05 “Room Service” (American Horror Story Hotel) [SPOILERS]

american horror story hotel

Given that Halloween fell between two episodes of Hotel, it makes sense that two episodes would have a Halloween theme.

The first of them was actually pretty good, blocking out some of the noise of the extraneous storylines. They will presumably need to be revisited this time around, but that’s okay because it finally feels like the series has some clue where it’s going.

Part of American Horror Story‘s unique charm — not limited to Hotel — is that they start filming before they’ve actually finished writing it. So when it seems a bit lost, it sort of is. But then again, that’s what makes it one of the most interesting shows on TV.

Read on…(and mind the spoilers!)

04 “Edward Mordrake (Part Two)” (American Horror Story: Freak Show) [SPOILERS]

ahs freakshow

Ah, Halloween traditions. Pumpkins, children begging for sweets, “sexy” just-about-everything costumes. Oh, and American Horror Story two-part episodes.

Or, here at least, the concluding part of said two-part episode.

Last week, my main criticism of the first part was that it left an incomplete story, without even the limited closure attached to a complete episode. Which is pretty petty complain, considering otherwise it was bloody good episode.

So it follows that, if “Edward Mordrake (Part Two)” can, as a creepy whispering half-face to last week’s offering, round things off in same way then we’re onto a winner.

Of course, this is American Horror Story, so it’s never quite as simple as that. But we remain optimists, don’t we? Don’t we?

Read on…(and mind the spoilers!)

03 “Edward Mordrake (Part 1)” (American Horror Story: Freak Show) [SPOILERS]

ahs freakshow

How can we be at the Halloween episodes already?

I know that Halloween is next week, and that its always a two-parter, but it certainly underscores the march of time. Halloween is usually the time that American Horror Story does its most overt tilt at the tip of the cultural horror iceberg. There’s a lot that can go wrong here, but I sense that actually Freak Show has the best potential outlet of all the series so far.

Potential is what this series thusfar is thriving on. It’s not delivering on all of it immediately, but to me that has seemed like a sense of timing and rising tension, that an actual misstep. So let’s see what it can do with the first part of its Halloween two-parter, “Edward Mordrake”.

Read on…(and mind the spoilers!)

04 “Fearful Pranks Ensue” (American Horror Story: Coven) [SPOILERS]


The previous Halloween episodes of American Horror Story have always been a treat. It’s when the series really comes out to play.

In The Murder House, the “Halloween” two-parter showed us the real consequences of the house, as well as giving excellent story and character development, particularly with the death of Addie and the ghost-aided disintegration of Zachary Quinto and discount Alexander Skarsgård, one of the best gay relationships I’ve seen on TV.

In Asylum, it wasn’t actually Halloween themed. “Nor’easter” was still an excellent episode though, cementing the characters, including Briarcliff itself, and ending on one of the most viscerally chilling moments of the series with Shelley and Dr Arden.

So what did Coven have to offer to the pantheon?

Read on…(and mind the spoilers!)

Top 5 horror films for Halloween

Welcome to Halloween.

Welcome, also, to too much sugar, pumpkins everywhere, and endless debates about whether or not it constitutes the Americanisation of British culture (answer: nobody cares).

But all of that misses the point. Halloween is not about any of that. Halloween is about horror films. The TV listings are jammed with them, Netflix have a “Halloween film” section, and HMV have been doing a roaring trade (I imagine) in the classics since about mid-October.

So here’s my contribution to the mix. My top five horror films, for your enjoyment. Enjoy.

Read on…

Halloween Flash: “Little White Lies”

hand closet horror

Little White Lies

By Matthew S. Dent

“Mummy there’s a monster in the wardrobe.”

Bliss was awake immediately. She could have cried. The first sleep she’d gotten in three days… She could have screamed.

Instead she exhaled slowly, breathing out into the soft warm darkness. Outside the laughter and calls of loitering youths could be heard, dully through the windowpanes.

“Olly?” she asked, propping herself up on her elbows, trying to blink away the nascent headache chewing on her optic nerve.

Read on…

Halloween Shorts: An Overview

Happy Halloween to all, and to all a restless night!

Today is All Hallow’s Eve, and all manner of things creepy are cropping up across the internet. And this weekend, that has included the Halloween Shorts event which I and a few other authors have been holding. In brief, Friday through today Jennifer Williams has hosted four Halloween-themed short stories on her blog.

It’s been a great experience, seeing some great stories featured (free, naturally) for the whole internet to read, and if you haven’t taken a look yet, I very much recommend giving them a read. The stories are great, and the authors are some of the up-and-coming stars of the genre. So light up your jack-o’-lantern (See? I can do the lingo!), put on a creepy soundtrack, tuck into something with far too much sugar to be healthy, and scare yourself silly with four short stories:

Friday – “Charlie and the Goblin King” by Andrew Reid

Horror can be funny, as well as creepy. The first story of the lot features a couple whose (rather annoying) child suddenly turns emerald green. Plumbing the ample reservoir of fear within parental responsibilities, Andrew offsets the fear with a very funny ending. Slightly scary fun- just the spirit of Halloween, I think.

Saturday – “What You Take With You” by Kev Clarke

The second short story is a loosely connected anthology of snapshots of different people’s fears, and how fear can chase and pursue you. A very well written tale, which will have you wondering what form your fear would take, what would be in your metaphorical “Room 101”.

Sunday – “Light You to Bed” by Matthew S. Dent

Yep, I’m number three. And I’m not nearly vain enough to do a flattering summary of my own story. Sufficed to say, it involves a little girl, an inattentive father, a railway line, and evil pumpkins. You can make your own mind up about it.

Monday – “Wendigo” by Jennifer Williams

Halloween itself naturally goes to our host, with a creepy diary-style story about love, hunger and shapes in the snow. I read it on the train this afternoon, and in a gloomy carriage, it really puts a chill in the blood.

So there you go. Some spooky fiction to indulge in this evening. And once you’re done, you can put on a good horror film, wrap yourself up warm, and if you hear any odd noises in the darkness outside, it’s probably best to just ignore them and turn the TV up…

Dude, Where’s My Originality?

The Swedish "Let the Right One In" was released in 2008- so why is there already a Hollywood remake?

Remakes. I have serious issues with remakes, particularly in the film industry. And I’m not the only one, the internet is full of people with gripes about it. But now is my turn.

My thoughts on this were prompted by a friendly little discussion over at the TTA Press Forums, about Let Me In, the US remake of Swedish film Let the Right One In. Now, I haven’t seen either film (yet), but I have to wonder at the remaking of a film only two years after it’s initial release. Given the gestation period of films, this must have been conceived around the time that the Swedish film was released.

So why do films get remade? I think Pete Tennant hit the nail right on the head, saying that it does fundamentally come down to money. The American studios realise that if they remake it, they can make a whole pile of money off the back of it. And that’s the primary force behind remakes. If it’s been proved to work once, it’ll work again right?

The same philosophy has been behind a number of originality-based problems in the film industry. Unleashing Rob Zombie on the Halloween franchise, the lacklustre and unnecessary Nightmare on Elm Street remake, the seemingly endless parade of Saw sequels. Even The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (another Swedish film) is being remade in an American image for release next year.

The studios are aware that if they trot out something with a recognisable brand, then people will flock to it based on that alone. Maybe the fact that they invariably turn out somewhere between mediocre and utter crap is unrelated, or maybe it’s a symptom of them not thinking they need to work as hard.

The fact is that original films are harder work. They have to be made better (probably), they have to be advertised harder, and there’s none of the “sheep” guarantee that people will turn out to see it. But they are an injection of vitality to the industry, which sustain it creatively. And they can be done successfully.

My two favourite films so far this year are probably Inception and Kick Ass. You might argue with me as to the value of those two films, but I personally loved them. And they were original films. Well, Kick Ass was an adaptation of a graphic novel, but I’ll allow it. They weren’t remakes of foreign films, or even of old genre classics. They were new stories, based on nothing else than some writer’s imagination. So huzzah.

Of course, there are other arguments for remaking films. There’s the subtitles argument. I myself have no problem with subtitled. Dubbing is always an awful idea, because it somehow always manages to destroy the film. But I like subtitles. Some people, however, don’t. I don’t get it, but whatever. That might be a reason for remaking a film, but I have to say that on its own it’s a pretty poor one. In my experience a film takes something (whether a lot, or just a general sense) from the culture in which it is made, and which it is set. That’s part of the reason that Americanisation has become so pervasive (not a criticism, surprisingly), because Hollywood films are revered the world over. But as soon as you try and transplant a film from one culture to another, you start running into weird problems.

I’m not so much against retreading old ground. J.J. Abrams Star Trek was pretty damn good. I’m a massive fan of Ronald D. Moore’s reimagining of Battlestar Galactica. The remake of V sucked because it was awful, not because it was a remake. What’s important though, I think, is not to forget respect and originality. Respecting the original work, and putting your own original take on it, will go a long way to make it look like less of a money-grabber, and less of an insult to the original.

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself


Happy Halloween to everyone! Have yourselves a very creepy night.

Happy Halloween, to all and sundry.


I have plenty of issues with Halloween as a celebratory occasion (Americanisation of the UK, not being genuinely sure what people are celebrating, the fact that it seems to be a free licence from society for little shits to engage in acts of vandalism, etc, etc), I’m not anti-Halloween. Horror as a genre- whether in film, television, literature or wherever else- tends to be much maligned in today’s society, and those of us who really enjoy it are sometimes looked upon as dangerous aberrations.

Except on one day a year, when the TV channels roll out the classic films, costume shops justify their existence, and even the supermarkets deck themselves out for the occasion. So to celebrate, I’m going to have a go at explaining why I’m a horror fan.

It boils down, at its simplest level, to the fact that I enjoy feeling scared. When you get right down to the core of it, that’s what horror is always about. The fear is the core of it, and the very reason why we love it. There’s an excitement in being afraid that very little else matches.

For me, horror films have always been a part of a larger experience. From horror films as a child, sat in my bed or on the sofa in the dark, flinching at every noise, to the present day with the walk back from the cinema in the dark and wet night. A true horror film will have your hackles up until the first light of the new morning. A good horror story will worm its way into your mind, and somehow even dawn won’t bring relief.

But the real power in horror, to me, is to go beyond the obvious. Recently, films such as the Saw franchise and the Paranormal Activity films have relied on gore and shock to scare the audience. Anyone familiar with me will know that I’m not a fan of either. For me, that’s the easy way out. Real horror should be about more than being grotesque or loud. Real horror should about getting into your head and frightening you to your very core.

Now, that’s going to be different for each individual, but often I find it’s the most understated films that really frighten me, in a way that an abundance of splatter and sudden noises don’t. Often, they aren’t even strictly horror films; for example Robin William’s downright creepy photo technician in One Hour Photo.

So if you’re not going trick or treating tonight, or going out somewhere to get drunk (as all holidays these days seem to be celebrated by some people), then why not have yourself a creepy night in? Have a think about what frightens you, what you’re really afraid of. Then hunt down a horror film about it, I’m sure someone has thought to make one.

And then, afterwards, just try to remember that it’s all fictional. There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself. Probably.