Mark “Master of all Trades” Matthews is a writer, editor, professional licensed counselor, film buff, former marathon runner, loving father and husband, and an all-round humble guy despite his massive contributions to horror literature as a whole.
This discussion holds a special place in my heart as July 5, 2021 marks the 4th year anniversary of Literary Retreat’s launch. Lit Retreat is dedicated to Roger Ebert who sadly passed away in 2013. When I met co-founder Farooq Qaisrani at SZABIST Dubai we discussed making a website similar to RogerEbert.com (now run by various creative people including Roger’s former wife Chaz Ebert and also world-renowned film critic Matt Zoller Seitz) but rather than incorporating only film critique our site would feature both book and movie reviews. As of 2021, Lit Retreat has covered multiple forms of media, and seeing the increase of our monthly visitors, I guess we’re doing something right.
Our passion project came to fruition with Mark Matthews’ awesome contribution as Author of the Month for July 2017 – you can read that interview here. The second post on LR was the review of the Mark Matthews’ edited addiction-horror anthology Garden of Fiends (2017) which also features Mark’s novella of the same name.
Now without further ado, let’s get down to what Mark and I discuss regularly: Horror movies!
Q1. Hi Mark, I’m honored again by your presence again on Lit Retreat 4 years to the day it was launched! First things first, to those who are yet to read your insightful interview on Literary Retreat, introduce yourself and also the first awesome movie you came across as a child.
As a real young child, I watched classic horror such as House on Haunted Hill, the Dracula and Frankenstein films. I was also a huge fan of Godzilla films. First of the original slashers I remember seeing was Halloween. The film held a mystique, and it seems right I saw it at a drive-in. I went with my brothers and a baby sitter, who took me under the condition she could cover my eyes if needed. The only time she did was when PJ Soles was topless and saying “see anything you like?” Kinda crazy, huh, because my answer was no, I can’t see. I can still the fingers over my eyelids. She did not cover up my eyes once during the bloodshed. Since seeing Halloween, I’m pretty sure I’ve had my own person Michael Myers watching me.
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Q2. I assume you grew up in the 80s. Are horror movies of recent years quite different from those of yesteryears? Or are they following the same formula?
I like to believe many of the newer films have more depth, covering deeper topics—think Lovecraft Country or Get Out or The Invisible Man. Of course, we have ‘horror for fun’s sake’ today just as much then—think Stranger Things, or the new Godzilla or Ready or Not. If I were some sort of film connoisseur, I could probably find films from the 80s that tackle some of the subjects that current horror films have been, but I can’t think of many.
Q3. List your favorite horror movies of 2021.
Release dates are so screwed up and hard to figure out with Covid delays and direct-to-streaming, so I’m going to cheat. Sea Fever is a movie I’ve seen of late that I absolutely loved and I think captures the power of horror films, and like Paul Tremblay’s book Survivor Song, captured the pandemic before it started. Godzilla vs. Kong I also loved. So much fun. I saw the criticism of the film, but I loved every bit of it (compared to Army of the Dead, which was also deemed as mindless fun, but I couldn’t watch and had to turn off). The Vigil is also something current that I think needs to be watched. Non-Christian possession movies are hard to find. I’m eager to see The Quiet Place Part II.
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Q4. Let’s talk about Hereditary and Midsommar. What makes these movies tick as genuine horror fares, and in which way do these films complement each other?
Interesting how many people just wanted more Hereditary when they saw Midsommar. You got it, in a sense, but not in the way you expected. Hereditary was more about a family, Midsommar an individual, but both unique in that they rewrote the final girl in a sense. In Hereditary, we saw a ‘final boy’, but in a statement of the patriarchy, that final boy did not have to really fight for his spot, he was worshipped just for being a boy. You never saw him battle through his own bloodshed, but quite the opposite, he was timid and scared (understandably so) but final girls have to fight their ass off to make it that far. In Midsommar, we also see some worship at the end, with such a unique sort of terrifying. She had to live through a psychological slashing and ostracizing and gaslighting and terror to get where she was. In the end, she was surrounded by those who adored her, but oh the cost she had to pay. To have your terror mocked may be the ultimate terror.
Q5. Now let’s get back to your writing. What do you have in store for us in the near future?
Later this year, you’ll see a cover reveal for the next Wicked Run Press anthology: Orphans of Bliss: Tales of Addiction Horror with a fantastic list of writers. I’ve got a story in John Taff’s The Bad Book coming out that is sure to raise some eyebrows. Finally, this fall I’m planning a short story collection release. Seven tales, some reprints, some new, including a story that takes place within the realm of The Hobgoblin of Little Minds. Stay tuned.