Haunted blog Tour: Screen Screaming – from Eleanor Updale

Today I have Eleanor Updale, author of the short story “The Ghost and The Machine” from the Haunted collection and the Montmorency series, talking about her experience with an all night scare fest. Welcome Eleanor…


My story in the Haunted collection is about a ghost who attacks his victim through a computer.
That’s quite an unusual method, and of course it would have become possible only recently, but other screens have been a home for ghouls and monsters for a long time. The horror movie is almost as old as the cinema itself.

A couple of weeks ago I spent the whole night in my local cinema, watching horror films. It was quite an occasion. We gathered just before midnight. The queue spilled out into the street, and the auditorium was packed. One clever man had brought a pillow. Some carrier bags chinked quietly as their owners shuffled in, tying to conceal their illegal wine. The woman behind me had brought her knitting. “If it was good enough for the revolutionaries around the guillotine, it’s good enough for me,” she said, as she settled down for a night of blood and guts.

The films were interspersed with ancient trailers – wonderful repositories of portentous voices and bad acting that had us all in stitches from the start. The big features were presented in their original 35mm prints, which meant that all sorts of scratches and pops added to the authentic atmosphere of the cinema as we used to know it, and to the comic effect. We howled our way through the 1978 classic Blue Sunshine, where the clothes were almost as horrifying as the plot (which centred on a fashionable drug that made people’s hair fall out in handfuls before turning them into homicidal maniacs). There was plenty of gore: especially in the rarely-seen 1983 slasher, Pieces. It doesn’t take a genius to guess pieces of what. I spent so much of that film with my hands over my eyes thatin the end I closed them, and got rather more than 40 winks.

The highlight of the night, which demonstrated the essential truth of successful horror writing (that it’s all in what you don’t show, rather than what you do) was John Carpenter’s wonderful Halloween. Nobody laughed through that one. It’s everything a horror film should be: beautifully made, tightly scripted, with music that skilfully builds up the atmosphere of terror against a background of normality, acted out with due seriousness by all the cast. I’d seen it on TV before but, as we all
know, films are best seen on the big screen. It was even more terrifying knowing what was going to happen.

Being many years older than most of the audience, my husband and I only made it through till 5.30am, and so The Evil Dead will have wait for another day. Stepping out, mildly disorientated, into the chilly dawn felt really special. Our stolen night had been worth it, and I hope we get the chance to do it again. Many thanks to all the staff who stayed up all night to keep the projector running and to make sure we all stayed safe despite the multiple serial killers to whom we were so brutally exposed.

Sounds like lots of fun, I wish my local cinema would do something like that, however I think I might struggle staying up all night too! 

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