Saturday, February 14th, 2015

Favourite Whale Cameos In Film

Happy World Whale Day! (It’s also Book Giving Day and that romantic one with the fellah getting beheaded in the 3rd century. Happy those too!)


But it’s World Whale Day. Whales are awesome. They’re huge and they really just mooch about, singing for their supper (or, technically, singing for sex) and really not being too bothered by the politics of smaller marine animals.

I always find it interesting how different creatures are portrayed in fiction, particularly when they’re not the actual focus of the story – more just supporting actors or, to an extent, scenery. If you’re in some water, a writer might just throw in a shark for an extra bit of drama.

Anti anti shark

But what do the whales add? These are five of my favourite whale appearances in films where the whales are not key to the plot – so no Whale Rider, Star Trek IV, Rust and Bone or Orca! And definitely no Free Willy on this blog - but might somehow add to the theme (surely they’re there for a reason). Also, I just liked these bits. Because they had whales in them!


Finding Nemo‘s ‘road’ trip structure means that Marlin and Dory encounter a bunch of different characters who each explain their way of life to Marlin – usually telling him to chill the heck out. Even more than the surfer dude turtles, the chat with the blue whale who doesn’t even see them has an air of benevolence to add to that ‘keep on swimming’ message. But does the fact the whale doesn’t even see them also display a blissful ignorance? We always seem to add a sage-like wonder to silent characters so is the whale’s wisdom that actually Marlin and Dory will find their own way and don’t need external help? Or is he or she just ignoring them to be shirty?


Pinocchio was on over Christmas and is still truly terrifying. Being swallowed by a whale provides that real ‘belly of the beast’ script structure moment but it’s still curious that this story, that already featured living puppets and runaway boys turning into mules ends up with the Jonah of end of act two low points where they both find redemption. Still not sure why it had to be in a whale though.


I will latch on to things I like in Superman movies, even if the movie in general receives (and maybe deserves) a rough ride. There’s a fan theory for Man of Steel claiming they were sent there by an unseen Aquaman (who possibly damaged the oil rig to begin with). Personally I prefer that the humpbacks are just checking on something they can sense but not as a threat, something that humanity struggles to do over the rest of the film.


All of these potential whale ideas start to sound a bit inadvertently happy clappy after a while (talking about theme often can, it feels). But in the very spiritual Life of Pi, the whale is actually kind of a shit. I remember the visuals of the luminescent whale more than any other part of the film. So I’d forgotten that the giant git actually knocks Pi’s raft over and destroys his raft of supplies. You could argue that this was another test in what is already a very allegorical tale. Or it could just be the perfect mix of nature will mess you up, little man – but oooh, isn’t it pretty!


And from the spiritual to the existential. Possibly my favourite whale cameo is perhaps also the most tragic as Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy suddenly (and improbably) creates an excited whale falling to a planet’s surface. This whale is the only one that talks, teaching itself words in fact. Does the whale’s descent (especially contrasted with the far more experienced bowl of petunias) represent our own truncated existence in the bigger picture. As Nightvale FM suggest: ‘Death is only the end if we assume the story is about us!

If I can go environmental for a moment, taking your own bags shopping with you as often as possible so the ocean doesn’t choke to death on plastic is awesome (and easier than paying money to have people clear up our plastic. Or time travelling back to the 1980s… that’s your answer to everything, Spock!)

But it doesn’t explain why the story-tellers chose to include these moments. Any theories? Any other favourites? Have a very happy whale day anyway!

Posted by john | Filed in Movies, Writing | Comment now »

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

The Wood Beneath The World

The Wood Beneath

So there’s this wood growing under Leeds Town Hall. It’s a magical place of mystery and winter wonder. It’s also a practical feat of incredibleness by art directors, set designers and all-round visual wizards Lord Whitney (Amy Lord and Rebekah Whitney), producer Lins Wilson and their miraculous team. They really have built a wood down there!

And I was lucky enough to be asked to go and make up some stories for them.

The Wood Beneath The World is an immersive installation devised by Lord Whitney and Leeds City Council to provide an alternative Christmas event in ‘the Crypt’ beneath Leeds Town Hall. I won’t spoil anything except to say: They’ve managed it…

Part-way through the development, I was asked to join the woodland party and help forage for stories, scripting bits of narrative and characterisation. I’m credited as ‘Written by’ in the programme which I think actually does a bit of dis-service to director Alex Palmer, truth-seekers Liam Thomas and Lisa Franklin and the whole team as it’s very much a devised piece that I happily threw ideas, bullet points and script pages into the mix for. That said, I’m really happy with what I was able to contribute so thanks to the whole gang for letting me play.

Evening tours of the woods are for ages 12+ most nights until the end of the year but, for younger explorers, Thursday nights and weekends feature an alternative tour featuring an extra wanderer through the woods in the jolly storytelling form of Father Christmas (I got to write dialogue for the big FC!!)


This was a great production to be part of as the whole team really did build a world down there. My only regret is not having the time to personally join in filling every nook and cranny with letters, clues, characters and more mysteries to delve into. But as it is already, no two walks through the woods are the same…

So if you’re near Leeds and get the chance, book a ticket and do go down to the woods today (or any day between now and the new year) and I hope it’s a pleasant surprise.

(PS – they’ve also turned the adjacent old jail cells into a creepily cosy pop-up bar!)

Ho ho ho.

Posted by john | Filed in Theatre, Writing | 1 Comment »

Monday, April 14th, 2014

‘I See Dead People’ Double Bill.

Two of the films I watched this week both center around gifted outcasts who can both see the dead. This amaaaazing coinci-dink obviously warrants a blog post in itself, but more specifically, both films – both available in the horror section – just ain’t plain old horror. I’d argue both were supernatural thrillers really, but more to the point, it’s their heart I’m talking about.

Either through my twitterings or if you’ve been in a pub with me and been forced to listen to me harping on, you may know that I’m an M. Night Shyamalan apologist. (Or, more specifically, I’m an M. Night fan and just cry bullshit on diss-based bandwagonry). But either way, most people get on just fine with The Sixth Sense.

Oddly, for all its acclaim, it’s the film of his that I’ve seen the least, not since my VHS copy at university, in fact. Do you ever get this, where a film is so actually good that you don’t feel the need to see it again because it’s so firmly and emotionally lodged in your memory?


So it was interesting to go back and watch it for the first time in probably twelve years. I had remembered it all, pretty much spot on in terms of details. The main difference now was me. I’ve always regarded it as a sad film, but watching it not as a cynical know-it-all 22 year old, I was pretty overwhelmed by what a weepie it really is.

Cole constantly hurts Lynn by protecting her from his secret, feeling he’s failed her by not being normal. Lynn, in turn, constantly feels she’s failed Cole as a parent. Malcolm’s painful sense of failure so strong that, even though his failure led to his own death, he still wouldn’t let himself cross over until he’d made amends. And Olivia Williams’ whole role in this film is heartbreaking. The whole thing is pretty damn tragic!


The twist is, of course, magnificent, because the film wasn’t waiting for the penny to drop. It was already powerful and engaging (and downright tense in places) but it’s those longer scenes, drawn out almost, where the full drama seeps into you and makes those slivers of silver lining that these four people, now communicating, might be okay is really invigorating and cathartic (ie – I might have cried a bit).

Do you disagree that it’s a supernatural thriller? He’s a very ‘Twilight Zone’ film-maker which I always thought of as a series of psychological thrillers. Maybe the ghosts just threw us and the horror-label gun off the scent. (I smell dead people). The film hasn’t matured. I have (a bit). The film was just clearly always excellent! Have you ever had that? A film you regarded as great already that was then even better after a break?

Odd Thomas poster

While my second film perhaps won’t receive as many Oscar nominations as The Sixth Sense, Odd Thomas definitely felt like a step up for The Mummy /Mummy Returns director Stephen Sommers (I actually really like his early film ‘Deep Rising’ where monsters attack a luxury cruise liner).

Odd Thomas is based on a series of books by Dean Koontz which I greatly enjoy about a small-town short-order fry cook who tries to help, avenge and generally acknowledge the dead. The plot of this film (supernatural warning, race against time, impending doom) stands out simply because of its characters. Odd’s heart, hope and upbeat optimism make these stories genuinely likeable if not downright lovely.

Odd wall

While I won’t go into details about the story, what I did find interesting is that Odd could be Cole from The Sixth Sense completely grown up. The film glosses over any trauma young Odd might have had when he discovered his strange abilities and skips straight to him managing a good work/life/afterlife balance. It’s not easy, but he’s coping.

While this sounds like it might rob the story of emotional heft, I think it’s here that the film shines and I’d like to see more films try. Instead of the angst of many heroes or the glib one-liners of others, seeing a character trying to remain a good guy or gal as all hell breaks loose seems to be a rare treat.

Stormy and the Sheriff

Anton Yelchin is great as Odd – an offbeat but genuinely heroic hero and he’s nicely supported by Willem Dafoe as the local Sheriff in a rare warm (and funny!) role. Addison Timlin as Odd’s better half Bronwyn ‘Stormy’ Llewellyn is not quite what I imagined from the books but adds a great deal of chemistry and her love for Odd definitely helps build ours.

There are moments where it feels like the film is trying to hard to be quirky but, for it’s slightly uneven tone, Odd Thomas provides unexpected emotional wallop I would love to see more of this on film – especially should this franchise somehow continue. It didn’t get a theatrical release due to legal disputes between producers. But I’d recommend Odd Thomas’ as perfect good-natured hokum for the weekend. So go on, give it a watch on VOD or DVD! (Here’s the trailer on youtube)

* * * * *

Admittedly I’ve been deliberately watching these films while I sit down to plan my second draft of my own horror. But I quickly realised:

1. These aren’t horrors.

2. This might be what makes them stand out for the pack.

3.  I am a right soppy git these days.

Posted by john | Filed in #HorrorDiary, Life, Movies, Writing | Comment now »

Monday, April 7th, 2014

The Writers’ Blog Tour

Face your fears

Another fine mess I’ve gotten myself into. Following Robin Bell‘s own excellent blog post the baton has now been passed for me to answer (in writing) questions about writing, my writing… and not make myself sound like an idiot in the process (see my previous blog posts).

The idea of the Writers’ Blog Tour is for the bloggers to answer the same four seemingly simple questions and then pass the challenge on. Here we go.


This Blog challenge has turned up at a very odd/interesting moment. Unfortunately, I very recently lost my job and have just this weekend finished my contribution on the film I have been working on for the last four months. While I work out what’s next in the long term, in the short term, I have plenty of freedom and and opportunity ahead. It’s exciting and scary and exciting. And scary.

My immediate options are:

  • Start a second draft of the horror feature I made up as I went along last year (as recorded at the time in my #horrordiary posts)
  • Write the pilot episode of my ‘Watchmen of dinner party murder mysteries’ mini-series.
  • Write the definitive (yeah, right) draft of my beloved film noir pet project that I’ve enjoyed returning to since university.
  • My high-concept/low-fi sci-fi stage play idea.

I want to do all of them and I will. It’s just a matter of which order. I’ve also been toying with the idea of trying to write prose, starting with a short story. I’ve been re-reading Joe Hill‘s amazing 20th Century Ghosts collection as well as stories by Ernest Hemmingway and I think I might finally be ready to have a go. Eep!


Not entirely sure which ‘genre’ that is. But if you follow the Writers Blog Tour back through its chain (which I highly recommend for insightful, inspiring stuff), this is the question that brings out the modesty or embarrassment but I think I have an easier answer. It’s because I can’t write like the people I’m trying to impersonate.


Whether I’m trying to rip off Mary Shelley, Mike Carey or Richard Matheson (or any number of other personal heroes) the fact that I will never be able to write quite like them is the hope I have that I’ll work out how to write like me and just work from there.

As ‘they’ say, if we all wrote from the same outline, we’d still have completely different scripts. But that’s just my opinion. And after saying I do stuff differently, I’m gonna do what Robin did when answering this and ask for a second opinion. Once again, I’ve asked Heather about any common tropes she sees recur in my writing:

I write good female (and male) characters and always pass the Bechdel Test. (Phew!) In my opinion, Heather is largely responsible for this – my wife is very much another hero of mine and so my characters probably owe more to her than they do me. Also, this is getting pretty sickening, eh? But it’s hard not to get inspired by Heather. I mean this is what she looks like on a simple Sunday afternoon walk. She’s ridiculous. Ridiculous!

She also says I write funny. (Yay!) I long ago gave up straight comedy but, while I never want my characters to not take things seriously, they hide behind a barrage of humour, even if highly inappropriate. I’d agree that my characters more often than not consciously try to be funny. Sounds familiar.

And apparently my characters also always try really hard to do the right thing because that matters more than they do. (Ooh!) This is the one that made me think.  It’s probably true that, if I wrote A Christmas Carol, my Scrooge would WANT to change from the beginning, to better himself. For better or worse, I guess that’s always been my way into characters. When we meet them, they’re rarely happy with who they are. If there’s a chance they can do something worthwhile, maybe it’ll be okay.

I doubt I’m the only writer who does that. But I guess I do it my way.


The glib answer is ‘because it isn’t there… yet’. The slightly pretentious one? Well, it’s because I’m a massive coward.


I genuinely believe that genre/escapist tales can provide just as much insight into human drama as every gritty kitchen sink or slice of life; no more, no less. The more sentient black holes, impending apocalypses or anthropomorphic romance I throw into a plot without looking too closely, the more honest or personal it usually ends up being as the love, hate, fear and confusion (even when faced with something impossible) has to be a plausible reaction.

I’m a coward. I’m in no way saying that all or any genre writers are. But I am. I can’t sit down and directly face my thoughts on stuff. With me and my self-destruct system, I’m unable watch a story on the news without blaming myself for it. For everything! This means there are a lot of potential barriers in my head when I try and think about stuff. But characters seem to be able to get through unobstructed, the sneaky fictional bastards! :D

I try to write what I know. But often it turns out better if I try to find out what I know by writing. Yup, my writing is all purely selfish.


Hmmn. Process. I should probably have one of those. In fact, possibly I have too many. I dive into a blank document, I index card the heck out of an idea to find its structure, I write outlines, treatments, scriptments, I bullet point every possible idea I have for the project and then see if any of those pieces stick together, you name it and I’ll have tried it. I’m happy to say that in the last year or so, a problem I haven’t had is sitting down and getting on with it, for which I’m grateful.


Again, turning to Heather for help, the answer to this is that it usually involves getting stuck. Every time. Which I also forget. Every time. It’s a crucible. While I can happily churn out pages, it isn’t until I get critically stuck, start to agonise and then want to give up because I can’t do an idea justice and genuinely lose all confidence that the script actually comes to life. It has to get struck down by the Darth Vader of doubt but usually returning more powerful than I could possibly imagine. Which is a bit of a relief really.

So that’s me. Robin also nominated the fabulous Lisa Holdsworth on her Deadlines and Diamonds blog who will have a much better post answering the same questions today as well. (Make sure to check out her other posts!)

I’ve also asked three writers chums to continue this chain of self-interrogation and they all said yes. Clearly they all had other things they should be doing too! But this is great because I love following their progress so wouldn’t mind getting to see inside their heads a bit too. Keep your eye out next Monday for posts from these fine individuals:

Laura Anne Anderson (@missread) is a writer of screenplays, prose and copy. She completed a Screenwriting MA a few years ago and has since had several shorts made, a feature optioned, and has won some competitions. She’s new to the land of novel writing and is currently working on her second book, a science fiction novel for Young Adults set in her home town of Edinburgh.


JamesJames F. Wright (@chuckspear) pays the bills as an Associate Producer at NFL Network in Los Angeles, California, but spends his off hours reading or writing. He’s been a comic book fan since he learned to read as a kid, and only recently has made a serious go at writing his own. He co-created with artist Josh Eckert The Geek Zodiac–a fun way to approach astrology—and his culinary coming-of-age crime comic series with artist Jackie Crofts, Nutmeg, will debut from Action Lab Entertainment this fall. He suffers from crippling procrastination but is working on it.

Claire Weaver (@cweaver) is a screenwriter, journalist, occasional artist, apocalypse expert, occultist and fearless zombie killer. When she’s not busy banishing demons back to Hell, she goes on adventures with her musically-talented and alchemist husband, Luke, and their two cats from outer space, Robot and Gadget.


. . . . .

Baton passed. Thanks for listening. You’d make a good counselor!

Posted by john | Filed in #HorrorDiary, Books, Ideas, Life, Movies, Writing | 2 Comments »

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

A Few More Thoughts On Podcast #2 (And An Invite For Podcast#3)


This month’s episode of The Meddling Microscope delved into the dark and mysterious then vivid and nightmarish world of Laura Palmer as we re-watched David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

(Please bring your ears to the party here)

Without spoiling the podcast, this was a difficult film for Rob and myself to re-watch. Some films you remember as scarier than they actually are (for example, my recurring nightmares of Jaws The Revenge are only calmed by going to Youtube and watching clips from Jaws The Revenge!)

But my brain had somewhat sanitised my memories of Fire Walk With Me. It is graphic but in some ways it almost isn’t. It’s just terrifying. But as well as mis-appreciating the horror, I’d also forgotten the sense of relief that arrives at the end. Almost like The Road, where any ray of hope seems immense and all consuming in comparison to the preceeding horror.

Re-watching the film’s trailer this morning I was surprised how much it encapsulates my thoughts in it’s three phases: The oddball otherness of the TV series (nicely illustrated with the film’s score), the overbearing intensity of Laura’s life in part two and then the more blissful escape of the final section. All of this suggests it was deliberate on Lynch’s part (far more likely than me having an original thought!)

Even if you don’t ‘enjoy’ some films, maybe you can still be a better viewer or film-goer for having seen them?

(and if you can’t bring yourself to watch them, a full draft of Fire Walk With Me is online here)


And a brief trail for Episode 3… We’ll be visiting long-running browser game Fallen London by Failbetter Games in the build up to the release of their successfully Kickstarter-ed The Sunless Sea. Please join us in Fallen London (I’m JGHunter and Rob is Tiemachine) for a merry game of Knife and Candle and to discuss story-led browser games in general.

Until then, delicious friend.

Posted by john | Filed in Games, Movies, Podcast | Comment now »

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

We Do Podcasts Now!

Yup, esteemed chum Rob Barker and I have found a new way to procrastinate under the guise of doing something productive.

Welcome to The Meddling Microscope – our ongoing audio adventure through the storytelling, play and exploration which falls between the cracks.


Our first episode is now live in which we play and discuss the gloriously loopy duel simulator Nidhogg created by Mark ‘Messhoff’ Essen in which we try not to resort to Princess Bride quotes (although I threw in a Robin Hood: Men in Tights “Thrust, Thrust, Parry, Thrust” but it’s Cary Elwes all the same.

Please download here (iTunes) or stream here.

Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me

And coming up this week to celebrate 25 years since Laura Palmer first said to Agent Dale Cooper “I’ll see you in 25 years’, we sat down and re-watched prequel/sequel/epilogue/epidural spin off movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. It’s not as fun as the TV show, is it!

Like what you hear? Then leaving us nice reviews on iTunes will really help us not get lost in the internet.

On twitter? Then please follow us @meddlescope

I’m really looking forward to this being a regular fixture so hope you’ll join us. In the meantime, that’ll do, Pod. That’ll do…

Posted by john | Filed in Games, Movies, Podcast | Comment now »

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

My Favourite 5 Egon Spengler Moments

Cross the streams

It feels right to be writing this on a Saturday. When I was a kid,  on Saturdays I used to get up early and watch a bit of Ghostbusters until there was movement upstairs. Every Saturday.

I feel like the floor of a cab

I’d sit on a chair with legs because I was worried a Terror Dog would burst out of the armchairs or couch. Then my parents would take us to Huntingdon and do the food shopping, leaving me in the library. There I’d repeatedly research the myths and legend section so I could pretend to be Egon.

It feels right to be writing this on a Saturday. And yes, I’m currently watching Ghostbusters. These are my favourite 5 Egon Spengler moments.

5. That’s a big Twinkie!

Big Twinkie

“Let’s say this Twinkie represents the normal amount of psychokinetic energy in the New York area. According to this morning’s sample, it would be a Twinkie… thirty-five feet long, weighing approximately six hundred pounds.”

It’s the way he eats the Twinkie afterwards.

Nice Shootin

4. Woah woah woah. Nice shootin’, Tex!

Even though the little green ghost has long moved on, Egon is still relentlessly firing his Proton Pack at the bar full blast. Innit lovely seeing him out of the lab!


3. VENKMAN: Ray has gone bye-bye, Egon… what’ve you got left?

“Sorry, Venkman, I’m terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.”

…he says completely deadpan.

your mother

2. Your mother!

I’d probably seen this film several dozen times before I noticed this. After the Ecto-containment system is shut down and chaos breaks down, amid the chaos Walter Peck tries to have the Ghostbusters arrested. Egon leads the fight that gets them taken in, leaping at Peck and bellowing ‘Your mother!’

(I hope at least one of you reading this had never noticed this before.)


1. Doh… Ray… Egon!

Always the quiet one.

. . . . .  

I know Harold Ramis was so much more than Egon. I think Groundhog Day was his masterpiece and he was, of course, a much loved real person and talent. President Obama said:

When we watched his movies … we didn’t just laugh until it hurt, we questioned authority. We identified with the outsider. We rooted for the underdog. And through it all, we never lost our faith in happy endings.

Then Obama went on to throw in a Caddyshack reference for good measure. I don’t know too much about Harold Ramis himself, but his daughter Violet said:

He was like the campfire that we all gathered around for light and warmth and knowledge.

Which, I guess, is everything I assumed.


PS - But John… what about the ‘I collect spores, moulds and fungus‘ scene with Janine? That’s not one of my favourite Egon moments. That’s just one of my favourite moments of film.


Harold Ramis

Posted by john | Filed in Character, Life, Movies | Comment now »

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

1st Draft Finished #horrordiary

The first draft of my horror feature ‘Small Town Demons’ is complete. Shelly, a lost-in-life twenty-something visits her tiny hometown for the first time in years, only to find herself caught in nightmarish game of cat and mouse through the once-familiar streets with a demonic figure who slays anybody Shelly asks for help…

Hi-jinks ensue :D

Today I had a happy morning sitting with a red pen and scribbling over any weird phrasings or obvious typos and have just sent that slightly polished draft off to my first round of kind volunteer reader chums who I’m sure are looking forward to taking me down a peg or two.

Until then, although it’s very much a first draft, I’m quite chuffed.

A few stats:

  • It’s 102 pages long (which means I should hopefully be able to easily trim 12 pages for this sort of story).
  • How many killings? 15 (several offscreen or implied)
  • It has taken me three months to write (working on it approx. 2 days a week with time to write a comic, script editing another film and going on Honeymoon in the mix too)
  • I didn’t know what the ending of the film was when I started. Just an idea for the epilogue.
  • In hindsight, the ending was already, inadvertently, quite well set up.
  • And then, when I got to the epilogue, I didn’t know how to write it.
  • I really like the new epilogue.
  • The bits that will probably be the creepiest on film are currently the dullest bits to read (Any suggestions for good scripts that feature protagonist on her own for big chunks very welcome!)*
  • There are four main characters (five, if you count my monster)
  • Four of them are female, one of them is male (and he’s not the monster)
  • My favourite supporting character is ‘Pajama Man’.
  • The script is set in my own hometown even more than I realised.
  • I have nicked a scene wholesale from another script of mine because patio doors still freak me out and I am determined to express that on film!

I’m probably going to use a tweaked version of ‘Small Town Demons’ as my script sample for Hopscotch Films’ Horror Competition (deadline mid-December) with a different psychological horror pitch I’m currently putting together.

So fingers crossed the first reviewers think it’s worth doing a second draft of. It’s been a long time since I wrote anything feature length and even longer since I just sat down and wrote to see where the story wanted to go.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing where it goes next!


*seriously, good visual horror script recommendations very very welcome!! Ta.

Posted by john | Filed in #HorrorDiary, Movies, Writing | Comment now »

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

All Things Radio

Wreck the Mic

I’m about ten pages from the end of my ‘Small Town Demons‘ script (Shelly is just discovering that a silent town might be the lesser of two evils her home starts to wake up) but, in the mean time, everything else on my mind at the moment is strangely radio related.

First up, for writers in the North, the brilliant Alfred Bradley Bursary Award is back. We have until the end of January to submit our polished scripts for an afternoon play. My plan is to adapt my own anthropomorphic comedy drama ‘I, Object’ that I had the chance to write for Slung Low’s 15 Minutes Live earlier this year (which I don’t think I’ve shared on here so please have a listen!)


And speaking of 15 Minutes Live, Slung Low’s new 15 Minutes Live is being performed at Holbeck Working Men’s Club in Leeds on Sunday 10th November. I’ll happily be playing the role of old-time radio announcer to introduce the plays but, beyond that, I’m just plain looking forward to enjoying the show!


And finally, it’s the 75th anniversary of Orson Welles’ WAR OF THE WORLDS radio broadcast. A talent, a personality and a voice that I will always aspire to. You can listen to the whole thing on BBC iPlayer for the next few days so, if you’ve never heard it, only heard of it, do have a listen.

My favourite bits will always be when they cut to some light music from ‘Ramon Raquello and his Orchestra’ amid the ensuing invasion.

No one would have believed…

Posted by john | Filed in Radio, Writing | Comment now »

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Themes Of Fear (and Fear of Themes!) #HorrorDiary

What are you really watching?

I’m now over 60 pages into the first draft of my horror script ‘Small Town Demons’ (woohoo!) and am very quickly starting to realise what I’m actually writing about. I’m resisting the urge to go back to the start, instead focusing on getting to the finale. When my heroine Shelly takes on the darkness stalking her, what is she really fighting? What are you really watching?

(And, perhaps more importantly, how do I add that extra level of audience connection without being all arty and pretentious and stuff?)


When Sidney shoots the masked killer that’s threatening to kill her (A-plot) she’s also dealing with her painful past that’s been stalling her life. Sidney can’t process that her mother was an adulteress. Billy can’t accept that his parents broke up (because of Sidney’s mother). While the B-plot plays this as Sidney’s sexual reluctance, Billy’s inability to deal with the theme leads to the A-plot to begin with. Kevin Williamson did much more with Scream than clever in-jokes!


The Ring turns it back round with the theme of parental consequence, as two investigative parents thoughtlessly drag their son into peril just as parents of the past created the monstrous Samara through their own fear and thoughtlessness. All very Frankenstein-y. Again, it adds an extra level of tragic connection to our monster as well as expanding the character dynamic of our main characters.

Let's get drunk and open a shark!

I’ve had a lot of disagreements about the central theme of Jaws. Man vs. Nature? Okay, but how does Brody’s conflict with the Mayor tie into that? From my point of view, Brody’s story is all about him taking control. He’s not happy with his new home or position, his mayor walks over him, people keep telling him the best way to get rid of ol’ chompy.

What I love about Jaws is that every character is focused on what is that shark going to do to my life – but the film kicks into gear when a pissed up Brody and Hooper take matters into their own hands and cut open the Tiger Shark in search of Alex Kitner’s remains. Every move from then is Brody learning from all of the many mentors around him until he can defeat Jaws and return to the home he wants to. Yay!


Dredd and Brave are two recent films I really enjoyed. But while I applauded that the female leads didn’t simply have easy, tacked on romantic sub-plots to explore the story in a different way, my slight issue with each film is that both then felt they were missing anything at all in that B-story space. Their themes to an extent were their premise (although I knew very little of Brave before seeing it so there were some terrific surprises! :) )

On the other hand, to me, far worse is the seemingly ‘tacked on’ sub-plot supposedly included to compliment a theme but that gets lost in the shuffle (*cough Jeff Goldblum’s daughter in The Lost World cough*)

I’m now looking at ways that both my A and B (and C) plots, the relationships and the events can all be addressing the one central thematic question. In the case of Small Town Demons where Shelly is answering ‘can you go home again?’ as she gets stalked round her estranged hometown by a demonic darkness and encounters old flames foes en route to trying to save her sister.

Can you go home again? Should you try? (I’m still working on the ending so hopefully we’ll find out soon!)

Posted by john | Filed in #HorrorDiary, Movies, Writing | Comment now »