Lost Film - Archieved Post

December 2, 2015 - 12:13 pm No Comments

The Lost Film Novellas
Authors: Stephen Bacon & Mark West
Publisher: Pendragon Press
Page Count: 304 pp
Reviewer: David Court


Lantern Rock by Stephen Bacon

Following the not-so chance encounter between a reporter seeking to interview an elusive and self-exiled director, and a mysterious woman with a hidden agenda of her own, both end up in a place of deadly secrets. Dark histories will be uncovered, and no-one will emerge unscathed.

The scene-setting in Lantern Rock is terrific – Bacon does a skilful job at creating a very distinct, palpable and unnerving atmosphere. What feels like a more traditional ghost story in the opening chapters (very much in the vein of M.R. James and W.W. Jacobs) slowly (and naturally) slides into unfamiliar territories way more unsettling.

Bacon is clearly a film buff (or has done enough research to comfortably and effortlessly pass as one for the purpose of this tale) and manages to weave film history (both real and fictional) together in a way that always feels natural and never reads as clumsy exposition.

Some of the characters feel a little underdeveloped, but that’s barely noticeable in this well-paced tale. At various points – and this is meant entirely as a compliment – the atmosphere felt reminiscent of some of the stories by Dennis Wheatley (albeit without the racist stereotypes, you’ll be relieved to hear), but I’m loathe to say how for fear of it being a massive spoiler! Oh, and the closing text of the story is an inspired way to end it – you’ll know what I mean when you see it for yourself.

The Last Film by Mark West

The second and (slightly) longer story of the two is “The Last Film” by Mark West, the tale of what appears to be – on the surface – a straightforward missing persons case for private investigator Gabriel Bird. Bird soon finds out, however, that his search for the missing film maker Roger Sinclair leads onto a well-guarded secret that should have – for the sake of sanity – remained buried forever.

The cynical private investigator with a heart of gold and a sarcastic line of dialogue who ends up out of his depth is a hoary old cliché that’s been done to death, but to his credit West pulls it off with aplomb and ease. Bird is a likeable – yet flawed – central character with a neat side-line in dry humour, and he’s surrounded by a cast of well-rounded and believable characters.

If there’s a criticism – and it’s only a minor one – the story occasionally lapses into chunks of text that read like directions from Google Maps, and there is a slight over tendency for product placement that jars slightly. Other than these minor quibbles though, The Last Film is atmospheric, sufficiently unnerving, laugh out loud funny in parts and a great read.

“Lantern Rock” and “The Last Film”, despite sharing a vaguely similar theme, are sufficiently different to one another but make great companion pieces. However, there’s a lovely crossover moment in “The Last Film” that had this reader smiling wryly.

In closing, thoroughly recommended. Two great stories, by two great writers – writers I’m keen to read more of, based on the strength of this collection. Both tales are more traditional horror than I’m used to reading these days – both are more about atmosphere than gore – but that’s to the credit of both writers that both tales work so well.

(As a related aside, both stories thematically reminded me of “Cigarette Burns”, John Carpenter’s excellent contribution to Season One of the short-lived series “Masters of Horror”. It’s the best thing by a long shot that Carpenter has done for a while (although, sadly, that’s not very difficult) and would make a marvellous companion piece to watch when you’ve finished this top-notch novella).

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