scop (noun):

Old English – bard, minstrel, storyteller

UK Premiere:
Nightmare Cinema & “This Way to Egress”

October 7th, 2018

I first read Traumatic Descent – Larry Connolly’s short story that would be adapted into “This Way to Egress” 17 or 18 years ago.

Soon after I worked with my dear friend Charly Cantor on ideas to adapt the story into a feature-length film which Charly would write. I loved Charly like a brother and he passed away in 2002 leaving a gaping hole in me.

I would describe the story as a dark but benign fog that infiltrated my subconscious. It resonated for me in ways that took all of this time to become clear.

I’m grateful to Mick Garris and most of all to Larry for allowing me to complete part of this project. It does not fill any part of the hole but it helps.

David Slade, director of “This Way to Egress”

Saturday was the day it all came full circle, some 18-years after two young filmmakers from Sheffield reached out to this American writer to begin work on a project that became “This Way to Egress.”

In the Q&A session that followed our UK premiere, I got the chance to unpack the journey in more detail – first in responding to questions from festival director Simeon Halligan and then in conversations with the audience.

Along the way, I was able to able to acknowledge the debt that both David and I owe to Charly Cantor, so much so that I felt his presence. It was – as I predicted it would be in an earlier post – like coming home.

The day of our premiere also provided the opportunity to discuss Nightmare Cinema and “Egress” at length in a couple of recorded interviews – one with the website FilmDaddy.com and the other with Simeon Halligan (above left) for the festival’s video feed. Both should be available soon.

There was even some time for ice-breaking, where  I got the chance to throw axes at targets courtesy of an establishment called Whistled Punks. My friendly competitors in the event included Witch in the Window director Andy Mitton and festival director Rachel Richardson-Jones (right). That’s us, posing like ax-wielding superheroes even though it was Horror Channel director Stewart Bridle and Grimmfest photographer Kenneth James who proved to be the true ax-tossing masters.

Grimmfest continues apace, wrapping up tonight with an awards reception and the much-anticipated Christmas-themed-zombie-fest Anna and the Apocalypse. I’ve heard good things about that one.

Nightmare Cinema’s next festival appearances will include screenings in Stiges, Toronto, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Dublin,  Vienna, and beyond. It’s all part of what we might call the Nightmare Cinema World Tour … so there’s sure to be much more news in the days ahead. Be sure to check back soon. And don’t sleep. Nightmares are coming.

Images:

  • The projected backdrop for the Nightmare Cinema Q&A session at Grimmfest. The photograph is from the “Mashit” episode, directed by Ryuhei Kitamura and written by Sandra Becerril.
  • The 21st-Century Scop in a video interview with festival director Simeon Halligan.
  • Standing tall with fellow ax throwers Andy Mitton and Rachel Richardson-Jones at Whistle Punks.
  • Witch in the Window director Andy Mitton wields an ax.

 

This Way to Egress: More UK Connections

October 6th, 2018

A couple of posts ago, I touched on the UK connections of the Nightmare Cinema segment “This Way to Egress.” That post dealt with my collaboration with David Slade (left) and the late Charly Cantor — both from the Manchester area. In this post, I’d like to consider another UK connection.

Eight years ago, the collection This Way to Egress (Ash-Tree Press, 2010) was released at World Horror in Brighton. Featuring a cover illustration by Jason Zerrillo and a re-edited version of “Traumatic Descent” (retitled “This Way to To Egress”), the book launched along with four other Ash-Tree titles: Pieces Of Midnight by Gary McMahon, Tragic Life Stories by Steve Duffy, Walkers in the Dark by Paul Finch, and Lost Places by Simon Kurt Unsworth. The five-title book launch was organized by Ash-Tree’s Christopher Roden and proved to be one of the most successful book events I’ve taken part in. It drew quite a crowd, helped along by the presence of Barbara Roden, who was also on hand to sign copies of her collection Northwest Passage (Prime Books, 2009). Sales were brisk, and friendships were forged that have continued to this day.

The photo at right was taken in the ballroom of the Royal Albion on the night before the book launch and just a few minutes after the advance copies of Egress arrived. As I recall, there had been some concern about the cover, which had not reproduced well on the proofs. Fortunately, the actual printing looked spectacular, capturing the nuanced play of light and shadow of Jason’s art. That’s Jason to my right in the photo. To my left is Brian Showers of Ireland’s Swan River Press.

Look closely, and you will see a hand cheekily inserting another Ash-Tree Press edition into the picture. The hand and book belong to my good friend Simon Kurt Unsworth.

Fittingly, Simon and I managed a get together last night, stopping in at Wagamama’s to catch up on all that’s happened since our last get together at World Fantasy in Brighton, 2013. At the time, Simon was anticipating the release of his first novel, The Devil’s Detective, and we had the chance to talk about it and how it came about. You can listen to that interview here.

Since then, a second book in the series (The Devil’s Evidence) has been released. It’s a worthy follow-up to the first. Strongly recommended.

As I write this, I have just finished a couple of interviews with the local media here in Manchester, and I’m now looking forward to the UK premiere of Nightmare Cinema, which is set to take place in about an hour. I’m also looking forward to catching Andy Mitton’s film The Witch in the Window, which screens later in the evening. I hope to post about both screenings tomorrow.

Until then … scop on!

Grimmfest Film Festival: Day 1

October 4th, 2018

Manchester, England.

Grimmfest.

Day One.

This year’s festival kicks off with the screening of a remastered classic, Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator, which Entertainment Weekly has called “One of the greatest horror film of all time.”

Based loosely on H.P. Lovecraft’s Weird Tales novella “Herbert West–Reanimator,” the film helped launch the career of Barbara Crampton, this year’s Grimmfest guest of honor.

But Grimmfest isn’t just about the classics. Among the new films screening today are Await Further Instructions, which looks to be a dark blend of horror and science fiction worthy of The Outer Limits and Black Mirror. Here’s the setup:

“A dysfunctional family awakes on Christmas morning to discover they’re sealed inside their house by a mysterious black substance. On television, a single line of text reads: ‘Stay Indoors and Await Further Instructions.'”

Await Further Instructions had its world premiere at Chicago’s Cinepocalypse Film Festival last June and has been getting strong notice ever since. At Grimmfest, its screening will be followed by a Q&A session with director Johnny Kevorkian, screenwriter Gavin Williams, producer Jack Tarling, and star Grant Masters – all taking part in what will be the film’s UK premiere.

Naturally, the big event on my list this week is the UK premiere of Nightmare Cinema, scheduled for 4:15 PM Saturday at the Odeon Great Northern Theatre. I’ll be on hand to take part in a Q&A session immediately following the film.

I plan to post periodically throughout the festival, so be sure to stop back soon. I expect some exciting developments as I get into the thick of the festivities.

And speaking of exciting developments, I’m even now in the process of working with W. H. Horner Editorial and Design to revamp this website. In the weeks ahead, we’ll be cooking up some new banner and page designs to reflect some of the things that have come out since the release of the Veins Cycle books.

First up is a new 21st Century Scop banner (above).

As much as I liked how the previous banner (Scop with Stratocaster) provided a likeness of the contemporary minstrel-storyteller, I felt it was time for an image that better reflected the direction this blog has been going in recent months.

The new banner makes use of a Jason Zerrillo illustration for the story “The Death Lantern,” which appears in Voices: Tales of Horror (recently re-released in a second edition from Fantasist Enterprises). The banner features a man backlit by the glowing lens of a film projector, his face illuminated by the reflection of a movie screen. Since my recent posts here have dealt with film as well as story and song, the change seemed fitting. What do you think?

This Way to Egress:
The Manchester-Sheffield Connection

September 24th, 2018

Eighteen years ago. It’s spring. Filmmaker Charly Cantor and I are driving around Pittsburgh. It’s his first time in the States, having arrived the day before from London. He’s come to collaborate on a new film adaptation of my story “Traumatic Descent,” and today we’re out looking at locations, places that might provide backdrops for a tale about a slow-burn descent into madness.

We drive down Ohio River Boulevard, past the chemical plants and coke ovens of Neville Island and into the brick-and-brownstone environs of Pittsburgh’s North Side. Charly says it all looks familiar, like the area around Sheffield and Manchester, UK,  where he grew up with his friend David Slade. He tells me to slow down. Then he turns in his seat, looks back the way we’ve come. “That sign. Did it say Manchester?”

“Yeah. That’s where we are. Manchester. Pittsburgh’s North Side.”

“Can you stop?” He sees something else. “Stop here.”

I pull to the curb. He gets out and snaps a picture. That’s when I see where we are, on the corner of Fontella and Sheffield. He’s 4,000 miles from home, and he’s just arrived at Sheffield in Manchester. He can’t get over it. It’s not just the names of the places. It’s the look, the working-class feel of it. “When you come to England, I’m taking you to Manchester and Sheffield. You’ll see.”

Fast forward four months. Charly finishes the script (now titled This Way to Egress), and I’m in London to meet David Slade and talk revisions. We’re sitting in the Riba Cafe. Charly has his laptop on the table and we’re working through the script. It’s going well.

Perhaps too well.

Charly has arranged for a car to take us north to Manchester and Sheffield, but the work expands. In the days that follow, we get so caught up in it that we never get around to making the trip north.

Charly passed away in 2002. A tragic loss. He left behind two finished films: Appetite (1998), co-written with George Milton; and Blood (2000), which he wrote and directed.  He also left nearly a half-dozen finished scripts. All of them, including the feature-length adaptation of Egress, have yet to be filmed.

Fast forward again. Back to the present. Eighteen year’s after Charly snapped that picture on Pittsburgh’s North Side. Egress has been filmed, not as the feature that Charly and I worked on, but as a shorter version co-written with David Slade for the anthology film Nightmare Cinema. And next month that film has its UK premiere in … (wait for it) … Manchester, England.

You best believe I’ll be there.

The UK premiere of Nightmare Cinema is part of the 10th edition of Grimmfest, an international film festival held each year in Manchester. And so … at last … I’m going to get a look at the place that Charly described so vividly as we stood on that Pittsburgh corner in 2000.

The premiere will be held at the Odeon Theatre on Deansgate. October 6, 4:00 PM. Afterward, I’ll take part in a brief Q&A session. It’ll be like coming home.

Images:

  • The corner of Sheffield and Fontella in Manchester, Pennsylvania.
  • Charly Cantor working on our adaptation of This Way to Egress at Riba’s Cafe, London, July 2001.
  • Poster for Grimmfest 2018. More at Grimmfest.com.