Michael McDowell – The Elementals (1981)

Review by Justin Tate

Horror virtuoso Michael McDowell discards the gloomy norms of haunted house literature and sets this masterpiece along sandy shores of the sunny Gulf Coast. With sparkling waves at their doorstep and tanning oil on their pale skin, an exceedingly wealthy southern family relax in isolation at their Victorian beach houses over the summer. The respite is much-needed after the death–and bizarre funeral—of a detestable family matriarch.

One of the vacant beach houses is infested with a nasty spirit. Something that’s not quite ghost, not quite monster, but capable of physical manifestation and elemental manipulation. The family had suspicions about the house for years. Rather than do anything about it, however, they’ve elected to let it become overtaken by sand dunes and fall into ruin. Until this year, that is, when thirteen-year-old India is unable to resist her curiosity.

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Michael McDowell – Clue (1985)

Review by Justin Tate

Movie novelizations rarely possess literary merit, and yet it’s common to see them sell at high prices on eBay. The Clue novelization by Michael McDowell (1950-1999) is particularly pricy, with bidding wars often exceeding $150. The high demand is likely a combination of the film’s enduring legacy and curiosity to see what a horror master like McDowell would do with a novelization. Add in the scarcity of supply and I understand why fans are constantly seeking it out. I certainly was.

When I at last got my hands on a copy, I decided to not just read it but literally transcribe every word. The archivist in me felt it was important to save a digital copy should the book ever disappear completely to the dusty shelves of rare book collectors. This transcription process was one of my most cherished reading experiences. There are few ways to be more intimate with a book than to retype every word. It requires slower reading and allows for discovery of technique you would not normally notice, such as stylized word repetition, clever usage of punctuation, and white space.

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