Friday, October 16, 2009

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: Let No Good Deed Go Unpunished

I've long been a fan of the graphic novels from writers Todd Livingston and Robert Tinnell. The pair, in tandem with illustrator Neil Vokes, created the magnificent and Rondo Award-winning THE BLACK FOREST and its sequel, plus a pair of old west horror volumes aptly titled THE WICKED WEST. (In the name of full disclosure I must admit that Livingston, Tinnell and Vokes are all pals of mine.) On his own, Tinnell wrote the charming FEAST OF THE SEVEN FISHES (a departure from his horror work but no less entertaining) and SIGHT UNSEEN, a tale of Lovecraftian horror that oozes the writer/director's love of classic horror and Eurotrash from every page.

Their 2005 collaboration with illustrator Micah Farritor THE LIVING AND THE DEAD was recently nabbed by director Brad Anderson (SESSION 9, THE MACHINIST) for a big screen adaptation and the news made me re-visit this page-turning tale of gothic mystery and monsters, both literal and figurative.

Drawing its inspiration from the reel horrors of the Universal and Hammer horror films of old and the real tales of the Theatre du Grand Guignol, THE LIVING AND THE DEAD is a horrific tale filled with dual identities, murder, mayhem, sadism, incest, lust and much more.

The noble and generous Dr. Hans Schmidt – who bears more than a passing resemblance to Herbert West as portrayed by Jeffrey Combs by way of Peter Cushing – runs a clinic in a small mill town. His happy existence with his wife and son is shattered when his cousin Bettina arrives on the scene and begs Hans to tend to her dying son Julian. His hand forced by a mother's blind devotion to her dying son, Hans dredges up some of his old black magic and restores Julian to health.

As is frequently the case with such resurrections the results are a mixed bag – at best – and filled with complicated side effects. Schmidt must decide whether he wants to risk it all to protect his family (and perhaps humanity) and seek aide from an unlikely ally.

To say much more about the story's twist and turns would ruin what is a page-turner of the highest order. Savvy readers might be able to see what's coming but Tinnell and Livingston pack the story with enough clever bits to keep even the most jaded horror fan intrigued and Farritor's sepia-toned panels are the perfect companion to this devilish tale.

No comments: