Sean Hogan (THE DEVIL’S BUSINESS, LITTLE DEATHS) steps away from screenwriting and directing with two works of metafictional film criticism, ENGLAND’S SCREAMING and THREE MOTHERS, ONE FATHER. Influenced by SUSPECTS by film critic and historian David Thomson, ENGLAND’S SCREAMING comprises 30+ biographies of characters from horror cinema, that asks what if they existed in a single chronology, and could interact? Meanwhile, the semi-sequel THREE FATHERS, ONE MOTHER, focuses on several European horror films.


Reflecting on SUSPECTS, Hogan explains, “The book inspired me to write something under its influence, in the same way that the films then inspired me to write about them.” He adds, “It’s all about being inspired by other pieces of art, and I still get a lot of joy from books, films and music – it’s the fuel that keeps me going. So it’s nice to be able to respond with something else.” He recalls author and critic Kim Newman’s words in the introduction of his book DEATH LINE: “… Sometimes the best response to a piece of art is another piece of art.”


Working on ENGLAND’S SCREAMING, an exercise in creating connections between the characters of separate films, Hogan acknowledges a change in his appreciation of these works, snd attributes it to an altered point of view. “When you look at a film on a critical level, you’re looking at it from the outside in, and this is the complete opposite because you’re looking at it from the inside out. In that sense, it’s useful coming at it being mostly experienced in screenwriting because you’re used to writing for characters. So you’re taking that training about writing a film and then going to an existing film and examining it from the inside.”


“In terms of the connections between the films, that’s a slightly more critical mindset. It involves a certain amount of research and understanding of the genre you are writing about. You’re trying to pick up on connections that firstly do exist, whether it’s actors, characters or films of a similar sub-genre that you can trace threads between.” Hogan found that this critical approach was not without its limitations and that it needed to be coupled with a less critical one. “On the other hand, it’s about making imaginary leaps where you might look at two films that are completely unconnected, where you suddenly think, ‘But what if this character encountered that character from another film?’ Or, ‘What if I smashed these two films together and something completely unexpected came out of it?’ And that process was somewhat more intuitive; it was purely subconscious. And that was me trusting my instincts - trusting these things that would pop out of nowhere.”


From the sheer volume of films watched, not every film made it into ENGLAND’S SCREAMING, and those that did are not necessarily films the author would declare admiration for. “ENGLAND’S SCREAMING was intended to be an overview in some respects, although I did try to focus on the films I liked largely, or I thought to have some worth.” He adds, “In certain cases, there are films in there I don’t like very much, but I thought they were important, or worth including to try to give a general overview of the genre as a whole. I had the space to do that because it’s a novel-length book, but going into writing THREE MOTHERS, it was always meant to be shorter and more focused.” This focus came once a plot thread was found, allowing the seven films to be selected that tied into the theme of the “conflict between the three mothers and the devil.”


For the semi-sequel, the limitations forced Hogan to omit films, whereas, in the first book, there was a flexibility to be more inclusive. “I included films that I genuinely admire, with one or two exceptions.” He goes onto explain, “I watched a bunch of films that didn’t make it in, and they were films I would have liked to have included because they’re good movies, but they just didn’t fit. It was all about what can I trace connections between, and what films play off interestingly against each other. So I did consider films and then had to discard them, partly because they didn’t work within the more focused framework.”


There were surprises writing THREE MOTHERS, and one film in particular that offered a respite from being forced to exclude films was Roman Polanski’s THE TENANT. “I initially thought that I’d like to include it because it’s a film that’s very dear to me, but then it was a case of whether it would fit within the framework? And when I found the idea that allowed me to include it, I was thrilled because it just seemed to happen organically.” He continues, “There are certainly other films that I’d like to have included that I didn’t have space for, and so it was making them earn their keep, and that was the selection process.”


Speaking about the response to the books, Hogan says, “I hope that it works on two levels because the hardcore fans who know all the references, who get all the nods and winks and whatever else, should hopefully enjoy them. It’s that hardcore fandom that will get everything that’s in there you would think. On the other hand, that is a niche audience, and although these are always going to be somewhat niche books, it would be nice for them to appeal beyond that.” In keeping with his feelings of the value of a piece of art in response to another part of art, he hopes that his answer will create new connections. “I hope that they work on a fundamental story level and on a level where even if you don’t know all the films or references, you can still read them and enjoy them, and possibly have your interest piqued about what some of these films are, and go and check some of them out.”


Paul Risker.


ENGLAND’S SCREAMING is now available to order in hardback via PS Publishing:




THREE MOTHERS, ONE FATHER is now available to order in paperback and is available on e-book from Black Shuck Books:






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