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I’m a big fan of Spectacular Optical. The Canadian micro-publisher behind Satanic Panic: Pop Culture Paranoia in the 1980s and Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin has developed quite the knack for releasing quality books which explore the untapped areas of pop culture. If you’re a pop culture connoisseur, their releases should be essential additions to your bookshelf or eBook library. Regardless of the subject matter, you can always rely on their writers to provide some unique and informed analysis that’s an absolute joy to read. You’ll be entertained, but you’ll come away from it having learned something new as well.
For their upcoming release, Yuletide Terrors: Christmas Horror on Film and Television, the team has focused their attention on the darker side of holiday entertainment. The book “offers a definitive, in-depth exploration of the history of these subversive film and television presentations that allow viewers to engage in different ways with the complicated cultural history of the Christmas season.” The assembled team of contributors are among the best working in genre journalism today, so if you’re looking for some expert insights to go along with your festive frights, look no further.
Recently, we had the opportunity to discuss the project with Canadian horror scholar and the book’s co-editor Paul Corupe. Some of you will be familiar with the writer’s work already as he’s the go-to expert for all things genre-related pertaining to the Great White North, but his contributions extend beyond that as well. Here we discuss his career, Christmas terror, and some of the exciting projects coming our way in the near future. Enjoy.
Hi Paul, can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
Well, I do a bunch of different stuff, mostly related to genre and cult film. I’m a writer and editor based in Toronto, and I’ve been covering the history of Canadian genre films on Canuxploitation.com, my own website, for almost two decades. In addition, I’m a co-founder of The Black Museum, an ongoing horror film lecture series in Toronto, and have written on film for a variety of books and periodicals, including as a columnist for Rue Morgue magazine. I also do the occasional DVD commentary. Kier-La Janisse and I started working together on the Spectacular Optical book series in 2014.
How did the idea for Yuletide Terror come about?
If I’m remembering right, Yuletide Terror was among the first ideas we had when coming up with potential book topics back in 2014. Part of our mandate with the Spectacular Optical books is to cover areas of film or pop culture that we feel are undeservedly or unjustly ignored, and this topic was an easy fit. We knew that there wasn’t any kind of in-depth discussion of this subgenre anywhere, but almost everyone is familiar with at least a few Christmas horror movies, such as Krampus or Gremlins or even A Christmas Carol. One of the great things about Christmas horror films is that people who don’t really like the holidays enjoy them as kind of a subversive take on holiday cheer, while people who love Christmas also like to throw them on as seasonally appropriate entertainment that is part of their annual ritual.
What can readers expect from the book?
For this book, we have really tried to put together a definitive, comprehensive overview of Christmas horror on film and TV from around the world. The book includes more than 25 chapters from a wide range of contributors including well-known genre film writers like Mike Gingold, Kim Newman and Stephen Thrower, each covering unique aspects of the subgenre, in addition to a substantial capsule review guide of more holiday horror. Things more or less start things off with an in-depth look at A Christmas Carol and the tradition of the British holiday ghost story, and then we go into the roots of holiday genre films in kiddie matinee movies like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. The book also covers the evolution of the “Santa slasher” films like Silent Night Deadly Night, all the way up to more modern Christmas horror films, including the recent resurgence of pre-Christian figures like Krampus and the Finnnish “yule goat” Joulupukki. So, for someone who doesn’t know much about this area, Yuletide Terror offers a solid overview, including great starting points for holiday viewings. But if you’re already a fan, we profile at a lot of lesser-known entries like The White Reindeer, 3615: Code Pere Noël and The Monster’s Christmas–there’s just all kinds of stuff to cover from Australian TV episodes to French-Canadian films and UK folk horror teleplays. Kier-La and I discovered a lot of new-to-us films while putting together the book and we hope readers will too.
What is your favourite Christmas horror movie?
There are a handful of Christmas horror films I watch every year, but my favourite has to be Clive Donner’s A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott. Even as a little kid I was fascinated by A Christmas Carol, as it was the first “ghost story” I really knew about. I had a dog-eared comic book adaptation and used to listen to a radio play version my parents had on audio cassette. I caught Donner’s film in its original TV airing in 1984 and have watched this same version almost every year since, it’s the one adaptation of Dickens’ book that best represents what I love about the story—the gloomy London streets decked with bits of cheer, the frightening ghostly visitations, the sense that Scrooge must hit rock bottom before he repents. It’s chock full of memorable scenes of Scrooge watching the ghostly horse-drawn hearse, Jacob Marley’s face appearing in the fireplace, and Scrooge trembling as he sees his corpse in an empty bedroom stripped by thieves. It was, at the time, the adaptation most closely aligned with the horror genre, although I enjoy it for more than just its creepier aspects.
Do you have any other projects coming up you can tell us about?
Most recently I completed some DVD commentaries for Kino’s Blu-ray re-releases of Rolling Vengeance, a fun but unapologetically dumb Canadian-shot monster truck revenge movie, and Night Angel, a campy and gory horror film based on the Lilith legend. I also appear on the Intervision DVD for Beyond the Seventh Door, a really low budget but strangely entertaining puzzle thriller shot in Toronto in the 1980s. All those releases came out at the end of October. And, of course, we’re already thinking about what our next Spectacular Optical book will be.
If you want to pre-order your copy, head on over to the website before they sell out.