Anne Rice announces new Lestat book; time to process my feelings

I’d recommend watching the video above, as the interplay between Christopher Rice and his mom is downright charming.

But here’s a quick recap: Anne Rice has written a new vampire novel, “Prince Lestat,” that is due later this year. She is describing it as a sequel to the first five “Vampire Chronicles,” as well as being a slight reboot of sorts.

Honestly, I’m not surprised. I don’t believe it’s a cash grab, since I’ve always felt that Rice fully commits to whatever she’s writing. Whether I want to follow where her passion leads her, however, is another story.

I’m a huge fan of the first four books in the “Vampire Chronicles.” “Interview With The Vampire” was an intimate character study of a vampire’s attempts to cope with a terrifying existence. “The Vampire Lestat” — possibly my single favorite vampire novel — deepened Rice’s mythology. “Queen of the Damned” nearly flies off the rails, but it’s still cool to see the characters in a wide-scale adventure. “Tale of the Body Thief” felt like an excellent coda to the three books that had come before.

But “Memnoch the Devil” broke the spell for me. I certainly don’t begrudge Rice for writing it; I think “Memnoch” was something she had to wrestle with for herself. But the result was that her supernatural universe expanded into ways I just didn’t find particularly compelling. Her early books were compelling in part because the characters didn’t know if there was a literal God or Satan; “Memnoch” tossed that ambiguity out the window.

But we’ll see. I like Anne Rice. She’s a controversial figure in some circles, but she’s always seemed like a genuine person in both interviews and the times that I’ve met her. I’d love to see this succeed. Either way, it’s something that she’s excited about.

One thing’s for certain: I hope that there’s no mention of “sparkling,” whether as support for or a jab at “Twilight.” I wish people would let that rest.

“Maplecroft”: Lizzie Borden vs. the Great Old Ones

Maplecroft

My longtime friend Cherie Priest recently released the cover to her upcoming novel “Maplecroft.” This is one of my most anticipated books of the year, and that’s not just nepotism talkin’; it’s essentially “Lizzie Borden vs. Cthulhu” — how could I not want to read that?

“Maplecroft” arrives this September.

Description:
Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks; and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one. It’s not as if she had much choice. Her parents were trying to eat her.

Now it is 1894.

In the wake of her trial, Lizzie has changed her name to “Lizbeth Andrew,” and she’s bought a house on the other side of her oceanfront hometown—a sprawling Victorian mansion called Maplecroft. Her inherited fortune has been invested in a terrific library and laboratory, installed in Maplecroft’s basement; and from this center of operations she observes and researches the supernatural foe that so hideously transformed her parents.

Someone has to. And no one else even suspects what’s truly happening. No one knows that just offshore lurks an ancient god, starved for blood. Its agents are masked, and eager to kill. They are ready to invade.

But one woman stands guard on the shore between the ocean and Fall River. She has seen the dark forces of the Atlantic firsthand, and she has no illusions. Every night she hears the tide bring messages of madness, apocalypse, and monsters.

And she is ready to meet them all. With an axe.

(Source: MAPLECROFT has a cover!)

I appear to be the demographic for “Penny Dreadful”

I’m going to have to lower my expectations because this looks too damn good to be real. When this show was first announced, I thought, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” When it went into production, and I thought, “I bet it will be really cheesy.” Now that promos are surfacing, my mind is blown. Dark, rich atmosphere. The greats of Gothic literature being treated seriously. Even the title of the show. And if “the Master” at the end is Dracula as I suspect, that’s the scariest Big D has been in decades. And that’s just on a commercial. A terrifying Dracula, what a peculiar notion. So yeah, it’s best to prepare for disappointment now.

Description:
Some of literature’s most terrifying characters, including Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and iconic figures from the novel Dracula –are lurking in the darkest corners of Victorian London. “Penny Dreadful” is a frightening psychological thriller that weaves together these classic horror origin stories into a new adult drama.

“From Dusk Till Dawn” series trailer

Could be interesting. This looks like it will take a more serious tone than the gonzo feature film, which I think would be a good approach. We’ll see March 11, when it debuts on the El Rey network (which, to be honest, I am not familiar with).

“Only Lovers Left Alive” soundtrack streaming online

Jim Jarmusch’s vampire film “Only Lovers Left Alive” has been getting very promising reviews. If it’s as good as people are saying, hopefully it will help public opinion swing back around so that vampires are seen as cutting edge instead of, you know, wusses. The US release date is scheduled for April 11, 2014; I’m looking forward to it.

An article at Shock Till You Drop tipped me off that Dazed is streaming the film’s soundtrack in its entirety, so here you go.

Description from Dazed’s website:
On Feburary 21, idiosyncratic auteur Jim Jarmusch releases his twisted take on the vampire genre, “Only Lovers Left Alive.” Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska and Tom Hiddleston star as philosophically-musing – and occasionally feuding – vampires trying to find a purpose in their sprawling, immortal lives. To soundtrack the film’s twilight world, brooding NYC rock outfit SQÜRL (Jim Jarmusch, Carter Logan and Shane Stoneback) have created an epic score in collaboration with Dutch composer Jozef van Wissem of stoner riffs, minimal orchestration and haunting vocals, courtesy of guest appearances from Zola Jesus, Yasmine Hamdan and Madeline Follin of Cults. It pulses with vigour and romance, much like Jarmusch’s film itself. Stream the soundtrack exclusively on Dazed below.

100 Years of Horror: Dracula and His Disciples

A documentary about Dracula, presented in the dulcet tones of Sir Christopher Lee.

You’re welcome.

“The Countess”

The CountessI finally caught the 2009 film “The Countess.” Julie Delpy not only starred, but directed as well. The movie was well-done, if a bit dispassionate. While Elizabeth Báthory’s crimes have been referenced or alluded to in many horror films and books, there are surprisingly few dramatic takes on her life. Another production, “Báthory,” was released in 2008; I haven’t seen that one yet, but I have read it takes a different approach to this historic figure.

At just over an hour and a half, “The Countess” is well-paced… in fact, it may be a bit too brief. In this film, the Countess’ search for rejuvenation is prompted by a love affair with a younger man. When his father orchestrates the dissolution of their relationship, she becomes obsessive — leading to her infamous use of blood as skincare products.

While not excusing her horrific acts, “The Countess” offers a somewhat sympathetic view of Báthory. While she is certainly depicted as spiraling into madness, the viewer is shown how she became a convenient victim in a power grab. We can’t blame Báthory’s crimes on anyone else — and a broken heart is a real shitty excuse for the outright murder of innocents — but I can’t help but feel that this is close to what really went down. Since this film offered a more realistic take on Báthory, her fabled “blood baths” are excluded.

Just for the record, there are no direct references to vampirism. While the film is definitely of interest to vampire fans due to Báthory’s shadow over the genre, it is a historical drama with the onscreen shocks kept to a minimum. The cast is terrific and the historical ambiance is solid. Recommended for those interested in this controversial noble.

“I, Frankenstein”

I, Frankenstein“I, Frankenstein” is every bit as ridiculous, self-serious, and unsubtle as I was during my late teens/early twenties. It felt like such a product of the early ’90′s that I got a weird sense of nostalgia watching it. If my “Vampire: the Masquerade” playing, “Crow” reading, Disney’s “Gargoyles” watching younger self was able to make a movie, it would be eerily similar to “I, Frankenstein.” The only thing missing was a Nine Inch Nails wannabe blaring on the soundtrack during the film’s many fight scenes.

The movie begins with a Wikipedia synopsis of Mary Shelley’s novel. Frankenstein’s monster (Aaron Eckhart) has reclaimed the body of his creator and buried it when he is accosted by some demons right out of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” He quickly dispatches the demons back to hell, but he’s immediately approached by some gargoyles claiming to be emissaries from God. The gargoyle’s leader names Frankenstein’s creation “Adam” and tries to enlist him in their war against the demons. Adam wants no part of it, preferring to wander the earth in search of meaning. Centuries later, the demons start hassling Adam again, so he decides to end their shit once and for all. The always entertaining Bill Nighy shows up, a female scientist in search of the secrets of reanimation gets involved, and fights break out.

As the affirmative title “I, Frankenstein” suggests, the core of the film deals with Adam’s search for meaning. The film acknowledges that sons take the names of their fathers, so calling the creation “Frankenstein” isn’t necessarily incorrect. I liked all of this stuff, but there were things that I wish were handled differently. While “Frankenstein” is a horror novel, its creature is borne of scientific inquiry. I would have preferred it if this movie’s allies and foes paid lip service to weird science rather than supernatural forces. Mary Shelley’s novel existed in a universe where the forces of good and evil were not depicted in such absolutist terms. I admittedly like stories where Frankenstein’s monster interacts with other iconic characters like Dracula, but this “gargoyles vs. demons” storyline didn’t fit with the grander themes of the novel.

Criticizing this movie is pointless since the trailer promises exactly what you’re going to get. Hated the trailer? Don’t see it. However, merely watching Frankenstein’s monster depicted as a Batman-esque “dark avenger” beating the shit out of things evoked a Pavlovian response in me. In other words, I enjoyed it, but your mileage will vary.

A new trailer for “The Strain”

Apparently, he is here.

Since I haven’t read the books, I am looking forward to finding out who “he” is. It’ll be a good to see a straight-up vampire horror series on the air.

“The Strain” debuts this summer on FX.

“Hannibal” returns Feb 28

When I first heard it announced, I thought that a Hannibal Lecter TV series was a terrible idea. As a friend of mine put it, it felt like NBC wanted their own “Dexter,” but was trying to hide behind a recognizable “brand name.”

I was very, very wrong.

To say NBC’s “Hannibal” exceeded my expectations is an understatement. As much as I loved Anthony Hopkins and Brian Cox, Mads Mikkelsen is, for me, the definitive screen Lecter. Not only were the performances great across the board, but visually it was stunning. It’s operatic approach to the macabre was unlike anything I had seen on network television before; in many ways, it was the show that I wished “Millennium” had been. Also refreshing is series creator Bryan Fuller’s embrace of the “horror” tag, as opposed to snootily dismissing it.

And now, season two is on the way. The promo video above looks absolutely fantastic. I know what I will be watching at 10:00 PM this February 28.

Hannibal Season 2

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