[Written by Assistant Editor and Ghost Appreciation Month member, Sharon Ring.]
Ordinarily it would have been Mark Deniz, Beyond Fiction’s Editor-in-Chief, writing the round-up of this past month’s appreciation of all things ghostly. However, Mark has been at an undisclosed location enjoying some pre-birthday celebrations so it has fallen to me to pick up the mantle on this occasion and say a few words on Ghost Appreciation Month (GAM).
We’ve enjoyed thirty-one days of movies at Beyond Fiction. I’ve had the chance to watch some old favourites; The Haunting, Don’t Look Now, Jacob’s Ladder, and The Shining rating highly on that front. I’ve also had the opportunity to see four fantastic films which had previously managed to slip under the radar; The Frighteners, Session 9, Shutter, and Saint Ange (House Of Voices). It’s been great to see how trends in ghost movies have come and gone over the decades: from silent movies to the talkies, black & white to colour, from Hollywood through Europe and Asia. With the exception of a handful of films on the Ghost Appreciation Month’s list, such as Ghostbusters and The Frighteners, the driving force behind any decent ghost movie has always been the power of suggestion. The best films in the genre, from my point of view at least, are often those which play with image and sound in such a way as to render the actual seeing of a ghost almost unnecessary. Asymmetrical cinematography, discordant music and sound effects: these tools all lead the way to making a film’s audience feel uneasy, taking them out of their comfort zones and into the unknown.
GAM contributors reviewed around half the movies on Mark’s film list, with a few extra film reviews thrown in for good measure. It’s always interesting to read another person’s take on a movie you love, even more interesting to read a friend’s review of a movie on which you weren’t so keen. Point in case: The Blair Witch Project. I have seen this movie several times over the years, but never all at once. I’d watch the beginning and fall asleep: I’d get back from the pub and watch the last twenty minutes: never all in one go, however. Now, Mark Deniz loves this movie, positively raves about it. What the heck, I thought; now’s my chance to give it the full attention it apparently deserves. I watched it. It didn’t do for me what it seems to do for Mark and so many other people. Reading Mark’s review and listening to comments over on Facebook when I mentioned having finally seen the movie, I can appreciate that this was a groundbreaking film. I wish I could have seen it when it was released, at a time before spoofs and countless half-watches. I believe the impact it had on people back then is something I may have experienced myself. Never mind. Mark and I will have to agree to disagree on this one. Either that or fight it out at FantasyCon next year in comedy sumo suits (yes, Mark, that is a challenge!).
Aside from my rather bizarre encounter with a ghostly Charles Dickens (man, that is one ghost with serious acceptance issues), GAM had two interviews in the line-up – Gary McMahon and Stephen Volk. Gary and I talked about his own ghost experience; the cultural and historical background of belief in ghosts; a little Mitchell-dissing (check out the Guardian article from David Mitchell to see how that came about); ghosts as metaphor; and finally onto a few words about his new book, which centres on a man who is able to see ghosts. Stephen and Mark discussed Stephen’s current hectic schedule; how and why Ghostwatch came to be; Stephen’s thoughts on the afterlife; some advice for budding screenwriters and a little industry talk; and wrapped things up with a quick question on Stephen’s favourite authors. This second interview along with a review of Ghostwatch the following day could not have been better timed. Halloween 2010 was the eighteenth anniversary of the original screening of the drama and, for reasons Natalie Kingston explains in her review, it has never been shown since.
Throughout the month, dotted between the reviews and interviews, were a series of articles and real-life experiences from our GAM contributors. I should say at this point that I have my own particular thoughts on the subject of ghosts. I’ve seen some – I definitely believe in the existence of them – but I maintain a healthy scepticism when it comes to other people’s stories, as I hope they would do with my own. Reading through this month’s posts I think the one which affected me most was probably Alison Littlewood’s short piece on the Isle of the Dead. No cheap thrills and ghostly apparitions here, just a poignant telling of the trip to a small cemetery island off the shores of Loch Leven.
So, there’s been plenty to read, watch and think about over this past month. There is a dedicated page for all the Ghost Appreciation Month posts for ease of reference.
On Mark’s behalf I would like to thank everyone who took part in the past month’s fun and to everyone who kindly tweeted and shared links on Twitter and Facebook. Now, for those of you who know Mark, you know this is a man who never rests. I think there’s a fairly good chance we’ll see another of these themed months sometime in the future. Perhaps we’ll see you there.