The A to Z of Horror
...This BBC TV series, in which Clive Barker promised to take viewers on "his personal tour of the Darkest of the Arts" has appeared in a rather confused and confusing form. While there are clearly a traditional 26 separate chapters in the BBC tie-in book, the six-part BBC series which first aired in 1997 had just 21 segments - and 2 of these were different to those in the accompanying book...
Each of the segments (with the exception of that dealing with The Crow (N for Never Again in the TV series but included within Z for Zombie in the book) was introduced by Barker and he also narrated one or two of the segments.
The confusing plot thickens further if we are to believe a running order we've seen for the German broadcast of the series, in which four segments never broadcast in the BBC version are listed as having aired - including V for Vice Versa in which Barker discusses his own career...
As if that wasn't enough, a re-broadcast of just 5 episodes in the UK in 2001 on a niche cable channel boasted a brand new new title sequence - and, oddly, no mention of the alphabet at all when introducing the segments...
A planned US broadcast was scheduled on A&E to coincide with the book's US release, but never quite made it...
Part One - American Psycho
American Psycho : "In the winter of 1957, police on the trail of a missing woman were led to a Wisconsin farmhouse. What they found there stunned the local community. As the facts of the case seeped into the American consciousness, they became the stuff of myth. Three classic horror movies over three decades drew on the atrocities in that small town to reflect the nightmares of their own age, and each movie went a little deeper into the death, the ritual and the insanity."
Part Two - The Devil You Know
Beelzebub : "When the film The Exorcist was released in 1973 the Devil had been dormant for some while. He'd been reduced to a figure of fun; comic relief in kids cartoons. What writer William Peter Blatty and director William Friedkin understood so well is that the dark gods still exist - expressions of our deepest fears and desires."
Xploitation : "Horror has always delighted in its maverick status. The term 'low budget' might have been invented for the horror movie. And the same fevered imaginations that dream up these celluloid fantasies can be equally creative at getting them seen."
Rictus : "One of the most unendurable experiences we can have goes like this: we look into a human face and see madness there. Insanity is the most pure, the most undiluted horror of all. Look very closely at the faces you are about to see. Aren't they strangely familiar? Couldn't they almost be you..?"
Sorceress : "The American writer Shirley Jackson is perhaps best known for her novel The Haunting Of Hill House. An elegantly written exploration of the place where aberrant minds and supernatural phenomena meet. She's described now as the pioneer of what's being termed 'modern gothic' but that barely evokes the power of her imaginative vision."
Part Three - The Kingdom Of The Dead
Zombies : "Face to face with a monster, I like to think I could handle myself pretty well: charm a vampire, sidestep a werewolf, but of all the horror archetypes, zombies have always scared me witless! Maybe it's because they're so unthinking, so unemotional. Maybe it's simply because there's so damn many of them..."
Window : "When Edgar Allan Poe died of drink and despair in Baltimore in 1849, all that remained of him was an old coat, some unpaid bills and some of the most feverish, compelling and horrific literature in the English language. His work has inspired movies, poetry, theatre, painting and the photographer Simon Marsden."
Open Vein : "Horror delights in forbidden pleasures. Things which are terrifying, yet strangely compelling. Of all the dreadful pleasures, none is quite so arousing as blood. Its colour, its smell, its texture arouse a primal response in us. It's either a distressing sign of wounding or a proof of our victory."
Quiet Men : "Some of my best friends are monsters. I've often found that the actors who on screen are the most hideous of creatures are, in reality, the most pleasant of folk, although if you get on the wrong side of them they can sometimes take a turn for the worse..."
Part Four - Broken Homes
Escape : "Everybody wants a safe place to live, a street where the children can play unmolested and where the street lamps are reassuringly bright. In other words, the suburbs. And they were a safe place until the day John Carpenter moved in..."
Japan : "Since the war, Japan has put its faith in technology, but sometimes technology takes on a life of its own. Tokyo filmmaker Shinya Tsukamoto makes movies about men turning into machines. The hero and his tetsuo, or 'iron man', is part warrior insect and part driller killer."
Innocents : "Ever since Cain and Abel, kids have been getting worse. At least, that's what some adults who forget they were ever kids themselves will tell you. Did you really bring up your angels to behave like little devils? And, if you didn't, what exactly is driving them?"
Killing Joke : "At its best, theatrical horror can be overwhelmingly intense - think of Greek tragedy or Shakespeare. But for sheer, well, spectacle you can't beat the French Grand Guignol. Grand Guignol is a term which has entered our language to describe the most gruesome events. But was there anything quite so harrowing as the events enacted on a small stage in Paris almost 100 years ago?"
Part Five - A Fate Worse Than Death
Devil Rides Out : "Classic British horror has an unwritten rule - aristocrats should suffer mightily against the forces of darkness, but it is always the servants who should mop up the blood. No British author understood this better than Dennis Wheatley, servant of the Queen and sworn enemy of the Devil."
Pain : "Among special effects artists, Tom Savini holds a unique place. He's affectionately known as the Wizard of Gore, the man who put splatter on the map. In films like Dawn Of The Dead and Friday the 13th he makes us believe that the carnage is for real. And he should know, he's seen it with his own eyes."
Grim Tales : "Pick up a book of classic fairy tales now and you might be surprised. Did we really grow up on such an unrelieved diet of infanticide, cannibalism and bestiality? We develop our taste for the Dark Side very early in life and some of us, if we're lucky, never lose it."
Never Again : No Introduction.
Part Six - Beyond Good And Evil
Mistress Of The Night : "The British born actress Barbara Steele has a face, a look, unlike anyone else in movies. Most of her Italian-made horror films, like Mario Bava's Black Sunday, are modern day cults. She does what few actresses are capable of doing - she let syou see both destruction and delight in the same pair of eyes."
Unborn : "Everybody knows that, when we're born, a ruthless system of biological machinery takes over. Sex or birth, they either function to plan, which is awesome, or they go wrong, which is the stuff of nightmares..."
Chaos : "In the 1930s, the Old Gods had their golden age, courtesy of one Howard Philip Lovecraft. His works - clotted, paranoid narratives about the clash between man and the supernatural - are dense and difficult but, for anyone interested in horror, completely indispensable."
Final Frame : "All of us yearn for immortality, for ourselves or a loved one. But, as the sages say, be careful what you wish for - it might come true..."
On The A - Z Of Horror...
"I regret that David Cronenberg, for example, no longer produces these kind of movies, because he was one of the great glories of horror movies... He's just decided it isn't his thing. In fact, I'm doing a BBC television series called 'Clive Barker's A To Z Of Horror,' so we invited him to contribute, and he said, 'I just don't want to do that any more. I've done that, and I'm no horror film maker any more'... He's doing things like Naked Lunch, which is a long way from They Came From Within or Rabid or the one which I think is his masterpiece, The Brood, which I think is an extraordinary picture."
Lord Of Illusions
By Robert DuPree, Subliminal Tattoos, No 5, Summer 1995
"[Clive Barker's A To Z Of Horror]'s a celebration of a genre that isn't often celebrated. "
Clive Has The Leash On Fear
By [ ], Scottish Daily Record, 4 October 1997
"Horror has never not been popular. Look at the darkness in fairytales, Titus Andronicus or the ghosts and witches in the Scottish play. There is a long and unbroken line of people who have used this kind of imagery in plays, paintings, novels, and now movies.
"Even if you don't like horror, the imagery is part of your cultural baggage. Everyone has stepped into a shower and thought of Psycho. That's in our cultural lives as much as Coca-Cola or Elvis Presley; it's part of who we are. King Kong, Boris Karloff, vampires - these are universal things. All of them partake of the same pool of images. I thought, `Why not pull these things together in a compendium?' The key word here [in A to Z Of Horror] is 'celebration'..."
Box Clever - Clive And Dangerous
By [ ], The Independent, 4 October 1997
"The six-part series is a serious, celebratory approach to a genre that is too often dealt with in an off-hand and condescending fashion."
Life's A Scream
By Jennifer Selway, The Express On Sunday, 29 September 1997
Mike Butterworth, Editor - Savoy Books : "Kerry Richardson filmed us and Alan Moore for an episode called 'Year Zero'. The series was intended to go out in April 1996, and the BBC Books publication - which is an exact pictorially-assisted sequence of the films as they were meant to be shown in the TV series - shows you what could have been. It is a very good book. But someone at the BBC lost their nerve. Instead of making cutting edge television of the quality of, say, 'Dancing In The Streets', or Channel Four's 'The Art Of Triping', which they had it in their heads to do, they treated the genre of horror with less respect. When they finally screened A-Z, after prevaricating for over a year, they cut out all the modern and urban horror - H.R.Giger, us, Alan Moore, David Cronenberg, the rap artists Gravediggaz (Dennis Wheatley was left in), and messed around with the films. They ruined the editing in some cases, and shoved the series out on the graveyard slot. The final episode was never shown. I think it was obviously censorship, but it was also stupidity. But buy the book, preferably the US HarperPrism edition, which is a hardback."
By Matt Leyshon, Blood From 'Stones, Waterstones, Salisbury, April 1998 (note - online at www.abel.co.uk)
Kris Guido, Artist - Savoy Books : "The entire series was screwed up from start to finish. If the censor did have a hand in our section, we owe him a debt."
By Matt Leyshon, Blood From 'Stones, Waterstones, Salisbury, April 1998 (note - online at www.abel.co.uk)
Roberta Lannes : "When I was approached to do the filming of Clive Barker's A-Z of Horror as commentator on the letter 'U' for Unborn, I was intrigued that I could speak to the profound effect Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby had on me. I read it long before I considered getting married, let alone pregnant. It horrified me and tapped into the very core fear a mother has during her pregnancy of giving birth to something imperfect and, at its worst, possibly monstrous. It was the best birth control imaginable for me. Years later, whilst married, I had to face the real thing. Now, with the end of my childbearing years having arrived, remembering the trauma of a very difficult pregnancy and the child I lost in 1984 at six months, 'Pearl' sort of took hold of me."
By Roberta Lannes, Dark Terrors Volume 5, edited by Stephen Jones and David Sutton, 2001