Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Childhood Horror: The Child Catcher

There are many scary things about childhood; almost everything else is bigger than you for a start, that’s very scary, and then you’ve got strangers, parked cars (according to Dave Prowse), maths, impending acne, and the fact that seemingly every other week you are taken to the doctor to be jabbed with needles to guard against an endless variety of terrible diseases that are apparently constantly trying to kill you. And, as if that wasn’t enough, sometimes, people, with absolutely no thought to future consequences to the innocent children who are, indeed, our future, make the illogical decision to insert the most terrifying characters and imagery into seemingly harmless pieces of co-called children’s entertainment. A prime example of this is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s The Child Catcher. I mean really, who thought this was a good idea?


Like the unholy offspring of a spider and an undead funeral director, The Chid Catcher stalked onto our screens 43 years ago and has filled mini hearts with terror ever since, and probably some big ones too. Just to make him even more horrifying, The Child Catcher came fully equipped with a great big net, a savage looking hook and an all action cart cage cleverly disguised as the ultimate child attractant, a sweetshop, this is precisely why our parents so vehemently advise us against sweets and strangers. The only consolation here is that if Dick Van Dyke’s kids were really so dumb as to be tempted out from hiding by the badly disguised skeletal form of creeping pure evil then it probably would have been for the best if they were removed from the gene pool altogether. I really have no sympathy for them.

Largely their own fault

Splitting his time equally between smelling cheeeldren and stalking about balletically brandishing lollipops in their general direction, The Child Catcher was in the employ Baron and Baroness Bomburst and charged to capture and imprison any errant children from the streets of Vulgaria, a task he undertook with all due evil relish.

With Benny Hill (also inappropriate for children)

I have to confess that as a child I actually wasn’t that scared of The Chid Catcher. I suspect that this is because I came from a family of dancers so therefore was on some level aware of the aesthetics of movement and what it can create. Also I didn’t like sweets, and wasn’t dumb so I knew I’d be ok. Weirdly though, as an adult (ish), I can see and appreciate how truly terrifying he was, I mean really scary. Honestly, 60s, what were you thinking?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Horror Hospital!

No, not 1973 horror classic starring lovely Michael Gough and seventies love machine Robin Askwith, no, it’s all about me! Though Horror Hospital would have been better and more fun, sorry, for letting you down there.

I’m off this afternoon to get my stupid foot injected with steroids. Yay! I’m getting myself through this horrific trauma by partially hoping that it is going to turn me into some manner of freaky footed superhero, probably one with one massive foot that is very good at kicking things but mainly spends the rest of the time running round in a small, tight circle. This is probably not going to happen.

Stupid foot

I’m fairly certain that my tolerance for pain is quite high. I've sat and been tattooed for five hours straight, for Perlman’s sake, not to mention the fact that I wandered round with this agonising foot fiasco for a good eight months saying ‘it’ll be fine’ through gritted teeth before I finally relented and sought medical attention. However, medical pain is far different from fun tattoo pain or avoiding medical pain pain. I’m fairly certain that this hospital escapade is going to go one of two ways; either my inherent politeness gene will kick in and I’ll be lovely and acquiescent and merely deal with the pain by giving a slight, ladylike, grimace (much like how I’m sure women in the 50s dealt with childbirth, if cinema has taught me anything) or my crazy, mental gene will kick in and I’ll scream, yell and swear and probably stab the surgeon in the head with the hypodermic (in this instance I shall probably wind up either in custody at Her Majesty’s pleasure or sectioned so if I’m AWOL for a while you can probably guess I went with the latter option).

In the meantime, if you miss me, you can investigate my new Tumblr and plough through the ridiculous assortment of things I think about on a daily basis (confession: I have no clue what Tumblr is, does, or how you use it, I just saw other people had one and I wanted one too, I’m like a 35 year old brat).

Right, I’m off like a brave, little soldier to investigate this fresh new hell of alleged tumour reduction. Think kind thoughts of me. (I’m such a big, fat drama queen!!)

Monday, 6 June 2011

Book Review: Zombie Ohio

‘When rural Ohio college professor Peter Mellor dies in an automobile accident during a zombie outbreak, he is reborn as a highly intelligent (yet somewhat amnesiac) member of the living dead. With society crumbling around him and violence escalating into daily life, Peter quickly learns that being a zombie isn’t all fun and brains. Humans—unsympathetic, generally, to his new proclivities—try to kill him at nearly every opportunity. His old friends are loath to associate with him. And he finds himself inconveniently addicted to the gooey stuff inside of people’s heads.

As if all this weren’t bad enough, Peter soon learns that his automobile accident was no accident at all. Faced with the harrowing mystery of his death, Peter resolves to use his strange zombie “afterlife” to solve his own murder.’

Surprising as this may sound; I’ve never read a zombie book. There, I’ve said it; I’ve never read a zombie book. I do own a collection of zombie short stories, but I don’t think that counts. But, I do love zombie film. I love it, I love it, I love it! I’m fairly certain that it’s impossible to make a bad zombie film, or at least for me. I’ll watch them all not matter how dire, I don’t care if it’s got a massive budget and all special effects Hollywood can muster or if you made it on your phone with your friends and your mother’s make up. Chances are I’ll love the experience. This said, Autumn did try it’s damnedest to ruin zombie cinema for me recently, and very nearly succeeded with its boringness and banality and appalling lack of peril, but still I refuse to be deterred and I soldier on valiantly. (I’m so mad at Dexter Fletcher right now. You know what you’ve done, Fletcher!)

Bad man
Anyway, my petty vendettas aside, when Scott Kenemore’s Zombie Ohio dropped through my letterbox I was equal parts excited and worried, so much so that I just stared at it for a long time, just stared, slightly apprehensive to pick up because my heart wanted to love it and my stupid brain kept saying; No, Heart. You always do this. What if it’s not good? You’re too fragile; you’re not up to this. Remember Autumn…..

Fortunately for all concerned, my stupid brain needn’t have feared because Zombie Ohio soon lived up to my over burgeoning, but delicate, hopes and expectations.

The zombie apocalypse has been hard on everyone and philosophy professor Peter Mellor is no exception. In fact, when we first meet him it soon becomes apparent that his current situation is presenting him with two immediately pressing problems. Firstly, he has a shocking case of amnesia, although this is not surprising as he has just been involved in a rather nasty car crash and secondly, and probably slightly more concerning, he’s beginning to come to the realisation that he’s dead. However, the newly zombified Peter, as it turns out, isn’t your ordinary zombie. Somehow this philosophy prof has managed to retain human consciousness and is now a unique breed of self aware zombie, and one with a sneaking suspicion that his ‘death’ was entirely an accident at that.

Zombie Ohio is essentially about Peter coming to terms with his death and it is also a reflection on the schism between the cerebral and corporeal, (much like my own internal dilemma on commencing this novel), and how the essential nature of self is called into question once he is defined by this new circumstance. Are humanity and mental capacity and reasoning stronger or more intrinsically valuable than primal, bodily desire and instinct in any given situation? Or, indeed, do we have an essential, inherent self or are we defined by circumstance, environment and experience? He is a philosophy professor after all. But, more importantly, the main question is will Peter give in to his zombie urges and mangle some flesh and chow down on delicious brains?

The bulk of the novel is Peter journey, emotional and physical, to understand is zombie state and to make up for his living transgressions by ensuring his girlfriend and her daughters’ survival. Along his way he witnesses and ponders the plight and behaviours of the undead, the very worst of ‘humanity’ in the living, the resilience of the human spirit and considers the potential of an ethical code for the modern zombie and the possibility of turkeys as spirit totems, and also in the back of his zombie mind is the nagging suspicion that someone may have killed him and he really ought to do something about that.

As the novel is essentially the internal dialogue of the undead Mellor, it is notable how engaging that voice is, not only is it wonderfully comic, it also skilfully presents us with believable character development as the more we learn about Mellor’s past it becomes increasingly apparent that his ‘death’ was largely the making of him and how, paradoxically, as a zombie he ultimately becomes a better man.

Zombie Ohio is a witty, involving and surprisingly moving tale that while it doesn’t necessarily address all of the philosophical themes you may expect when its main protagonist is a professor of the subject, it does offer an interesting take on the human (and inhuman) condition and the potential for redemption despite seemingly insurmountable adversity. There is also the simple fact that it is an exciting, funny and enthralling adventure and has sufficient gore to delight any zombie fan. Mr. Kenemore is a gifted and engaging writer, Zombie Ohio is a thoroughly charming and enjoyable read and I very much look forward to reading more of his work. And frankly if Zombie Ohio doesn’t get made into a movie soon the world has gone mad.

You can buy Zombie Ohio here and here. You can also read Scott Kenemore’s blog here.


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