The Morbid Imagination

Mervyn Peake

Posted in Art on May 26th, 2014 by admin


Mervyn Peake (1911-1968) is most well known as the author of the Gormenghast trilogy, a highly regarded work of dark fantasy. He was actually an artist first and a popular book illustrator in the 1940s.

Peake possessed a strong, gothic flair, in both his writing and illustration. Appropriately, some of the books he brought to life were Grimm’s Fairy Tales and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

During World War II, Peake served as a war artist. He was among the allied troops that entered the Belsen concentration camp after it was liberated. The experience affected him profoundly. and may have contributed to the darkness of his later work. The sketch below is from that experience.

I would strongly recommend the Gormenghast trilogy, or at least the first volume, Titus Groan, to anyone who is a fan of Game of Thrones. Like that popular TV show and the books by George R.R. Martin, Titus Groan is filled with royal intrigue, murder, and sinister architecture.



The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Grimm's Fairy Tales





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The Most Overrated Horror Movies Ever

Posted in Movies on May 4th, 2014 by admin
Ooooh! Scary puppets!

Ooooh! Scary puppets!

Every now and again, somebody publishes a “100/50/10 Greatest Horror Movies” list, some of them are pretty good. Even the best lists, however, include films that I consider wildly overrated. Don’t confuse this with a “10 Worst Horror Movies” list; some of these films are OK. Just OK. Not great.

Suspira (1977)I’ve already dealt with this film, but let me repeat: there is no such thing as a great Italian horror movie.

Poltergeist (1982) – This was a loud, splashy roller coaster movie that relied very heavily on special effects to achieve most of its memorable or jolting moments. That was 32 years ago. Many of those effects haven’t aged well; leaving a silly central premise to hold the movie together.

Haute Tension (2003) – It’s a slasher movie, period. The twist ending doesn’t justify the gore and cruelty and severe logic gaps.

Irreversible (2002) – Not content with pointlessly updating the slasher movie, the French also pointlessly updated the rape revenge movie. The combination of arty dialog, pretentious direction, and transgressive content reminded me of a toddler gleefully playing with their own poop.

Wolf Creek (2005) – More pointless sadism played out via the tired slasher movie formula.

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The Morbid Imagination Pinterest Boards

Posted in Uncategorized on April 30th, 2014 by admin

We have a Pinterest presence! It’s fun dirtying up the pretty pictures of craft projects and fashion models with a little darkness…

Frank Picini

Posted in Art on April 27th, 2014 by admin




Der Orchideengarten

Posted in Art, Literature on April 26th, 2014 by admin

I’ve just recently stumbled upon this rare gem: the pioneering horror/fantasy magazine Der Orchideengarten. Published in Austria between 1919 and 1921, it is considered to be the first fantasy magazine. I’m going to post some cover art and will follow up with a longer post going into further detail. But just check out these amazing images:










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I Told You So, Part Seven

Posted in Movies on March 31st, 2014 by admin

I don’t know what’s worse: a) The notion of a Van Helsing re-boot starring Tom Cruise b) Van Helsing trying to “understand” the monsters, or c) the air quotes around monster movies.

Obviously, Universal is trying to get on the Avengers/Justice League bandwagon and create a franchise of freestanding movies blending together with all-star team up epics. Too bad the studio behind this is run by an asshead and the producer is the writer of Star Trek Into Darkness and a Transformer movie. I’m sure they already have the toy contract all sewed up.

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Mirko Sevic

Posted in Art on March 13th, 2014 by admin

 ”I am a painter of the darkness for a drop of good.”

Mirko Sevic

Stillness - Children

Stillness - Self Portrait


Self Portrait

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Kris Kuksi

Posted in Art on March 8th, 2014 by admin





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8 Truly Disturbing TV Episodes

Posted in Television on May 2nd, 2013 by admin

I ran across this article recently at a favorite website: 8 TV Episodes That Qualify As Psychological Warfare

To my mind, there just hasn’t been enough television done that really tries to unsettle viewers. As author Esther Inglis-Arkell puts it:

Some TV episodes entertain us and enliven our evenings. But other seem primarily designed to break a viewer psychologically, and take bloody bites out of our sense of well-being.

I took the opportunity to watch or re-watch as many of these episodes as I could and found some of them were pretty good. Especially “Blink” from Dr. Who.

But I favor stronger stuff, and I decided to compile my own list of what I consider to be 8 Truly Disturbing TV Episodes.

  • It Crawled Out of the WoodworkThe Outer Limits. The original Outer Limits was a wonderfully dark series; it offered a paranoid, almost apocalyptic view of the universe. Beings from other worlds were coming to Earth to kill, dominate, and seize our souls. It was filmed in noir-esque black and white, which made for very spooky late night TV watching for impressionable Baby Boomers. This episode is one the best: a strange, primal force of malevolent energy is discovered in a remote lab and barely kept contained by the scientists that unleashed it. They keep it locked in a vault at the end of a long hallway, anyone unfortunate to stumble into the lab is sacrificed to the the roaring, spasming cloud. The episode is directed by Gerd Oswald, whose sweaty, claustrophobic style was perfect for the series.
  • Quality of MercyThe Outer Limits. This is from the new series. Without giving anything away, the end of this story sent a shiver down my spine. A really well crafted horror story that appropriately falls down into a very black hole at the end.
  • HomeThe X Files. There are many great, disturbing episodes of this influential series you could pick (Tooms, Piper Maru) but I’m going with the one about incestuous mutants. This might be the most envelope-pushing episode ever in network television history.
  • Big SurpriseNight Gallery. Night Gallery was Rod Serling’s return to series television after The Twilight Zone, but as host only. His lack of creative participation shows in the generally uneven nature of the episodes, but a few rose up to truly horrific status. Big Surprise is short and wonderfully nasty and might be John Carradine’s greatest moment of horror.
  • Night of Desirable ObjectsFringe. I think that Fringe is the best post-X-Files show; in fact, I think it surpasses the original, on balance. Like its predecessor, it features many terrifying/gross/creepy episodes. But this one really sticks out in my mind for how expertly it deployed so many reliable horror tropes (creepy scarecrows, ironic oldies music, spooky farmhouse, etc.) and how much horror was implied, rather than shown. Plus there’s the bonus of the inter-dimensional typewriter.
  • The Weird TailorThriller. Written by Robert Bloch (author of Psycho), this episode features a nicely morbid premise: a rich man kills his son during  a black magic ceremony, then tries to bring him back to life by contracting with a poor tailor to manufacture a resurrection suit. But what makes this story stand out is the ending, where the tailor’s dummy comes to life when the suit is placed on him. One of the really great “creepy mannequin” moments.
  • Unholy NightAmerican Horror Story. Maybe the greatest “Evil Santa” stories ever, thanks to the wonderfully over-the-top Ian McShane. Nun-raping, family-murdering, creepy, insane Christmas tree, this episode has it all. American Horror Story is completely crazy, but that for me, is it’s charm.
  • Lonely SoulsTwin Peaks. Nobody does disturbing like David Lynch, and certainly his masterpiece of a TV show is no exception. It’s hard to pick one episode or moment from this groundbreaking series, but I’d go with the one where Laura Palmer’s killer is finally revealed, and ta-da, it’s her creepy, molesting, crazy daddy! Directed by Lynch himself, this episode starts surreal and gets weird from there. It may seem a little goofy today, but at the time, having invested a season and a half in this twisted story line, it hit me right between the eyes. Leland was Bob!
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John Kenn Mortensen

Posted in Art on September 29th, 2012 by admin

Since childhood, I’ve loved Edward Gorey. As I said in a previous post: “Gorey marked us with a dark worldliness that was more profound than the standard images of werewolves and shambling corpses we found in movies and comics.”

John Kenn Mortensen surely seems to have been deeply influenced by Gorey, as well. He adds a bit more of a modern sensibility to his finely crafted drawings, but somehow he still seems grounded in an earlier era of black veiled sick rooms, gas-lit alleyways, and haunted cottages.

Mortensen, according to his blog, writes and directs TV shows for kids. In his spare time, he makes exquisitely morbid little sketches on Post-It notes. He has published two collections of his work: Post-It Monsters, and More Post-It Monsters. He’s brilliant.

Check out his work at:


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The 100 Best Horror Films

Posted in Movies on April 22nd, 2012 by admin

Here’s one of the better “Best” lists I’ve seen for horror movies. It should be a good list, the judges were people like Guillermo Del Toro, Alice Cooper, Simon Pegg, and Clive Barker. The thing I love about it is the plenitude of foreign films and even oddball picks, like Come and See (1985) (pictured above) and Saló (1975).

Many of the picks on this list have previously been reviewed or spotlighted on The Morbid Imagination. Check out the category Movies to scroll through them.

The 100 Best Horror Films

BTW, I got an 89 out of 100 on “How Many Have You Seen?“…I guess I have some catching up to do.

My personal top five list:

  1. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  2. Repulsion (1965)
  3. Let the Right One In (2008)
  4. Psycho (1960)
  5. Freaks (1932)
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Joel-Peter Witkin

Posted in Art on November 13th, 2011 by admin

Joel-Peter Witkin is an artist who actually works directly with death – some of his morbid tableaux feature actual corpses or body parts.

His scratched, distressed photographs look as though they are rediscovered crime scene evidence from a Victorian era horror. Nude men and women mix with animal parts, masks, random bits of machinery, severed limbs, or bowls of fruit. Some of his works are borderline pornographic; most are deeply disturbing.

Witkin was a war photographer in Vietnam and claims to have touched the decapitated head of a  little girl following a horrific car accident when he was a child. Raised Roman Catholic, Witkin combines an old world gothic sensibility with an intense interest in deformity, perversity, and death.

In the 1980s, Witkin advertised for models, asking for the following: “Pinheads, dwarfs, giants, hunchbacks, pre-op transsexuals, bearded women, people with tails, horns, wings, reversed hands or feet, anyone born without arms, legs, eyes, breast, genitals, ears, nose, lips. All people with unusually large genitals. All manner of extreme visual perversion. Hermaphrodites and teratoids (alive and dead). Anyone bearing the wounds of Christ.”

This attraction to depicting the ill-formed and strange is reminiscent of the photographs of Diane Arbus or Robert Mapplethorpe. The same debate of “is it art or is it exploitation?” that surrounded their work is often thrown at Witkin. How do I feel about it? Hey, I revere the Morbid Imagination, where do you think I stand? Perversity, deformity, decay, death, pain, and alienation are just as valid as subjects for art as sunsets and royalty. To me, Witkin has a definite style that is compelling and admirable.

Here is a link to some of his works




Get a Clue, Universal Studios

Posted in Movies on November 6th, 2011 by admin

I have repeatedly made the case on this blog that Universal Studios is squandering one of its greatest assets: its legacy of classic monsters. Recent comments by studio head Ron Meyer give us an insight into why this might be.

“One of the worst movies we ever made was Wolfman.  Wolfman and Babe 2 are two of the shittiest movies we put out, but by the same token we made movies we believe in. ”

Really? Wolfman is one of the shittiest movies you ever made? Is there a reason you didn’t mention Van Helsing (2004) or The Mummy, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)? Or were those two movies you really believed in?

Do you know what was shitty? The fact that The Wolfman was released at a time of the year when it had no chance. That some dil-hole executive  thought seven-time Academy Award winner and monster fanboy genius Rick Baker’s werewolf makeup wasn’t good enough. You know, the guy responsible for American Werewolf in London (1981).

Here’s a list of the good horror movies produced by Universal Studios in the 16 years asshead Ron Meyer has been in charge: Drag Me to Hell, Slither, Dawn of the Dead. Here’s a list of some other horror movies Meyer is responsible for: the remakes of Psycho and The Last House on the Left, The Seed of Chucky, Devil, The Thing prequel, Doom, and Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant. Did I also mention Van Helsing?

Here’s another list of movies – the updates of classic monster movie updates provided by Universal Studios in the last 40 years: Dracula (1979), The Mummy (1999), The Wolfman. Oh, and Van Helsing. Way to exploit your  legacy, Universal.

Throw this track record and these comments in with the decision to kill Guillermo Del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness, and you have the portrait of a studio run by people who have no clue whatsoever when it comes to horror or the cultural value of classic Universal horror. Take a look at the long list of non-horror drek that Universal has vomited on movie viewers and you get a feeling you could produce a better track record of success with a dart board and six chimps.

So I guess I shouldn’t be holding my breath for that kickass remake of the Creature of the Black Lagoon. Maybe I should be praying it doesn’t happen.

See Mr. Meyer’s remarks here.

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Best Post 9/11 Horror Films

Posted in Movies on October 24th, 2011 by admin

I confess that I don’t intend this list to have anything to do with 9/11 – it’s just a convenient cutoff point to review the best recent horror films. 10 years, 10 films. After reviewing a list of all the horror films from this period, I don’t really detect any real influence of the events of that tragic day, except perhaps the sustained interest in apocalypse/zombie/contagion movies.

If there was one overriding trend the last ten years, it was remakes. For the most part, it was an unfortunate trend, wasting millions of studio dollars on terrible or pointless movies. There were a few (very few) gems among the dross, but not one surpassed the original that it was based on.

And the intrusion of the new genre of paranormal romance into horror? Shudder…

I’m sure there are one or two obscure movies I missed, but I feel good about every movie included here and have about a half dozen more that were hard to exclude.

Let the Right One In (2008) – My personal favorite on this list and a film I think deserves consideration as one of the greatest horror movies ever. This is a perfect example of why the best horror films are about something other than monsters or death. In this case, the something else is the tragic nature of childhood alienation. It is also a great vampire movie, returning to the time tested depiction of vampirism as a curse and a source of death and horror.

Matyrs (2008) – This is a close second on my list. On the surface, it seems like yet another torture porn movie, but instead it is a mind-bending descent into bleak horror worthy of another French classic Les Diaboliques (1954). As each twist unfolded, I marveled at the artistry of its conception and its willingness to forswear any easy outs for the audience. Deeply satisfying and original.

The Mist (2007) – Speaking of bleak horror, here’s another movie that’s not afraid to go there. This is based on one of my favorite Stephen King works, by his best adaptor, Frank Darabont. Like any good King story, realistic characters drawn from real life confront intruding horror, aided here by a great cast. And the ending! I walked out of the theater, shaking my head, amazed that they went there.

The Descent (2005)The Cave, released the same year, explored (spelunked?) the same territory: a group trapped in a cave with monsters. The difference? Neil Marshall and an all female cast. Marshall wisely refused to resort to exploitation and put real characters into believable danger. The weird ending was wonderfully ambiguous.

The Road (2009) – Based on Cormac McCarthy’s nihilistic masterpiece, the film adaptation spares little of it’s apocalyptic power. The horror springs from the nearly hopeless situation – you want to root for the last flickering lights of humanity to triumph, but you know that it’s a false hope. It’s the journey that matters, but it’s not a trip to anyplace nice.

Paranormal Activity (2007) – There may be one or two other movies that might be more deserving, but I had to acknowledge a movie that did a great job of wringing scares out of audiences with mood, tension, and misdirection. The fact that this series has been successful at the box office is heartening, and I hope that studios follow suit with more of the same. The found footage thing, however, is getting close to being played out. Can’t we just stick to spooky scares?

Rec (2007) – Speaking of found footage, here’s the movie that did it best. Just a tour-de-force of filmmaking.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – If Guillermo Del Toro isn’t the master of horror, I don’t know who is. A little girl escapes either into her own dark imagination or a real, nightmarish underworld – which may be better than the grim reality of her real life. Del Toro suspends her between two dark universes, and this fairy tale may have no happy ending. This film proves Del Toro was born to adapt Lovecraft.

The Wolfman (2010) – This film has it critics, but I think they’re all wrong. This is exactly what Universal Studios should be doing with its goldmine of monster properties. It is just reverent enough to the original to soothe hardcore fans but savvy enough of a modern studio horror movie to appeal to a wider crowd. It was dumped into the market in February, when it should have played during Halloween. Why couldn’t Universal release a new monster movie remake every year in the spooky season, helmed by fanboy directors like Guillermo Del Toro or Joe Dante? (sigh)

Cabin Fever (2002) – My last choice is the winner of the “Best Dead Teenager Movie” award, narrowly edging out The Ruins (2008), mainly due to a better horror ending. If you are going to kill a bunch of teenagers, kill them all. I like this movie more than Eli Roth’s more successful Hostel (2006), mainly because of the gleefully crazy tone this movie sometimes adopts. I also really like that most of the characters are horrible and selfish, but the two nice kids also meet awful fates, despite their intact virginities. Good horror is random.

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The Art of Universal Monster Movies

Posted in Art, Movies on October 23rd, 2011 by admin

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