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All posts for the month May, 2015

The Nightmares of Horsehead

Published May 21, 2015 by vfdpixie

horsehead

Horsehead (2014, 1 hr, 29 mins)

I’ve always been interested in dreams and their meanings.  Oftentimes I have tried to remember my nocturnal subconscious wanderings, and most of the time I can’t, but when I do, it is usually in reoccurring settings and always unsettling.  Horsehead takes you one step further as lucid dreaming becomes a doorway to night terrors and family secrets.

Jessica (Lily-Fleur Pointeaux) is a young woman who suffers from terrible nightmares.  In order to conquer them, she ends up studying the psycho-physiology of dreams.  She is summoned back home because of her grandmother Rose’s death, and is more than uncomfortable when she realizes her grandmother’s body is kept in the bedroom next to hers for the wake.  After a disturbing dream where Rose (Gala Besson) gives her a cryptic message, Jessica is prompted to use lucid dreaming techniques (where one is aware of what occurs in their dreams) to get to the bottom of what becomes a spiraling, surreal discovery of herself and her family secrets.

From the infamous Freddy Krueger and A Nightmare on Elm Street, to Inception and The Cell, dreams have been great fodder for horror and the fantastical, portrayed as both campy and high art, but with Horsehead, it is almost a perfect balance of the absurd and artistic.  I was first drawn in when I saw a film clip and heard the scoring by Benjamin Shielden.  Jarring dub-step/breakbeat buzzing along with the voiceover of Jessica’s professor/boyfriend as he describes detailed instructions to lucid dreaming was something I hadn’t seen before.  It was different for sure, and the skillful editing by Frédéric Pons made Jessica’s dreams all the more compelling.

Director Romain Basset did an amazing job leading the audience down the rabbit hole as Jessica’s dreams became more disturbing and revealing.  His use of symbolism resonated with psychological significance as Jungian references involving animals and religion all came into play without being too overbearing, the most obvious being the ominously creepy Horsehead creature itself-the harbinger of death or perhaps a literal representation of a nightmare.  Charles Perrault’s Red Riding Hood was also a prominent theme with Jessica, her grandmother and a wolf guide; a sinister interpretation of the popular fairy tale.

The sets were quite beautiful and simple, pulling from Henry Fuseli’s famous gothic “The Nightmare” painting.  This eerie piece of art combined with the dark red and pale blue colour palette and stylish cinematography elevated the film’s old-school giallo feel.  And speaking of giallo, Jessica’s mother Catelyn was played by Catriona MacColl, who was also in Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond and City of the Living Dead, while her step-father Jim was played by Murray Head, the musician behind the 80’s hit “One Night in Bangkok”.  All the performances were great, especially Pointeaux, who held her own with the veteran cast.  My only issue with the film was Jessica’s grandfather Winston (Fu’ad Aït Aattou), and his role as, from what I can gather, a cult leader of some sort.  There was a whole back story that I wanted to see more of, and perhaps the explanation of the age discrepancy between Jessica and her mother.  I wasn’t sure if all this was meant to be ambiguous because of the dream logic, but don’t let that stop you from seeing it.

Romaine Basset’s first feature-length film was an artistic triumph.  If you enjoy surreal, well-made independent horror, check out Horsehead.

Fangoria’s exclusive clip that drew me in!

And the official trailer:

Southern Magic with Eden Royce’s Spook Lights

Published May 20, 2015 by vfdpixie

SL Cover Final

Spook Lights:  Southern Gothic Horror (135 pages, Kindle Editon, 2015)

 

As an avid horror reader, I am always open to new stories and writers, but I admit I can get bored when I read the same themes over and over again.  The Graveyardshiftsisters site features women of colour horror writers putting their own stamp on the genre, and one such author is Eden Royce, a U.K. based, African-American writer and editor who has contributed to several horror anthologies and written her own novellas.  My first introduction to her work was Containment, a unique story about a devil-human hybrid and his battle with a formidable entity which I really enjoyed, so I was happy to hear of her new collection honouring her Southern roots.

Sea sirens, enchantments and spirits from beyond take you on a mystical journey in Royce’s new anthology Spook Lights: Southern Gothic Horror.  Named after ghostly marsh lights and set in her home town of Charleston, South Carolina, this collection of short stories explore her heritage of root, a type of conjure magic known in the region, the supernatural and the richly diverse ancestry of the area.

From revenge to family secrets, each story is a blend of folklore and traditions.  Some reach back in time while others keep a strong foothold in modern-day horror, but they all represent facets of the Southern Gothic.  Cautionary tales like Hag Ride and Rhythm will make you more careful of what you wish for, while War Chief and Since Hatchet Was a Hammer tells of inner strength to overcome both earthly and otherworldly dangers.  My personal favorite was the bittersweet Doc Buzzard’s Coffin which hit all the marks:  suspense, the supernatural, and the charm of a child’s perspective.  Each character carries their own personal horror but there is a consistent vein throughout this mosaic of tales: the sensuality, strength and power of a woman.  Her spirit cannot be held or tamed for long; overcoming adversity by unleashing her natural powers.

There is a warmth to Royce’s writing, the dialogue rich with a Southern drawl and sensibilities that convey a strong pride for legends passed on for generations.  She evokes tangible environments to the point where you can almost feel warm breezes blow and smell the pungent scents that she describes, but Royce’s ability to incorporate these legends into horror stories is the strength of the collection; it makes the reader want to know more about these mysterious traditions.

If you’re looking to add to your summer reading list, Spook Lights is a must for those humid summer nights that keep magical secrets just beyond your reach.

 

Spook Lights: Southern Gothic Horror can be purchased now (for a steal I might add!) from Amazon here, and there will be a release party via Facebook on June 6th.  Check out the details here, and join in!

If you want more info on the rest of her writings check out her sites:

www.edenroyce.com

www.darkgeisha.wordpress.com

www.twitter.com/EdenRoyce

Pixie Dust Project Gets a Reboot for the Web: An Update

Published May 1, 2015 by vfdpixie

PillJarPosterPortrait (1)

 

It has been an interesting journey for Damon Colquhoun and his Pixie Dust project.

Not so long ago, I interviewed him as he started an indiegogo campaign to raise funds for a fantasy film about a young girl, her mentally ill mother and a family secret.  While he didn’t make his goal, he did get accepted for a grant fellowship from NBPC 360, a funding initiative by the National Black Programming Consortium media arts organization that is committed to “educating, enlightening, empowering and engaging the American public.”  The Harlem based non-profit strives to “support diverse voices by developing, producing and distributing innovative media about the Black experience and by investing in visionary content makers.”  Since 1979, they have provided content for outlets like PBS and PBS.org among others, and invaluable mentoring for up and coming Black filmmakers.

With this opportunity presented, Colquhoun rewrote Pixie Dust as a 10-part web series including sample footage, and his treatment was the only entry with a script.  The project was almost cut due to its fantasy based subject matter since the committee focuses mainly on non-fiction.  Fortunately some well-known producers, namely Ron Simons who was behind Blue Caprice as well as Deniese Davis who produced the Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, fought to keep Pixie Dust in the running.  After passing the muster at “Pitch Black”, the final pitch session where a group of seasoned producers and executives make their final choices, and with the help of cinematographer Arthur Jafa and director Terence Nance as mentors, Colquhoun will get between 50 and 100K for his project.  He is well on his way to a promising breakthrough for programming as the industry becomes more accepting of interesting and unique content for a growing niche market.

Damon Colquhoun pitching his ideas to top industry execs.

Damon Colquhoun pitching Pixie Dust to public television industry execs on April 23rd, 2015. Photo by Lindsey Seide (NBPC)

I am excited that a great organization has recognized the need for science fiction/fantasy in their roster, as many Black and other visible minority viewers crave content including people of colour in a genre that has been lacking in visible minority representation.  Congratulations to Damon as he embarks on his new route with Pixie Dust and I’m really looking forward to seeing the final series.  Stay tuned for more info!

Pixie Dust interview with writer/director Damon Colquhoun

Check out the NBPC site for more information on the organization and one of their series based on stories from the African Diaspora called AfroPop.tv.

 

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