Friday 30 March 2018

Four Secret Stories from Calvary

I can't believe it's an entire year since I did that passion installation. But it is. So this morning it was Good Friday again, and this morning, I was asked to read Luke's account of the trial of Jesus.

For some reason, I found myself thinking of the other stories, the everyday stories that have become secret stories.

Thursday 29 March 2018


We define an expert as someone skilled or knowledgeable in a given field, or at least that's the simple version. I think the real definition of that is more nuanced, truly, has more to do with the perception of others than with verifiable competence.

Sunday 18 March 2018

We Don't Go Back, an appendix: The Sermon (2018)

Dean Puckett's short film The Sermon begins with a view over a rocky, lonely landscape. We hear the rising drone of a church organ, and a woman's voice (the voice of the lead actor, Molly Casey), saying:
England, what have you become? 
What has happened to your daughters and sons?
And then the credits – reminiscent by design of a low-budget British film of the 70s – roll, and when you have a film, especially one that clocks in at a few seconds over eleven and a half minutes, that starts like that, you've got to accept that as a programmatic statement, right?

Saturday 17 March 2018

Your Move, Darwin #4: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

It’s really nice to know that people read and appreciate your writing. So, for example, Mark Talbot-Butler, who is admin at The Official Planet of the Apes Universe group on Facebook, very kindly sent me the Director’s Cut of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes this week, on the grounds that if I was going to write about this particular Planet of the Apes movie, I needed to see the Director’s Cut, and while I’ll go into why later on, the takeaway is that Mark was absolutely right, and his generosity has made this is a better essay, and the film has risen in my estimation.

So. Thanks, Mark.

We’re now moving into the Planet of the Apes films that I have only seen as an adult, and apart from a brief, partial return to my childhood with the TV series, this will be the way of things now, the examination of things that do not for me have that blur of nostalgia around them that those first three movies have. And the first time I saw Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, in about 2010, I wasn’t very impressed. And I think my main issue was the ending; it didn’t ring true. Anyway, I was wrong. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is is an excellent film. It is entirely as exciting and disturbing and bonkers as any of the three previous films, and perhaps this time also a bit problematic.

Friday 16 March 2018

The Shivering Circle: Charity Shop of the Damned

The Shivering Circle is now available to buy in digital format at (print is coming soon).

Part of the text is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence. What this means is that you can use the rules for The Shivering Circle in your own horror games (or even other sorts of games if you want), and that includes games you can sell, as long as you give due credit.

You can find a beta playtest of the game here, although the rules have changed slightly, and an excerpt here. But here's one more of the more whimsical horrors the village of Hoddesford has to offer you...

Friday 9 March 2018

WDGB #79: Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

It's such a great title, promising so much. It suggests a wild ride. It suggests spooky Scooby Doo fun.
It fools you.

Saturday 3 March 2018

On a Thousand Walls #12: An American Werewolf in London (1981)

One of the central planks of folk horror as a subgenre is a person from one world entering into another: The wealthy and metropolitan into the provincial community, the young and innocent into a world of ancestral evils, the rational and educated into the witch's circle.

But the clash can only go so far. You have to have some reference point, even if it's a point of conflict (so for example, the luckless sellouts in The Exorcism (1972) come from the same history that the ghost does, and that's why they meet their fate, because they're tied to the same history). But the conflict has to travel along a certain line, a certain path. The outside that the outsider comes from can only be so far outside. The outsider still nonetheless has to be an inhabitant of the same story, and the provincial pagan and the interloper are nonetheless inside a joint narrative. They come from different places inside the same story. But when an interloper comes from outside of the story, when it's invaded by a tourist from a different story entirely, the tension threatens to break the story, and when you have a site of tension that already exists and the interloper comes from a third, incompatible direction, narrative chaos ensues. The story dissolves.

Thursday 1 March 2018

The Shivering Circle: Setting Materials, Updates

It's been months since I posted up a set of playtest rules for my attempt at a folk horror role-playing game (which you can find here), and if I've been quiet the last few weeks, it's partly because I've been working on We Don't Go Back, but also partly because I've been trying to get this written up into a small yet perfectly formed book. I thought I'd give an update about what I'm doing with it, and supply some excerpts from the setting material I've written...