Taken at face value it’s difficult to describe Richard Stanley’s adaptation of Lovecraft’s The Colour Out Of Space as a good film. The cast grind their way through a frankly abysmal screenplay and, although both Joely Richardson and Madeleine Arthur manage to tease out excellent performances, Nicolas Cage appears to cosplay Nicolas Cage.
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.
TV has had no shortage of witches these past few years, from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to the Charmed reboot. While I love the witch archetype as a metaphor for powerful, radical women, one thing these witch TV shows are lacking is a legitimately frightening witch. Lucky for me, when Netflix announced the French series Marianne I was not disappointed. Written and directed by Samuel Bodin and Quoc Dang Tran, this series is decisively one of Netflix’s most frightening series yet, next to Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House.
Scholars, academics, learned people of all kinds, often crop up in fiction. Horror is no exception and ghost stories from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in particular, featured academics in lead roles. Sometimes this is as the result of ‘write what you know’ more than any other reason; M. R. James, coming up later (because of course he is) being a case in point. But, much more significantly, academics represent rational, empirical, and “modern” thought, in contrast to the superstitions of an older, darker age. The academic represents progress; sometimes as a means of rebutting the supernatural, but sometimes the supernatural could show that perhaps our progress had gone too far. Thank you to Sarah Burton on Twitter for prompting the idea for this reading list and thank you to those who offered suggestions (@cath_fletcher, @marccold, & @ssmithwc1n).