Saturday, 22 October 2011




I don’t know. There’s such a sudden upsurge. So many books about horror. So many about vampires. I thought Bram Stoker had written the definitive tale about vampires but apparently not. Everywhere I look on book sites there’s a plethora of vampire tales. That or zombies. Written so frequently by women though I add that simply as a matter of information. We cannot now get enough horror, so it seems.

But last night on the television I watched the ultimate horror movie. Men, their faces contorted with a mixture of rage and fear, were clubbing each other to death, raising above their heads whatever came to hand, mallets, hammers, metal stanchions, to crush skulls, using spades to punch out blood and brain. Or they stabbed each other, jabbing not once but twice, thrice, or more times, fierce thrusts into the guts, into the face, into whatever defenceless part of the body presented itself. It was a scene from Hell. Crude. Brutal. Remorseless. Desperate. Cruel. Inhuman.

And other times great waves of men, onward rushing into what they must have known awaited them, were mown down as grass is mown. They were silently dead before they reached to the ground.

Now that was a horror film.  That was the kind of film that sears the mind, that scars the imagination. What sorts of beings were represented here? What beasts? What monsters were these that should so mercilessly and recklessly throw themselves on their foes in such a manner, to squander their own and others’ lives? Who had fashioned such horrifying beings?

Who in God’s name were these that the film-maker was representing?

Us. That’s the answer.

It was a film based on fact. It came originally from the pen of Erich Maria Remarque, a veteran of the Western Front, and was translated to film only a dozen years after the end of World War 1 when memories were still fresh. I first saw the film All Quiet on the Western Front in my student days, sixty years ago. I felt its power then and had it revived last night.

And the point is that those engaged in these monstrous daily massacres were not demons or devils. They were not twisted souls seeking revenge on others. These creatures, stinking of fear in the close confines of their embattled trenches, using bayonets, trenching tools, whatever murderous tool was available, had been and perhaps still were, in spite of all, the decent wide-eyed idealists they always had been but who had been transformed in the struggle to survive.

In the novel And Such Great Names as These there are some battle scenes and I have striven to portray desperate soldiers as ordinary, as decent, as helpless. That’s why the representation of battle scenes in the film presents us with a horror film. It’s because they are all helpless victims.

‘Outside, amid the crunch and crump of high explosive and the whizz and whirr of flying metal, farm lads and clerks lay together, silent, awaiting burial; riveters and barmen hung  like bird-scarers on the wire; lawyers and lawbreakers were lost forever, buried under fallen trenches, and a prospective Olympic swimmer drowned in a puddle in No Man’s Land.’

And elsewhere in the book:

‘Good old Guthrie. Reliable old Guthrie.  Tough as hell old Guthrie though no-one knew that in bed at night he still heard the dry crump and crunch of mortar fire; still felt the earth heave under him; still saw the oak tree, shriven of all its bark, shorn of every leaf, its colour bled away and way up in its highest remaining branches, the two bodies, neither with a shred of clothing so that there was no indication of whose sons might be suspended there, Tommy and Jack or Hans and Fritz.’

Fanciful? Not at all. Years ago, when I was doing some research into the war, the Imperial War Museum sent me a postcard which I never used.

It showed anoak tree, shriven of all its bark, shorn of every leaf, its colour bled away and way up in its highest remaining branches, the two bodies, neither with a shred of clothing…’

Are there really worse horrors than scenes like these?

Vampires are not needed in such places. They are not horrifying enough.

If this and my other blogs have interested you, do please let your friends know.

And Such Great Names as These by Allen Makepeace
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This book is also available on Amazon Kindle
75% of the book’s profits go to the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association

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