Notes from the peninsula

Thoughts on writing, literature, film
and living a creative life

Keep the ghosts happy

I was celebrating a new job, looking forward to an unexpected week’s holiday, when my father fell at home, so I’m spending that week in Wales.

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Cover of The Complex

The Complex

Michael Walters

My debut novel, The Complex, available direct from Salt Publishing, from Amazon in the UK, and of course BOOKSHOPS.

autumnal tree

Brief bliss

I was caught in a work storm for a few months over the summer. Things settled enough for me to take a small risk, which paid off, which means I can finally tack for calmer waters.

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A man in a white Halloween mask along a suburban street staring at us.

Halloween (1978)

It has a purity that other slashers don’t have — the crisp cinematography, Laurie’s naive, nerdy charm, the simple (perfect) motif of the score. I can’t fully explain it.

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Someone in a motorbike helmet watches the street with apartment blocks behind.

Enemy (2013)

My favourite discovery of the month. Barely ninety minutes, looks beautiful, has a startling final image, and I’m still thinking about it a day later.

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The head of the Statue of Liberty on a Manhattan street.

Cloverfield (2008)

Feeling insignificant in the face of a fictional disaster, whether natural or alien, has its psychological comforts. Sometimes you just want something big to fuck shit up.

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Someone in an animal mask stares blankly ahead.

You're Next (2011)

It’s bleak fun with some good twists. Everyone apart from Erin, our survivalist heroine, is awful. Is this where the current trend of violent final girls began?

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A man in a dusty phone booth making a call.

Duel (1971)

I watched Duel dozens of time on television as a kid, as well as it’s rip-off cousin The Car, so it was a treat to revisit it. I didn’t remember the crisis of masculinity.

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A woman shivering in a graveyard in the rain.

Return of the Living Dead (1985)

The gang of punks hanging out in the graveyard are everything I wish I’d been as a teen — vibrant, trashy, horny, loud, and sometimes naked in public.

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Ash looks up, face covered in blood, and wonders what he has to do to survive.

Evil Dead 2 (1987)

A man who wanted to have a romantic weekend in the woods with his girlfriend is instead made to fight for his life against demon-possessed corpses.

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A woman holds her son and looks disconnected over his shoulder.

Invaders From Mars (1986)

A pastiche of black and white science-fiction films, but subverting them by having the aliens turn people into conformist fifties stereotypes instead of communists.

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Two zombie-like creatures with lightning between their mouths.

Lifeforce (1985)

Naked space vampires hidden in Halley‘s Comet, you say? I’m in! Plays on a much bigger canvas than I expected and owes a debt to Quatermass.

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A half-smiling woman on a deckchair looking across at someone.

Infinity Pool (2023)

A man pays dearly to escape his writer’s block when he accepts the malign attention of a woman who wants to test him to destruction.

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A man in a black hood with a woman in a white dress half-smiling at him.

Crimes of the Future (2023)

Graphic body mutilation, big ideas and knowing performances that lead to some surreal laugh-out-loud moments. A raised eyebrow at all that he has made before.

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A cinema with a bright sign that says the film is called Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.

Messiah of Evil (1973)

People bleed from the eyes. An artist’s studio is painted with staring faces. The citizens of Point Dune dress respectably but do terrible things. The four protagonists share a bed. (Groovy.)

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Laura with the smiling blind psychic reflected three times in mirrors.

Don’t Look Now (1973)

A masterpiece — ghost story, sort of, psychological thriller and family drama, certainly — a magical exploration of a marriage under the strain of a tragic loss.

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Lady Sylvia Marsh in a white suit holding a glass of red wine and laughing.

The Lair of the White Worm (1988)

Camp horror fun with a nasty edge. Ken Russell was a genius. I taped this off the TV back in the day and watched certain bits over and over... naked nuns and Amanda Donohoe.

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Man bleeding from his face screaming.

Slugs (1988)

It’s silly — it’s called Slugs! — but as lots of these cheap 70s and 80s horrors were, it’s creative, fun and weirdly sexy.

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A captain looking down from the bridge at the camera below.

Death Ship (1980)

Keeps a steady pace as a ghost story, making the most of the spectacular empty ship as a location. The final act really dials up the horror. Also - KINDERTRAUMA!

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Ghostface in a... lair.

Scream VI (2023)

The surviving friends from Scream 5 go to college as a pack, and in New York the franchise finds some fresh energy.

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Scream (2022)

Ah, the plot. It’s a whodunnit, but with lots of stabbing. Twas ever thus. David Arquette’s Dewey is the best thing about it. I think I’m finally too old for Scream films.

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Green slimy alien with glowing green eyes.

There’s Nothing Out There (1991)

A mix of Cabin in the Woods, Friday the 13th, Evil Dead and Scream, but with no budget. It’s fun, a broad horror comedy that isn’t afraid of the horror. Cheap but clever.

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A creature approaches a woman in chains who looks at it with fear.

Castle Freak (1995)

The Reilly family arrive in Italy to inherit a castle left to them by an elderly Duchess. The creature she’s been keeping in the dungeon breaks free. Gothic melodrama and cannibalism ensue.

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Two men look aghast at something out of sight.

Re-Animator (1985)

A gory take on Frankenstein with a psychopathic scientist, an evil academic, and a morgue full of reanimated corpses. The ever-present syringe of neon green liquid is iconic.

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Adam Driver in the dark looking moody.

65 (2023)

An alien gets stranded on Earth when an asteroid hits his ship. There is a fellow survivor. There are challenges. There are dinosaurs.

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Christian Bale as Augustus Landor, looking moodily to the right.

The Pale Blue Eye (2022)

A nineteenth century murder mystery set in the snowbound US military academy at West Point, where a cadet is found hanged with his heart removed from his body.

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A statue with Jesus’s head replaced with a grinning joker.

The Exorcist III (1990)

A flawed film filled with wonders. More of an existential downer than I expected — yes, it’s about a demon bringing hell to earth, but it goes strong with what that might mean.

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A zombie wife is chained in the kitchen and looks angrily at us.

Survival of the Dead (2009)

An exiled patriarch tempts four soldiers to his island with a hope of settling an old score. Tonally weird — part western, part comedy, not much zombie threat — it’s a clunker.

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A woman looking angrily at the camera because her boyfriend is filming her during a zombie apocalypse.

Diary of the Dead (2007)

Found footage Romero style. A student film crew try to stay alive as the dead come back to life, but the director decides to film everything putting pressure on the people around him.

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