Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Cult Horror Films to Suck You In

Mega monsters are scary. So are supernatural serial killers. And so are otherworldly entities beyond our understanding.

But you know what’s scariest of all? People.

People are especially terrifying when they get together in large groups and their ideas start to get a little… murderous. So, check out my list below of movies to watch starring CULTS.

The Lodge (2019)

Grace is the only survivor of a cult that committed mass suicide. Years later, on a trip with her future step-children, strange things begin to happen around her that make her question her sanity and whether the cult is really behind her. The Lodge explores the lasting trauma left on even those who leave cults.

Them That Follow (2019)

Mara is part of a small community that practices religious snake handling. As dark secrets emerge, they tear families apart and the church’s practices serve a darker purpose.

Apostle (2018)

A major theme of many cult stories is the lies told to the members to keep them in line. The Apostle explores a world in which the cult is correct. Thomas, a priest who has lost his faith, goes to rescue his sister from an island cult and discovers their secrets in the process.

The Void (2016)

Just because I said the people of cults are scary doesn’t mean I don’t love some otherworldly dangers too! The Void mixes cult mystery with Lovecraftian horror when a hospital is dragged surrounded by cultists bent on bringing Hellish creatures to Earth.

Red State (2011)

Three boys are kidnapped by a fundamentalist Christian cult and must fight their way out during an invasion of the compound by federal agents. Half Waco siege, half Westboro Baptist church, Red State asks what happens when religious isolation and fanaticism is taken to the very extreme.

What’s your favorite cult film? Is there one coming out that you’re excited about? Let us know in the comments!

Book Review: Belle Vue by C.S. Alleyne

Content Warnings: Sexual Assault and Violence

I’m a big fan of atmospheric horror. And nothing screams atmosphere quite like a haunted asylum. Based on the very real abuses of the British asylum system in the 19th century, Belle Vue explores what happens when the horrors of the past reach into the present.

Belle Vue is a horror novel by C.S. Alleyne, published by Crystal Lake Publishing.

Claire thinks that she’d found the deal of a lifetime. Finally, she can own her own place, a flat in the beautifully renovated Belle Vue Mansion. So, what if it is reportedly haunted? No ghost is going to scare her off from her dream home.

But the grisly history of Belle Vue is more than just a ghost story and it certainly hasn’t been left in the past. The gruesome fate of Ellen Grady and her sister Mary in 1869 created ripples that affect the tenants of Belle Vue even now.

Belle Vue tells a twisted tale of madness, murder, Satanists, and sex cults.

Alleyne cleverly weaves the past and present together, telling twin stories while never giving too much away. Parallels between the stories are artful without being predictable. Crucial information is revealed at just the right times. Alleyne is a master of twists, reserving them until they are most unexpected. No character is safe in this story.

Belle Vue stars a cast of characters, rather than having one protagonist. These interactions fuel the intrigue and suspense of the novel. Above all, what Alleyne does well is to create characters that are flawed, but compelling.

Claire’s enthusiasm and lust for life immediately drew me to her. Watching the events of the book unfold (and anticipating what was to come) filled me with dread. The tragedy that surrounds Claire throughout Belle Vue is only made worse with the knowledge of how her circumstances reflect those of the past.

Alex, Claire’s boyfriend, makes for an interesting character study. He’s selfish, self-absorbed, and misogynistic, though he does seem to care for Claire. He is far from perfect and, in fact, his flaws are what stand out about him as a character. The tragedy of Belle Vue affects him profoundly. More than any other, he displays the most growth throughout the plot.

Poor, sweet Ellen doesn’t deserve all that happens to her at Belle Vue. Imprisoned there by her sister in the 1860’s, Ellen suffers horribly at the hands of the staff. Her loving and hopeful nature persists and her spirit haunts Belle Vue in a subtle way from then on.

Sinister in the extreme, Mary makes for an unconscionable antagonist. Mary pulls the strings for the events at Belle Vue, from the 1860’s through the present day. Though she considers herself the product of misuse, her selfishness and greed are the real cause of her suffering. Though her cunning elevates her to supernatural heights, it also damns her.

Belle Vue is itself a character in this story. The stately mansion holds centuries worth of secrets and Alleyne enjoys teasing them out throughout the story. From the manor home of hedonistic sadists, to a horrific asylum, to a renovated apartment complex, the Belle Vue has worn many faces, and hidden the dark truth in the tunnels below.

Belle Vue was a delight to read, especially if you enjoy historical horror. Anyone who likes asylum horror should pick this up.

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 10 Common Phobias (and movies that will trigger them)

Fear is part of our everyday experience. It keeps us alive. But sometimes fears border on the irrational, which is when they become phobias. Indulge in these phobia-tastic horror movies!

Acrophobia – fear of heights

  • Vertigo (1958) – This Hitchcock classic contains scenes of dizzying heights from the point of view of the character, drawing you into the fear.
  • Man on Wire (2008) – Okay, so technically it’s a documentary, not a horror movie, but doesn’t that make it all the more terrifying?

Nyctophobia – fear of the dark

  • Don’t Breathe (2016) – A trio of robbers get more than they bargain for when they break into the house of a blind man.
  • The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – This Oscar winning film features a heart pounding chase through the pitch-dark basement of Buffalo Bill.

Cynophobia – fear of dogs

  • Cujo (1983) – The absolute classic dog horror movie, based on the novel by Stephen King.
  • Green Room (2015) – A band becomes trapped inside a bar by a gang of neo-Nazis. The vicious attack by pit bulls will make anyone squeamish.

Astraphobia – fear of storms

  • Twister (1996) – If you missed this classic 90’s film about tornado chasers, make sure to check it out.
  • Take Shelter (2011) – A man has apocalyptic visions of a storm and begins building a tornado shelter, causing the family to question his sanity.

Aerophobia – fear of flying

  • Flight 7500 (2014) – A supernatural force attacks passengers on a transpacific flight to Tokyo. Passengers are stuck thousands of feet in the air with nowhere to run.
  • Altitude (2010) – A group of friends on a personal plane is thrown into chaos when the plane becomes stuck in ascent.

Mysophobia – fear of germs/uncleanliness

  • Cabin Fever (2002) – A group of young adults succumbs to a flesh-eating virus in a remote cabin.
  • Contagion (2011) – Considered one of the most realistic movies about a pandemic, you may find Contagion a little hard to watch right now.

Agoraphobia – fear of going out

  • Intruders (2015) – Robbers find themselves in danger when they realize their shut-in victim isn’t as helpless as they thought.
  • Big Sky (2015) – A girl with agoraphobia must face the great open desert to save herself and her companions. This movie gets extra points for giving life to the real fear of the outside world instead of just showing someone stuck inside.

Claustrophobia – fear of enclosed spaces

  • Buried (2010) – Ryan Reynolds lives everyone’s worst fear of waking up to find you’re buried alive in a coffin.
  • The Descent (2005) – Cavers become trapped on an expedition and must fight for their lives against something sinister that lives in the caverns.

Arachnophobia – fear of spiders

  • Itsy Bitsy (2019) – A family moves into a new home only to be tormented by a giant spider.
  • Spiders (2013) – A piece of an abandoned space station crashes into New York City and monstrous spiders take over the subway.

Trypanophobia – fear of needles

  • Requiem for a Dream (2000) – The real horror of this movie is watching everyone slowly destroy their own lives, but the copious intravenous drug use is definitely frightening all on its own.
  • Awake (2007) – While not specifically about needles, Awake will tap your darkest fears about medicine. The main character is aware of everything that happens to him during open-heart surgery, but unable to communicate because of anesthesia.

What are you afraid of? What movies creep you out the most?

Book Review: What Hell May Come by Rex Hurst

Content Warnings: Sexual Assault, Animal Cruelty, Domestic Violence, Child Abuse

Before we get started, please note that What Hell May Come is not for everyone. Rex Hurst makes a point to include every taboo and controversial issue he can find (and insult pretty much all parts of the population at the same time), so if you’re a sensitive reader, you probably want to pass.

What Hell May Come is a novel written by Rex Hurst and published by Crystal Lake Publishing.

Jon St. Fond has never liked his family and it seems that the feeling is mutual. Growing up in a house devoid of love, he threw himself instead into the world of Dungeons and Dragons. But when unexplainable things start to happen to him, he suspects that there’s something more sinister going on in his suburban family than just emotional abuse. Soon, Jon finds himself locked in a web of deceit and depravity, with a horrifying destiny that puts all his fantasy games to shame.

The plot of What Hell May Come is fast-paced, moving quickly between one atrocity and the next. Events are presented as a sort of carnival of horror, leaving you staring at the pages in disbelief. Did that really just happen? Yes. Yes, it did. But you’ll forget about it soon enough because something worse is coming next chapter.

I found the characters of What Hell May Come deeply unlikeable, though I suspect that is Hurst’s intention.

Jon is as self-absorbed and reckless as it is possible for a teenager to be. Though he is the protagonist of the story, he does little to elicit the sympathy of the reader. His abominable hatred of women clashes starkly with his obsession with losing his virginity. He decries his family as elitist while displaying the same behaviors he abhors. He hates his father but also emulates him in the most heinous ways possible. By the end of the novel, Jon’s actions have taken him so far that it’s too late for the redemption that Hurst offers. Overall, it’s a realistic look at the mind of a teenaged boy and just how far a worldview can be twisted by selfishness.

The rest of the St. Fond family is almost laughably villainous, as if making them more terrible would somehow redeem the complete boorishness that characterized Jon. While there are few redeeming qualities to be found in a family of Satanists, I would have liked to see more character depth. They seemed almost to be evil for the sake of being evil.

The writing suited the genre and the material. Descriptions were gritty and, at times, violently graphic. There were moments that were almost poetic. Hurst clearly did his background research on the topic and it shows in the details. The small introduction to the Satanic Panic at the beginning of the book was particularly interesting.

I’m sure there is an audience for What Hell May Come, but I wasn’t it. I felt that Hurst had a checklist of outrages he wanted to commit in writing this. To that end, he succeeded. He did push the boundaries of what is acceptable in writing, finding a home in the horror genre that he couldn’t have anywhere else. If you like your literature to challenge the lines of acceptability, then consider reading What Hell May Come.

Fans of edge-pushing horror will also like Freaks, an anthology of dark and gruesome circus stories.

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 10 Must See Horror Films Streaming on Netflix Now

You will almost certainly know the movies on this list. You’ve probably also seen several, if not most (maybe all!) of them. But did you know that they’re currently on NETFLIX??? Easy streaming, right in your home. So, grab a blanket and some popcorn and settle in with some of the classics.

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Rated 6.3/10 on IMDB

Paranormal Activity was a famously low budget horror flick that took the world by storm in 2007. It delivers genuine scares in a found footage format, redefining the genre in terrifying ways.

Session 9 (2001)

Rated 6.4/10 on IMDB

I hadn’t heard of Session 9 until recently, but apparently, I was missing out! Fans consider Session 9 to be moody and atmospheric. It doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares and lets your imagination do most of the work.

Candyman (1992)

Rated 6.6/10 on IMDB

Candyman rolls a number of urban legends into one horror extravaganza. Bloody Mary, the Hook-Handed Man, not to mention everything that goes bump in the night. The themes that seemed timely in the early nineties are still around today, which is why a remake is in the works.

Childs Play (1988)

Rated 6.6/10 on IMDB

See the original that spawned the franchise. This story of a murderer’s soul possessing a young boy’s toy is why I never liked dolls as a child. Looking back now, it’s more ridiculous than terrifying (especially when compared to… say… Annabelle), but there’s always something special about the original.

Insidious (2010)

Rated 6.8/10 on IMDB

You have to be careful when your soul can wander while you sleep. You never know where you’ll end up or if you’ll get back… Insidious was on the forefront of the more modern type of horror that combines deeply atmospheric spookiness with more traditional jump scares. No gore here, just terror.

The Witch (2015)

Rated 6.9/10 by IMDB

This is the most recent film on this list, but that’s because it’s just THAT GOOD. If I had to pick a movie that will be classic horror in years to come, it’s The Witch. If you like atmospheric, historical horror that leaves you guessing, this is for you.

Poltergeist (1982)

Rated 7.3/10 on IMDB

Poltergeist is THE classic haunted house film. Whether it’s the young daughter talking with eerie creatures in her room or that climactic scene in the swimming pool, make sure you enjoy reliving this piece of 80’s horror history.

The Evil Dead (1981)

Rated 7.5/10 by IMDB

1980’s gore horror at its finest, The Evil Dead actually earned the NC-17 rating. The characters are trapped in a hopeless and terrifying situation. The movie isn’t for the squeamish, but every horror addict should see it at some point.

The Wicker Man (1973)

Rated 7.5/10 on IMDB

I know, I know, but before you all start yelling at me about bees, this is the ORIGINAL Wicker Man. Considered by many to be one of the best British horror films ever made, it really is a CULT classic.

Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Rated 8.6/10 on IMDB

Silence of the Lambs is one of the few horror movies to ever win an Oscar (Best Picture!). This tense police procedural is absolutely necessary horror viewing. And if you’ve already seen it, there’s no harm in watching again, is there?

The horror selection on Netflix is growing (and getting more international!), so obviously this list isn’t complete. Drop some of your favorites in the comments!

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 15 Beastly Movies for Your Animal Horror Fix

I love monsters (I know, I say that every time). While there are an endless number of man-made, supernatural, and space-dwelling varieties to choose from, nature has supplied plenty of her own. Whether you’re looking for something that crawls, swims, slithers, or climbs, I’ve got the movies for you.

Apes

When it comes to the original movie mega monster, you can’t argue with the King. 1933 brought us King Kong and the start of the longest dynasty in monster movie history. King Kong has the impressive distinction of having few imitators. Unlike other massive monsters (and we’ll get to those in a minute), King Kong was given a distinctive personality that made it difficult for generic remakes to get a foothold. There have been King Kong movies made every decade since the original.

Sharks

Considering we live in a world that has given us multiple Sharknado films, it’s hard to believe that sharks weren’t always popular horror fodder. Until 1975, sharks didn’t get much play time on the screen (outside of pirate films). Now, of course, there’s no shortage of the toothy monsters.

Spiders

By far the smallest creature on this list, spiders are still a top phobia the world over. Horror snakes come in two varieties: overgrown monstrosities or a pack of a million tiny crawlies. Pick your poison, but I’d rather stay away.

Snakes

Why did it take so long for snakes to make their way into the horror lexicon? For so long, they stayed a tool of cults and villains rather than the central antagonist. Regardless, once they slithered into the genre, snakes made themselves at home as B-Movie stars.

Crocodiles

When it comes to giant lizards, nature has more than enough to offer. Mix ancient biology with massive teeth and murky water and you have a horror dream.

Is there a great animal horror film that I’ve missed? Drop your favorites in the comments.

Book Review: Arterial Bloom edited by Mercedes M. Yardley

Book Review: Arterial Bloom edited by Mercedes M. Yardley
Reviewed by Daphne Strasert

Unthemed anthologies are always a bit of a gamble for the reader. Without a common thread tying the stories together, you can’t be sure that each story will hold your attention the same way. Arterial Bloom, edited by Mercedes M. Yardley and published by Crystal Lake, may be unthemed, but there is still a common core to the stories: quality. The writing in each and every story is lush and literary. The story themes vary from whimsical to harsh realism, but they are each gripping in their own way.

The Stone Door by Jimmy Bernard

This story about three sisters trying to live their lives in the place of an ever-present threat is tense and dark. Bernard uses the terror of the unknown to great effect. The story is better for being underexplained. It’s plenty terrifying as it is. A sense of hopelessness creeps in between the words as the sisters’ fight to survive keeps them from truly living.

Dog (Does Not) Eat Dog by Grant Longstaff

Longstaff uses his story to take a harsh look at interpersonal relationships during the apocalypse. What does it take to survive? Do you really want to survive if it means losing humanity? His exploration of what hardship and hopelessness may bring out in some people is frightening in its realism.

Kudzu Stories by Linda J. Marshall

Marshall turns a short story even shorter, weaving together a series of stories set in the same small town. With the backdrop of the Mississipi river, Kudzu Stories has a distinctly southern feel. Her writing conjures up hot, humid nights and crickets in the dark, with a dash of something more sinister waiting in the dense kudzu. Truly one of my favorites in this anthology.

Dead Letters by Christopher Barzak

With Dead Letters, Barzak creates a unique and heartfelt story about grief and love. I can’t give much detail without spoiler several marvelous twists, but rest assured, it’s a deeply moving and personal story that explores emotions I didn’t even know I had.

The Darker Side of Grief by Naching T Kassa

Kassa is one of my favorite authors to see in any anthology. The Darker Side of Grief is my favorite work from her so far. It’s a dark tale of a boy haunted by the death of his mother that explores the magnitude of childhood bravery. It’s traditionally scary in a way that few other stories in the anthology are.

Welcome to Autumn by Daniel Crow

Crow’s story of a missing artist and the forces working against him is twisty and trippy. His concept is fascinating and something I would love to learn more about. More than that, the small setting he uses allows him to tell the story through characters in a unique and layered way.

Still Life by Kelli Owen

Still Life is a painting made with words. The vivid imagery is nothing like I’ve ever read before. The story itself winds slowly into you with hints of terror that lurk on the sidelines. It’s a beautiful slow burn with a shocking ending.

Three Masks by Armand Rosamilia

Rosamilia tells several stories at once in Three Masks, showcasing the way two people may come to share their lives in infinite ways. Even with parallels running between each possible storyline, he manages to capitalize on shock value. You’re never sure of what will happen. It’s a literary piece that pushes the boundaries of traditional story telling.

Doodlebug by John Boden

Doodlebug tells the story of an arsonist. It’s a slow burn (ha) with a slithering sense of dread as you wait for what horror will happen next. Boden dives into the psyche of the main character, turning her psychology into the true star of the show. It’s a deeply creepy story not for any overt terror, but for the exploration that there could be any sort of monster hiding behind the façade of a human being.

Happy Pills by Todd Keisling

I loved Happy Pills. Keisling’s story presents a man who will try anything if it will ease the absence of feeling inside him. The description of anxiety and depression is hauntingly visceral and so accurate that it hit home for me in a powerful way. The writing is excellent, with vivid descriptions that match the Lovecraftian tone of the piece.

What Remained of Her by Jennifer Loring

What Remained of Her follows a woman’s desperate search for answers in the disappearance of her sister. The build and suspense in this story is great. The ending is nothing like you would suspect. Loring manages to create a gripping mystery worthy of a novel in a short story format.

Blue Was Her Favorite Color by Dino Parenti

Blue was Her Favorite Color honestly made me shudder as I read it. The story follows a father as he watches the grieving process of his young daughter. Parenti took his time in laying the groundwork for a truly horrifying and unexpected reveal. The creeping horror of this tale will be with me for a long time to come.

In the Loop by Ken Liu

Liu’s story is a masterpiece of technological horror. In the Loop tells the story of a woman who programs machines of war. While it could technically be considered science fiction, the truth of his story matter is much closer to the reality of today. In the Loop isn’t traditional horror, relying instead of the horror found in ethical decisions made every day.

The Making of Mary by Steven Pirie

In The Making of Mary, Pirie turns the language of science into a love letter. This story of Gaia guised in mortal flesh is more of a romance than a horror story, but it’s filled with such beautiful imagery and heartfelt characters, that it belongs alongside the rest of the writing in this anthology.

Mouths Filled with Seawater by Jonathan Cosgrove

Mouths Filled with Seawater is a complicated story woven through the mind of unreliable narrator. It’s hard to know exactly what is going on, but the confusion just adds to the concern of just what the narrator is capable of doing. Cosgrove storytelling is unique and perfectly suited to the tortured tale he presented.

Rotten by Carina Bissett

Rotten is a horror tale in a glossy fairy-tale wrapping. The story of a girl coming of age under her mother’s withering guidance is dark and painful. Bissett’s characters are sinister in the best way imaginable. They come to life under the sharp and vivid language. The series of snippets in the character’s life are each the perfect bite.

I was impressed with Arterial Bloom. Each author brought their absolute best to the table and the editor pulled together a collection of wildly different stories into a coherent piece. I recommend it whole-heartedly to fans of both horror and literature.

Looking for more anthologies? Try Tales from the Lake: Volume 5, Monsters of Any Kind, or Lost Highways.

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 10 Drinks to Pair with Horror Movies

Sometimes, I like to wind down from the day with a little horror movie and a nice drink to go alongside it. And, hey, did you know there are LOADS of recipes out there for Horror Addicts to try? Sure, you may have heard of The Zombie or The Vampire’s Kiss (and who hasn’t had a Bloody Mary?), but I found ten recipes that are a little off the beaten path.

The Lady in White
1½ oz gin
¾ oz triple sec
½ oz lemon juice
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Pair with The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

Moonlight
2 oz apple brandy
¾ oz lemon juice
¾ oz simple syrup
Shake with ice and strain into an old-fashioned glass.
Pair with The Wolfman (1941)

The Obituary
2 oz gin
¼ oz dry vermouth
¼ absinthe
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Pair with The Invisible Man (2020)

Satan’s Whiskers
¾ oz gin
¾ oz dry vermouth
¾ oz sweet vermouth
½ oz orange liqueur
½ oz orange juice
1 dash orange bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Pair with The Uncanny (1977)

The Victor (Frankenstein)
1½ oz gin
½ oz brandy
½ oz sweet vermouth
Stir with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Pair with The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Black Devil
2 oz light rum
½ oz dry vermouth
Garnish: Black olive
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the olive.
Pair with Drag Me to Hell (2009)

El Chupacabra
2 oz blanco tequila
¾ oz grapefruit juice
½ oz lime juice
½ oz Campari
½ oz simple syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime.
Pair with Indigenous (2014)

Black Magic
1½ oz vodka
¾ oz coffee liqueur
¼ oz lemon juice
Shake with ice and strain into ice filled old fashioned glass. Garnish with lemon twist.
Pair with The Craft (1996)

The Headless Horseman
2 oz vodka
3 dashes angostura bitters
Ginger Ale
Pour vodka and bitters into a Collins glass, add ice, fill with ginger ale, and stir. Garnish with orange.
Pair with Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Little Devil
¾ oz light rum
¾ oz gin
½ oz lemon juice
½ oz triple sec
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Pair with The Omen (1976)

Do you have any drink recipes you want to share? Or maybe there’s a must watch movie that pairs well with one of these? Be sure to tell us in the comments!

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Uncommon Monsters that Deserve a Movie

I love monsters. Demons, vampires, werewolves, giant atom-bomb lizards, scientific monstrosities, supernatural entities… you name it, I love it (except zombies, but we won’t get into that here). I’ll gleefully watch every Hammer Horror movie and sit through a thousand Universal monster marathons.

But, given the deep wealth of urban legends and cultural mythologies from around the world, is this really the best we can do? Endless remakes of Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy?

It’s time to branch out.

See below for five monsters that deserve their own block buster franchise:

1. Jorogumo

Jorogumo is a Japanese spider creature that can shapeshift into a beautiful woman. Japanese folklore is filled to the brim with fascinating monsters of all shapes and sizes and Japanese filmmakers have made films that scared the pants off us for decades (The Ring and The Grudge, anyone?). I’m imagining a tense thriller about young newlyweds, one with a dark secret… but it’s best to leave this to the professionals.

2. Cuca

The Cuca is a Brazilian mythological being taking the form of an old witch with an alligator face and hawk-like claws. She is known to steal children (especially naughty ones). Given the fantastic history of Brazilian cinema, I would love to see a tense, artsy film that brings home another Oscar for horror fans.

3. Bouda

Say it with me now: were-hyenas. That moniker really doesn’t do this African creature justice. The Bouda legend takes different forms depending on where exactly it comes from (it’s common in North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and the Near East). Regardless, humans turning into animals is rich fodder for all kinds of horror and we could all do with a break from the clichés of yet another werewolf movie.

4. Dzoavits

Dzoavits is an ogre from Native American (specifically Shoshonean) folklore. He is known for stealing and eating children. While this legend doesn’t have a wealth of stories to draw from, the premise alone is spooky enough for me to greenlight it.

5. Drop Bear

The drop bear is a larger, carnivorous cousin to the koala. Luckily, it’s not real, but is actually an Australian hoax designed to scare tourists. Australia is a nightmare country. Scientists are always discovering new and exciting ways for the wildlife to kill you. So, who’s to say this tourist-scaring cryptid isn’t waiting in the branches above. Just waiting… to drop.

That’s my top five list for new monster movies! What would you like to see?

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Top 5 Favorite Horror Board Games

There’s almost nothing I love more than a good board game and I’ve reviewed a lot of them here at HorrorAddicts.net. So, you might be wondering, do I have favorites? Of course I do.

Munchkin Bites

The Munchkins franchise is wildly popular and comes in many varieties, but my favorite by far is Munchkin Bites. Perfectly suited for Horror Addicts, Munchkin Bites contains plenty of funny references to your favorite movies and shows, with adorable art as well. This is the perfect way to introduce beginner players to a wide world of games outside of Candyland and Monopoly. Read my review here.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a fast-paced, raucous party game that’s very easy to learn (there’s even a free app to guide gameplay). Gameplay is much like Mafia (if you’ve played that classic), but more fun because everyone has special powers that let them participate. It can be played with a lot of people and there’s very little time commitment, so it’s ideal for larger groups. Read my review here.

Mysterium

Mysterium is as wonderful to play for its art as for the challenge of winning. Be prepared to bend your mind like an Olympic gymnast, because that’s the kind of skill this game requires. It’s best played with the kind of friends who are so close, they’re nearly telepathic. Of course, it’s just as fun to laugh over the missed connections if you lose. Read my review here.

King of Tokyo

Of all the games on this list, this is the best for the Baby Bats you may be raising. Who doesn’t want to be like Godzilla, after all? Gameplay uses dice to let players attack each other or purchase cards that give them special powers. Rounds move quickly so there’s little downtime to be bored. As an added bonus, the art is amazing. Read my review here.

Betrayal at House on the Hill

This is the game for the truly dedicated. Betrayal at House on the Hill is complicated, but worth is for those who want to put in the time. The thematic elements make it one of my all-time favorite games. There are hundreds of scenarios to play, and each game is different. If you want to make an investment, Betrayal at House on the Hill is well worth it. Read my review here.

I hope you like this list. If you have a favorite game you’d like to add (or maybe one you’d like for me to review!) leave a comment!

Book Review: Lilitu: Memoirs of a Succubus by Jonathan Fortin

Review by Daphne Strassert

Content Warnings: depicts graphic violence and sex

In 2017, HorrorAddicts.net ran the Next Great Horror Writer Contest. Over the course of the season, the writers (myself included) submitted horror writing of various types and competed for the top spot and the final prize of a book contract with Crystal Lake Publishing. The winner was Jonathan Fortin and the book was Lilitu: Memoirs of a Succubus.

I have waited literal years for this book to come out. Jonathan Fortin embodies the heart and soul of what it means to be a horror writer and I’m absolutely privileged to have competed against him. Lilitu shows the countless hours of hard work that he put into crafting his story.

HorrorAddicts.net helped to find a truly gifted author and bring a wonderful work of horror out into the world.

In 1876, Unbeknownst to the masses of Victorian England, humanity is about to change forever. The immortal denizens of the Earth—the vampires, the lilitu, and the necromancers—are tired of hiding in the shadows of the night. They’ve hatched a plot to take the world for themselves.

Maraina never felt as if she belonged with her aristocratic family. She never felt pretty enough or charming enough. She was stifled by a future that held no hope for her. That changes with The Nightfall. When the demons rise to take England, Maraina faces a choice: renounce her humanity and become a succubus, or remain human and die a slave.

She is introduced to the world of demons by Salem, a powerful incubus who is fascinated by Maraina’s strength of mind. But the new society brought about by the immortals is just as cruel and evil as the one that they overthrew. Maraina may have forsaken her own humanity, but she won’t turn her back on it entirely.

Soon she finds herself at odds with Salem, as both he and the world spiral further into darkness. Maraina must find a way to save everyone from evil on all sides, in a way that only a demon can.

Though Lilitu is a long book, it never feels that while reading it. Scenes flow together seamlessly, each action leading to the next in a manner that pulls the reader along. Fortin lays the groundwork for plot twists early without giving too many clues that would reveal them. The result is a gripping story that keeps the reader engaged throughout.

The heart of the story lies with Maraina Blackwood. Maraina is a feminist icon trapped in the Victorian era. Plagued by the restrictive values and burdensome expectations of her time, Maraina is often her own worst enemy. Watching her grow to discover her potential is satisfying. She explores what true humanity means outside of mortality and damnation. Though her understanding of the world is turned on its head, she finds the core of who she really is.

Salem is a fantastic antagonist. At first, he’s sexy and alluring, his dark nature luring Maraina in. As the book progresses, the very things that made Salem appealing begin to lose their shine. Salem changes throughout the book, but it is not a fall from grace, rather a reveal as the scales fall from Maraina’s eyes. Salem becomes more purely himself in all his sinister glory. He becomes a more powerful enemy as Maraina herself comes into her own power.

In Lilitu, Fortin has created a wholly unique and fantastical world. The elements of the Nightfall perfectly highlight the injustices faced in Victorian England (and today). It’s clear that Fortin did his research. The details of Victorian society are seamless, creating the perfect backdrop for the horror elements that are introduced. The mythos of the immortal characters is thorough. Fortin hints at a much deeper world than the one that’s presented in Lilitu, making the reader hope that there will be more to come.

Fortin’s writing is deliciously gruesome. He strikes the perfect balance in his descriptions between the beautiful and horrifying. The emotions of the characters come through clearly and the horror to come creeps up slowly, giving the reader a sense of dread that can’t quite be explained.

The story is a delight to read but provides more substance than a shock-and-awe horror thriller would. Lilitu explores the nature of sexuality, war, and morality. Fortin lays bare themes about prejudice and justice that are just as timely now as they are for the characters.

In Lilitu, Jonathan Fortin has created a horror masterpiece that defies many genre expectations. He weaves together elements of social commentary, coming of age triumphs, and Lovecraftian horror with ease, packaging them neatly in a story that leaves no room to put the book down.

 

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Spooky Places You Can Visit Virtually

As we’re all going a little stir crazy (Cabin Fever marathon anyone?), more and more museums and exhibits are moving online. For Horror Addicts, there are some great options. It may not be the same as visiting it for yourself, but it’s the next best thing.

Just try not to get your computer haunted in the process.

The Paris Catacombs

In the 18th century, Paris ran out of room in their cemeteries and undertook the monumental project to move over 6 million corpses into the abandoned mines under the city. The result was the largest human grave in the world and a massive, mesmerizing piece of macabre artwork. I wrote about my experience in the Catacombs for the HorrorAddicts.net Next Great Horror Writer Contest (you can read it here!).

You can take a free virtual tour here.

The Winchester House

The Winchester House is a winding, confusing mess of stairways and rooms with doors to nowhere and ghost traps strewn within. Built by Sarah Winchester between 1884 and 1922, it is said that construction continued around the clock in order to confuse the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles. Whether Sarah Winchester was genuinely haunted or actually mentally disturbed, we call all agree that her house is truly terrifying.

You can purchase the virtual tour here.

It might be safer than going in person anyway—less chance of getting lost.

The RMS Queen Mary

The Queen Mary is an ocean liner that is now permanently docked in Long Beach California. More importantly, it is considered one of the most haunted places in America. Over 60 deaths have occurred on the ship including a supposed murder in one of the staterooms.

You can watch the tour (the same one given in person!) here.

The Conjuring House

If you’re a fan of the Conjuring movies (and all their many, many spinoffs), you may be interested to know more about the real-life house that the original movie was based on. Supposedly haunted by the ghost of Bathsheba Sherman, the house was investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren in the 1970’s.

You watch some explorers walk through the house here.

The Lizzie Borden House

This house in Fall River, Massachusetts is the site of one of the most famous murders in American history. Though Lizzie Borden was acquitted for the brutal ax murders of her parents, popular culture has remained fascinated by the story, producing dozens of books, movies, and tv series dedicated to the alleged murderess.

You can watch an (unofficial) tour here.

Book Review: Wild Hunt by Nancy Kilpatrick

Review by Daphne Strasert

Content Warnings: depictions of graphic violence, torture, and sex

Nancy Kilpatrick, author of the Thrones of Blood series (reviewed here at HorrorAddicts.net), brings a gripping novella set in a modern world of vampires.

Lorelei lost her vision as a child. For her, the world is composed of blurry smears. But there is more than one type of sight. Lorelei makes a living as a psychic, traveling to fairs and music festivals wherever someone may want their fortune told. One night, her fate catches up to her in the form of the mysterious vampir Vlad. Vlad needs Lorelei’s help to fulfill his destiny and save himself from the clutches of his terrible father. Though they don’t initially get along, Vlad and Lorelei eventually come to and understanding: they can’t escape their destiny any more than they can escape each other.

Wild Hunt is a fast-paced adventure. While shorter than Kilpatrick’s other works, she still manages to pack in a lot of plot, creating a fulfilling story that is hard to put down and satisfying to finish. Kilpatrick creates a good balance between character autonomy and the relentless press of fate.

Lorelei is strong-willed and tenacious. What is most interesting is that she knows she is much weaker than those she meets throughout the story. She knows that she has other advantages. She trusts in her own abilities and uses her wits to conquer.

Vlad was raised in a world where strength is the only virtue and brutality is the only means to power. As a vampir, he believed humans were useful only for food and breeding. When he meets Lorelei, a woman whose help he desperately needs and whom he cannot overpower, he must change his thinking. He realizes that he does not want to be who he was molded into.

Kilpatrick’s writing is emotional. She never shies away from uncomfortable material. She paints the world and her characters with a visceral realism that makes the story come to life.

If you like Nancy Kilpatrick’s other writing, or if you’re looking for a new author to give you your vampire fix, make sure to give Wild Hunt a read.

Daphne’s Den of Darkness : 15 Horror Movies and Shows for Kids You Can Stream Right Now

Any Horror Addicts out there raising baby bats? It can be hard to find some middle ground between the horror you love and what’s going to keep the little monsters up at night, but I’m here to help! Below, you’ll find my curated selection of frightful fun for the whole family (all ready to stream).

  1. Hotel Transylvania: The Series (Netflix)

You’re probably already familiar with the Hotel Transylvania movies, but if you want MORE, check out the animated show. Dracula goes away for a year, leaving the hotel in the hands of his sister and his teenage daughter, Mavis.

  1. Little Monsters (Netflix)

This classic 1989 movie is all campy fun. Brian discovers the world of monsters living under his bed and embarks on a wild ride of mischief.

  1. Missing Link (Hulu)

Susan, also known as Bigfoot, searches for her distant Yeti relatives with the help of a famous monster hunter.

  1. Corpse Bride (Netflix)

If you haven’t watched this Tim Burton classic, do it now. This tale of romance and revenge is great for kids and adults.

  1. Monsters at Large (Hulu)

A group of teens forms a task force to fight imaginary monsters, but find themselves confronted with the real thing.

  1. Monster House (Netflix)

A group of kids discovers that the neighboring house is actually a real-live monster. This 2006 movie has become a Halloween classic, but real Horror Addicts know you can watch it year-round.

  1. Daphne & Velma (Hulu)

Before there was the Scooby Gang, there was Daphne and Velma. This movie shows the girls in high school, trying to solve the mystery of what is turning the students into zombies.

  1. The Little Vampire (Netflix)

In this 2017 animated film, a boy obsessed with the undead befriends a vampire his age and helps his family escape a monster hunter.

  1. Henry Hugglemonster (Hulu)

A monster series for the very young! This animated series teaches all those valuable social skills that little kids need, with a fun monster twist.

  1. Monster High (Netflix)

There are a whole collection of Monster High movies and shorts on Netflix. The series, based on the dolls by the same name, is wildly popular.

  1. Clue (Amazon Prime)

Clue: The Movie, based on Clue: The Board Game, is hilarious. As a child, as an adult, as anyone. Please go watch this movie.

  1. Monster Island (Netflix)

Lucas discovers that he’s actually a monster and goes to meet the rest of his family. In the process, he finds a plot against monsters and must save the day.

  1. Annoying Orange – Shocktober Horror (Amazon Prime)

This entry is really more for the pre-teen crowd. Annoying Orange isn’t for everyone, but for a certain type of humor, this really hits the spot.

  1. Super Monsters (Netflix)

Another entry for the littlest bats! A group of pre-school monsters tries to learn about their powers and prepare for kindergarten.

  1. Monster Family (Netflix)

On Halloween, a family is turned into the costumes they wear and must go on a journey to return to themselves. I liked this movie, but I’m not going to lie, I was rooting for Dracula.

Book Review: Thrones of Blood #5: Anguish of the Sapiens Queen by Nancy Kilpatrick

Review by Daphne Strasert

Content Warnings: This book contains graphic depictions of violence, sex, and rape.

Anguish of the Sapiens Queen is the fifth book in the Thrones of Blood series by Nancy Kilpatrick. At this point, I would not recommend jumping into the series without reading the preceding volumes. You can see my reviews of the earlier books here:

Revenge of the Vampir King

Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess

Abduction of Two Rulers

Savagery of the Rebel King

King Hades has a problem. Relations between the worlds of the vampir and sapiens have always been hostile, but now the existence of both teeter on the edge of oblivion. The sadistic vampir Queen Lamia has poisoned the Sapien populations with a virus that makes all men sterile. Without a cure, sapiens will die out in a generation. Without a source of food, the vampirii will follow soon after.

A compromise must be reached between the sapiens and the vampirii if they are to avert this disaster. Unfortunately, for Hades this means contending with the fierce and willful Queen Liontyne.

In Anguish of the Sapiens Queen, Kilpatrick takes a much more diverse storytelling approach than she has in previous volumes. Characters from the earlier stories still have their own story to tell. Throughout the plot, she balances the many intersecting storylines with ease, weaving them together in a way that not only keeps the reader engaged, but that also intensifies the main storyline, raising tension with the knowledge that the stakes are getting higher and higher, even if the protagonists don’t yet realize it. Kilpatrick certainly ensures that we won’t be going anywhere when the next in the series comes around.

King Hades has always prided himself on being more level headed than the other vampir rulers. Though he has been undead for centuries, he can still sympathize with the powerful emotions that rule the sapiens. Yet his immeasurable patience is put to the test when he goes up against Queen Liontyne.

Liontyne trusts no one. She sealed her heart away a long time ago, ruling through self-preservation rather than any love for her people. Though her temper has never dimmed, the light has long gone out of her life. She lives like a caged version of the fearsome cat she was named for—hopeless but ever ready to lash out.

As always, Kilpatrick’s descriptions are vivid and engaging. She handles personal interactions with ease, portraying an inventive cultural society without losing the impact of raw emotional connection. The world of Thrones of Blood continues to expand, giving us more and more to look forward to.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced adventure with plenty of romance and dark fantasy, consider the Thrones of Blood series. If you’ve enjoyed the books so far, Anguish of the Sapiens Queen certainly won’t disappoint you.

Book Review: Dark Carnival by Joanna Parypinski

Review By Daphne Strasert

I love secrets. Family secrets, small-town secrets, secrets of the universe… and I found all of those in Dark Carnival by Joanna Parypinski. If you like a good secret as much as I do, pick up a copy and enjoy.

Dark Carnival follows Dax Howard as he returns to his hometown of Conjunction, Nebraska after his father’s death. He had hoped to leave his home far behind when he went to college, but small towns have a way of pulling people back in, no matter how far they go.  The homecoming isn’t pleasant. Dax had not been close with his father—the town drunk—ever since his mother had disappeared years ago.

Returning to his hometown doesn’t just bring up unpleasant memories. Something is wrong in Conjunction, something more than drunken teen parties and the slow, creeping grip of meth addiction. Conjunction seems to be rotting from the inside.

Soon, Dax finds himself caught up in scandal, murder, and forces beyond his understanding. The travelling carnival that disappeared along with Dax’s mother comes back, and brings with it whispers of a cult responsible for missing teens in town.

Dark Carnival never lags for a moment. Parypinski creates twists in the story that are unexpected without seeming to be drawn from thin air. Elements introduced early on come back later with a satisfying payoff.

The characters feel real and believable. They tap into dark parts of American culture without coming across as contrived.

Throughout Dark Carnival, Dax struggles with bitter memories of his family and past. There is no clear answer to the difficulties he faces and there are no easy solutions to his new problems. Still, Dax faces them with determination. He does his best and wins admiration through that.

Dax is accompanied by Wyatt—the friend he left behind—and Wyatt’s sister Sarah—a teenager who has grown up too fast.

Wyatt reflects Dax’s own fears about life in Conjunction. He pushes and pulls at Dax’s resolve, testing his true convictions and bringing into question whether Dax has what it takes to solve the mysteries in his own life.

Sarah stands strong as a powerful female presence in the story. Her loyalty and fierce determination provide strength for Dax when he otherwise would give up.

All the while, the single-minded and vengeful Sheriff Anderson provides a backbone of unease throughout the story. His relentless pursuit of Dax creates an immediate sense of danger, even as a greater threat looms over Conjunction.

In her portrayal of Conjunction, Nebraska Parypinski paints a haunting picture of the Midwest. Dark Carnival leans heavily on American Gothic themes. It takes an unflinching look at what really plagues small towns in America. Conjunction feels as real as any place, even with the supernatural hiding in the unexplored forests and fields.

Parypinski is an incredible writer. She provides stunning imagery that brings the setting to life. She creates tension seamlessly within the scenes. She even tackles more difficult subjects (such as delusions, drug use, and violence) in ways that are accessible and believable. She creates an air of mystery and provides just enough explanation to elicit terror.

Dark Carnival suits fans of cosmic horror like H.P. Lovecraft or American gothic literature like Her Dark Inheritance (reviewed here on HorrorAddicts.net). If you enjoy small towns with dark pasts, terror-laced walks through the woods, and family tragedy, you should read Dark Carnival.

Book Review: The Collected Nightmares by Fred Wiehe

The Collected Nightmares by Fred Wiehe

Content Warnings: The Collected Nightmares contains graphic depictions of sex, violence, and rape.

The Collected Nightmares is a selection of poetry, short stories, and novellas by Fred Wiehe that showcases his breadth as a writer.

Wiehe takes an honest look at what we really fear lurks under the bed or in the closet (or in our own mind). He doesn’t shy from addressing deep demons like suicide and madness. Many of Wiehe’s works included novel creations of monsters and myths. His vague and terrifying interpretations of our darkest fears feel far from cliché. None of his characters are guaranteed a happy ending (or an ending at all). In many ways, it’s more satisfying to see Wiehe embrace the uncertainty of the real world in his fiction.

Wiehe has a particular skill with shorter fiction and some of my favorite pieces were his shortest stories (including “A Whistle and a Tap Tap Tap” and “Shoot Me”). While the style and themes of his stories vary, they all include a flair for the unexpected. Twist endings are nothing new in horror, but Wiehe’s hold that element of the truly shocking that make them stand out.

The two longer pieces in the collection—“Under the Protection of Witches” and “Resurrected”—deserved their prominent placement in the book. They were action-packed and complex with fully formed plots and characters. “Under the Protection of Witches” was adapted from a screenplay and I would certainly love to see it as a movie in the future. “Resurrected” fits into a larger series of novels about immortal legend Aleric Bimbai. Wiehe set the stage for a larger world while still offering an accessible taste in short form. “Resurrected” could very well be a stand-alone novel and I hope the other works in the series give the characters ample space for growth.

Overall, I enjoyed the collection and recommend it for fans of horror (particularly with a leaning toward action). The Collected Nightmares is a comprehensive sampler of Wiehe’s writing and a good read for horror addicts looking for a new favorite author.

Book Review: Thrones of Blood Volume #4: Savagery of the Rebel King by Nancy Kilpatrick

Review by Daphne Strasert

Content Warnings: Savagery of the Rebel King contains graphic depictions of rape, abuse, and torture.

Savagery of the Rebel King is the fourth book in the Thrones of Blood series by Nancy Kilpatrick. You can see my reviews of the first three books here:

Revenge of the Vampir King

Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess

Abduction of Two Rulers

Centuries ago, King Necros learned that he could trust no one but himself. Opening his heart to love would only leave it vulnerable to assassins. He rules his vampir stronghold with iron determination. Mistrust, treachery, and betrayal are his constant companions. It keeps Necros alive and in power, but is a grim way to live through his undead eternity.

Queen Guin’s kingdom has a problem: there are no children. For years, the women of the city have been unable to conceive. Desperate, she seeks the help of King Necros and the vampirii.

Necros is fascinated by the tenacious Sapiens Queen but he will not allow himself to trust her. He lashes out in anger, subjecting her to the most horrible kinds of abuse. Things go from bad to worse when Guin’s rule is overthrown and she is left to die. Necros takes her in—though not even he understands his motivation.

They struggle to trust each other, but with mounting threats across all the kingdoms, their lives and those of their subjects depend on their cooperation.

The stakes are higher than ever in Kilpatrick’s fourth Thrones of Blood novel. In Savagery of the Rebel King, we see the complex web of intrigue deepen even further. Kilpatrick weaves in threads from previous novels while also creating compelling stories that stand on their own.

With Guin and Necros, Kilpatrick explores depths of emotion that she hasn’t previously touched. The extremes of the character’s personalities make for a wild adventure.

Guin is a firebrand of a woman (more so than even the previous female protagonists) and will not let herself be overrun. She maintains her sense of self throughout, even using her apparent submission as a weapon.

Necros is so damaged by previous betrayals that he can hardly tell which direction is up. His softening toward others is a delight to watch and his setbacks on the road to betterment are heart-rending.

As the world of Thrones of Blood grows (now encompassing four Vampir strongholds and three Sapien kingdoms), Kilpatrick still keeps each new setting vibrant and original. The motivations and challenges of each are unique, which gives the stories more flavor and authenticity. Though she works with a niche concept, she doesn’t allow that to create narrow storytelling.

Kilpatrick’s unfussy writing makes way for the reader to get immersed in the story. Her vivid descriptions bring both characters and settings to life without detracting from the flow of the narrative.

The Thrones of Blood series is not for the faint of heart. Far from a typical romance story, it blurs the lines of violence and romance in ways that may make some readers uncomfortable. However, if you’ve enjoyed the series so far, then you will love Savagery of the Rebel King. It will leave you anxiously waiting for the next.

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Adventure Escape Asylum

There is a reason that asylums are featured so heavily in horror. Whether it’s the loss of freedom, loss of control, or the loss of your mind, asylums represent most everyone’s worst fears. In Adventure Escape: Asylum, you wake to find yourself in a locked room with no memory of who you are. Something has gone horribly wrong in the asylum. A patient has escaped and has kidnapped a little girl. You must find him before he hurts anyone.

Adventure Escape: Asylum is a puzzle game app from Haiku Games and is available for free.

Game Play

Adventure Escape: Asylum has the same rules of play as Haunted Hunt (previously reviewed by HorrorAddicts.net)

As the player, you move throughout rooms with locked exits. In each room, you find items and clues to help you escape. Collect objects by tapping on them, then use those objects on other things in the room to find additional keys or puzzles.

Adventure Escape: Asylum also includes a combat feature. This element adds a new dimension to this installment from Haiku Games.

Game Experience

If you enjoy escape rooms, you will like Adventure Escape: Asylum. It contained more spooky elements than Haunted Hunt. The art is outstanding. The storyline is engaging. The puzzles linked multiple elements found in different rooms and were satisfying to complete. There was a strange twist at the ending that didn’t fit with the rest of the story.

The game is short enough that it can be played all in one sitting. Unfortunately, there is no replay value once you have solved the puzzles.

Final Thoughts

I loved this game. I really did. I think the company does a good job of creating complex puzzles of varying styles with satisfying conclusions. They are tied together with coherent storylines.

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Haunted Hunt

In a world where monsters constantly fight for their lives against hunters, one name stands out: Otto. You (a shapeshifter) wake to find yourself locked in his house as entertainment for his guests. To escape with your life you must gather objects, find clues, and solve puzzles to make your way through the house.

Haunted Hunt is a puzzle game app from Haiku Games and is available for free.

Game Play

Each chapter of Haunted Hunt presents you with a room (or series of rooms) with a locked escape. Hidden throughout the rooms are objects and clues that you can use to escape. Collect objects by tapping on them, then use those objects on other things in the room to find additional keys or puzzles.

Each chapter has one or more complex puzzle that must be solved before you can escape to the next chapter. The game doesn’t allow you to use up objects in ways that don’t help you, so trial and error is allowed while investigating. All the clues you need to escape are there. If you become stuck, you can use stars (which can be earned or purchased) to get further clues.

Game Experience

Haunted Hunt plays very much like an escape room. There are often multiple clues to multiple puzzles hidden and part of the fun in figuring out which clues belong with which puzzle. I don’t find collecting objects horribly fun (lots of tapping all over the screen in the hopes that something is clickable), but I understand why it is part of the gameplay.

I like puzzles. I really, really do. However, I found some of the puzzles to be unsatisfying to solve. There should be tricks and twists in a good puzzle game. However, in Haunted Hunt, some puzzle solutions seemed so far removed from the clues given that it was almost guesswork (I spent many frustrating hints on those).

The best part of Haunted Hunt is the thematic elements. The art is outstanding. The storyline is engaging. The creators included many elements of monster lore throughout that are fun for fanatics like myself. There’s something really fun about getting to destroy a monster hunter at the end of the game.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed Haunted Hunt, but if you struggle (like I did) with parts, don’t feel too bad. The game seems designed to leave you feeling stupid.

If you like monsters and romance, but don’t care for puzzle elements, check out my review of Enchanted in the Moonlight, a monster dating sim.

Do you have a game you want me to review? Something you think I would like? Leave suggestions in the comments!

 

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Friday the 13th Killer Puzzle

Sometimes, you just want something mindless and silly, something you can play while waiting in line at the DMV. Sometimes, you just want to mindlessly murder innocent campers with a machete is a free mobile puzzle game starring Jason Voorhees and his many, many victims.

Game Play

The player stars as Jason Voorhees, out for revenge and guided by the decapitated head of his dead mother.

The game is set up on a simple grid, with obstacles and victims spaced throughout. Jason can only move in straight lines and continues moving until he encounters an obstacle or victim. The player guides Jason to his victims by sliding him around the grid.

Once Jason has murdered all the existing victims on the grid, the Final Victim appears. Jason must reach this victim but then faces them in a final battle. The player must tap the screen at the perfect time to complete the level’s last gory murder.

As the player racks up their body count, they progress to more levels and unlock additional weapons and skins.

Game Experience

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle is a tongue-in-cheek game that appeals to those who rooted for the killer throughout his slasher movies.

The puzzles start simple but become genuinely challenging as you progress through the levels. The creators included a number of pitfalls that change the nature of the puzzles and keep interest high.

The game features, simple, cartoon graphics. The animation suits the style and serves to make the blood and gore silly rather than horrifying. The brutality of the killings of sharply set off by the South Park style characters.

There are some ads throughout (after passing a few levels or asking for a hint). These can be removed by making an in-app purchase, but aren’t annoying enough to ruin gameplay if you’d rather play for free.

Final Thoughts

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle is an excellent thematic game that doesn’t skimp on the puzzle element. The puzzles are genuinely challenging and the gruesome deaths of the victims is a reward all its own while playing. The game is ridiculous and over the top and absolutely worth playing.

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Remnants

Well, we did it. We finally destroyed the world.

The Apocalypse has come and gone and here you are in charge of your very own survivor compound. You’ll need to brave the Badlands to gather resources, buy equipment for your camp, and fend off attacks from monsters.

Remnants is a game for 2-4 players and takes about an hour to play.

Game Play

In Remnants, players each control a camp of survivors. The goal is to keep as many survivors alive as possible while fending off attacks from monsters and raiders in the Badlands.

Each round has five phases:

  • Scavenge: send survivors from the camp to gather resources. Players face each other in a real-time dice-rolling race to gather available resources.
  • Build: Spend resources to buy weapons and defenses for your camp. You’ll need them to fight the bad guys later on.
  • Fight: Various monsters and raiders come to attack your compound. Players use the items they purchased to fight back. If you defeat the monster, you get points that count toward victory at the end of the game.
  • Heal: You can spend more resources to heal the survivors hurt in the attacks. Only healthy survivors get you points at the end of the game.
  • Clean-up: Reallocate spent resources to the board and start the whole process over again.

There are only 6 rounds in the game, so make the most of every opportunity.

Game Experience

The mechanics of Remnants were familiar (the Build and Fight phases were reminiscent of King of Tokyo), but worked together in unexpected ways. There was the perfect balance of luck and skill to keep gameplay interesting.

Players mostly play on their own compound, facing challenges individually. There aren’t many opportunities to sabotage other players. It’s unfortunate that the game isn’t made to accommodate more players.

One weakness I found while playing was that an early initial round of bad luck can seriously cripple a player for the rest of the game. It would be nice if there were more room to bounce back.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed Remnants. It was the unexpected breakout hit for my board game night group. The game has high replay value, but would also benefit from manufacturer expansions.

For those who enjoy more complicated games, I would whole-heartedly recommend this.

Book Review: Thrones of Blood Volume #3: Abduction of Two Rulers by Nancy Kilpatrick

Content Warnings: This book contains graphic depictions of rape and torture.

I have previously reviewed Thrones of Blood #1 and #2 for HorrorAddicts.net. I wouldn’t recommend jumping into the series at this point without reading the previous volumes.

Continuing in the line of Revenge of the Vampir King and Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess, Abduction of Two Rulers delivers more of Kilpatrick’s unique world.

Abduction of Two Rulers is a paranormal erotica with dark themes.Abduction of Two Rulers (Thrones of Blood Book 3) by [Kilpatrick, Nancy]

After a failed conference to discuss peace between the Vampir and Sapien kingdoms, Vampir King Thanatos and Sapien Queen Blanka find themselves captured by rival forces who are looking to solidify power.

Blanka and Thanatos must escape their captors if they are to keep their kingdoms from plunging into war and falling into the hands of the vicious vampir Queen Lamia.

But escape requires sacrifice and changes both their lives forever. Thanatos and Blanks forge a bond out of mutual suffering and respect. They must use that new bond to save themselves and possibly their two worlds.

Abduction of Two Rulers never lets up on the action. Every sequence leads into another with higher stakes. We are taken deeper into the world of the Vampirii, finding more kingdoms and scarier threats.

Blanka is a level-headed queen. She thinks of the good of her people first. She has a kind heart and wishes to understand others. She is what the Sapien world needs in order to make peace with the Vampirii. The betrayal that leads to her captures turns her world upside down and she needs to rethink the assumptions that made her such a positive ruler.

Thanatos has been dead inside for a very long time. At least, he thinks that he has. He’s a practical and cynical vampir. But Blanka has a light about her that reminds him why he loved life in the first place. She pulls him back from a bleak world.

Queen Lamia quickly becomes the most terrifying and sadistic villain in the series so far.

The world of Thrones of Blood is becoming more intricate with each book in the series. There is clearly more history to be revealed. Each not fragment of information builds a stronger connection with the reader, luring them in to want more.

Kilpatrick, as always, has excellent description. She delves deeper into the visuals of the world in Abduction of Two Rulers. She continues to weave together the stories of the characters that we’ve met so far, creating an intricate series that builds rather than handing off each book with a happy ending. The stakes continue to rise and we can be sure that we will see more of the previous characters in books to come.

Abduction of Two Rulers is my favorite of the Thrones of Blood series so far. The characters are dynamic and driven. The setting is complex and fascinating. If you like dark erotica, consider this series.

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Wizard School

Let’s face it, ever since Harry Potter came out, we’ve all been looking out our windows hoping to see an owl with our letter to Hogwarts. We may just be muggles, but now we can experience the magic (and monsters!) for ourselves.

Wizard School is a cooperative game for 2-5 players that takes 40-90 minutes to play.

Game Play

Wizard School is… complicated. In fact, there is a whole video designed to teach you how to play.

The goal is pretty simple: survive the school.

Every player chooses a student character at the beginning of the game. Each student has special abilities that give them advantages during gameplay.

Players go through all four years of high school, each year increasing in difficulty. Students can fight monsters, pass tests, study, and tutor each other to help survive the school year.

Then there are the monsters. On every turn, the school gets a chance to fight back against the students, revealing monsters and traps of various supernatural means to make graduating all the more difficult. Certain monsters only attack in certain circumstances, so the players are in almost constant danger.

Game Experience

The first game is slow to work through. There are a lot of small rules and caveats that it takes experience to recognize. I really do recommend watching the video.

The characters are loveable and the powers are interesting. The game is challenging, making winning an actual struggle. There is a lot of value in multiple playthroughs.

Final Thoughts

Wizard School is one of my favorite games for a small group. It is complicated, but worth the time investment to learn how to play. Who doesn’t want to be a witch?

Book Review: Thrones of Blood Volume #2: Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess by Nancy Kilpatrick

Thrones of Blood Volume #2: Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess by Nancy Kilpatrick

Content Warning: This book contains explicit descriptions of sex, abuse, torture, rape, and incest.

While you could, theoretically, read Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess without looking at previous works, I would recommend starting with the first book in the series. I have previously reviewed Thrones of Blood #1: Revenge of the Vampir King here at HorrorAddicts.net

Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess is a paranormal erotic romance with elements of dark fantasy.

Nearly twenty years after the events of Revenge of the Vampir King, Moarte and Valada—King and Queen of the Vampirii—have since raised a headstrong daughter, Serene. With tensions with the sapiens spiraling out of control, Moarte and Valada must leave the vampire fortress to ensure the safety of their people.

In the meantime, their naïve and selfish daughter cannot be trusted to rule—either herself or the kingdom. Moarte and Valada have come to the conclusion that the only way to ensure the safety of their people and their daughter is to tie her to the vampire warrior Wolfsbane.

Wolfsbane was once Moarte’s second, but has spent the last twenty years in isolation and penance after losing his love and killing his sister. Now he must be tied to a woman whom he does not think he can love. Though Serene and Wolfsbane get off to the rockiest of starts, they soon come to love and appreciate each other.

Moarte and Valada, secure in the knowledge of their kingdom’s safety and their daughter’s happiness, go away to pursue their mission and kill the Sapien King—Valada’s father—who terrorizes the vampirii with endless raids.

But Serene finds out about their mission and runs to pursue them. She believes she can broker a peace between the two kingdoms. Her capture and torture at the hands of the Sapien King sets off a chain of events that could change relations between sapiens and vampirii forever.

Kilpatrick starts right in the middle of the action, immediately introducing the major conflicts. The first portion of the book focuses heavily on the relationship between Wolfsbane and Serene, as they try to navigate each other and the needs that they don’t necessarily know that they have. The latter half of the book is action heavy, bringing in the conflict with the Sapiens King and a fair bit of angst and heartache alongside. If I have any complaint, it’s that the end does not bring closure to everything (so, I’ll have to read book #3, which isn’t a real complaint anyway).

Serene is naïve, selfish, and frustrating. Her choices reflect her tendency to trust her instincts too far, to act before she thinks, and to always assume that she is correct. This is all done to the detriment of those around her. Fortunately, we get to watch her grow throughout the course of the book. Her wilder tendencies are tempered by her time with Wolfsbane and her misfortunes at the hand of the Sapien King.

Wolfsbane is the perfect foil, perhaps too controlled. He long ago gave up on his own happiness. He has been burned before by taking too long to make a decision. Serene brings light and love back into his life. He learns throughout the course of the story that leaping may only work if he hasn’t looked too long.

The world of the vampirii is immersive. Kilpatrick holds nothing back in her world building. The descriptions are vivid and the cultures well thought-through. This is a series with a take on vampires quite unlike anything else on the market.

Kilpatrick has an unfussy writing style that lets the story shine first. Her dialogue is emotional and realistic. Descriptions can be gruesome, so be aware of content warnings.

Overall, Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess is an ambitious work and a welcome addition to the Thrones of Blood series.

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Ultimate Werewolf Inquisition

A remote village is infested with werewolves. Unable to solve the problem themselves, the villagers call upon a special inquisitorial team to root out the monsters. There’s only one problem: some of the inquisitors are werewolves in disguise…

Ultimate Werewolf Inquisition was created by Dan Hoffman, the man behind One Night Ultimate Werewolf (which I’ve previously reviewed here on HorrorAddicts.net). It’s a standalone game of treachery, deduction, and deceit.

Ultimate Werewolf Inquisition is a game for 3-12 players and takes 30-60 minutes to play.Ultimate Werewolf Inquisition

Game Play

Players play as the inquisitors called to save the town. Each player is given a secret card that designates them either as a werewolf or a human.

The village consists of twelve villager cards (face down) and twelve hut cards (face up). The huts grant special powers to help the inquisitors identify which of the villager cards represent werewolves. On their turn, each inquisitor chooses a hut card and plays the associated power (see a facedown card, see an inquisitor’s card, gain vote tokens, or cast vote tokens). Then each inquisitor casts a vote on one of the villager cards. The villager card with the most votes is revealed and removed from the game (along with their associated hut).

Then night falls and the werewolves are free to take revenge. The inquisitors pass around a column of cards. Villagers don’t look, but the inquisitorial werewolves do and rearrange the cards to their liking. At the end of the round, the cards are placed back in the village and the last card is revealed and removed from the game (another victim of the werewolves).

The game ends when all the werewolves in the village are dead (the villagers win) or when the werewolves left outnumber the villagers (the werewolves win).

Game Experience

Ultimate Werewolf Inquisition combines the best parts of playing Mafia (the card game) and One Night Ultimate Werewolf. Players have multiple rounds in which to sniff out the traitors, with the game becoming more difficult as play continues. But no players are removed, so everyone remains engaged through the whole play time. Special abilities ensure that gameplay isn’t just guesswork.

Every game that we played ended with a very narrow result. There is no clear advantage or disadvantage to either side, making the competition fierce. The better your friends are at lying, the more dynamic the game will become. Logic gets twisted, relationships are tested, and no one is ever sure who they can trust.

Final Thoughts

The rules don’t take long to learn and aren’t overly complicated (if you’re playing with a crowd that isn’t dedicated to hours of play). I enjoyed Ultimate Werewolf Inquisition very much and I recommend it as a mid-level difficulty game.

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Arkham Horror | Call of Cthulhu

Arkham Horror: Call of Cthulhu

Welcome to the town of Arkham where the year is 1926. Something sinister lurks in the shadows behind the speakeasies. Monsters have been popping up all over town and something ancient and evil is waiting to break through to our world. Only a handful of investigators stand in the way. They must risk their sanity and their lives to keep Arkham from falling into devastation.

Arkham Horror: Call of Cthulhu is a cooperative board game for 1-8 players and takes 2-4 hours to play. It’s extremely complex and is recommended that all players be 12+.

Game Play

The game begins with all players choosing a character. These characters come with skills and items that will help them to defeat the horrors that pop up throughout the game.

Each round, the characters move around Arkham, collecting items and clues to help them win. Beware, though, the monsters are also moving and each round brings the Ancient One closer to breaking through the barriers into our world. Characters must defeat the smaller monsters or risk being killed. This is accomplished by rolling dice—the number of dice depending on the character’s abilities and the strength of the monster.

As play progresses, portals to other dimensions open throughout the town of Arkham, allowing monsters to enter and wreak havoc. Players must go through these portals and survive the horrors on the other side in order to close them. If the players close enough portals before the Ancient One crosses into Arkham, they win. If not, they must defeat this monstrous abomination and somehow survive the process.Arkham Horror revised box.jpg

Game Experience

Holy hellspawn, this game is complicated. We spent almost as long reading the rules as we did playing for the first time.

The overall concept is straightforward: kill monsters and close portals before the Ancient One comes through. But how you do that is subject to hundreds of rules and strategies. Once you understand those, however, the game is fast paced and fun. Strategizing with your fellow players forms the main playtime of the game. The game isn’t pure strategy, as the players are subject to the randomness of die rolls and card draws.

The game pieces are well made and admiring the artistry of the cards is valuable all on its own. There are a lot of pieces to track, so be organized.

Arkham is a game with high replay value, making it well worth purchasing. Make sure you have others who are invested in playing as well, because complicated games aren’t for everyone. Take the time to read the rules thoroughly before you play and designate someone as the rule keeper so you can ask questions as they arise (and, boy, do they arise!).

Final Thoughts

For a faster, simpler version of Arkham Horror, look for Arkham Horror: The Card Game (which I previously reviewed). There is also an updated version, that I have not yet played.

I loved Arkham Horror. I’ve been wanting to play for a while and finally got the opportunity. I was hooked twenty minutes into play time. I’ll be buying this one for myself.

Book Review: Monsters of Any Kind , edited by Alessandro Manzetti and Daniele Bonfanti

We see plenty of serial killers and psychopaths here at HorrorAddicts.net. Some call them monsters. Yet, evil though they are, they are still only human. What of the truly monstrous? the grotesque? the abominable? the creatures that defy not only nature but Heaven and Hell as well?

Monsters of Any Kind—published by Independent Legions Publishing and edited by Alessandro Manzetti and Daniele Bonfanti—brings you tales of creatures that slither and writhe and go bump in the night. Whether they’re good, evil, or… otherwise, they’re sure to terrify. Prepare yourself for stories of real monsters.

Monsters of Any Kind presents a diverse collection of stories, each prominently featuring a monster, some from folklore and some the product of pure imagination (terrifying as that must be for the author). Each story takes a different variation on the theme, bringing surprises and delights with each turn of the page.

Perpetual Antimony by Cody Goodfellow – Goodfellow introduces a fascinating concept that explores the limits of human potential and what may drive a person to forsake humanity altogether.

The Thing Too Hideous to Describe by David J. Schow – This tale of a monster and the researcher who wants to study him takes a humorous approach to the theme. Still, this is a horror anthology and the ending is… well, you’ll see.

Silt and Bone by Jess Landry – Jess Landry (a contestant from the HorrorAddicts.net Next Great Horror Writer Contest) is a master of imagery and creates one of the most vivid descriptions in a stand out book. The story is atmospheric and chilling. The horror of natural disaster, personal repercussions, and things beyond this world combine to make this a gripping experience.

Sucklings by Lucy Taylor – This story of grisly small-town murders and a monster that wears many faces explores whether you can truly trust your loved ones.

We All Make Sacrifices by Jonathan Maberry – Maberry’s noir-style werewolf story is my favorite of the anthology and I can only hope that we will see more of this as a novel or serial.

Brodkin’s Demesne by Michael Gray Baughan – In this story, a couple moves to an isolated country home, where the ever-present drone of cicadas belies something more sinister. Baughan creates a slow build of terror and his violent imagery stuck with me long after reading.

Sealed with a Kiss by Owl Goingback – A man’s car breaks down as the world literally goes to hell around him. Sealed with a Kiss is clever and well written with a tongue in cheek take on horror.

The Other Side of Semicolons by Michael Bailey – A girl explores the twisted dimensions on the other side of a mysterious symbol in her room. Bailey writes a tale of psychological terror that explores what could be. The visions draw you in and create a sense of dread that isn’t easy to shake.

Bad Hair Day by Greg Sisco – What would you do for vanity? Bad Hair Day is an exquisite work of horror edged with science fiction that I would not be surprised to see listed as a classic of the genre.

Midnight Hobo by Ramsey Campbell – A lurking form haunts Roy at home and at work, slowly driving him mad. Campbell has a talent for grounding his horror in the mundane and leaving just the right amount of description to the reader’s imagination.

Noverim Te by Santiago Eximeno – Tourists gather in a small town where a god goes to sleep every year. Eximeno blends ancient superstition with modern behavior in this exquisite concept.

The Dive by Mark Alan Miller – One night, Al finally gets everything he wants, but he’ll be lucky to escape with his life. A fusion of humor, horror, and adventure, The Dive is an excellent piece of fiction that will leave you feeling a little more grateful for what you have.

Mammy and the Flies by Bruce Boston – What happens when neglect and abuse turn someone strange into something horrifying? The small scale and sheer intensity of Mammy and the Flies made this story delightful. Boston’s emotional writing blew me away.

Old Sly by Gregory L. Norris – Norris’ story has a foreboding atmosphere reminiscent of The Haunting of Hill House, with a twist that will make you question whether you really want to inherit a fortune from a distant relative.

The Last Wintergirl by Damien Angelica Walters – Mythical Wintergirls fall prey to the boys of the village while they slumber. The boys think nothing of the terrible retribution they’ll face… but they should. The Last Wintergirl is a chilling tale of human evil and monstrous revenge. Walters creates an intricate mythology that would make a great novel.

The City of Sixes by Edward Lee – By far the most graphically grotesque of the collection, Lee’s story of literal Hell is somehow more horrific than you can possibly imagine.

Crisis of Faith by Monica J. O’Rourke – A spiritual seeker finally finds what he’s looking for; a real-life demon. O’Rourke’s description of torture and the psychological effects is incredible.

Cracker Creek by Erinn L. Kemper – A town scandal becomes something more sinister when newly born babies aren’t what they seem. Kemper creates a gripping story, well written and perfectly paced.

Presented along with the text are incredible illustrations by Stefano Cardoselli. The art never gives away the story, but adds to it, especially once you know all the twists and turns.

Whether you enjoy gruesome violence, psychological terror, existential dread, or the humorous side of horror, you’ll find a story to suit your taste among the offerings in Monsters of Any Kind.

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Space Station Zemo

Game Review: Space Station Zemo

Introduction

In the distant future, a group of survivors is stranded on a doomed space station. There’s only one escape pod left. They must compete with each other and the perils of their environment to activate and enter the last remaining escape pod before someone else does.

Space Station Zemo created by InQuest. is a strategy board game for 2-5 players and takes about an hour to play.

Game Play

Before you can play Space Station Zemo, you must first make the game. All the materials are free in PDF form online (you can get them by searching, but Board Game Geek has them collected here). They are designed to be printed on card stock and assembled by you. We were able to put it together in about an hour (depends how much you care about the look of the final product)

Once you have that together, it’s time to play.

Choose a character: Chuckie the Zombie, Floyd the Droid, Mush the Abomination, Pete the Cook, or The Rats (literally just a lot of rats). Each character has a special power that will help you to win the game. You then choose a secret access code for your character (three letters, either A or B, to limit options).

The Space Station is composed of rooms and hallways with the escape pod at the center. The winner of the game is the first person to successfully enter the escape pod OR the last character alive.

Each round consists of a movement phase and an action phase. All players move their characters first, then decide what they want to do (fight, pick up an item, push a button, etc.)

To enter the escape pod you must first set your character’s access code (each character secretly chooses one before the game starts) by visiting each of the three code rooms. You must also have a Pod ATM Card. This can be found by visiting rooms in the station. Each room has a card that you can pick up. Some cards are traps that kill you. Others are items that help you kill others. As you navigate the board, you’ll have to fight the other characters as they try to accomplish the same task.

Game Experience

Space Station Zemo is fun and ridiculous. The characters’ special powers change the strategies of gameplay, making it more fun (some can teleport, others leave explosive polyps, a few change form). We assign characters randomly when we play because certain people are TOO good at playing a particular character.

It’s disappointing that there is no manufactured version of the game available for purchase because I would love to have a real board and game pieces. The quality is the only real drawback that I can see.

Things can get messy quickly in a game where you’re playing against each other and the board itself. Game effects such as an open airlock and a security bot are just as deadly as fighting other characters.

Final Thoughts

I highly recommend Space Station Zemo. The rules aren’t as complicated as those of others that I’ve reviewed here. It still isn’t a children’s game, but it is suitable for younger players and for those who are interesting in getting into more strategy-based games. Since the game is free, the only investment is time—a perfect tradeoff for game players.

Ghastly Games: Gloomhaven

Game Review: Gloomhaven

Beware, casual game player; Gloomhaven is not for the faint of heart.

As a player, you enter the fantasy world of Gloomhaven, where the hallways are dim, the monsters terrifying, and the stakes higher than your life.

Gloomhaven is a roleplaying game for 1-4 players and takes between 1 and 2 hours to play.

Gloomhaven plays very much like a campaign of Dungeons and Dragons. That’s the point, of course.

First, players choose a pre-made character. Choose wisely, because you will be growing with this persona through many encounters to come. As you defeat enemies, your characters gain experience, opening them up to new abilities.

The game’s rules act as the Dungeon Master, guiding your group through an encounter to defeat the enemy and collect the treasure. Attacks do damage, both to you and opponents. Your team will need to survive this in order to get the treasure that is your ultimate reward.

If you’ve ever played Dungeons and Dragons, the play style will feel familiar. All players have hit points that track their health. The characters and antagonists take turns moving and making attacks. Each player has a number of attacks and movements that they can use, represented on cards. Players must rest in order to reuse cards.

Gloomhaven is complicated. I can’t really do it justice in just this article. You’ll have to consult the rule book for that. Those who have played RPGs before will find the process familiar, but it still requires some adjustments. If you’re playing with newbies, just know that the time required to explain rules is nontrivial.

Whether you enjoy this game really depends on what sort of gameplay you enjoy. If you like the combat portion of role playing, then Gloomhaven will be hours of fun for you. If that sort of thing isn’t really your cup of tea, then you’ll likely find the game tedious.

Gloomhaven is complicated. Gloomhaven is intellectually involved. Gloomhaven is… a ton of fun. If you enjoy immersive role-playing games—specifically the combat experience—then Gloomhaven is really the game for you.

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Mysterium

Introduction

There’s been a murder at Warwick Manor and only one witness can help investigators find the culprit. Unfortunately, that witness is a ghost. A special team of psychic investigators must interpret visions the ghost gives them to solve the mystery before the murderer gets away.

Mysterium is a cooperative murder mystery game for 2-7 players and takes about 45 minutes to play.

Game Play

Players form a team of investigators trying to solve a murder. The goal of the game is to find the perpetrator, location, and murder weapon.

One player has the role of The Ghost. They know which suspects the players must find. They have a deck of Vision Cards that they use to guide the other players.

In each round, the Ghost gives each psychic detective player one or more cards that the player uses to determine which suspect to guess. After each psychic has made a guess about the suspect, the ghost reveals if they were correct. Once a psychic finds their suspect, they then move on to guessing the location, then the weapon used in the murder.

The psychics only have seven rounds to find their group of suspects, locations, and weapons. If they do that successfully, the ghost gives one final set of clues that lead to the ultimate perpetrator.

MysteriumGame Experience

There are two different experiences of play: that of the ghost and that of the investigators.

As the ghost, you have the fun of guiding the other players, but also the responsibility if your clues lead them down the wrong path. Since Mysterium is a cooperative game, you become the most important person to the success of the team.

As an investigator, you are responsible for deciding where the clues point. The ghost can only provide you with an abstract picture clue, they can’t tell you what pieces of that picture apply. The fun for you is to draw commonalities between the clues and see where they lead.

Your game play with Mysterium is only as good as the people you play with. The first few games can be a real struggle as you try to understand how the people you play with think. But it is a lot of fun to discuss with others and play to the way they think.

Mysterium is a visually stunning game. The Gothic theme runs throughout. The art of the clues is magnificent. There are so many details in the cards to keep you interested in the game for many games of play. Each game changes based into the clues and the people playing.

Final Thoughts

If you loved Clue as a child, Mysterium is a great game for you. There isn’t the certainty of Clue, but you don’t have to worry about the monotony either. The hints are more subject to interpretation and knowing the people you play with is essential.

I really like Mysterium for the ability to replay over and over without having the same situation appear twice. I enjoy playing the part of The Ghost, but it’s fun to rotate that responsibility. I highly recommend playing this and think it will make a good inclusion to any game collection.

Book Review: Revenge of the Vampir King by Nancy Kilpatrick

Book Review: Revenge of the Vampir King by Nancy Kilpatrick

Content Warnings: This book contains graphic descriptions of rape, domestic abuse, and torture.

Revenge of the Vampir King (Thrones of Blood Book 1) by [Kilpatrick, Nancy]In Revenge of the Vampir King, Nancy Kilpatrick blends horror, paranormal fantasy, and erotica to explore the relationship between love, tragedy, revenge, and what it means to be a family.

Through the centuries, an immortal war has raged between the Sapiens and Vampirii. The world is bitterly divided between the two races.

After a successful attack against the Sapiens, the Vampirii return with an unusual prize: Valada, the daughter of the Sapiens King.

Hell-bent on the ultimate revenge, the Vampir King Maorte devises a hellish plan of manipulation—make the princess fall in love with him and betray her father—never suspecting that he will fall into is own trap.

As dark secrets are uncovered, new alliances are formed. Valada and Moarte must learn to trust each other in order to settle old scores, bring about lasting peace, and save their kingdoms and, perhaps, themselves.

The plot is gripping, seamlessly pulling the reader along on a tense journey. The pacing is excellent, with no time to become bored. There are plenty of twists and turns, with shifting allegiances. One thing is for certain, you never know exactly what will happen next. Each new conflict feels enormous, raising the stakes ever higher.

The characters are complex. Each has a multitude of motivations. Flaws and strengths motivate each and motivations are clear and realistic. This gives the book a sense of real-world conflict. Characters aren’t evil for evil’s sake (though some are undeniably evil).

Valada, who has suffered under a lifetime of abuse, struggles to orient herself in her new position, constantly doubting her place with others, but never herself. She’s a strong heroine and saves Moarte every bit as much as he saves her.

Moarte is a man of two worlds. Though he leads the Vampirii, he is half Sapien as well. Reconciling those differences may bring him to conclusions that have profound ramifications for his life and his kingdom.

Kilpatrick forges an ambitious, unique world, fearlessly diving into fantasy world building without looking back. Revenge of the Vampir King is all the better for it. We are thrown right into the world, rather than given a hesitant introduction. The universe is immersive from the start. There is clearly a rich history, leaving plenty to discover throughout the plot and in future installments to come.

Kilpatrick’s writing flows well. There are moments of profound description and lovely prose, particularly with regards to the romance. She accomplishes the difficult feat of getting out of the way of the story itself and leaving the reader to be sucked in, as if they aren’t reading at all.

Filled with dark themes, Revenge of the Vampir King challenges the standards of romance, pushing the limits of love with blood and betrayal. If you’re looking for a book that you can’t put down, this is a sure bet.

Book Review: Billette Hall by DL Jones

Book Review: Billette Hall by DL Jones

In Billette Hall, DL Jones spins a unique story of love, betrayal, and terror against the backdrop of slavery in the Deep South.

The slaves of Mason Creek face an uncertain future when they find that the plantation owner plans to sell them at auction. Relationships forged through years of hardship strain under the possibility of being torn apart. When their fear of separation comes to fruition, the group escapes under the cover of nightfall with the help of an escaped slave, Marion, who plans to take them to Billette Hall and reunite them with their loved ones. On the way, they must elude dogs, slave catchers, and a mysterious mud-covered murderer who uses his axes to leave a bloody trail of horror.

Billette Hall tells a horror story inside a horror story, exploring the atrocities of slavery with the added heart-stopping action of a murder thriller. Slavers wield whips and chains. Slave catchers wait in the trees with their dogs and guns. The Mud Covered Man stalks the characters through their journey, waiting behind every page to plunge us back into terror.

Jones spares no gore when detailing the gruesome attacks. The story contains historically accurate details that bring it to life. The characters have meaningful relationships with each other that drive their behavior and ultimately their fate. Characters have deep reactions to the situation around them, tempered by the fear that punctuates the story. Billette Hall is soaked with death and no character, no matter how beloved, is safe from the rampage.

Those interested in the slavery era in the United States will appreciate this underrepresented premise in the horror genre. Billette Hall contains plenty of twists and turns for horror addicts. I promise you’ve never read a book quite like this.

Book Reviews: Tales from the Lake Volume 5

Tales from the Lake Volume 5
Review by Daphne Strasert

Once a year, Crystal Lake Publishing releases an anthology of the best stories the horror community has to offer. It is a pleasure each and every year, but has been getting better with time and notoriety. This year’s collection was curated by Kenneth W. Caine, pulling stories from over 750 submissions into a thoughtful and harrowing book of dark desires and hidden horror.

Though the stories in Tales from the Lake Volume 5 are not themed in the traditional sense, they form a cohesive unit. Threads connect each to the others as if the authors had conspired to give the anthology its unique flavor.

Of the many excellent contributions, some stand out to me as spectacular.

“A Dream Most Ancient and Alone” by Allison Pang features an unlikely friendship between a young girl and a mudmaid who lurks in the remnants of a nearby pond. Their relationship deepens despite the chilling nature of the creature. Pang’s novel take on the subject matter and vivid, emotional writing give the story an extra edge to make it stand out in the anthology. The ending that will make you shiver for all the right and wrong reasons.

“Twelve by Noon” by Joanna Parypinski brings true fright to the collection. The tense, terrifying tale of a group of lost teenagers and the sinister farm where their car breaks down packs all the punches of a blockbuster horror film in the short story format. Personally, I’d like to see a whole trilogy of movies based on Parypinski’s fantastic concept, hopefully with all the suspense intact.

In “Starve a Fever” by Jonah Buck, dread builds from the start and drags you along through every backwoods turn. You can’t stop reading, even as you fear you know what will happen. Buck possesses an extraordinary imagination and incredible storytelling ability.

My favorite story in the anthology, and the one that I found personally most chilling, was “The Boy” by Cory Cone. Cone’s description of a mother’s worst nightmare come to life is morose and moving. He takes the reader on a journey of madness and terror as you fear for the woman, the boy, and the outcome that you both hope for and fear. Madness lurks everywhere and love makes monsters of us all.

Tales from the Lake Volume 5 is an exploration of the lost and found. Whether losing someone before their time or keeping a loved one long past theirs, the stories explore the horror of finding what was meant to stay hidden.

Book Reviews: Fantastic Tales of Terror: History’s Darkest Secrets

With history, unless you saw it for yourself, you can’t know if a story is strictly true or if it has a darker story lurking in the shadows. History may contain any number of untold mysteries and secrets. Perhaps communist werewolves reached the moon before Apollo 11. Maybe a sinister creature actually caused the Hindenburg disaster. Who is to know? Except… maybe you.

Allow me to introduce Fantastic Tales of Terror: History’s Darkest Secrets, a horror anthology by Crystal Lake Publishing. Inside you’ll find stories of famous events and historical figures told through the grim lens of 23 spectacular horror writers. The anthology includes both established and emerging authors, guaranteeing that you’ll find an old favorite and someone new to love.

The settings extend from the prehistoric to the near-present, subjects from the pioneering inventions to mythic figures, and themes from comedic to disturbing. All, however, are incredible feats of imagination.

Though each piece is worth reading in itself, several stood out as exceptional among the rest.

“Mutter” by Jess Landry (a contestant from the Next Great Horror Writer Contest!) explains the events that led up to the Hindenburg disaster and gives a wondrous origin story for one of America’s most famous cryptids. Lanrdy’s writing, as always, overflows with vivid description and excellent characterization. She hides an amazing twist in the story and brings everything to a thought-provoking close that stuck with me long after I set the book down.

Mort Castle’s story, “Rotoscoping Toodies”, reveals a surprising past for Walt Disney and some of his most successful works. The life-like characters and interesting premise drew me in from the beginning. But the true reason this story stuck with me was the dark ending and horrifying implications.

Lastly, “Sic Olim Tyrannis” by David Wellington was my favorite inclusion. In a market saturated with zombie stories, this was a refreshing take on an old and over worn genre. Vivid descriptions brought the setting to life and Wellington managed to imbue the story with emotion despite using no dialogue.

If you love history, dark tales, or both, Fantastic Tales of Terror: History’s Darkest Secrets is an engaging and worthwhile read.

Campfire Tales, How “Cabin Twelve” was Born

“Cabin Twelve” wasn’t the first story that I wrote for the NGHW Campfire Tales challenge. I started with an entirely different concept about a lake monster that lured victims into the deep using the reanimated bodies of its previous kills. While I still think there is a good story lurking in there somewhere, no matter how many iterations I went through, it never felt right for the challenge that had been set. I wanted to end my story by giving the reader a sense of danger, as if their fate could be the next one told in hushed voices around the fire.

In the end, I scrapped that text (not really, never really—I save everything) and went back to what I knew best. Horror writing allows me to confront my own fears from real life in a safe, secure environment. I drew on my own experiences as a camp counselor to write “Cabin Twelve.”

There are stories more horrifying than those told around the fire to scare the kids. Counselors really don’t tell the campers about the real dangers: drowning, injury, exposure, loss. We want to frighten them, but only with things in the realm of the impossible. The true horror stories of camp are those of children’s lives cut short. As a counselor, my biggest fear was for the safety of the children under my care. I wanted to bring that out of the shadows in “Cabin Twelve.”

Campfire stories always have an element of the unexplained, a bump in the night, a monster that comes from shadows, things that should be dead, but persist. This spurred the idea of featuring the children that had died at camp through the years but somehow stick around. Once I had a group of children, I loved the idea of them all staying in a ghostly cabin just like the other campers.

I fell in love with the kids from “Cabin Twelve.” I want to work with them more, show more of their story. I think they lend themselves to a horror/comedy setting. Maybe I’ll write a series of short fiction that follows these strange, grim children through their immortal childhoods.


Horror Bites:
Campfire Tales
New Reading
Only .99 cents!

 

Dear Reader,

You’ve been invited to a very special night of Campfire Tales, hosted by HorrorAddicts.net. Meet us at Old Bear Creek, just past Dead Man’s Curve. Dress warm. We’ll be waiting.

Four scary tales told by Next Great Horror Writer finalists and woven together by a trek through the woods you’ll never forget.

“Cabin Twelve” by Daphne Strasert
When a camp counselor goes on patrol, she finds an extra cabin in the woods that no one knows about…or do they?

“The Face” by Naching T. Kassa
An ailing mother and her daughter are terrorized by a disembodied face.

“When the Wind Leaves a Whisper” by Jess Landry
Girl Scouts in the 40s experience a frightening occurrence in the woods.

“Goose Meadows” by Harry Husbands
Two friends out drinking at night discover the real horrors of Goose Meadows.

It’s the Great Halloween Episode, Horror Addicts!

Halloween is MY favorite time of year, and I’m willing to bet it’s yours too. So, if you’re trying to trick your less-spooky friends and family into a month-long binge of Halloween TV, this list is a good starting place.

 For the Little Monsters

  • Animaniacs
    • Draculee, Draculaa / Phranken-Runt (Season 1, Episode 30)
    • Scare Happy Slappy / Witch One / MacBeth (Season 1, Episode 62)
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
    • Luna Eclipsed (Season 2, Episode 4)
    • Scare Master (Season 5, Episode 21)
  • Tiny Toon Adventures
    • The Horror of Slumber Party Mountain (Episode 93)
    • Tiny Toons Night Ghoulery (Special Episode 100)
  • Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends
    • Bloooo (Season 1, Episode 12)
    • Nightmare on Wilson Way (Season 5, Episode 10)
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy
    • Grim or Gregory? (Season 1, Episode 8)
    • Bill & Mandy’s Jacked-Up Halloween (Season 1, Episode 23)
  • Phineas and Ferb
    • The Monster of Phineas-n-Ferbinstein! (Season 1, Episode 40)
    • One Good Scare Ought to Do it! (Season 1, Episode 39)
    • That’s the Spirit (Season 3, Episode 22)
    • Curse of Candace (Season 3, Episode 23)
    • Drusselsteinoween (Season 4, Episode 25)
    • Terrifying Tri-State Trilogy of Terror (Season 4, Episode 26)
    • Face Your Fear (Season 4, Episode 27)
    • Night of the Living Pharmacists (Season 4, Episode 44)
  • Rugrats
    • Candy Bar Creep Show / Monster in the Garage (Season 1, Episode 9)
    • Ghost Story (Season 6, Episode 12)
    • Curse of the Werewuff (Season 8, Episode 3)
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
    • Scaredy Pants / I Was a Teenage Gary (Season 1, Episode 13)
    • Ghoul Fools (Season 8, Episode 10)
    • Don’t Look Now / Séance Shmeance (Season 9, Episode 9)
    • The Legend of Boo-Kini Bottom (Season 11, Episode 5)
  • Adventure Time
    • The Creeps (Season 3, Episode 12)
    • From Bad to Worse (Season 3, Episode 13)
    • Ghost Fly (Season 6, Episode 17)
  • Gravity Falls
    • Summerween (Season 1, Episode 12)
    • Little Gift Shop of Horrors (Season 2, Episode 6)

 Spooks for the Whole Family

  • I Dream of Jeannie
    • My Master, the Ghostbreaker (Season 3, Episode 21)
  • The Jetsons
    • Haunted Halloween (Season 2, Episode 26)
  • The Munsters
    • Munster Masquerade (Season 1, Episode 1)
  • The Andy Griffith Show
    • The Haunted House (Season 4, Episode 2)
  • Bewitched
    • The Witches Are Out (Season 1, Episode 7)
    • Trick or Treat (Season 2, Episode 7)
    • Twitch or Treat (Season 3, Episode 7)
    • The Safe and Sane Halloween (Season 4, Episode 8)
    • To Trick or Treat or Not to Trick or Treat (Season 6, Episode 7)
  • Little House on the Pairie
    • The Monster of Walnut Grove (Season 3, Episode 5)
    • The Halloween Dream (Season 6, Episode 7)
  • The Addams Family
    • Halloween with the Addams Family (Season 1, Episode 7)
    • Halloween, Addams Style (Season 2, Episode 7)
  • Lassie
    • Trapped (Season 5, Episode 8)
    • Wings of the Ghost (Season 8, Episode 4)
  • The Brady Bunch
    • Fright Night (Season 4, Episode 6)
  • Charles in Charge
    • Trick or Treat (Season 1, Episode 8)
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
    • The Ghost of A. Chantz (Season 4, Episode 2)
  • MacGyver
    • Ghost Ship (Season 3, Episode 4)
    • The Secret of Parker House (Season 4, Episode 1)
    • Halloween Knights (Season 5, Episode 6)
    • Lesson in Evil (Season 6, Episode 6)
  • 7th Heaven
    • Halloween (Season 1, Episode 6)
  • Boy Meets World
    • Boys II Mensa (Season 1, Episode 6)
    • Who’s Afraid of Cory Wolf? (Season 2, Episode 6)
    • Janitor Dad (Season 4, Episode 6)
    • The Witches of Pennbrook (Season 5, Episode 5)
    • And The There Was Shawn (Season 5, Episode 17)
    • BONUS: Girl Meets World
      • Girl Meets World of Terror (Season 1, Episode 11)
      • Girl Meets World of Terror 2 (Season 1, Episode 18)
      • Girl Meets World of Terror 3 (Season 3, Episode 15)
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch
    • A Halloween Story (Season 1, Episode 5)
    • A River of Candy Corn Runs Through It (Season 2, Episode 7)
    • Good Will Haunting (Season 3, Episode 6)
    • Episode LXXXI: The Phantom Menace (Season 4, Episode 6)
    • The Halloween Scene (Season 5, Episode 6)
    • Murder on the Halloween Express (Season 6, Episode 4)
  • Charmed
    • All Halliwell’s Eve (Season 3, Episode 4)
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
    • Mummy Dearest (Season 3, Episode 4)
  • Once Upon a Time
    • Beauty (Season 7, Episode 4)
  • Star Trek: The Original Series
    • Catspaw (Season 2, Episode 7)
  • Knight Rider
    • Halloween Knight (Season 3, Episode 5)
    • Voodoo Knight (Season 4, Episode 22)
  • Wonder Woman
    • Séance of Terror (Season 2, Episode 19)
    • The Starships Are Coming (Season 3, Episode 15)
    • Phantom of the Roller Coaster (Season 3, Episode 23)
  • Scrubs
    • My Big Brother (Season 2, Episode 6)
  • Futurama
    • The Honking (Season 2, Episode 18)
    • Murder on the Planet Express (Season 7, Episode 24)
  • Saved by the Bell
    • Mystery Weekend (Season 3, Episode 26)
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
    • Someday Your Prince Will Be in Effect (Season 1, Episode 8 and 9)
    • Hex and the Single Guy (Season 4, Episode 7)
  • Full House
    • It’s Not My Job (Season 2, Episode 3)
    • Divorce Court (Season 3, Episode 8)
  • Family Matters
    • Dog Day Halloween (Season 2, Episode 7)
    • Whose Kid is it Anyway? (Season 4, Episode 6)
    • Best Friends (Season 5, Episode 6)
    • Dark and Stormy Night (Season 6, Episode 6)
    • Stevil (Season 8, Episode 7)
    • Stevil II: This Time He’s not Alone (Season 9, Episode 7)
  • Gilligan’s Island
    • Ghost a Go-Go (Season 2, Episode 27)
    • Up at Bat (Season 3, Episode 1)
  • Home Improvement
    • The Haunting of Taylor House (Season 2, Episode 6)
    • Crazy for You (Season 3, Episode 6)
    • Borland Ambition (Season 4, Episode 6)
    • Let Them Eat Cake (Season 5, Episode 6)
    • I Was a Teenage Taylor (Season 6, Episode 7)
    • A Night to Dismember (Season 7, Episode 5)
    • Bewitched (Season 8, Episode 6)
  • Bob’s Burgers
    • Full Bars (Season 3, Episode 2)
    • Fort Night (Season 4, Episode 2)
    • Tina and the Real Ghost (Season 5, Episode 2)
    • The Hauntening (Season 6, Episode 3)
    • Teen-a Witch (Season 7, Episode 3)
    • The Wolf of Wharf Street (Season 8, Episode 3)
    • Nightmare on Ocean Avenue Street (Season 9, Episode 4)
  • Friends
    • The One with the Halloween Party (Season 8, Episode 6)

After the Kids Go to Bed

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Halloween (Season 2, Episode 6)
    • Fear, Itself (Season 4, Episode 4)
    • All the Way (Season 6, Episode 6)
    • BONUS: Angel, Life of the Party (Season 5 Episode 5)
  • The Vampire Diaries
    • Haunted (Season 1, Episode 7)
    • Masquerade (Season 2, Episode 7)
    • Ghost World (Season 3, Episode 7)
    • The Five (Season 4, Episode 4)
    • Monster’s Ball (Season 5, Episode 5)
    • The World Has Turned and Left Me Here (Season 6, Episode 5)
    • I Carry Your Heart with Me (Season 7, Episode 4)
  • Supernatural
    • It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester (Season 4, Episode 7)
  • Beverly Hills 90210
    • Halloween (Season 2, Episode 13)
    • Things That Go Bang in the Night (Season 5, Episode 8)
  • Dawson’s Creek
    • The Scare (Season 1, Episode 11)
    • Escape from Witch Island (Season 3, Episode 7)
    • Four Scary Stories (Season 5, Episode 9)
    • Living Dead Girl (Season 6, Episode 6)
  • Gossip Girl
    • The Handmaiden’s Tale (Season 1, Episode 6)
    • How to Succeed in Bassness (Season 3, Episode 7)
  • One Tree Hill
    • An Attempt to Tip the Scales (Season 3, Episode 4)
    • Not Afraid (Season 8, Episode 6)
  • Pretty Little Liars
    • The First Secret (Season 2, Episode 13)
    • This is a Dark Ride (Season 3, Episode 13)
    • Grave New World (Season 4, Episode 13)
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine
    • Halloween (Season 1, Episode 6)
    • Halloween II (Season 2, Episode 4)
    • Halloween III (Season 3, Episode 5)
    • Halloween IV (Season 4, Episode 5)
    • HalloVeen (Season 5, Episode 4)
  • Parks and Recreation
    • Greg Pikitis (Season 2, Episode 7)
    • Meet ‘n’ Greet (Season 4, Episode 5)
    • Halloween Surprise (Season 5, Episode 5)
    • Recall Vote (Season 6, Episode 6)
  • Glee
    • The Rocky Horror Glee Show (Season 2, Episode 5)
  • How I Met Your Mother
    • Slutty Pumpkin (Season 1, Episode 6)
    • Canning Randy (Season 6, Episode 7)
    • The Slutty Pumpkin Returns (Season 7, Episode 8)
  • That 70’s Show
    • Halloween (Season 2, Episode 5)
    • Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die (Season 3, Episode 4)
  • Family Guy
    • Halloween on Spooner Street (Season 9, Episode 4)
    • Quagmire’s Quagmire (Season 12, Episode 3)
    • Peternormal Activity (Season 14, Episode 4)
  • The Big Bang Theory
    • The Middle Earth Paradigm (Season 1, Episode 6)
    • The Good Guy Fluctuation (Season 5, Episode 7)
    • The Holographic Excitation (Season 6, Episode 5)
    • The Imitation Perturbation (Season 12, Episode 6)
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun
    • Scaredy Dick (Season 3, Episode 5)
  • Roseanne
    • BOO! (Season 2, Episode 7)
    • Trick or Treat (Season 3, Episode 7)
    • Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down (Season 4, Episode 6)
    • Halloween IV (Season 5, Episode 7)
    • Halloween V (Season 6, Episode 6)
    • Skeleton in the Closet (Season 7, Episode 6)
    • Halloween: The Final Chapter (Season 8, Episode 5)
    • Satan, Darling (Season 9, Episode 7)
  • Grimm
    • La Llorona (Season 2, Episode 9)
  • Haven
    • Real Estate (Season 3, Episode 6)
  • Grey’s Anatomy
    • Haunt You Every Day (Season 4, Episode 5)
    • Thriller (Season 10, Episode 7)
    • Flowers Grow Out of My Grave (Season 15, Episode 6)
  • Alias
    • Doppelgänger (Season 1, Episode 5)
  • Blue Bloods
    • Nightmares (Season 3, Episode 7)
  • Bones
    • Mummy in the Maze (Season 3, Episode 5)
    • The Resurrection in the Remains (Season 11, Episode 5)
  • Dexter
    • Let’s Give the Boy a Hand (Season 1, Episode 4)
  • Castle
    • Vampire Weekend (Season 2, Episode 6)
    • Demons (Season 4, Episode 6)
    • PhDead (Season 8, Episode 3)
  • Community
    • Introduction to Statistics (Season 1 Episode 7)
    • Epidemiology (Season 2 Episode 6)
    • Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps (Season 3 Episode 5)
    • Paranormal Parentage (Season 4 Episode 2)
  • The Office
    • Halloween (Season 2, Episode 5)
    • Employee Transfer (Season 5, Episode 6)
    • Koi Pond (Season 6, Episode 8)
    • Costume Contest (Season 7, Episode 6)
    • Spooked (Season 8, Episode 5)
    • Here Comes Treble (Season 9, Episode 5)
  • South Park
    • Pinkeye (Season 1, Episode 7)
    • Spookyfish (Season 2, Episode 15)
    • Korn’s Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery (Season 3, Episode 10)
    • Hell on Earth 2006 (Season 10, Episode 11)
    • A Nightmare on Face Time (Season 16, Episode 12)
    • Goth Kids 3: Dawn of the Posers (Season 17, Episode 4)
    • Sons a Witches (Season 21, Episode 6)

There are, of course, many more episodes out there. Share your favorites in the comments!

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Kittens in a Blender

Why are there kittens? Why are they in a blender? Good questions, but shelve your disbelief for one moment and embrace the fact that you will be putting kittens in a blender and gleefully pressing the big red button.

Kittens in a Blender is a party game for 2-8 players (ages 8+, otherwise there are too many tears) and takes about thirty minutes to play.

Game Play

First, choose a color. The many, many kittens are divided into teams by color. Your objective is to save the kittens of your team and shred everyone else’s.

Next, shuffle the deck of cards and deal a hand to each player. Kittens in a Blender contains several types of cards for players to use: Kitten cards, Movement cards, and Blend cards. On their turn, each player must play exactly two cards.

There are three play areas: the blender, the counter, and the box. Kitten cards are played in any of these areas and moved using Move cards. If a kitten is in the blender when any player plays a Blend card, that kitten is blended and removed from the game. If a kitten is in the box when a Blend card is played, then the kitten is saved and placed under the box for safe-keeping. When all the Blend cards have been played, the players count the total number of their kittens that were saved and the person with the most wins.

Game Experience

There is a lot of cringing involved in playing Kittens in a Blender. Am I really the type of person who sends adorable kittens to their doom? After a few rounds, you get over that feeling and start murdering cats with no remorse.

The game creators seem to revel in this. Rather than supplying generic kitten cards, each one has an adorable name and picture to match. Over time, players gain attachments to certain kitties (my favorite is a bulldog-faced kitten named Princess), to the point where they will sacrifice others of their own to save a favorite.

The adorable art style underlines the macabre humor of the game. Each kitten is equally loveable and undeserving of its fate. You’re just a monster for playing this game and worse for enjoying it.

Final Thoughts

I know what you’re thinking: is Kittens in a Blender really a horror game? I guess that depends on who answers, but if you were to ask my 9 year-old cousin, my mother-in-law, or several of my more innocent friends, the idea of putting even fake kittens into a blender and hitting the button is plenty horrific. But, if that doesn’t bother you, then maybe you’re the perfect person to play the game.

Book Review: Lost Highways edited by D. Alexander Ward

Roads are, by design, a space in between — between cities, between the looming wilds on either side of the pavement, or between two versions of oneself. They exist in a perpetual state of flux. Millions of people pass along highways, driving through towns and lives they will never know and through stories stranger than they can imagine.

Lost Highways is an anthology of short stories and artwork edited by D. Alexander Ward and presents 20 stories that you’ll never see from the safety of the passenger seat.

The stories are equal parts entertaining and enlightening. No two ever present the same theme, stretching the anthology’s premise of roads and highways to the limits of connectivity. Each author interpreted the theme in a novel and inspiring way.

Lost Highways was gripping throughout. It presents a wide array of styles within the horror genre: philosophical musings, psychological terror, gruesome violence, and tingling suspense. At no point did I consider a story to be predictable.

Though the anthology is superb from start to finish, several stories stood out to me while reading. “A Life that is not Mine” by Kristi Demeester presented a bleak look at life where the road is both a prison and an escape. Demeester’s writing was haunting and the prose almost lyrical. “The Heart Stops at the end of Laurel Lane” by Jess Landry (an alumni of the HorrorAddicts.net Next Great Horror Writer Contest!) straddled the line between harrowing and heart wrenching and left me reeling through each new revelation. “Outrunning the End” by Cullen Bunn was a trippy experiment in fiction that blurred the lines of reality on the page. These are my favorites, but each story is excellent in its own way and all the contributors should be commended for their work.

Overall, Lost Highways is an expertly curated collection of the best that horror has to offer. I highly recommend taking a look. If you’re especially brave, you might consider making it your companion on a long road trip.

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Werebeasts

Game Review: WereBeasts

Introduction

Do you love werewolves? Do you wish you had a game with more than just werewolves? There’s a whole world of crazy beasts out there. Werekittens, wereclowns, werezombies, weresharks, wereghosts, werehouses… Excellent.

Werebeasts is a card collecting party game for 3-10 players and takes about fifteen minutes to play.

Game Play

At the beginning, each player is secretly given two goal cards. These are the werebeasts that they will try to collect throughout the game.

During their turn, a player can accuse another player of having a specific goal card. If they guess correctly, the other is removed from the game and the player get their cards. Guess carefully, however, because if you’re wrong, you are removed from the game and the accused get your cards.

After leveraging their accusations (if any), the player then draws a card face up. Other players bid on the card using the cards in front of them. Players try to collect their assigned goals without giving away what their goals are.

Whoever has the most beasts of their goal type when the game ends wins.

Game Experience

Werebeasts is suited to younger players as a card collection game. It is also good for older audiences who want a simple party game.

You would think that it would be easy to guess what others are trying to collect. Not so. Once players know what to look for, they know how to cover their tracks. The secret to Werebeasts is to know the other players. The dynamic changes over time, making Werebeasts an increasingly difficult game of bluffs.

Werebeasts has a simple set up, with a few sets of cards and pieces. All of these are well made and exceptionally detailed. The cards are sturdy and would stand up well to a lot of play time (including by children). The art style suits the game premise, as a cross between cartoon-cute and mock horror.

Final Thoughts

Werebeasts is a good party game for a large crowd. It is a fast, easy game to learn. I thought that it would be overly simplistic, but it was surprisingly engaging.

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Igor

Introduction

I have never actually see the 2008 CGI animated movie Igor. In fact, I can’t say that I was even really aware that there was a CGI animated movie called Igor. But I found this gem of a game at my local second-hand bookstore and one thing led to another, so here we are.

I haven’t reviewed many games that are suitable for children, so this is a pleasant change of pace for you Horror Addicts with little monsters at home. Igor is suitable for ages 7+ (and younger if you’re willing to provide a little help). It is played with 1-4 people and takes about 20 minutes.

Game Play

In Igor, you are a scientist in a desperate race to complete monsters for the science fair. First, shuffle the monster deck and set out three incomplete monsters. Each monster requires certain numbers and types of parts which are shown on their card.

On your turn, roll the dice to gain the necessary parts. You can use as many dice as you want from the roll to furnish a monster then reroll the rest. If at the end of your turn, a monster has all the necessary parts, yell, “Pull the switch!” and gain the points printed on the monster’s card. However, if none of your dice can be used to add to a monster, you lose the rest of your turn and any completed monsters are discarded and replaced.

When the draw pile of monsters runs out, the player with the most points wins.

Game Experience

Igor was just plain fun. The mechanics are simple, so it takes less than five minutes to learn the rules. For a game made as a promotional material, I was impressed with the playability. This is a game that can be fun for both children and adults. Children can play it as a game of chance, but there is room to scale up the strategy of the dice rolls with adults.

The art is good—in line with the movie style—and fits the monstrous theme. There aren’t many pieces and they are cheaply made, but since the game is intended for children, I count that as a plus.

The best part of the game is, without doubt, making everyone say “PULL THE SWITCH” in the loudest, most ridiculous voice possible.

Final Thoughts

Igor is fun, simple, and silly. It is a perfect addition for a children’s game box (or an adult collection). However, since the movie faded into oblivion over a decade ago, the most difficult part may be finding it.

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Game Review: Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Introduction

Arkham, Massachusetts: an idyllic New England town complete with mysterious disappearances, mangled bodies, and a suffocating sense of doom that lingers over every home. Strange things have always happened here, but it seems something more malevolent is at work this time. Something that wants to come through…

Arkham Horror: The Card Game hails from the same game universe as Arkham Horror, Elder Sign (previously reviewed for HorrorAddicts.net), and Eldritch Horror. It uses a familiar play style, following a Lovecraftian storyline with the addition of obstacles and monsters drawn at random. Players embody characters who have health and sanity, things they risk in order to investigate and defeat the evil lurking just on the other side of our reality.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a narrative game for 1-2 players (expansions allow up to 4 players) and takes 1-2 hours to play.

Game Play

Game play consists of characters exploring their environment (represented by cards) and fighting obstacles that appear there. Finding clues allows the investigators to proceed through the storyline, revealing new locations, items, monsters, and characters. If they advance to the end of the story, they win. But with each round, the horrors advance as well—monsters appear and attack and the situation grows ever grimmer.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game is set up with D&D style campaigns, each containing several scenarios. Characters evolve with experience gained during these scenarios, so as you go further into the campaign, your character has more abilities to help you face challenges that are more difficult. Players can go through an entire campaign at once, or tackle each of the scenarios one at a time. Each scenario takes an hour or two (depending on player experience and the desired difficulty), so if you want to play through an entire campaign, be prepared to stay a while.

Game Experience

Often, I review games for a larger group of people (around 5), so this is a refreshing change of pace. Arkham Horror: The Card Game can be played solo or with a partner. You can combine two core games to be able to play with up to four players. I actually played this one by myself, which was an interesting experience, for sure. The game loses something when you don’t talk strategy with others around you. I would recommend playing with the recommended two players or expanding the game to four.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a faster, more compact version of the infamous original Arkham Horror and retains most of those features.

The real draw of Arkham Horror: The Card Game is the Lovecraft aesthetic throughout. The game contains quotes from actual Lovecraft stories, which are just as spine tingling as you would expect. The art has a detective noir theme, albeit with a dark twist (is that blood on the cards?). It’s a gruesome, horrifying good time and is best suited for late nights and dim lights.

Final Thoughts

As with other narrative style games, replay may become an issue. So much of the play hinges on the story, so once that is played out, replay holds fewer mysteries. There are expansions for Arkham, which helps, and different monsters and difficulty values can make replaying more challenging. However, if you are mainly interested in the story, you may want to try this game out at a board game café first.

I enjoyed Arkham Horror: The Card Game, and I highly recommend it if you are a fan of narrative games. The additional character building elements that allow the game to change with time are a great asset, as well.

I’ve been reviewing an awful lot of Lovecraft themed games, lately. I can’t help it; I love them so much. The dark mythos, the mystery, the monsters… isn’t that every Horror Addict’s dream?

 

Ghastly Games by Daphne Strasert: Elder Sign

Game Review: Elder Sign

The artifacts in the museum are more than they seem. The collection is opening barriers between our world and other dimensions where an ancient evil lurks, waiting to cross over.

Elder Sign uses the universe of H.P. Lovecraft to create a brilliant atmosphere of supernatural suspense and adventure. Players form a team of investigators trying to prevent an Ancient One from crossing into our world. They do this by collecting Elder Signs and defeating smaller monsters throughout the museum. Players can gain items and powers that aid in this and work together toward success. Failure brings the Ancient One closer to unleashing its wrath on humanity.

Elder Sign is a cooperative dice game for 1-8 players and takes about 90 minutes to play.

Game Play

Before play starts, the players choose an Ancient One to battle in the coming game. Each has a different power that makes gameplay more interesting. Some are more difficult to defeat than others. Players also choose characters. These also have special abilities that give them an advantage in certain encounters.

Throughout the game, characters attempt tasks to succeed in Adventures and gain rewards. Some of these rewards are Elder Signs, which are used to seal away the Ancient One before it can cross over into our world. But beware, failure has dire consequences and can bring the monster even closer.

All the while, time ticks forward, bringing the Ancient One closer to our world. Strange events happen every midnight that make gameplay harder. If players fail to seal the Ancient One, they must fight it in a nearly impossible, last-ditch battle for humanity.

Game Experience

Elder Sign is beautiful. The art is in a lovely dark fantasy style that is perfect for the Lovecraft mythos that it represents. Symbols use are straightforward and easily identified, which is a benefit in complicated gameplay. Each Adventure card has a snippet of a story on it, giving insight into the perilous world of the museum. Reading these bits was an enchanting part of the game.

Despite appearing extremely complicated, Elder Sign is actually straightforward. There is some work in learning the game mechanics, but once you have a handle on that, play runs smoothly. I recommend taking the time to familiarize yourself with the manual before starting and allocate extra time for your first playthrough. Once you have the hang of it, though, you will be able to play many more times.

A benefit of Elder Sign is that the game is actually winnable. Some cooperative games (like Dead Men Tell No Tales, which we also reviewed here at Horror Addicts) are nearly impossible to defeat. Players can succeed in Elder Sign, provided they put thought and strategy into their gameplay and have reasonable luck with dice. It isn’t a guaranteed win, by any means, but players can expect a reasonable return for their effort.

Final Thoughts

What I liked best about Elder Sign (and I liked a lot of things about Elder Sign) was how re-playable it was. There are a variety of Ancient Ones to fight against, but even without that, the different adventures, characters, and items change gameplay significantly. Each game experience is unique. This is a game that I would consider well worth the money to add to my own collection.

Book Review: Freaks edited by Toneye Eyenot and Michael Noe

Are you looking for stories that stick in your dreams? Ones about people twisted both inside and out? You might regret what you wish for.

Freaks, a collection of stories and poetry edited by Toneye Eyenot and Michael Noe, contains 19 chilling tales of monsters, murderers, and madmen.

This anthology is not for the faint of heart. The stories inside may vary in style and subject matter, but the collection holds nothing back. Each is gruesome and stretches the limits of what you as a horror addict can stomach. The authors explore the depths of human depravity, then dig down a few more feet just for good measure.

Each author put their own spin on the anthology’s theme of horror in the realm of circuses and carnivals. The stories are a good mix of the supernatural, the speculative, and the frighteningly realistic. There are killer clowns, sure, but what about a man with a killer appetite, or a roadshow zombie attraction, or a carnival ride that is actually alive? Not all freaks are easy to identify and the worst ones are really the ones that are monsters on the inside.

My personal favorite entries are “Two for the Show” by Tina Piney and “Clownbear’s Last Performance” by Brian Glossup. Both authors created compelling characters within a short span, a difficult task when also including spine-tingling imagery and suspense.

If you’re brave enough to chance reading this, I can guarantee that you’ll be looking over your shoulder and sleeping with the lights on. And no way in hell are you going anywhere near a circus. If you feel a little squeamish, I think that’s the point.

Freaks appeals to a certain variety of horror addict. If you love to stretch the limits of what is appropriate to publish, take a look. If you want stories that will make your skin crawl and stomach churn, check this out. If you want to question your sanity and that of the authors and maybe of humanity in general… read Freaks. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Ghastly Games by Daphne Strasert: T.I.M.E. Stories

Game Review: T.I.M.E. Stories

Something awful is happening at the asylum. Patients disappear and frightening creatures appear on the grounds. You and your team are time travelers sent to investigate the cause of the strange events.

T.I.M.E. Stories sits at the intersection of science fiction and fantasy, but it’s no kids’ game. Violence and horror lurk behind every decision. At the core of the game is a mystery that must be solved in order to win and save yourselves.

T.I.M.E. Stories is a cooperative narrative board game for 2-4 players and takes between two and four hours to play.

Game Play

T.I.M.E. Stories works much like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book (or, more appropriately, for Horror Addicts, the “Give Yourself Goosebumps” books by R.L. Stine).

Players begin by choosing their characters. Each has strengths and weaknesses which will affect how you play the game. Some scenarios call for brute strength while others would benefit from a silver tongue. Be careful, though; you’re inhabiting the body of a lunatic, so there are some quirks and traps in each character’s behavior (some can’t be left alone, some can’t deliver a killing blow in combat).

To play, the team explores rooms, discovers items, and talks to characters. What you do affects what happens immediately in the game—offering more rooms to explore and more information about what is going on—but some effects will last much longer. This all happens on a time crunch and the longer you take, the more likely your team will have to start all over again (you are a time traveler after all).

The team wins when they solve the mystery and successfully

Game Experience

T.I.M.E. Stories is definitely a story game. There are elements of game play (combat and challenges), but for the most part, the team doesn’t “win” or “lose”. Players don’t defeat each other and the game never really beats the players. The fun is in making decisions and discovering the story along the way.

Since the majority of the base game is themed around a 1920’s asylum, the atmosphere is heavily horror related (with monsters, lunatics, and mad doctors). The art reinforces this. It is stunning and gruesome in equal measure, perfect for the story. The mystery itself is soaked in blood.

The game is nominally themed as science fiction, which allows you to expand the game (with other stories in new locations) and to keep playing a game that might otherwise be too hard (by restarting when all players die). However, while playing, you are immersed in the world of the story (the asylum), so, the science fiction elements become jarring when they are reintroduced.

This adds to T.I.M.E. Stories‘ complexity. This game isn’t for people new to board games or the faint of heart. There are a lot of pieces and parts to game play. The board, while beautiful, is not immediately easy to understand. If you wish to play, either find a veteran to explain or take the time to familiarize yourself with the manual.

Final Thoughts

While T.I.M.E. Stories was a fun and interesting game, the truth is, it isn’t a game you can play over and over. Unlike a “Give Yourself Goosebumps”, the story here has a definite path to follow and does not diverge greatly. There is only one major story included and once you’ve figured that out, the game loses its appeal. You already know the twists and ending. Given that most of the fun of the game is in exploring and discovering what is going on, that’s a big disadvantage.

There are seven expansion packs for T.I.M.E. Stories, so you can play some different stories, but from an investment point of view, it isn’t cost effective to buy. If you really want to experience this game (and I do recommend playing), visit a board game café that has T.I.M.E. Stories and its expansions.

Ghastly Games by Daphne Strasert: Enchanted in the Moonlight

Game Review: Enchanted in the Moonlight

Monsters are big business right now. I mean, they’ve always been the stars of horror, but recently audience sympathy has shifted in favor of what were, traditionally, the villains. Wanting a little monstrous romance is more common than it’s ever been (Academy Award Winner for Best Picture The Shape of Water, anyone?). So, in the world of games, romance and horror, there must be an intersection somewhere for those looking for a little action.

Look no more. Today, I will review Enchanted in the Moonlight, a dating simulator game for iPhone and Android where you become romantically involved with a monster.

Enchanted in the Moonlight draws inspiration from traditional Japanese mythology and includes ayakashi, creatures that are similar to monsters (and will be familiar to fans of anime). You, as the main character, have a special power that is coveted by the ayakashi. As a result, you have your pick of supernatural suitors. Choose a suitor, then sit back and enjoy the story.

Game Play

Dating sims have been huge in Japan for a while, so otakus are probably already familiar with the concept. Only in recent years have they made their way into the mainstream minds of Western consumers.

If you haven’t encountered the concept, dating sims work like an electronic Choose Your Own Adventure, plus romance. You play the sim on your phone by downloading the app. The game follows a story and gives you, as the main character, choices throughout that effect what happens next.

Most games are free, but you must purchase stories in the app to play through more than the first chapter. Once you choose which character to pursue, you can then follow the story, choosing what you do and say along the way and hopefully bring about a happy ending.

Enchanted in the Moonlight offers six possible love interests: a kitsune (fox), tengu (black bird), werewolf, oni (demon), yukibito (snow spirit), and house spirit.

Game Experience

I’m not going to lie, I’m a sucker for storytelling games. And the stories included here were addicting. The supernatural premise adds an element of drama that I really enjoyed. I’ve bought all the different character arcs at this point, none of which are repetitive in the slightest.

That said, your choices as a character don’t really hold that much weight. There are really only a handful of endings waiting for you, so you won’t do much more than deviate the events in a minor way. I found myself sometimes wishing that I could respond in ways that weren’t offered, maybe smacking a little sense into characters that tended toward the misogynistic. If you’re looking for something complex, there are better dating sim options. However, if you’re looking for some mindless fun and romance, this is for you.

The showcase of the games is the art. There are lovely anime-style images used throughout, with special pictures for important parts of the story. Most games let you save these in a special gallery to admire later.

Bottom line: the premise is a little contrived, the prologue is rushed, the main character is kind of a pushover, and the writing isn’t the greatest. BUT, it’s fun. It’s silly and ridiculous and romantic.

Final Thoughts

Dating sims aren’t for everyone, but they can be a fun escape. If you’re looking for a story game you can play in your downtime, this is a great option. If you want something mindless to enjoy, I recommend it wholeheartedly. I mean, I always wanted to date a werewolf.

Ghastly Games by Daphne Strasert: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Game Review: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Who doesn’t love pirates? Who doesn’t love undead pirates even more?

In Dead Men Tell No Tales, players take on the characters of a pirate crew and work together to plunder a burning ship, the notorious Skelit’s Revenge. They must defeat the undead crew, find the treasure, and fight the fire to stay alive. Do you have what it takes to survive and win?

Dead Men Tell No Tales is a thematic cooperative board game for 2-5 players and takes about 90 minutes to play.

Game Play

First, choose a character. All characters have different abilities that will help during play (extra speed, fighting power, rum capacity, etc.). Next, board the Skelit’s Revenge and start looking for treasure. You explore the ship, finding new rooms and revealing new obstacles.

Oh, and all the rooms are on fire.

You take damage when exposed to the flames, so as you explore, you’ll need to take time to rest your character—valuable time that could be used fighting the Skelit’s crew. Defeat the crew to find the treasure. Find all the treasure and get it back to your boat to win. Be warned, the fire gets worse and the enemies increase with every turn, so winning won’t be easy.

Game Experience

The game quality is very high. There are many pieces, but each is crafted with either hardy cardboard or wood. All character pieces are exquisitely decorated with detailed fantasy art that fits with the theme. The well-made setup makes the game a physical joy to play.

As far as gameplay, Dead Men Tell No Tales is complicated. There are a lot of things happening at once and it will take a few tries to really get a handle on what strategies work. I have never actually won a game of Dead Men Tell No Tales (and we’ve been playing on easy mode). There is a lot going on; between character powers, monster moves, a raging fire, and explosions, you can lose track of what danger is most immediately threatening.

There are many ways to lose, but only one way to win. There’s some serious strategy involved in playing and I cannot emphasize enough that the game is cooperative. You are working together as a team so—depending on who you choose to play with—you may not feel as if you’re making any of your own decisions at all.

As much as I emphasize the difficulty, the game is fun. I promise. Dead Men Tell No Tales is all about moves, finding the best thing to do from a long list of possibilities. But it isn’t just pure strategy either—luck is just another skill in a pirate’s arsenal.

Final Thoughts

Dead Men Tell No Tales is a good game for those who like a challenge and have experience playing complicated games. There are a lot of moving pieces. This isn’t Chutes and Ladders; no one wins for just showing up. You’ll want your wits about you (so, not a great game for drinking) and every move has potentially dire consequences (so, not a great game for children). If you really think you have what it takes to take on the challenge, look no further.

Movie Review: Within the Darkness

Movie Review: Within the Darkness

Within the Darkness is a horror movie written for those who love horror movies. It features a deeply rooted appreciation for the genre and uses the clichés to offer a fresh perspective interlaced with satisfying suspense. Horror Addicts will enjoy the scares, laughs, and twists. It is a special delight for those who are familiar with what has come before in the universe of haunted horror.

Something terrible happened at the Hewitt House. To this day, the ghostly inhabitants act out their tragic demises in an endless loop. For Austin (Dave Coyne), this provides the perfect opportunity.

Austin wants to make it big in Hollywood and he thinks he knows how to do it: a ghost hunting show. The Hewitt House provides the spooky backdrop, but Austin doesn’t believe anything will really happen, so he rigs the results, setting traps in the house to mimic a haunting. He’s helped by his girlfriend Lucy (Erin Nicole Cline) and a crew of skeptics.

But when a psychic medium, Meagan (Shanna Forrestall), arrives to help with the investigation, unexplainable things begin to happen. The crew descends into madness and the viewer asks: what’s really happening at the Hewitt House?

Within the Darkness is a self-aware horror film. The creators were familiar with the genre tropes and embraced them in order to use them in unexpected ways. From jump scares to psychological horror to paranormal events, they play the viewers expectations from start to finish. If you think you’ve seen it all in horror, Within the Darkness just might surprise you.

The Hewitt House has all the makings of a classic horror haunt, complete with long hallways, too many stairs, suspiciously creaky doors, and a lake dock just begging someone to come swim for all eternity. There’s no end to the shadows where danger lurks. Yet in the daylight, the house is a charming suburban fixture, seemingly too young to host anything evil. In a masterful understanding of the genre, Within the Darkness portrays the Hewitt House as quiet enough in the day to make the characters feel like they must have let their imaginations slip after dark.

The film’s central conflict is between ambitious and irreverent Austin and his girlfriend Lucy, who is more inclined to respect powers beyond her control. Their opposing opinions on the house and what exactly is going on inside tear a rift in the crew and amp up the tension as events escalate. Add in terrifying hallucinations and a host of spooky events and the crew stands all on edge.

While Within the Darkness employs a variety of disturbing imagery, one scene in particular stood out. Between excellent acting on the part of Jessie (Tonya Kay) and well-edited shots, Within the Darkness created a truly creepy illusion that stuck with me long after the movie ended.

At times, Within the Darkness takes comedic turns, barging into the territory of the absurd. This puts it in similar categories as Scary Movie, though without the cheap pop culture references. It shows a developed understanding of horror films and pokes fun at themes that are often overdone.

In general, I think of this as a parody movie that manages to sneak in some good suspense and horror between the satirical commentaries. Fans of horror who don’t take anything too seriously will enjoy this. It still has the spooky chops for those looking for a bit of fright in their night.

Ghastly Games by Daphne Strasert: One Night Ultimate Werewolf

Game Review: One Night Ultimate Werewolf

Introduction

Someone in the village is a werewolf and the townspeople are determined to find out who. Players all have roles and special abilities that will help them determine who is guilty. But, not everyone is going to tell you the truth. Who’s mistaken, who’s lying, and who is the werewolf?

Welcome to One Night Ultimate Werewolf.

Game Play

The concept for One Night Ultimate Werewolf  is simple. There are two teams: the werewolves and the villagers. The villagers win if they kill at least one werewolf. The werewolves win if they all survive.

It is when we reach beyond that that everything gets more complicated.

Every player draws a character from the deck. One Night Ultimate Werewolf has a lot of possible characters. Some are werewolves, some are villagers, and some have special abilities (looking at cards, trading cards, mimicking the powers of others, etc.). After characters are drawn, everyone closes their eyes players take turns performing their action. Beware, some of these actions might change your character card, so you may not end the game as the same person you started as. When player actions are done, the real fun starts. Everyone opens their eyes and players argue over what happened. Ultimately, each player must decide who they want to “kill” in the round.

In the end, One Night Ultimate Werewolf is all about lying. Players want to keep what they know secret until the information will most benefit them. No one can be trusted, and in some cases, you may not even know that you are a werewolf until all cards are flipped at the end.

Game Experience

The best part of One Night Ultimate Werewolf is how fast gameplay is. Each round is played separately. Even if a player is killed, they still participate in the next round. Characters are re-dealt and the game starts fresh. This means that the game can end whenever you want it to.

The game setup is very simple, with a set of plainly illustrated cards and tokens. The art is charming, with a dark comic style that suits the game theme. All cards and pieces are sturdy and can stand up to some wear, which is good for a fast game where players constantly move pieces.

For a game that is—at its heart—extremely simple, learning to play One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a challenge. If you can find a veteran player, do it. They’ll let you know what information you need to know up front and what you can find out as you go along. Otherwise, you’ll spend an hour at the beginning trying to figure out detailed rules that aren’t important.

Luckily, the creators of the game have made a free app to guide players through the game. I highly recommend downloading the app. It has an easy to use interface and a narrator who leads you through the round. The narrator has a wonderful, soothing voice that I could listen to for hours. It’s an enjoyable experience from start to finish and the app reduces the complexity of the game tremendously.

Final Thoughts

I had this game for a long time before I could convince anyone to play with me. Since the game is similar in concept to the Mafia card game, the friends of mine who were inclined toward more complicated games thought it would be boring. And casual family gamers were intimidated by the number of different rules and worried it would be too complicated. In reality, the game was suited to both groups.

It takes a few rounds to fall into the rhythm of the game. This was the largest obstacle I faced in getting new players to join me. They would play one round and, having not gotten the hang of revealing and concealing information, give the game up for being boring and almost impossible.

However, it is very worth playing. It’s perfect for people who like to run their mouths. I recommend it as an excellent party game.

Book Review: Bad Man by Dathan Auerbach

Book Review: Bad Man by Dathan Auerbach

Ben has been searching for his missing brother, Eric, for five years. The three-year-old boy couldn’t have just vanished into thin air in the middle of a grocery store. Eric has to be somewhere. But Ben has run out of rocks to look under and life doesn’t seem to stop no matter what he does. To help support his family, he takes a job at the very store where Eric disappeared.

The night shift plays tricks on Ben’s brain, turning his days into a blur, like the Missing Person posters of Eric that have been copied so many times that the image warped into something that doesn’t even resemble him anymore. Things seem to move when no one is around. Items go missing. Others appear as if from nowhere. The building seems as if it’s trying to tell Ben something if only he could figure out what it is.

The strange occurrences renew Ben’s search, but someone doesn’t want him to find out what really happened to Eric. In small towns, someone always knows more than they say. In this case, everyone has something to hide. Even Ben.

Dathan Auerbach spins a wonderful web of intrigue and suspicion. I sat on edge through the whole book, unsure if I was going to encounter the paranormal or the darkest depths of humanity in each turn of the page.

Bad Man approaches a difficult setting, addressing poverty, abuse, mental illness, and grief in a powerful way. Auerbach doesn’t pull any punches with his descriptions and gives an unflinching account of real-life horror. The characters feel like real people. From Ben’s tenuous grasp on reality to the quiet, sinister nature of the store’s owner, there is depth to every character you meet. No one is safe from the dreadful suspicion in the book. Auerbach masterfully leads readers to conclusion after conclusion, never knowing if they are on the right track.

Bad Man leaves you feeling the way you do in a Walmart at two am. Everything feels overexposed, too brightly lit, too empty, too quiet. It isn’t the darkness that is frightening in Bad Man, it’s the blinding light that reveals that there is nothing there to see.

Auerbach’s prose is a delight to read. He includes masterful descriptions and insights throughout with lingering quotes that you’ll want to remember for yourself. The novel is artfully crafted from cover to cover, each word carefully chosen to draw you in at every turn.

Bad Man may not linger in your nightmares, but the effect is much deeper than that. It deals a slow sort of agony as you face the uncertainty of what happened to Eric and inevitable feeling that there is no happy ending for Ben. Even if Ben gets what he wants, will there ever really be an ending to his torture? The suspense lasts until the last page. It leaves a tingling feeling of dread that claws its way out of your bones and refuses to let you put it down.

Bad Man is a fantastic novel. If you are looking for a dark, atmospheric, gripping book, then make sure to pick up a copy.