Thursday, March 1, 2012

Magazine Review: Cemetery Dance

Cemetery Dance #65

Weighing in at 144 pages, the latest edition of Cemetery Dance is officially the magazine's largest issue ever.  It is also a special Graham Masterton issue, featuring a lengthy interview (conducted by J.A. Konrath), appreciative and analytical essays, and two (entertaining, if predictably plotted) stories from the author himself. 

The crop of stories in CD#65 is the strongest of the past half-dozen issues;  each piece makes for a good read, and several of the stories are outstanding.  The always-reliable Glen Hirshberg offers a speculative tale for the e-reader generation with his haunting, atmospheric "After-Words."  Michael Koryta--a writer who has received plenty of buzz in the past year-plus--certainly justifies the hype.  His entry, "Winter Takes All," serves up a delicious slice of American Gothic, involving a boy's struggle to come to terms with his undertaker/coffin-maker father (whom he overhears holding conversations with corpses).  The stand-out selection, though, is the issue's final story, "The Town Suicide" by S. Craig Renfroe.  The narrator's deadpan detailing of incidents from a bizarre, community-wide epidemic of self-destruction is absolutely harrowing in its effect.  This short tale, which packs a novel's worth of story, reminded me of the more arresting scenes from M. Night Shyamalan's film The Happening (i.e. the scenes not including panning shots of rustling trees).

A pair of original features published in this issue are worth noting.  First, the normally-avuncular Peter Straub waxes sardonic in "What About Genre, What About Horror?"--an essay that attacks genre snobbery and the zealots of literary classification.  The second feature is an interview with CD contributor Ellen Datlow that takes readers behind the scenes of (theme) anthology compilation; aspiring editors--not to mention writers hoping to someday crack one of Datlow's volumes--will relish this transcribed conversation.

The Usual Suspects make their regular contributions to the magazine, and once again Michael Marano's "Mediadrome" constitutes the issue's finest column.  Marano's always astute, and occasionally acerbic, film criticism is not only informative but makes for enjoyable reading in and of itself.  Here's a sample of the verbal treats Marano serves up:
The movie [Repo Men] as a whole is cinematic roadkill, as badly shredded and not-so-stitched-back-together as the schmoes in the movie who cannot pay for their new livers. 

Those 'roided up dramatic notes I mentioned are heaved around onscreen by Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro (a primo choice to play someone with lycanthropy, as he looks like a guy recovering from a bout with rabies).

The glee with which Romero deconstructs other movies is like when punk bands do covers of classics.
The fact, though, that Marano is covering movies such as Repo Men, The Wolfman, and Survival of the Dead leads me to my only real criticism: the irregularity of the magazine's publication (I long for the days of a bimonthly schedule) results in reviews of films and books that oftentimes were released well over a year earlier.  Nonetheless, it's a pleasant surprise whenever the latest issue shows up in my mailbox, and CD#65 no doubt proves worth the wait.  Fans will easily be reminded why Cemetery Dance is the premier periodical in the horror field, and they will be left eagerly anticipating the next chance to go gamboling in the graveyard.

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