Halloween is nearly upon us, and obviously Gollancz are quite excitable about it (particularly the American). In between stuffing our faces with orange Oreos and choosing which film to watch, we’ve also been asking our authors to share some horrors with us. Today, David Moody, author of horror bestseller Hater, shares his desert island horror books with us.
When Marcus invited me to put together a Halloween-themed post for the blog he suggested I might list my Desert Island horror books and films. So here are three books and three films which have all traumatized me at some point and which helped set me on the path to writing books like HATER and the AUTUMN series, the final volume of which (shameless plug incoming) has just been released in paperback by Gollancz.
DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS by John Wyndham
I’m sure you all know this one… a meteor storm leaves almost everyone blind and at the mercy of seven foot carnivorous walking plants. Why do I love it so much? Because Wyndham makes his bizarre-sounding apocalypse so damn believable. Ordinary people in ordinary settings having to deal with the most extraordinary of situations.
DOMAIN by James Herbert
From the nuclear explosions on the first pages through to the final escape from hordes of mutant rodents in a bunker under the ruins of London, this last book in Herbert’s RATS trilogy is utterly horrific from cover to cover. No matter how bleak the end of the world scenarios I manage to dream up are (and I do love a bit of bleakness) I don’t think I could ever create anything as unrelentingly grim as this. Just when you think things can’t possibly get any worse for Herbert’s survivors, they inevitably do.
EARTH ABIDES by George R Stewart
I have an unhealthy fascination with stories about the end of the world as we know it, but that’s not necessarily going to be the end of the world, is it? EARTH ABIDES, with it’s portrayal of society in the decades following a devastating epidemic (the post-post-apocalypse, if you like), remains relevant and thought-provoking today, more than sixty years after first publication.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
How could any self-respecting author of zombie fiction not list Romero’s game-changing classic as a desert island choice? Recent mainstream overexposure may have neutered our undead friends, but to my mind the living dead remain the purest, most terrifying of all monsters, and with this film and its sequels Romero set the ground rules and paved the way for the rest of us.
THE OLD DARK HOUSE
Frankenstein director James Whale’s career was somewhat derailed by this 1932 story of an encounter with the dysfunctional family which inhabits the titular house, but it’s a wonderfully atmospheric, if oft-overlooked, classic. Adapted from the JB Priestly novel, BENIGHTED, and with a cast including Karloff and Charles Laughton, it’s a real treat for the discerning horror connoisseur.
A 1985 BBC mockumentary portraying the effects of a nuclear attack on Sheffield, and without doubt the most disturbing eighty minutes of drama I’ve ever watched. For kids in my year at school, having made it through THREADS was a badge of honour. Even now it’s hard to watch. Focusing on two ordinary families, it vividly portrays the immediate and longer-term effects of nuclear war in unflinching detail, showing the impact both on ordinary folks and society as a whole. It starts like CORONATION STREET and ends with hell on Earth. A brutal, unique and harrowing movie.
But then again, maybe it’s just me?
Whilst writing this list, it’s occurred to me how subjective a genre horror really is. Am I so unsettled by stories like THREADS and DOMAIN because I was a teenager in the eighties, when it seemed possible – no, probable – that we all might disappear in a white hot nuclear haze at some point in the next hour? Did Romero’s zombies have such an impact because I experienced them with a group of equally unprepared friends, in the middle of a monumental thunderstorm?
I think maybe we shouldn’t class horror as a genre at all. I mean, we know a Western is likely to feature cowboys and sheriffs etc., but a horror story? Well, that could be about anything. Clowns, frogs, vampires, reanimated toys, reanimated bodies, demons, rabid animals, aliens, enclosed spaces… What terrifies each of us is as unique as our fingerprints.
The only thing I know with any certainty is this: if I do ever find myself stranded alone on a desert island, these books and films would be the very last thing I’d want to take with me!