Nate Vs The Living Dead: Part 1 – Rise from your grave

To celebrate the season of the witch, we will be posting a series of  themed articles every day for the next seven days. I have invited friends to contribute guest reviews for our Marked For Justice horror special alongside all the grim shit I am about to throw at you.

John Blanche’s Skeleton Horde

Margate. 1984.  My mother was called into primary school for that most  dreaded of events in a child’s young life.. Parents Evening. At this time in my academic career I was an ideal student. Punctual, attentive, polite, a voracious reader. Mother was satisfied that despite her claims to the contrary, she hadn’t actually shat into existence the Goat Of Mendes. She was however disturbed to discover that I had been given a nickname  by my teachers in primary school. ‘He’s got quite the imagination hasn’t he?‘ Blood & Guts was the nom de plume they saw fit to bestow upon my cherubim brow. Where did this name come from I hear you sigh wearily? Glad you asked mate….

The name, of course, came from my (un)healthy appetite for the macabre and a fiendish enthusiasm for the more grisly aspects of our pre- pubescent scholastic programme. When given the opportunity to let my imagination off it’s leash, it was not unusual to find my exercise book metaphorically seeping blood. Severed heads on spikes, hideous monsters, people being hung from trees. And skeletons. Lots and lots of skeletons.

The author. Three years old. Presumably laughing at The Falklands War.

Where did this propensity toward death,carnage and horror come from? I honestly have no idea. See I was never a typically ‘spooky kid’, quite the opposite in fact. Blonde haired, blue eyed, smiling and dimpled. Butter wouldn’t melt and naturally I reaped the fruit that accompanied such an angelic countenance. My mother would push me round the supermarket and old ladies would shove shiny silver fifty pence pieces into my tiny pink grasp. Stroll past the deli counter down Gateways, smile up at the nice lady behind it, and lo, free cheese and meats for the boy. Wonderful wonderful,but the brain was all wrong though wasn’t it?

When everyone else at Salmestone Primary School was sat around reading Dick King Smith or The Worst Witch or some other soft bullshit, I’d found the stash of Pan Horror books in the tiny school library and Steve Jackson’s House Of Hell was about to become a seminal blip on my seven year old radar.

I was initially repulsed by these Pan Horror stories you have to understand. The books smelt old and musty. The cover artwork was always way fucking disturbing. I didn’t want to touch them with my hands for fear of the darkness infecting me via osmosis. But I couldn’t stay away could I? Nope. Like a moth with a bowl cut flapping towards an open flame, I wandered gently towards the abyssal lullaby of the darkside. And slowly but surely these things were absorbed into my cultural DNA.

The ground zero for my love of grim matter can be traced back to two movies, Jason & the Argonauts and the original Jack the Giant Killer. Both films were made in the sixties. I was exposed to them on Bank Holidays or New Years Days at a tender age, when the booze was flowing in the kitchen and the television became my most favourite babysitter. I loved the excitement and the adventure, the insurmountable odds stacked against the heros. The special effects and the scale of the enormous monsters were incredible to my tiny eyes. I gobbled it all up and licked the spoon, desperate for seconds.  But it was this scene in particular that truly captured my attention and sparked my prodigal  interest in the undead.

For my money this scene is the defining moment in the career of the genius that is Ray Harryhausen. Take a look. A necromancer tossing the teeth of a hydra (siiiiick) into unhallowed ground, whispering incantations in a forbidden tongue. Moments later the bowels of the earth crack open and half a dozen skeleton warriors start to claw their way from the depths. Holy shit. I mean that was filmed fifty something years ago and it still kicks serious ass.

I’ll wager that the Children Of The Hydra scene had a similar impact on just about every adolescent that clapped eyes upon it. I knew that somehow, someway I needed to recreate that scenario and let my own imagination run riot. I wanted put them on the creaking timbers of a lost pirate ship. Or have a giant skeletal mastodon with loads of rotting undead climbing around on top of it. How about the animated bones of a long extinct  Tyrannosaurus Rex?

All of this was bubbling around in my brain and occasionally leaking out onto the page in the form of stories and artwork that apparently gave my teacher and Grandma some cause for concern. Artistic expression and 1-2-1’s with a child psychologist are all well and good but mate, I wanted Skellies with swords on a similar scale that I could pitch against my Britain’s plastic knights!!!

Then Fate showed her hand one Summer’s evening in 1986. I was pushing my trusty Rayleigh Grifter back to Grandmas house after a day spent down Margate Beach. As we walked past Legend the  head shop in the shady arcade that squatted in the shadow of brutalist tower block Arlington House, I glanced at all the weird shit in the window. I didn’t know what drugs were, so the assorted paraphernalia meant nothing to me.

But there was a big statue of an eight armed woman with swords in her hand dancing. There were racks of Ghurka knives. There were Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comics. Even though the shop was shut the smell of patchouli hung heavy around it. Then just as I started to walk away I laid my hungry little eyes upon this box in the corner of the window and that, dear reader, was all she fucking wrote…..

3 thoughts on “Nate Vs The Living Dead: Part 1 – Rise from your grave

  1. Can remember a simiiler thrill (chill?) finding a stack of old pan horror books in my primary school, that and the novelization of enter the dragon happy days 😀

    That helped me recover from the disappointment that this article wasn’t about altered beast on the mega drive, as i cant help but hear zeus in glorious 16bit audio commanding me to “Rise from the grave”

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