Praise for Twisted Tales Events

'In the past few years Twisted Tales has become a major force in the promotion and appreciation of horror fiction. As well as putting on author readings and signings at bookshops it has expanded into organising larger events, bringing authors and critics together for discussions of the field. I've been involved in quite a few of both and have found them hugely enjoyable and stimulating - I believe the audiences did as well. May Twisted Tales continue to grow and prosper! If you love the field, support them! I do.' - Ramsey Campbell

‘Twisted Tales consistently produce well-organised events for writers and readers of horror. What really distinguishes Twisted Tales for me is the intelligent themes and investigations they pursue, and the high quality of the discussions they always stimulate. As an author I've been invited to three of their events and have been pleasantly startled, to near shocked, by the attendance levels - two out of three were even sold out. I salute anyone who contributes so much to the literary and cultural life of horror fiction.’- Adam Nevill

'Twisted Tales events are wonderful... a great way of promoting 21st century horror fiction. Supported by Waterstone's Liverpool One and really well organised, Twisted Tales brings together established names in the genre as well as new voices and of course readers. Looking forward to much more to come...' - Alison J. Littlewood

Monday, 4 July 2011

"Nightbreed" by Clive Barker

Movies change; and change; and change. The images that first play on the screen in the inside of your skull as you set pen to paper are subject to constant reconfiguration. First you cast the faces to go with the characters, and costume them, and make them up; then the actors have their own embellishments to the dialogue, and the lighting cameraman has his contribution, and the set dresser his, and so on and so forth. But that’s only the beginning. The image, though fixed on celluloid, is still malleable in countless ways. The editor, placing one action beside another, can change the significance of each; can re-order dialogue, making new sense of old ideas. The optical effects men may create paintings that will put cities where there were none before, and just as magically remove them. The labs can make noon into twilight, or vice versa. Then, sound: another world of significance, transforming the way we perceive the picture on the screen; and music, to signal our responses.

What at first may seem the most immutable of media is in fact a world of possibilities, capable of being transformed at dozens of stages on its way from screenplay to screen. 

As both a writer and a director I am involved in the full spectrum of these processes. Inevitably, during the long, long trail from word to premiere, spirits soar and dive, ideas one day seeming God-given and the next rejected as hellish; decisions becoming badges of honour or yokes.

Somewhere half-way through this journey I’m setting these words on paper. Maybe the profoundest doubts about this project are past, and I’m finally on safe ground, believing we’ve made a good movie: but I’m laying no bets. We’ve still got another two weeks of shooting to do, much of it special effects related; that material has then to be cut into the picture. Mattes have yet to be painted, cells animated, titles created, music composed...

So much still to do. So many decisions still to make, and every one with its consequence. Still it’s time – publishing schedules being what they are – for me to pen the introduction to the book of the film.

What I will try to offer is a glimpse of the story behind the story. To try and describe how this first chapter of the Breed’s epic came into my head, and what narrative trails spread from it.

For me, one of the great attractions of the interlocked and interdependent collection of genres that constitute the fantastique – horror fiction, speculative or science fiction, sword or sorcery fiction – is the clarity with which they run from their present manifestations back to mythological and folkloric roots. The ghost story, the prophetic vision, the chronicle of imagined travels, imagined worlds, imagined condi-tions – all of these are as vital today, and as popular, as they ever were. Their tradition is honourable, and scattered everywhere with master¬pieces. Their current interpreters – in prose and celluloid – are, at their best, producing works that dive head first into the dream pool we all swim around in during our sleeping lives. Twenty-five years of our projected seventy-five will be spent in that pool. It’s important that we learn the strokes.

Perhaps the story-form that fascinates me most is that of the lost or wandering tribe. I treated it first in Weaveworld, a book about the Seerkind, who still possessed a holy magic in a secular and rationalist world. Now, in Nightbreed, I’m creating another tribe, but a very different one. The Kind was an essentially benign species. The Breed are not. They’re the monstrous flip side of the coin; a collection of transformers, cannibals and freaks. Their story, as set down in Cabal, and now re-envisioned in Nightbreed, is in a long tradition of night-quests; a visit by members of our species into the haunted underground to confront buried mysteries. Those mysteries bite. Several of the Breed have an appetite for human meat. Some are more bestial than human; others have a touch of the Devil in them, and are proud of the fact. To set foot in their domain is to risk death at their hands. But it is also a chance to see the lives of Naturals like ourselves from another perspective. The workings of the world seem a little more preposterous through the eyes of monsters. The Breed have been persecuted in the name of loving God; nearly exterminated by people who have envy in their hearts as much as hatred. As Rachel, one of the characters in the film, tells Lori:

“To be able to fly? To be smoke, or a wolf; to know the night, and live in it forever? That’s not so bad. You call us monsters. But when you dream it’s of flying, and changing, and living with¬out death.”

That’s one of the perspectives that makes the story of the Breed so intriguing to me. The adventure of Nightbreed is as much psychic as physical; or rather the two in one. A descent into a darkness that may illuminate.

Another is less conceptual. It’s to do with the challenge of making the insolid solid, and here the business of cinema and the business of fantasy offer interesting parallels.

I use the word business advisedly, because however much I may like to pretend otherwise (and I do) the making of motion pictures is as much commerce as art. That may not be true of more modestly scaled pictures, but a fantasy movie like Nightbreed, with countless action sequences, elaborate special effects, and a sizeable cast, costs too much of somebody else’s money for me lo be left to run creatively riot. Producers watch, accountants account; questions are asked hourly: “How many more shots to finish this sequence?”; “Do you really need three stuntmen?”; “Can’t we do without the tame pig?” Compromises are beaten out and agreed upon. Small furies come and go.

So the problem is: how do I make the dream real? How do I juggle the possibilities, knowing that visions cost hard cash and I can’t have all of dreamland? Clawing something valid from the maelstrom has repeatedly come close to defeating me, but working with the fantastique toughens the grip. It is perhaps the very nature of both genre and medium that it try and slip away, and it’s certainly my nature to attempt to pin it down for a little time, and keep its company.

One of the great pleasures of working in the area of dream-film (if that isn’t tautological) is the certainty that its true significance lies as much inside the head of the audience after it’s seen the picture as with what I actually put on screen. Much has been written about the way the rise and rise of the craft of special effects has changed the dynamic of such films. The creatures that in earlier years might have been kept discreetly in shadow, allowed only the briefest screen-time, are now often centre stage. In Nightbreed I’ve taken full advantage of this facil¬ity, seeking to put on screen more than a few tantalizing glimpses of the creatures. We’ve created a city for them, a religion, a whole way of life. They are as real, as rounded, as the human characters; in some cases perhaps more so. It’s my hope that audiences will take these creations to heart as they did (much against my expectations) with the Cenobites in Hellraiser, demanding to know more about their origins and powers, happy to embrace them despite (or perhaps because) they are on the side of darkness.

A movie is a two hour experience, but if an image or a character touches some nerve in the audience its effect may last a good deal longer. Some sixty years after they were made King Kong and Bride of Frankenstein – two of my favourite dark fantasy films, both focussed as much on their fantastical stars as on the human – exercise considerable fascination for audiences. Karloff and Kong are recognizable images the world over, despite the fact that the films in which they appeared are technically far inferior to those of today. It would be overweening of me to claim (or even hope) that our Breed will join that elevated league of icons, but I’d like to think we’re producing images that will at least remain in the audience’s head longer than a few hours.

Sooner or later the mask maker, much preoccupied with the art of haunting his audience, becomes haunted himself. How could he not, surrounded day in day out by the faces of his creations? I am, I confess, now so possessed by the Breed that they seem as real to me as the people walking up and down the street outside. I’ve lived with them like soul-mates, and their story has become a chapter in my own life. If the film communicates even a taste of that reality I’ll be well satisfied.

In both the film and the book the head honcho of Midian, Lylesburg, is much preoccupied with the fact that the Breed must remain hidden. What’s below remains below, he keeps insisting. But fantasy is a kind of archaeology; the digging up of buried images from the psyche; the bringing to light of hidden wonders. The movement of this story is indeed into the underground, but then – inevitably – we rise again, with new companions by our side. I hope they haunt you a little.


First published in Clive Barker’s Nightbreed: The Making of the Film - 
© Clive Barker. Reprinted with permission of the author.


(For this post, thanks to Clive Barker, Robb Humphreys, Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane)

Remember, you can attend an evening of horror devoted to the influence of Clive Barker's work at our Hellbound Hearts event.

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