Nightmare Royale #13: LUCKY/UNLUCKY 13 (A Special Announcement, and “THE ACT OF KILLING”)Columns,John Skipp's Nightmare Royale (On Making Horror Better),News John Skipp
Well, I just got the prestigious “Luckiest Bastard In The World Award” a couple weeks back, at the World Horror Convention. And no, it wasn’t on the Stoker ballot.
Long story short: Rose O’Keefe of Eraserhead Press (the spearhead of the Bizarro movement) and Jeff Burk of Deadite Press (featuring cutting edge cult and extreme horror fiction) have just brought me on board as the newest Acquiring Editor in the larger Eraserhead family. (Which also includes my own genre-warping Fungasm Press.)
What this means is: my new job is to seek out the coolest fucking weird-ass art-o-taining manuscripts on the planet. And bring them to market, with one of the most artist-and-audience-friendly companies in the Wild West that is our new publishing frontier.
This is great news for me, coming straight on the heels of the death of Ravenous Shadows: a noble-yet-failed experiment that yielded five fine books, but never made it off the ground.
I couldn’t personally justify moving on until the rights to all five titles had been returned to their authors. If they had to be left dangling in limbo, then the least I could do was dangle with them, until all of us managed to break free together.
It took about a year before Ravenous was ready to give up the ghost. But they’re nice, smart business people – there are no villains in this story – and the last book (THE DARK, by Scott Bradley and Peter Giglio) was officially handed back to the authors on Thursday, May 8th, the day World Horror 2014 began.
So that was the news I brought to Portland, that night. And less than 30 minutes later, I had a new job.
I bring this all up not to aggrandize myself – though you are all welcome to inflate some party balloons (GO, HELIUM!) – but because I’m insanely excited to pursue the agenda I set out with Ravenous Shadows: to publish short, powerful, mind-blowing books with all of the boring shit left out, that you can read in roughly the time it takes to watch a feature film.
Jeff Burk is the editor-in-chief of Deadite Press. It’s his line. And he has built it on a strong foundation. Brian Keene, Edward Lee, Shane McKenzie, Wrath James White, and the horror end of Carlton Mellick III’s catalog are the backbone; his focus is clearly on extreme horror. The extremer, the better.
I will attempt to help round out the cult section of our roster with the finest subversive talent, old and new, that I can get my hands on. Cuz that’s my job.
And as fate would have it, my first two acquisitions are the two Ravenous titles that probably belonged on Deadite in the first place: Adam Cesare’s TRIBESMEN, and Jan Kozslowski’s DIE, YOU BASTARD! DIE!
The bad news is that I can no longer review Deadite titles for Fango, for obvious conflict-of-interest reasons. I’m hoping somebody else picks up that mantle.
So that’s my announcement. This boy is back in business.
Let the deluge begin!
Before we go, I wanna tip you off to the most horrifying film I’ve seen this year. It’s not a horror film, per se – it’s a documentary – but in terms of showing you how real-life stone-cold killers can parade around, cheerfully justifying their atrocities and then sleeping like fucking babies, I’ve never seen anything like it. And neither have you.
THE ACT OF KILLING (2012) focuses on a goofy group of old Indonesian pals who personally massacred thousands between 1965 and 1966, in a national anti-Communist purge that took out roughly a million people.
In essence, you get to hang with a death squad, watch them party and remorselessly reminisce about slitting throats with a wire garrotte, torturing, raping, and otherwise ruthlessly enforcing a purge on artists, intellectuals, college students, political combatants, the families of the above, and anyone else who disagreed or dared resist.
But director Joshua Oppenheimer doesn’t just leave it there. He seduces them into staging full-blown reenactments of their atrocities (complete with burning hovels and genuinely-screaming children), as well as fancily-artistic production numbers (including music, dance, and elaborate costumery).
In the process, what you get is a shockingly honest portrait of what happens when the monsters win, are celebrated in their homeland, and get to live long, happy lives. And what happens when one of them is suddenly snapped out of his trance, and brought face-to-face with the horror of what he’s done.
The results are staggeringly powerful, in ways it’s almost impossible to overstate. In fact, many people have told me that they want to watch the film, but are afraid to. And I don’t blame ’em. I was, too.
But I’m here to tell ya that you really want to see this. It’s not just a punishing punch in the face. It’s an incredibly well-made, richly layered, and deeply human film. It has humor and warmth and beauty, moments of tenderness and truly profound naked openness, that juxtapose so seamlessly with the pulverizing horror that it becomes a true and towering work of art in the process.
Cuz here’s the thing: these people are just people. People who did horrible, horrible things, absolutely. But people nonetheless. And instead of painting them simplistically as monsters, Oppenheimer wisely just lets them be who they are. In the process, they happily reveal themselves. Telling us truths we would not otherwise hear.
And in the way that the fantasy scenes and reenactments add hyperreality to the documentary mix, it genuinely approaches the artistry and jaw-dropping wowness of Alejandro Jodorowsky (EL TOPO, THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, SANTA SANGRE, and the new film THE DANCE OF REALITY, which is so fucking brilliant I am attaching the trailer here).
So, yes. If horror isn’t just a toy for you – a goofy breath of mayhem, to blow off steam with (and there’s nothing wrong with that) – then you want this stunning glimpse into the true horror of the human condition. I dare say you owe it to yourself.
Cuz this is how it is.