Sublime Horror

Celebrating the best in horror

Alien: Prototype by Tim Waggoner review – there are far better stories out in the darkness of the Alien cosmos

I love Alien. Perhaps the only things I love nearly as much as Alien are the non-film spin-offs that have been slowly populating the property’s galaxy over the past decades and which are, in some cases, better than some of the films. The late 80s Dark Horse comic series, for example, is still perhaps some of the most terrifying Alien content ever released. And, more recently, the excellent Alien: Isolation made full use of the immersion that only video games can provide to construct a hugely atmospheric narrative.

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The Wayward Girls by Amanda Mason review – a dark and shimmering tale

It’s 1976 and a heatwave has hit the UK. Loo and her many siblings, including her older sister Bee whom she must share a room with, are relocated to an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in their parents’ attempt to start a new life. But strange things begin to happen on Iron Sike Farm and after a series of loud knockings from the walls and unexplainable bruises on Loo, the family are terrified of what is haunting their house.

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The Science of Monsters by Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence review – an unscientific but entertaining fact-filled dive into the monsters of horror

“How would a zombie really decompose in Night of the Living Dead? Are there instances of shape shifting in nature like in The Wolfman? What is the science behind the night terrors that inspired the creation of Freddy Krueger? Is there scientific data supporting ghost detection like the tools used in Poltergeist? What is the psychological drive that compels cannibals like Hannibal Lecter?”

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Mid-century possession: Ray Russell’s The Case Against Satan

It’s almost impossible to imagine a contemporary possession story, whether in a book or film, not being somehow influenced by William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. Blatty’s novel is one of those books that defines a subgenre and many of the images that readers and film-goers have of possession tales (the troubled priests, the candle-lit Catholic iconography, the other-worldly voices) seemingly originate with Blatty’s 1971 book. But there’s a possession novel, much less well known, that appeared roughly a decade earlier, and which includes many of the possession narrative attributes that would become a staple in books and films involving exorcism.

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Swallow review – a disturbing psychological case study of a woman who tries to regain control ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑

Horror can be a phenomenally surprising genre. For every handful of unimaginative paint-by-numbers slashers, there comes a film genuinely distinctive and unforgettable. Swallow, the debut feature of director Carlo Mirabella-Davis, is one of those films.

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Its Terrifying Times: A Cultural History by Joseph Lanza review

To say that Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the cornerstones of modern horror is an understatement. What has been one of its enduring impacts, at least to me, is the sharp juxtaposition of what could be argued to be a family movie against almost casual brutality, tuning viewers in across the span of decades to a story of fear that feels timeless at its core.

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Latest horror books: November 2019

We’re cheating slightly this month by starting off with four books released not in November but on Halloween, which is close enough for us and it’d be a real shame not to highlight them. Blame publishers for thinking 31 October is a great date to release books. As always, this is not an exhaustive list. If you think there’s a book we’ve caused grave injustice to by leaving off, leave a comment or get in touch.

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Eli review – a rare Netflix gem

Even though they have arguably been around since Frankenstein and the inception of horror, medical horror films have been in retirement for quite some time. American Mary and the remake of Flatliners are perhaps the most recent examples for the 2010s, even though it’s a setting ripe with horrific potential, as proven by the popular franchise Re-Animator. Netflix’s newest horror film Eli documents the horrors of the cost of private medical care in the United States alongside the usual fears that accompany a hospital setting: patient vulnerability during treatment, suspicious staff members with questionable motivations, and the possibility that the hospital itself might be haunted. It also raises several interesting questions regarding informed consent: how much should a patient be allowed to know about his or her condition if it puts the entire world in jeopardy?

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Andrew Michael Hurley interview: ‘Folk horror debunks the idea that England is a green and pleasant land’

Andrew Michael Hurley’s superb Starve Acre ends his folk horror trilogy of novels exploring the eeriness of the rural landscapes that Hurley has immersed his fiction in since his debut The Loney was published in 2014. In this interview, I speak to Hurley about Starve Acre, genre boundaries, 70s British folk horror, and moving from the rural to the urban in his next novel.

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A Sick Gray Laugh by Nicole Cushing review – Tristram Shandy had the last laugh

Reviewing a book as erudite and as confident as this is in many ways a challenge, as Nicole Cushing’s ambitious work demands to be judged by the highest standards. A Sick Gray Laugh is very firmly in one of the oldest of the traditions of the novel. Playful, clever, at times spellbinding and always brave, the narrative is in the style mastered by Lawrence Sterne in the eighteenth century in his astonishing work The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. We are, very early on, introduced to the character of “the writer”, Noelle Cashman. We are posed various questions and challenges from the very start, and we are firmly patronised, though always with wit and charm, when our frustration or fascination are anticipated: “These are entirely reasonable questions,” writes “Cashman”, “Be patient. All shall be revealed.”

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