Wednesday, September 4, 2013

DIABOLIQUE NO. 17


A horror-comedy theme pervades this issue. Beginning with a review of Ben Wheatley's SIGHTSEERS and continuing with an overview of the genre made increasingly popular with films like SHAUN OF THE DEAD, where blood and gore -- sometimes extreme -- intersect with humor.

This synergy, while always an element of our unconscious, had its most notable cinematic beginning with Universal's last monster rally movie, ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948), in which the two famous clowns played it (very well) for laughs and the monsters remained in character and played it straight. Whether planned or accidental, the intended outcome became the litmus test for the next generation of horror-comedy.

Next up is a chat with the writer and special effects man of the UK surprise film festival hit, GRABBERS. The creatures, described by their creators as a cross between a spider and an eel look closer to a sphincter-mouthed starfish to this writer. In any case, they latch on to their victims in a fashion reminiscent of the ALIEN face-hugger. In this film, the trick to keeping them away is to stay drunk, as they are repelled by alcohol. This makes reasoning out a way to get rid of the infestation a bit problematic, which is the the raison d'etre at the heart of every monster movie, and the horror-comedy is no exception. A logical extension of this revelation would be to lure them to a distillery...

The article entitled, Side Splitting: The Evolution of Horror-Comedy is the centerpiece of the issue. Beginning with the argument that Tod Browning's FREAKS or ARSENIC AND OLD LACE could be considered early predecessors of the genre, like comparing France's CINEMA 57 to the first issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, I will go with ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN as the first "hybrid", as it was really a complete monster/comedy film as opposed to horror films that included elements of comedy. Reading through this engrossing article reminded me once again of the rich tradition of horror-comedy films that have not only been successful at the box office, but have propelled the genre into -- for good or for bad -- new, even extreme territories.

Love him or hate him, filmmaker Jess Franco, who died earlier this year, has left an indelible mark on the landscape of the surreal and erotic horror film. Fueled by cigarettes and alcohol, Franco lensed over 200 movies, many of which have been overlooked in the horror cinema oeuvre. A propensity for odd (sometimes seemingly non-existent) plots, psychedelic dream-imagery and gratuitous sex has virtually placed him in his own category. Redemption Films founder Nigel Wingrove offers the reader insight on what made this quirky Spanish auteur click 

There are a number of articles to round out the issue, mainly about filmmakers and their various projects. What strikes me is how many people have turned their artistic talents to horror films. One might think that horror is the easiest genre to unleash your emotions and aggressions, and that drama is harder by virtue of its relative restraint. To pull off a good horror film, however, takes more than just throwing your emotions into it. Horror is hard and there is a pile of trash out there to prove it. The few gems are keeping the bar raised.

In just a few short issues, DIABOLIQUE has established itself as a serious market entry into the world of monster magazines. Smartly produced, artistically designed with great color and all-around eye-appealing, it easily holds its own among its competitors. I have every issue and have watched it evolve into a 'zine that's a cut above.

With its ofttimes gothic feel, sometimes nostalgic feel, and always intelligent writing and content compared to some of its competitors, DIABOLIQUE is fast establishing itself as would could easily be called today's CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN.

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