The Ghost Club by William Meikle blog tour

December 13, 2017 - 6:23 pm No Comments


So who is William Meikle, he’s a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with over twenty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries. He has had books published with a variety of publishers including Dark Regions Press, DarkFuse and Dark Renaissance, and his work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies and magazines with recent sales to NATURE Futures, Penumbra and Buzzy Mag among others.

 

 

As part of The Ghost Club tour, I got to ask him his views on Scotland in horror films, this is what he had to say.

 The landscapes and towns of Scotland have been sadly underused over the years in horror film, considering the epic possibilities of old cities like Edinburgh or Glasgow used to such effect in REBUS and TAGGART. That’s even before we get to the many isolated coastal communities or the stunning scenery of the Highlands that was put to such great use in out of the genre movies like HIGHLANDER or CENTURION to choose two particularly fine examples.

That said, there have been several Scottish based horror movies that have made their way onto my all time favorite list, and I’d like to bring attention to three in particular that span my movie watching life.

My first viewing of the early Hammer horror X – THE UNKNOWN was sometime around 1970, late night on BBC 2, and it was made vivid in my memory because one of the actors, Scottish character actor Jameson Clark, lived in my home town and we’d often see him in the street.

The movie itself is full of all the stuff I’ve come to love over the years: Hammer horror, big blobby things, a Scottish setting, and scientists dabbling in things best left alone.

It was originally intended to be a sequel to THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, and you can see some of the joins in the script as a result, but it still holds up well to repeat viewings, and there’s an array of faces that would become much better known in later genre movies and TV, like Leo McKern, Kenneth Cope, Michael Rimmer, Frazer Hines and even a quick appearance from Anthony Newley.

It moves along at a great clip, there’s some decidedly iffy FX, the obligatory child in peril, a pervy doctor hitting on nurses and some lovely melting flesh. Everything a growing lad like me loved at the age of twelve, and still does to this day.

The setting is Scottish seen through an English studio lens, there’s a joke Scottish soldier who gets killed off early after some ludicrous banter, the geography is all over the place, as one minute they’re near Glasgow, then they’re near Inverness, and there are plenty of stock Scots locals harrumphing behind the non-Scottish leads. But none of that matters.

It’s got a big radioactive blob wreaking havoc in Scotland.

That’s enough for me.

There are no big blobby beasties in THE WICKER MAN, but there are monsters, of the very human variety.

My first viewing of this classic was during the cut version’s run as the poor relation of DON’T LOOK NOW in a double bill in the cinema in Glasgow, back some time in ’74 with my then girlfriend. She wasn’t impressed by either, and didn’t last long after that, but both films have stayed with me as favorites down the long years since.

Of the two, DON’T LOOK NOW remains my favorite from an aesthetic and intellectual viewpoint, but the WICKER MAN speaks to my heart in a way few other movies have managed.

The history of the various versions of the film that now exist makes interesting reading on Wikipedia, but even on that first viewing, with bits missing and things moved around from the director’s original vision, the power of the story was evident.

In this one at least the scenery is fully Scottish, even if the south west area of Dumfries and Galloway stands in for a Northern island. Christopher Lee does a grand job of holding the whole thing together, Edward Woodward looks suitably lost, and there’s the best use of a stunt bottom in a movie. Yet again, there are few Scots actors involved, although given the film’s low budget, many of the extras were locals roped in for the duration, which serves to give it at least a bit of authentic colour.

The main thing that struck me, and still does or repeat viewings, is the use of the music. The old songs sung in new ways make the pagan aspects both familiar and new at the same time. I’ve tried using the old songs to this kind of effect in several of my own stories in the new collection THE GHOST CLUB, and I have even been known to sing them on occasion, but I’m no Britt Ekland, who gives Willow’s Song a certain something that did serious things to the teenage me. The songs in the movie serve to disorient the viewer in disconcerting ways, keeping you off guard in much the same way that Sergeant Howie is never quite sure what’s going on until the end that is all the more horrific once we see its inevitability.

All in all, it’s a lovely film, and speaks to the romantic Celt in me in a way few other movies have managed. It was my favorite Scottish-based horror movie for a long, long time.

But it has since been usurped, by a brash, gory, interloper. DOG SOLDIERS which, even although it was almost totally shot in Luxembourg with some stock scenery shots edited in later, still feels like a Scottish movie by dint of Kevin McKidd’s square-jawed lead role.

The in-jokes, the squaddies’ camaraderie, and the big fucking howling things all combine to make this exactly the kind of glorious monster romp that I have always loved. I’ve seen complaints about the monster design, complaints about the accents, and complaints about the script online, but for me, it all worked perfectly, and the first viewing of it left with a huge grin on my face that took a long time to fade.

The setting, starting in wooded glens and moving to the climax in a lonely farmhouse is one I’d love to see more of, and the siege with its deliberately echoed nods to Rorke’s Drift and another favorite movie is tightly managed by a director who just gets what makes a movie like this work.

All of the cast put in great performances, Sean Pertwee gets some great one-liners and a big scenery chewing ending, and McKidd’s physically carries him through the monster attacks with aplomb.

After this, the director’s next movie, DOOMSDAY was also set on Scotland, more sci-fi than horror, and it didn’t speak to me as much as DOG SOLDIERS, which remains, for me, the highlight of Scottish based horror movies.

There are more, like THE DEAD OUTSIDE, which I found a tad dull, and UNDER THE SKIN, which I’ve yet to see, but the three I’ve mentioned are top of my pile.

I’d love something else to come along, knock my wee Scottish socks off, and replace one, or even all, of them though.

 

 

William Meikle’s newest book, out 9th December from Crystal Lake Publishing is THE GHOST CLUB.

It’s a simple premise.

In Victorian London, a select group of writers, led by Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker and Henry James held an informal dining club, the price of entry to which was the telling of a story by each invited guest.

These are their stories, containing tales of revenant loved ones, lost cities, weird science, spectral appearances and mysteries in the fog of the old city, all told by some of the foremost writers of the day. In here you’ll find Verne and Wells, Tolstoy and Checkov, Stevenson and Oliphant, Kipling, Twain, Haggard, Wilde and Blavatsky alongside their hosts.

Come, join him for dinner and a story.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077SWFLZM

 

Leave a Reply