frank review – a ghost story with great ideas but lacking suspense

There are lots of shadows in Greyswick, the setting for this supernatural mystery-cum-whodunit by debut novelist Anita Frank. Mrs Henge seems to occupy most of them: she is the ominously-named, sexually predatory and grey-eyed (“I wondered what treacherous depths they concealed”) housekeeper to whom we are introduced early on. From the moment her character is established with the broadest of brushes, we know exactly where we are as readers.

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Dracula’s greatest triumph: The vampire as a queer liberator

From the moment I heard the vampire’s name, I associated him with forbidden desires. After all, I was only seven-years-old when the R-rated Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) was released to theatres and very much forbidden from seeing it. Despite the begging, my parents decided it “…just wasn’t for kids.” Unacceptable! We were a family of horror fans (seriously, my dad had me convinced he was an actual werewolf) and vampires were definitely my thing. Perhaps as a consolation, my mother went out and bought me a high-collared black cape from our local K-Mart. That Halloween, an elementary-aged but very convincing Count Dracula stalked the streets of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi in white face paint and plastic fangs.

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Amanda Mason interview: ‘I wanted to have the horror in plain hot sunlight… I wanted that contrast’

Split between the UK’s heatwave of 1976 and the present, Amanda Mason’s The Wayward Girls is a dark and gripping tale of poltergeist infestation. Rebecca Wojturska reviewed the book for us and wrote that it’s a “dark and shimmering tale of palpable unease… Mason’s ability to weave mystery and eeriness together will appeal to fans of thrillers and horror alike.” Rebecca had the chance to speak to Mason about her debut novel, ghost stories, stage magic, and a hint at the book that’s coming next.

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Fearful desire: Male homoeroticism in vampire media from Dracula to The Lost Boys

In an undergraduate classroom, even one full of English majors, it can be hard for nineteenth-century literature to turn heads. “Achingly dull” or “overly wordy” are typical responses to the Victorians. Despite its place in our cultural imagination, Dracula doesn’t incite average readers to clamour for Bram Stoker’s foundational novel. But by the time Dracula’s three sultry vamp ladies crawl suggestively down Jonathan Harker in bed, who is insensate with fear and “languorous ecstasy,” students realise this isn’t some stuffy sermon on middle-class morality they’re dealing with. The assumed Victorian prudishness doesn’t fly, but catapults out the nearest window. This isn’t what they were expecting. Certainly not from 1897. But why not?

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