Many fans of horror, amateur and professional alike, have devoted themselves to blogging about the thrills, chills, and no-frills side of the genre as seen in cinema and print. In this ongoing series that highlights the writers behind the blogs, we meet the unique personalities and talents that make the online horror scene so engaging. Up close and personal.
In this installment, Mark from Black Hole Reviews reveals his appetite for horror, yokai, anime, and more.
I feel a little guilty sneaking into the pantheon of horror bloggers. While horror is my favourite genre, my blog isn’t that specialised. Probably a bad thing, because it’s not easy to describe or categorise. The Black Hole is me devouring as many movies as possible. It’s also the well that Sadako fell into in Ring. But I once considered splintering the blog into different subjects. I don’t think that many people live exclusively inside the genre all the time. I want to suggest a wide range of relatively obscure movies as an alternative to the big three in the cineplex every week, those that will live on endlessly repeated on TV. Whether they’re good or bad. I want to offer up weird, unusual, shocking, dark, mad movies – that are interesting and entertaining. Why don’t you watch some of these instead?
My very first horror movie was Psycho, which I experienced in the womb. My Mum went to see it at the Holloway Odeon, not far from Gainsborough Studios where Hitchcock first learned to direct. I like to think that I developed an appetite for fear before I was born.
Through many fads, my core interest was always horror, as long as I can remember. As a teenager in the seventies, I was drawn to books and magazines about horror films and monster movies, though there wasn’t nearly as much around back then. The Pictorial History of Horror Movies by Denis Gifford started many of us off back then. A fantastic summary of the genre up to 1970, with inspiring photos. I’m still trying to see all the movies in that book.
While starting to see horror movies in the cinema from 1975 onwards (Death Race 2000, Squirm, The Omen and The Sentinel are all overly vivid), TV helped me catch up on classic horror and sci-fi back to the silent days - an opportunity nowadays cramped by a lack of DVD availability. There are far fewer silent and black and white films on TV and DVD, especially outside the USA.
Until CGI took over, I was desperately interested in special effects, reading every book on the subject and delighting in the first 20 years of Cinefex magazine, with its jaw-dropping reveals about how it was all done. I’ve also read every Cinefantastique over its entire spectacular run. Filmfax and Scarlet Street fleshed out my appreciation of black and white cinema with a huge valuable archive of interviews. Obviously I also read a lot of Fangoria and whatever British horror magazines were on the go.
While I started off the blog four years ago as Black Hole DVD Reviews, I perversely like to highlight many hard-to-see movies that aren’t on DVD. I’d hate for good films to get lost along the way, as home video formats keep changing. My mind is boggled by the dross that reaches DVD while some of my most cherished films (admittedly there are quite a few) haven't yet made it.
I know what films I want to keep on watching - I've been trying to collect them all uncut, in their original aspect ratio, and original language, wherever they exist in the world. But after many international ‘shopping quests’, I wanted to share the results of my detective work, and warn others about any compromised releases - wrong aspect ratios, censor cuts etc. When I started writing, I was influenced and inspired by the approach of Video Watchdog magazine. But they then proved very late in covering the Asian horror explosion and reporting on new releases. I wanted to try and plug this gap.
I started off concentrating on J-horror, after seeing Ring, unsubtitled, on a Chinese VCD. It inspired my whole new interest in the horror genre, now that it was actually scaring me again. A trip to Thailand also helped widen my scope, prompting me to check around other countries, interested in horror. Again I wanted to share any research where it was sometimes tough to find anything in English. This also lead me to some great, adult anime – Serial Experiments Lain, Blue Submarine no. 6 and Spriggan. I’ve continued to look for unusual, cult, or horror anime features and anime. I was already on the lookout for giant monster movies, but J-horror also lead me to Asian thrillers, comedies and sci-fi, not to mention a large back catalogue of Asian cinema.
A trip to Japan in 2004 also sparked an interest in Japanese yokai monsters, when I stumbled upon a temporary exhibition of artwork for the character Gegege No Kitaro. This took me into the rather expansive world of yokai, and I’ve also been chasing yokai books, manga, anime and movies, most of which borders on the horror genre.
The intention to write just a horror blog was further skewed by the intensive period of my cinema-going in the 1970s, when I’d see films at least once a week. Thus splitting the blog into horror, Japanese, and seventies cinema. The age of a film really shouldn’t matter – it either works or it doesn’t. I especially recommend films that I simply don’t see enough written about on the net. I think older fans take the popularity of the classics for granted. If I feel that no one is still talking about a film, I get nervous. If there’s no demand, there’s no supply.
I always rewatch my favourites to try and assess whether a new audience will still enjoy them. I try to see past the nostalgia, and also mention a what it was like to see them on their first release, if I can.
Movies are a visual media. Well, duh. But so many reviews are just blocks of text. After writing, I spend almost as much time looking for posters, publicity shots, DVD and magazine covers… to raise interest and lower the wordcount. I want to get the movie some attention. I also try very hard to avoid plot spoilers. I’m astounded by reviewers who simply tell the entire story. An important part of the experience for me, is to be told the story, not by a review or a trailer, but by the film itself.
Despite many obsessions, of course, I have other interests, and am prone to distraction. Currently spare time is consumed by Twitter, PS3 games (OMG),cats, music, toy robots… My work is in TV post-production, which has less influence on my interests than you’d think. But it certainly informs the technical aspect and potential faults of video media and the entire film to digital process. I’m extremely lucky that my husband is also a movie fan. No one else would allow me to overindulge in a hobby to such an extent.
I like to think cinema keeps me interested in the world, past and present. After a movie high, I’m left wanting to learn more about it’s background or the book it was based on. I want to know the locations where it was shot. When I travel, I’m on the lookout if any films were shot nearby. I also love movie music, soundtracks must make up half my CD collection. I have way too many interests.
But the important thing is the films themselves. Watching films is more important to me than TV. More repeatable, more carefully made. Sit down and see a story. Not a seven-year story arc, just a small part of the day for an entertainment that can transport you anywhere, to any time. Take you into any emotion, any dilemma, mess with your mind and frighten you silly.