Foreword by Silent Shadow
Many full moons have passed since I first had the pleasure of meeting the Keeper of The Crimson Quill; almost fifteen years in fact. Way back then he was not known as Keeper and this Gruehead went under another name entirely; a mortal one no less. That said, he still possessed that spark, that love and passion for horror and, to be fair, film in general. I had always loved films, from my very first memory, and when I had the privilege of becoming friends with the soon-to-be Keeper, my lust for horror ran out of control like a twelve-year old boy discovering his penis for the first time. Over the years he introduced me to films that would have otherwise passed me by and, for that, I’ll forever be grateful.
Sadly I lost contact with this deranged (but only in the best way) madman for around six long years but, not so long ago, he was reborn as the Keeper of The Crimson Quill and the rest is soon to become history with any luck. This bloodhound began posting articles and reviews on the internet and there may seem little remarkable about that. However, there was something about this style that I connected with on a personal level. We soon hooked back up and was like the last six years had not even happened. We picked up straight from where we left off but in this short time something happened to me. Something dark. Something I had no control of. Without me knowing, he had brought out what had been dormant in me from infancy. The inner evil. Suddenly Silent Shadow was born. Anyway, I have decided to quiz this master of the macabre for you wonderful people and hopefully find a little out about my new identity in the process. Here goes then, into the mouth of madness I go. I do hope he’s brushed his teeth.
Questions for Keeper
When did you come up with the idea of Rivers of Grue and get the drive to launch?
Well my dear fellow, it was around the turn of the year that the Rivers of Grue commenced rushing. I had spent the past five mind-numbing years working in the public sector at a shoddily run local council and during that time fell foul of the blighted work-related stress. Three subsequent lengthy lay-offs with anxiety and ultimately depression compelled me to re-evaluate my life. Writing had forever been my desired vocation. Indeed, as a mere whippersnapper I ploughed all my free time into penning explicitly lurid short stories, galvanized by the surge of horror films I digested around that time. I was smitten with the macabre, and my flamboyant imagination provided me with a plethora of inspirational notions for material.
Then, in my mid-to-late teens, everything went a little doolally. I dropped my first acid at sixteen and the next four years of my existence were spent popping all manner of disco confectionary and frequenting dingy warehouse raves at every opportunity. Around then my passion for becoming a scribe dissolved like a turd in acid and, for the following twenty, laid dormant until my eventual reawakening. Guzzling down corporate cum took its toll but, to my distinct pleasure, my buoyancy and self-belief started to return after my meltdown. No longer guarded, I instead became ferociously sincere. Not being exactly enthused with the service the horror industry has been provided in recent years, I wanted to create something organic, autobiographical, heartfelt and wholly impartial. Politics play such a dominant role in the works of so many “reviewers” and decent flicks are often subjected to slander with no good reason. I abhor such pompous endeavor and felt inclined to put some shit right for the good of all things gruesome.
Anyhoots, the Rivers of Grue represent my most subterranean inner-sanctums and my deeply ingrained passion for everything horror. Films placed under my radar are marked out of ten and there’s nothing extraordinary there. However, the Grue Factor rating I award post-appraisal denotes how deep-seated the river becomes with each individual movie and this is designed solely for the bloodthirsty amongst us. If the splatter isn’t particularly well implemented then it won’t be penalized here as it’s quantity over quality in this respect. If a film scores 4/10 overall but has 5/5 Grue Factor it may well suit a less discerning addressee down to the ground. On the flip side, a 9/10 with a 0/5 for grue may well be a blistering piece of horror but anyone thirsting after a nice warm mug of rouge may well be left parched. At the end of the day, it’s subjective to the viewer and the scores are only ever intended as a rough guideline to help folk come to their own conclusions. Too many “critics” attempt to stuff their opinions down the throats of their readership and that simply isn’t my style.
Why Keeper of The Crimson Quill?
Coming up with a suitable pseudonym was actually something of a no-brainer. It had to be something with gothic undertones and, having been reared on Hammer and Amicus, needed to reflect my complexity with regards to my chosen field. The Crimson Quill feeds from within the Rivers of Grue I frequent; every word scribed uses the virginal cruor which circulates with constancy around me to gather its ink. As Keeper of the Crimson Quill (thanks to Diane Foster for donating that salacious mantle), I allow my fascination with the genre to dictate every single note I scribe. It’s never pre-meditated, for me it remains biological at all times, which is also why I reappraise where necessary. It exasperates me when critics hide behind a digit, pompously proclaiming theirs to be the only word worth following. With all due respect, the score given is the least significant element of my appraisals. In truth, I flat refuse to read negative press as my preference is to sidestep hype and prediction, instead setting my own adjustable bar of expectation.
Would you say you watched films in a different light to others? Do you have a process, take notes or just watch?
Yes I would say that I do watch films in a different light to others. Not being conceited, just stating fact as I believe every individual views scientific art uniquely. Every single one of us has a contrasting requirement from said piece of art. For example, should I watch a B-Movie, then it is allowed to take certain liberties and won’t be penalized for not ticking certain boxes. I don’t expect coherence from a Lucio Fulci film and, by the same token, can overlook certain frailties in the grue department from a movie with only meager financing. When I view a film primarily, I take it away with me for an hour or so, let it marinade as it were. There are a number of factors to be taken into consideration as, after all, this is somebody’s sweat and tears you are dissecting. It invariably means opposing things to different folk but as a fierce idealist I will always look firstly for worth rather than specifically attempting to find fault at every turn. This open-minded approach serves me well when it comes to making my evaluation.
I studied Film & Media in college and this taught me much about shot composition and the finer details, like how to read a director’s intention without the necessity of the spoken word. Being adaptable is key, not only to horror, but in living a contented life. I attempted note-taking once in the auditorium where I drank in Fede Alvarez’ glorious Evil Dead reboot like a cotton-mouthed jackal. This proved woefully thought out and the quill remained thirsty throughout with the only thing scribbled down being the word “notes”; diagonally due to both lack of adequate lighting and the fact that my eyes didn’t once stray from the screen until every other soul had departed the auditorium. Needless to say, since this failed exercise, I have stuck to making mental notes thus not compromising my own viewing experience. Whatever was I thinking?
When writing appraisals what is the message you are getting across to your readers?
Well this is where it begins to get interesting. You see, there’s a crusader inside me and a natural leader also. However, it has spent half of my existence muted by my lack of belief in my own aptitude. It’s easy to sleepwalk through life and, when you do, you eventually walk straight into stress or worse still depression. I couldn’t have picked up the quill at seventeen; it took a breakdown to jar me into action and life experience, both good and bad to commence my flow. Bizarrely enough, stress proved to be my defibrillator paddles. My message is this, keep focused as the pathway to true liberation lies deep within all of us. My positive stance hopefully enables readers to get the very best from what I scribe and, hopefully, trust my judgement implicitly as I have no great desire to steer anyone wrong.
Where do you pull inspiration from? Who do you look up to?
I draw inspiration from anyone who has the courage in conviction to put themselves out there, regardless of end product. More specifically, I grew up adulating Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Donald Pleasence and Vincent Price then, once I obtained my first VHS player on my tenth birthday, was introduced to the likes of Carpenter, Argento, Bava, Fulci and Romero. Just citing those names side-by-side makes me emotionally erect you know, just saying. Moving swiftly on, more recently I have been accepted into the TOK Family and gifted the title of First Knight which is a true honor. Minutes after firing my appraisal for The Orphan Killer over to Matt Farnsworth, he pinged me back and, it turns out, he’s the consummate gentleman. Both he and wife Diane Foster have shown immense kindness and enthusiasm towards my work and, for that, I will hold them in everlasting esteem. Their work ethic is exhaustive, but it is because their souls are invested, both in their material and each other and I loves me a good positive role-model or two.
In addition, I have grown a sturdy attachment to a gifted novelist by the name of C. William Giles who, I believe, is Britain’s best kept secret right now. He mailed me his first novel …of Tortured Faustian Slumbers and within a week we were chatting on the phone as if we’d known each other all our lives. We feed from each others dark energy and fervor for the other’s work and that too drives me on to becoming the best scribe I can be. Giles is currently working tirelessly on his second novel The Pursuit of Darkness and, believe me, it is sounding stupendous. Slumbers was always going to be a tough act to follow but, with an amalgamation of fierce integrity and an abundance of raw talent, I just know he will achieve his lofty goal. I count yourself and Bleeding Lotus within that circle as all of you give me the love and support that keeps me on the right side of tosser and help keep me grounded. Outside of that, my three-year-old son Jacob Nathaniel inspires me every day but that goes without saying of course.
What would you say to people who say horror is toxic and plays a large role in the problems of the world today?
I’d suggest they look at the world we live in today. It’s ludicrous to suggest that the blame for mankind’s woes should be laid on the doorstep of horror. How about poor parenting, unscrupulous leaders both in politics and employment, and the tabloid press? Don’t they deserve to shoulder some of the blame? Horror is every bit the same community as any other pursuit, indeed, perhaps the most united. It binds us, makes us stronger, allows us to delve into the darkness within us and channel it into something positive which is no mean feat let me tell you. It’s all of those things and much more besides. Listen, playing Condemned on my XBox 360 didn’t covet me to wrap an iron bar round some poor douche’s head or skewer them with a mannequin member did it? Okay so maybe it did just a smidgen but I resisted the urge to put this into action so there’s nothing that would stand up in a court of law.
In five years’ time, where would you hope/like to be?
Can I say between the thighs of some chick named Candi being ridden across the county border like Seabiscuit? No? Okay then buzz kill, with my family in L.A. enjoying a vacation in our favorite state, California for starters. Other than that, I have always insisted that in five years I will be sipping latte with Quentin Tarantino or necking Black Russians with John Carpenter and Kurt Russell. The personnel may have changed somewhat but the dream remains unchanged. I have a five-year plan already mapped out and I’m working backwards from that, setting stern goals for myself, developing further as a scribe (you never stop learning kids), and spending time with people I love, and who love me back. That’s all there is right?
What are five things you look for in a horror film?
Characterization. I want to be drawn in, live whichever tale I’m viewing at the time. I climb within a film as though it were a celluloid Trojan, strap myself in tight, and pleasure my dark soul to the maximum. Of course, I need someone to root for as an entire cast of hateful cretins is my kryptonite. B-Movies may require less fleshing out but the requisite still stands. While by no means dreadful, the Friday the 13th remake frustrated me greatly as I want to invest in someone and it just couldn’t supply those reasons to give a hoot.
Trepidation. If a horror movie doesn’t cuff you in the kidneys or suck the air from your lungs then it becomes a hard sell for this particular viewer. I love nothing more than the moment when my ventricles expand to allow sanguine fluids into the darkest corner of my heart and positively live for the fear. Should I piss and shit my breaches in unison then job’s a good ‘un in my opinion although my poor mother may disagree with that one.
Nightmares. I have always been deeply fascinated by dreams and regrettably remember precious few come the following day. However, certain films stoke the fires and my imaginings can be boundless while, by the same token, insular and menacing just as I bloody like them.
Humor. I love comedy. High Fidelity, After Hours, In Bruges, L.A. Story, and Bulworth are some of my all-time favorite movies. I find subsequent viewing expose the humor far more in horror. The first time I watched Carpenter’s The Thing there was nothing amusing about Garry and Childs tied to that capsized “FUCKING COUCH.” Likewise, Dallas in the vents raised no chuckles on primary exposure but now his ill-fated game of Pac-Man holds tremendous amusement to me. Humor is all around us always and I embrace it whenever possible.
Grue. If all else fails this can rescue events from going seriously awry. I live for the kill, the more visceral the better. I will say one thing though, as much as bloodletting ignites my cruel soul, I also appreciate films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The House of the Devil, and Halloween that exhibit marvellous restraint as I am of the school of thinking that what you don’t see is often far more terrifying than what you do.
A fun question to finish with. What is your favorite all-time horror film?
I shall go one better just for you Shadow. In no particular order, here are my favorite ten horror films from past and present. This isn’t necessarily best, but as much as Pan’s Labyrinth is one of the most marvellous films I have ever had the displeasure of viewing, it’s hardly what I’d consider a jolly up. Favorite denotes my desert island list, my own personal Wilsons so to speak. Indeed, I shall even supply short reasoning for each because that’s the kind of stand-up guy I am. But no hand jobs. Okay, perhaps just a quick ball fondle.
This is so much more than a simple horror movie, it’s a story about a group of fellas in a bad fucking situation and truly second to none in my opinion. The Thing leaves me panting every single time I watch it without fail, such is the insular nightmare depicted, scored and photographed by a team on the absolute top of their A-game.
Where the fuck do I start where Argento’s masterpiece is concerned? Simple, this one simply needs no rationalization as every self-respecting horror aficionado should be more than au fait with Suspiria and, if not, then I’m calling Dario and letting him deal with your raggedy asses.
Wait for it, this is quite possibly my favorite horror movie of all-time and for no other reason than because it’s personal to me. There may be many better horror movies but this was the first I rented and, still now, no filmmaker has been able to create such a dreamlike aurora as the one Harry Bromley Davenport fashioned with Xtro.
The most breathless fucking 88 minutes of my mortality. Period! The endless chase scene and that leg twitch give me waking nightmares for bloody months and, to this day, I have never felt terror so utterly raw to the bone.
Some believe that Dawn of the Dead is the daddy and I totally get this. However, for me it was simple: the younger of the species was both leaner and meaner. It truly batted a chilling message home about humanity’s self-destructive nature and the grue was ridiculous in the very best way imaginable.
Yup, you heard me. Fear not, Michael Myers sits on the cusp, and if this was titled simply Season of the Witch they’d both be included but I wish only to list one film from a series in my top ten. This for me sent as bleak a message as Dawn of the Dead about consumerism. Add Tom Atkins, a really ominous tone, and one of the best scores of the decade and you have yourselves something of a bona fide masterpiece. Fuck the aggregates, this is an overlooked gem of a movie, and I’ll sucked its dick deep throat until the skin peels away.
Tony Maylam’s film beats off all opposition to become my favorite eighties slasher by a good country mile and my rationale is simple. The Burning feels less forced than Friday The 13th, the kids seem like real kids, the kills are provided by the Sultan of Splatter Tom Savini, and Sally’s tits and Karen’s naked body as she took that wretched walk from her skinny-dip with Eddie certainly don’t harm it none. Before I forget, the sheer hilarity of Eddie’s reaction when he hears of Alfred’s escapades in the shower cubicles is utterly immeasurable.
Another bolt from the blue for some, but this is my all-time favorite vampire movie. I love it, from the neon pink/green lighting to DeDee Pfeiffer’s ditzy turn as Amaretto, Grace Jones’ portentous sexuality, the isolated setting, the rich vein of humor. I could go on, but I think you’ve got the point.
Nobody had Kubrick’s eye (other than arguably Sergio Leone) and the progressively oppressive atmosphere is unbearable on one hand. But if you allow yourself to slip on Jack’s carpet slippers and listen enough to Shelly Duvall grousing like a fishwife, the Golden Ballroom becomes a more hospitable place and you’ll be grinding that axe alongside him.
You didn’t say I couldn’t use a director twice right? Adrienne Barbeau sitting alone in that inhospitable lighthouse, creating the soundtrack for your self-defilement. It’s more than just that of course – Tom Atkins again, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Loomis, Hal Holbrook, Janet Leigh, Charles Cyphers, John Carpenter, Debra Hill, Dean Cundey – need I go on?
The Return of the Living Dead, My Bloody Valentine, Demons, Cat People, The Evil Dead, Creepshow, Night of the Creeps, The Prowler, Stagefright, A Nightmare on Elm Street
This film changed my life, the people involved blow my mind, the grue (especially the decapitation) fill my Rivers of Grue to over-spilling, dazzling Diane Foster’s portrayal of both sheer anguish and inestimable inner-strength, Matt Farnsworth’s visionary direction and building of a Roman fucking empire. Nuff said? Nuff said!
How does modern-day Suspiria grab you? Exact there’s not a thing modern about it. That’s the beauty as it’s a fond hark back and truly a film from entirely another time. What Ti West achieved here will forever dumbfound me.
Alexandre Aja’s breathtaking film provided the shot in the arm that French cinema so desperately needed, a film that transcends lingo and a savage rollercoaster on constant loop.
A rare remake which surpasses the original, whilst paying reverence to it consistently. Elijah Wood? Yeah, that’s Frank from Maniac. I think he played a hobbit a few times but actually I remember more about The Ice Storm, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Everything is Illuminated and Sin City. In Megan Duffy, Khalfoun unearthed veiled raw materials. Her brief turn as Lucie enchanted me and showed where we hope she pursues her career. Far more than a typecast Horror chick, she has boundless potential and an alluring sensuality which hardens the Quill. An absolute one-off!
Admittedly I’ve only viewed V/H/S/2 once, but sometimes that is all it takes to know you’re in business. We’re talking up-and-coming directors at the very top of their game, frequent willies (unfortunately not only metaphorical), some savage splatter seldom witnessed in found footage flicks, consistency, and…Safe Haven! Narrowly pips Michael Dougherty’s Trick ’r Treat to my modern-day anthology apex.
Where the fucking fuck did this come from? I’m utterly speechless and, as you know only too well Shadow, that’s something of a rarity for Keeper.
Can’t…breathe. Basically The Thing with females and that’s more than enough reason to offer up my teat. Neil Marshall’s film is excruciatingly tense and ticks every last box for a horror buff like myself.
To me, this was The Evil Dead for a new generation until the Evil Dead remake came along and pissed on its bonfire. Fred Vogel’s dark fantasy leaves a very unsettled stomach and that’s always a good thing in my book.
Could have been the first film had it not been for the revelation of breaking bread with the chosen executioners. Eli Roth found a totally stunning way to keep things fresh. Most notable though is that sexually tempting bloody bath which stands head and shoulders above any one scene from the past twenty years in my opinion. Great to see the scythe getting a run-out by the way.
Storm Warning, The Midnight Meat Train, House of 1000 Corpses, [Rec], The Pack aka La Meute, Trick ‘r Treat, Dawn of the Dead (2004), The ABCs of Death, Gin Gwai aka The Eye, Ju-On (The Grudge)
Not a definitive list, just ten plucked from the old cerebral cortex. I trust that suffices and would like to thank you Silent Shadow for posing such delectable questions. Until next time, stalk ya later my dear friend.