THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Eighteen: The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot

bigfootfiles

(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

I don’t know if a movie could live up to a title like The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot, so I wasn’t too disappointed when it fell short. I expected an epic action film based on the trailer, but what I watched was a dramatic character study about an aging man grappling with his past.

the man who killed hitler

The 2018 movie was written and directed by Robert D. Krzykowski and starred Sam Elliott as the man of the title. Elliott plays the world-weary Calvin Barr, an honest but lonely codger when we meet him in the 1980s.

We learn in flashbacks how young Calvin (played by Aidan Turner) assassinated Hitler, and we meet a woman named Maxine who Calvin loved way back then. The flashbacks are efficient but lack emotional heft.

As an old man, Calvin lives a solitary existence with his dog and his regrets. Maxine’s absence is never really explained. Calvin visits his younger brother, a barber named Ed played by the affable Larry Miller. As a child, Ed gave Calvin his favorite toy dinosaur when Calvin left for military service. So, while the brothers aren’t close, we can tell Ed loves and respects Calvin.

The story picks up the pace when government agents appear at Calvin’s door one night. A Bigfoot is on the loose in Canada and carrying a “nightmare plague” with the potential to wipe out humanity. The agents explain that Calvin’s experience tracking Hitler and his immunity to the virus make him the only viable option to hunt and kill the Bigfoot.

The best part of the film is Calvin’s too-brief Bigfoot hunt. The Bigfoot is savage and one of the more realistic ones on film thanks to an awesome job by the costume designers and makeup department. I wanted a lot more Bigfoot, hoping for a twist of some kind. But no, the story is as straightforward as Calvin’s demeanor.

The movie maintained my interest through the end, but it felt incomplete. We learn about young Calvin as Hitler’s assassin and the woman he loved, and we experience old Calvin as the crusty, old-school Bigfoot hunter. And that’s it.

What’s missing is the middle to Calvin’s story, and I need the middle like I need the crème filling between my two Oreo wafers.  I would still recommend the film just like I would still eat the Oreo wafers minus the filling. It’s just not as sweet.

In his room, Calvin keeps a box under his bed that’s vitally important to him, but the contents are never revealed. Maybe it represents the part of someone that we never really know, the part that truly defines a person. After all, Calvin was not just the man who killed Hitler and Bigfoot. He was more, but we’re barely allowed a glimpse of that part.

For example, when Calvin returned Ed’s toy dinosaur to him near the end, the gesture let Ed know that his taciturn brother always loved him. It resonated emotionally. I needed more of those kinds of scenes.

In a film with Hitler and Bigfoot in the title, I thought how odd that the most powerful moment featured a tiny toy dinosaur.

 

NEXT UP: Chapter Nineteen: Sasquatch. I review the 2014 novel by K.T. Tomb.


Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. His short stories have appeared in more than two dozen anthologies, magazines, and ezines, including The Best of Iron Faerie Publishing 2019; America’s Emerging Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers: Deep South; and Alabama’s Emerging Writers. His short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition, All Hallows’ Prose. Drop by https://lionelraygreen.com/ and say hello.


MORE BIGFOOT MOVIE REVIEWS …

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Nine: Stomping Ground

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Eight: Abominable

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Seven: Willow Creek

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Six: Big Legend

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Seventeen: Bigfoot Trail

bigfootfiles

(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

Bigfoot Trail is a horror novel by Eric S. Brown released in 2019 by Severed Press. Brown is an author who loves writing about Sasquatch, and Bigfoot Trail is another entry into his lengthy catalog of cryptid fiction.

Bigfoot Trail

Bigfoot Trail is a grisly tale about campers, hikers, and forest rangers who are slaughtered in the woods by a group of Sasquatch. The only wrinkle in the story is caused by one of the hikers, a Wiccan named Jade. She convinces the other hikers to participate in a summoning ritual to call forth the “spirit of the trail.”

Flames shoot up from the campfire during the ritual, but Jade is not sure what she summoned. The Sasquatch and the hikers find out soon enough as another mythic creature from Cherokee folklore joins the fray.

Bigfoot Trail is basically a B-movie creature feature, heavy on gore and action and light on exposition and character development. The book gave me a Friday the 13th vibe with the Sasquatch attacks reminiscent of a Jason Voorhees killing spree. Like Friday the 13th, the only question left to answer in Bigfoot Trail is who, if anyone, will survive the night?

NEXT UP: Chapter Eighteen: The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot. I review the 2018 film directed by Robert D. Krzykowski.


Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. His short stories have appeared in more than two dozen anthologies, magazines, and ezines, including The Best of Iron Faerie Publishing 2019; America’s Emerging Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers: Deep South; and Alabama’s Emerging Writers. His short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition, All Hallows’ Prose. Drop by https://lionelraygreen.com/ and say hello.


MORE BIGFOOT BOOK REVIEWS …

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Fifteen: Night of the Sasquatch

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Five: Wood Ape

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Four: ‘The Road Best Not Taken’

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Three: Swamp Monster Massacre

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Two: Dweller

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Sixteen: Something in the Woods

bigfootfiles

(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

The Bigfoot movie Something in the Woods is a low-budget, independent film produced by GodZone Ministry and Saving Oscar Productions. The movie is available on Amazon Prime with a respectable rating of 3.5 stars out of 5.

Based on true events, the 2015 film chronicles a blue-collar family’s encounters with Bigfoot in the 1960s. Starring David D. Ford (who also directed with Tony Gibson), Something in the Woods is old-fashioned filmmaking with a deliberate pace and no-nonsense style. None of the characters are flashy, but they are relatable. Ford plays John Hartman, a God-fearing husband and father of two sons, who faces an unknown threat to his family.

something in the woods

Something in the Woods foregoes any hint of mystery near the beginning and totally embraces the Bigfoot plot. For much of its runtime, the movie focuses more on the family’s fears and reactions to the threat rather than the Bigfoot itself. Still, it is a creature feature and delivers all the typical Bigfoot signs: strange hair caught in a barbed-wire fence, nasty odors, vocalizations, missing farm animals, and the footprints.

The Bigfoot in the film looks like a classic Bigfoot, and its motivations are unclear. John’s motivations are clear. He’s concerned about Bigfoot hurting his family and resolves to hunt and kill it.

The scenes I enjoyed most in the film all involved Bigfoot and all of them escalated the eeriness and suspense. In one scene, John is looking for Bigfoot in the woods with his oldest son. When he realizes Bigfoot is stalking them, John tells his son to run home. Then, Bigfoot runs toward the boy. Intense.

My favorite scene involves the youngest son and an unseen Bigfoot outside his bedroom window. It illustrates the contrast between how the innocence of youth reacts to Bigfoot versus the more aggressive response of adults.

Something in the Woods adds an interesting twist during the climax but earns the moment with its consistent, practical storytelling. I enjoyed the movie and recommend it to Bigfoot enthusiasts interested in a story based on real encounters.

NEXT UP: Chapter Seventeen: Bigfoot Trail. I review the 2019 novel by Eric S. Brown.


Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. His short stories have appeared in more than two dozen anthologies, magazines, and ezines, including The Best of Iron Faerie Publishing 2019; America’s Emerging Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers: Deep South; and Alabama’s Emerging Writers. His short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition, All Hallows’ Prose. Drop by https://lionelraygreen.com/ and say hello.


MORE BIGFOOT MOVIE REVIEWS …

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Nine: Stomping Ground

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Eight: Abominable

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Seven: Willow Creek

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Six: Big Legend

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Fifteen: Night of the Sasquatch

bigfootfiles

(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

Night of the Sasquatch by Keith Luethke is a horror story about a family’s encounter with a clan of Bigfoot. The interesting wrinkle in this entry into cryptid fiction is Luethke tells the story from the points of view of the family and the Bigfoot.

night of the sasquatch cover.jpg

Night of the Sasquatch begins as the typical cabin-in-the-woods trope with newly married couple Wein and Stacy traveling to a mountain cabin for a honeymoon weekend with their five-month-old daughter Valery. During a grocery stop on the way, a stranger appears just long enough to warn Stacy to “stay out of the woods.”

The story soon shifts to the clan of Bigfoot alarmed by the arrival of humans. Living in a nearby cave, the Bigfoot characters have names and distinct personalities, and the males are engaged in a power struggle for leadership of the clan.

Members of the Bigfoot clan watch the human family in the cabin and try to warn them off with rocks. Their action prompts a call to police and a detective’s decision to watch the cabin for the remainder of the night.

The Bigfoot clan members argue over what to do about the humans. Should they leave or attack? Their decision fuels the action-packed climax, ending with acts of self-preservation and humanity in the pulse-pounding finale.

Night of the Sasquatch is an entertaining break for Bigfoot fans and takes less than an hour to read.

NEXT UP: Chapter Sixteen: Something in the Woods. I review the 2015 film directed by Tony Gibson and David D. Ford.


Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. His short stories have appeared in more than two dozen anthologies, magazines, and ezines, including The Best of Iron Faerie Publishing 2019; America’s Emerging Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers: Deep South; and Alabama’s Emerging Writers. His short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition, All Hallows’ Prose. Drop by https://lionelraygreen.com/ and say hello.

THE BIGFOOT FILES| Chapter Fourteen: ‘Bigfoot Research and Evidence’

bigfootfiles

(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

The fifth and final episode of Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth is titled “Bigfoot Research and Evidence” and focuses on what investigators claim as proof of Bigfoot’s existence. The episode tries to answer two questions: What does science have to say about Bigfoot and why are many so sure they exist?

Once again, interviews are conducted with the same players from previous episodes, so the finale seems a bit repetitive if you’re binge-watching the series. Overall, Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth is a solid primer for people newly initiated to the Bigfoot phenomenon. However, without introducing any compelling new evidence, the series lacks the revealing content likely to interest a seasoned Sasquatch enthusiast. Here are the links to my reviews of the first four episodes: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, and Episode 4.

One takeaway from Episode 5 is Bigfoot investigators are optimistic that advancing technology will improve evidence collection in the future. Another bonus: the episode shares examples of possible evidence.

A couple of impressive footprint casts are shown as well as an unusual handprint on a truck.

“Evidence comes in many forms,” said Cliff Barackman, a Bigfoot field researcher. “Footprint casts are some of the most compelling types of evidence.”

Recorded vocals of possible Bigfoot are also presented.

“We have a lot of audio that just you just can’t identify,” said Robert Swain, co-founder of the Arkansas Primate Evidence Society. “It’s not coyotes. It’s not fox. It’s not barred owls, It’s not deer blowing. Animals in the woods make some really weird noises and if you’re not careful, you’ll say this is Bigfoot. Recordings by far are probably the most evidence we have.”

Investigators play a few recordings of vocalizations heard in the wild. It’s exciting to think the sounds could be Bigfoot, but it’s far from proof of existence.

Hair samples are a third form of evidence. Wildlife researcher Doug Hajicek analyzes the morphological characteristics of hair samples.

“One of the first things that I look for is a tapered end,” Hajicek said. “The other thing about Sasquatch hairs is the fact that they have very little or no medulla.”

Scat, or droppings, is another example of Bigfoot evidence.

“There have been strange piles of scat found in the wilderness that do not correspond to any known animal,” said John Kirk, president of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club.

Finally, the photographic and video evidence is examined.

“When it comes to photographic evidence of Sasquatches, you need some scale items,” Barackman said. “You need to know a little bit about the background and credibility of the witness.”

Of course, the most famous and controversial image of Bigfoot is found in the Patterson-Gimlin film from the late 1960s.

“You can see the muscles moving,” Hajicek said. “There are breasts on the creature. The hairline makes perfect sense. You can tell the muscles in the back, the legs, the calf, the tendons are all moving. There was no technology back in 1967 to do that kind of thing.”

Derek Randles, a co-founder of the Olympic Project, is dedicated to documenting Bigfoot evidence.

“When it started, it started out as a comprehensive and aggressive camera-trap program,” Randles said of the Olympic Project. “It’s morphed into this study project now.”

Randles shared a thermal imaging video he thinks could possibly depict two Bigfoots.

“I think as we move forward into the future, Sasquatch research is definitely going to get more technical,” Randles said. “Just in the last 10 to 15 years, it’s taken a huge leap with thermal imagery especially and the quality of the recording devices.”

The footprints, the recorded vocalizations, hair samples, scat, and photos and videos presented as evidence do not equal proof for most in the scientific community.

“The physical reality of Bigfoot has never really turned out,” said primatologist Esteban Sarmiento. “There’s no body, no hair, no feces.”

Kirk thinks the scientific community should take the subject more seriously.

“Ever found a bear skeleton out there? No,” Kirk said. “Ever found a wolf skeleton out there? No. Ever found a cougar skeleton? No. People don’t find the skeletons and bones very often of animals that we do know about.

“One of the great difficulties in the life of Sasquatch has been the negative attitudes of scientists toward this,” Kirk said. “The scientific community has to realize that there is an enigma out there that requires resolution. You can’t hide your head in the sand. You can’t shrink away from it because it seems so preposterous. It’s not at all preposterous.”

The episode ends with the Chasing Bigfoot team following three separate investigations, two in Colorado and one in Missouri. The results included tree knocks, footprints, and a vanishing bowl of strawberries. Perhaps the most interesting find was strands of hair among the branches of a possible Bigfoot nest in the Colorado Rockies. Naturally, the analysis of the hair was inconclusive.

“Eventually, since they are real, one will be killed undoubtedly,” Barackman said. “Some logger will roll one over on the way to work one morning in his truck, or some testosterone-starved hunter will take one down and think he’s the man or some scientist will say okay here’s the bullet … this is going to do it. They are real and eventually, one will be brought in on a slab. Unfortunately, that’s what it’s going to take for academia or the public at large to accept the reality of a Sasquatch.”

NEXT UP: Chapter Fifteen: Night of the Sasquatch. I review the 2019 book by Keith Luethke.


Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. Lionel writes a column for HorrorAddicts.net titled The Bigfoot Files. His fiction has appeared in more than two dozen anthologies, magazines, and ezines, and his short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition All Hallows’ Prose. Visit his website at lionelraygreen.com and say hello.

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Thirteen: ‘The Bigfoot Adventure Weekend’

bigfootfiles

(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

Episode 4 of Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth is titled “The Bigfoot Adventure Weekend” and simply follows the organizers and the folks attending the 2016 event at Salt Fork State Park in Ohio.

It’s more informal and less informative than the previous episodes, which I reviewed. Here are the links for the reviews on Episode 1, Episode 2, and Episode 3.

This episode is an introduction for anyone interested in what happens on a family-friendly Bigfoot Adventure Weekends expedition. The event is a three-day, two-night camping trip and attracts Bigfoot enthusiasts from as far away as Canada, New York, and Florida.

“We started out with 12 to 15 the first year,” said Alan Megargle, one of the event’s three co-founders. “This year we’re close to 50. We have people here that have claimed to see Bigfoot and people here that have never been camping before. We have a whole mix of people. That’s what we take pride in this event. It’s for everyone.”

“Our expectation every year is that people come away and talk about it and realize it’s just a little more than about Bigfooting,” said co-founder Jesse Morgan. “It’s more about you can come out and have a good time. It doesn’t have to be so serious.”

“I think it was the third year we did it, and the group came back from the night hike and they were just freaking out because they had so much activity that was happening,” said co-founder Sharon Lomurno. “And they all came back to the campfire, and they were all chatting. That’s what makes us feel good.”

The episode features brief interviews with a few of the attendees from first-time families to more serious Bigfoot researchers like Robert Webb. Webb said he’s seen Bigfoot twice and shared photographs of his evidence (a twisted tree and a track at least 16 inches long). Webb leads us to the park’s Bigfoot Ridge and shows us the location of his first sighting, where he used a night vision device to see half the head, a shoulder, and the left arm of a Bigfoot behind a tree. He says he’s had more success with his “passive observation” technique than using howls and wood knocks.

The event also included a presentation on casting a Bigfoot print and a class about video and audio evidence. I have to admit hearing the audio playback of the howls of a possible Bigfoot was the highlight for me.

The centerpiece of Bigfoot Adventure Weekends is the night hikes where groups venture into the woods, using howls and wood knocks to try and stir up a Bigfoot.

“Ninety-five percent of the time nothing ever happens,” said Bigfoot investigator Marc DeWerth. “It’s just being persistent in your location.”

While nothing happened on the Bigfoot front, the night groups did hear sounds and movement, most likely an owl and coyotes. Trail cameras didn’t produce any interesting photographs over the weekend.

Anyone watching Episode 4 hoping for new evidence of Bigfoot will be disappointed. But if you’re interested in attending a Bigfoot Adventure Weekends event, the episode does give you an extended snapshot of what it’s all about.

I checked the website, and the next Bigfoot Adventure Weekend in Salt Fork State Park is scheduled August 28-30. It costs $140 for adults and $60 for children. There’s another one at Glen Isle Resort in Bailey, Colorado, from Aug. 7-9 for $150. Click here to go to the website.

Don’t expect to encounter Bigfoot at these events, though. But as one attendee said while gesturing to the other campers, “It really doesn’t matter if Bigfoot exists. This is what’s fun.”

NEXT UP: Chapter Fourteen: Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth. I review Episode 5 in the 2015 documentary series titled “Bigfoot Research and Evidence.”


Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. Lionel writes a column for HorrorAddicts.net titled The Bigfoot Files. His fiction has appeared in more than two dozen anthologies, magazines, and ezines, and his short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition All Hallows’ Prose. Visit his website at lionelraygreen.com and say hi.

THE BIGFOOT FILES : Chapter Twelve | ‘The Bigfoot Phenomenon’

bigfootfiles

(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

Episode 3 of Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth is titled “The Bigfoot Phenomenon” and focuses on how the cryptid became so popular by interviewing investigators, researchers, and people in the business of selling Bigfoot merchandise.

While the first two episodes concentrated more on the actual cryptid, this episode is more about the media that propelled Bigfoot to popularity. You can read my reviews of the first episode here and the second episode here.

While sightings of Bigfoot were first reported in 1811, the phenomenon didn’t take off till the latter half of the 20th century.

“When Bigfoot was brought to TV, it really took off,” said Cliff Barackman, a researcher and a member of Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot team. “I think that popular television programs have really played a role in kind of getting the subject out there. There was a surge in the 1970s. In the 1970s you had things like In Search Of …, but really the 1980s kind of shut that surge down.”

What happened in the 1980s? The tabloids turned Bigfoot into fodder for trashy stories.

“The tabloids would blast on the front page ‘Bigfoot ate my baby’ … or all those nonsense things, and we all saw them while waiting in line at the grocery store,” Barackman said.

Today, many in the Bigfoot “business” feel the cryptid is a legitimate mystery.

“I think Bigfoot moved from tabloid … to something the majority of people think there may be something out there,” said Robert Swain, a co-founder of the Arkansas Primate Evidence Society.

Episode 3 mentions TV shows and movies like Bigfoot and Wildboy (1977), The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972), Harry and the Hendersons (1987), The Sasquatch Gang (2006), Fishing Naked (2015), and Willow Creek (2013) for helping popularize the elusive legend.

Of course, with the Internet now, anyone can share an encounter – or a hoax – the moment after it happens.

One of the more interesting parts of Episode 3 is the interviews with the people who have used the phenomenon for business. Consumers can pay to go on Bigfoot hunts, attend conferences, or buy merchandise.

“The number of people interested has grown,” said John Pickering, core member of the Olympic Project. “And with that, you have economic things become involved.”

In Episode 3, you meet Jim Myers who owns The Sasquatch Outpost in Bailey, Colorado, where you can tour a museum and meet Boomer, a seven-foot-tall Bigfoot figure; and Michael Johnson who’s co-founder of Sasquatch Investigations of the Rockies and the Bigfoot, Yowie & Yeti store in Denver, Colorado.

“A lot of people come to our store, and they’re looking for answers,” Johnson said.

Snuffy Destefano, of Pennsylvania, specializes in Bigfoot chainsaw carvings.

“I make a living off carving Bigfoot,” said Destefano while at an Ohio Bigfoot Conference where he was trying to sell his work to the more than 2,000 attendees.

The Bigfoot phenomenon has spawned a community of thousands of investigators and researchers, and many are part of organized associations.

“It’s become quite a hobby looking for more evidence,” Pickering said. “It’s becoming more a social affair.”

“The Bigfoot community at large is like this big dysfunctional family,” said Derek Randles, co-founder of the Olympic Project. “There’s a lot of infighting. There are a lot of politics in Bigfoot research. It would shock you.”

Whether or not Bigfoot is real, the phenomenon certainly is. There’s even a $1 million reward out there for someone who can produce a Bigfoot.

“You’re getting more sightings because now Bigfoot’s mainstream,” said Bigfoot investigator Marc DeWerth of Ohio. “Twenty-five years ago, if you said you saw a Bigfoot, you wouldn’t even tell your own family because nobody would believe you. I think the mystery is going to be solved very soon.”

Perhaps primatologist Esteban Sarmiento summed up the impetus of the Bigfoot phenomenon best.

“If you live long enough, you’ve seen things that you can’t explain.”

NEXT UP: Chapter Thirteen: Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth. I review Episode 4 in the 2015 documentary series titled “The Bigfoot Adventure Weekend.”


Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. Lionel writes a column for HorrorAddicts.net titled The Bigfoot Files. His fiction has appeared in more than two dozen anthologies, magazines, and ezines, and his short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition All Hallows’ Prose.

Five Good-Bad Horror Movies Set in the Louisiana bayou

Review by Lionel Green

A Louisiana bayou. Is there a creepier setting for horror? A marshy wetland shrouded by fog-covered cypress trees and beset by creatures lurking unseen amid the muddy swamp.

Yet the murky waters are strangely shallow in the pool of quality swamp horror movies set in Louisiana bayous. Many take a cheesy action-comedy approach to the story, while others simply fail to take full advantage of the surroundings, probably due to budget constraints.

What you end up with is a glut of films mostly mired in mediocrity. However, some are fun enough to watch if you’re a fan of low-budget horror that’s good-bad … or is it bad-good?

I grew up in the 1980s, so I don’t mind when movies mix in a little cheese with the gore. Sometimes it adds just the right amount of flavor.

Here’s a list of five of my favorite good-bad horror films set in the Louisiana bayou:

1. Hatchet (2006): This one’s a straight-up swamp slasher, and it’s just a good old-fashioned horror movie. A group of tourists embarks on a haunted swamp tour and runs into Victor Crowley, a disfigured freak of a man who’s back from the dead and wielding a hatchet. Crowley’s an awesome villain who’s played by Kane Hodder (who once played Jason Voorhees in a few Friday the 13th films).

2. Frankenfish (2004): A not-so-classic creature feature, Frankenfish is a fun ride when genetically altered snakehead fish are accidentally released into the bayou, prompting an investigation. The special effects are probably better than they should be for a 2004 movie, and the cast gives it their all.

3. Venom (2005): A combo slasher/creature feature, Venom follows a group of teenagers terrorized by Mr. Jangles, a man possessed by 13 unlucky and evil souls. Mr. Jangles is another awesome villain, plus the plot includes voodoo.

4. Creature (2011) “Best watch your step. There’s worse things than gators, you know,” warns Chopper, played by the late Sid Haig in Creature, which introduces the legendary half-man/half-gator known as Lockjaw. Unfortunately, Lockjaw’s backstory was a little “out there” for mainstream audiences, and most critics trashed the movie in an epic way. Creature was actually released nationwide and scored one of the lowest opening weekends in history for a film released in more than 1,500 theaters, earning just $327,000 in ticket sales. It deserved better than that.

5. Snakehead Swamp (2014): I need more snakehead like Christopher Walken needs more cowbell. What can I say about this one? It doesn’t quite rise to the level of Frankenfish on the Snakehead-O-Meter (which is a totally scientific piece of equipment I just made up for this column). But at least there aren’t any sharks swirling around in tornadoes. That’s reason enough to watch Snakehead Swamp.


Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. Lionel writes a column for HorrorAddicts.net titled The Bigfoot Files. His fiction has appeared in more than two dozen anthologies, magazines, and ezines, and his short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition.

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Eleven: Chasing Bigfoot: ‘Bigfoot Encounters’

bigfootfiles

(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

Episode 2 of Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth is titled “Bigfoot Encounters” and is a mixture of historical accounts of sightings from the past interspersed with interviews of people who say they’ve seen Bigfoot.

Like Episode 1, the historical bits are the best parts. You can read my review of Episode 1 here.

The historical accounts are interesting enough to make Episode 2 worth a watch, including stories of a Bigfoot killing a trapper and a Bigfoot abducting a prospector. However, the interviews of modern Bigfoot witnesses do not add much to the Bigfoot canon.

The historical accounts start with a story in The Antioch Ledger from 1870 when an anonymous correspondent published the story of a Bigfoot encounter near Mount Diablo in California titled “The Wild Man of Crow Canyon.” The correspondent reportedly hid and observed two Bigfoots visiting his camp and wrote: ”It was in the image of man, but it could not have been human.”

In a book published in 1890 titled The Wilderness Hunter, future President Theodore Roosevelt recounts a trapper’s story at a pass near Montana’s Wisdom River. The trapper’s camp was destroyed twice, causing his partner and him to leave. The two split up to gather their traps before leaving, and when the trapper returned, he found his partner dead with a broken neck and fang marks on his throat. The trapper named Bauman reported seeing a strange figure before fleeing the area.

The wildest historical Bigfoot encounter happened in British Columbia, Canada, in 1924. That’s when a prospector named Ostman reported hearing “man-beasts” roaming the woods. Ostman said he was abducted by a Bigfoot. The Bigfoot carried Ostman for three hours before dropping him onto a plateau where he was held captive for six days by a family of Bigfoot. Ostman escaped by feeding snuff to the male Bigfoot, which made it groggy. Ostman did not tell his story to a newspaper until 1957.

Again in British Columbia in October 1955, a highway worker named Roe scouted an area for a future hunt and saw a female Bigfoot covered head to foot in dark brown, silver-tipped hair.

Of course, the most famous of the historical encounters occurred in 1967 near Bluff Creek in California when the iconic Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot was filmed.

The interviews of recent witnesses are tame and not filled with a lot of details.

Dr. Russ Jones, a Bigfoot researcher and author, said he’s spoken to many Bigfoot witnesses.

“I’ve had witnesses where it was traumatizing, witnesses that had to get counseling for post-traumatic stress, and people that have moved from wilderness areas,” Jones said in the documentary. “Witnesses tell me they think about their experience almost every day.”

Bigfoot investigator Ron Boles said as a young man he saw Bigfoot behind a tree 15 to 20 feet away while walking through the woods near Springfield, Missouri.

“To this day, that still affects my dreams,” Boles said.

Scott Barta, co-founder of Sasquatch Investigations of the Rockies, believes he saw the silhouette of a Bigfoot outside his tent one night when he found a print the next morning.

Bigfoot investigator Marc DeWerth said he came across a Bigfoot in 1997 while in the forests of Ohio.

Perhaps the strangest interview was with Bigfoot hobbyist Shane Carpenter who claims he’s been closely studying a family of Bigfoot since 2013 after he discovered them on a hike in southern Missouri. The documentary shows some of Carpenter’s photographs, but none of the pictures clearly show Bigfoot. Carpenter’s son and a youth pastor friend also claim to have had Bigfoot encounters.

Derek Randles, co-founder of The Olympic Project, said the most common way statistically to encounter Bigfoot is having one cross the road while you’re driving.

What should you do if you encounter Bigfoot? Wildlife researcher Doug Hajicek suggested investigating the area, document any evidence like footprints with photographs, and do not hesitate to report it to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization.

NEXT UP: Chapter Twelve: Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth. I review Episode 3 in the 2015 documentary series Chasing Bigfoot titled “The Bigfoot Phenomenon.”

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Ten: Chasing Bigfoot: ‘The Nature of Bigfoot’

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(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

Episode 1 of Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth is titled “The Nature of Bigfoot” and delves into the history and legend of the Sasquatch. While Bigfoot enthusiasts will likely know most of what the episode covers, I certainly learned a couple of interesting tidbits of Bigfoot lore.

Not to be confused with Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot, Mill Creek Entertainment’s Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth is a documentary with five episodes of Season 1 streaming on Amazon Prime. It’s not following the adventures of hunters but rather is focused on examining the history of reported encounters and the phenomenon of Bigfoot. Episodes are only 24 minutes long and move along at a brisk pace.

Episode 1 features interviews with a number of Bigfoot researchers, including the usual players like wildlife researcher Doug Hajicek, Finding Bigfoot field researcher Cliff Barackman, and primatologist Esteban Sarmiento.

The interviews are mostly speculation and don’t reveal any earth-shattering insight.

For example, Hajicek estimates a minimum of 4,000 Bigfoots roams North America. Barackman says Bigfoot is a species of higher primate up to 9 feet tall. Sarmiento says if Bigfoot exists, it likely migrated from Asia across the Bering land bridge and has the same distribution as other animals that crossed the Bering Strait from Asia.

Okay. Those guesses are as good as any. After all, who can prove them right or wrong?

I was more interested in the accounts of history reported by the documentary, which are mostly well known to Bigfoot enthusiasts.

For example, Bigfoot first showed up in North America via the rock art and folklore of Native Americans.

The documentary also speculates Bigfoot could be a relative of prehistoric ape Gigantopithecus, citing fossil records and examination of scat.

The first report of Bigfoot by a white man happened in 1811 in Jasper, an alpine town in Alberta, Canada. A trader named David Thompson reported footprints 14 inches long and 8 inches wide in the snow.

The term Bigfoot was first used in a Humboldt Times newspaper report about Jerry Crew finding 16-inch long footprints at a construction site in California. However, after the construction company owner died, his family revealed it was a hoax.

But Bigfoot was born forever into pop culture.

Despite the hoaxes, the hundreds of Bigfoot reports over the years are seemingly credible enough to keep researchers interested in the cryptid.

Based on all the sightings and evidence, some researchers think Bigfoot’s appearance is somewhere between an adult gorilla and a human being, and the cryptid is shy and nomadic, living in small family groups that have spread all across North America.

However, the speculation is all over the map. The most interesting parts of the interviews are when researchers talk about Bigfoot’s lifestyle.

For example, British Columbia investigator John Kirk said one report indicates Bigfoot sleeps facedown with his hands tucked under his head and butt in the air. Huh?

“We don’t know where they go to die,” Kirk said, addressing the mystery of why no dead bodies have ever been found.

The documentary addresses other questions like the nocturnal-versus-diurnal debate and whether Bigfoot is dangerous to humans.

The final six minutes of the documentary briefly discuss the other possibilities of Bigfoot’s nature.

For example, some say Cain, the one from the Bible who killed his brother Abel and was doomed to a life of wandering, could be the first Bigfoot. Others say Bigfoot is extraterrestrial. And there’s a paranormal contingent who believes Bigfoot perhaps travels interdimensionally through portals.

Rockies Bigfoot researcher Michael Johnson puts a lot of stock in the stories of the Native Americans.

“The Lakota Sioux call Bigfoot chiye tanka, and I love that name,” Johnson says. “They’re not calling Bigfoot an animal. They’re calling Bigfoot their brother. I think it tells us to a certain degree that Bigfoot isn’t necessarily an animal, but it may be a type of people.”

Many tribes of North America describe a giant, hairy creature who dwells in the forest, sometimes possessing supernatural powers. Johnson cites a Miwok Indian saying, which alludes to either the spiritual or the supernatural aspect of Bigfoot.

“The Miwok Indians say wherever Sasquatch walks, a lantern follows,” Johnson says. “We’ve seen this light phenomenon when they’re around. I think that’s what the Miwok Indians of Yosemite Valley were talking about.”

Native American Sasquatch investigator Winona Kirk says an elder told her a story that Sasquatch takes children who are ill but returns them healthy.

Overall, “The Nature of Bigfoot” is an effective introduction to Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth and a quick refresher course on Bigfoot’s history.

Bonus: You get to hear a recording of an eerie vocalization that could possibly be a Bigfoot, which made the whole episode worth my time.

NEXT UP: Chapter Eleven: Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth. I review Episode 2 in the 2015 documentary series Chasing Bigfoot titled “Bigfoot Encounters.”

 

 

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Nine: Stomping Ground

(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

The 2014 independent Bigfoot film Stomping Ground is more romantic melodrama than Bigfoot creature feature, yet I found myself enjoying the movie more than I expected.

Directed by Dan Riesser, Stomping Ground uses the Boojum legend of Haywood County, North Carolina, as the backdrop for a story about a modern-day couple taking a major step in their relationship. The Boojum, by the way, is a voyeuristic Southern Bigfoot who fell in love with a human woman named Annie.

The couple in Stomping Ground features Ben, a city slicker from Chicago, and Annie, a Southern transplant living in the Windy City. John Bobek portrays the sometimes condescending Ben as a nerdy fish out of water in the rural South. Tarah DeSpain portrays the feisty Annie as a Southern girl with daddy issues related to a childhood incident involving Bigfoot.

While Ben visits Annie’s hometown in the South for a nostalgic Thanksgiving visit, he learns from Annie’s friends that she hunted Bigfoot in her younger days. It’s not long before Ben, who thinks the Bigfoot legend is nonsense, follows Annie and two of her childhood friends into the woods on a Bigfoot hunt.

The two friends include Annie’s former high school boyfriend Paul, who still carries a torch for Annie, and lovable lug Jed, a Bigfoot enthusiast. Jeramy Blackford plays macho jerk Paul to a T, and Justin Giddings is genuinely likable as redneck Jed.

Ben is jealous of Paul’s subtle attempts to win back Annie, while Annie is initially content to ignore the men’s posturing. It’s an interesting enough dynamic that fuels the film’s tension, overshadowing the Bigfoot hunt for most of the movie. Still, the most compelling scenes are the ones where Annie reveals a couple of family secrets to Ben, which explain her belief in Bigfoot and why she moved to Chicago.

Once in the woods, the usual Bigfoot horror tropes start. On the first night of camping, Ben steps to the edge of the camp to relieve himself and has a rock thrown at him from the darkness followed by a menacing grunt. The next day, the hunters find a tree structure and a familiar footprint. It all seems too convenient, making the possibility of Paul pulling a prank to spook Ben plausible. When Bigfoot attacks the cabin where Ben, Annie, Paul, and Jed are hiding, the true natures of the characters are revealed.

The Bigfoot creature is well done, looking quite prehistoric. The film’s banjo-inflected musical score is notable and complements the movie perfectly.

Of course, I’d like to see more Bigfoot than what Stomping Ground briefly shows, but the film is a fun romp through the woods.

NEXT UP: Chapter Ten: Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth. I review the 2015 documentary series Chasing Bigfoot.

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Eight: Abominable

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(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

A heartfelt performance by Matt McCoy as Preston Rogers and a virtuoso soundtrack by Argentinian composer Lalo Schifrin elevate the 2006 film Abominable above the average creature feature.

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McCoy is best known to horror fans as husband Michael Bartel in 1992’s nanny horror-thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and to many others as gum-chewing mental patient Lloyd Braun on Seinfeld. However, his performance as Preston Rogers ranks among the best on the list of lead actors in Bigfoot horror films.

Abominable follows Preston after being paralyzed six months ago in a mountain-climbing accident. As a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair, Preston returns to his cabin in the mountains as part of his rehabilitation in dealing with the tragedy of his last climb.

Preston is accompanied by a creepy male nurse named Otis who leaves his crippled patient alone in the house for hours to drive into town. Left on his own, Preston uses a pair of binoculars to check outside where a group of girls arrives at the cabin next door to celebrate an upcoming marriage.

Preston’s spying fuels the most intense and horrific scenes in the film. Preston hears noises and sees a downed phone line, making the lack of cell phone reception even more isolating. When Preston watches one of the girls walk outside to find cell phone reception, he notices movement in the trees behind her. The girl disappears but her cell phone remains behind on the pavement. One of the eeriest shots in the movie is when Preston uses a flashlight with his binoculars to scan the trees and Bigfoot’s eyes appear for the first time.

The best moments of Abominable show Preston as he watches Bigfoot break into the girls’ cabin and kill them one by one. Hampered by his disability, Preston tries to warn the girls, but the relentless Bigfoot is on a mission of mass murder. It’s an intense sequence.

A scene in the bathroom after one girl showers is particularly brutal. Horror scream queen Tiffany Shepis plays the victim. As well done as that practical special effect was, nothing compares to the Bigfoot face-bite to come later. Kudos to the special effects team.

Only one of the five girls, Amanda, survives Bigfoot’s attack. Haley Joel plays Amanda to perfection as the final girl who flees to Preston’s cabin. The most powerful scene in Abominable is when Preston delivers an inspirational speech to the terrified Amanda where he shares the heartbreaking details of his mountain-climbing accident.

“I’m scared to death right now,” Preston tells Amanda.

“Me too,” Amanda replies.

“That means that we want to live,” Preston says. “I was given a gift that day. And I don’t know why. I mean, it was a miracle that I lived. And I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that I don’t waste that gift.”

Galvanized by his courage, Amanda starts helping Preston implement his plan to escape the cabin and the rampaging Bigfoot. I especially liked how director Ryan Schifrin incorporated Preston’s use of his mountain-climbing skills to fuel their flight. Of course, their escape is only short-lived, but the final face-off with Bigfoot is intense and satisfying.

Like many horror movies, Abominable features veterans of the genre in small roles. Lance Henriksen (Pumpkinhead, Aliens) makes a brief appearance as a hunter. Henriksen was also in another Bigfoot film I reviewed for The Bigfoot Files, Big Legend. The always solid Dee Wallace (The Howling, Cujo) is a farmer’s wife under attack by Bigfoot in a chilling opening scene.

Other actors of note in Abominable include the late great Paul Gleason as the sheriff. You may remember him as disciplinarian/assistant principal Richard Vernon in 1985’s The Breakfast Club. Phil Morris, who played Kramer’s lawyer Jackie Chiles on Seinfeld for three seasons, is a sheriff’s deputy.

The Bigfoot itself in Abominable is suitably savage enough to deliver the goods and passes the quality test of this Bigfoot enthusiast.

Abominable is a low-budget film that originally aired on SyFy back when it was still called SCI FI Channel. However, thanks to McCoy’s stellar performance, wicked special effects, and superb soundtrack, Abominable stands the test of time as a good old-fashioned Saturday night popcorn fright flick.

NEXT UP | Chapter Nine: Stomping Ground. I review the 2014 horror film Stomping Ground directed by Dan Riesser.

 

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Seven: Willow Creek

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(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

The 2013 found-footage horror movie Willow Creek is basically The Blair Witch Project with Bigfoot instead of the witch. Directed by comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, Willow Creek follows couple Jim and Kelly filming their visit to the site of the iconic Patterson-Gimlin video clip that allegedly captured Bigfoot on film in 1967.

Willow Creek

Jim is passionate about Bigfoot, and his girlfriend Kelly goes along for the ride to help him chronicle the adventure. They interview locals before finally entering the famous stretch of forest about halfway through the 80-minute movie.

“Babe, this is a dream I’ve had since I was 8 years old,” Jim says.

Jim’s dream is about to become a nightmare as the couple ventures deeper into the woods. Jim and Kelly set up camp and explore the forest, discovering some unknown scat, before returning to their campsite and finding their tent in shambles.

When darkness falls, Willow Creek spends 20 minutes inside the couple’s tent as Jim and Kelly listen to the strange sounds outside like wood knocks, vocalizations, and heavy footsteps. The extended tent sequence shows Jim and Kelly running the gamut of emotions, from romance to disappointment to terror.

When daylight arrives, the spooked couple decides to return to civilization. Disoriented in the woods, Jim and Kelly hear more vocalizations en route to a frantic and frenetic climax.

I enjoyed Willow Creek because I related to Jim’s enthusiasm for Bigfoot. Bryce Johnson and Alexie Gilmore do an outstanding job of portraying Jim and Kelly as a couple in love but without a lot in common.

Like The Blair Witch Project, Willow Creek is 99 percent setup with a quick, chaotic ending. If you’re expecting to see Bigfoot in action, then you’ll be disappointed. But if you’re a fan of found-footage horror, Willow Creek executes it better than most.

NEXT UP | Chapter Eight: Abominable. I review the 2006 horror film Abominable directed by Ryan Schifrin.

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Six: Big Legend

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(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

The 2018 horror film Big Legend, written and directed by Justin Lee, is a no-frills creature feature, meaning diehard Bigfoot fans should enjoy the 89-minute ride. I know I did.

Big Legend

Set in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Big Legend opens with couple-in-love Tyler and Natalie about to embark on a camping trip. Tyler (Kevin Makely) is a former soldier and hopes to make the excursion extra special for sweet Natalie (Summer Spiro).

However, romance transforms into tragedy during the first night. Natalie hears wood knocks and guttural growls outside their tent. Tyler leaves to investigate, a decision he’ll regret for the rest of his life. Some kind of beast grabs the tent and drags it along with Natalie into the darkness where she disappears.

Twelve months later, Tyler is dealing with survivor’s guilt on his final day in a psychiatric ward. He tells psychiatrist Dr. Wheeler that he believes Natalie was attacked by a bear although her body has never been found. Amanda Wyss portrays Dr. Wheeler. You may remember her as the iconic Tina Gray in the body bag, Fred Krueger’s first victim in the 1984 horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Tyler doesn’t really believe Natalie’s disappearance is bear-related, and the anguished soldier discusses his decision to search for Natalie with his mother Rita. It’s the most heartfelt scene in Big Legend. Rita is portrayed beautifully and too briefly by another horror icon, Adrienne Barbeau. You may remember her as radio DJ Stevie Wayne in the 1980 horror film The Fog.

The authorities drop off a box of items, including Natalie’s digital camera, left behind at the campsite after the attack a year ago. Tyler starts flicking through the photographs and stops at a random picture with a shadowy figure lurking in the background. That was my favorite moment in Big Legend. It was perfectly eerie.

His suspicions almost confirmed, Tyler loads up his gear and returns to the scene of the Bigfoot crime. During his search for answers, Tyler encounters another hunter named Eli, portrayed by character actor Todd A. Robinson.

Bigfoot is protective of his territory, and the human duo faces off against the beast in a tense showdown that had me flashing back to the 1987 sci-fi horror film Predator when Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) tires of being the hunted and decides to challenge the alien.

The most important feature of a Bigfoot movie is the Bigfoot, and I’m pleased to report the makeup department of Angela Bulmer and Jill Colwell do a commendable job. Bigfoot looked suitably savage and realistic enough to me.

I recommend Big Legend to those of us who enjoy an outing with Bigfoot. It’s a gritty little movie with big aspirations. Seeing Wyss and Barbeau on the screen again after so many years was an unexpected delight. There’s even a cameo by horror icon Lance Henriksen (Pumpkinhead, Aliens) who drops by at the end to introduce an interesting twist to the story.

 

NEXT UP | Chapter Seven: Willow Creek. I review the 2013 horror film Willow Creek written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait.

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LINKS TO PREVIOUS CHAPTERS OF THE BIGFOOT FILES:

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter One: The Idea of Bigfoot

THE BIGFOOT FILES| Chapter Two: Dweller

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Three: Swamp Monster Massacre

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Four: The Road Best Not Taken

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Five: Wood Ape

 

Author Interview: Horror author Jeff Strand | My Pretties

Horror author Jeff Strand delves into the ugly darkness of a serial kidnapper with his latest book, My Pretties, a gripping novel filled with twists that get more twisted as the climax approaches.

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My Pretties is about a restaurant server named Gertie, who believes her cousin is the victim of a serial kidnapper. To try and save her, Gertie uses herself as bait and wanders the streets at night, hoping to lure the kidnapper into the open. When Gertie tells her co-worker Charlene how she spends her nights, Charlene agrees to trail her in a car as backup.

Of course, this is a Jeff Strand novel, so nothing goes according to plan, and the vigilante waitresses go from the hunters to the hunted.

Strand introduces readers to a sick, soulless man named Ken who abducts women and locks them in cages that hang from the ceiling in a soundproofed basement. Ken’s thrill is simply to sit quietly in the room and watch the women slowly starve to death. However, Ken is husband to a wife who wonders why he’s late all the time and father to a son who doesn’t respect him.

While Ken’s family dynamic provides most of the twists and some darkly comic moments, My Pretties is ultimately a grim tale of torture and survival.

Jeff Strand

Jeff Strand

In an exclusive interview for HorrorAddicts.net, Strand discusses My Pretties and what he thinks of a recent social media thread where people listed their top five Strand novels.

HORROR ADDICTS: Where did your idea for My Pretties originate?

STRAND: The process was similar to Mia and Rusty in Ferocious, where I had my lead characters (in this case, Charlene and Gertie) before I had a story to put them in. I’d written their meeting scene and not much else, and did nothing with it for a couple of years.

The idea of a serial killer who puts his victims in small cages dangling from a ceiling, giving them water but no food, watching them for hours at a time, came separately and much more recently. I pulled Charlene and Gertie into that idea and that’s where it became My Pretties.

HORROR ADDICTS: At some point, your villain Ken becomes the focus of the story more so than your heroines, Charlene and Gertie. Was that the idea from the start or did Ken just keep developing as you wrote the story?

STRAND: I changed some of the details as I wrote, but the broad strokes of the story were always there. I did try to be very conscious of keeping the balance — you get more of Ken’s story than you may have been expecting, but I didn’t want to tip the scales too far toward his side of things.

HORROR ADDICTS: Do you prefer writing villains more than heroes or vice versa?

STRAND: I don’t actually have a preference. It can be fun to write a really nasty villain, but I also enjoy writing likable heroes. Ken in My Pretties posed a bit of a challenge because he’s a complete garbage human being, and I didn’t want the reader to like him at all. He’s not Hannibal Lecter or Hans Gruber — he’s a piece of crap. So, he needed to be somebody who could convincingly persuade women to trust him a little, but I didn’t want him to be witty or charming or have any of those “the villain you love to hate” characteristics. Of course, my natural instinct is to try to write witty, clever dialogue, and I had to pull back on that for this guy.

HORROR ADDICTS: You’re active on social media, and I noticed a thread where readers were posting lists of their top five Jeff Strand novels. Where would you rank My Pretties among your 40-plus books?

STRAND: I love threads like that because there’s always a wide variety of titles represented. I’d hate for it to be, “Okay, here’s the one or two books that everybody likes, and then the rest.” It’s always fun to see something like Fangboy (which I always knew was going to be divisive, and I was correct) represented, or that people are championing The Sinister Mr. Corpse. It’s too early for me to rank My Pretties. What happens, 100 percent of the time, is that the book I wrote is not as good as the book I’d planned to write. There are no exceptions. So, no book is published with me thinking, “My God, this is my masterpiece!” It doesn’t take long for the Written Book vs. Book In My Head disparity to fade, but My Pretties is brand new.

HORROR ADDICTS: Dweller is my No. 1 Jeff Strand novel, but I was surprised when I read your personal top five and neither of your Bram Stoker Award-nominated novels, Pressure or Dweller, made your list. In fact, you said Blister and Cyclops Road flip-flop between your favorite. What makes those two novels resonate with you more so than your more traditional horror novels?

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STRAND: I almost never revisit my work after it’s published, so it’s possible that if I wiped my memory and read my entire backlist, the rankings would change. As it is, I’m going to naturally lean toward my most recent titles. I certainly don’t think every book is better than the last, but I do like to think that the last third of my output is better than the middle third, which is better than the first third, overall.

There’s just a lot of stuff I love about Blister. It’s a weird and quirky love story on top of a mystery on top of a horror story with lots of humor thrown in. Cyclops Road is a bigger story than I usually do (it’s my longest solo novel), and I really like the cast of characters. It’s got action, laughs, heartbreak, scares — I think it’s my most entertaining novel. I’m also partial to Bring Her Back, Sick House, and Kumquat.

If I asked all of my fans to rank their favorites, it’s safe to say that the No. 1 spot would go to Dweller. I’m proud as hell of that book. It just doesn’t make the list of my all-time favorites of my own work.

HORROR ADDICTS: Lastly, I always like to ask if you have any breaking Jeff Strand news for us Strand fans and Horror Addicts?

STRAND: Well, I just did a really dark psychological thriller, so I’m shifting tones with the next one. This one will be very blatantly horror/comedy and a lot of fun. Monsters are included.

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RELATED LINKS:

Horror Author Jeff Strand gets Ferocious in 2019

THE BIGFOOT FILES| Chapter Two: Dweller

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Five: Wood Ape

A husband and a town both with secrets propel the drama and mystery of the Bigfoot novel Wood Ape by C.G. Mosley.

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“Actually, Wood Ape was inspired by a friend that is obsessed with Bigfoot,” Mosley said in an exclusive interview for The Bigfoot Files. “He is always reading books and listening to podcasts on the subject. Severed Press, the publisher I write for, has a lot of fiction available on Bigfoot. Knowing this, I began prodding my own personal Bigfoot expert for information and before long, Wood Ape came to fruition.”

Set in the small Baker County town of Dunn, Mississippi, Wood Ape begins with an intense prologue describing a violent confrontation between Bigfoot and a man named Cliff.

Flash forward thirty-five years later, the Schrader family – Harry, Lacey and seven-year-old daughter Alice – is settling into a new home secluded outside Dunn following a move from Atlanta. Harry, a school administrator, harbors a devastating secret. Lacey, a paralegal, is deeply troubled by Harry’s defensive and distant behavior of the past three months.

Lingering in the background is a cloud of suspicion hanging over the Schraders’ new residence. Many locals believe the house is haunted, a rumor perpetuated by the inexplicable disappearance of the previous occupants.

Lacey’s first trip to the grocery store ramps up the tension when she encounters an old man with a dire prediction:

The old man paused and glanced at the stock boy and then to the other patrons in the store. “You all know it to be true,” he said. “You all know she and her family is in danger … why don’t you tell her?”

More strangeness ensues when Harry finds a decomposed carcass in the woods, and his daughter Alice is spooked by something tapping on her window. Lacey’s drifter brother, Dwight, drops by for a brief stay but soon vanishes, mysteriously leaving his motorcycle behind.

The sheriff, Travis Horne, investigates Dwight’s disappearance, while Lacey investigates what happened to the previous owners, setting up the dramatic second half of Wood Ape.

While Wood Ape is a Bigfoot novel, Mosley manages to add an interesting wrinkle to the cryptid subgenre, particularly with Harry’s secret.

Baker County Bigfoot Chronicle

Most of Mosley’s other books are creature features, and the author even revisited Sasquatch in his follow-up novel, Baker County Bigfoot Chronicle.

“I do believe that Bigfoot is real,” Mosley said. “I’ve really researched and explored the subject in depth, and when you see all the many reported sightings that there are across the U.S. alone, there is just too much evidence there to dismiss it as only legend and fable. Sure, there are hoaxes out there too, but in my opinion, those are given much more attention than the actual, unexplainable encounters. It seems to me that society, in general, would rather not believe these things to be true and will take every opportunity to make it seem as though they are not.”

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C.G. Mosley

I asked Mosley why Bigfoot remains so prevalent in pop culture today.

“Bigfoot is a mystery, and everyone loves a good mystery,” Mosley said. “Not only that, it is a mystery that exists right outside most people’s back doors. I read a study one time that said almost three-quarters of Americans have paranormal beliefs. Obviously, Bigfoot is a part of that, and those beliefs will be projected in film and books for many years to come.”

NEXT UP | Chapter Six: Big Legend. I review the 2018 horror film Big Legend written and directed by Justin Lee.

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LINKS FOR C.G. MOSLEY

Social Media Links:

Twitter | Facebook |  Instagram |  Goodreads

Buy Links:

Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | SeveredPress | Amazon

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LINKS FOR THE BIGFOOT FILES:

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter One: The Idea of Bigfoot

THE BIGFOOT FILES| Chapter Two: Dweller

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Three: Swamp Monster Massacre

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Four: The Road Best Not Taken

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Four: The Road Best Not Taken

“The Road Best Not Taken” by horror author and video game writer Richard Dansky is a treasure I discovered during the Georgia Bigfoot Conference in April. It’s a riveting short story propelled by the eyewitness testimony of a Bigfoot encounter.

“I’ve always been a Bigfoot fan ever since I saw the Bigfoot episode of ‘In Search Of …’ way, way, way, way, way back in the day,” Dansky said in an exclusive interview for The Bigfoot Files. “It’s always been something I’ve been interested in …  reading about encounters people have had with Bigfoot. The story was actually inspired by an account I heard. Reading about that encounter I saw the seeds of a good story in there if I just expand it a little bit.”

snowbird gothic“The Road Best Not Taken” is one of nineteen short stories in Dansky’s collection titled Snowbird Gothic. Dansky is also a video game writer at Ubisoft, and his credits include work on Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Outland, and Rainbow Six: Black Arrow. He also wrote the novel Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands: Dark Waters.

Tom Clancy Dark Waters

While Dansky’s short story “The Road Best Not Taken” is a far cry from the world of Tom Clancy, his tale is a compelling illustration of how a traumatic encounter can alter the path of someone’s life. Narrated in the first person by a second-grade teacher named Barry, “The Road Best Not Taken” is a dramatic eyewitness account of Bigfoot with a twist.

The setting is a beach bonfire where four old college friends – Barry, Sam, Harris, and Jeremy – reunite and catch up on each other’s lives. However, the only real information Barry’s friends want to know is the reason for his breakup with a redhead named Jaimie nine years ago.

“I could tell you what happened, but I don’t think you’d believe me.”

His friends push Barry to explain what happened.

“If I tell you, will you let it go? It’s not a story I want to tell twice.”

And just like that, Dansky expertly hooks the reader, and you feel like one of Barry’s college friends sitting around the bonfire. Like Sam, Harris, and Jeremy, you have to know what happened between Barry and Jaimie.

And what happened was Bigfoot, but not in the way you’d expect.

Barry’s account starts with him driving from Chapel Hill to Elizabeth City to visit Jaimie during his college days. He hits construction an hour east of Raleigh and makes the fateful decision to take a shortcut. He gets lost on the backroads leading to his Bigfoot encounter.

Barry struggles at times to tell the story to his friends because they can’t relate to his experience. He’s like a soldier trying to describe the frontlines of a war zone to civilians who’ve never served in the military.

What elevates “The Road Best Not Taken” is Dansky’s earnest description of the Bigfoot encounter and his empathy for the narrator. Dansky seems to understand how a Bigfoot encounter would affect an eyewitness emotionally and psychologically.

Dansky is a Bigfoot believer himself and knows people who say they’ve seen the cryptid, which may be why “The Road Best Not Taken” feels so authentic.

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Richard Dansky

“I have eight friends who have seen Bigfoot, so I’m not inclined to call them liars,” Dansky said. “I have never seen Bigfoot myself. I’m a city boy.”

I asked Dansky why Bigfoot remains so prevalent in pop culture today.

“I think part of it is the mystery of ‘Is it really out there?’ There’s a little bit of realism to it you don’t get from vampires and zombies,” Dansky said. “And part of it is Bigfoot stands for the untamed wilderness, which is still a big part of this country’s psyche, I think.”

“I believe Bigfoot is out there,” Dansky added. “I believe Bigfoot is a large primate, and I hope he continues to confound and amaze us for many years.”

NEXT UP | Chapter Five: Wood Ape. I review the horror novel Wood Ape by C.G. Mosley, featuring an exclusive interview with the author about how the Bigfoot legend inspired his story.

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RELATED LINKS:

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter One: The Idea of Bigfoot

THE BIGFOOT FILES| Chapter Two: Dweller

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Three: Swamp Monster Massacre

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Three: Swamp Monster Massacre

Horror author Hunter Shea admittedly owes a lot of his success to Skunk Apes, the Everglades version of Bigfoot.

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Shea’s fast-paced, action-packed horror novel, Swamp Monster Massacre, is a crowd-pleasing creature feature about a criminal on the lam alongside a group of Everglades tourists trying to survive a pissed-off family of Skunk Apes.

Swamp Monster Massacre is also the book that helped launch Shea’s career as a writer of cryptid fiction.

In an exclusive interview for The Bigfoot Files, Shea said a popular TV show sparked the idea for Swamp Monster Massacre.

“The entire novel literally came to me fully formed while watching an episode of Bar Rescue,” Shea said. “I knew I wanted to write a Bigfoot book, but I had to take a different angle. And I wanted the heat of summer to be a character of its own, so my mind immediately went to the Florida Everglades. Settling on Skunk Apes, those smelly beasties of the swamp, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to strand a bunch of tourists in a fan boat in the middle of the Everglades?’ And what better way to do that than have them kidnapped by a criminal named Rooster. It was one of the very few times a story popped into my head fully formed. I wrote the book over the course of three weeks in a kind of fever dream. Little did I know how much that crazy little book would change my life.”

While evidence of the Skunk Ape’s existence is lacking, Shea’s discovery is based on clear proof of his unique writing talent in the horror genre.

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Hunter Shea

“I was discovered by my editor at Kensington/Pinnacle when he read the book,” Shea said. “That turned into a three mass market paperback deal and other books that have followed. It also set me on my cryptid course. I’ve now written about the Jersey Devil, Orang Pendeks, the Loch Ness Monster, the Dover Demon, and so many more. In fact, I kind of combine the beasts and many of the characters from those standalone books into my Patreon only choose-your-adventure story, Clash of the Cryptids. That book led me to meeting and befriending real cryptozoologists, including Loren Coleman. I’ve even had some of my books on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. It’s kind of crazy to think how so much has come from a book called Swamp Monster Massacre. It’s a dream come true in a very weird way.”

Swamp Monster Massacre begins with a hot-under-the-collar criminal named Rooster Murphy prying his knuckle from the shattered eye socket of a Cuban named Cheech after a gun deal gone wrong. Rooster soon finds himself on the run from three vengeful Cubans and commandeers an airboat of tourists to escape.

On the boat are pilot Mick and seven passengers. The passenger list includes two Jersey Shore-type guys Angelo and Dominic; identical twin blonde college girls Liz and Maddie; older married couple John and Carol; and businessman Jack.

Rooster doesn’t want to hurt anybody. He just wants to reach a safe house hidden in the Everglades that his father showed him when he was old enough to learn the family business. However, the passengers don’t know Rooster’s intentions and attempt to disarm him, resulting in a boat wreck that strands everyone in the middle of the swamp, miles away from the safe house.

Unfortunately, the boat happened to hit a young Skunk Ape standing on the shore, killing it and sending the other Skunk Apes into a bloodlust of vengeance. The rest of the story follows Rooster, Mick, and the tourists into the Everglades where the family of Skunk Apes hounds the group, picking off the humans one by one.

Shea writes the action at a breathless pace but doesn’t forget to include details of the swamp’s heat and mosquitoes, which makes the setting a character of its own. Despite the gory nature of the book (Massacre is in the title), Shea provides a kind of comedy relief with some of his dialogue and descriptive metaphors.

He saves some of his best descriptions for the Skunk Apes:

  • “Four hairy monsters, the smallest at just about seven feet, the largest over eight, stood side by side on the shore, bellowing with murderous intent. All had broad, muscular chests, and one sported a pair of drooping, furred breasts. The hair on their heads was long, like an 80s glam band gone rogue. Their immense, talon-like hands hung low, almost to their knees. A small amount of bronze flesh was visible on their faces, but the rest of them just looked like bipedal woolly mammoths. And their eyes! Eight flaming eyes bored out from under all that hair and filth.”
  • The Skunk Ape’s smell? “It was like a combination of gasoline, body odor, wet dog, and the inside of a baby’s diaper.”
  • The Skunk Ape’s sound? “Suddenly, there was a loud roar, like what Rooster would imagine a tiger caught in a bear trap would sound like.”

One of my favorite lines is when Rooster tries to convince the pilot that they need to get moving: “It’s either that, or sit here like a corn dog on a dinner plate.”

The climax of Swamp Monster Massacre is brutal as the story dips into extreme elements of horror for the finale, but what a wild ride at the end. The tone of the book reminded me of the 1987 film Predator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, where the tension of a possible surprise attack at any moment keeps everyone on edge.

Shea’s interest in and ability to write about cryptids is legit, and among his many cryptid titles is Savage Jungle, a novel about Sumatra’s version of Bigfoot, the Orang Pendek.

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I asked Shea if he believes in Bigfoot.

“I believe there is a high probability that Bigfoot is real, but perhaps not in the way that people think and hope,” Shea explained. “I’m not on board with the interdimensional Sasquatch theory, nor do I think they are aligned with extraterrestrial interlopers. I think that whatever they are is something beyond our modern comprehension. That goes for ghosts and ETs as well. Somehow, they are all connected and have always been throughout time, with different names given to them by succeeding generations of man. Are they physical beings? I tend to think they are ultra-physical, a form of life we’re not equipped with at this time in our development to even fathom. Anyone trying to explain Bigfoot is like the Buddha telling people how a cellphone works. No matter what, belief makes the world a much more fascinating place.”

I also asked Shea why he thinks Bigfoot continues to remain so prevalent in pop culture today.

“Bigfoot is fun for the city dwellers, a monster myth that makes for cool TV specials, bad movies, and some bizarre books,” Shea replied. “For the woodsy folks, it’s a killer campfire story that adds an element of excitement to a night in the deep, dark forest. I once took my daughters on a nature hike in Maine that was basically a trail that wrapped around Main Street. You could even hear cars from time to time. But when they heard what sounded like a wood knock, they nearly beat feet and ran the hell out of there. Fear is good. It’s a rush. It makes us feel alive. In a time where it seems like everything is at our fingertips, it’s nice to think we don’t have everything figured out. The possibility that our long lost cousin or the missing link is still out there, ready to redefine our notions of ourselves, is downright fascinating.”

NEXT UP | Chapter Four: “The Road Best Not Taken.” I review the horror short story “The Road Best Not Taken” from the collection Snowbird Gothic by Richard Dansky, featuring an exclusive interview with the author about how the Bigfoot legend inspired his story.

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RELATED LINKS:

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter One: The Idea of Bigfoot

THE BIGFOOT FILES| Chapter Two: Dweller

THE BIGFOOT FILES| Chapter Two: Dweller

Oddly enough, Bigfoot was not the original creature that author Jeff Strand had in mind for his Bram Stoker Award-nominated horror novel Dweller.

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“The concept of ‘the story of a lifetime friendship between a boy and a monster’ came to me before the actual monster,” said Strand in an exclusive interview for The Bigfoot Files. “I’d originally thought it would be a reptilian creature that lived at the bottom of a well. But that was too limiting for a book that covered sixty years, and I wanted the readers to fall in love with Owen, so I switched to Bigfoot. Well, something like Bigfoot. There’s a scene where they watch the Patterson-Gimlin film and try to figure out if Owen is the same type of animal. That gave me the whole forest to play around in and made the monster much more cuddly.”

Of course, since Dweller is a horror novel, Owen the Bigfoot is not as cuddly as Strand would have you believe.

Released in 2010, Dweller is a tragic tale of friendship between one lonely human named Toby and one lonely cryptid that Toby names Owen. What makes Dweller a cut and a slash above the average creature feature is that the novel chronicles a heartfelt relationship between human and beast over a period of six decades, starting with their first encounter in 1953.

Dweller is quite a remarkable feat of storytelling because of the time frame, but also because Strand’s tale is as tender as it is terrifying. Eight-year-old Toby initially encounters the creature (who he later names Owen) in the woods behind his home, but their friendship doesn’t begin until seven years later when Toby is a bullied, socially awkward teenager. Their ensuing encounters spark a relationship that Strand is able to ground in reality.

To me, one of the most poignant aspects of Dweller is why Toby chooses the name Owen for the Bigfoot creature. Strand writes:

“Owen – the human Owen – was the closest Toby had ever come to having a real friend.”

Toby had met a boy named Owen in sixth grade, and for about three months they played together every day until an incident ended their friendship. So, Toby has no friends now. How sad is it that the boy turns to a monster just to have a friend and then names it after the only human friend he ever had?

Owen’s story is even sadder as illustrated in the prologue of Dweller. A runt offspring, Owen is orphaned after watching humans kill his family. Owen runs from the killer humans, and Strand writes:

“When he stopped running, he wept.”

That last line of the prologue always gets to me. Can you imagine a young Bigfoot weeping — not crying, but weeping — after humans kill his family? It’s a heartbreaking moment.

One of the more interesting techniques employed in Dweller is Strand’s use of chapters titled “Glimpses,” which cover years of time in the lives of Toby and Owen in just a few pages. For example, in Chapter Eleven, Strand chronicles 1964 to 1972 in eight pages by describing a moment or two during each year. The glimpses are a surprisingly effective way to show time passing and to develop the characters.

One of my favorite glimpses in the book is when Toby is showing photographs from the iconic Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film to Owen. Toby thinks that Bigfoot shares a resemblance to Owen, but Owen disagrees. It’s such a “real” moment.

Dweller is among my top ten favorite novels of any genre, not just horror. I became an instant fan of Strand after reading it and have followed his eclectic career ever since. Known as a master of blending horror and comedy, Strand has written more than forty books, but Dweller remains my favorite (and probably always will). Strangely, his one mainstream romantic comedy Kumquat is my second favorite of his novels followed by the devastatingly dark Pressure.

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Jeff Strand

I asked Strand if he believes in Bigfoot.

“I think the overwhelming majority of Bigfoot sightings are hoaxes or just mistakes,” Strand replied. “When I see a shaky video of an indistinct blur viewed through thick forest and the cameraman is saying, ‘That’s Bigfoot! Oh my God, that’s Bigfoot!’ I have to be skeptical. It’s easy to see what you want to see, and it’s easy to fool people, so I believe that very few Bigfoot sightings are legitimate. But ‘overwhelming majority’ doesn’t mean ‘all.’ As with aliens, I don’t believe or disbelieve either way — I’m open to the possibility. But I have not seen anything to make me say, ‘Yes! They exist!’”

I also asked Strand why he thinks Bigfoot continues to remain so prevalent in pop culture today.

“It’s just a fascinating idea, that there’s a creature living out there that may or may not be real,” Strand explained. “It’s mysterious and a little scary. Bigfoot is credible enough that you don’t have to be a complete whack-nut to think, ‘Well, maybe ….’ There’s way freakier stuff living in the oceans. So, he could be out there, and yet nobody has ever caught one or provided conclusive evidence that they exist. Even if you’re a hardcore skeptic, it’s a fun mystery.”

NEXT UP | Chapter Three: Swamp Monster Massacre. I review the horror novel Swamp Monster Massacre by Hunter Shea, featuring an exclusive interview with the author about how the Bigfoot legend inspired his story and how the book changed his life.

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RELATED LINK:

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter One: The Idea of Bigfoot

 

Short Film Review: LION

Film Review by Lionel Ray Green

Horror short film Lion is a powerful condemnation of domestic violence against children packaged as an atmospheric nightmare.

LION - Official Poster

Released in 2017 and written and directed by Davide Melini, Lion is touted as the most honored horror short film in history with more than 260 awards, according to the director’s IMDb biography.

Lion is set inside an isolated chalet during a heavy snowfall in a dark forest. A family of three lives in the chalet. The scene is simple. An angry, alcoholic father drinks and channel-flips the television. A helpless mother lingers in the gloomy shadows of the kitchen. Their eight-year-old child, bearing a nasty facial bruise, sleeps in a bedroom, its walls adorned with posters of lions.

The child clings to a stuffed lion and prays unconsciously, “Help me. Don’t let them hit me again.”

When the father wakes up from his drunken stupor, the television is on a nature channel showing lions in the wild. The father clicks the remote control, but the channel doesn’t change. The parents are about to receive a dose of reality TV.

While Lion is a pure message movie about the deadly consequences of domestic violence against children, Melini still manages to deliver an effective horror short, packing a feature film’s worth of suspense and tension into his twelve-minute nightmare.

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter One: The Idea of Bigfoot

The Idea of Bigfoot by Lionel Ray Green

I believe in Bigfoot. Or rather I believe in the idea of Bigfoot.

I’m not an expert on Bigfoot, although I have studied the legend intensely. I’m merely a fan intrigued by how the stubbornly persistent legend has inundated itself into American pop culture, specifically horror film and fiction.

Bigfoot is everywhere. In films. In books. On television in Jack Link’s Beef Jerky commercials and Saturday Night Live. On T-shirts and coffee mugs.

Bigfoot’s everywhere in my life, too.

Bigfoot-shoesMy favorite place to satisfy my sweet tooth is Bigfoot’s Little Donuts, where the cryptid is featured prominently on the sign and in the décor inside the eatery. I plan to attend the First Annual Georgia Bigfoot Conference in Clayton, Georgia the weekend of April 26-28. I have a Bigfoot crossing sign on my door. A Bigfoot keyring keeps my keys secure. My favorite hat displays a silhouette of Bigfoot surrounded by the words “I Believe.” My favorite T-shirt features the legendary silhouette of the creature. I even have my Bigfoot socks and slippers.

So, while I’m not an expert, I’m a diehard fanatic. I love the idea of a legendary monster roaming the wild, instinctively knowing to avoid contact with humans. While humans often portray Bigfoot as a monster in film and fiction, the legendary cryptid seems smart enough to avoid what it thinks are the real monsters of the world: humans. Bigfoot understands discovery means death.

Whether Bigfoot is real or fake never mattered to me because the legend inspires me nearly every day. I remain mesmerized by the definitive Bigfoot moment. Of course, I’m referring to the Patterson-Gimlin film clip that briefly shows a lumbering bipedal creature walking along Bluff Creek in northern California on October 20, 1967. Allegedly.

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It might surprise you that I think the film is a hoax, but an inspired hoax fueled by the idea of Bigfoot. Real or not, the film inspired me to delve deeper into the Bigfoot legend and sparked my imagination like no other pop culture phenomenon. Bigfoot is a top-five inspiration for my fiction writing alongside the books The Lord of the Rings and Boy’s Life and the movies Halloween (1978) and Babe (1995).

The name Bigfoot didn’t appear in the media until a 1958 newspaper article in the Humboldt Times, but stories of hairy bipedal humanoid creatures have been reported in folklore and history throughout the world. The most well-known of these reports are Sasquatch (an anglicized form of a Native American word) and Yeti (a likely Sherpa form of a Tibetan description).

While the 1958 article introduced the name Bigfoot to the American public, the Patterson-Gimlin film brought the legend into pop culture full force — and it has never left. The iconic frame 352 of the Patterson-Gimlin film shows the legendary creature glancing back at the camera. It foreshadowed a future of Bigfoot in the movies, where it remains a fixture in film and fiction.

Usually, Bigfoot is depicted as a savage beast with predatory tendencies who kills humans. Bigfoot is rarely cast as a gentle giant. Harry and the Hendersons (1987) and Smallfoot (2018) are the exceptions, not the rule.

The result? Bigfoot is as much a horror icon in pop culture today as vampires and werewolves. That’s what this column, The Bigfoot Files, will explore. I’ll review the movies, books, and other media where Bigfoot is featured. Thanks for joining this expedition with me. Hopefully, I’ll introduce you to some movies and books about Bigfoot worth watching and reading.

NEXT UP | Chapter Two: Dweller. I review the 2010 horror novel Dweller by Jeff Strand, featuring an exclusive interview with the author about how the Bigfoot legend inspired the Bram Stoker Award-nominated book.

 

 

 

Book Review | GATE 4: PART ONE: THE EATER

Book Review: Gate 4: Part One: The Eater by Terry M. West

More a teaser than a terrifying tale, Gate 4: Part One: The Eater is the first episode of a six-part serial novel by Terry M. West about a portal located in a bunker beneath a forgotten city in north-central Texas. Called Gate 4, the portal is the only defense against an ancient evil that could destroy the world.

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West

GATE-4-NEW-logo-ad-768x761The gate is guarded by a group of monsters recruited by a secret organization. The Eater introduces one of the monsters, a vampire named Paul Marrane. After leaving a honky-tonk bar, Marrane is ambushed by gun-wielding soldiers and approached by a mysterious mind-reader named Lucas Glover.

“I’m offering you a purpose,” Glover tells Marrane. “A chance to make a difference. To be more than a soulless killer.” Marrane initially balks but shows interest in joining when Glover promises to help the vampire piece together his forgotten past.

The Eater sets the table for an intriguing series by promising a motley cast of characters and by sparking interest in the mystifying force behind Gate 4.

 

Horror Author Jeff Strand gets Ferocious in 2019

An Interview with Jeff Strand

Horror author Jeff Strand is already having a ferocious 2019 following a productive 2018, which featured five new releases from the four-time Bram Stoker Award-nominated writer.

ferocious.jpgStrand’s first new release of 2019 is the Kindle version of Ferocious, an action-packed novel about wild zombie animals on the prowl in a forest where Uncle Rusty and his teenage niece Mia live off the grid in a cabin.

Strand’s horror novels, Pressure and Dweller, earned Bram Stoker Award nominations, but the versatile author has also written young adult comedies, horror comedies, and even a romantic comedy.

Check out his website and ridiculously long bio here. Purchase the Kindle edition of Ferocious here.

Strand, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, agreed to an exclusive interview with HorrorAddicts.net about his new book and shares news on a couple of other future projects. He even answers the question if there will be a second Wolf Hunt sequel.

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HORROR ADDICTS: Undead animals? What sparked the idea for Ferocious?

STRAND: I had no story idea when I wrote the first chapter — I just liked the idea of this gruff, antisocial guy living in a cabin deep in the woods suddenly having a baby thrust upon him after his sister died. So, then it became, “Okay, what can go horribly wrong in their lives?” After much brainstorming, I settled on “zombie animals,” which isn’t a unique concept but certainly an under-utilized one.

HA: In the more than 40 books you’ve released, Uncle Rusty and Mia from Ferocious are two of my favorite characters that you’ve created. I love their relationship from the moment she asks her uncle, “Did you get the tampons?” Where would you rank them among your character creations? Do you like certain characters you create more than others?

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STRAND: It’s fun to write a really nasty villain like Darren in Pressure or Ivan in Wolf Hunt, but I’ll admit that it’s more fulfilling to create characters that the reader really likes. In a book that has “once it gets going it never stops” pacing, it was really important that you start rooting for these characters early on. I’m honestly not sure where I’d rank them. At gunpoint, forced to choose, I’d say that Kevin and Rachel from Blister are my favorite characters, followed closely by the heroes in Cyclops Road. I switched the order after I typed that the first time. Then I’d cheat and say that it’s a tie between Uncle Rusty and Mia, George and Lou from Wolf Hunt, Todd and Amy from Kumquat, Frank and Abigail from Bring Her Back, the family from Sick House, and Toby and Owen from Dweller. None of these are individual characters — I tend to like my own characters based on how they interact with each other.

HA: What actors should play Uncle Rusty and Mia if there’s a movie version of Ferocious?

STRAND: I never think of actors when I’m writing a book, and this question always has me going “Uhhhhh …” I truly don’t know. Hopefully, actors who are pleasant to work with and don’t lock themselves inside their trailer because their coffee was the wrong temperature.

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HA: Uncle Rusty lives off the grid in a cabin deep in the woods? Does that lifestyle appeal to you or are you one of those city slickers?

STRAND: There are flashes of it when I’m stuck in Atlanta traffic, but no, I’m a city guy.

HA: A story of undead animals run amok could go over the top and off the rails quickly, but you played it fairly straight considering the circumstances. You focused on the human survival element in Ferocious, but did you leave any crazy zombie animal ideas on the editing room floor?

STRAND: The book embraces the idea that not all animals in the forest are menacing, and it’s not only the “scary” ones that are undead. So, I played it straight from the perspective that if there was a zombie squirrel coming after you, this is how it would probably behave, and this is how you would probably react to it. And one of my favorite scenes is when an encounter with a rather non-threatening animal suddenly turns horrific. But there really wasn’t anything where I said, “Nope, that’s going too far.” Especially not with the final beast.

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HA: I described Ferocious in my Amazon review as “pure B-movie creature feature fun.” Is that what you were going for or were you hoping to send an environmental message?

STRAND: No message. The only message would be “forest animals really suck when they become zombies.” This baby is pure B-movie creature feature fun!

HA: Uncle Rusty and Mia battle a number of undead animals in the relentlessly paced Ferocious. Have you ever been attacked by an animal?

STRAND: I’ve been bitten by a couple of dogs in my time, and at any given moment I probably have at least one cat scratch, but as far as “Let me tell you a gripping tale about the time I was attacked …” no, I don’t really have anything. A couple of years ago I was sitting out on the end of a dock on a lake, and a bear stepped out of the woods and walked right up to the dock. My thought process was, “This bear is almost definitely NOT going to come after me, but I’m prepared to dive right into that lake if necessary,” and “I want to take a picture of this, but I don’t want to be the dumbass who took a picture of a bear as it was charging him.” The bear moved along, and I survived the encounter.

HA: Are you a cat or a dog person? Do you have any pets that could one day become zombie animals?

STRAND: I love both of them, but I’ve only owned cats for the past 20 years. You can just leave out extra food and kitty litter and go to a writers’ conference and the cat will be fine. I’m not a world traveler, but I’m on the road enough that it wouldn’t be fair to a dog. Chaos the Cat is a gigantic blob and though he scratches me if I try to rub his tummy for one second after he’s decided that it’s time for this experience to stop, I don’t honestly think I’d fear for my life if he became a zombie. He’s not very ambitious.

HA: If you could be any animal, which one would it be and why?

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STRAND: Being able to fly like a bird would be awesome. Though I probably wouldn’t appreciate it if I were a bird. Am I an animal with human thoughts, or am I full-on animal? Because, like, my cat has a wonderful life, but he doesn’t think he has a wonderful life. He thinks we never, ever feed him. Being a dolphin would be cool unless I was captured by one of those blowhole perverts. This question is too hard. Why do I have to answer all the questions? What kind of animal would you be?

HA: Any Jeff Strand news you can break for us Horror Addicts? Can you give us a sneak peek on any new projects on the horizon?

STRAND: After refusing to answer that last question, I hate to refuse to answer this one, too, but there’s actually nothing that’s definite enough to post on a website. Well, okay, I’m working on a thriller called Stranger Than Normal, but it may be a couple of years after it’s finished before it’s published, and it may not have that title. I know what book I’m planning to write after that, which would be the next one published, but that could change, and I’d hate to lie to your readers. That would reflect poorly on you as well. I’d feel bad if you lost the trust of your fans. How about this? Someday there will be a Wolf Hunt 3.

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PR: Terror Films partnering with Screambox, VIDI SPACE

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Horror distribution company Terror Films recently announced partnerships with the streaming service Screambox and new online network VIDI SPACE.

Terror Films licensed 30 films to horror streaming service Screambox, according to a company press release.

Screambox bills itself as the leading streaming service for die-hard horror fans with more than 100,000 subscribers enjoying exclusive content not available on any other subscription streaming service.

“Screambox is one of the leading streaming services dedicated to bringing a wide variety of diverse genre films to die-hard horror fans so this partnership was a no-brainer for us,” Terror Films President Joe Dain said in the press release.

Some of the films on the list include Hell House LLC, the horror anthology Patient Seven, Dead Body, and the documentary Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary. Newer titles on the list are The Barn and What the Waters Left Behind.

Check out the full slate of films on the website of Screambox, a TV4 Entertainment company.

“This terrific collection of Terror Films titles helps Screambox fulfill its mission to deliver the very best in fresh new horror to fans every week and on any device,” said Screambox and TV4 Entertainment executive Larry Baird in the press release.

The partnership with VIDI SPACE features more than 30 Terror Films titles with a separate slate of films released at a later date from Terror Films sister company Global Digital Releasing. Offering subscription and a la carte options, VIDI SPACE is founded by the host and executive producer of the shows “Paranormal Lockdown,” “Ghosts of Shepherdstown,” “Ghost Adventures,” and “Ghost Stalkers,” according to the press release.

“As an indie company it’s vital to not only have our content on major platforms such as iTunes, Shudder, Amazon, Vudu and so on, it’s also important for us to explore new and exciting streaming platforms such as VIDI SPACE, which will only help expand the digital footprint of our films and ideally increase revenue opportunities for our filmmakers,”  Dain said in a press release.

A popular feature on VIDI SPACE has been the live-streamed premieres of new content that allow customers to watch and interact through an integrated social chat, the press release said.

“Our partnership with Terror Films is a real first step towards spotlighting a genre in the industry that not only demands constant innovation but literally and figuratively keeps us all on the edge of our seat,” VIDI SPACE President and Co-Founder Elizabeth Saint said in a press release. “It comes at the perfect time as we focus on expanding our other channels, particularly The Horror Space. The films they are bringing to us truly set the bar to what independent filmmaking is all about.”

For additional details on the release calendar or how to participate in the live streamed premieres, visit VIDI SPACE. You can also check out the VIDI SPACE-Terror Films promo on YouTube here.

Interview with Author John Everson

Flame Tree Press released Bram Stoker Award-winning horror author John Everson’s 10th novel, The House by the Cemetery, on October 18th.

The teaser for the book hints at a perfect autumn read:

Flame Tree PressThe teaser for the book hints at a perfect read for autumn: “Rumor has it that the abandoned house by the cemetery is haunted by the ghost of a witch. But rumors won’t stop carpenter Mike Kostner from rehabbing the place as a haunted house attraction. Soon he’ll learn that fresh wood and nails can’t keep decades of rumors down. There are noises in the walls, and fresh blood on the floor: secrets that would be better not to discover. And behind the rumors is a real ghost who will do whatever it takes to ensure the house reopens. She needs people to fill her house on Halloween. There’s a dark, horrible ritual to fulfill. Because while the witch may have been dead … she doesn’t intend to stay that way.”

Everson’s novels are dark and visceral, often blending horror with the occult and taboo sex. The Illinois author won the Bram Stoker Award for a First Novel in 2005 for Covenant. His sixth novel, Nightwhere, was a Bram Stoker Award finalist in 2013. Check out Everson’s website by clicking here.

In an exclusive interview with HorrorAddicts.net, Everson discusses his new novel, his past works, and what scares him.

THE INTERVIEW

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HORROR ADDICTS: Your 10th novel, The House by the Cemetery, arrived October 18th from your new publisher Flame Tree Press. Does this release personally feel any different than your previous releases in terms of anticipation and excitement? Or do all of them feel the same?

EVERSON: They’re all a little different, but this one is special because it’s the debut release on my fourth major publisher. My first couple novels debuted in hardcover on Delirium Books, a small independent press, and then made their big “mass market” paperback debut a couple years later on Leisure Books, which put them in bookstores across the country. Both of those debuts were big because – first book ever, and then first book ever in bookstores.  Then after the dissolution of Leisure, my sixth novel NightWhere debuted on Samhain Publishing, which was my second “paperback” home. After four books with them, I am now with Flame Tree Press, which is issuing The House By The Cemetery in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audiobook. That is the first time I’ve ever had a publisher do all versions of a novel, so… it’s a big release for me!

HA: You set The House by the Cemetery in Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, one of the most haunted sites in Illinois and near where you grew up. What part of the cemetery’s history or legend intrigued you the most?

EVERSON: I  am always fascinated by ghost stories, so I love the stories of the Madonna of Bachelor’s Grove, a ghostly woman sometimes seen walking with a child, and sometimes on her own. I wrote a short story about her for the Cemetery Riots anthology a couple years ago. And she’s really the inspiration (along with a famous gravestone) for one of my earliest stories, “Remember Me, My Husband.” But the ghost story that inspired the novel is that of a mysteriously appearing house, which people see in the back of the cemetery. I decided that for the novel, the house would be a real, physical place. But the combination of the ghost stories about that, the Madonna, and the devil worship legends about dark things that occurred in the cemetery 40-50 years ago, really fueled the book though they were inspirational, not directly “retold.”

HA: With horror movies breaking records at the box office and tons of quality horror fiction being released the last couple of years, the media is reporting that the horror genre is more popular than ever. Does it seem that way to you or is it just hype? Have any movies or horror fiction blew you away in the last couple of years?

EVERSON: Horror as a film and TV genre does seem more popular than ever. The popularity of series like Stranger Things and The Walking Dead, in particular, has galvanized a huge fan base. I haven’t seen that turn into a huge fan base for horror novels, because at this point, published horror fiction is still divided between Stephen King, Anne Rice and a few others published by the major labels, and … everyone else being published by independent publishers. When you walk into a bookstore, you’re not blown away by the preponderance of horror books, at least not in any of the stores I walk into. I hope that changes because certainly, this is the age of horror video. And without “writing” there are no films and TV shows!

As far as what’s blown me away … I don’t have a frame of reference because I don’t watch most modern horror films and I avoid TV series – because while they may be great, I just don’t have the time! I can either watch TV or write … and I choose writing. I have seen Stranger Things, which is awesome. But that’s about it for me on the screen over the past couple years. My movie watching (which happens every Friday or Saturday night around midnight in my basement!) is centered around older horror, giallo, and exploitation films, particularly from Europe, from the ‘60s-’80s. At the start of the year, I did see and love the films The Shape of Water from Guillermo del Toro and Endless Poetry from Alejandro Jodorowsky. Ironically, both of those films also look backwards in time, to other ages. My favorite things that I’ve seen lately are Hitch Hike, a 1977 film by Pasquale Festa Campanile, Death Occurred Last Night, a 1970 film by Duccio Tessari, and Pets, a 1973 film by Raphael Nussbaum.

HA: You’ve written a horror trilogy titled The Curburide Chronicles about a reporter named Joe Kieran battling demons. What about Joe caused you to return to his story two more times?

EVERSON: I never intended to. After the first novel was initially finished in 2000, I wrote a few short stories, and a year or two passed as I tried to find a publisher for Covenant, the first book. One day in 2002, I heard about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I thought … what a great way to jumpstart a book – write 50,000 words in four weeks? That’s insane! But I took the dare. I had an idea about what happened to Joe after Covenant, and in some ways, it felt like a better, more adventurous story than the first novel. So…I decided to use NaNoWriMo as my prod to knock out a big chunk of a novel. I still hadn’t sold the first book – and didn’t know if I ever would! – so I tried to write Sacrifice as a standalone novel, though it directly follows the first book.

So … when I finished Covenant I hadn’t had any thought of a sequel. When I finished Sacrifice, though, I thought almost immediately of how I might want to return to the world again, because I’d left a couple characters in limbo. However, the publisher wasn’t interested in a third book (third books in a series don’t usually do great unless you’ve got a mega-bestseller thing going on). So I had to sit on the idea of the third and final book in the series for almost a decade. A couple years ago when both Leisure and Samhain had collapsed and I found myself without a publisher, I decided, “what the hell …” and I dove in and finally wrote Redemption, the final chapter in the trilogy.

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HA: I cite The 13th as one of the best horror novels I’ve ever read and one that’s influential on my own writing. Do you have a favorite amongst your children (why or why not)?

EVERSON: I don’t have a favorite, but I have a few that I tout a little higher than others. Ironically, those are the ones that seem to have either sold less or been reviewed harder than the others! I am really a fan of Sacrifice, though it hasn’t sold half as many copies as Covenant. I love The 13th because it’s just over-the-top crazy horror fun (I think!) I really was proud of Siren, which had a dual narrative structure that was adventurous for me and dealt with some personal themes that also were important to me. While I’ve seen some people call it their favorite, that novel has faired the poorest in overall reviews (a lot of people are not happy with the ending), though personally I think it’s one of my strongest pieces. NightWhere is a big one for me because it dealt with dark, taboo themes that I was afraid to write about (and sign my name to) for years. But when I finally did it, I was really proud of the way it turned out (and it turned into an award finalist and has been reviewed pretty well).

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HA: Was there one of your works that kind of fell through the cracks that you wished more people would’ve discovered?

EVERSON: Redemption. It had everything going against it – it’s the third and final part in my Covenant trilogy, but it was released a decade after the second novel, and it was released on my own independent Dark Arts Books label – the only book I’ve done that with on a first run, because the original publisher of Covenant and Sacrifice was gone.  So … most of the thousands of readers of those first two novels have no idea the finale exists, and there’s no way to let them know unless they’re actively looking for it. But I think it’s one of my best books, and really ties up the threads of the first two books. It’s also my longest novel.

HA: Taboo sex plays a large part in the plots of almost all your novels, but it’s also popular in a lot of other horror novels. Why do you think sex and horror are so intertwined in horror fiction?

EVERSON: Horror is in a lot of ways, a “Christian” genre (there are people bristling all over reading that!) in the sense that, because a lot of horror is based on the crime and punishment philosophy of “people who do bad things – like have sex before marriage – are punished by DEATH!” There are a lot of “sin and retribution/punishment” themes in horror. Being punished for killing someone … and being punished for cheating and/or premarital sex are big themes that horror tales frequently tackle. Horror has always explored the “what happens when you cross the moral line” factor.

And I think that sex comes into horror a lot too because – when are you at your most vulnerable? When you completely open yourself to another human being. We’re afraid of the potential danger of that intimacy, and thus … horror stories!

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John Everson signing his latest novel, The House by the Cemetery.

HA: I know you’re a music lover. Does music influence or inspire your writing at all (how)?

EVERSON: Music is a huge part of my life and I don’t ever write without it. I can’t say that music influences my writing direction in a way (I don’t hear a song and write a story about it) but I do put on types of music if I’m writing particular scenes. Most of the time I have on ambient “dreampop” kind of bands like Cocteau Twins and Delirium and The Cure which set a particular “mood” for writing. But if I’m doing very aggressive scenes, I might put on mixes of harder techno stuff, from Covenant to Rob Zombie to Marilyn Manson.

HA: What music are you listening to now?

EVERSON: I’m listening to a MixCloud mix by one of my favorite DJs, DJ Mikey. I have bought so many CDs because of his mixes! I listen to this particular one all the time at night because it’s nice and lowkey. Here’s the link: https://www.mixcloud.com/strangewaysradio/space-between-us-dreampop-dj-mikey/

HA: Are you binge-watching anything on Netflix?

EVERSON: The only thing I’ve ever watched on Netflix was Stranger Things … which is actually the only reason I subscribed (the rest of my family now won’t let me cancel it). I’m not a fan of most streaming services because their libraries aren’t deep enough for me. I have a lot of niche, cult film tastes and really, the only way to get most of those movies is to buy them from the cult film companies that remaster and produce them for Blu-ray and DVD. Plus, one of my favorite things about watching an old movie is to watch the bonus DVD extras – all the interviews about the making of the film. You don’t get that stuff on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

HA: Have you read any fiction recently worth recommending?

EVERSON: The last novel I finished was David Benton’s Fauna, which is excellent!

HA: When you’re not working, writing, or spending time with your family, what do enjoy doing with your downtime?

EVERSON: Watching cult 1970s/80s horror, giallo and exploitation films – often from Europe – is one of my favorite things to do. Give me a beer and a new discovery from film companies like Vinegar Syndrome, Severin, Raro Video, Mondo Macabre, Shameless or Synapse, and I’m a really happy guy.  If I’m not going to collapse in a comfy chair to watch obscure movies in the dark, I also love to cook and garden and occasionally even do some woodwork – I’ve built an oak bar for my basement and a couple of DVD cabinets.

HA: Give me some breaking news about your next project or tell me something your fans don’t know about you?

EVERSON: I’m currently just a few weeks from wrapping my 11th novel, The Devil’s Equinox. It’s an occult-based Rosemary’s Baby kind of story that maybe shares a few themes with NightWhere, The Devil’s Equinox, and The 13th.

HA: What scares you?

EVERSON: People! I’m a big fan of the core message of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In the end, it’s really not the monster that’s dangerous.

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Triple Axe by Scott Cole

Triple Axe by Scott Cole is an outrageous grindhouse exploitation novel packed with plucky porn stars, frozen sex toys, and a B-movie vibe straight from the gritty screens of 1970s drive-in theaters.

Triple Axe coverReleased by Grindhouse Press on July 2, Triple Axe is about Jesse Jinx, a porn star who dreams of starting up her own film company, one that treats the actors more fairly and respectfully.

The problem is a killer is on the loose, using an ice-cold sex toy to dispatch porn stars at an alarming rate. The villain’s motive is as equally outrageous as the plot.

Likable leads Jesse and her friends Selina and Foxy Roxoff are survivors, not victims, and decide to protect themselves with, you guessed it, axes.

Triple Axe never takes its plot too seriously and works as a horror-action-comedy. Imagine Uma Thurman’s Bride character from Kill Bill if she were a porn star fighting off serial killers instead of international assassins. Now, multiply Uma by three.

I could tell the author had loads (sorry) of fun creating names for the porn actors.

At 89 pages in length, Triple Axe is a quick read with an over-the-top climax (sorry again) and a feel-good female empowerment theme.

BOOK REVIEW: Fat Free Nation by Naomi Downing

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Fat Free Nation by Naomi Downing is a compelling indictment of an out-of-control bureaucracy and the unintended consequences of government meddling. It’s also a damn fine dystopian novel every bit as intense as The Hunger Games.

Downing sets the stage of her dystopian world with a quick introduction:

“The year is 2148 and because of the rise of overweight people, our government created a law that everyone must be within a certain weight range. All junk and fast-food has been outlawed but can still be found in the many black markets. All citizens from the age of eight to twenty-nine who are overweight are sent to government-run weight loss camps. Over the age of thirty and overweight is a death sentence. The camps are split into three age groups. Camp One is for anyone ages eight to twelve, Camp Two is ages thirteen to seventeen, and Camp Three is ages eighteen to twenty-nine. If you age out of a camp and are not within the healthy weight range, in other words you can’t go from one camp to another, you die.”

Fat Free Nation is a fast-paced, dialogue-driven story about Jenna, an overweight 17-year-old who along with her twin brother is on the run from the fat police. From the opening, Downing efficiently establishes the relationship between the likable, feisty, book-loving protagonist Jenna and her protector-brother Will.

By the end of the first chapter, the twins are captured in a raid by authorities, including a sadistic bureaucrat named Major, and transported for orientation into a fat camp where failure results in execution.

Jenna enters fat camp weighing 210 pounds, which is 90 pounds over the government’s limit by law for her age. Jenna and Will have been on the run for 10 years, so adjusting to the highly regimented rules of the camp are tough on their free spirits.

The camp reminded me of an extreme amalgam of prison and Army basic training where the instructors enjoy torturing teenagers. Campers are tagged with trackers on their ankles, forced to write truthfully in journals, and given every opportunity to exercise.

I liked how Downing describes Jenna’s attitude when she arrives at her cabin at fat camp.

“The screen door creaked as Jenna walked in, there was no solid door. There were eight beds, four on each wall. As Jenna walked to the one at the end the smell of sweat and blood filled her nose. The door to the bathroom area was open and inside Jenna could see five toilet stalls, a row of sinks, and an open shower area. At the foot of her bed there was a closed door. Jenna dropped her bag onto the bed, wafting the stale odor of dried piss into her nose.

“Charming,” Kasey wrinkled her nose.

“I’ve lived in worse,” Jenna shrugged.

The fat camp boss Major is as cruel of a villain as I’ve encountered in a story. I winced every time Jenna forgot to address Major as “sir” because the omission usually resulted in physical abuse for the heroine. I wondered how much more punishment Jenna could take.

Major is extremely unhinged psychologically. If he finds contraband, he punishes the teens with ten or more lashes of his whip or 24 hours in a sweat box. Disrespect gets a bullet to the face. Escape attempts result in slit throats. Major revels in intimidating and torturing the campers.

My favorite moment in Fat Free Nation is in Chapter 4 when Jenna understands her desire to survive is stronger than she realizes.

“I don’t want to die, Jenna thought, this world sucks but I want to live.”

That’s as raw and honest of a self-assessment as a character can make.

Major’s right-hand woman is Starling, an assistant who follows the sadistic camp leader’s orders to the letter but doesn’t feel any joy about her job performance. Starling shows a surreptitious sympathy for Jenna.

About a third of the way into the story, a tragedy results in a bombshell revelation followed by another stunning disclosure. I’ll stop here to avoid any spoilers, but the rebellious Jenna’s will is tested time and again.

The only issue I had with Fat Free Nation is the final scene — really the final sentence — because I’ve never been a fan of cliffhangers. With that said, the last sentence is a hell of a moment.

Published by J. Ellington Ashton Press and released August 17, Fat Free Nation is a gritty dystopian novella as well as a powerful metaphor for prejudice and government overreach in our own world today.

Perhaps the most telling moment in Fat Free Nation is a scene where rage and vengeance are about to overtake Jenna, but a voice from the past lends her strength.

“I know you’re hurting and want to hurt them, but you can’t. We need to stay the sane ones in this fucked up world.”

That’s not only a powerful reminder to Jenna, but to everybody as we go forward in the highly charged political and socio-economic atmosphere of the 21st century.

Terror Films unleashes Freaky Fridays in October

Fridays are a little freakier for Horror Addicts thanks to Terror Films.

“Terror Films is set to release a new horror film every Friday in the month of October in a special promotion aptly titled Freaky Fridays,”  according to a press release from the horror film distribution company. “Each week a new film will be released in North America exclusively on Amazon Prime. An expanded release will follow on November 9th across multiple digital platforms, including iTunes, Vudu, and Tubi TV. Additional platforms will be added at a later date.”

The Freaky Fridays lineup features The Chair (October 5th), Furry Nights (October 12th), Flesh Blanket (October 19th), and What the Waters Left Behind (October 26th).

The Chair

The Chair is based on the Alterna Comics graphic novel of the same name and follows the story of a man on death row, struggling to escape his fate at the hands of a violent warden. The cast includes Naomi Grossman (American Horror Story), Zach Galligan (Gremlins), Noah Hathaway (The NeverEnding Story), Emmy Award-winning actor Bill Oberst Jr., and Roddy “Rowdy” Piper in his final on-screen performance.

Furry Nights

Furry Nights is a joint project for Terror Films, Cyfuno Ventures, and director J. Zachary Thurman. The film is about a group of teens on a camping trip who are terrorized by maniacs dressed in animal costumes.

Flesh Blanket

Flesh Blanket is a mockumentary starring late comedian Ramsey Moore as a morbidly obese killer.

What the Waters Left Behind

What the Waters Left Behind caps Freaky Fridays. The film is set in the Argentinian tourist village Epecuén, known for the healing properties of its thermal waters. A documentary film crew descends on the village 30 years after a flood destroyed it and finds themselves stranded and not alone.

BOOK REVIEW: Cannibal Creek by Jon Athan

The title of Cannibal Creek, an extreme horror novel by Jon Athan, is the epitome of truth in advertising.

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There’s a creek with a community of inbred hillbilly cannibals living nearby in the remote West Virginia woods.

Enter the Bakers and Riveras, two families who arrive in an RV for a family camping trip not far from the creek.

I immediately tallied the numbers: four adults plus three children plus one teenage girl named Jasmine.

That’s potentially eight meals for the price of one book.

Wait a minute. There’s Jasmine’s boyfriend, Joshua, who’s secretly following the family in anticipation of a romantic rendezvous with his girlfriend when the parents are sleeping.

So, a potential ninth meal.

The first third of the book lacks any real action as it introduces the characters, which are typical middle-class Americans. They’re nothing special, but I like reading about ordinary folks facing extraordinary circumstances.

Then, with one shocking scene of unexpected tragedy, Cannibal Creek starts delivering the goods expected in a cannibal story as the surviving characters respond emotionally and instinctively to the unthinkable adversity.

Released August 31, 2017, Cannibal Creek is heavily inspired by classic horror movies, The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, so much so the book could’ve been titled The Woods Have Eyes.

But like a solid cover version of a favorite song, Cannibal Creek is respectful of the original material and a worthy addition to the cannibal horror subgenre.

 

 

 

 

Interview with Artist Luke Spooner


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Carrion House is the online domain of England artist and illustrator Luke Spooner, whose work has appeared in projects featuring stories by horror masters Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, and Stephen King.

“I have a First Class degree in illustration from the University of Portsmouth,” Spooner says on his website. “My current projects and commissions include illustrations and covers for books, magazines, graphic novels, books aimed at children, conceptual design and business branding.”

Spooner’s projects include the interior artwork for Crystal Lake Publishing anthology “Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories” and the interior artwork for Bram Stoker Award-winning Crystal Lake Publishing anthology “Behold: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders.” Both feature stories by horror masters Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, and Ramsey Campbell.

Spooner’s illustrations are also featured in the anthology “You, Human,” which includes the short story “I Am the Doorway” by Stephen King, and in “The Dead Song Legend Dodecology” by Jay Wilburn.

 

In an exclusive interview with HorrorAddicts.net, Spooner discusses his career.

 


THE INTERVIEW

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HORROR ADDICTS: Where did your artistic eye and talent originate? Any artists, books, or movies inspire your style?

SPOONER: I was doodling from the moment I discovered pencils and things to scribble on. In those early formative years, it was just a way of emulating what I loved; I used to draw my favourite characters from television shows, books – even imaginary characters that I’d make up and try to explain to others and write stories about. In hindsight; the desire to communicate ideas through visual means actually developed earlier than my attempts at communicating through spoken language. I’m not saying I was any good at it – I’m just saying it was my first port of call once I realized there were things I needed to get out of my head, but gradually, over time, it became a tap – a leaky faucet that you really had to put your back into if you were to have any hope of turning off. It never occurred to me that some people just didn’t do it. It seemed so important and instinctive but as with most things in life; once you arrive at school and find peers of your own age staring back at you, you notice people and they notice you, the things that separate you from them start to become clearer and more definitive.

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HA: How long have you been a cover designer? What compelled you to start your own business in this field?

SPOONER: When I reached the age of 18 I had gathered enough understanding of the world to know that there was a chance I could do something creative, something that involved creating images to convey meaning, for a living – a way of making money to allow me to create images for as long as possible with no interruptions. It was suggested by my art teacher that I undertake a Foundation Degree at the Wimbledon College of Art in London.  Following this suggestion and applying myself to getting accepted was a confirmation that I was indeed going to do something creative as a profession; I’d sat across tables from other students with artistic prowess far greater than my own for years by this point and despite this I still felt very strongly that I could find a niche for myself that they couldn’t fit into. That degree, in total, lasted a year and was essentially, what became known in retrospect, as an ‘options year,’ a term suitably vague and confusing. I ended up in a scary umbrella option called ‘visual communication,’ which basically meant commercial imagery in the broadest and (sadly) vaguest sense. I was trapped in a room, right on the edge of Wimbledon like a dirty secret, shoulder to shoulder with photographers, graphic designers, typographers, traditional illustrators, children’s book illustrators and even a couple of fine artists who had severely lost their way but decided that it couldn’t have possibly been there fault. I barely made it out of that year purely through the department’s constant need to try and cover every discipline’s needs on a daily basis. We were essentially a broth with too many chefs and I lost any sort of direction or idea of what I truly wanted to be. However, I did survive it and based on the few tethers I’d managed to grasp over the course of a year under the degree’s instruction I decided to sign up to The University of Portsmouth’s illustration degree.

When I got to Portsmouth everything was confirmed. I was reminded of what I truly enjoyed and what I wanted to do more of in the future. The degree provided the perfect platform for me to start from and presented the bare bones truth of what the world I was trying to install myself into was and would be like, so any second thoughts I would have had were put aside fairly early on. The unofficial mantra that got passed down by the lecturers, and made frequent appearances in our group tutorials like a support meetings code of conduct was “what you put in – you will get out,” and while that obviously sounds like common sense, I can assure you that you’d be amazed at how many people decided to sit back, put in minimum effort and just assume the work would find them both during University and out in the big wide world of work. I heard from one of my friends at a London based art degree while I was Portsmouth that her department’s stock phrase was “nobody wants you,” which although incredibly depressing is an unfortunate truth.

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When I left University in 2012 I had finished my illustration degree; handed in work, filled 14 sketchbooks, written a dissertation on film noir, even wall mounted my work for an exhibition to be looked over by a horde of complete strangers – all over the course of the final third year. What I didn’t realise was that we although the work was handed in on 11tth May – we didn’t officially graduate until the 23rd July. This meant that we effectively had two whole months of not having a clue who we were supposed to be; were we students? Were we graduates? Could we start working without knowing whether we’d passed or not? The list of open-ended questions goes on and on but when you’re talking about a department full of potential freelancers you knew you weren’t going to get any answers – even the lecturers gave the impression that they now saw you as competition as opposed to the subordinates they were teaching a week previous.

There was absolutely no hope of turning to your fellow artists and finding out what they had planned because competition was verging on blood thirsty, so rather than dwelling on it I decided that I didn’t need to know what grade I got, or even whether I’d passed, to be a practicing freelancer. I had a portfolio to my name and a desire to work and seek out potential projects so, for those two months, I emailed and searched, rinsed and repeated, sending upwards of fifty emails a day until eventually one client, just as fresh and new to ‘the game’ as I was, said they wanted me on board for their new project and were willing to pay me actual money in return for my services. That was six years ago, and I haven’t stopped since

HA: You call your online domain, CARRION HOUSE. Why that name? Does it have a special meaning?

SPOONER: I didn’t actually live in the city I studied in when I was at University. I lived forty miles away and was working two part-time jobs, so I didn’t really socialise much with other students outside of the formal lessons and group tutorials attended at the University. I used to commute via bus and train and when you couple that with the fact that our schedule, especially towards the end of the course, was pretty lax it meant that not a lot of people actually knew me beyond being able to recognise me in passing me in a corridor. However, during the second year of the course there was a big emphasis placed on creating an online identity for ourselves as prospective illustrators through online portfolios, social media, blogs etc. We were encouraged to represent ourselves as more of a brand than a person, where possible, and so for two weeks I went through all sorts of names that I thought would highlight the dark work I was creating, and hoping to create, for other people.

There were some truly awful names amongst the list of potentials and some downright laughable, so I eventually decided to take stock of how people already viewed me within the course as they were, to a point, pretty unbiased and probably a good indicator of how people would view my work having not really known me personally. In the first year we had done a project where we were set the task of researching and illustrating an animal of our choice over the course of a month and producing some sort of ‘end result’ based on our research and development. I had chosen a crow as my subject and had jumped head first into my research almost gratuitously. The end result was a series of illustrations based on ‘The Crow’ by Ted Hughes and when it came time to present the research and final product to my teachers, alongside everyone else, the other students were slightly taken aback by how ‘into it’ I had become when they saw the bulging sketchbooks and development folders. Subsequently people started referring to me as ‘the crow guy,’ not in a negative capacity (as far as I know) but simply as a convenient moniker based on simple fact — I did nothing to dissuade this.

So, knowing that I was already known as ‘the crow guy’ I took the word ‘Carrion’ and coupled it with the word ‘House,’ because I liked the idea of appearing as a professional house, or style of illustration as opposed to just some guy who could colour in really well and that’s how the name came about. It may also interest you to know that I also work on children’s books under the name of ‘Hoodwink House,’ a name chosen because I don’t feel that the child friendly style of illustration I utilise under that name is an honest representation of my artistic self, therefore I feel like I’m tricking/hoodwinking both customers and myself when I put on that particular hat style.

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HA: I read your website where you have worked on projects that include works by Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, and Stephen King. That’s impressive. Can you talk about how those projects developed for you? Do you feel more pressure when creating covers for high-profile projects with big-name talent attached?

SPOONER: All of those stories have come to me as parts of anthologies, so they are packaged alongside other stories, by other authors and therefore it diffuses that pressure by normalising those particular names and reminding the elated fan in you that they are just people. I try to make a point of going through anthologies avoiding any knowledge as to who has authored what as it’s the story I’m illustrating – not the writer. It also prevents me from trying to mimic any sort of aesthetic that they or their publications are synonymous with and in turn raise the chance of me coming up with something genuinely original and honest.

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

SPOONER: Yes, of course. Covers are very important for conveying a theme or the essence of a book, ultimately providing an insight into what you might stand to gain or experience should you decide to have a look inside. On a simpler level; humans are sensory creatures so if you can appeal to someone’s imagination simply through the power of sight and image then you’ve already enriched their experience of a publication before they’ve even opened it. I would almost suggest that ebook covers need to be more illustrative than that of a physical copy as they are at a sensory disadvantage by not having that physicality and appeal to touch that humans enjoy so much.

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

SPOONER: I think a successful collaboration comes from a mutual understanding and respect between the client and the illustrator. The writer should never see themselves as some sort of divine benefactor that has stooped to the illustrator’s level and offered them work that they are lucky to get – even if that is the case, and the illustrator should never be tempted to hold their skills to ransom and demand inordinate sums of compensation. Writer’s should realize that illustrators are a key part to making their body of work, not just a marketable and interesting package, but a complete and fully realized one with multiple layers. Illustrators should also realize that; yes, they are artists, they should never work for free because it undermines the entire profession, but they should also be open to the needs of the writer and understand that just because they are talented does not mean they are entirely right when it comes to understanding a writer or publishers’ vision. Working in tandem with each other towards the same goal, making all criticism fair and constructive from both parties – they seem like common sense things to keep in check, but they are often the first things to suffer when a collaborative effort starts to break down.

HA: I see your art incorporates visceral colors but also you have black-and-white illustrations. Which do you prefer and why?

SPOONER: I genuinely don’t know. I spent a long time simply sketching in standard pencil, sticks of charcoal and standard black ink so colour rarely made an appearance in my work during my infant to early teenage years. Around seventeen/eighteen years of age I had access to my A Level college’s entire art department, pretty much whenever I wanted, so I took the opportunity to explore the use of colour in my free time (lunch breaks etc.) and did so quite sporadically. The result was that colour would tend to explode within my images, as if the fact they were no longer repressed was reflecting a sort of violent display of annoyance at me personally through the very paper or canvas I’d set myself to. So I don’t know which of the two I prefer but I’m very happy that they are both present and hope I treat both equally well.

HA: On your website, you have a section for your illustration work. You also have a section titled “Self Directed Work.” What is the difference?

SPOONER: That simply refers to the work I make out of sheer impulse and self direction. None of it is commissioned by a third-party, they are simply the things I create because I have to create. Therefore, there are a few slightly weird pieces up there as well as a few canvas pieces, which is a medium I don’t advertise as a service to anyone. As you can probably imagine; there is a massive amount of work that I’ve produced for myself that isn’t on that page and is instead going completely unseen by anyone other than me.

Spooner 7.jpg

HA: What scares you?

SPOONER: The idea of not being able to create or be creative in my pursuits or hobbies scares me tremendously. Once, while in a group tutorial at University, after summer holidays through which we’d been told to maintain a visual diary, a teacher asked to see what I’d amassed. Upon opening my book and flicking through it she went very quiet, looked back over everything and asked me if I had produced as much as I had because I was perhaps scared of not being able to one day. That question caught me completely off guard with how direct it had been but also provided me with the quickest, most uninhibited ‘yes’ I had ever given in my life.

BOOK REVIEW: The Crackhouse in the Desert by Dani Brown

The Crack House in the Desert is a horror novel written by Dani Brown and released by J. Ellington Ashton Press on July 4. Kindle length: 133 pages.

The Plot

In a bleak, dystopian America, a man journeys through the desert to solve the mystery of an apocalyptic event.

The Player

Vict is a survivor in a post-apocalyptic world who’s tapped to help humanity unlock the secrets of the past to save the future.

The Review

Is The Crack House in the Desert a metaphor for humanity’s addiction to self-destructive behaviors that destroy the environment? It could be.

Grim and thought-provoking, Crack House is a viscerally descriptive view of the future of humankind and where it could wind up if it continues along a course of drug addiction, environmental irresponsibility, and living without purpose.

Crack House is the story of a man named Vict and his journey to investigate the past to find hope for the future. Living an impoverished life inside a desert shack, Vict is transported by mutant fish people to an underground facility in the mountains where a human enclave delves into ancient medicine and technology to resurrect the dead and to determine what caused the apocalypse.

Vict is surprised to find he’s an expected guest at the facility. His first meaningful encounter is with a woman named Poppy who says cryptically, “We’ve been watching you, Vict. We sent the fish people to collect you when everything was meant to be ready. We know about your dreams. We sent the storm.”

Vict’s dreams suggest he can resurrect dead bodies, which affords him the chance to discover what destroyed most of humanity and created mutants. However, the knowledge is locked away in his memories, but he knows the answer lies somewhere in a place called Arizona.

The strength of Crack House is Brown’s ability to describe her post-apocalyptic world. It’s a desolate, poisoned world full of death and decay. A world where vomit burns holes in clothing. Humans are covered in oozing, pus-filled blisters. Maggots are considered healthy snacks. Corpses are spit to the surface by rainstorms. And women use their bodies in the most unsavory ways to acquire basics like tarps and buckets from men and mutants.

Some of the most gut-wrenching parts of the book are in the first four chapters when Brown describes Vict’s mother.

“His mother couldn’t do much of anything, except smoke her escape as she pried crust away from the spot between her legs, waiting for an entry that sometimes didn’t come at all. She couldn’t even chew on her meth pipe anymore, not without teeth.”

The Crack House in the Desert is dark and dismal, but Vict’s determination offers enough light to brighten the story to a shadowy dusk.

While the ending – specifically the final two paragraphs – of Crack House confused me, I was not confused about Brown’s ability. Her writing is powerfully descriptive, and her revelation of the cause of the apocalypse is surprising and original.

Interview with Author Stephanie Ellis

Stephanie Ellis is a busy woman of horror.

Based in Southampton, United Kingdom, Ellis divides her time as a writer of dark, speculative fiction; as editor of Horror Tree’s weekly ezine, Trembling With Fear; and as co-curator and contributor of The Infernal Clock anthologies.

Her latest project, Dark is my Playground, is her solo debut, a collection of dark verse and twisted nursery rhymes released on July 24.

Visit https://stephellis.weebly.com/ for more about Ellis and her writing.

In an exclusive interview with HorrorAddicts.net, Ellis discusses her new book and the other hats she wears.

THE LIGHTNING ROUND

  1. A favorite movie? The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  2. Favorite binge-watching series on Netflix? Being Human
  3. A favorite author? Terry Pratchett
  4. A favorite book? The Stand
  5. A favorite visual artist? J.M.W. Turner
  6. A favorite musical artist? Trent Reznor/Nine Inch Nails
  7. Any song stuck your head? Soultaker, “Blutengel” (this classical version https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_sNkmGgF8o)
  8. A favorite website? Horror Tree!
  9. Pet peeve? Writing to a deadline and missing out on real life events only for the deadline to be extended when you’ve bust a gut to submit in time.
  10. You have one last meal. What do you want to see on that plate? My eldest, Bethan’s, Chilli Mac (vegetarian).

THE REAL INTERVIEW

Q1: You released Dark is My Playground in July, a collection of dark verse and twisted nursery rhymes. What draws you to the horror genre?

ELLIS: The atmosphere and emotion it generates. I’ve never been one for romance novels. I read most of my mum’s Georgette Heyer and Catherine Cookson books when I was about 11 years old, but found I didn’t have the patience for the ‘heroines’ in such books. I like stories with a bit more meat on them, a serious problem to overcome and usually that means something dark. Horror for me is darkness, not gore or gratuitous violence, and I like to read (and write) about what someone would do when confronted with some of their worst fears. How far would a person go to save themselves or someone else? I think horror allows you to explore human emotions and motivation at a deeper level, our baser instincts if you like.

Q2: You’re a talented writer who’s been published in numerous anthologies and collections, yet you indicated in your blog that there was a bit of trepidation in releasing Dark is My Playground, your first major solo project. You said that being among a list of other writers in anthologies was a “comfort blanket,” giving you something to hide behind. What were you hiding from?

ELLIS: Thank you, that’s kind of you to say but the answer’s easy – fear of failure. Like all writers I have huge bouts of self-doubt, fighting that old ‘imposter syndrome’ on a regular basis. It’s also partly because this is self-published and this means it’s me thinking they’re good enough to be read more widely – but what if I am deluded? I also hate promoting myself and my work, a very British trait.

Q3: You obviously love words. In Dark is My Playground, the poems are so beautifully written. I’ve already expressed my admiration for the phrase “bark-womb of the bellied tree,” which you said was inspired by an image. How important are visual prompts to your poetry?

ELLIS: Very. I’m one of those people who spent their childhood seeing images in clouds, something I still do and something my own children (now adults) also indulge in. The visual provides a more immediate trigger to an idea and allows my writing to almost become a stream of consciousness without having to think about it. Visual Verse where The Deceiver was first published only allows one hour to write 50 to 500 words and that allows a freedom in writing. No pretence or trying to be clever, I just play with the words. That particular poem is actually my own personal favourite. I look at it sometimes and still can’t believe I wrote it. Old flash competitions, sadly no longer with us, such as Flash Friday and The Angry Hourglass, would use images, and I think what I enjoyed the most was the personification of the inanimate. There was a house in one picture which had one window closed and immediately it brought ideas of eyes and watching to mind, giving me the introduction ‘I have a house. It sleeps with one eye open. Watchful in the wilderness, it keeps me safe.’ The picture gives me the ‘way in’ to a poem or story.

Q4: You are also the editor for one of my favorite online features on Horror Tree website called Trembling With Fear, which publishes short stories and drabbles (100-word shorts). With time always being an issue for writers, why do you wear that editorial hat, which must cut in to your writing time?

ELLIS: Firstly, because Stuart Conover, editor at Horror Tree, asked for help and as I had achieved much of my publishing success as a result of his submission calls, I figured it was a way of saying thank you. The other part was due to me assessing my future in writing. This last year or so, I decided was the time I was going to take it seriously and not just in terms of trying to get a novel published or extra short stories out there but by becoming more involved in the horror community. Writing is very isolating and with no community as such in my part of the world, it does not feel ‘real.’ By becoming involved with TWF, I’ve made contact with a lot of great writers – yourself included – and I now feel like a ‘proper writer’; I’ve even met a couple of other writers in real life recently and turned online friendships into real ones. In terms of time, I had not expected it to take up as much as it has done, but that’s a result of TWF growing and becoming more well-known. What I also enjoy is coming into contact with writers who say TWF is the first time they’ve ever subbed for publication and I like being able to give feedback and encouragement even if they don’t get selected – pulling them into the ‘family’ if you like, removing a little bit of that isolation we all experience. It’s also great when I see them being published for the first time, and they’re over the moon about it. Actually, a knock-on effect of these demands is a greater focus on my writing time. If I have free time I procrastinate; a deadline or limited time forces me to concentrate … mostly. Editing is something I’ve done a lot of in the past, although as a tech writer/project manager in a technical publications company has also made this aspect easier for me.

Q5: Speaking of time, you’re also a co-curator for the time-themed anthologies of The Infernal Clock. Why the time themes and why the passion for this particular project, which is yet another time-consuming demand?

ELLIS: The Infernal Clock is something born very much out of friendship, going back to my roots in the FlashDog community. The FlashDogs are a looser pack these days as we are all doing different things but it was effectively an online group of people who competed against each other on flash fiction sites such as FlashFriday, Angry Hourglass, MicroBookends and other places. David Shakes was one of the original members of this group. I became part of it about a year later and we became online friends (and again have met in real life). He had the idea for the first Infernal Clock project, which a large number of FlashDogs submitted to – and then asked for help getting it out. Do you see a pattern forming here? So, I stepped up, we got the first book published (The Infernal Clock) and had some good reviews and then before I knew it we were discussing a follow-up (CalenDark) and now we are in the process of finalising DeadCades, which is due for publication October 1st. This latest anthology includes a number of writers from Horror Tree’s TWF as well as old FlashDog friends, each writing a story set in a particular decade from 1880 to 2020. We have been amazingly lucky to get writer-of-the-moment Vox author Christina Dalcher (who also wrote us a story for CalenDark) to write our foreword and our first long story in the collection is from award-winning author Deborah Sheldon. We also have some great stories from the other contributors, so I have high hopes for this book. The time theme was in keeping with the Infernal Clock name. Shakes muttered something about centuries, but I said no … DeadCades is the last of the time-themed anthologies. It won’t end there though. We have plans for a magazine, but some research and planning is required. We want to make this a paying market, so will be taking our time in sorting out exactly what we want to do with it. Glutton for punishment.

Q6: I follow you on Twitter, and I see you are constantly writing, or reading and editing other writers’ submissions, or helping with publication of anthologies … I’m tired just thinking about it. Where does this passion for the written word come from?

ELLIS: I have just loved reading. For as long as I can remember I’ve had piles of books around the place. I remember going to town as a child with my Dad to visit the library and being able to leave with a pile of books was wonderful. Growing up in an isolated country pub when your parents work pretty much all day leaves you on your own a lot of the time. I had sisters but you still had to find ways to entertain yourself – no 24-hour or satellite TV or internet then. So reading became my escape. They became movies in my head, and I was able to experience a different reality if only for a while. I still love to read, and sometimes I have to put everything on hold and just read a book from cover-to-cover; it’s almost a physical need in a way. I can’t imagine not reading. Words are amazing; they have so much power whether triggering wars, providing a religious code or instilling an emotion. History can turn on what has been said or written.

Q7: How does your family feel about your writing? Outside of advice on fonts, how do they influence or inspire your writing?

ELLIS: In the past, I always called my writing ‘scribbling,’ as if it wasn’t something I took seriously, so they didn’t pay too much attention to it. Once I started getting published they took a bit more notice but not too much. Now they are all very supportive, even if they don’t always read what I write! My daughters now give me advice, including what to write about and the range of merchandise it could generate, not to mention being a box set on Netflix. I remember when they read the poem ‘The Darkness is my Playground.’ they were shocked at the violence implied in it. Not something they’ve ever associated with me. I’m the most harmless person you could imagine – but it is nice to shock people sometimes, deliver the unexpected.

Q8: You’re from the United Kingdom, but in your role as an editor, you read stories from authors all around the world. Do you notice any differences in style or tone between UK writers and writers from the USA? Have you noticed any writing trends in any countries or regions?

ELLIS: Apart from the spellings, I don’t see any real differences. The same topics and tropes appear, and I never approach reading or writing with the idea that we are somehow separate. I think it’s because we are all ‘Westerners’ so we have a lot of common ground. I do have to try and avoid correcting U.S. English at Horror Tree, although I standardise to UK English for Infernal Clock.  I have been invited to write a flash piece for an anthology edited by Oleg Hasanov (Russian). This particular publication will include many writers from across the globe including those from Eastern European and Asia, and I’ll be really interested to see what the authors from those areas come up with. Which reminds me, I must get to work on it – and I do have an idea, based on a picture I saw on a van.

Q9: What defines success for you as a writer? Is it enough to be published or is success something more?

ELLIS: It changes as I go on, e.g., first publication, first contract, first invitation to write, but ultimately success is validation of my writing, knowing that people genuinely enjoy what I write and aren’t just being nice. And yes, I’d love to get my novel published.

Q10: What scares you?

ELLIS: On a mundane level – daddy long legs. Otherwise it’s water. In my first-ever swimming lesson, I think I must’ve been about 5 or 6, we lined up by the pool and one of the other kids pushed me in the deep end. I can still picture myself underwater and hearing the teacher say, ‘Don’t worry, she’ll get herself out.’ And I did. But lessons from then on saw me down on the shallow end and even now water over my face makes me remember that feeling of suffocation and panic.

FILM REVIEW: Pool Party Massacre

Floating Eye Films presents Pool Party Massacre, a 2017 horror-comedy written and directed by Drew Marvick. Runtime: 81 minutes.

The Plot

An unknown killer stalks a group of spoiled, rich girls during their pool party.

The Players

The cast features Kristin Noel McKusick, Margaux Némé, Alexis Adams, Destiny Faith Nelson, Crystal Stoney, and Jenifer Marvick as the pool party girls with Mark Justice and Nick Byer as the two guys who crash the party.

The Review

Pool Party Massacre is a 21st century horror-comedy shamelessly influenced by the raunchy comedies and bloody slashers of the ‘80s. The tagline says it all: Worst Pool Party Ever!

The result is a fun romp packed with cheesy dialogue and practical effects about six teenage girls methodically stalked by a faceless killer whose weapons of choice are literally any tool in the toolshed. The killer uses saws, a screwdriver, hammers, axes, a machete, and a weed trimmer to dispatch his victims.

Writer-director Marvick obviously loves the comedies and slashers of the ‘80s. The point-of-view killer wears a short-sleeve version of Michael Myers’ coveralls. The film’s opening scene is a funny twist on the classic neglected wife-pool boy encounter. There are lots of bikinis and sex talk. The closing credits song, “Pool Party” by Sam & Bill, is a lively ‘80s-sounding retro rocker. There’s even extended discussion about the Ferris BuellerFight Club theory.

Of the six girls at the party, four of them are rich friends of Blair, who’s hosting the party. The other is Blair’s not-so-rich friend Nancy. The girls are a combination of spoiled brats and airheads. The dialogue can be groan-inducing at times but it’s funny.

Troy and his brother Clay crash the girls’-only party. Byer brings the comedic energy, playing the goofy Clay as an overly enthusiastic loser who tries too hard to get the girls in the mood to party.

As for the murder mystery, there are enough red herrings to keep you guessing about the killer’s identity and motivation. I didn’t anticipate the twist ending.

What I liked most about the film are the quirky scenes such as the one when Blair’s parents are giving her the party lecture before they leave town. The conversation digresses into the parents sharing the fact that if it weren’t for threesomes, they would’ve never met. Awkward.

There’s also an odd outdoor tea party scene with an elderly neighbor complaining in German to her creepy doll about the loud music from next door. It’s just weird but in a good way.

Pool Party Massacre is an amusing, entertaining slasher that never takes itself too seriously.

So go ahead and jump in. The water’s fine.

 

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.

 

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 novel 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/