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  • Endless Joke
    Endless Joke
    by David Antrobus

    Here's that writers' manual you were reaching and scrambling for. You know the one: filled with juicy writing tidbits and dripping with pop cultural snark and smartassery. Ew. Not an attractive look. But effective. And by the end, you'll either want to kiss me or kill me. With extreme prejudice. Go on. You know you want to.

  • Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip
    Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip
    by David Antrobus

    Please click on the above thumbnail to buy my short, intense nonfiction book featuring 9/11 and trauma. It's less than the price of a cup of coffee... and contains fewer calories. Although, unlike most caffeine boosts, it might make you cry.

  • Music Speaks
    Music Speaks
    by LB Clark

    My story "Solo" appears in this excellent music charity anthology, Music Speaks. It is an odd hybrid of the darkly comic and the eerily apocalyptic... with a musical theme. Aw, rather than me explain it, just read it. Okay, uh, please?

  • First Time Dead 3 (Volume 3)
    First Time Dead 3 (Volume 3)
    by Sybil Wilen, P. J. Ruce, Jeffrey McDonald, John Page, Susan Burdorf, Christina Gavi, David Alexander, Joanna Parypinski, Jack Flynn, Graeme Edwardson, David Antrobus, Jason Bailey, Xavier Axelson

    My story "Unquiet Slumbers" appears in the zombie anthology First Time Dead, Volume 3. It spills blood, gore and genuine tears of sorrow. Anyway, buy this stellar anthology and judge for yourself.

  • Seasons
    Seasons
    by David Antrobus, Edward Lorn, JD Mader, Jo-Anne Teal

    Four stories, four writers, four seasons. Characters broken by life, although not necessarily beaten. Are the seasons reminders of our growth or a glimpse of our slow decay?

  • Indies Unlimited: 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology
    Indies Unlimited: 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology
    Indies Unlimited

    I have two stories in this delightful compendium of every 2012 winner of their Flash Fiction Challenge—one a nasty little horror short, the other an amusing misadventure of Og the caveman, his first appearance.

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Entries in Ben Wheatley (3)

Saturday
Aug042018

Ghost Birds

What have we here? A field in England. Absent colour or anything defining.

Wait. Sound of a bird, a two-syllable scream. Could mostly be anything. Hear it? The monochrome ghost of a lapwing.

Unveiled, the razor stubble underfoot, foreground to a copse. Ploughed lines littered with fallen crows. Black-pepper dead things and mud, well seasoned. Botched black ops. Othered.

Oh, this is it. Here. The land of nowhere. It's grey, and in that grey another grey partitioned.

Separate this. Memorize it. Long gone, the caws of crows are a haunted echo of here.

No one survived. Not you. Not me.

Caravans in a lacklustre grid, arranged on causeways, flavourless as barroom eels in watery aspic.

This is a sort of ending.


***


"You remember that summer?"

"I do."

"How do you know which summer I meant?"

"I guessed."

"Huh. You were so splendid. And those luscious hills!"


***


Programmed, the night train plies its loop, though nothing living enters or leaves. Entropy will win out, but for now emptiness goddesses its route. Sparks shower lost highways, accidental angels on agnostic tableaux.

Tell me I am lost. Read me a story, Mama. Warn me against the aroma of risen bread. Against tricksters and temptresses. Fresh ground Arabian beans and newly cut grass.

Next? Will I triumph? I barely even exist.


***


"How is any of this right?"

"It isn't."

"Then…?"

"There ain't no then."

"But…"

"Enough. We won't ever answer this."


***


Each season speaks its maddening tale. This glass, this pane, is but a sliver cleaving air.

No glass can separate our lust. Air is blent blank comfort bathing everything.

Armies approach. Still the empty sunless skies hover like dismal apparitions over barren fields. The sound of clanking armour barely registers. All is ashen subdued terror.

Your champion's enticed into a tent, his low guts cut and unwound as he's sent into the dreary afternoon. Sent away screaming, watching his own steaming innards unspool between his feet.


***


Our quiet road angles its way beyond the town, arcing when it needs to, straight beside the black waters of the river, an extended jawbone savouring asphalt taste, seeking salt. Keep on driving. Maybe it will all resolve itself. Make sense. No one else pretends to even share this space. Silent wrecks litter the ditches. This once vibrant seat is ever more bloodless.

Cormorants bow and dip in the reeking shallows, flex their pitiless cauls, persevere and stretch and swallow, such drab unlovely priests.

Where did you go? Did you abandon us on purpose? Is this what it is now? Will any of us be spared?

Probably no. And you? Probably don't follow.

Saturday
Mar012014

4. to 1. A Broken Girl to Girls A-Broken

1. Martyrs  

Okay, everyone who mentioned this film over the last few weeks I posted this list on Facebook, please go get tested for psychic abilities, as it was always perched at the summit long before anyone suggested it, I swear. Again, as with plenty of the French extreme stuff, femininity is a theme. As well as (female) suffering. But it's not what you'd expect. It's decidedly modern, almost Tarantino-esque in its jumpy, nonlinear plot, eschews genre conventions in similar ways to Wheatley's Kill List, yet it's also damn near medieval in its cruelty. In an odd, full-circle way that certainly wasn't intended, it shares some themes with the movie that opened my list, not least the human capacity to endure or perversely even welcome pain, but it will surprise you more than once, and undeniably sicken you in ways you'll take weeks to recover from. So, you've been warned. 

And that said, we've reached the end, in more ways than one. Uh, can I say it's been a slice, or would that be crass? 

2. The Vanishing (Spoorloos)  

Now, I haven't seen the US remake with Jeff Bridges, so can't speak to that, but I'm talking the Dutch-French original from 1988. I can't really say too much, as this film is especially vulnerable to spoilers—and if I were you I'd stop reading here if you haven't seen it, yet intend to—but I only caught this gem quite recently and was shocked into an almost catatonic, open-mouthed silence by its deceptively placid, undemonstrative tone that leads so inexorably toward one of the coldest, bleakest, and most unforgettably harrowing conclusions I've had the misfortune to endure. (Also, um, Courtney Love lookalike, it has to be said!) 

3. Mulholland Dr.  

To me Lynch may not be perceived as a horror director, but most of his films contain exactly what I look for from the genre: deep, unsettling dread, nightmare moments of inexplicably surreal intensity and, at their heart, a girl (or boy) in trouble. This one is definitely about a girl, though. And very much in trouble. There's a distressing tension between the demands of Hollywood and the objectification of feminine beauty (ironically, Naomi Watts and Laura Harring are pretty much perfect in their deceptively layered and oppositional roles). I could outline my interpretation of the plot here, but it doesn't matter: you need to watch it first, at least once, before entertaining even the hope of unraveling it. Sure, that's part of the fun; it's a puzzle box of a film, but more crucially, the pure foreboding subcurrent of terror underlying this unfurling tragedy has to be experienced in all its visceral yet quiet magnificence. You'll never taste espresso the same way again. Or think of smiling elderly couples as cute. Or have any frame of reference for Billy Ray Cyrus whatsoever. I'll resist ending with the word "silencio." Oops. 

4. May  

This list's most recent theme has been femininity. Not necessarily feminism, although it could be. These final entries confirm something for me: that in order to be truly effective, the horror genre must encompass and acknowledge and even own its propensity for sexism before the possibility of moving past this particularly thorny problem has even a chance.

Anyway, I'd be hard pressed to name another movie that's as equally endearing as it is offputting, thanks to director Lucky McKee. It's a cracked Victorian attic of a film, wrenchingly sad yet somehow managing to max out the creep factor too. It also comes closest to breaking my no-humour rule for this list, but by the end, all that quirkiness is decidedly not funny when we realise where May is taking us. And as stellar as everyone else involved is, a great deal of the credit must go to Angela Bettis for her performance in the title role, one that will break your heart while simultaneously unsettling your stomach. Think Frankenstein meets Carrie. And then let your decidedly sick imagination run wild and free.

This scene is pretty much perfect.

Friday
Jan312014

20. to 17. Ice and Quiet to Disquieting Skies

17. Take Shelter  

Okay, another movie many would not classify as horror, but for me, what is more horrifying than having to choose between accepting your mental health is slowly disintegrating and acknowledging the possibility the world might be approaching apocalypse? Add to that an incredible performance by Michael Shannon, more than ably supported by the lovely Jessica Chastain, an eerie and haunting score, and atmosphere to spare—loveliness, loneliness, and dread braiding like the skeins of birds that dance in these bleak midwestern skies—and I've just talked myself into watching it again. These are ordinary blue collar people we can relate to, an important aspect of why this film is so effective. For that and more, Jeff Nichols is someone else to keep an eye on; his direction lends this film a powerful sense of quiet unease worthy of Lynch while splicing it seamlessly with a Malick-like lyricism. Given my own tastes, and everything mentioned above, that combination is damn near unassailable. I'm already regretting having this too low on my list.

18. Kill List  

Ah, England again. Ben Wheatley: watch out for him. There's little I can say that won't spoil it, so yeah, just find this gem and watch it. Unflinching is a word that leaps to mind. Unpredictable, too. Really, like many films on my list it's a hybrid—a pagan horror mystery thriller road movie. Yeah, just watch it. Be warned, though: it doesn't pull its punches. Thoughtfully brutal. 

19. Alien  

In light of my last choice, highly predictable, no doubt. But still. Pretty much everything I said about The Thing applies equally here. If anything, it's even more claustrophobic, has a slightly more iconic gross-out moment, asks questions about artificial intelligence many straightforward sci-fi films often flub, and there's a little more Yin to The Thing's Yang. As in Sigourney. Yes, it's hardly original of me, but I compare the two films in the darkened movie theatre of my head often enough for it to be unhealthy, and I love them both, and perhaps because it came first I rate Alien a tiny notch higher. As great as the XY ensemble in a whiteout was, the extra X in a black void just edges it. Oh, did I forget to tell you how goddamn terrifying it is? In space, no one... etc. 

20. The Thing  

John Carpenter's version, from 1982. Once again, the borders are blurry, but whether this is sci-fi, horror, or horror/sci-fi doesn't really matter when you sit down to watch it and realise far too late you're trapped in scary-as-hell world, except it's not hell, unless hell froze over, because this is Antarctica and your choice is: stay and fight (or hide from) whatever appallingly wrong thing has invaded your camp and taken over your friends' bodies or walk out into the ice and die. This film is relentless. And beyond the relentlessness, there's a purity, too. Just watch the clip. It's an incredible opening scene. Gorgeous, expansive, somehow lonely. But after this, everything closes in and becomes chillingly, hermetically sealed. (Highest resolution and full screen recommended.)