Short-Short Film Review: SELFIE FROM HELL

SELFIE FROM HELL is a 2015 horror short-short by writer/director Erdal Ceylan, boasting more than 21 million views on YouTube. Running time: 1 minute, 30 seconds.

THE PLOT

A woman takes a revealing selfie for her boyfriend, but the photo reveals more than she expects.

THE PLAYERS

The cast features Meelah Adams as the woman.

THE REVIEW

SELFIE FROM HELL is one of the creepier short-shorts on YouTube. It opens with a woman, presumably talking to her boyfriend alone in a house at night. She stops and snaps a quick selfie at his request. Sounds simple enough, except a shadowy figure appears in the background of her selfie.

The moment happens 13 seconds into the film, launching an intense sequence of photos by the woman. The woman is spooked but sees nothing with her own eyes, and subsequent photos don’t reveal any more shadowy figures. But you can’t always trust your eyes, can you?

SELFIE FROM HELL is an outstanding 90 seconds of horror. You can view it on YouTube here.

AFTER THE CREDITS: SELFIE FROM HELL’s popularity prompted a feature-length film of the same title written and directed by Ceylan and released in 2018. According to IMDb.com, the film has been released in six countries since February, starting with Japan.

 

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Short Film Review: THE LAST SHOWING

Alone in the Dark Films presents THE LAST SHOWING, a 2018 horror short by writer/director Anthony DeRouen. Running time: 9 minutes, 45 seconds.

THE PLOT

A couple of movie theater employees are terrorized by an apparition after closing time.

THE PLAYERS

The cast features Lara Jean Mummert as Mary, Joseph Camilleri as Michael, and Max Troia as Steven.

THE REVIEW

THE LAST SHOWING opens with the final moviegoers of the night exiting the theater as employee Mary lets them out and locks the door. Mary and Steven are the only two employees left in the theater, and Steven agrees to finish up cleaning while Mary steps off stage to take a nap.

Steven hears a noise and finds a creepy stranger watching a torture film on the screen. When the stranger disappears suddenly, Steven radios Mary to tell her a stranger’s in the theater but assures her he can handle the problem.

The lights wink out, and Steven finds himself handling the problem in the dark with only a flashlight. Where’s the strange man? Steven initially searches the theater with a confidence belying the situation, but it only takes one more encounter for Steven to realize the stranger is not what he appears.

The second half of the story shifts to Mary after she wakes from her nap. The lights are off, and Steven is radio silent. It’s her turn to investigate, but what will she find?

I liked THE LAST SHOWING. Camilleri portrays the creepy stranger quite effectively, and DeRouen uses the empty theater to his advantage, alternating the eerie silence of the setting with the eerier music by Luigi Jannsen.

Check out  Derouen on Vimeo here.

AFTER THE CREDITS: Robert Englund of Freddy Krueger fame starred in a 2014 film titled THE LAST SHOWING.

 

Book Review: Dead Stripper Storage by Bryan Smith

Dead Stripper Storage is a horror novella written by Bryan Smith and released by Grindhouse Press on July 20, 2018. Kindle length: 129 pages.

THE PLOT

A socially inept loner wakes up to find a dead stripper on his couch with no idea how she arrived there.

THE PLAYERS

Pete Adler is a milquetoast. He’s the kind of guy you don’t notice left the room, easily forgotten, and who’s never asked to hang out after hours by co-workers.

Mary Wilson is Pete’s ex-girlfriend, who unceremoniously dumped him after a few dates. She’s the first person that Pete encounters after discovering the dead stripper.

Shane Watson is a hot-shot sales executive who tormented and humiliated Pete at work before getting fired.

THE REVIEW

Dead Stripper Storage is what the title suggests – a nihilistic grindhouse tale of manipulation, murder, and mutilation. With the author of DEPRAVED, THE KILLING KIND, and 68 KILL steering the wheel, expect a no-holds-barred ride into the darkest and most depraved pits of the human soul.

Dead Stripper Storage includes genital mutilation, necrophilia, and illegal use of a condiment. As I wrote in my Amazon review, you may never eat mayonnaise again. Beneath the repulsive behavior and acts of violence, Smith manages to create a sympathetic loser in Pete. I wanted to know how Pete escapes his impossible situation.

Of course, if Pete only had to deal with one dead stripper, he might succeed in finding a way out of this mess. However, the body count multiplies, and Pete realizes he’s a helpless pawn in a sociopath’s game with no idea what the rules are or how to play.

Dead Stripper Storage had a Quentin Tarantino vibe to it, particularly PULP FICTION and that film’s scenes where the two mob hitmen are trying to dispose of a body. It didn’t surprise me that Smith acknowledged Tarantino’s influence and that the title is inspired by a phrase in PULP FICTION.

My favorite scene is early in the story when Pete’s ex-girlfriend Mary is knocking at his door. Instead of hiding the dead stripper, he rearranges her body on the couch and covers her with a blanket, so she looks like she’s sleeping.

When Pete’s ex-girlfriend asks about the woman, he lies and says, “Look, can we take this to the kitchen? I don’t want to wake my friend. We had kind of a wild night, maybe drank a bit too much.”

Was it a pathetic attempt by Pete to make his ex-girlfriend jealous? Yes, but it rang true as something a  desperate guy might do to hide the reality of his lonely existence.

And it’s something a talented writer like Smith might do to highlight the melancholy inherent in his flawed protagonist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short Film Review: HE TAKES AND RETURNS

Alone in the Dark Films presents HE TAKES AND RETURNS, a 2018 horror short by writer/director Anthony DeRouen. Running time: 11 minutes.

THE PLOT

A family is terrorized by an intruder the night before its trip to Yosemite National Park.

THE PLAYERS

The cast features Joseph Camilleri as John, Nadia Latifi as Chrissy, Jeanne Young as Helen, and Germaine Gaudet as Kathy.

THE REVIEW

HE TAKES AND RETURNS is classic horror in the vein of HALLOWEEN. Like that seminal film, HE TAKES AND RETURNS portrays average suburbanites inside a normal home within a typical neighborhood and unleashes the horror on them.

DeRouen effectively sets the table, opening with dad John, mom Helen, daughter Chrissy, and family friend Kathy engaged in an intense game of Jenga before going to bed early in preparation for the Yosemite trip.

When Chrissy’s first scream shatters the night, John does what fathers do. He investigates his daughter’s bedroom and calms her rattled nerves.

After the second scream, John repeats the pattern but adds a look outside. However, this time, a strange mark appears on Chrissy’s doll, and the parents allude to a previous intruder incident during a private conversation in the kitchen.

The third scream’s the charm as fear officially escalates to crisis, and John and Helen realize the intruder isn’t in their daughter’s imagination.

DeRouen obviously knows horror, skillfully using shadows and suspense to chilling effect. The music by Michael Rodriguez is a strength of the short, perfectly capturing the building tension.

I enjoyed HE TAKES AND RETURNS. It’s a slice of old-school filmmaking with no special effects. It’s straight horror, no chaser, and scary enough for this Horror Addict to check out more shorts by DeRouen.

Check out the teaser on YouTube for HE TAKES AND RETURNS below.

Interview with Book Cover Designer Fiona Jayde

Fiona Jayde is the owner, art director, and award-winning designer of Fiona Jayde Media, a company that offers book cover design, editorial, and marketing services to authors.

Book cover designer Fiona Jayde creates images for all genres, including horror. Jayde said her cover for William W. Johnstone’s Carnival “creeped the heck out of me.”

Jayde won 2013 RONE Awards for Fantasy and Best Contemporary Romance covers, melding her creativity with a business-like marketing approach to create beautiful book covers.

Jayde agreed to a fun and in-depth email interview with HorrorAddicts.net.

We started off with a quick ten-question lightning round before jumping into the real ten-question interview.

THE LIGHTNING ROUND

  1. A favorite movie? The Cutting Edge (from the 90s)
  1. Favorite binge-watching series on Netflix? Hmm … Tough question. I rewatch Dick Van Dyke, Star Trek TNG, and Star Trek Voyager on a regular basis.
  1. A favorite author? Nalini Singh and JR Ward
  1. A favorite book? Three Musketeers
  1. A favorite visual artist? Boris Vallejo, Michael Whelan, Luis Royo
  1. A favorite musical artist? Evanescence, Lindsey Stirling, Etta James
  1. Any song stuck your head? At the moment? “It’s always best to match your tea and cake. Look at all the colors. What matches can you make.” I bet you can’t get that out of your head either.
  1. A favorite website? Lifehacker.com
  1. Pet peeve? When people use “i” or “u” when emailing. Texting I can live with although I don’t like it, but in an email? Also, spitting in public. Gross.
  1. You have one last meal. What do you want to see on that plate? Ukrainian Potato Salad, Hubs oven-baked chicken, and Grandma’s Napoleon cake.

    Fiona Jayde’s book cover design for William W. Johnstone’s The Uninvited buzzes with a nightmarish insect motif.

THE REAL INTERVIEW

Q1: Where are you from and where did your artistic eye and talent originate? Any artists, books, or movies inspire your style?

FJ: I’m originally from Old Europe, the part of Romania that was annexed by Soviet Union. My artistic journey started when I discovered internet in college and spent hours browsing through fantasy artwork. This is how I fell in love with fantasy artists like Luis Royo, Michael Whelan, and Boris Vallejo. The funny part is I couldn’t draw – and still really can’t, despite going to art school. Somehow, I always had a knack for all things digital and when I learned Photoshop, it was love at first sight. (Okay second sight, because it took me a bit to figure out that sucker.)

Q2: You’ve been a book cover designer for 10 years. What compelled you to start your own business in this field?

FJ: Funny story there: just like many writers who start out by throwing a poorly written book at a wall and declaring “I can do better”, I started out as an author who got a truly … shall we say … remarkable book cover and swore I could do better. Now, anybody with rudimentary skills in image editing can say that, but it took me years to figure out just knowing Photoshop isn’t going to cut it. What you see – the end product – is the execution. The unseen underlying factors fuse together marketing studies with compositional and graphic design to create a mouthwatering product package. (How’s that for a mouthful?)

I hadn’t planned on this being my career. I was working as a full-time web developer/project manager and doing covers on the side, but when I came back from maternity leave, my company laid me off. Best kick in the pants ever. I went into cover design and packaging design full time and haven’t looked back.

Q3: In the age of Amazon and ebook readers, are book covers as important in this digital age as they were in the days when hardcovers and paperbacks ruled? If so, why?

FJ: Book covers are just as important, but a much more “faster” scale.  People browse the same digitally and physically: a book cover catches their eye, they pick up or click on the book to see it close up, then read the blurb/cover copy. In the digital age, that process is a hundred times faster – instead of walking past books that may or may not catch your eye, you’re scrolling past tens and hundreds of books, and clicking on a select few that pop. The importance of the cover is the same, but the ratio of “what gets attention” is that much smaller now due to the sheer volume of things competing for that attention. It’s that much more vital to connect to your audience and make the best use of the tiny thumbnail you’re afforded when readers are browsing.

Q4: You use a “go big or go home marketing approach” for your book cover designs. How may this marketing approach differ from the author’s vision?

Fiona Jayde’s book cover design for William W. Johnstone’s A Crying Shame inserts the mysterious image of a bloody body amid the haunting mist of a secluded swamp.

FJ: For the most part, it’s literally about making the most marketable aspect of the cover as big as possible, and reminding the authors that readers haven’t read the book. For example, an author I recently worked with had a series where the heroine could throw blue fire. Marketable? HUGE! The heroine also happened to turn that fire into blue flaming raccoons. The author LOVES raccoons. Cute? Yes. Marketable? Not for the genre she was targeting. Therefore, Chick with Blue Fire=Big. Raccoons got 86ed.

Q5: You do book cover design for all genres, including horror and fantasy. Do you have a favorite genre? If so, why?

FJ: I don’t know if I have a favorite genre, since most of the work I do all boils down to “pop” factor. As long as I can add “pop” somewhere, I’m happy, regardless of genre. Plus multiple genres ensure I don’t “phone it in” and get too comfortable. This way I can offer fresh takes on existing genre visual “tropes.”

Q6: What’s the key in a successful collaboration with authors in creating book cover designs? Do most authors have a specific cover in mind or do they give you a lot of latitude in your design?

FJ: Successful collaboration works best with clear communication, zero ego and the same goal: a marketable book cover. I like to fuse together an author’s unique premise with what is marketable, and as long as the author works from the “readers haven’t read the book yet” we work exceptionally well together.

For example, an author can request their name to be huge on the cover. That request could be a marketing thing if they have a lot of followers and their name alone can draw a reader. On the other hand, if they are just starting out, a huge name will be an “empty” focal point, covering up something that could be much more marketable for the genre. And if we go back to that small thumbnail, a reader who sees a giant name that they don’t recognize will easily move on to a book with a smaller just as unrecognizable name with a huge visual que for the genre. As long as both the author and I communicate on that level – cold hard marketing being the goal, we will collaborate beautifully and produce a marketable cover.

Q7: Which book was the easiest to create a cover for and why? Which book was the most difficult and why? Or do all covers take about the same amount of time and creative energy?

FJ: The easiest covers boil down to how visual/descriptive and “grounded” an author’s world is. For example, I just had completed a series where the heroine is a witch and had very specific objects/symbols prevalent in each book. That series flowed very well visually because all those symbols existed already, we just needed to “bring them out.” On the other hand, I had a recent horror book with a very existential/internal theme and the author and I had several in-depth discussions about the book and symbols depicted there.

Q8: You won 2013 RONE Awards for Best Fantasy and Best Contemporary Romance covers. How important were those awards to your business and to you personally?

FJ: I’m going to sound like a jaded know-it-all, but in reality, the awards – while great for my ego – don’t really mean that much since the authors of those books didn’t exactly rake in accolades and royalties. Cover design awards aren’t considering the most important function of a book cover – to get click-throughs and sales. I didn’t learn to draw in art school, but the one concept I always carry with me is “function before aesthetics.”  If a cover doesn’t get sales, no matter how beautiful, it’s a fail. And a beautiful cover can easily be a fail if it doesn’t communicate to the target market – aka, the reader of that genre.

Q9: Since this interview is for HorrorAddicts.net, I wanted to ask about your horror covers. They are impressive, particularly the ones for The Uninvited, Carnival, and A Crying Shame, all authored by William W. Johnstone. What inspires you to create such unsettling yet beautiful horror book covers?

FJ: Thank you! That clown in Carnival creeped the heck out of me 🙂 Horror is a chance to play for me because the job here is to BE unbalanced and unsettled, to convey that feeling. Most covers are about white space and balance of elements, but horror puts those rules on their ears. Plus, it’s an opportunity for me to bust out the photoshop blood brushes.

Q10: What scares you?

FJ: Although I’m not a writer anymore, I have an incredibly active imagination and ability to spin a plot from the most minute events. Then I end up scaring myself building scenarios in the sand. But in terms of less existential and more real answer, I am terrified of getting lost. I have a terrible time following directions – with GPS no less – and regardless of logically knowing I have a cellphone and can stop for directions, I have an irrational fear of getting lost when trying to drive someplace new.


Check out Fiona Jayde’s book cover designs and services for authors on her website: http://fionajaydemedia.com/