THERE IS A HELL. THIS IS WORSE – so says the tagline on promotional posters of new movie, The Void, starring actors Aaron Poole and Allison Fraser, and directed by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Konstanski. Released across theatres in the US and Canada, and with a DVD release in Europe, this film has already garnered positive attention from horror and sci-fi fans.
The Void follows character Daniel Carter, a police officer (played by Aaron Poole), who comes across an injured man in the middle of secluded land during his shift. Taking the bleeding man to a hospital to get him help, Carter soon realises something is amiss. A small group of staff and patients are trapped in the eerie hospital as they are surrounded by sinister looking figures who lie in wait beyond the darkness of the hospital. Who they are and what they want remains a mystery throughout much of the film, which lends to the suspense of the story. Add to that the mysterious deaths occurring amongst those who are desperately trapped in the hospital, and you have the ingredients for an unsettling and creepy film.
This movie is likely to appeal to fans of sci-fi and horror – I won’t be the first to say that there are elements in the film which bring to mind the Netflix series Stranger Things. There have also been comments in online reviews which mention the work of John Carpenter in comparison. What the directors and script writers have developed here, in The Void, is an animal of its own kind, in my opinion. Yes, some of the comparisons are understandable, but the film stands strongly on its own; such is the strength of the script, setting and atmosphere achieved. It is uniquely its own – The Void is a creepy drive on a uniquely dark road – gripping and uncomfortable, gritty yet other-wordly.
It is hard to place The Void in one category. I am first and foremost a horror fan, and there are plenty of dark elements to this story that pulled me in. The dark magnet of mystery and fear was certainly enough to grab my attention and keep it. The other-wordly aspect to the story lends those vivid flavours of science fiction, as previously mentioned, keeping fans of that style gripped. There is also drama – the relationships between characters deeper and more complicated than first imagined, the cast bringing to life the script impressively.
I enjoyed The Void. It was a creepy setting – the story unfolding within the corridors of a dark hospital, which I loved – and the cast were strong. Aaron Poole delivered his role as Daniel Carter with a vivid authenticity, breathing life into his character in the brilliant way Poole does in his roles. Kenneth Walsh, Daniel Fathers and Kathleen Munroe were equally impressive, as were the cast as a whole. The tension, believability and strength the film possesses is because of the weight of the cast presence.
Atmospheric, unusual, dark and sinister. These are the words that come to mind after spending time in The Void. It is different from any other horror I have seen lately, standing out amongst other recent releases. I highly recommend it, and rate the film 5 stars out of five.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE DIPLOMA – SO FAR
YOU may have followed my previous blog posts about my taking part in an online Diploma in Applied Paranormal Research run by tutor and author, Jayne Harris. Today marks the day that I am officially half way through the course – and indeed, is also the day that the course is now open for the public to enrol. If you are interested, the link will follow at the bottom of this post.
I promised to share my thoughts as I worked through the course, and today feels like an appropriate time to share my impressions – so far.
I am very much enjoying myself as this course progresses. I am a person who has been studying many aspects of the paranormal since I was a teenager, so I wondered whether there would be enough depth and information to strike and hold my interest in the course. I needn’t have worried. Jayne has composed a course which – whilst obviously having to cover some general and basic information on the subject – is actually full of interesting case studies, articles, theories and differing ways of viewing the paranormal. As well as video tutorials and a student handbook to aid study along the way, Jayne has also provided recommended reading for further study, so the student can look into certain subjects more if they want to pursue it further.
I don’t want to go too far into course details at this stage, because I am only half way through, and I intend to write a more fuller, more exact review of the course and what it compromises once I have completed it. Yet I did feel that, on this day when the course is now open to general enrolment, that this was a good time to share my first impressions.
I believe Jayne Harris has created a course that, to my mind so far, is extremely interesting, engaging, mind-opening and fun. As someone who has held an interest in this subject for many years, I am glad to have had the opportunity to learn more. I am experiencing theories and ways of looking at the paranormal field that I had not before, and even for that alone, I recommend any potential student to look into this course. I don’t believe you will be disappointed.
” I am experiencing theories and ways of looking at the
paranormal field that I had not before, and for that alone,
I recommend any potential student to look into this course “
If you think you may be interested in studying this course, the link is as follows:
I HAVE been interested in the paranormal since I was a child, although I cannot say specifically what sparked this interest within me. I simply remember from a young age that the subject drew me in; I recall reading books about ghosts at the library, and telling friends scary stories at sleep-over parties. This interest has stayed with me through it all. Here I am, all these years later – very much an adult enjoying studying the paranormal and even taking part in investigations. So, when leading figure of the paranormal, Jayne Harris, invited me to undertake the Diploma in Applied Paranormal Research, a CPD accredited diploma that involves learning about metaphysics, parapsychology, forensic approaches to studies and several practical assignments, I knew I had to accept.
Jayne Harris has quite a following in the world of the paranormal. Collecting and studying haunted objects for many years, Jayne has worked with many popular and respectable figures, including Zak Bagans from Ghost Adventures, and paranormalist, Uri Geller. She has co-authored a very popular book with Dan Weatherer, What Dwells Within, and even written articles for paranormal magazines. She is the owner of the very famous Peggy, the Haunted doll, and has featured in national magazines and newspapers. I have a lot of respect for her work, and I trust that the Diploma will bring those interested in this curious subject into deeper and inspired knowledge.
Above, Jayne Harris with Zak Bagans, of Ghost Adventures and Deadly Possessions.
So, this week and for the foreseeable future, I shall take part in this interactive, online, and self-paced course. I am going to review regularly my thoughts on the course and on the topics it covers here on my blog, so that people who are interested in the subject can learn more, and also people who are curious about enrolling on the course themselves can see if the study appeals to them. The course itself opens for public enrollment in March.
Diploma in Applied Paranormal Research:
HD Paranormal Website:
Death is a Process – Not a “Moment in Time” Event?
This is a morbid subject. Talking and thinking about death – of ourselves, of our loved ones. If you’re happy to continue, I’ll be interested to know your thoughts.
ACCORDING TO respected author P.H Atwater, who has studied and written numerous articles and books on the subject of death and Near Death Experiences, being brain dead isn’t quite enough to be declared medically and legally dead – and here is her explanation of why:
“It didn’t take long for brain death to be deemed unsuitable as a dependable criterion (to pronounce someone dead). That’s because too many patients who were brain dead tested with biological activity up to SEVEN days afterwards, and too many of those used for organ donation showed increase in blood pressure and heart rate as organs were being removed.” P.H Atwater, in the Book of Near Death Experiences.
This startling comment from the author really caused some big questions to arise within my mind: if even brain death isn’t enough to pronounce death, is there more we could be doing through medical science and health care professionals, to ensure that dead really means dead? It has come to light through science advancements that death really isn’t a one time event, but rather a slow devolution, a process whereby the body shuts down in phases.
Of course, tied in with this line of thinking is the powerful subject of the Near Death Experience. Encountered by many the world over (and often during a state when the person has been declared clinically dead) NDEs have often been touted as proof of an after-life: people leave their bodies and are able to see, hear and remember things they should not be able to (because they are at that time dead before being revived). They report travelling through tunnels of light, seeing deceased relatives and even facing a ‘movie’ of their life from beginning to end. These experiences are, by many, valid and real – and even some scientists now admit that there is at least a possibility that consciousness is separate from mind.
If, however, we arrive at a new assumption: death is a slow process and perhaps our minds are still functioning, (even when this doesn’t register on a hospital monitor), then perhaps the NDE is happening when some kind of life is still in the person. Therefore – does this undermine those that seek to use NDE as proof of an after-life? I personally am undecided.
Outside of the paranormal/after-life aspect to these thoughts, there is a harsh and important reality – when IS dead really dead? We have all come across chilling tales before, of those who were almost buried, but were later found to be alive, or morgue staff who, about to move a body, find that the individual is actually still alive.
In August of 2015, a tragic story was reported by the Express newspaper about a young lady who was three months pregnant, but after collapsing was pronounced dead by a doctor only three hours later. However, friends and family heard banging and shouting from within the coffin but when they lifted the coffin out – they were too late. She was dead. (Read full story here: http://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/600659/Woman-wakes-from-dead-coffiin-buried-alive )
Above, family members remove the coffin, photo from the Express
Or, there is the recent account from UK newspaper The Mirror, who reported a morgue worker found a man alive – in a fridge. The man had been pronounced dead after a serious road crash, five hours after being left in the morgue’s fridge. (Read the full story here: HERE
Above photo, courtesy of The Mirror
As a result of the above story, the family are looking into how their relative was pronounced dead – and if anything could have been done differently to save him as a result.
It’s a dark and morbid subject, not one that many will want to focus on. However, death – whether you believe in the after-life/paranormal or not – is a part of all of us, and I do feel that this warrants more attention and thought. Is there a way we could do things differently? And for those that believe in the power of NDE, do you still feel this brings us confirmation of the after-life, or merely a result of a dying brain?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Thank you.
I LOVE DARKNESS – in novels, films and television. I never knew how much I could love dark poetry, until I discovered the work of writer Richard Bell.
Bell has been writing for over ten years, including flash fiction, but focuses heavily on poetry – dark poetry full of the macabre and creepy. He has had his work featured in several anthologies and websites, and I am pleased to be featuring two of his poems here.
So, lower the lights, turn off the TV, and get caught up in the world of Richard Bell.
Subtleties of Spirit Sounds
Call unto the never end and never shall it be
Call unto the graven stones awash with pitted grief
Susurrate a tone below the cochlea sea foam …
They scream inside their silence
Once departed from the bones
Call to cameos of life
Remembered as a dream
Call to their recorded trek
The dead discerned as steam
Breath that glides electric chills
On curdled starlit wings
Carried from the there to here
By dark before dawn sings
Call unto the candle dance
By those attuned to loss
Call unto the brittle air
By those who’ve been across
The Bell, the Lamp, the Likeness Spell
For those come forth to talk
The linking skin feel hope within
Where highways meet and fork
Call to those gone much too soon
Beloved, wrenched out hearts
Call to hints, reminded glimpse
In states and worlds apart
Plunge in pools of ectoplasm
Teeming with our prayers
Submerged in swirling liquid dirge
Yet breathed as light as air
Call to shining spheres of them
In warmth devoid of pain
Unbridled joy, they cry “Ahoy!”
And be with us again.
The Ouija Tablet.
“Daddy, wake up, he wants to speak
I can’t shut down until he’s talked to you
A voice in the darkness, my screen has gone blank
Help me! I just don’t know
what I should do.”
He grumbled and coughed, sat up in bed
Looked at the clock in bleary dismay
His shift would begin in less than four hours
Yet another grim fourteen hour day
“Why are you not asleep in your bed?
I told you no games to be played after ten
Who wants to talk to me? What does he want?”
“Daddy, the man with the red eyes again.”
She handed him over her tablet with caution
He tapped twice on the blank screen yet to discover
The darkness stared back, but a much deeper blackness
Then slowly two terrible eyes were uncovered
A dread that he’d known only once in his life
Passed over his soul with awful despair
Knocking at death’s door in the heat of a battle
He swore that he saw them above in the air
“I am brought forth from behind the child’s mirror
What strangeness is this realm that keeps me from yours?
One soul awakened me
one soul I shall claim
The spirit board’s power hath opened hell’s door.”
He laughed at the horror then noticed the address
‘Virtual Ouija’ in brittle red script
The lump in his throat hit his gut like a gunshot
He needed to barter her clean soul for his
“I will bequeath my life force for her gentle soul
If that will appease the one I now address?
She could not know of the danger, in innocence
Attraction to floundering fish in distress.”
The tablet screen flashed and it fell to the floor
Spinning three times to counter the clock
“Daddy, he’s gone!” She smiled in relief
Then cold breath descended and all lights went off
From shallow and panicked to deep with relief
A breath on the pillow and he was asleep
“Daddy, he wants what is rightfully his
You are the sacrifice, you made the bargain.”
The little voice growled through a stirrup pump rasp
The screen of the tablet it burst into flames
He grabbed the girl and ran into her room
Blocking the door with a table and chair
She was asleep the whole time as her eyes rolled
Something was making its way up the stairs
The flickering lights saw a shape at the door
Three giant raps on it followed by hush
She fell to the floor laughing hysterically
He shouted “Begone!” in an adrenaline rush
“I have crossed over the spirit division
Called to this realm through thy looking glass board
Surrender your shine that escapes with the last breath
Fall with dark angels beyond rule of law
Bleed until pain is thy boatswain’s command
The serpent’s tooth sharpness of obscenity
Rivers of death thick with black sails, emblazoned
Bound for the gates of the kingdom
He picked up the child and put her to bed
As silence duped hope that the sound dissipated
The door split in two with a terrible crack
And breathed as he breathed and waited and waited…
Then darkness with nothing from modern design
No lights and no motors just sibilant hiss
Into his left ear a little voice uttered
“Will you take the summoner’s place with a wish.”
“If I make the trade she’ll be spared, you will swear
and I will breathe hell’s stench ladened air?”
Morning it broke like an egg
in the pan
She heard her tablet say ‘message for you’
The eye of the planchette grew large in the screen
Her father appeared but not one she knew
He grinned and he pointed just off to her right
She turned with dread to face the foul demon
The tablet claimed two souls in one awful night
Transported to realms beyond natural seasons
Message for you from the Ouija Board Tablet
Click it to contact someone you once knew
Ask as the planchette sweeps over old letters
Beware the dark forces that are out to trick you.
Find more about Richard Bell:
A big thanks to Richard Bell for allowing me to share his work.
The Devil in our Lives –
A Countdown of Possession Movies
WHEN THE Exorcist was first released in 1973, audiences around the world were both shocked and fearful at this new breed of horror. Exorcism was a well known religious ritual across the world, taking various guises and forms in different belief systems, but there were very few references to the dark and creepy ritual in film – until then. Directed by William Freidken, the film became a horror classic and stories of audience members fainting and being physically sick during watching the film only added to the legend of The Exorcist. Since then, however, the devil has visited our cinema and TV screens many times. The themes of the devil, of possession and exorcism are now widespread in our horror entertainment. Some films are similar to The Exorcist – others take a very sharp departure from that style. I’m a big fan of this theme in horror, and so I thought it’d be fun to compile a list of the best devil movies – some well known, others not so much. Take a look, and if I’ve missed any that you think worth mentioning, please drop me a comment. I’d love to know about any I have not come across.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Starring Jennifer Carpenter, this 2005 horror movie changed the direction of the demonic possession genre. Yes, there were plenty of jump scares, creepy scenes and frightening moments, but more than that, this film was also a courtroom drama. The contrast between the courtoom scenes and the possession scenes are stark and really keep the viewer tense throughout the story. Said to be based on the real life case of Annaliese Michel, this film has enough atmosphere and scares to please the most ardent of horror movie fans.
The Last Exorcism
Directed by Eli Roth and released in 2010, The Last Exorcism is a supernatural found-footage horror film about the demonic possession of a young, religious teenager. If you’re not really a fan of the found-footage genre, this might not be your thing. However, because it is filmed as an “on location” documentary for the most part, it doesn’t suffer too much from the jerky, jittery filming that comes often with others such as The Blair Witch (not until later in the movie, anyway!) I really enjoyed this film, I think the cast were strong, the atmosphere was very unnerving – and the ending was very twisted. If you haven’t already given it a go, I recommend The Last Exorcism (and its sequel – part two).
I deliberated for a moment about whether to include this film in the list. It isn’t an actual possession film, however it most definitely focuses on the themes of the devil and his influence on the world. Based on the book by Ira Levin, this epic and classic horror movie was released in 1968 and was directed by Roman Polanski. The story focuses on a young woman, a mother-to-be, who notices some very dark and disturbing events in the block of apartments in which she recently moved into. This film is a classic for a reason – the script, the acting, the sinister music and the dark storyline really work well. I highly recommend this one.
The Exorcism of Anna Ecklund
This film, released in 2015 and directed by Andrew Jones, is one of the most recent releases of the demonic possession genre. Said to be based on a real life case of possession, this film feels sinister to the audience because it has an air of authenticity behind it. Starring Lee Bane and Tiffany Cerri, this film is creepy and expertly delivers the tale of a young girl’s spiritual battle with the devil himself. The acting is strong, the atmosphere tense. I really enjoyed this offering to the genre.
The Devil’s Child
The Devil’s Child – AKA as Joshua – was released in 1997 and it is a perfect specimen in horror film. Based on an affluent American family, who increasingly become disturbed by the behaviour of their once angelic son, this film has creepiness in buckets. It is sad, twisted, dramatic and scary. This film in itself isn’t specifically a possession movie, either, but you’ll have to forgive me for adding it, because it is a notable and worthy film. It does explore the nature of evil – is this child possessed by some dark force? Or is he simply a product of his environment? You decide.
This 1976 horror flick most definitely is all about the devil – in the shape of a seemingly innocent child. You’ve probably seen this classic, if not, where have you been? It’s up there with The Exorcist in terms of how good it really is. Starring Gregory Peck and directed by Richard Donnor, The Omen is a horror film without flaw, in my opinion. A rich and respected family adopt a child – but who is he really? Death and destruction follow this boy and lead to one terrifying conclusion: he is from the devil himself.
There you have it. My list of favourite devilish movies. I haven’t noted The Exorcist, because I didn’t think it was necessary – but it definitely is up there as one of the greatest horror movies of all time.
Don’t forget, new TV series The Exorcist has also recently started screening here in the UK.
If you like your entertainment dark, check out the above titles. Happy viewing!
Thanks for reading. Let me know if I missed any horror greats!
INTERVIEW WITH THE LAST DAYS OF JACK SPARKS AUTHOR, JASON ARNOPP
HAVE YOU read the horror book that everyone’s talking about? The buzz about the novel, The Last Days of Jack Sparks, filled my Twitter feed upon its release, and I recently read and reviewed it, after being thoroughly impressed – and scared – by the story.
Intrigued by the authors approach and the immense depth to his writing, I invited Jason Arnopp over to Study Paranormal for an interview. We discuss his inspiration for the novel, how he came up with the idea, what his future writing plans are and his personal favourite titles in the horror genre. Sit back and enjoy, and if you haven’t yet read The Last Days of Jack Sparks, I highly recommend it.
Above, author Jason Arnopp, picture provided by author’s agent
I recently finished reading The Last Days of Jack Sparks and I absolutely loved it. How did you find the process of writing this novel? What were the challenges, if any?
Thanks Fiona – I’m really glad you had a good time! Writing this novel was a blast, because it’s broadly about the supernatural, so that gave me the ideal opportunity to include whatever scary stuff I wanted. Ghosts, possession, exorcisms, you name it, all that good stuff. There were definitely real challenges involved, though, beyond all that fun! I wanted Jack Sparks himself to have a complex personality and for different levels of that personality to be revealed as the story progressed. As a result, I made things rather difficult for myself, to say the least. The middle act of the book, in particular, was really hard to get right.
The story itself is quite dark and foreboding – what inspired it? Do you have an interest in the paranormal or in the occult yourself?
More than having an interest in the paranormal or the occult specifically, I have a preoccupation with death and what might lie beyond death. I suspect I’m not alone in this! One interesting thing about all ghost stories is they’re uplifting by their very nature, because they do seem to confirm some kind of afterlife. The story itself, though, was partly inspired by wondering what the internet has done to our brains. Social media, in particular.
When you began writing the story, did you already know the ending and outcome? Without giving any spoilers, the ending was something of a head-trip! Did you outline the story, or do you let it unfold naturally during the writing process?
Hmm, it’s hard to remember now! But I did have a general idea of how it would end – certainly in terms of Jack dying! I think the specific head-trip you’re referring to may have occurred to me in a flash of inspiration as I went along, but it’s hard to be sure. I outlined a skeletal structure for the story, then set about exploring inside that structure. I don’t like to plan too much in advance, because I think your subconscious mind only becomes fully engaged when you’re working at the literary coalface and are properly inside your characters’ heads.
When I read the novel, I personally found it very unsettling at times. Everything that Jack Sparks went through was very dark and unnerving. Were there times that you felt uneasy during writing?
I do tend to gauge how scary my own scenes are, by whether they send a chill up my spine. Having said that, it can be hard to be judge because it’s impoissible for me to surprise myself! There was one character in this book that I felt very uneasy about killing… but then I did it anyway. Mwah-hah-hahhhh.
Jack Sparks is such a deep and authentic character. I love how well developed and real he feels to the reader. Is there anything of Jack in you or someone you know – or is he a purely imagined character?
Judging by the largely positive reaction to Jack, I can’t help wondering if most of us recognise something of him in ourselves. Perhaps he reflects some of our worst tendencies, particularly when it comes to our use of social media. He might reflect our inflated egos, our tendency to broadcast more than we receive, and our habit of expressing certainty on any given topic, especially when we don’t actually know for sure. I’ll admit to finding Jack worryingly easy to write, but hopefully that’s not because I’m like him! I would much prefer to think that it’s great fun to unleash the ego-driven side of your personality and enjoy the freedom of that.
How have you felt, after seeing the huge amount of love from readers towards this release? Did you feel you were onto something good with this project – or were you taken aback by the positive audience response?
I suppose I tend to hope that if I really like something I’ve written – as was the case with The Last Days Of Jack Sparks – then at least a few other people are likely to enjoy it too. And that has been the case so far. The book has yet to take the world by storm (that particular event is scheduled for next Tuesday, FYI), but a lot of people who have read it seem to really like it. Every day, at the time of writing, a few strangers pop up on Twitter to tell me how much they enjoyed the novel, and that’s a really wonderful feeling. Yesterday, a reader in Pakistan messaged me on Facebook to show me her own Jack Sparks book cover artwork she’d designed herself. That was amazing.
What are you working on at the moment?
All year, I’ve been working on my second novel for Orbit Books. This one will be unconnected to Jack Sparks, with a standalone story. It will, however, be along broadly similar lines in terms of being a supernatural thriller, but also be very different. Possibly a little darker and a little less funny, but it’s too early to say for sure.
For fun, can you tell us what are your favourite horror movies and books? What releases have unsettled you the most?
My two favourite horror movies are The Evil Dead, which I like to watch about twice a year, and John Carpenter’s The Thing, which I like to watch about once every two years. These films unsettle me in different ways. The Thing unsettles me because we can never know what’s going on inside other people’s heads. And The Evil Dead has accrued a reputation for being camp slapstick, partly because of its sequels, but it remains an exercise in super-creepy, gruelling horror. Books-wise, my favourites include Mark Z Danielewski’s wonderfully insane House Of Leaves, Stephen King’s beautifully grim Pet Sematary and Chuck Palahniuk’s uniquely horrid Haunted. I’m always hoping to be unsettled and scared by stuff, but sadly it happens less often than I’d like.
Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
I’m glad you asked! My website JasonArnopp.com is the best place to go. There, you can find out about my rock journalist past and the other fiction I wrote before The Last Days Of Jack Sparks. There are also a couple of free fiction books of mine that you can download for free, which is nice. And despite my mixed views about social media these days, I’m very much on Twitter as @jasonarnopp, where I quack a whole load of nonsense every single day, and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jasonarnoppwriter
Thanks for taking the time to answer, Jason!