Sunday, October 25, 2009

Halloween Week: October Dark by David Herter

The latest in Earthling Publications' series of Halloween offerings is October Dark by David Herter. Originally titled Dark Carnivals, it centers around the unfinished film Dark Carnival, expanded for the screen by Ray Bradbury from his short story "The Black Ferris." Plagued by problems, the film was eventually dropped, and Bradbury later novelized his screenplay into Something Wicked This Way Comes.

The story concerns two aspiring "FX filmers," Will and Jim. With the help of their friends, they discover that a celebrity of sorts is living in their town of Grenton. Lester Deerton worked with the great Willis O'Brien, stop-motion animator extraordinaire.

Meanwhile, a little special-effects movie called Star Wars has just been released, and it's just the thing these two boys need to fill their summer days. What they don't realize is their summer is about to be filled with a lot more interesting, and dangerous, events.

Ambitious in scope and execution, October Dark is a love letter to Bradbury, Star Wars, Halloween, and the special effects masters of the cinema, most prominently Ray Harryhausen and Willis O'Brien, the latter a character in the story.

Herter mixes fact, fiction, and fantasy seamlessly, and it's often difficult to separate the three. (I was fooled in many instances. For example, don't go searching for certain titles or you'll be greatly disappointed.) The more you know about the life and work of folks like O'Brien and Bradbury, the more enjoyment you'll get out of October Dark.

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