Archive for June, 2019

Kuroneko (1968)

Posted in bakeneko, J-Horror, Ju-On franchise, Kaneto Shindo (director), Kuroneko (1968), onryō, Ringu franchise with tags , , , , , , on June 29, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Criterion DVD for Kuroneko.

I recently watched the Criterion DVD of the 1968 Japanese ghost film, “Yabu no naka no kuroneko”, by director Kaneto Shindo, known in the English speaking world as Kuroneko, or The Black Cat. The story of two women, a mother and her daughter-in-law, left to fend for themselves when the young man of the house is conscripted to fight for Minamoto no Raikō. While away, his wife and mother are raped and killed by a band of rogue samurai, after which a black cat ominously comes to lick their gaping wounds. The women’s spirits then apparently make a bargain to kill all samurai who come their way for the privilege of being able to take human form at night. Meanwhile their missing man becomes a war hero and is made a samurai for his bravery. His first commission is to find and destroy the fiend that is killing all the local samurai…

Poster for “Yabu no Naka no Kuroneko” (1968).

I have seen a few period ghost stories already, most of them very tastefully done, but this film really is sublime. There are some scenes that are suspenseful as well as heartbreaking, there is action, fantasy, and even straight up horror. It is at times erotic, which was exploited in some countries, like Mexico for example, where it was promoted like a pink film, but it is much more than that.

Mexican lobby card for Kuroneko. The subtitle reads “The Cry of Sex”. (image from Zombo’s Closet: http://www.zomboscloset.com)

It is a story of loss, love and vengeance from beyond the grave. Yet, it is not necessarily just another story of onryō, Japanese vengeful ghosts, which proliferate much of J-Horror cinema even today, as in the case of the popular Ringu or Ju-On franchises. Kuroneko features a legendary creature, the bakeneko, a shapeshifting were-cat of sorts. Apparently this is big subgenre in Japanese fantasy film, but this is the first one I have actually seen portraying them. This is also the earliest Asian film I have seen with people flying around on wires. I won’t say anything else so as not to ruin it, but it is definitely worth watching for fans of fantasy and the supernatural.

For an earlier Shindo film with a similar theme, yet portrayed in a little less fantastical manner, check out Onibaba (1964).

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Update 06/12/2019: Internet Speculative Fiction Database listing.

Posted in Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB), Spectral Realms with tags , on June 13, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

It seems that I now have an author listing on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). I was looking up some random titles and I saw that the entry for Spectral Realms finally got updated to include the last two issues. Now I am somebody in the world of weird letters–LOL! I am going to see if I can create an account so that I can edit my profile.

Spectral Realms #11 available for order!

Posted in Dan Sauer, David Barker, Gargoyle, Hippocampus Press, Liam Garriock, Maxwell Gold, Morbidezza, S.T. Joshi, Spectral Realms, The Baleful Beldam with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Spectral Realms #11 (Summer 2019) is available for order on http://www.HippocampusPress.com and I get a passing mention in the blurb:

“And striking prose poems by Manuel Arenas, Liam Garriock, David Barker, and Maxwell Gold highlight the issue.”

My prose poem Vampire Vigil, a companion piece to Morbidezza, is featured, as is my poem The Baleful Beldam, although for some reason they list Gargoyle again, which was in the previous issue. I shall bring it to editor S.T. Joshi‘s attention and see if it is just typo. So far there is no image of the cover art by Dan Sauer, but I shall attach it to any updates once they post it.

Update 06/17/2019:

Mr. Joshi said it was an oversight and had his designer pull it. He tried to have my Satanic Sonata put in it’s place but the piece, at two pages length, was too long for the allotted space, so they had to put something by another poet, which I am cool with. Satanic Sonata will make its publication debut in issue #12.

Update 06/18/2019:

And here it is, at last, this gorgeous cover art by Dan Sauer…

Cover art for Spectral Realms #11, by Dan Sauer.

Algernon Blackwood’s “Ancient Sorceries”

Posted in Algernon Blackwood, Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood, Sidney Stanley, The Fell Fête with tags , , , on June 10, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Since settling in to my new apartment, I have been getting myself reacquainted with my book collection, which has been in storage for the last several months. One of the books that attracted my attention was the collection Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood (1973, Dover). Now, I have several books by Blackwood on my shelves, and yet I have only ever read a few tales. I decided that it was time I read some of his more celebrated tales, so I began with Ancient Sorceries (1908), which starts out the Dover collection. It is a tale of witchcraft featuring his reoccurring occult detective, John Silence. However, in the edit found in this collection at least, his presence is felt mainly as a bookend passive listener to a tale told by  a skittish little Englishman named Vezin. The story is that Vezin, who is generally a timid, unadventurous sort, decides on a whim to hop off a train to visit a sleepy French village. He feels drawn to the town for some reason, and at first finds peace in it’s quiet denizens, but soon starts to feel that he is being watched. Just as he begins to have second thoughts about his decision to stay on at the local inn, he meets the teenage daughter of the proprietress, who sweeps him off his feet with her enchanting charm and beauty. I don’t want to say too much more so as not to ruin it for anyone who has yet to read it. The story starts a little slowly, but once it begins to take off, it’s subtle horrors (shadowy beings, werecats, witchcraft, etc..) really make it hard to put down.

Illustration by Sidney Stanley for Ancient Sorceries from The Willows and Other Queer Tales (London: Collins Clear-Type Press, [February 1932]), by Algernon Blackwood.

What I found so interesting when I read it is that it has a very similar premise to my tale The Fell Fete: a traveler from England (Anacleto is technically Spanish, but he goes to school in Ramsey Campbell’s imaginary English town of Brichester in the Severn Valley, from which he departs on his journey) who is drawn to an ancient French town where he is baited by an enchantress to join a sinister supernatural cult. The seduction of Vezin by Ilse in particular brought to mind Ambrosine’s enthrallment of Anacleto in my story. I had never read the Blackwood tale till now, so it is intriguing to me that there are so many similarities. Only in mine, the protagonist meets a very different fate.

Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood (1973, Dover Publications)

 

Update 06/09/2019: The Phantasmagorical Promenade

Posted in Michael Adams, Night Hag, Planet X Publications, The Phantasmagorical Promenade with tags , , , on June 9, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Just received an email from Michael Adams at Planet X Publications with terms for payment for my contribution to The Phantasmagorical Promenade. I assume this means that it shall be coming out very soon. I will keep you all posted of any developments.