Returning through the dark…. 

Returning through the dark…. 

It’s been a long time since I came on here. Mostly, that has been due to time constraints as finishing the first draft of Tapeworm Slim 2 has been a mammoth task which has almost drained me of life.

Secondly, as I do not yet have the luxury of full time writing, I have to plan my writing around work, childcare and other family events. That pesky family… Always getting in the way (insert smiley emoji of your choice here). 

But I am nearly finished editing first draft of TS2 and so my attentions turn back to my website. In the past I have talked about horror films and influences but I feel I have no further way forward on this now. So what to type about? 

I’m going to pick many topics of the singularity which has pushed me into writing horror books and mostly why I chose the path I chose for TS2. 

Politics. Why on earth I chose to change the direction of a haunted house/lab testing/creepy horror into a political thriller which is expansive and introduces a WHOLE NEW cast of people. 

I have never written anything which I feel is generic. I despise randomly retreding territory which has been trodden by others. For example, in Bezmel’s Vespiary I wanted to do Zombies but zombies are at saturation point. Even Danny’s Boyle reinvented the zombie/infected type on his brilliant 28 days later. 

So when I made zombies I made them dissociative creatures born into aimless wandering and apathy by torture. 

Same with Tapeworm Slim. I wanted a claustrophobic horror with a terrifying antagonist but I wanted it to be about something very relevant to modern life that was, amidst all the fat fetched goes and psychosis, quite relatable. Also I wanted a villain who was purely suffering romero acute mental illness and hair her motives as much as she dehumanised people. Sahara Scared isn’t evil… She’s just a very unwell woman. 

In TS2 it’s all about the medication going mass market and the idea of purely doing a mass destruction, apocalyptic story bored me. So I chose one band of survivors and the Prime Minister himself,  who is so corrupt that he actively seeks out ways to further his political career than help the millions dying. 

I shall explore my political motivations later in my next post but, rest assured, that for now all you need to know is that I feel politics doesnt represent me as a person or human. Also, never before has the political landscape been so diametrically split, obfuscated by spin and changed by the vision of media and self perception. 

Our once promising species now devolving into selfishness… 

So I’m back, a little conflicted and enjoying my writing again. Forgive the pretentious pictures of me throughout this post, it’s there to represent my inner dissolution over the past year and how much negativity entered my writing. It amazes me how pessimistic I am at times! 

Already though, book 4 is at the planning stage and will be a psychological thriller/Freudian horror on a subject very personal to me. It’s going to take time to get right but my next main protagonist will be a different challenge to write for! Alongside that I want to get back to short stories again to break up the year long slog of writing novels. And then there is the question of Tapeworm Slim 3.

It will be the final book and I mean FINAL! 

But I’ve been with Scarred and her Tapeworms for four years now and I need a break. For TS3 to be a thrilling conclusion I need to see other people, write other stories and let Sahara go for a bit until I am ready to spend time with her and the cast again. 

So there you have it! Musings laid out and I already feel better for being back on here! 

Catch you soon and, if you want, links to my books are in the top menu widget if you so fancy! 

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Nightmares… The oil of a writers creation!

Nightmares… The oil of a writers creation!

146939349735499Like any writer, I have bouts of creativity, streams of consciousness and writers block. This is the same for any artist. However, as a horror writer, I have one pool of resource which is like striking oil…

Nightmares!

Many things have inspired my work. The last book, Tapeworm Slim was because of repeated time in hospital and also facing mortality and the claustrophobia of operating theatres. The sequel, Tapeworm Slim 2, is more political and comes from a position of feeling enfeebled in a world which is dominated by idiots, politicians and the wealthy.

However, I suffer from a condition which tends to influence my writing on a daily basis. Chronic nightmares.

Recently I have been chased, isolated, abandoned, operated on, threatened, mocked, laughed, felt a presence growing in my head and also been aware that someone is in the room when I am lucid dreaming. I have figures of distortion, bodies of contortion and even raucous malformation of shapes and senses. I have woken up five times alone this month in a cold sweat thanking the lord I am not dead as I was about to be in my sleep.

Some of this has come from the life changing surgery I had on my heart just four weeks ago. Lots of it is anxiety about the future, my sense of depersonalisation and the defects my self esteem and social anxiety has on me. Yet some of it is just fantastic junk! Detritus left over from horror films, computer games and even a late night brain testing viewing of active shutter 3D spectacle of San Andreas when my eyes were hurting from the screen and my head was calmed via too much codeine and a splash of Guinness.

The great thing about all this is that it bleeds into my work. Now I wish I could write a book a week because some dreams are so vivid they tell a story right there and then! I want to get up and just type the horror film my mind has been moulding round my skull!….. But this is impractical. Its just not possible and each novel takes me about 18 months to complete! Therefore, to avoid fifteen hundred manuscripts only three pages deep, the dreams either get stored in the “next project” file or they get added into the current story which is great because, although each book is mapped out in my head there are times when it is exciting to find that missing piece, change a direction to keep it fresh orr add something that is very scary for both myself and the reader.

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Sometimes, its just the effect which influences the work. That feeling of being so scared and vulnerable that it needs to be bled out onto a page.

Tapeworm Slim 2 is not a conventional horror story. Its political, spread across the country and… I cant say anymore without giving away my ideas! However, part 3 is set to become something else  but I need a break from the world of grotesque slimming devices and the next story needs to be challenging and something different. Part of me wants to do a claustrophobic horror film…. Small place, diminishing light and a very reduced scale where there is just something wrong, something dangerous and something which could cause harm.

Then part of me wants to write about the sea, space, natural disasters….

I’ve no idea where the future is taking me but I am excited.

So why are nightmares such a rush?

When I was a child (aged 14 up) I watched scary and gory films to give myself nightmares because it was controlled fear at a time where my life was so miserable it was nice to watch perfect teenagers get slaughtered by Jason, be terrified by Freddy and simply gasp at the gore of Hellraiser! There were no Human Centipedes, Saw or Hostel in those days so the banned films I watched are very tame now in comparison. Yet I loved to be scared. I loved the bad dreams. I loved feeling in danger whilst going to the loo at midnight whilst halfway through Halloween. There is no feeling like pure terror yet knowing that you are being silly and its just a film. Over time I pushed myself more and more and the effect wore thin.

Since my heart crash in 2012 and my double figure ambulance rides and double figure admissions in the past four years, life has become scary for real so film is an escape but my perceptions, tolerances and yearning has also changed. I still love a so bad its good movie, but I want more than just gore and some things which never bothered me now really upset me which is weird.

Yet as a writer, I make sense of the world through etching my perception onto paper. So nightmares are my brain just having a gravity and solar flare surge of remembrance, junk and sorting…

…But the feelings are real and this rich pool of cognition and sensation simply builds in its own reservoir!

Plus there is still the anger of all the injustice in the world!

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So where does this leave me? Well, its bed time and once again time for a mind of anxiety, fear and writers frustration to just blend a mad, mad world inside its neurological wonder! If I wrote comedy, drama, thriller or romance my dreams would be of no help. Yet, as a horror writer, they are my most valuable resource! My oil when I am dry and something my mind drills for when I really don’t want it too.

If you want a nightmare yourself, get a copy of my book Tapeworm Slim on Amazon or from the menu link at the top. It is indeed the stuff of nightmares. Be a nice prep for part 2 which is due in 2017.

Tapeworm Slim is on sale now!

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Deep sea or deep space? Which is more captivating

Deep sea or deep space? Which is more captivating

May 17

As I write this I am already feverishly about 10% the way through Tapeworm Slim 2. I don’t like writing similar/same books and therefore the follow up to a claustrophobic horror is much more expansive, more political and even more based on a thriller than a horror. it certainly won’t be as gory as the first. I can’t say anymore without giving away what I am doing BEFORE I have even finished it.

After that though, even though there will be final part, I think I may have a break for a while and start working on something else. The world of Tapeworms and dieting is something I am really enjoying but…. I have yearnings to look at other things. There are two areas I am torn between. Space and sea. Both have captivated me since I was a little boy and both have a huge amount of inspiration and potential to become immerses in.

Firstly the sea.

I watched Jaws when I was five and it sparked my love of cinema and also my love of the ocean. As a child I had shark books, ocean books and I have been in love with the deep ever since. I still can’t swim. I’m still completely terrified of falling into water, and maybe that’s where the fear and horror resides. Like Tapeworm Slim had its roots in my fear of hospitals, my fear of the sea is something that fuels my passion for what lies within its glassy abyss. Sea monsters, an unbreathable atmosphere, unknown discoveries and a place where man does not belong.

All things which inspire and tantalise a creative mind.

Then there is space. Aliens, an unbreathable atmosphere, unknown discoveries and a place where man does not belong…… So similar yet so different.

We know more about space than the sea. And the fact we have seen supermassive black holes bigger than the milky way, stars which are well over a billion miles wide and physical forces/properties beyond comprehension. Yet the sea is more accessible, has terrors which we know about and we have been able to sit in cages and get close to the great whites and giant whales which roam the daylight zone.

Giant squids are real but rarely seen, there are still many things unaccounted for and we live in hope of discovering monsters like the extinct Megalodon still swimming in the depths. We have only discovered about 5% of the ocean. What a shocking and exciting thing to flint the brain into sparks of ideas.

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Yet although we know about space there is still so much which is supposition and hope. Scientists are still arguing about many things and the chances of travelling the light years we need to in order to contact alien life is a long, long, very long way away. Are we the only ones? Debate that all you want. One thing is for sure though, we are TINY. A speck of dust within a microcosm of a speck of dust. Even compared to Jupiter we are small, to our sun we are tiny…. And that’s before we get to the giant sun of VY Canis Majoris and the supermassive black hole of the Phoenix Cluster Galaxy. Which make even our solar system look tiny yet alone our little old earth. What a wonderful thing to mine and explore.

Neptune the icy giant with winds of 1000mph and temperatures of -200. Andromeda, the galaxy hurtling towards us at 400,000mph and will collide with us in 4bn years. The increasing violence of our own sun which will mean we have 1 billion years to get off this planet due to the increasing radiation. After that it gets even worse! But how can words like light years, billions, trillions and supermassive be quantified? Amazing stuff to boggle the mind.

Then there is the sea. The deepest part is deeper than mount Everest is tall. Its almost unfathomable and way beyond our reach to explore properly. There is a cluster of creatures and worlds down there we know nothing about. The deep sea covers our world and surely hides things we can only dream of. Not to mention just being in the sea. Jaws captivated that so well. A 25ft great white shark, a true leviathan of the deep yet so plausible. And then once you are in the water. The shark has you. No chance. No possible hope and you are alone in a substance which you are not meant to live. We drink water, we swim in it yes, but we are at the mercy of what is below us.

Both are amazing.

Of course both would have shades of science fiction which is a genre I haven’t written before and I haven’t really been too tempted by but maybe something different would be good.

I always feel that every book should be different. That is why each book of Tapeworm Slim will be a different type altogether. Its something I have always believed in.

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So be it planets and stars or oceans and underwater trenches, I am already pondering where to go. I love writing, I love creating something and once an idea hits and expands it is the most wonderful feeling ever.

But for now its all about diet pills, Tapeworms and the next stage of Dr Scarseed’s story.

I have to say, having a little one has only made these ideas more exciting. Watching Octonauts, reading books about the sea and space and watching videos about mysteries of above and below give a whole new, childlike way of looking at these things which slip away from us once our magic and imagination gets side checked by bills, work, mortgages etc.

So there we are. This week is all about inspiration and excitement.

As ever, you can read what I have already written by clicking on the menu link at the top.

Tapeworm Slim is on sale now.

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You can follow Chris Lowe is on Twitter https://twitter.com/_chlowe_

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Nightmares in hospital & Jeremy Hunt’s NHS Human Centipede!

Nightmares in hospital & Jeremy Hunt’s NHS Human Centipede!

Blog May

Well I’ve had a bad week. Admitted as an emergency to Hospital for important Cardiac surgery…. And that was only part 1! The second part of the operation is even bigger. But I am not here to bludgeon you with my history and problems, dear readers, this is a site about horror and the influences behind my Tapeworm Slim 1 & 2 stories.

The great thing about being a horror fan in hospital is it offers you a fantastic sense of humour whilst scaring the sh*t out of you at the same time. I have truly had my worst panic attacks in hospital and these are something that, even at the tender age of 40, I am still enduring. This time, when I went for surgery it was a flashback to the time where I was still awake and they were prepping the tools and covering me with antiseptic which inspired my book. Yet again this happened and, although everyone in the hospital was amazing, I could hardly breathe as I was still awake, naked and had about five people around me tampering with metal knives and odd tubes!

I have a pathological fear of hospitals yet, paradoxically, I love them! I think that duality of weirdness was what got me working in one like I do at the moment!!!!!!!!!!!

I always think of hospitals from horror films when I am admitted. Heiter performing surgery in The Human Centipede, Freddy “Well it ain’t Doctor Seuss” in Elm Street 4, the infamously deleted Cenobite scene in Hellraiser 2, the Silent Hill nurses and countless more which I have seen over the years.

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In this country there is a lot of worry about the health service. There are concerns that we are facing privatisation from an omnivorous Tory government and that the service can no longer cope.

Utter crap. Its an amazing service.

Now I wont preach here, because this is not about last week, but the amount of hard work and care I received was amazing. Our NHS simply needs funding not cutting. I could now write a 50000000000000 word dissertation on the political abuse of our hospitals but I am not going to. Not today anyway.

This blog comes in two stages. First part serious and about the book. Second part a little more light hearted!

So where was I? Oh yes the serious part, hospital panic attacks! Marvellous things because there is so much inspiration in them! Much of Tapeworm Slim is set inside a private clinic/research facility and this comes from three aspects of hospital issues.

Firstly is the isolation and trust you place in surgeons when they operate. You give them 100% faith and The Facility where Scarseed unwittingly tortures her 8 subjects comes from this trust as they are all her own NHS patients when she recruits them from the ward.

The second aspect is privatisation. The Facility is owned by a billionaire owner of an insidious company and what goes on behind those walls are all at his design. My fears about hospitals going into those hands percolates throughout the book.

Thirdly is the procedures themselves. The things we go through to be healthy. Anyone who has had surgery knows about the scars, pain and recovery which can affect your whole life and this too permeates the entire depth of the book once the Tapeworms go beyond the control of the endocrinology which is supposed to control them.

Its funny as well how vulnerable you become in hospital. And how embarrassing that can be. Grown men, career women and also me can be reduced to feeling so humiliated when we have to get someone to assist us with the toilet or cry when we get a needle in our arm. Its not any easy life being stuck in bed all day!…. Unless that bed is your own, facing a large TV, takeaway on one side and wine on the other and any other erotic/private add ons you need! My god, no wonder my heart is so bad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Last week was a wonderful inspiration yet again to keep writing Tapeworm Slim 2, which is now already 10% complete! It was a fantastically scary experience which I can only metabolise through the cathartic process of writing. But, like other people getting drunk at 3:00am and listening to moody music and getting an intoxicated stream of creative consciousness, I seem to get my best inspirations from hospital admissions!

Sometimes, joking and writing about things, or even exaggerating things through literary gore is the only way of managing emotions properly. Writing isn’t just a tool for me, its a way of life, coping and something I enjoy so much so that’s why I channel much time into it!

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But the political pressures, paranoia over healthcare and fear of being sick/unable to afford treatment are very real problems and something which the “arrogant, dangerous and incompetent” Sahara Scarseed saw and tried to fix with her revolutionary new pill which was going to save the NHS billions…

…Before it all went horribly wrong before her eyes!

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So what would save the NHS? Who is as insane as Scarseed and what could they offer our hospitals?

What if Doctor Heiter was the cheapest consultant Jeremy Hunt could find to run the NHS???!!!!!!!!!!

The UK’s first NHS centipede!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, firstly, Mr Hunt could finally afford his seven day NHS as all non urgent patients would be in hospital AND waiting in line! Simply join the back of the queue and when a bed becomes available we will unhook your mouth pop you off the line, and into that bed! Hospital food bills would come down by thousands if you only had to feed those in bed and the head of the centipede! Finally patients would be self sufficient! And if there was a winter diarrhoea bug break out, its all contained! No issues there, just pop a tray at the back!

Also, constipation is bad for the heart…. And repeatedly re-digested stools aren’t going to stick are they?

Private patients would avoid the queue and pay for a bed straight away! The rest of us simply stuck in our line, on our hands and knees, and getting sh*t directly from the person in front of us as opposed to it being fed to us via the newspapers and TV from our politicians! A political sh*t bypass!

Also, not sure how many would want to come to the hospital so patients wasting time would be down!

And hire Silent Hill nurses! They only move when there is noise! They can stand still for up to twelve hours! Just hours of standing there, not wanting a break or unsociable hours pay! Okay, all they seem to do is stick sharp objects in people and have a dislike of Sean Bean but they can administer the anti-biotics if anyone needed it and then go back to sleep standing up! You’d only need a few to manage the waiting line of conjoined people!

All this money saved Jeremy!….. Hang on…. He might be getting ideas…. He is already under pressure from the junior doctors (I fully support them!) and this may be a headline out of his NHS woes…. I could end by being the reason he decides to privatise it and give the proles the pede treatment!!!!!! I will stop going on about it now!

I have to say, I’d still rather have heart surgery than have my teeth out! Dear god that terrifies me so much I cant even write about it. I’ve had a few out in my time and it is a genuinely grotesque experience! And I was going to watch Saw 1-7 again recently but…….Nothing like a trip to theatre to ruin the love for a torture porn movie!

So I am at home  and writing again which is the one good thing to come out of this week. My third book is under way and going well. Its completely different to the first yet shares the same DNA and, I promise, wont be as gross as the first.

The first book you can buy now from the link at the top.

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Tapeworm Slim is on sale now!

Real things that are scarier than a horror film!

Real things that are scarier than a horror film!

Volume 1 – ADVENTURES IN FAECES!

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There are some things in life which are more scary than anything Jigsaw, Freddy, Jason or a pea soup spitting little girl can offer…. Things which cause us real terror and can leave us thinking “NO! PLEASE NO! THIS IS MY WORST NIGHTMARE!”

So this week, its all about the toilet! The one place we are all tied to and the many inconveniences it brings which, sometimes, cause immense distress more terrifying than anything a great horror writer has to offer!

Number 1 – No lock on the toilet door!

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I remember my first sixth form girlfriend and staying the night. The evening was very pleasant but the next day, when I would rather have been in bed, I needed the toilet. On my way through to the water closet facilities I noticed TWO things which made my heart stop.

No lock!

Toilet about ten feet from the door!

This activates the MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE thought train and within minutes I had put the washing basket against the door, piled old bed sheets around that and then reinforced it with a tiny bin. My god I was terrified! A lady who actually liked me and here I was desperate to sit on the loo but torn between neuroticism and desperation! Nothing ends a date like seeing someone on the loo and if you need more than a pee…. Then its all hands on deck!

Of course this affects ones physiology! When you see no lock, you become more desperate as time runs out and the bowel turns into the countdown clock and you know that by the time it hits the “de-dum de-dum de-de-de-dum!” you are going to be washing the poo from your pyjamas in her bathtub but, when you actually sit down, the rectum becomes shy and stubborn and refuses to move at pace!

“Nope, we may get interrupted and I cannot perform under pressure soooooooo…. Its gonna be one piece at a time until she is thinking ‘what the hell is he doing and why is he moving all my furniture behind the door?’ but you stay alert eyes, and I will EVACUATE! EVACUATE!”

Honestly, its like my arse is a Dalek!

Of course once you finish and go back its small talk time as you both try and keep the romance whilst a smell worse than the devils armpit seeps under the door and you realise you have been gone for thirty minutes!

Number 2 – Thin walls!

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When I moved into a flat in 2006 the loo was right next to the bedroom and I think the builders had cut corners on plasterboard and painted cling film white such was the thinness of the partition between toilet and bedroom.

So, again when I was a single man entertaining a lady, the morning and bed time was a terrible dilemma of orchestral sounds and pantomime in order to stay sexy and avoid embarrassment.

Of course this never happens and you end up in ruination but, once again your body loves to undermine you! Imagine, setting the scene and having too much wine and food before taking someone to bed so you need to Dalek your bowel again and EVACUATE! E-V-A-C-U-A-T-E right before the good bit of the evening!

Firstly, your bottom refuses to stay quiet and decides to caterwaul a cacophony of wind and broken down gasses which echo round the bowl and make even the couple in the bus stop over the road stop and giggle! Then, once again, rectum goes shy and you are sat in there for an AGE whilst she waits patiently… Then checks her phone… Then rifles through your draws… Then has some existential yoga… Then decides she should never have left her ex and so will get dressed and catch the bus to see him.

By the time she has seen him and caught the bus back to break up, I am just surfacing and ready for action.

The morning is worse! You almost have to drug her into a deep sleep so you can relax and then hop to the toilet and loudly COUGH and SING LOUDLY everytime you have a movement.

Laying one sheet of paper on the water does nothing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Number 3 – No toilet roll!

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In some friends and relatives houses its like WHERE IS IT?! And you find yourself feverishly checking every single cupboard and corner but it isn’t there!!!! The bastards have it in the airing cupboard but you’ve already been and cant shuffle across the top of the stairs like an egg bound penguin because they will see you!!!!!!!!!!!!

So instead you search your pockets for everything and end up using last weeks tissue over and over, then a box of tic tacs and, finally, resorting to whatever magazines they have on the floor!

Please, keep your loo roll in the loo! It is all I ask! My nerves are not built for Indiana Jones escapades to find the holy grail of the loo roll!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Number 4 – Irritable Bowel!

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Cheers genetic biology! Not only am I too thin, awkward and unattractive but when I do FINALLY get a date with a female woman of the opposite sex who has boobs and everything, you ensure that nerves and lunch will ruin my evening.

One date in 2006 ended badly. I went to Dudley for a drink with a lady and got nervous so had three pints of Guinness before she even got there. Then got hungry and so ate pork scratching’s and by the time we were thirty minutes in I had to go to the loo.

Then again. And again. And again. And again.

Must have had pulses by mistake at lunch and now, the one thing vaguely interested in me which actually has a pulse (and one that doesn’t set off my sphincter) I am spending more time in the loo than with her. Things got worse once we went for Pizza hut where I had to go another 5 times and ran out of excuses of “making a call, just having a pee, I need some tissues to blow my nose, there is someone I know just going into the loo I shall go and say hello!”……… Suffice to say, that was the end of that chance.

IBS is caused by stress and diet so, whenever I have anything like a job interview or a conversation with another human being….. We may as well conduct it in the loo…. But with ten feet thick steel walls so you cant hear anything!!!!!!!!!!!!

Or lets not bother at all.

Number 5 – Odour!

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Briefly mentioned before but something that will always ruin your hard work.

How many times have I been trying to impress people when you either need to break wind or use the loo and for some reason, your insides smell like you died weeks ago and have been embalmed with chilli sauce.

My first job in the health service and a group of very important men were about, I thought “I will just break wind in the office whilst I am alone!” and then WOE AND BEHOLD…. The odour is so bad even the cockroaches are putting a complaint in to the senior managers. Of course, everyone piles through the door “Oh yes, this is Chris and he is one of our staff nurses!” and you can see all the faces shrivel up as they come to greet me! Its like five men have just bitten a lemon as they gingerly shake my hand and I have NO ONE to blame this on.

Same thing happened once with a trainee nurse and after completing another Ethan Hunt level of impossible mission in breaking wind silently…. I spent twenty minutes talking loudly and SINGING for some reason just because I knew she was aware of what I had done because the smell was so bad it had clogged the air conditioning.

If ever you use the loo at someones house and you want it to have ten minutes clear you can guarantee that soon as you step outside the door…. There is mum of the girl you want to impress heading in to fold towels or have a womanly wee amidst the leftovers from your green fog.

Number 6 – It won’t flush away!

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“Is Christopher unwell or something?!”

Flush number 14 and its still there! Bobbing up and down like a playful dolphin who wants a fish! You’ve buried it under toilet paper, you’ve kept your finger on the handle until ALL the water pressure is gone and you have prayed to god to remove your poo but its still bobbing there… Dancing like a member of Bewitched in that Ce La Vie video!

At home you can laugh it off! With friends you take the ribbing but at work or with someone you like….. This is terrible and short of picking it up and throwing it out the window its already reducing your chances with every second it keeps U-Bend teasing…. Only to come back up and smile at you!

What the hell…… Did I eat Helium??!!!!!!

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Nathan Drake from the game Uncharted above this line….. Looking for a toilet after crashing that plane no doubt! I couldn’t be an adventurer, I would need a nearby toilet in between crashing planes and fighting bad guys! But its an important thing to a neurotic like me. Where is the nearest loo when I am out.

Please god don’t let me need the loo when I am with someone I am trying to impress.

Like I said, give me a chainsaw wielding monster any day but PLEASE don’t leave me at the mercy of my colon!!!!! Its caused me so much grief!

Anyway, little bit of a different blog this week! Sorry! But writing is influenced by many things and, as TAPEWORM SLIM was conceived whilst I sat on the loo (something I have written about in the preface of the book) sometimes real life is more inspirational than the films and art we love!! My god I am weird… Wonderful, but weird non the less! I think it stems from so many years in hospital…. The scars of bedpans and 1970’s nurses always bothered about my toilet use! Funny though, take away all of our narcissism, wealth, jokes, pretence and clothing…. We are all biological pink things that just need to poo!

Anyway, has this blog has inspired you to read the book?! Hey, this site is all about the writing process behind my magnum opus of a horror story so there are going to be some odd weeks here and there!

Anyway, the menu link at the top of the page takes you to Amazon UK and USA respectively so, by all means, check out the book if, like many people in my life, I haven’t creeped you out with my very odd toilet fixation.

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Tapeworm Slim is on sale now!

 

My top 15 iconic horror villains

My top 15 iconic horror villains

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Warning! Warning! Subjective opinion on the internet! This poll is purely from the perspective of a horror loving fan and how it inspired my love of the genre and my writing!

Following on from my iconic ladies of horror…. Its time for a list of villains who have had an equally influential role on my life, love of film and writing.

Now let me once again say, before anything else, that this is purely subjective and NOT based on the best film. I am not rating films here, just the impact these monsters of celluloid had on my life. The villain has a criteria to fill. 1.) They must have imprinted on me in either a scary/enviable way and 2.) They must have endured in my mind (regardless of how long ago) and still be relevant today in my work and love of horror.

Its not about how many sequels, its not about how much box office and its not even about the original film/sequel or remake in some cases because it was about THAT moment when I saw the movie and it just stayed with me. Oh, and its not about gore either!!! That has no rating in this chart!

Horror villains come from a level of originality/cliché and usually have a story behind them. The writer will always enthuse about what scared them as a child and how that morphed into the screen demon who haunts us today. Some are more iconic than others. Some are human and some are beast. Some are supernatural and some are just human. There is no set paradigm.

As ever, I’m not doing anything sci-fi. This is about horror films and things that have terrified me or thrilled me so much they have started a riot in my mind. Some have kept me awake at night, some have made me dress up as them and some have even stopped me from falling asleep/going in the water/playing with Ouija boards. I wont go on about my love of horror. Anyone who follows me knows I am passionate and so lets skip any more small print and get underway for this weeks topic!

15.) The Teenagers – Eden Lake

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BORED TONIGHT….. What shall I watch? Hmmmmm, this looks interesting lets give it a go…

…2 hours later…

Oh dear god I need to lock all the doors and never leave the house again because all teenagers are EVIL!!!

Eden Lake is a masterpiece. It enters the pantheon of elite films I will NEVER watch again because it really affected me. From the start of them terrorising a middle class couple, to the torture scene with knives to the ending where our heroine so nearly makes it, the teens are fleshed out as reprehensible and believable. In the end, as the doors close and the nightmare of cyclic abuse and retribution spikes a peak of unbearable tension at a family party which should be providing sanctuary, the story behind why one of them is such a monster (played out in the final seconds) is just brilliant. Superb acting, real terror and an image of violent youth living up to the nightmarish “hoody” stereotypes, Eden Lake is an ordeal. Its much more effective than the other “hoody horror”, low budget British Horror F, and if you see it….. It also acts as perfect contraception!

14.) It – It Follows

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Like a Terminator for the slasher genre, It just keeps coming at a steady pace and can take any form. Mostly starting in the shadows or far in the distance as an innocuous shape morphing closer into view, It is an indestructible and relentless enemy who can only ever be abated by passing it on and hoping it doesn’t work its way back down the line.

A unique villain, as you can off load it to someone else, the victim cannot sleep, cannot hide and could fly to the other side of the world but it would all be in vain because thousands of miles away, its slowly walking across land and sea and still coming for you.

Inspired by a recurring nightmare the writer and director David Robert Mitchell had about being chased, the film leaves a lingering fear and believable terror. My standout scene? When the enormous giant stomps past her friends and enters Jay’s bedroom. None of them can see it but It has never been closer and all she can do is run.

An enemy who will break you via nervous exhaustion even before it kills you, It is something special from a real source of terror and lovingly crafted on the screen.

13.) Stripe – Gremlins

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WTF???!!!! Gremlins is a comedy horror?!

But its still a horror film! And Stripe is here for a reason!

When I was young (and I mean about 11) I had a few friends and my parents had just separated and I passed my time writing short stories in a small notebook. I wrote about me and my friends, in a world without parents, fighting for our lives against a Gremlin who killed people we knew, burned my garden and broke all my furniture. I wrote about twenty Stripe stories and no matter how much we stomped him down, he ran away and would return next week when I wrote my next story in my book.

I was obsessed with Gremlins. I ached to see it for a long time, had the sticker book and lots of merchandise and when I did see it then WOW! Blew my little mind and is still a massive favourite of mine whenever on TV. Be it the kitchen fight, swimming pool multiplication or Billy vs Stripe in the store, its nigh on perfect and by adding just a line of fur to the leaders head…. They created a brilliantly iconic little nemesis for both Billy AND Gizmo.

12.) Chucky – Childs Play

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I’m going to ignore the hysteria which surrounded its association with a horrific real life murder because that isn’t why Chucky is on the list.

The first three films are not exactly classics. The series really came into its own with Bride of Chucky which was the fourth in the series and took a much more black comedy/meta tone. However, Brad Douriff is so captivating as the voice of the killer doll that I couldn’t stop watching the films when I was young. I’ve seen 2 and 3 to the point of knowing every line and I have them all on video. Childs Play 1 has taken on a different feel since I watched it for the first time since having a child of my own….. Those conversations Andy was having with his favourite toy were so well done in retrospect!

Chucky is slasher villain to a tee! He takes a monumental amount of abuse until he dies, always comes back and its all about the puns and THAT demonic cackle when he kills.

Poor Chucky…. Never quite gets his wish to transfer his soul into a human body. That chant is always interrupted! I’ve also been told I am not allowed to buy a full scale replica for my little one.

Its probably best come to think about it……..

11.) Malfeitor – Witchboard

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Who?

Ah yes, the year is 1988 and my sister and her boyfriend have rented a horror film for a laugh. Its a 15 so I’m allowed to watch it and the production value is quite low budget and its about playing with a Ouija board!!!!!!

So far so what.

Then I watched ninety minutes of flying cameras, creepy séances and a terrifying man with a beard chasing the very beautiful actress Tawny Kittaen who I couldn’t understand why I liked so much…

Anyway, for some reason the film scared the sweet Jebus out of me! Maybe it was the flying camera with that little boy noise or Malfeitor’s POV pursuit of the psychic? Maybe it was the fact I was spending huge amounts of time alone in a house whilst my mother and sister went out. Either way the film still scares me to the point I cannot watch it.

I have tolerated it twice since with girlfriends through the ages because I wanted them to be as scared as me and each time the film has finished, they have turned round and went “meh” and I have been shivering in a pool of my own cold sweat. I cant even go to the loo at night after watching it because…. It just scares me!!!!!! Even at 40 I’m still scared of it and I don’t fully know why!

10.) Doctor Joseph Heiter – The Human Centipede

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Tom Six is one twisted individual! And that’s why I love him.

But he is so a genius. Not only does he create the most disgusting concept in film history he imagines villains who are equally memorable. I have the choice of three. Martin from the second film or either or Dieter Laser’s characters Joseph Heiter or Bill Boss. There is no doubt Boss is worse with his cannibalism and vile treatment of all human beings but, in terms of scary, Heiter wins hands down.

He is a kind and gentle man with an insane vision. He goes from charming host to volatile sadist once he drugs and then sews the centipede together, via their anuses and mouths, and then he REALLY enjoys torturing and teasing his new pet. Its a proper villain transformation and, even by Laser’s own admission, Heiter is inspired by Josef Mengele the most notorious and cruel surgeon in Auschwitz. Its a brilliant piece of inspiration to the character. More sterile than Martin. More calmer than Bill Boss… He wins hands down.

The film may be hard to stomach, but its Laser’s performance as the sociopathic doctor that will leave you never trusting another stranger again!

9.) Michael Myers – Halloween

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And I am of course referring to John Carpenter’s outstanding original vision of the character and not that awful Rob Zombie rehash which stripped him of all his intrigue and reduced him to sadistic redneck.

Its the intrigue and motivations which make Myers so special. We meet him as a young boy, under 1o years old, as he knifes his sister to death before his parents come home and find him standing in the driveway.

Myers is co. He doesn’t speak. He doesn’t feel. He just watches, stalks and then flies into a fit of rage (often after teenagers have intercourse) and he is unstoppable. From Donald Pleasance’s obsessed Doctor who fills our heads with his vague backstory of dissociation, to the way Myers creeps out of the edge of the frame in THAT mask when you least expect him, or even the tenderness he shows his corpses once killed as they are carefully placed around the house he is hiding in… He is unforgettable.

Scared me to death when I first saw the film. And for that reason alone, he is as unforgettable as he is unstoppable in the first films run time before sequel repetition and parody reduced his impact.

8.) Hannibal Lecter – The Silence Of The Lambs

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The eighties has a lot to answer for. By the end of the decade, and into the early nineties, villains were too clichéd and out of the shadows.

Lecter changed all that. He bought gravitas and real creepiness to a role that, under another actor, could have become hammy. Some say that Brian Cox, who appeared in the original Manhunter some years before Silence, was much better. Not for me. Anthony Hopkins is brilliant and, parodies and over usage of THAT clip about fava beans and a nice chianti aside, he had me absorbed right from the word go.

He is perfectly built up throughout the early stages of the film, whispered and sermonised through dramatic speech as we see the level of security which surrounds his underground prison, and once he speaks the audience is captivated.

Silence has a tone and an ashen colour in which Hopkins is the crescendo  and, despite limited screen time, you want him back on screen when he isn’t there. Sadly, the sequel Hannibal tamed the beast and, by the time of Red Dragon, the impact was never the same. But for sheer terror….. Hannibal’s “clossssser” prison interrogation is cinema history.

7.) Leatherface – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

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I was lucky enough to see Texas Chainsaw as it should have been, an unmarked and grainy VHS. It was a subtitled import but the impact was not to be underestimated. Leatherface is perfect as a child trapped in a mans body. Someone with clear mental health problems running about with a very insidious family. He is the brute of the clan but he is not the worst by far, just the muscle of the litter and very handy in the kitchen with a hook and a chainsaw.

Subsequent sequels and reimagining of the character have lessened the impact and bought him centre stage. In the Jessica Biel 2003 version, he was given too much screen time and backstory to retain the originals magic and the less said about the 2013 version of him the better. Yet in the original, for sheer jaw dropping entrances, his sledgehammer entrance terrified and traumatised people. Gunnar Hansen’s entire physical capture of the character is majestic and, despite what people say, its not a horrifically gory film but it is an ordeal at times.

See the original first. As Leatherface was intended.

6.) The Great White Shark – Jaws

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I was only six years old when my parents let me watch Jaws. I was a shark infatuated child and completely MAD about Great Whites so my dad let me watch it on his lap. From the word go…. Der-dum, der-dum, der-dum…. The music and POV swimming… Then the relentless shark attack at night where nothing is scene….. The beach attack where Alex Kintner is reduced to a geyser of blood…. To the green head in the boat…. To the reveal of “chum some of this shit”…. The cage attack and “smile you son of a…BOOM!”

Jaws is flawless and a film I have seen more times than I can count. The re-mastered edition shows more hi-def detail but either way it changed my love of the sea. Bruce the shark (named after Spielberg’s lawyer) may have been a mechanical nightmare, but he is perfectly sized, relentless and seemingly indestructible until that last shot at the end.

Is Jaws horror or blockbuster?…. To me, at age six, it was an overwhelming horror that gave me nightmares and introduced a love of creature/monster movies.

5.) Jason Vorhees – Friday the 13th

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Yes, yes I know it was his mother in the first film! Yes, yes I know he pops up at the end as a boy and pulls that girl to the depths of the lake. Yes, yes I know the mask didn’t come until part 3!

But Jason is iconography personified. He is a recurring demon who is the epitome of evil and an ephemeral hell spawn who has hunted horny teens for decades. Whilst I wasn’t a big fan of all the films, I saw Jason in part 8 first (Jason Takes Manhattan) having read so much about him in Fangoria magazine. Then I worked my way back from part 1. Its a repetitive at its best. The hockey mask an inspiring choice and now one which is a representation of a psychopath in all Halloween parties (and Eminem stage entrances) and he still won’t die despite even the box office/changing times/different cinema ownerships.

Jason has been to hell, shot into space, fought Freddy Krueger, had a remake in 2009 and is now due a proper 3D outing in 2017 if all goes well. Not even Freddy himself has endured past the diabolical remake  in 2010 and yet, just like the demon himself, he refuses to stay dead and just keeps coming back!

4.) Pinhead – Hellraiser

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Utterly unique. Utterly terrifying. Utterly iconic and eternal.

Despite the Cenobites only getting about seven minutes of screen time in the 1987 film Hellraiser, the world went mad for the S&M afflicted demon with a severe fetish for acupuncture. He is now remade in figurines, comics, on nightclub walls and (but for a rights issue) would have been at the end of Freddy vs Jason once they climaxed their fight and were dragged down to hell as originally intended in the early screenplay.

Ignoring the diminishing sequels, his voice and visceral impact in the original is terrifying.

Pinhead is my room guard now. A 30cm tall monstrosity who stands above my bed and has a sensor activated sound that scares anyone who shouldn’t come near. I was obsessed with him when I was growing up and had posters on my wall, books about him and, despite the fact that the films are exceptionally gory, I would watch them just for Doug Bradley’s screen presence and brilliant portrayal of one of the darkest characters even committed to celluloid.

3.) Freddy Krueger – A Nightmare On Elm Street

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Wait, What?! He isn’t number one????!!!!!!!

It took much soul searching when it came to my final three and, after a week of arguing with myself in every spare moment I had, he ends up as number 3.

I love Freddy. I frigging LOVE Freddy. I have photos, posters, magazines, all the films (VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray) and so much merchandise its ridiculous. Freddy is my life. Even now he is on my walls in posters and autographs. His films are so special and I have seen them over and over and over again. And no, much as I love Jacky Earl-Hayley, the 2010 remake was a botched film from people who didn’t truly understand the Nightmare.

Robert Englund is phenomenal as Krueger. His dream demon went from drunken pervert with a dropped shoulder to mad hatter of dream wonderland to the Grinch of a maddening dreamscape and he revelled the role the more and more he did it. No one else will ever come close and, in my opinion, I cant see the series being rebooted again because of that. Jason can be changed because he was a man behind a mask, Freddy was all about his personality. Elm Street was one of the first horror films I ever watched and my love has endured faultlessly. From his outrageous deaths to Englund’s changing Freddy each film because it was HIS character, he is one of the biggest reasons I love the genre.

Again inspired by a true life event, some stories about kids dying in their sleep and a man staring up at a young Wes Craven whilst he was alone in his bedroom, Freddy was born from his creators nightmares and now he inhabits ours.

Thanks for all the inspiration, Mr Krueger. I owe you a lot.

2.) Carrie White – Carrie

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Carrie isn’t a villain! She is a victim who turns the tables in a righteous revenge for all her abuse and humiliation!

Well, she still kills lots of people out of rage and retaliatory aggression so she gets in my list!

I’ve made no bones I didn’t like school. I’ve always said its a good job I didn’t have access to a gun in my teen years because I hated it so much. I saw Carrie and longed, LONGED for telekinesis. All I ever wanted to do was be as powerful as her and channel my anger. Even in my dreadful Valedictory Ball at university I sat watching hundreds of sports students and wished I could liven up the event by hurling everyone across the courtyard with my Carrie powers.

When Chloe Moretz was cast in the remake I couldn’t wait and followed her all the way for news until I saw the film. I even have a 40 inch Carrie poster as the centrepiece in my kitchen. I can identify with her, empathise with her and I truly feel she is so inspirational to me that she permeates so much of my work. I have even attempted to write two stories in a similar vein but, each time, they come out as inferior and so I just have to stick to loving the films.

Yes, Spacek’s fugue Carrie was the best…

… But once Moretz goes postal, I thought she did the legacy proud.

Carrie is a massive part of my life and deserves her place at number 2.

1.) Jigsaw/John Kramer – Saw

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“Live or die….. Make your choice!”

Not fair. Why couldn’t I have thought of him first?!!!!!!!!!

I love the idea of Jigsaw. A serial killer who doesn’t actually kill anyone but forces them to make a huge sacrifice. Terminally ill, so bitter about what life has taken from him, Jigsaw sets out on a mission to make people appreciate their lives. Anyone who is not thankful or appreciative of what they have could wake up chained to something and the ordeal to get out of the trap is always going to produce a wince and cause many to avert their eyes.

I wrestled with Jigsaw and Carrie for ages. But in the end, as someone who has a serious physical health problem and lives a life in…. well, bitter resentment really….. I identify with his methods and his surgical/industrial expertise makes him a formidable genius.

Okay, the films got convoluted as they went on and, for me, only 1 and 6 are exceptional and deeply personal, but the fact that there were seven films in seven years and the lead character was dead after the third film there is a deep seated genius in the writing.

Part, although so far fetched its untrue, resonates as Jigsaw goes after the heartless insurance firm who denied him a chance at treatment. They syndicate of health insurance workers are painted as shallow and despicable, but the obligatory final twist and the close to home motives for John Kramer make it a standout piece in a series which still holds up.

That puppet. That voice. Tobin Bell’s exceptional portrayal of a dying man. The entire mood and tone of the series which invented torture porn…

It is original and utterly genius and it is a massive inspiration to my horror writing and love of cinema.

Congratulations Jigsaw!

So there you have it! All done. My list of psychopaths and iconic villains who have made so much impact on me. Other lists are to come if you are interested but those are for another day.

In the meantime, please comment if you wish or check out the link at the top of the website for my full novel Tapeworm Slim. Its a story about a brand new diet pill…. With a tragic story of loss at the centre…. And some biological horror for good measure! Forget Slimming world, once this pill is ready its the wave of the future.

Catch you soon!

Tapeworm Slim is on sale now!

Slim horror

 

My top 15 strong, iconic and influential women in horror

My top 15 strong, iconic and influential women in horror

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I have talked about my influences and creative processes whilst writing Tapeworm Slim over the past few weeks so now, as a change but on the same continuum, I am going to countdown the 15 ladies who have just stood out for me over the years.

Lets be clear, this is personal taste and the poll of votes contains a total of ME and ME only! I also want to make it clear I am not talking about how good the film is, I am speaking purely how the character affected me subjectively and why. And finally, let me also be clear, I have omitted Ripley from Alien because I feel that is more Sci-Fi than straight horror so the film does not qualify even though Sigourney Weaver is brilliant.

And finally, I am combining the ACTRESS skill with the CHARACTER she played! So a great character has to be well acted and made believable to qualify in my esteemed list!

So is horror misogynistic? Sometimes. Is it hateful towards women? No. And the reason is because ALL the ladies here are crafted with love, passion and always end up kicking ass and turning the tables. Even if turning the tables meant surprising everyone as being evil, such as number 15! The inspirations may vary, but each one left an indelible mark which helped when making my characters come to life in the pages of my book.

So the criteria for my list is 1.) well acted, 2.) well written character and 3.) must undergo a journey of some kind to leave an iconic/empathic link which lingered in my memory. So then, 15 iconic characters played by 15 superb actresses which proves horror isn’t all about misogyny… Oh, and this isn’t about best looking either (although some of these ladies are very pretty) the list is about emotional AFFECT not just visual EFFECT.

So lets get underway and countdown starting from number 15!

15.) Betsy Palmer – Friday the 13th (1980)

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“His name is Jason, and today is his birthday…”

Who can forget the twist at the end of Friday the 13th? Before it became a part 1 to the others, a group of teenagers were hunted down my a middle aged lady in a knitted sweater out of vengeance for her sons accidental death due to the Camp Crystal Lake staff not being attentive. Betsy was adorable, affable and then… On a sixpence… she became psychotic and went full Norman Bates! “Kill them! Kill them mommy!”

Betsy was believable and, for a lady in a homely knitted seventies jumper, menacing and memorable and she is still spoken about even now.

14.) Sarah Polley – Dawn Of The Dead (2004)

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Ana is a nurse. She finishes a long shift, goes home and has a meal, has sex and then falls asleep. The next day she fights off a zombie girl in the early hours, goes on the run and is forced to survive a Zombie Apocalypse. More  proactive than Gaylen Ross (Francine) in the original she is heart and soul of the story and is both likeable and believable and isn’t objectified or side lined at any point during the film. We see much of the world through her eyes and this makes her our empathic link. For the first ten minutes alone in that film, from her nursing shift to escape from a collapsing neighbourhood of entropy, she establishes hr character and deserves a special mention in my list.

13.) Shawnee Smith – The Blob (1988)

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Before she was Amanda in SAW, Shawnee was cheerleader Meg in Chuck Russell’s remake of The Blob. Starting off as vacuous and evolving slowly as a giant pink jelly slowly absorbs the town, Meg dodges not only the titular terror itself but also government agencies intent on ensuring the infection is contained. Teaming up with Brian (Kevin Dhillon in a mega mullet) she goes from pom-pom waving bimbo to true action girl as she takes control with Brian and brings down The Blob with a combination of strength, courage and child saving luck! Much as I loved SAW, if I am asked which Shawnee Smith moved me more and influenced my horror love, it has to be her portrayal of Meg in a film which deserves much more credit than it has received.

12.) Clare Higgins – Hellraiser (1987), Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 (1988)

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Talk about scarring me for life! Clare Higgins Julia, who lured men back to her house on a promise of sex only to bash their heads in with a hammer and feed them to her skinless lover who was running from the Cenobites, made me VERY wary of women! Having grown up in a single parent household where dates came a went, and then being terrible at dating when I was old enough, I would sometimes wonder what I was walking into whenever I went to a potential girlfriends house. Julia was terrifying! She was a soulless creature so driven by the love for blood caked Frank (Sean Chapman) she had no limits. She was the ice queen who hated her husband, despised her stepdaughter and was prepared to literally kill again and again and again to get what she wanted.

Thanks Julia, you made dating an even more terrible experience for me!!!!!

11.) Jennifer Tilly – Bride Of Chucky (1998), Seed Of Chucky (2004), Curse Of Chucky (2013)

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WHOA! WHO IS THAT???!!!! WHERE HAS SHE BEEN ALL MY LIFE??!!!!!!!

In 1998 I watched Bride Of Chucky more out of a chore for a forgettable but likeable series rather than with high hopes of a classic but, within a few minutes, this super boobed blonde appeared and I fell in celluloid love! Tilly was perfect, that squeaky voice mixed with the white trash girl from the trailer park who just wanted her fiancé back from the dead, and she stole the film in both human and doll mode. Bride of Chucky was bold, brave and a black comedy which was hugely enjoyable. Tilly played Tiffany who kills a policeman for her doll, performs a ritual to bring him back and then realises her mistake all too late when she is fried in the bath by the murderous little ginger toy. Its a credit to Tilly that she overshadows a young Katherine Heigl AND does such a good voice over work that she spars beautifully with Brad Douriff who has played Chucky in every film so far.

10.) Monica Keena – Freddy Versus Jason (2003)

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I make no apologies for being an Elm Street fanatic. So when Freddy squared up to a certain Mr Vorhees I left Sixth Form College early, headed to the ODEON cinema and watched it on opening day. What a horrible experience it was with gangs of kids ruining the movie by shouting all the way through it. But Ronny Yu, who also directed the above mentioned Bride Of Chucky, made a superbly enjoyable film which perfectly meshed the styles of Elm/Friday and a huge amount of blood and guts! Oh, and there was also Monica Keena who squeaked, squealed and screamed her way from shy and put upon girl to a proper Dame of Freddy who ends up cutting off the dream demons head. Beautiful to look at, she is a perfect mix of the two franchises type of girls. She has the looks of a Friday machete fodder but the strength and sensibleness of an Elm Street final girl.

Monica played Lori Campbell, overshadowing Kelly Rowlands screen debut, and becoming another slasher icon for me immediately.

9.) Marilyn Burns – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Texas Chainsaw (2013)

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Sally and her friends take a detour to their old farmhouse and…. Well, the rest is history! Leatherface and his family of cannibals gave the British censors a tough time but they gave poor Sally an even more excruciating ordeal! Bashed with a hammer, tied up, teased, humiliated and chased by a chainsaw wielding sociopath, Burns runs and runs and runs… And runs some more… Until salvation for her and the audience finally comes in the shape of a passing truck.

If you know the story behind Texas Chainsaw, you’ll know they filmed in horrible conditions and the lead actress picked up all kinds of real life cuts and bruises from filming her scenes of torture and repeated escapes from the family home. Marilyn Burns was believable, pitiful and you rooted for her right from the start. She beats the 2003 remake star Jessica Biel purely on visceral performance because the terror in her eyes was real and the exhaustion in her tears was earnest due to the gruelling filming conditions. She sadly passed away not long after appearing in the Alexandra Daddario starring 2013 remake/sequel/3D version.

8.) Maika Monroe – It Follows (2014)

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What a marvellous throwback to a golden age of horror It Follows was. What a wonderful timeless age it had. What a great lead Maika became. After her character Jay sleeps with charming but nervous hunk Hugh (Jake Weary) she gets a sexually transmitted disease worse than any chlamydia! Finding herself relentlessly pursued by an unstoppable demon working his way down a line of sexual conquests, Jay undergoes a dramatic transformation from sweetheart of the neighbourhood to terrified runner and finally emotional wreck who will do almost anything to stay alive.

Yet alive she stays as she works with her friends and fights heroically against a mental breakdown, supernatural terror and she earns her stripes on this list. A film of such quality and homage to the era of Elm Street and Halloween is rare and it works because of her understated performance and believable angst.

She doesn’t really beat her demon either and, in movie world somewhere out there, IT is still following silently behind her……….

7.) Eliza Dushku – Wrong Turn (2003)

fhd003WTN_Eliza_Dushku_004-1024x554I’ve always been a huge Buffy fan and an equally huge Dushku fan after watching her turn as Faith in varying appearances from series 3-7. So when Wrong Turn came out I was very keen to see what she would bring to the  table in an 18 rated horror.

As Chris (Desmond Harrington) and Dushku’s Jessie become the heart and soul of the film they escape from the three cannibals in differing clichés, prolonged suspense scenes and full on fights. Far from a classic film, Wrong Turn is enjoyable and very entertaining. And, although she needs “the male to save her” cliché, Dushku commands the running time with an understated yet typically brave performance we have come to associate with her. She is an icon in my mind and, although I’m glad she didn’t come back for the lessening sequels, its a shame she didn’t push on from that performance and get more lead roles in the horror genre.

6.) Ashley Laurence – Hellraiser (1987), Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 (1988), Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992)

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Ashley gets a high billing on the list because not only did she beat FOUR Cenobites and a giant scorpion hell-slug thing, she also outsmarted Frank and Julia as their net closed around her because she was the only remaining loose end in their sickening scheme. Ashley plays Kirsty Cotton, spunky daughter of the very wet Larry (Andrew Robinson), and she becomes a reluctant but persistent heroine as the jaws of hell close around her. Although she reprised her role in Hellraiser 2 and appeared as a cameo in the vastly inferior threequel Hellraiser 3, its her turn in the first film which lives long in the memory.

From bargaining for her life with Pinhead whilst the chatter Cenobite held her head, to outsmarting deviant Frank and even sending the four demons back to hell, Kirsty is an atypical heroine but one who lives long.

5.) Jamie Lee Curtis – Halloween (1978), Halloween 2 (1981) Halloween H20 (1998), Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

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WHAT?! SHE ISN’T NUMBER 1????!!!!!!!!!!!

Like I said, its a subjective list and not reliant on the quality of the film. It is down to the actress/character and impact she had.

Anyway, who could omit Laurie Strode who battles Michael Myers again and again and again… And I am not counting the sequels of Halloween 2/H20/Resurrection she sadly appeared in which kept reducing the character each time. In the first film she is the dork. She is the one no one wants to date. She is the babysitter who is great with kids but not adults. She is a fighter who stabs, pokes, stabs again and finally pulls the mask of the man who has been terrorising her. Strong, likeable and iconic she is the original slasher scream queen and should be in ANY list for the impact she made and quality of her performance in one of the most brilliant horror films ever made.

4.) Sissy Spacek – Carrie (1976)

Sissy Specek as Carrie

Much as I love Chloe Moretz, she cant hold a candle to the original portrayal of Carrie White by Sissy Spacek. Moretz is a great actress but she was miscast in the remake. She was too pretty, too likeable and didn’t have the same menace once the blood hit her head.

Spacek went fugue. Complete dissociation and entered an alternate personality of rage where she decimated the town on autopilot and with a depersonalisation which unleashed a vengeance on all the others who had bullied her. Its a towering performance and a great character and Spacek was a geeky, oddball and completely believable as the put upon girl who does what every bullied child fantasises about when they are cut off from real life and being picked on for just being different!

For both character and acting ability, Spacek is amazing!

3.) Lisa Wilcox – Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988), Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)

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WHAT?!!! Elm Street 4 & 5 over Halloween??!!!! HUH?!

Like I said, its not the film, its what the actress and character did for me.

By the time of Elm Street 4 & 5 the quality was starting to diminish and Freddy was out of the shadows and now the star. So its a credit to Wilcox, who played Alice Johnson, that her journey from good little virgin girl to widowed mother who shows immense strength in defeating the dream demon TWICE, is so believable. Its also to her credit that she holds up the films and commands attention when Freddy wasn’t on screen. Something the lesser characters of the two films couldn’t do.

An underrated actress, she carries Elm Street 5 through its patchy pacing and throwaway characters and she moves centre stage once her boyfriend Dan (Danny Hassell) meets an incredibly grisly end during the first act. Wilcox is amazing, I’ve seen the two films more times than is healthy and (Englund aside) she is head and shoulders above everyone else. Its just a shame that Alice (and baby Jacob) were ignored for the then final part of Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. She will forever remain a loose end in Elm Street filmic canon.

Also, she is the only character to beat Freddy twice and live! Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) died in her second appearance in part 3 and I’m not counting her victory in the meta New Nightmare.

2.) Sarah Butler – I Spit On Your Grave (2010), I Spit On Your Grave 3: Vengeance Is Mine (2015)

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Spend time watching the making of and interviews of the movie and listen to the eulogies from her co stars. Read reviews, good or bad, and see the vein that flows though each one is that Butler gives a powerhouse of a performance.

Re-imagined for the SAW generation, Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler) heads to a remote retreat to work alone. After dropping her phone down the toilet and meeting four incredibly insidious men, the viewer is forced to watch near 30 minutes of explicit sexual violence. Once she barely survives that, Jennifer hides and then returns to murder her way through her attackers in increasingly convoluted/near impossible/overtly sadistic revenge traps.

She gives a fearsome performance and I mean FEARSOME.

Pick what you like about the film, and I for one enjoyed Jennifer’s revenge far more than the over lengthy and uncomfortable to watch humiliation she is forced to suffer in the first 45 minutes of the run time. In the final act, she emerges as a great actress and revels once the tables are turned and she becomes a feminist Jigsaw killer who castrates, acid baths and anally violates her attackers with a shotgun. She would later reprise her role in I Spit On Your Grave 3: Vengeance is mine, where she was a vigilante against rapists and perverts and, although it was another great turn from a hugely underrated actress, it doesn’t quite match her unbelievable portrayal from good girl/broken human/vengeful monster in the first film.

She deserves more high profile roles.

1.) Heather Langenkamp –  Nightmare On Elm Street (1984), Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

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Only one winner for me and that is Langenkamp’s Nancy Thompson who battles Freddy Krueger in Wes Craven’s amazing slasher film. Nancy is timid, gentle and chaste as the film begins. I mean she even turns down sex with Jonny Depp out of decency to her friend!

Nancy then grows and grows as she is forced to battle he dream demon, her alcoholic mother and her disbelieving and estranged father all whilst staying alive via coffee, relentless fights in her dreams and a booby trap finale where she finally turns the tables and shows lethal ingenuity as well as composure to turn her back on the creature who killed her friends and drain him of his power.

She would return in the well received Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors where Freddy finally  rid of her by stabbing her in the stomach but, even then, she held on long enough to overpower her nemesis and save her friend whilst Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson) finished the holy water ritual which once again (temporarily) vanquished Freddy at the finale.

Elm Street 1 & 3 were two of the first horror films I saw in the 80’s and she remains someone I am a huge fan of. Her journey, when she returned as the counsellor/Freddy hunter in the 3rd film, was even complete when she tried to make peace with her father. Well written, well acted and game enough to return and play herself in Craven’s meta pre-Scream New Nightmare, long live Nancy Thompson!

So there you have it! Horror isn’t just misogynistic, it casts brilliant female characters who steal the show and can become as iconic as the villain/film title itself. All of the above have bled into my work over the years (published or not) and they are all special for differing reasons.

I even gave my lead female mercenary in Tapeworm Slim the name Elm as a little nod to the film which kick-started such a strong love of horror.

Thanks for reading, more lists and general dissections of horror to come soon, be they relevant to my book or not, so please subscribe if you enjoyed what you have just read. or head over to Amazon and get hold of a copy of my new book! Its horror from a horror loving writer!

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